21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
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. Thirty-two-year-old Alex Radulov equaled his career-high 72 points from a season ago, but he’s done so in 12 fewer games. This is one vet that I’m okay buying in on next season. Dallas rides the big horses and that won’t be changing next year. Another 70-point season seems very doable. (apr3)
2. Soon-to-be RFA Jacob Trouba will once again be a topic of discussion this offseason. The Jets will need to make some changes as their cap structure shifts with Patrik Laine (RFA), Kyle Connor (RFA) and Tyler Myers (UFA) also in need of new deals this summer. It will be interesting to see if the Jets can manage to lock Trouba down to a long-term deal after consecutive bridge-deals, or if the trade-market finally opens up for the 25-year-old. (apr3)
3. The Sharks are the first team with four 30-goal scorers (Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Evander Kane) since the 2008-09 Red Wings and Flyers. The latter scored his 30th on Saturday, which is the first time since 2011-12 that he has reached that total.
Erik Karlsson returned for the Sharks on Saturday after missing the past 17 games with a groin injury. He was held without a point but was a plus-3 in 22 minutes. He should be available as normal for playoff pools. (apr7)
4. A late-season callup, rookie Sam Steel ended the season on a high note, posting eight points (5g-3a) over his last seven games. Expect the former WHL scoring star to be on the Ducks’ roster on a full-time basis next season, as he had already posted solid numbers in the AHL (39 points in 50 games). (apr6)
5. You may have been disappointed in Jakob Silfverberg this season. However, with his goal on Friday, he set a career high in goals with 24. He still hasn’t reached 50 points in his career and it may not happen next season with the Ducks’ scoring attack mainly either on the back nine (Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf), or just getting started (Sam Steel, Troy Terry, Max Jones). (apr6)
6. Five shutouts this season for Jaroslav Halak, which is not bad for a backup goalie. Moreover, entering weekend action, his ratios (2.34 GAA, .922 SV%) were among the top 10 among goalies who played at least 30 games.
Halak is signed for another year in Boston, which might be something to think about when valuing Tuukka Rask next year. Rask has won 27 games and played in just 46 games this season, which are his lowest totals in six campaigns. (apr5)
7. Alex Pietrangelo, the father of triplets, has reached the 40-point mark for the third consecutive season and fifth time in six seasons. Obviously, 41 points is a dip from last year’s 54, which Dobber (who is a father himself) warned you about before the season. Pietrangelo’s second-half production (28 points in in 43 games, 0.58 Pts/GP) has been noticeably better than his first-half production (13 points in 28 games, 0.46 Pts/GP), which may be related to the Blues’ remarkable second-half surge. Or, maybe it’s because he’s adjusted to life as a busy dad. (apr5)
8. Yes, the ‘bunch of jerks’ punched their 2019 playoff ticket. Even though the Canes won’t be providing any victory celebrations after any home playoff wins, I have a feeling that they’ll be a popular underdog to pull for. Petr Mrazek stopped 36 of 37 shots to earn the playoff-clinching victory against New Jersey on Thursday.
Mrazek enjoyed quite a run recently, posting an 11-2-0 record with a 1.68 GAA and a .944 SV% since mid-February. Both he and Curtis McElhinney will be UFAs at the end of the season. Since the Canes are a top-10 team in goaltending, I would have to believe they would bring back at least one of these goalies next season and maybe even both. If you need to pick a Canes’ goalie for your playoff pool, it’s probably Mrazek, although he and McElhinney have basically been splitting starts for the past few weeks. (apr5)
9. A favourite of many before he stepped foot into the NHL because of solid production in the AHL, Yanni 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.
Gourde finished the season with 48 points in 80 games. So, what went wrong?
It should be noted there’s nothing wrong with his goal scoring. He managed 22 goals this year after a season that featured 25 tallies. He does need to shoot more, though – late this past week, he was 200th out of 267 forwards in shot rate 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.
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. (apr4)
10. 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. (apr4)
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11. We don’t know the exact severity of Connor McDavid’s leg injury sustained on Saturday, or the timeline for recovery, but at least it sounds as if we don’t have to worry about him not being ready for next season.
On the surface, it might not seem like a big deal because the Oilers won’t play games that matter again until October. However, significant injuries will interrupt previously scheduled offseason training plans. Consider Brock Boeser’s slow start this season as an example, after he recovered from a significant back injury and a lingering wrist issue.
McDavid may not have led the league in scoring (he finished second) but he is the only player not to go two consecutive games without a point, which is remarkably reliable. (apr7)
12. Nikita Kucherov finished the season with 128 points, which is the highest single-season total ever for a Russian-born player.
Kucherov performance earns him the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer and he should be considered the fantasy MVP in pure points leagues, as well as many multicategory formats. Expect him to be the top-ranked player in fantasy playoff drafts as the Lightning should be considered the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Or, to Don Cherry or Brian Burke (can’t remember which one), they’re the easy pick to win. (apr7)
13. Jake DeBrusk brought his season-ending totals to 27 goals and 42 points in 68 games. He’s producing legitimate top-six metrics in his second season and you’d have to expect there is more to come.
He sees top power-play deployment on a high-end team. He has developed nice chemistry to David Krejci on line two, and despite a conversion rate that will likely slip next season, he’s displaying an ability to find the back of the net on a consistent basis. The breakout may not be next season, but I see a 65-point season in his future. (apr3)
14. It’s been a terrific late-career jump by Zach Parise, who ended the season with 28 goals and 61 points. This was also as healthy as the 34-year-old has been in the last six campaigns. Don’t expect this to be replicated in 2019-20. (apr3)
15. 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.
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. (apr2)
16. The Golden Knights signed college defenseman 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 here. (apr4)
17. Fantasy hockey owners (and Red Wings fans) had been waiting for Anthony 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 were bad but Mantha was mostly attached to Larkin and the result was 25 goals and 48 points in 67 games.
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. (apr2)
18. It’s pretty easy to remember that just a couple years ago, there were doubts as to whether Ryan 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.
Pulock 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.
Well, Pulock finished with nine goals and 37 points, averaging 2.2 shots per game, and he 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. 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. (apr2)
19. Drake Caggiula’s fantasy hockey value appears to have improved with the Hawks, although not to the point where you should add him in anything more than the deepest of leagues. That’s even with him playing on the Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews line, although that line combination certainly makes the idea of adding him tempting.
Caggiula will be entering his fourth NHL season next year, so perhaps a full season in Chicago with those linemates can result in some sort of breakout. (apr6)
20. 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. This year, with his 33 goals, 302 shots, and 126 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 favors them. With back-to-back seasons shooting over 11 percent (10.9 to be exact for 2018-19), that favor is here, and fantasy owners are reaping the rewards.
The thing is, Gallagher’s still not getting much ice time. His 16:24 per game overall this year is lower than both his 2014-15 and 2015-16 marks. Imagine what he could do if he were ever given the ice time a top-line forward like him deserves? (apr2)
20. Tyler Bertuzzi continues to roll. For Little Bert (I had called his Uncle Todd ‘Big Bert’ so…), it is now three consecutive three-point games. Very much draftable in the fall and if this line continues to click even at a normal rate, the two offensive guns could really drag Little Bert’s points upward. Very bullish on this guy because of his linemates. I hate drafting and making decisions based on linemates, but I do make exceptions when they clearly work and I have a strong hunch that the line will continue for more than just a few months. That’s where I’m at with Bertuzzi. (apr1)
21. Oliver Bjorkstrand capped off 2018-19 with nine goals in his last 10 contests. It’s been a disappointing season for Bjorkstrand but suddenly surging late to top 20 goals is a promising consolation. Coach John Tortorella must be thrilled with the fact that Bjorkstrand had 32 SOG over his last eight games. Bjorkstrand turns 24 this week. With the exodus of players likely happening in the Jackets’ offseason, I think it’s very likely that Bjorkstrand finds himself on the top line next season and is a very strong sleeper candidate. (apr1)
Have a good week, folks!!
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