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. Blue Jackets’ Matt Duchene had a fantastic Round 1 series with seven points in four games. Aside from the points, he led the team in adjusted shot share at five-on-five and Columbus outscored Tampa Bay 4-1 when he was on the ice at five-on-five.
Duchene didn’t do a whole lot in the regular season post-deadline but his play in the first round made his acquisition completely worth it. What a marvelous series. (apr18)
2. On the topic of Duchene pulling through, how about Max Pacioretty and Jordan Eberle? Remember when those two were players a franchise couldn’t rely upon for big performances? Pacioretty has 10 points in five games with the Sharks on the verge of elimination Sunday, while Eberle had four goals and six points in the four-game sweep of the Penguins. Their respective performances are just a reminder to casual hockey fans that they’re very good players. (apr18)
How far does Raanta’s injury and uncertainty surrounding his grip on the starting role push down his ADP? Does Kuemper’s great season and potential push for the top job drive up his ADP? Will these two be drafted in relatively the same tier as, say, Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury were a few years ago?
I am fascinated to see where these guys are valued by the market, especially if the Coyotes make some moves this offseason either in the trade or free agency markets. Or both. (apr16)
4. Kyle Connor is the least talked about upcoming RFA this summer. People are whispering about offer sheets all over the place but the Winnipeg cap, coupled with his strong production, may lead to some interesting negotiations. (apr17)
5. This won’t be an easy offseason for the Jets, who will have as many as 15 pending free agents to sort out. For example, Connor and Patrik Laine will need contracts, which means that the Jets might not be able to afford UFAs Kevin Hayes and Brandon Tanev.
Then there’s the defense. Have Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers both played their last games as Jets? Beyond pillars Dustin Byfuglien and Josh Morrissey, this group could look very different. At least fantasy owners should finally be able to see Sami Niku on the Jets for a full season.
Then you also have to wonder whether coach Paul Maurice’s job is safe after what appeared to be a missed opportunity. Needless to say, they’ll be lots of fantasy implications to break down with this team this offseason. (apr21)
6. The Blue Jackets’ four-game sweep of the Lightning has easily been the surprise story of the NHL playoffs so far. The Islanders’ four-game sweep of the Penguins will come in as a not-too-distant second in that department. And there’s the Flames, out in five against the Avs, as well. That isn’t good news if you’d built your fantasy playoff roster around the likes of Nikita Kucherov and Sidney Crosby.
There’s the old expression “when you lose, don’t lose the lesson.” So, can fantasy owners learn anything from these surprise quick exits of the Lightning and Penguins, two teams that have been on the short list of Stanley Cup contenders over the last few years? Follow this link for at least three takeaways about the topic. (apr20)
7. Rookie Alexandre Texier’s developmental arc has been something to marvel. As the youngest player in the crop, he was drafted halfway through the second round in 2017 out the top league in France. All he’s done since is make the Columbus scouting staff look like geniuses.
He had a very strong year in the Finnish Liiga as an 18-year-old in 2017-18. This past season, his 41 points in 55 contests were the second most by a U20 player. He came over to the American League to close out the campaign and scored five goals and seven points in as many games. That earned him the call to the big club and I’m guessing he won’t be heading down any time soon.
Texier will be an extremely interesting player to rank heading into fantasy hockey drafts next season. Keeper leagues need to be all over this guy, but his original draft slot coupled with a bit of no-name vibe could push him into sleeper territory. That is, of course, if he doesn’t go off this postseason.
The 19-year-old has been skating on a line with Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson at even-strength and seeing some second unit power play deployment. With Artemi Panarin almost assuredly out the door this summer, a left-wing spot in the top-six will be wide open. If the Blue Jackets don’t fill that hole with a big fish (a big if), then I like Texier to put his name on it. (apr17)
8. Current Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was signed to a two-year extension earlier this month, so his job for at least next season is secure. However, I’d think that new GM Steve Yzerman would immediately raise the bar for a former contender that has now missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
The Wings have some nice pieces centering around Dylan Larkin, but Stevie Y will need to add more in the way of draft picks. With some cap space, Yzerman could even dip into the free agent pool as early as this summer. Optimism abound in the Motor City.
9. Your Vezina Trophy finalists were announced on Saturday and they are Ben Bishop, Robin Lehner and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bishop led the NHL with a .934 SV% and trailed only half-season starter Jordan Binnington with a 1.98 GAA.
In spite of those impressive ratios, you know that Vasilevskiy will receive a lot of first-place votes because he led the league with 39 wins, which had a lot to do with the team in front of him.
Hockey media hasn’t paid enough attention to Bishop’s season, perhaps because he plays in a non-traditional hockey market for a team that squeaked into the playoffs. Because of their goaltender, the Stars might be better than we think as they are on the verge of upsetting Nashville. (apr21)
10. James Neal was a healthy scratch for Game 5. As you might expect, he had no points in the previous four games. Neal has quite simply been a bust for the Flames since signing a five-year contract worth $5.75 million per season last summer. His 19 points in 63 games is his lowest point total in his 11-year NHL career and he doesn’t seem to fit into the Flames’ younger core going forward. Hopefully, you didn’t draft him hoping he’d play on the Flames’ top line. We could now be seeing why Nashville left him unprotected in the expansion draft.
11. The Flames have a major decision coming up with respect to their goaltending. The team’s ousting is by no means entirely on Mike Smith (his 188 saves were lead all playoff goalies at the time), but he was easily considered the biggest question mark for the Flames entering the series.
You’d have to think that the 37-year-old Smith won’t be returning and that the Flames would instead turn to a tandem with RFA David Rittich and a goalie that they find as a UFA (maybe they circle back to Smith?) There doesn’t appear to be anything waiting in the system, as the numbers for both Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons don’t suggest that they’re NHL-ready. Maybe a trade? (apr20)
Was it his defense partner? That’s very possible, considering how much better Doughty has fared over the last two years when not playing with Derek Forbort. Was it the coaching staff and their systems? It may be, and we’ll have a better idea of this now that Todd McLellan is behind the bench. Was it just an off year? I don’t want to dismiss that, either.
I’m pretty comfortable saying that Doughty going from playing with Jake Muzzin to playing with Forbort had a massive impact on his performance. But does he have a better partner next year? We’ll see. (apr19)
13. As when all teams get eliminated from playoffs, we find out about all the injuries players were going through. Pittsburgh’s locker clean-out brought us that as Jared McCann informed us he was playing through a separated shoulder. Also, Brian Dumoulin was playing through a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his knee.
We also got more rumours that Evgeni Malkin will be traded, which seems to be almost a rite of passage whenever the Penguins don’t win the Cup. That always overlooks the fact that even if the Penguins wanted to trade Malkin, he has a no-move clause. Honestly, these types of rumors exhaust me because there is never is a kernel of truth and people are just looking for clicks. I guess that’s just the online world we live in now. (apr19)
14. Tampa Bay also told us that Victor Hedman was not medically cleared for Games 3 and 4 after being so earlier in the series. It’s pretty obvious Hedman was nowhere near himself in Round 1. General manager Julien Brisebois also said there will be changes, but as I stated in my Ramblings yesterday, it’s just a reality of their cap situation rather than blowing up the roster.
Again, this roster is loaded top to bottom. It seems Brisebois understands that making significant changes would not be in the team’s best interest. It’s nice to see him take a measured approach.
15. It was a rebound, or career year, in many ways for Patrick Kane. Not something easily predicted for a 30-year old on what was thought to be a declining team.
An early lesson I learned in fantasy sports is to always bet on talent. Originally, for me, this applied to relief pitchers in fantasy baseball, but it’s very much true in almost any sport; elite talent usually finds a way to be productive almost regardless of circumstance. This certainly isn’t always the case (see: Kopitar, Anze) and I would bet on a modest step back for Kane in 2019-20. All the same, doubting elite talent is a bet I do not often make. (apr16)
16. Something that caught my eye in Cam Metz’s Eastern Edge column a couple of days ago. He wrote about production against expected production from right wingers in the Atlantic division. One guy whose name stood out: Jason Pominville.
In 837 minutes of five-on-five ice time, Pominville posted 2.01 points per 60 minutes. Among the 252 forwards with at least 800 minutes, only 86 forwards managed at least two points per 60 minutes at 5v5. Pominville’s rate was the same as Brayden Schenn and Joe Pavelski. Pominville accomplished this despite playing only about a third of his ice time with Jack Eichel.
Going back three seasons, Pominville’s aggregate points/60 minutes at 5v5 (1.93) is the same as Gustav Nyquist, and higher than other wingers like Pavelski, Alex Radulov, Evander Kane, and Justin Williams.
Now, there is a lot more to hockey than just simply a points rate at five-on-five, but it’s clear that Pominville can still be productive in the NHL in a lesser role, and can do so even in a low-scoring environment. However, he turns 37 in November and it’s a wonder how much he does have left. I’ll be interested to see where he lands this summer. (apr18)
17. I’ve written about this before, but the 40-goal scoring Jake Guentzel is one of the few players who I believe can consistently live in the mid-to-high teens for conversion rate. It doesn’t hurt that he’s locked to Sidney Crosby at even-strength. I imagine he’ll finally take a full-time spot on the top power-play unit next fall as well. (apr17)
18. At the outset of the season, I envisioned a transition year for the Ducks. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry would still be productive, but likely on the third or fourth lines, while guys like Sam Steel, Troy Terry, and Max Comtois would step up and lead the next wave of the Ducks core.
That wasn’t entirely the case.
Steel’s first foray in the NHL saw three points and 17 shots on goal through 13 games, averaging under 15 minutes a game. We have to think back to the state of the Ducks in October, though: Ryan Getzlaf missed two weeks due to injury, Ondrej Kase was not in the lineup due to his own injury, and Perry was injured as well. With guys like Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano in the top-6, Steel was playing on the third and fourth line most nights with guys who were either unproven or without a lot of offensive skill. He wasn’t exactly put into a position to succeed, and he, Isac Lundestrom, and Terry were eventually sent down either for the rest of the season, or until after the trade deadline.
In all, the underlying numbers weren’t great for Steel but I wonder how much of that is Anaheim being a disaster most of the season. Those numbers were really bad in October, but after his recall at the end of February, he had very strong shot share numbers for the remaining games he dressed. It really was a tale of two seasons for Steel.
I’m still a believer in his talent and think he can be a good second-line center in the NHL. I thought that might start in 2018-19 but clearly he needed another year of to get up to speed. I think my mistake was my own beliefs in a player’s potential clouded what I should have seen as a clear development year. It’s a mistake I’m certain I’ll make again. (apr16)
19. Well it’s done. A week ago I didn’t expect this to happen. Not even when I had my ‘interview’ with Nikita Gusev’s agent a couple of weeks ago. I thought this would come in the form of a signing in late June, or an announcement in August. But things have moved quickly over the last week and Vegas has actually signed Gusev to a one-year entry-level contract.
The 26-year-old has dominated the KHL – and the international stage – for a couple of years now, and he’s ready to step into the lineup right away. Not only that, but he is actually eligible to play, since he wasn’t signed as an unrestricted free agent. Whenever he does, he could have an Artemi Panarin-type of impact. Vegas already has their first two lines in stone (or ‘Stone’, if you will): (apr15)
20. Gusev wasn’t the only Russian star to sign with an NHL playoff team. Columbus signed Vladislav Gavrikov, a defenseman who played with Gusev on SKA St. Petersburg. There were also questions as to whether or not Gavrikov would sign, too. Funny enough, the Jackets have two defensemen hurt and had to actually dress Adam Clendening in Games 3 and 4 of Round 1. Gavrikov is 23 and his offensive upside is minimal (mid-30s) but he’s close to a sure thing when it comes to making it into the NHL. At least, as much as one can be a sure thing. (apr15)
21. In early December, I traded Vince Dunn for Nazem Kadri in my keeper league. At the time, I wanted the depth forward as it would keep me in the hunt. I also wanted a playoff guy and Kadri was a lock for the playoffs, whereas clearly Dunn and his St. Louis Blues were, uh…done. They were bottom dwellers at the time. And as a bonus, Kadri had a great second half last year and although that was due to playing with Mitch Marner (which wasn’t going to happen again this year), I figured there would still be an uptick.
Well, that entire transaction has derailed and I feel like I gave up a good quality young defenseman for nothing. With Kadri’s track record of dirty hits, he’s going to miss time and likely lots of it. So, as a playoff asset, he’s done. And he never had that second-half uptick so he really didn’t help the bottom of my roster very much, either. (apr15)
Have a good week, folks!!