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. The Blue Jackets added Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the Trade Deadline but as I noted last week, they also added a player who has been much better than Dzingel over the past two months: Oliver Bjorkstrand. I recently pointed out that Bjorkstrand was scoring at a 36-goal pace over his last 40 regular season and playoff games. As an update, he now has 20 goals in his last 43 games (so, a 39-goal pace, in just over half a season). (apr22)
– Heiskanen: 82 GP, 12-21-22, 23:07 TOI
– Dahlin: 82 GP, 9-35-44, 21:09 TOI
Heiskanen received two minutes more per game than Dahlin, yet Dahlin recorded 14 more assists. As impressive a season as Heiskanen had, you’re not nominating him over Dahlin. Definitely not over Elias Pettersson, who scored at nearly a point-per-game pace in his rookie season, and not over Jordan Binnington, who turned the Blues season around, either. There might be more than three great rookies, but unfortunately, only three can be nominated for the Calder Trophy.
Speaking of Cam, you can listen to him on Sportsnet 650 radio in Vancouver on a new show called Prospect Central, which airs every Saturday at 4 pm PT. Here he describes the bottom half of the first round of his draft rankings from Dobber Prospects. Looking forward to next week, where the guys will dive into the top half of the rankings. There’s also an Apple Podcast version. (apr28)
3. Kudos to Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien, who reached deep down and pulled out some extra career mojo. He struggled with injuries all year and as a 34-year-old it has to be concerning. But production-wise, he’s been right there. His 0.74 points/gp this year was his best in seven seasons. He had eight points in six playoff games and was Winnipeg’s top player. His production next year will still be stellar, though I would not count on more than 65 games. (apr22)
4. After being a healthy scratch throughout the playoffs, Alexander Wennberg saw Game 2 action against the Bruins when he swapped in for Ryan Dzingel, who has slumped during the playoffs with no points in five games. Wennberg totaled just 16 minutes in the lengthy game, and his only special-teams time was killing penalties.
Even though he is still only 24 years old, Wennberg’s numbers have been trending in the wrong direction for the past two seasons. Wennberg scored just two goals in 2018-19 after scoring eight the previous season. John Tortorella isn’t the easiest coach to play for, so I’d be willing to bet a change of scenery would provide the necessary turnaround. (apr28)
5. Even though Jordan Staal was probably largely ignored in playoff pools, he had four goals and three assists in eight playoff games along with goals in three consecutive games entering Sunday action. Staal certainly missed the playoffs, as he had never played in the playoffs for the Hurricanes prior to this season – he last played in the playoffs in 2011-12 for the Penguins. Staal trails only Jaccob Slavin (nine assists) in playoff points among Hurricanes.
6. By the way, also entering Sunday action, Slavin was tied with Sharks’ Erik Karlsson with nine playoff assists (among all players, not just defensemen). Slavin, who has been good for around 30-35 points the past three seasons, has been scoring at a point per game during these playoffs. Another Cane that probably didn’t factor into your playoff pool strategy. (apr27)
7. Zach Hyman has a torn ACL in his knee, though the press releases and journalist tweets I saw did not include which knee. Regardless, the expected recovery time is at least six months, which means he won’t be ready for the start of the 2019-20 season. A couple things on this:
First, I’ll give Hyman kudos for gutting it out. In general, I’m not a big fan of players playing with significant injuries, if at the least because their effectiveness is greatly reduced. On the flipside of that, it’s still impressive to me when guys decide to play through this type of injury. Sometimes it goes a bit too far – I’m thinking back to Patrice Bergeron playing with a punctured lung – but as long as the long-term health of the player isn’t in danger, I have a lot of time for players willing to push through something like this.
Second, this is a huge blow to the left wing depth for the Leafs next year. This team has a big cap crunch coming, and the thought is that one of Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen may be a cap casualty. If it’s Johnsson, the Leafs could go into next year with Patrick Marleau as their top left winger. That’s not great.
The Leafs have their work cut out this summer and things just got a bit tougher. Even if Hyman were to return at the start of November, will he be anywhere close to as effective as they need him to be, and can they rely on Marleau to be the team’s top left winger for a month? Instead of Johnsson or Kapanen, do they trade someone like Nikita Zaitsev instead, attaching picks/prospects to get rid of the contract? Interesting months ahead. (apr26)
8. After an incredible draft-year regular season in which he scored 71 points in 67 games, Vancouver Giants’ defenseman Bowen Byram has impressed even more during the WHL playoffs. On Friday, he was leading the entire league (not just defensemen) in playoff scoring with 18 points (7g-11a) in 15 games.
I’ve heard that Byram’s stock might be higher than normal because of the lack of high-end defensemen in this season’s Draft, yet he has only increased his value as the season has gone on. I don’t expect him to be NHL-ready next season, as he’ll probably need to bulk up some more (he’s listed as 6-1, 192 lbs.), but he should already be drawing the attention of keeper leaguers with entry drafts coming up. (apr27)
9. The Jack Adams nominees were announced on Friday: Craig Berube, Jon Cooper, and Barry Trotz. If I had a vote in this (which I don’t), I’d go with Trotz. What he has done to turn around the Islanders this season – particularly on the defensive side – has been outstanding.
I know the first round had all kinds of weird results, but I’m amazed that the Islanders are still playing and both the Capitals (his former team) and the Leafs (the team John Tavares went running to) are now golfing. Trotz led the Isles to the league’s fifth-best record despite not having anyone reach 30 goals or 65 points. Now, doesn’t that seem like a Trotz-coached Nashville team? (apr27)
10. The DobberHockey panel handed out their second-round picks for the 2019 playoffs. I ended up going 4/8 in the first round, losing Calgary and Tampa Bay (as most sane people did), Pittsburgh (the Islanders played them a lot tougher than I was expecting), and Vegas (I’M STILL NOT OVER THAT PENALTY). Realistically, I should have gone 5/8, and I would have been happy with that. Life has a way of giving you just enough to never be fully satisfied. (apr26)
11. Golden Knights’ GM George McPhee said that forward Erik Haula should be just fine for this training camp and seeing as his return was only a few weeks away, he probably has a mostly normal summer for training as well. Good news. (apr26)
12. Sabres goaltending prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has undergone hip surgery and is also expected to take at least six months for recovery. The second-round pick had a stellar year in the OHL, posting a .920 save percentage in 53 games. He only got into one AHL game, so he was still a ways away from getting to the NHL as a full-time starter.
The hope is that this does not delay his development but a 20-year old goalie losing an entire summer just as he looked to be on his way to the AHL is tough. I would be surprised if we see him in the NHL at all in 2019-20. At best, we’re looking at a 20-21 debut in the NHL as a full-time player, likely longer. (apr26)
13. You know what’s weird about these playoffs? Goalies aren’t really costing their teams a series. I mean, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy was objectively terrible, but only he and Petr Mrazek were starters that could really be said were playing so poorly they might be costing their team a series. And I don't even think Mrazek has been bad, just inconsistent. It feels like his playoffs are a microcosm of his career. (apr25)
14. There was (justifiable) concern about guys like Mike Smith and Martin Jones, and Jones did stumble often early in their series, but he’s a big reason San Jose was able to reel off three straight (yes, I know they had to reel off three straight wins largely because of Jones). Smith was unspectacular but solid, with his only really bad game being Game 5.
I guess it just goes to show the unpredictability of the playoffs. Vasilevskiy, a Vezina finalist for the second year in a row, absolutely blew it, while Jones, who’s never had a great year as a starter, was a significant reason the Sharks (eventually) advanced. It’s a big part of what gives the NHL playoffs its charm but I’m sure it’s frustrating for many fan bases. Sometimes, your team just gets the breaks, and sometimes it doesn’t. (apr25)
15. Of course, Vegas will have a difficult time recovering from this one. But this team is loaded with nearly all of its players signed through next season. William Karlsson will need another deal, but it’s unlikely he pulls much of a raise on his current 5.25 million. They have one of the top prospects in the game in Cody Glass coming as well. This is not the last we’ve heard from them. (apr24)
16. We may have a reason for Patrik Laine’s, let’s say, lackluster performance in the regular season: a back injury he was fighting throughout the year. The extent and nature are unknown but any tweak would be enough to throw anyone off-kilter. Keep this in mind: Laine had a 30-goal season as a 20-year old, his third consecutive 30-goal season, while fighting through a back problem. Any and all inquiries as to ‘What’s Wrong With Laine’ should now be settled. (apr23)
17. I heard on FAN590’s Ben Ennis show, JD Bunkis (I think it was him) said that Tampa Bay could not be excused for having two injured defensemen because “Columbus was without their best defenseman – Ryan Murray”. I normally wouldn’t choose this forum to argue that point, but then he was so insistent on this as fact that he repeated it four or five different times during the segment. And since I can’t raise an argument with a guy talking through my car speaker, I’ll do it here… because I can.
It is a fact that Murray has had an amazing rebound season and, let’s be honest, it could be considered the first and only ‘good’ season of his career. But Seth Jones is by far and away the best and most important defenseman on this team. Even if Murray could play 80 games, which he can’t – so why count on him as your ‘best’ – he isn’t as strong as Jones in, well, most categories. Look at the player comparison tool of the two players here: Hits, BLKS, points, IPP, SOG are no contest, and even PKTOI is similar.
Anyway, Murray is a great No.4 or even a No.3 defenseman that’s good for 60 games per year, and as long as you don’t expect more than that, I think any team would be very happy with him. But Columbus is quite familiar with playing Murray-less games, certainly more familiar than Tampa Bay is in playing Victor Hedman-less or Anton Stralman-less games. So, yes indeed, Tampa Bay can use these blue line injuries as a third explanation (read: excuse) on top of the two I already provided. (apr22)
18. The Lightning has a good, deep organization with what looks to be maybe $8 million in cap space this summer. Brayden Point should get at least $10 million this summer (it would be far more, but since Nikita Kucherov recently signed for $9.5, I can’t see Point going too much higher).
As of today, this team doesn’t have near the cap room. And with four UFA defensemen to sign or replace, and a couple of depth forwards to sign, the Lightning will probably move Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat or JT Miller – and likely two of those four. This would just mean an expanded role for Anthony Cirelli, Yanni Gourde and Mathieu Joseph, with a couple of kids moving up into the vacated depth roles.
The conveyor belt that Steve Yzerman left behind can run successfully through this difficult summer – but won’t be able to sustain things if this happens again. Alex Barre-Boulet is my pick to make the jump next year, joining a long list of smaller players (5-10, 170) that TB has brought along slowly, such as Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Marchessault and Yanni Gourde. (apr22)
19. The Penguins made an interesting signing last weekend. Teams only get 50 contracts so using one on an undrafted European always catches my attention. And with the cap crunch this is especially true because they need as many minimum-salaried players as possible. Oula Palve is a 27-year-old from Finland who led his TPS team in scoring with 51 points in 53 games, finishing seventh in Liiga scoring. He’s with Team Finland at the Worlds. (apr22)
20. I like what I am seeing in Flames’ rookie defenseman Rasmus Andersson. He had 15 of his 19 points in the second half, and added two more in five playoff games. His power play ice time was 2:39 per game in the postseason and I wonder if he will leapfrog TJ Brodie on the PP depth chart next season. At the very least, he will take a step in that direction. (apr22)
21. I was disappointed in the way Elias Lindholm had such a nosedive down the stretch and then in the postseason. He had nine points in the final 21 games of the campaign, giving him 11 in the last 26 games that he played in all. This is a guy who finished with 78.
On one hand, at 24 years of age, he is still a player on the rise, not even at his prime yet. On the other hand, it’s as if opponents had him figured out. He was even removed from the big line later in the playoff series against Colorado. I think his spot on that line is cemented, but I don’t believe he will repeat his 78-point season. I think he’ll get back there again in two or three years, but next year will be a small regression. And pay special attention to any signs of slowing down in the second half. (apr22)
Have a good week, folks!!