Ramblings: Updates on Malkin, Letang, Karlsson, and Kuemper; Down Years – April 4

Michael Clifford




Good news for Pens fans as Evgeni Malkin was skating at practice on Wednesday in a normal jersey. He hasn’t played in nearly three weeks but the team was always hopeful he’d get a game or two before playoffs, and that may be on Thursday against Detroit. I suppose it’s not much comfort to fantasy owners who lost him in semi-final or final week, but fantasy owners with Malkin should be prepared for extended absences by now. 

In practice, Malkin was flanked by Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust while Jared McCann was reunited with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

We should note that Letang took part in the full practice, even skating on the second power-play unit, though he was still in a non-contact jersey. His status for the playoffs is less certain.


In other injury news, Erik Karlsson took part in a full practice with the Sharks on Wednesday. Whether he’s ready for a week from now, we’ll see.


With Arizona’s playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the team looks to be without Darcy Kuemper who may have sustained an eye injury on Tuesday night getting poked with a stick. The Coyotes have called up Adin Hill, which seems to assure that Kuemper will be out at least one game. Let’s just hope there’s no serious damage here.


The Vegas Golden Knights signed college defenceman Jimmy Schuldt to a one-year contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent after this season, at which point I imagine Vegas will give him a two- or three-year deal. Our own Brad Phillips wrote on Schuldt about a year ago. I recommend giving it a read.

In general, this is a good time to be paying attention to Dobber Prospects. We’ll have a lot of playoff content here at Dobber Hockey,= to be sure, but it’s also a time when our Prospects team is busy covering everything you need for the up-and-comers. You can read Peter Harling’s Ramblings from Wednesday here, just to get you caught up a little bit.


Speaking of playoffs, the 2019 Dobber Hockey Playoff Draft List is available for pre-order now and will be available to download at the end of the week. Get the help you need for your playoff pools!


Just a quick thought: Mats Zuccarello is a very important player to the Dallas Stars. With him in the lineup, it gives the team two legitimate scoring lines teams need to worry about, something teams didn’t need to fret over before the trade. He just needs to stay in the lineup.


Jonathan Toews scoring his 35th goal of the year in Chicago’s 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis established a new single-season high for him, having reached 34 in his sophomore campaign. He needs one more point to reach 80 for the first time in his Hall Of Fame career. That is quite the resurgence after three straight years under 60 points.

David Perron had one goal and four shots with four hits in the loss. It should be noted that over the last two seasons, Perron has a higher points/game mark (0.88) than Evgenii Dadonov (0.87) and Filip Forsberg (0.86). It’s been a marvelous resurgence for the winger over the last couple years.


Sam Steel scored in Anaheim’s 3-1 win over a skeleton crew from Calgary, giving Steel six points in five games since finding his way back into the lineup. He was skating again with Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg, maybe giving fantasy owners a glimpse into what next season could hold. Pushing Getzlaf to the second line in an effort to bring balanced scoring would make sense. There’s a lot of time between now and October, though.


A couple days ago in these Ramblings, I wrote up some players who had a breakout of sorts in 2017-18 and followed that up with a solid-to-great 2018-19 season. This could have been established players finally reaching their ceiling, or young stars without much of a track record making the most of their opportunity. It was just to point out some guys upon whom we can now rely in the fantasy game moving forward.

I thought it would be worth writing up the other side of this coin; if there were players who followed up a stellar 2017-18 with a stellar 2018-19, then were there players who did not have a good 2018-19 in response to their breakout 2017-18? Let’s dive right in.


Yanni Gourde

A favourite of many before he stepped foot into the NHL because of solid production in the AHL, Gourde made the most of his 2017-18 with 25 goals and 64 points. He was a top-100 player in almost any fantasy setup and with him skating on what looked to be a high-powered squad on the verge of multi-year dominance, there was a lot of hope that the 60-plus points would be the norm.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gourde has 47 points in 78 games. So what went wrong?

It should be noted there’s nothing wrong with his goal scoring. He’s managed 22 goals this year after a season that featured 25 tallies. He does need to shoot more – he’s 200th out of 267 forwards in shot rate this year at five-on-five – but there is nothing wrong with his goal scoring. It’s his assists, of which there are 14 fewer this year than last, that are the issue.

When looking at his stats, it seems like it’s death by 1000 cuts for Gourde rather than any one single thing:

  • His on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five, or the rate at which the team scores with him on the ice, fell from 11.5 percent in 2017-18 to 10.1 percent in 2018-19. It should be noted that 10.1 percent is still a very good mark, it’s just that the year before it was a bit too high.
  • His individual points percentage (IPP), or the rate at which he garners points on goals scored when he’s on the ice, fell from 73 percent last year to 66.7 percent this year. That rate this year puts him near the middle of the league which is, again, just fine.
  • His secondary assist rate at five-on-five, which we know is mostly random for forwards, fell from 0.69 last year to 0.44 this year.
  • His IPP on the power play declined to 44.4 percent this season from 65 percent a year ago, so even though he’s been on the ice for nearly as many PP goals (18) as last season (20), he’s lost three assists.

During the offseason, we’ll dig further into the how of all this but for now, at least we know why there was such a decline in assists.

Realistically, a guy with over 20 goals and pushing 50 points who doesn’t get prime PP minutes and is playing under 16 minutes a night, is a productive guy. It was just below the expectation he set for himself. Can he rebound? That’ll be something else for another day.


William Karlsson

I think the player almost everyone assumed would see a major pullback after a breakout season was the top Vegas centre. A guy with 18 career goals in over 180 career games suddenly exploded for 43 markers while shooting in excess of 23 percent. It didn’t take a brain genius to figure out this puzzle.

But is his production this year indicative of his and his line mates’ true talent? That’s a much better puzzle.

As things stand on Wednesday afternoon, the top line for Vegas has an expected goal rate at five-on-five of 2.8 per 60 minutes. Their actual goals scored sits at 2.9 per 60 minutes. While there is some debate as to whether the expected goals captures everything a line does offensively, it’s one of the best predictive measures we have right now. As far as we can tell, this is about the true talent level of this line (which is still an excellent trio at both ends of the ice).

The line’s expected goals rate and shot attempts generated have been similar to last year so the difference is all shooting percentage driven: the team scored on 11.3 percent of shots last year to 8.6 percent this year with the Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith trio on the ice. Everything else about Karlsson’s season is about normal, with his IPP (68.5) near last year’s mark (70.2) and his assists per 60 (1.17) actually a bit higher than last year (1.11).

This is about the season we should expect from Karlsson unless the top PP unit is one that is heavily-used next year. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a 25-goal, 60-point season from the centre of a good top line. He has upside beyond that with increased PP production but that’s about it.


Ivan Provorov

A little over two years ago, I was asked a question on Twitter that read as follows: If you exclude McDavid, Laine, Matthews, and Eichel, who do you start your franchise with? I answered:



After Provorov put up 17 goals and 41 points in 2017-18, which included solid defensive metrics per Evolving Hockey, I was feeling pretty confident in that answer.

The 2018-19 season has given me a lot of doubt.

Without diving deep, all of Provorov’s metrics have declined. His offensive play-driving has declined, his defensive game has declined, and the production have gone down. As far as the metrics are concerned, playing with Robert Hagg (who has been atrocious) has hurt his overall numbers, but they’re still not good for Provorov even without Hagg. Part of me wonders if his playing through that bad shoulder injury in the playoffs last year lingered into this year. Maybe his offseason training was pushed back and he was never able to catch up once the season started. With his pedigree and strong first two seasons, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

As far as the production is concerned, there’s nothing too out of line. His IPP is 32.8 percent, near the middle of the league, and in the same range as guys like Alex Pietrangelo and Jacob Trouba. His on-ice shooting percentage fell but only by about half a percent, and his secondary assist rate actually went up. Aside from a few assists here and there, most of the point drop came from goal scoring.  It should be noted he had three empty-net goals in 2017-18, the most in the league for a defenceman. There’s part of his goals drop (he has none this year). His shot rate at five-on-five has dropped by about 23 percent and that, combined with a small shooting percentage drop, has meant four fewer goals at 5v5 (which includes those empty-net goals). Combined with a bagel on the power play (zero goals on 20 shots), and now we know why his goal total has dropped.

Again, I do wonder if the shot rate drop is because of a lingering shoulder issue. That’s just pure speculation on my part, but it would explain the sudden drop-off after two years of solid shot rates for a young defenceman.

I do believe the Flyers are a team on the rise and this will be a higher-scoring franchise next year. We have to keep in mind how productive he’s been at such a young age: Provorov is one of five defencemen since the 2005 lockout to post 30 goals and 60 assists in their age 20-22 seasons. The others are Dion Phaneuf, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. As long as Provorov isn’t the next Phaneuf, he’ll be a good fantasy option for a long time, especially in multi-cat leagues.


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