In what is very good news for the Leafs and their fans, Jake Gardiner was skating at practice with the Leafs on Monday. Mike Babcock said after practice that the plan is still to get Gardiner in game action before playoffs hit. He’s a big part of their blue line and will only help a team with Cup aspirations in the postseason.
The Devils aren’t officially saying that Taylor Hall is done for the year but for the life of me I cannot fathom him returning at this point. Jesper Bratt, however, has seen his season come to an end.
Kyle Palmieri missed Monday night’s game with a lower-body injury.
Ryan Poehling won’t dress in a Habs uniform right away, but it appears they think he’ll be ready to play before the season is finished.
The Minnesota Wild signed Hobey Baker Finalist Nico Sturm to a one-year entry-level deal. Because of his age, he’ll be an RFA at season’s end and can then sign a non-ELC deal.
Calgary rested several players, including Mark Giordano and much of their blue line, on Monday night. Now that they’ve wrapped up the division, expect this for the rest of the year.
It appears Ducks rookie forward Troy Terry will miss the rest of the season with a fractured tibia. It’s a shame because he was really heating up with 11 points in his last 16 games. Hopefully this is nothing that lingers into next year and he can have a (mostly) full offseason to train.
Victor Hedman missed Monday night’s game with what the team is calling an upper-body injury. Remember that he left their last game against Washington after taking a hard hit. Coach Cooper said that while he may miss a couple games, he’s not in danger of missing the start of the playoffs. Though, as with everything coaches say this time of year, take that with a grain of salt the size of the Hope Diamond.
Speaking of the Tampa lineup, Yanni Gourde was moved to the top line for this game, alongside Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, while JT Miller was bumped to the fourth line with Mathieu Joseph joining the duo of Stamkos-Palat. Interesting that they shook things up against the worst team in the league about nine days out from the postseason, though I suppose if they wanted to try something new, this was the time.
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Washington has to wait another game to clinch the Metro title because of their 5-3 loss to Florida on Monday night. John Carlson picked up an assist in the loss, pushing him to 70 points on the year. He’s the fourth defenceman to reach the 70-point mark, with Brent Burns, Mark Giordano, and Morgan Rielly already reaching the plateau. With Keith Yandle going pointless in this game, and being the next-closest to 70 points with an even 60, it looks like Carlson will be the last blue liner to reach 70 points this season.
Aleksander Barkov had three assists, tying him with Sidney Crosby at 94 points. Frank Vatrano scored in the win, pushing him to 24 goals. He had three shots on goal, pushing him over 200 for the year. Just a wonderful year for the once-underappreciated winger.
With Yanni Gourde on the second line, Tampa Bay had a great offensive night as he showed out with two goals and an assist, with Nikita Kucherov posting three helpers and Brayden Point with one of each. Though playing Ottawa certainly helped.
Hedman missing from the lineup was to the benefit of Eric Cernak, who passed the 23-minute mark for the first time this year. It was Mikhail Sergachev on the top PP unit but Cernak got a lot more minutes than normal. Tampa Bay does have three games left but don’t be surprised to see a lot of players only play two out of three.
Malcolm Subban saved 18 of 19 shots faced with Edmonton in town as the Vegas Golden Knights took a 3-1 win. For Subban, it drags his save percentage to .902 on the year, and .906 over his two seasons with Vegas as a backup. To be honest, a .906 isn’t bad from a backup goalie in the NHL: out of 57 goalies with at least 40 games played over the last two years, he ranks as basically a mid-tier backup. I’m not saying it’s his true talent level by any stretch, just that he’s at least shown to be a capable backup. Whether he can improve beyond that, I wouldn’t begin to guess at what the future holds for almost any goalie.
Jack Roslovic scored a pair of goals in Winnipeg’s 4-3 overtime win against Chicago. That gives him 9 goals and 24 points on the year. It hasn’t been the breakout year some were hoping from the 22-year old, but he’s been solid in what amounts to a small sample – he’s playing under 10 minutes a night – showing proficiency in other areas of the game like strong power-play work and drawing penalties while taking very few of them. There is enough good here to not give up on him fantasy-wise but we need to see a big step forward next year.
There are players we draft every year hoping they can live up to a good season they just had, be it from an established player or a young star on the rise. Sometimes, a player has a great season and follows it up with another great season (hey there, Mikko Rantanen). Sometimes, a player has a great season and follows it up with a less-than-stellar campaign (hey there, Yanni Gourde). Either way, players that have basically one good year always present a risk, which is often built into their ADP.
I wanted to review a few of these players and their 2018-19 campaign. These are all guys who had basically one good year and were seen as a risk heading into this season. They’re also all guys who’ve had good-to-great fantasy seasons in 2018-19, solidifying themselves as reliable fantasy options.
It’s pretty easy to remember that just a couple years ago, there were doubts as to whether Pulock would reach his ceiling as a fantasy option. He had done very well in the AHL but was a first-round pick who, by his age-23 season, had played precisely 16 games in the NHL, including just one contest in the 2016-17 campaign. He broke out with 10 goals and 32 points for the Islanders in 2017-18, doing so playing less than 18:30 a night. The question was if this guy, who just a year prior had concerns about his future, could follow up the breakout, especially when considering John Tavares moving on.
Going into Monday night, Pulock had 9 goals and 37 points, averaging 2.2 shots per game and 280 blocks+hits. He’s done so while being the secondary option on the power play to Nick Leddy and playing for a mid-pack five-on-five scoring team.
There’s nothing out of line in his underlying numbers, either. His Individual Points Percentage (IPP) at five-on-five is normal and his on-ice shooting percentage is a tad high but certainly not extreme. His shot rate per minute has declined by 20 percent, but the team is playing much more defensively this year than last, so it’s not a huge concern, especially for a guy in his second season.
If we want Pulock to take that next step, he needs power-play time. He has nine power-play points compared to Leddy’s 10, and Pulock has done that largely on the second unit, having played about 76 fewer minutes on the PP than Leddy. My hope is that 2019-20 is the year Pulock finally takes the reigns of the top power play and pushes for 50 points. Regardless, he proved this year that he’s a reliable fantasy option.
One player I’ve been waiting years for a breakout is Brendan Gallagher, and it finally came in 2017-18 with his 30-goal campaign. Sure, he had a 24-goal season a few years back and had a very good season in 2015-16 but he only played 53 games. The full breakout came last year but the fantasy market didn’t really believe his breakout as his ADP came outside the top-175 players in standard Yahoo! leagues. As of Monday afternoon, with his 33 goals, 290 shots, and 119 hits, he was a top-50 player in this setup.
The reason I had been waiting years for Gallagher were superlative shot rates and the fact a lot of his shots came from around the crease. Those guys typically have a solid floor (think of Patric Hornqvist) but have the upside to be great fantasy assets if shooting percentage ever favours them. With back-to-back seasons shooting over 11 percent, that favour is here, and fantasy owners are reaping the rewards.
The thing is, Gallagher’s still not getting much ice time. His 16:22 per game overall this year is lower than both his 2014-15 and 2015-16 marks. He’s averaging 13:06 per game at five-on-five, fifth among Habs forwards. League-wide, that ice time rate at five-on-five is about middle of the pack. Imagine what he could do if he were ever given the ice time a top-line forward like him deserves?
There wasn’t much doubt that Alex DeBrincat would be a productive NHLer. The only people who had doubts were apparently almost every NHL general manager outside of Chicago. I don’t think that even the most ardent DeBrincat supporters would imagine that he would be a 40-goal scorer in his second season, however.
There are concerns, of course, especially with DeBrincat shooting over 19 percent. That includes shooting 15.7 percent at five-on-five. I have no problem admitting he’s an above-average shooter but nearly 16 percent at five-on-five is extreme. Even still, if he’s shooting 13 percent at 5v5 instead of 16 percent, all he loses is about four goals. Maybe DeBrincat is overheating a bit this year, but even with regression he’s still easily a 30-goal scorer.
His on-ice shooting percentage is high (10.6 percent) but not extreme. His IPP is perfectly normal at about 66 percent. Really, other than his shooting percentage, there isn’t much concern here, and even that shooting percentage has probably only given him, at most, an extra half-dozen goals. This is a guy who could be at 35 goals and we’d still marvel. Even with some regression built in, DeBrincat has shown that he’s an offensive player to be feared for years to come.
Like Pulock, fantasy owners (and Red Wings fans) had been waiting for Mantha to break out for years. He put up 24 goals in 2017-18 but fantasy owners were still a little leery heading into this season. We knew the Red Wings would be bad and we had no confirmation that Mantha would spend the season alongside Dylan Larkin. Well, the Red Wings are bad but he has been mostly attached to Larkin, and the result has been 22 goals and 45 points in 64 games. Those 82-game paces work out to 28 goals and 57 points, not to mention his 2.9 shots per game.
The oddity with Mantha is that this is all on the low side. His five-on-five shooting percentage is 9.5 percent, a three-year low. His on-ice shooting percentage is 7.1 percent, also a three-year low. Had his on-ice shooting percentage been closer to his first two full seasons, you could add 6-7 points to his current total. Had his percentages been closer to normal (for him), he’d be sitting at about a 30-goal, 65-point pace per 82 games. Remember: his actual 82-game pace is 28 goals and 57 points, and he’s probably been unlucky. That’s good.
The Red Wings’ rebuild is starting to round into form. They have Larkin, they have Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi looks like a solid second-line option, Andreas Athanasiou looks like a lethal goal scorer, Filip Hronek has had a very good first year, Dennis Cholowski looked solid when he was with the team, and they have Filip Zadina waiting in the, ahem, wings. What was a bad team is slowly getting better, and Mantha is a big part of that. Expect more of the same next year.