It’s that time again – to empty the mailbag and answer your fantasy hockey questions. The goals here is for me to give thorough answers to the questions while making sure to address them in a way which also provides fantasy advice and food for thought to other readers, even if they don’t own the player(s) that are the subject of the questions. Enough intro – onto the all-important questions and answers!
Question #1 (from Paul)
I’m in a 14 team keeper that protects 8 players. Each team starts 10 F, 5 D, and 2 G. The categories are goals, assists, team +/-, Team Hits & Blocks, Team PIM, Team PPG+GWG, and, for goalies, Wins, SV% and GAA. I think I have six automatic keepers in Frederik Andersen, Thomas Chabot, Victor Hedman, David Pastrnak, Patrick Kane, and Dylan Larkin. The question is what to do about the other two keeper slots. My choices are Brady Tkachuk, Tomas. Hertl, William Nylander, and Viktor Arvidsson. Which two of them do you pick, or do you think I should keep three, in which case which player from the six I listed would you toss back?
Four of your six automatics are indeed automatic, with Chabot and Larkin not quite at that level. Still, those two probably make the cut since, on paper, Chabot projects to be one of the best 70 d-men and Larkin one of the top 140 forwards. Nevertheless, I worry somewhat about the dreaded sophomore slump from Chabot, particularly since he ended the season with only 17 points in his final 32 games. With Larkin the concern is the team around him; yet notwithstanding that, he’s managed to stay on an upward trajectory and figures to hit or come near 80 point territory next season, although not with the best peripherals. Long story short, yes – Chabot and Larkin are indeed keepers for you, but ones not without some risk of not performing up to expectations.
For the two other spots, I think Hertl is a lock, as he was a point per game player over the second half and even chips in with nice hits and blocks, not to mention the fact that he had 35+ goals, 35+ assists and 11 PPGs and 5 GWGs, which amounts to well-rounded stat stuffing. Best yet – he’s still only 25, so he could have even better hockey in him. The other spot – to me – boils down to Arvidsson and Tkachuk. Why not Nylander? What concerns me is his IPP (i.e., percentage of points he receives on goals scored while he was on the ice) was at 63% for the second straight campaign, which means he doesn’t have a strong nose for scoring. Plus, when he tallied 61 points in 2017-18 it was accompanied by a 5×5 team shooting percentage over 12%. Let’s also not look past the fact that he’s pretty lousy when it comes to hits and blocks, plus might not even be a PP1 guy for the Leafs. I worry he might be a notch below what you’d want to keep.
So then, who’s the last keeper? Arvidsson gives you goals galore, which is key in your league. And although he’s never been good on the PP, he was particularly snake bit this past season, which in turn means he could be poised to post 70-75+ points in 2019-20. Unfortunately, your league doesn’t count SOG, where he’s super strong. With Tkachuk, you get tons of hits plus great PIM along with decent goals and PPPts. And unlike most rookies, he finished strong, with 25 points in his last 39 games. We can spin that in either of two ways – positively by noting that he played well despite hardly any talent around him, or negatively by arguing that he played well because he received ice time and deployment he might not get once the team restocks itself in the offseason.
In the end, Arvidsson is probably the safer pick of the two. But you still might opt for Tkachuk if you’re lacking in hits and PIM yet have goals otherwise covered well.
Question #2 (from Jeff)
In a points-only league, my last forward keeper will come down to Brayden Schenn/Jakub Vrana. Schenn has been very useful since I also own Tarasenko; but Vrana intrigues me, especially given how he was playing toward the end of the season. I'm wondering if you think Vrana will get more ice time – including on the PP – next season to make him a better keeper for me than Schenn.
I know it’s not “sexy” to go with Schenn, but he’s the choice. A key for me is Vrana had 17 points in 22 third quarter games and despite this saw zero added ice time (overall or on the PP) in the fourth quarter. What’s more – everyone ahead of Vrana on the depth chart is returning next season, plus the Caps might opt to re-sign Brett Connolly, who did just as well as Vrana despite what was arguably even worse deployment; and Connolly’s continued presence could contribute to keeping Vrana’s minutes limited.
As for Schenn, he did have a subpar year as compared to 2017-18; however, the key is to look at his second half, when he had 31 of his 54 points in only 37 games while playing predominantly on a “super line” of him, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko. Perhaps more importantly, Tarasenko ignited to the tune of 45 points in his last 38 games such that St. Louis could follow the Boston model and continue to play its three best forwards on the same line and, in turn, those three could see their totals explode.
I realize Vrana is tempting given his upward trend in scoring plus the fact that his magical fourth year will occur in 2019-20, but Schenn has to be your keep because for all we know Vrana might spin his wheels and not make a huge jump in scoring. Or to put it another way, I’d say there’s a 25% chance that Vrana scores 65+ points next season, but a 75% chance Schenn hits that mark, so the math says Schenn. And remember – just because you don’t keep Vrana doesn’t mean you can’t redraft him. Or if your league allows offseason trading and you’re not entirely sold on Schenn, try to package him and Vrana to a GM who sees Vrana as a breakout waiting to happen. That way maybe you can turn the two of them into someone better than either one and, at the same time, solve your keeper dilemma?
Question #3 (from Artem)
I’m in a very deep H2H 30-team cap league with the following categories: skaters (G, A, +/-, PIM, Ft, GMiP, PPG, PPA, SHG, SHA, OG, ShG, SOG, FOW, Hits, Blocks, Gv, Tk, 1/2/3 Star); Goalies (W, SV, SO, OL/ShL, -L, -GA, ShSV, 1/2/3 Star). I need to choose 4 skater keepers and 1 goalie from among Taro Hirose; Max Veronneau; Joseph Duszak; Evgeny Svechnikov; Alex Barre-Boulet; Bogdan Kiselevich; Mikhail Berdin; and Veini Vehvilainen. Which would you choose and why?
Let’s start with goalies first, since it’s a side-by-side comparison. Despite having been drafted in 2018, Vehvilainen is already 22. He had a breakout 2017-18 for his team in Liiga and then managed to top his gaudy stats in 2018-19 to the tune of a 1.58 GAA and .933 SV%. If only you could make your decision after the UFA period starts since if the Blue Jackets don’t commit to a big time, big money goalie that would leave an opening for Vehvilainen to pull a Pekka Rinne, who likewise wasn’t drafted until age 22. Then again, there are two other goalie prospects in the Columbus system (Elvis Merzlikins and Daniil Tarasov) whom the Blue Jackets might be more inclined to groom for an NHL role, leaving Vehvilainen to remain overseas or languish in the AHL.
Berdin is a year younger but has already seen action – and done well – in the AHL, plus will begin year two of his ELC next season. Of course, it’d take a seismic turn of events for Hellebuyck to be displaced as the Jets’ starter. With Winnipeg seemingly poised to be a contender for the Cup for the immediate future, and with Eric Comrie in their system, Berdin could be put into a deadline deal to help land the team talent, which, in turn, could pave the way for Berdin to compete for a starting gig. Or he could be a career AHLer.
Truth be told, I’m not wild about either of them, but I’m going with Berdin since he’s already signed to an ELC. That puts him a step closer to the NHL than Vehvilainen, who as I noted might stay overseas.
Turning to your d-men, Duszak was recently inked to a two-year deal following a better than a point per game campaign in the NCAA, where his scoring rose each season. That paves the way for him to go to the AHL next season and, should Jake Gardiner sign with another team, plus with Ron Hainsey and Martin Marincin as UFAs as well, Duszak has a realistic path to the NHL. Kiselevich of course already made it to the NHL, skating in 32 games for the Panthers this past season and putting up eight points before being dished to the Jets at the deadline for a 7th round pick despite being a UFA this summer. Of the two, I like Duszak, as he’s nearly eight years younger and there’s no guarantee that Kiselevich plays in the NHL in 2019-20 given his UFA status, whereas Duszak might be able to seize upon one or more UFA openings on the Maple Leafs’ blueline. The question is whether Duszak is a better keeper than four of your forwards…
Of the four forwards, three have already tasted NHL action. Hirose, of course, made a nice splash at the end of 2018-19, with points in each of his first five NHL contests and seven in ten overall. That, plus him being 23 years old and with three seasons of college hockey under his belt, should be enough to secure him a spot on the opening roster next season. Veronneau also didn’t look out of place on his way to posting four points in 12 NHL contests. With Ottawa being posed for a rebuild and with the team having only six other forwards who played in the NHL last season under contract for 2019-20, Veronneau’s path to staying in the NHL seems safe.
Svechnikov was poised to perhaps start the season with the Wings but then was injured and missed the entire season. The only one of the four forwards who was drafted, Svechnikov was actually a first round pick in 2015; but his AHL numbers haven’t been jaw-dropping, to say the least, and the talent he flashed in the QMJHL might not be able to translate to the pro game. As for Barre-Boulet, he was even more prolific in the QMJHL and followed that up with a dominant 64 points in the AHL in 2018-19. Were he on nearly any other team than Tampa Bay his outlook would be more favorable; however, as we’ve seen with Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat, and even the bigger money J.T. Miller, simply making it to Tampa Bay is not a guarantee of figuring in the high-scoring offence. His best hope might just be landing on another team and turning into yet another undersized success story.
All things considered, I’m going with Duszak, Hirose, Veronneau and Barre-Boulet as your four skater keepers. The first three should be able to make an NHL impact this season. Kiselevich might not be in the NHL come 2019-20, and even if he is he’ll turn 30 during the season, and Erik Gustafsson he’s not, while Svechnikov looks like a first rounder that might end up being more of an AHL player. Barre-Boulet is a risk/reward keeper, as although a lot would have to go right for him to be able to make an impact, he could be the best of the bunch if given a real chance in the NHL, which should come at some point, particularly with Seattle expansion on the horizon.
Question #4 (from Kristopher)
I’m in a 16 team Salary Cap Dynasty style league. H2H Scoring. Rosters of 30, Start 19 (4 C, 8 W, 6 D, 1 G). Free Agency each summer/fall, sign players up to 3-year contracts, option year for extensions is the second year (up to 2-year extensions, 1 mil for each year added). Categories for skaters (with weighting in parentheses): +/- (1), assists (2), Blocks (0.25), Faceoffs Lost (-0.125), Faceoffs Won (+0.125), Goals (3), Hits (0.25), PIM (0.25), PPPts (1), SOG (0.2), SHP (2).
For this league, what are your thoughts on Pavel Buchnevich and Ondrej Kase for next year? Still, on his base rookie salary of 700k, a Buchnevich extension in my league would put him to either 1.7 or 2.7 million depending on how long I go. Kase is at an affordable 2 mill for me right now, but an extension would put him to either 3 or 4 million, again depending on how long I go.
Starting with Buchnevich, yes he was a healthy scratch at times this season; however, by the second half he was on a roll, finishing with 20 points in his last 26 games and potting 21 goals in just 64 games, for a 27 goal full season pace despite barely taking the ice for 15 minutes per game He also was helping his most frequent linemates – Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider – play well once the trio was put together in the fourth quarter. I think Buchnevich has a legit chance at a 30G/30A season in 2019-20, with an outside shot at 35/35. He also brings you a pretty decent output in hits and produces well on the PP.
Kase gave us a preview of what he’s capable of once he was back from injury and before going down for the remainder of the season, with 18 points in 21 games on 60 SOG in the second quarter. And this was while receiving barely 15 minutes per game and two minutes of man-advantage time. With a core that’s otherwise ageing, Anaheim will play Kase more next season and I see no reason why he can’t soon be to Anaheim what Jake Guentzel is to Pittsburgh or Timo Meier to San Jose, with the concern being whether there will be enough talent around him to help ignite his scoring.
If I was in your shoes, I’d lock in both for extensions. I think you’ll be very happy with the results.
Question #5 (from DR)
There are two “middle six” guys I'm curious about for next year: Joel Eriksson-Ek and Nick Bjugstad. Both players offered surprisingly good value post-deadline (until JEE got injured). Asking as a general question although, if you need league specifics, I am in a 300-player roto league (12 teams x 25 players, G A +/- PIM PPP SOG FW HIT BLK).
With your categories, Bjugstad could have great value. Keep in mind this is a player who, in 72 games back in 2014-15, had 209 SOG, 38 PIM, 148 Hits, 12 PPPts, and 24 goals. We also saw in 2017-18 he can score if put with talented linemates, as he tallied 17 points in his last 23 contests. Still only 26, there’s a shot he not only gets on a line with Crosby or Malkin to start; but given the propensity that Bryan Rust and Patric Hornqvist have to get injured, even if he’s not with one of those two at the outset he could still find his way there. And regardless of what happens, the Hits and SOG will be there as they were last season, so there’s little downside to Bjugstad from where I sit, provided you don’t expect him to get you more than roughly a point per every other game, with a shot at 50+ if he sticks in the top six all season.
JEE is also a Hits and SOG machine, but his problem has been scoring and staying healthy. He is an RFA this summer, so a new, richer deal should presumably help him get more minutes, although it’s difficult to see whom he’d displace in the Wild top six, especially with Mikko Koivu set to be back in the mix next season. Of course there, like in Pittsburgh, lies a chance for injury among players like Zach Parise, Victor Rask and Koivu. One issue is there’s no “brass ring” in Minnesota like there is in playing with Crosby or Malkin in Pittsburgh, and the Wild could just as easily be a team on the decline as on the rise.
If both were given the same opportunity to play with the same level of talented players, I think JEE might actually be the better of the two in terms of talent and ability to score. But as we know fantasy fate is tied as much – if not more so – to opportunity as to talent, and I like Bjugstad’s opportunity a lot better, so he’s the one I’d favor of the two.
Question #6 (from Ryan)
I purchased the fantasy and mid-season guides and I won my 15 team league (points only, keeper/dynasty league 4F,2D,1G, 3 2017 rookies, 3 2018 rookies). I have a strong core but I’m rebuilding with youth for another run in 2-3 years. Do I keep Rakell, Terry or Necas? Thanks in advance, love the site!
Congrats on the win Ryan, and I’m glad to hear the Guides helped steer you to victory. One key about your league is although it’s a keeper/dynasty the player pool is smaller than what one often sees, you get the luxury of being able to keep rookies separate from non-rookies, allowing you to stay strong in the here and now plus look toward the future. I’m a bit confused though as to why you can’t keep them all, with Rakell slotted as one of your four forwards and the other two as your 2018 rookies? But since you asked the question as if you could only keep one, that’s how I’ll approach it.
I talked about Rakell in my last mailbag as a bounce-back candidate for 2019-20. After all, from the end of 2016-17 through 2017-18 he had 76 points in 86 games. His poor 2018-19 can be explained by a low, for him, in 5×5 team shooting percentage and offensive zone starting percentage plus his second-lowest career IPP. It would be one thing if he was 32 years old, but with him being just 25 I attribute these metrics to bad luck and playing for a poor team. Of course, the poor team issue could be of concern, as Rakell is the only scoring forward on the Ducks roster age 25 to 30, with the rest either being older or younger. As such, his prime won’t significantly overlap with that of others, which means in order for the team to improve either the young core needs to step up or ageing veterans have to stay productive. That might be a lot to ask; and if it doesn’t happen, then Rakell – as talented as he may be – might have a tough time getting back to the 65 point mark.
Of course, Terry is affected by the Anaheim situation as well, although he’s young enough such that once he gets into his prime the team should be much better. What’s also intriguing about Terry is that while he only tallied 13 points for the season, he nevertheless had four multi-point games, which shows that he has explosive talent. Also, his IPP was below 50%, meaning that he easily could’ve had 20 points had he factored into scoring more. On the flipside, his 5×5 team shooting percentage was nearly 11%, which shows that when Terry is out there scoring happens, and IPP is easier to grow into compared to team shooting percentage, so there’s a lot to like about what Terry has shown thus far.
Necas has fewer NHL games to his credit than Terry but is on a Hurricanes team that looks to be poised to get very good very soon, with Necas likely to be tabbed to be a big part of the resurgence. Of course, we don’t really know how well Necas will pan out. He’s highly touted with a strong pedigree; however, he didn’t exactly light the AHL on fire, which raises my eyebrows.
If I had to pick one of the three, I’d probably go with Terry, who has shown more than Necas and likely will be stepping up his game in Anaheim once the team itself has started to rebuild. Rakell is very good, but I fear his prime will go to waste over the next couple of years before Anaheim is back to what it was a few seasons ago.
Thanks to those who sent in questions this week – sorry I couldn’t answer them all. Although my next mailbag isn’t for another four weeks, it’s never too early to start sending me more questions. You can do so in one of two ways: (1) emailing them to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line, or (2) sending them to me via a private message on the DobberHockey Forums, where my username is “rizzeedizzee”.
When sending me your questions, remember to provide as much detail about your league/situation as possible, since as you saw above in a couple of the questions there were some omitted details which made it difficult for me to give a truly proper answer. Examples of the types of things I need to know include what type of league you’re in (i.e., limited keeper, dynasty, or one-year; roto vs H2H), does the salary cap matter, how many players are rostered (and of those, how many start at each position), what categories are scored and how are they weighted, plus other details if necessary (such as free agents available if you’re thinking of dropping a player or rosters of both teams if you’re thinking of making a trade). The key is to tell me enough for me to give you a truly proper answer, and for readers of this column to benefit from the answer/advice I provide. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. See you next week for the return of Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!