The Boston Bruins are getting healthy as they welcomed back Marcus Johansson to the lineup on Wednesday night, along with Torey Krug. Johansson was on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk while Krug was back in his usual spot on the top power-play unit. This makes the Bruins an even more fearsome team as they march towards the postseason.
Samuel Morin made his season debut on the Flyers blue line, having returned from a torn knee ligament. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
My only take is that this is a guy with multi-category potential, but the format of a given league will determine his value. Even if he lives up to his promise right away, he’s behind at least the triumvirate of Gostisbehere-Provorov-Sanheim. Don’t expect a lot of points in his immediate future; he’ll be a guy who relies more on hits and penalty minutes for value, hence why the scoring format matters.
The Nashville Predators have signed prospect defenceman Dante Fabbro to a three-year entry-level deal and he was practicing with the team on Wednesday. You can read Fabbro’s Dobber Prospect profile here.
It could be tough sledding for fantasy value for the talented first-round pick with all the depth on the Nashville blue line. Everyone of note signed for three more years save for Roman Josi, and I don’t imagine they let him walk. Unless there are trades made, it could be a situation like Morin with the Flyers (even if they are wildly different as players themselves).
Dustin Byfuglien was skating in Jets practice in a regular sweater, meaning he’s very close to returning. For those playing head-to-head playoffs in the final week of the season, the Jets have four games (though they’re all on the road), and two of the games are against Chicago and Colorado.
We had another barn-burner between the Leafs and Flyers as a 2-0 Leafs lead turned into a 3-2 Flyers lead and then a 4-4 overtime session that went to a shootout. The Flyers took the extra point in Toronto’s first shootout of the season.
Auston Matthews led the way for the Leafs with a goal and assist, totalling six shots on target. That pushes Matthews over 70 points on the year and up to 228 shots, and that’s the scary part about AM34: he’s a wicked volume shooter. This is a guy shooting nearly 16 percent in over 200 career games and he’s up over 3.5 shots per game on the season. If he can consistently play 75 games a season moving forward, 40 goals seems to be a safe bet year after year.
Travis Sanheim had a big fantasy night with two assists, a plus-2 rating, three shots, one block, and two penalty minutes. The young defence core we heard about for years is starting to come to fruition for the Flyers and that bodes very well for this franchise. As for Sanheim, he has been playing many more minutes lately – about 22 minutes a night over his last 10 – and that’s good news for next year. Even if he’s not the top option on the power play, those minutes with his offensive ability on this team will make him a 40-point threat in 2019-20.
It’s safe to say that David Pastrnak is feeling just fine following his return to the lineup a little while back. He had six points in his first four games after getting back, and followed that up with a five-point effort (3-2) against the Rangers on Wednesday night. It pushed him to a career-high 36 goals and he needs three more points to reach 80, despite having played just 61 games. That first line is going to be a problem for any team in the playoffs.
Torey Krug had a solid return to the lineup in his own right: two assists, plus-1, three shots, and two blocks.
Mika Zibanejad scored a pair of goals in the 6-3 loss, giving him 30 goals and 70 points for the first time in his career.
Ben Bishop was injured in Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Calgary, appearing to tweak something when sliding from his left to his right, and left the contest. Consider him day-to-day for now.
Tyson Barrie had a three-point night (1-2) in Colorado’s crucial 4-3 win over Vegas. He now has 56 points on the year, one shy of his career-high of 57, set last year. It should be noted he’s two blocked shots away from tying his career-high (90), and he has already set career-highs in shots (202) and penalty minutes (32). Not a bad season!
There is a little over a week left in the NHL regular season and I though it’d be fun to take a look down the road.
If you can think back a year ago, what sticks out to you about the fantasy game, specifically when it comes to player performance? You might think back to Ivan Provorov having double-digit goals and being on the verge of 40 points (which he would eventually surpass), having every bit the look of the future heavy-minute multi-category stud. Maybe it’s Anze Kopitar cracking the 90-point mark for the first time in his career. It could be Jason Zucker reaching 30 goals, seeming like a guy who will threaten 30 goals for the next several seasons. Or it could have been the hope that Carter Hutton’s great half-season with the Blues would translate to a new team for the 2018-19 campaign.
Let’s try to think a year ahead. On March 28th, 2020, what should we expect to see out of certain players with regards to the fantasy game? It’s prediction time.
Colton Parayko Top-10 Multi-Cat Defenceman
Following three straight 30-point seasons and back-to-back 35-point seasons, things were looking bright for Parayko heading into 2018-19. The team added names like Ryan O’Reilly, Patrick Maroon, David Perron, and Tyler Bozak, giving them loads of scoring depth. With Parayko’s stout peripheral production, a 40-point season would have made him a top-10 multi-category defenceman.
That didn’t come to pass, obviously, as Parayko sits with 26 points in 76 games. His peripherals and plus/minus have meant a solid fantasy season, but he’s still yet to attain anywhere close to his ceiling.
The problem is his assists as he has managed just 16 total thus far, and just two primary assists at five-on-five. Among 114 defencemen with at least 1000 minutes played at five-on-five, he has the fourth-lowest primary assist rate. That would be a concern if Parayko were a rookie or did not have an extensive track record. However, over his previous three seasons, he had 34 total primary assists at five-on-five.
One area of concern would be a drop in shot assists, or passes leading to shots by teammates, this season (from CJ Turtoro’s viz):
A couple notes on that, though. First, it’s still not a large sample of games tracked this year. Secondly, he had a similar rate a couple years ago when he had 13 primary assists. In other words, that drop in shot assists wouldn’t come close to fully explaining the drop in primary assists.
Parayko will be in tough to reach his ceiling now that he’s apparently third in line for power play minutes. It doesn’t mean he can’t be very valuable in fantasy leagues. With the Blues loaded with both rising and established stars, and Parayko due for a rebound in his assists next year, it seems very possible he’s a top-10 blue liner in multi-category leagues in a year’s time.
Clayton Keller Rebound
For those who’ve read my work for at least the past year, you know how high I was on Clayton Keller coming into this season. I had him as a top-100 player regardless of format and someone who should at least crack 70 points.
Let’s just say that I was very wrong on this one.
The first problem was that the team didn’t take a step forward offensively as hoped. There were a lot of injuries, sure, but laying everything at the feet of injuries doesn’t do this justice. Like Parayko, we need to look at the assist rates.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Keller was sitting with nine assists at five-on-five this year. Nine. Out of 245 forwards with at least 750 minutes played at five-on-five, Keller comes in tied for 225th, with a lower total assist rate than Johan Larsson, Markus Granlund, and Riley Sheahan. His individual points percentage is under 60 percent, which is abysmal, and the reason for so few assists.
Unlike Parayko, Keller’s issues aren’t with a possible downturn in his micro stats. In a small sample (like Parayko’s this year), things like zone entries, zone exits, and shot assists have all improved from 2017-18. But his play-driving, at least offensively, hasn’t been as good as last season.
Is that all his problem, though? Remember back to 2017-18, Keller played significant minutes with Derek Stepan; over half his time at five-on-five, in fact. He’s played less than 30 percent of his five-on-five time with Stepan this year, having played about as often with Nick Cousins. I do suspect that we see a different Keller next year should he line up with a healthy Nick Schmaltz.
Oh, and for good measure: Keller is shooting 2.3 percent on the power play this year. That’s not a typo, he has one power play goal on 44 power play shots. If he shoots close to his shooting percentage on the PP last year, and has close to the same assist rate, he basically replicates his 2017-18 campaign.
It seems there are a few things that are probably true about the American winger’s 2018-19 season: Keller didn’t take a big step forward in his development, he hasn’t been as bad as his point totals would indicate, and there are brighter days ahead. I’ll be buying a rebound in 2019-20 as Keller establishes himself as a top-100 fantasy player.
Brady Tkachuk Top-50 Multi-Cat Player
There’s no sugar-coating it: Sens fans are going to be in for a rough couple of seasons. There are a few nice pieces, though, namely Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk.
I get that people will be worried about the lack of talent on the Sens roster for the 2019-20 season. However, since the trade deadline, Tkachuk has five goals, eight points, 49 shots, and 36 hits in 14 games. Pro-rated over 82 games, that’s 29 goals, 47 points, 287 shots, and 210 hits. If he comes anywhere close to those marks next year, he’ll be a monster in multi-category leagues, even if he’s a minus-20.
Now, expecting a 20-year old sophomore to put up over 250 shots and 200 hits might be asking a lot. But it does outline how Tkachuk can be very relevant in multi-category leagues next year, and that’s by playing big minutes and being the focal point of a low-talent team. I think back to Dustin Brown in 2017-18. Obviously, Tkachuk won’t get a centre near the calibre of Anze Kopitar, which is why I would expect under 50 points instead of over 60. The parallel would be playing 19 minutes a night, with top power play minutes, and those heavy minutes feeding into strong peripherals. Tkachuk hasn’t been 19 minutes a night consistently since the trade deadline, but he has approached 17 minutes a night and he’ll be relied upon even more next season, I’m sure.
Teams without a lot of shine tend to see their top players go undervalued in drafts. Just think of Anders Lee and the prevailing opinion of him once John Tavares decided to relocate. My prediction is that the Ottawa rookie is undervalued by ADP in September, and this time next year, we’re looking at a guy who is a top-50 skater in standard Yahoo! leagues.