21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

Mario Prata


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, Rick Roos, and Dobber


1. Jordan Binnington is a restricted free agent this summer. Oh boy, his agent must be rubbing his hands together so often these days they’re getting chapped. If I’m Winnington, I’d be extra greedy. Eight years, $64 million. And hold out if the Blues don’t pay, see how they fare with Jake Allen. I kid, of course. Sort of. (may18)


2. How about that Kaapo Kakko? The 18-year-old is literally doing everything in his power to become the first Finnish player to ever be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. His play against proven NHL talent at the World Championships has been breathtaking.

Finland sent a surprisingly weak squad – void of any full-time NHL talent. That has resulted in Kakko becoming the squad’s top offensive weapon. It’s unfair to compare the situation that consensus No.1 Jack Hughes has received with the Americans. The Yanks boast a bevy of star talent and Hughes has found himself in a limited role.

When I last released my rankings in April, I had it on good authority that Kakko sat first on about six NHL teams’ board. That may be closer to 15 after his recent play.


Well, I did promise I would let you all know if this actually came to fruition…

Kaapo Kakko is 1st overall on my board. #2019NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/Y2E8y90th1

— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) May 13, 2019


Rangers GM, Jeff Gorton can go out the night before the draft, hit the Roxy, roll in hungover and late and still be primed to hit a home run. All he has to do is step up to the podium and take whoever remains between Hughes and Kakko.

It doesn’t get much sweeter than that. (may15)


3.  I was looking into Clayton Keller’s season and one guy who stood out was Vinnie Hinostroza.

He only had 39 points this past year but he did that playing 15:16 per night and he only had five power-play points. What if he plays 17 minutes a night next year with even 15 PPPs?

This is a guy with the tools necessary for a 20-goal, 50-point season and he’ll be basically free in drafts next year. I don’t think there’s significant upside, but it’s a lottery ticket for good production that brings a decent shot rate and reasonable amount of hits. He’s a guy to definitely keep in mind for 2019-20 in less-shallow leagues. (may16)


4. What to make of Warren Foegele? Five points in seven games to start the season, 10 points in 70 games after that. Nine points in 11 games to start the playoffs, zero points in four games after that.

I guess…draft him and then trade him two weeks in? I kid, of course. I think the last year has been a great learning experience and with secondary PP time I feel like he’ll take steps forward. I don’t know where he’ll top out, but I think a nice trend of 35 points next year, and 40-plus the following would be a nice start.

His problem (from a fantasy standpoint) is that he is too strong in other areas. It’s because he can be used on the checking that he will be used there. Too many other prospects can’t do that right now. The complete game that he plays is a fantasy-anchor. So, he’ll need to break out of that and the force the matter by contributing offensively without the disappearing act.

I really can’t get a handle on where things will go with him, and I’m reluctant to toe the ‘safe and conservative’ line and say ‘checker’. (may18)


5. The Canes will have about $29 million in cap space with Scott Darling still on the payroll ($4.15 million) and Petr Mrazek/Curtis McElhinney UFA. Justin Williams and Micheal Ferland are the other key players gone. They have enough money to go after Semyon Varlamov, Sergei Bobrovsky, or Robin Lehner. (may18)


6. I figured Nico Hischier would have had his breakout in 2018-19, but between his own injuries and that of Taylor Hall, the Devils offense didn’t fire on all cylinders. Still, Hischier saw healthy gains in his PP and overall TOI, which should carry into 2019-20 when he’ll once again have Hall alongside him. (may19)


7. Here’s a public service announcement: D­­on’t be fooled by Gustav Nyquist’s decent 11 points in 18 postseason games. After all, he has 19 shots in the playoffs. Yes, you read that correctly, only 19 shots in 18 total games!!

I covered Nyquist in a Goldipucks columns in March, where I unearthed some interesting tidbits like: (1) Nyquist’s IPP having gone down for four straight seasons then suddenly this season spiking back to levels not seen since 2013-14; and (2) Nyquist’s point total increasing despite his offensive zone starting percentage dropping for the fifth straight campaign.

There’s even more, so I encourage you to (re)read the column, on the basis of which I’m declaring Nyquist the most ‘can miss’ UFA in recent memory. Put it this way, whatever team ends up signing Nyquist might be lucky if they get Loui Eriksson numbers from him. (may19)


8. So, does this mean William Nylander, who’s currently tearing things up in Slovakia, is a shoe in for a huge 2019-20? Maybe…….…..or maybe not. It turns out not every strong World Championships performance translates to major success in the NHL the following season.

Look no further than Nylander and Vadim Shipachyov in 2017 – Nylander’s output held steady at 61 points, while Shipachyov was gone from the NHL after playing all of three games with Vegas – and Rickard Rakell in 2018, going from 69 points in 77 games, to 43 in 69 contests. (may19)


9. If you’re looking for a buy-low option, Nylander offers a nice opportunity. The risk is certainly there, though. We know the Leafs are in cap trouble and Nylander’s $6.9 million hit could be on the chopping block. Uncertainty scares me. The other issue is that if he does stick around TO, will Mike Babcock consistently play him with Auston Matthews? For some odd reason, he refused to lock those two together in the team’s playoff defeat to the Bruins. This despite them having proven chemistry in the past.

Clearly, sitting out until December affected him greatly. He produced three points in his first 19 games. He scored just one goal on his first 40 shots on net. It’s difficult to step into the middle a season. You’re more than a step behind and that doesn’t get any easier as the play ramps up in the back half. He played from behind the entire year.

That said, even while spending the majority of his time outside of the top-six, he produced a 59.1% Corsi rating. His shots-per-hour was up to 9.3 which was just a hair behind his career-high set in 2016-17. There were splashes of the skilled player we accustomed to.

While it can be unwise to put much stock into, a) the results of a short tournament, and b) when the results have come against Italy, Norway and the Czechs, it is promising to see Nylander gain a little confidence heading into his offseason. (may15)


10. Ryan Kesler underwent another hip surgery and the expectation is that he will miss the 2019-20 season. I will let the readers go through the press release/article posted so I don’t misrepresent anything.

Seeing how his play has fallen off a cliff over the last couple years since these hip issues popped up, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Fantasy-wise, this presumably means the 3C spot is wide open for Anaheim and my 2018-19 dark horse, Sam Steel, seems like he may benefit from it. We’ll dig into this more once we know what the roster looks like in a couple months. (may14)


COMING SOON: Now up in the shop – you can pre-order all of this year’s products, including the Keeper League Fantasy Pack and the Ultimate Fantasy Pack. The first item – The Fantasy Prospects Report – will be out on June 1 at 3pm.


11. The Alain Vigneault coaching hiring in Philly, in my opinion, will likely lead to a negative effect on nearly all the team’s skaters.

Here’s what we know – Vigneault coached the Canucks for six seasons and the Rangers for five. In those 11 campaigns, the highest points total for any D-man was 50. Pretty scary if you’re a Shayne Gostisbehere or Ivan Provorov owner. Yes, one can argue those teams didn’t have as talented rearguards as Philly does; however, that’s a lot of data spanning a lot of years and players, so it likely does not bode well for Flyer defensemen in terms of their offensive output under a Vigneault regime.

But there’s more – many Flyer forwards rely significantly on PP scoring to pad their points totals. Look no further than Jakub Voracek, who’s only twice scored over 66 points as a Flyer but in both cases had 81+. What those 81+ point seasons had in common was 33+ PPPts, versus no more than 23 in any other Flyer season. The problem is, when Vigneault coached the Rangers they were never in the league top-10 in PP conversion percentage.

Vigneault also doesn’t like to lean on his stars, as not once in his five seasons in New York did any forward average 19:00 per game; and other than Brad Richards back in 2013-14, none saw 3:00+ of PP time per game. So, if you’re a Voracek owner, the ingredients don’t seem to be there for another 81+ point season. And the ripple effects likely will be felt on Claude Giroux, too, since he’s used to playing over 20 minutes a night, with 3:30+ of that on the PP.

Suffice it to say, it’s buyer beware when it comes to Flyer skaters for 2019-20 in one-year leagues. And keep these factors in mind when making your retention decisions involving Philly skaters as well. (may19)


12. There are some great players still available heading into free agency, but I’m starting to think their price might be held down due to cap constraints. I think agents of restricted free agents did a nice job blowing their team’s budget in keeping the player, and a crazy amount of teams will be scrambling to re-sign their elite RFA’s.

Where does this leave UFA’s? I mean, this won’t affect a guy like Erik Karlsson in terms of salary amount, but how many teams can afford him? And once he gets paid, plus a guy like Sergei Bobrovsky and perhaps Artemi Panarin, how many teams will that leave? (may13)


13. Mats Zuccarello boosted his UFA value even further in the postseason. To me, he was the only player that struck me as dangerous each and every shift. His legacy with Dallas: 11 points in 13 playoff games and 14 points in 15 games…period.

Judging by the way UFA salaries have increased each and every year and pro-rating based on what happened last year…he’s getting $8 million. And yes, that’s nuts. But UFA Day is nuts. However, judging what I have to say about UFA below – I think he gets $6 million. (may13)


14. Here are some of the key RFA to sign who will command a lot (over $6 million AAV): William Karlsson (VGK), Matt Tkachuk (CGY), Patrik Laine, Jacob Trouba and maybe Kyle Connor (WPG), Mikko Rantanen and Nikita Zadorov (COL), Mitch Marner (TOR), Sebastian Aho (CAR).

Seven more teams that will be blowing their budget right there. What will teams have left to ‘waste’ on unrestricted free agents? I guess what I’m saying is that I think other than the aforementioned three big guns, the other UFA may actually be signed to a reasonable number. I also think July 1st won’t be as exciting because there will be a lot of UFA who wait weeks before their price comes down enough to get a contract.

I think we’re there, folks. Not only is it a buyer’s market, but I think the fading ability to get players to sign a bridge contract and RFA’s getting signed to huge deals is straining the cap space. The result will be more delayed, cheaper signings. As in real life, the middle class group of players is separating. Big bucks, or minimum contracts. (may13)


15. What is Dallas going to do with Valeri Nichushkin and how could this year have been such a failure for him? I’m usually full of thoughts and ideas on things like this but not this time. Initially, he was getting 13 minutes a game and secondary PP time. A dozen games in that all shifted to 12 minutes and his PP time was cut out completely. By midseason: 11 minutes  ATOI. He never earned it back. He still makes $2.95 million for next season. (may13)


16. I was disappointed in how Oliver Bjorkstrand was shut down by the Bruins, held to just one point in six series games. I had just finished writing about how he’d finally arrived – four points in four games against Tampa Bay on the heels of 11 points in 10 games to finish the season, as well as a 32- goal pace in the second half. And it wasn’t for lack of chances. In the playoffs, he mostly played with Artemi Panarin and P-L Dubois before eventually being knocked to the second line alongside Matt Duchene. (may13)


17. Moving forward, it is obvious that Blue Jackets’ coach John Tortorella prefers to deploy Seth Jones on the top power play unit and Zach Werenksi on the second. However, an offseason of major flux is heading towards Ohio. The impending departure of Artemi Panarin and the uncertainty surrounding fellow UFA, Matt Duchene, may lead to an opening or two on that top unit.

Does this force the team to move Cam Atkinson off of the right point and afford Werenski his spot? It’s uncertain at best.

While I feel Werenski is an extremely talented offensive defender who fought through a difficult season (that still yielded 44 points in 81 games), we must stay firm in the stance that deployment is king. Until it becomes evident that, a) Columbus will run their top two defenders on one unit, or b) that Werenski can supplement Jones as the only blueliner in a 4+1 scheme, the glass ceiling is firmly above Werenski’s head. (may17)


18. Columbus signed 25-year old goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to a one-year, one-way contract. He was originally drafted by the team back in 2014 and has since played in the Swiss league. His numbers look good, but this is a 25-year old ‘prospect’ that has been playing in Switzerland. I don’t know much about him other than knowing his name, so I would encourage readers to go through his Dobber Prospects profile here.

With Sergei Bobrovsky assuredly gone, the starting job is completely up for grabs next year. This is a team whose only goalies currently under contract include Merzlikins, Matiss Kivlenieks, and Daniil Tarasov.

I wouldn’t expect the latter two to factor into the NHL situation in 2019-20, so the Jackets will go find more goalies in free agency or via trades. We don’t know where Merzlikins fits in yet, but he’ll certainly be in the conversation. (may16)


19. The Avs will be interesting heading into this offseason because they have so much cap flexibility. They will have over $35 million in space, though I’m sure after signing Mikko Rantanen, Nikita Zadorov, JT Compher and Alexander Kerfoot that will get knocked down $8 or $10 million. That would be used to replace Colin Wilson (I’m sure they could keep him for a very cheap rate) and Derick Brassard (I’m sure they have no desire at all whatsoever to keep), Semyon Varlamov, and Patrik Nemeth.


20. Alexander Kerfoot is an important player for the Avalanche. He’s been a good secondary option on the power play with at least 15 PPPts in each of his two NHL seasons.

But he also did very well at the faceoff circle this year, taking 56.0 percent of his draws. Strange that he wasn’t used for this very much in the postseason. He was put out there a lot when the Avs needed a goal, and that’s even stranger.

Kerfoot had just 22 points in his last 52 games. He’s an RFA this summer and if he plans on getting paid based on production, he’ll be disappointed. (may13)


21. I think the big post-playoffs question when it comes to Carolina is whether Jaccob Slavin – he of 11 points in 15 playoff games – has ‘arrived’ as a fantasy D-man, morphing from an okay producer whose tough minutes and zone starts prevented him from producing well in the past.

My view is come the regular season, he goes ahead and slides back into his traditional shutdown role since he’s just too valuable in that capacity. Sure, maybe he creeps closer to 35 points; however, don’t let what you saw convince you he could tally more than that. It was a case of a player being deployed differently when everything is on the line versus on a day-to-day basis during the regular season. (may19)


Have a good week, folks!!



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