Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles – formerly 20 Fantasy Thoughts – from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's ‘Daily Ramblings’.
Writers: Michael Clifford, Ian Gooding, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. Sasha Barkov is on another planet right now. The 22-year-old is absolutely feeling it these days. He has 17 points over his current seven-game streak. He’s set career-highs for goals (34), assists (53) and points (87). And there’s still seven games left to be played.
He’s one of the most underrated players in the game today. Barkov has just six total penalty minutes while averaging 22:27 per contest. That mark trails only Connor McDavid (23:03) and Leon Draisaitl (22:33) as the Oilers ride their only horses right into the dirt.
The best is yet to come for the Finnish pivot. (mar20)
2. Ducks’ Rickard Rakell is looking at a huge dropoff this season from 69 points last season to possibly finishing with around 40-45 points. His low goal total (14) can be explained by a low 8.0 shooting percentage, about half of what his career average is. Look for Rakell to be a possible rebound candidate next season that you could probably draft as a value pick. Over his last 12 games, he has turned it up a bit with 11 points over that span. (mar23)
3. Coming off a 64-point season, there was a lot of optimism for Yanni Gourde. He had been a diamond in the rough for many in the fantasy hockey community (I do believe Dobber was high on him a few years ago) and that faith finally paid off.
Things haven’t been as rosy this year, even if he’s been solid with 20 goals and 44 points. So, what’s the deal here? Quite honestly, it’s nothing more than a high on-ice shooting percentage coming back down to a more normal level.
Last year, the Bolts shot 11.5 percent with him on the ice at five-on-five. That was second among all forwards in the NHL with at least 1000 minutes at five-on-five last year. Not much else has changed; Gourde’s shot rate has gone up slightly, his IPP went down but it’s not unsustainably low, and though his PP time has been cut down by about 20 seconds, he’ll only fall short of last year’s PP point total by three or four. It’s not nearly enough to explain his 20-point drop. That explanation, my friends, belongs to an unsustainably high on-ice shooting percentage in 2017-18 dropping in 2018-19. (mar21)
4. Avs' Philipp Grubauer might be the best waiver-wire pickup in net over the fantasy hockey playoffs. Grubauer stopped 29 of 31 shots he faced in a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks on Saturday. He has now earned four consecutive wins, allowing just four goals over that span.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for Grubauer, who had a disastrous 3.47 GAA and .890 SV% in early February. Since then, he’s been a different goalie with a 6-2-0 record with a 1.05 GAA and .965 SV% over his last 10 games. More importantly for Grubauer keeper owners, he’s improving his cause to be the Avs’ starting goalie next season. (mar24)
5. Habs’ Brendan Gallagher now has a career-high 33 goals and has reached the 30-goal mark in back-to-back seasons. He’s also taken a minimum of 270 shots in each of the past two seasons.
Over the past two seasons, he’s now a top-20 goal scorer and a top-10 shot taker. The low assist totals deflate his overall value in points leagues, but you can easily find assists from other players in multicategory leagues. (mar24)
6. Only Kris Russell has more blocked shots over the past five seasons than Andy Greene. The Devils’ captain offers little else in fantasy, including relatively low penalty minute and hit totals. He has, however, hit 30 points twice in his career and could come close to that total this season (23 points) on a team that is playing out the string. (mar23)
7. Josh Bailey is normally a reliable option for assists and overall point totals. As expected, his point total slid as a result of John Tavares departing, but he has still been good for at least 35 assists and 50 points for the third consecutive season. Bailey has never scored 20 goals in a season, which means it shouldn’t be a big surprise that he has just three goals over his last 18 games and that includes a pair on Saturday. (mar23)
8. I know 14 goals and 31 points for Jordan Eberle is a letdown fantasy-wise, but let’s be clear about the Islanders here: they’re one of the worst scoring environments in the NHL. Entering weekend action, they were 21st in goals/60 minutes at all strengths in the NHL, worse than the Oilers and just ahead of the Devils.
It should be mentioned at this point that Eberle has only played about one-quarter of his five-on-five time with Mathew Barzal this year. After Barzal’s line, there isn’t much fantasy-wise on this team, even if Brock Nelson is having a decent year. (mar22)
9. Coming off a year with 33 goals and 64 points, there were high hopes for Minnesota’s Jason Zucker heading into 2018-18. With 21 goals and 39 points to this point this season, he hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations.
The biggest problem is that he was shooting 7.2 percent at five-on-five entering Saturday action, a career-low. Over the previous three seasons, he shot 10.4 percent on aggregate. With 166 shots on goal at 5v5 so far this year, that dip in shooting percentage means five fewer goals compared to what we’d expect if he was shooting his three-year average. If he were to shoot roughly his average from the last two years alone (12 percent), he’d have an extra eight goals and would be one shy of another 30-goal season. It’s easy to see why there’s been such a dip in goal production.
Zucker is still just 27 years old and though the Wild are kind of re-tooling, they should still have a strong core for next season with rising young players. If I had to make a bet today, I would wager that Zucker will be an easy buy when fantasy drafts roll around in six months. (mar22)
10. As a Canucks’ fan just hoping for better things next season, I would seriously shake my head if coach Travis Green gave the nod to Jacob Markstrom on consecutive nights.
If the focus is on development to some degree and not entirely on clinging to playoff hope, then Green will do the right thing and start Thatcher Demko. The Canucks’ goalie prospect was impressive in his last start, stopping 29 of 31 shots in earning a win against Chicago on Monday. (mar24)
Reminder: The 2019 Dobber Hockey Playoff Draft List is available now for pre-order in the Dobber Shop! It will be released on April 5th which gives fantasy owners plenty of time to get ready for their playoff pools.
11. It’s been an excellent fantasy season for Kyle Palmieri with 27 goals, 50 points, over 200 shots, 42 penalty minutes, and a good chance at reaching both 20 power-play points and 100 hits. That’s with missing Taylor Hall for over half the season and the team running half an AHL lineup for the last few weeks. (mar22)
12. I know the Ducks have been injured and bad for most of this year, and Cam Fowler’s production has suffered as a result with 21 points in 54 games as he battled his own injuries, but does anyone realize Fowler doesn’t have a 40-point season since 2010-11?
Among 171 defensemen with 2000-plus minutes over the last three seasons, he was tied for 125th in individual shot rate with Jamie Oleksiak entering Friday action. Fowler doesn’t put up strong peripherals in hits or blocked shots, either. He’ll probably be cheap in drafts next year but man oh man, there isn’t much to like here fantasy-wise and there’s no guarantee the Ducks will be much better in 2019-20. (mar21)
13. We all know scoring is up. But just how high is remarkable. What’s the difference?
Well, teams are shooting a bit more. Goaltending equipment has shrunk. But what’s really driving things can only be explained by an increase in performance. The young talent that enters the game on a yearly basis has made life very difficult on oppositions coaches and goaltenders. Let’s push to embrace this style, and push for more power-plays in the future. One day, I’d like to draft a player who has a legit chance at posting 150-plus points.
Dare to dream, people. Dare to dream. (mar20)
14. Tuukka Rask recorded what might have been the easiest shutout of his career early this past week. The Finnish netminder turned aside just 13 shots as the Bruins blanked the Islanders 5-0 on Tuesday evening. The big news in this one was the return of David Pastrnak. After missing nearly six weeks with an injured thumb, the 22-year-old was back to his old spot on the top line next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
The Penguins also received a massive boon this week when Kris Letang returned to the lineup after missing nearly a month. The team’s top blueliner didn’t miss a beat as he scored a goal, recorded four shots, 12 penalty minutes and skated a team-high 26:45 in his first game back on Tuesday. (mar20)
15. Remember when Freddie Andersen was one of the best fantasy netminders? The Danish puck-stopper has been flipping the bird to his owners during the fantasy playoffs for the better part of two weeks. He has stabilized in his last two starts, but heading into last Tuesday night’s matchup with the Preds, he had allowed 14 goals in three games. (mar20)
16. Brent Burns reached 75 points on the year this past week, reaching that mark for the third time in the last four seasons. Though some of his peripherals like shots per game and blocks per game have fallen off, he’s been as productive as ever, and that’s why he’s the top defenceman in fantasy. (mar19)
17. Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich was a guy I thought could do very well moving up the lineup post-trade deadline. In 33 games in calendar 2019, Buchnevich has 11 goals and 19 points in 33 games, which pro-rates to 27 goals and 47 points over 82 games. He’s done this while playing less than 14:30 per night in that span.
I will continue to bang this drum until it happens: Buchnevich is on the cusp of being fantasy relevant in all formats, he just needs a coach to give him the consistent minutes. (mar19)
18. It’s that time of year where it’s hard to pay attention to the dregs of the league, but it’s worth noting that after his current recent hot streak, Jakob Silfverberg is up to 23 goals on the year, which equals his career-high set in 2016-17. I will say that while this is pretty cool for Silfverberg, this is kind of disheartening for fantasy owners.
I don’t think I’m the only one who was waiting for the 28-year old Swede to have *that* magical season, where he posts a high shooting percentage and explodes offensively. Because he does currently have the highest shooting percentage of his career (14.9 percent) by a wide margin (previous high of 10.1 percent in his 23-goal season).
Unfortunately, he’s missed some games due to injury and the team was terrible and injured basically up until a month ago, and that has kept his assists to a minimum. (mar19)
I’ll be still interested in landing him as a depth guy for next season and see what happens, but man, he’s had every chance this year – from linemates, to ice time, to prime zone starts, to pretty good secondary PP time. All for maybe 30 points in the end?
20. Some signings straight out of college:
– Last week the Leafs signed undrafted free agent defenseman Joseph Duszak. He had a massive junior year in the NCAA with 47 points in 37 games, plus 42 PIM. He’s 21, a little on the small side (5-10) but can move the puck. His next two season will likely see him in the AHL but I think he has potential if developed properly. You can check out our PNHLe graph on Duszak here.
– Detroit signed LW Taro Hirose, a shifty winger for Michigan State, as a free agent. Hirose had 50 points in 36 games in his junior year. I included Hirose as a player to watch in the NCAA free agent section of my Midseason Guide. The Wings also signed another player I had in the MSG as a free agent to watch – Ryan Kuffner. He was Max Veronneau’s linemate and ended up outscoring the more highly-touted Veronneau 44 points to 37 (in 31 games).
– Veronneau, as you know, signed with Ottawa and promptly picked up an assist in his second NHL game, and his first goal in his third. He picked the right team to sign with, even if he wasn’t already from Ottawa. This team is going to be young next year and he has a reasonable shot of making it.
– The Canucks signed another guy I listed in the MSG (so I had four out of the five big names last week in the Midseason Guide) – defenseman Josh Teves. The NHL squad isn’t exactly flush with prime puck-moving defensemen, so I’ll be interested in seeing his impact. It’s a shame he’s not a right shooter, or I’d like him even more.
21. Devils’ Travis Zajac had been having himself a great season, not only becoming one of the best defensive forwards in the game but also managing to put up decent points while doing so. A month ago, his points-per-game average was higher than it’s been since 2010., but with all the injuries to the Devils, Zajac no longer has a supporting cast and everything is falling apart in terms of fantasy numbers. His Hits are up and his PP time is up, but in the last 15 games he’s a minus-15 with just five points.
Have a good week, folks!!