It feels like it hasn’t already been a month, but sure enough, it’s mailbag time again when I get the privilege of answering your fantasy hockey questions. As always, the goals in doing so are for me to give thorough responses to questions while at the same time 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 particular player(s) that are the subject of the questions. Now onto the questions for this month!
Question #1 (from Sean)
I’m in a 14 team, non-cap H2H league with 16 player rosters, starting 6F and 4D and with skater categories as follows: Goals (5 points), Assists (3 points), SOG (0.25 points), Hits (0.25 points), Blocks (0.5 points), PPPts (1 point), and PK Goal (1 point), with double points for defensemen goals and assists. Each team keeps eight players and I’m pretty sold on these six as keepers – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Timo Meier, Dylan Larkin, Seth Jones and Quinn Hughes.
Who would you keep in my shoes, and should any of my six “set” keepers be replaced by one of those on the potential keeper list?
First off, I’m on board with your six “set” keepers. Meier and Larkin look like they’re on the fast track to stardom, and although Hughes is pretty untested he not only has the pedigree to be superb but, just as importantly, there are few if any Vancouver defensemen on the team or in the system who could block him from stepping right into a major role, other than recently re-signed Alex Edler, who’ll if anything shoulder the tough minutes. Yes – Hughes might have a season or even two of growing pains; however, I think he’s worth keeping for the upside and the hope that he hits the ground running even sooner.
Looking at the four forwards, I’d remove Brown right away. Yes, he’s looked reinvigorated over the past two seasons; however, he’s 34 years old and I think the wear and tear of his playing style are overdue to catch up to him. Beyond that, he’s not the Hits and SOG machine he was in his prime, as his Hits have declined for an amazing five straight seasons while his SOG total, which had been above 215 in two of his previous three seasons, was also quite down last season. And although he’s still decent on the PP, the weak LA team hurts him there. Simply put, you have better options.
Turning next to Hischier, I think he has the talent to be as good – if not better – than Larkin or Meier in three years time. After all, Hischier had 43 points in 58 games before getting hurt last season, and lots of those points came without Taylor Hall, next to whom he’s all but assured to play (along, most likely, with Jack Hughes). But I think he’s a perfect candidate to redraft, as his production was hidden not just by his games played but also by his poorer performance after coming back from injury. Bank on drafting him again and seeing if he takes enough of a leap to make the cut as a keeper this time next year.
As for Marchessault, his SOG and TOI (on the PP and overall) were up, yet his points nosedived. Was the real Marchessault what we saw in 2017-18, or last season? I’d say neither, as his IPP, which had been 72.1% and 76.1% in his two prior seasons, dropped to 62.1%, so that right there likely cost him at least a handful of points. The rest of the points disappeared because linemate William Karlsson came back to earth big time, but also because the reality is Marchessault himself overachieved in 2017-18 given his deployment. After all, of the 136 instances of 75+ scoring among forwards since 2010-11, no forward had a lower overall TOI in more games than Marchessault did in 2017-18.
Moreover, the system in Las Vegas is one which no forward played 19:00 per game nor 3:00 on the PP, which were criteria met by only three other teams last season – Minnesota, Montreal, and the Islanders. What did those teams have in common? Top scorers who didn’t score that much, as no one on the Wild or Islanders scored above 62 points and Montreal had just one player (Max Domi – 72 points) with over 58 points. In other words, when you receive ice time ala Marchessault, even 70 points is likely a stretch. What probably happened in 2017-18 was a perfect storm of sorts, with Vegas sneaking up on people, Karlsson having a magical year, and Marchessault being out to prove his previous disbelievers wrong. Going forward he’s likely a 65 point player, with a shot at 70 points if things go especially well or – like last season – 60 points if things go a bit poorly.
That leaves Bergeron, whom I think is the keeper pick. Yes, he turns 34 next month and has over 1050 career games under his belt; however, he’s also scored 166 points in 156 games since the dawn of the Bruce Cassidy era in Boston, including 101 points in his last 87 contests. He’s also good to very good in all your other categories, even chipping in with seven SHP last season. Keep Bergeron until he starts to show signs of slowing down, which might not be for a couple more seasons.
Turning to your defense, this one isn’t close – it’s Alex Pietrangelo. Yes, he won’t be leaned upon under Craig Berube quite as much as under Mike Yeo; but he’s still a true number one d-man who gets all the minutes he can handle. Suter isn’t a bad option, but it’s likely his points were inflated last season due to the prolonged absence of Matt Dumba, plus the Wild stand to be a team on the decline. As for Pulock, I think there’s a 25% chance he explodes, but he too plays for a team that isn’t going to be an offensive force plus he saw his PP TOI increase by a mere 12 seconds per game despite adding four minutes of overall TOI last season and his scoring rate went down. If you are a believer in Pulock, then I advocate doing what I said for Hischier, namely redrafting him and hoping you catch his breakout campaign.
Question #2 (from Ben)
In my 11-team keeper league (keep 12 out of 23; G, A, S, +/-, S, H, B, W, GAA, SV%, SO) I'm in a bind for my last two keeper slots, needing to choose between Mantha/Rakell on W and Pulock/Provorov on D. For the W slot, I was leaning Rakell, thinking he'll be able to rebound to 65+ pts with 3+ S/game and decent peripherals, but the hype around Mantha continues to grow. Who has the higher upside? As for the D slot, I traded for Provorov in a package that involved me letting go of Panarin, so he's my keeper at the moment. But Pulock seems poised to take over top PP duties in NY, given a lackadaisical Leddy, whereas Provorov seems mired in an uncertain situation in Philly, challenged/stunted by Ghost and Sanheim, and now coached by Vigneault. Both have excellent peripherals, but when I made the trade I saw Provorov as a perennial do-it-all Norris threat. Is Pulock actually a better keep?
Let me start with your defensemen keeper quandary because you won’t like what I have to say, which is your keeper choice is essentially between the lesser of two evils. Why is that? You saw my thoughts above regarding Pulock, who is getting subpar deployment and plays for a team that will struggle to score goals. As for Provorov, the good news is he’ll get a fresh look under a new coach; but you’re correct to be concerned about Vigneault, as in his eleven seasons at the helm in Vancouver and for the Rangers, no defenseman on one of his teams topped even 50 points. Plus, Provorov can do “dirty work” things that Shayne Gostisbehere and even Travis Sanheim can’t, so as a result, Provorov almost assuredly will be the one getting the toughest minutes and, accordingly, fewer offensive zone starts. I fear that Provorov could end up being more of an Erik Johnson type, rather than a higher scorer.
So who should you keep among them? If you keep either one (more on this below), I’d nevertheless go with Provorov because of his strong peripherals and in hopes that becomes more like an Edler type (minus the injuries) than Erik Johnson, unless you think that Pulock can somehow find a way for his immense talent to shine through despite playing for a team which doesn’t focus on goal scoring and the continued presence of Nick Leddy (assuming Leddy isn’t traded).
Or what you could do instead is dangle both of them in trade along with the forward you choose not to retain. Who’s that forward? Rakell, as I think Mantha is your keeper over him. Here’s why.
Despite Rakell being a very skilled player, Anaheim is a team with both an ageing core as well as young players not poised to hit their prime for at least a few more seasons, leaving Rakell as a key talent on a team without a strong supporting cast. As for Mantha, did you read my coverage of him in my May Goldipucks column? If not, the high notes were that not only did he equal his 2017-18 point total in 23 fewer games, but he tallied 33 points in his final 38 contests. Despite this jump, all his metrics were rock solid, from IPP to offensive zone starting percentage, to secondary assist rate. What’s more – he has realistic room to score even more points organically, as although his shot rate went up his shooting percentage stayed steady and he still has room for still more SOG and higher ice time, as was occurring during the last stretch of the season. As if all this wasn’t enough to convince you Mantha is the guy to keep, next season is his “magical fourth year” and he went nuts at the IIHF World Championships, which isn’t always a predictor of impending success but in each of the last two seasons forecasted a breakout from someone who shined there (Nathan MacKinnon in 2017-18, Sebastian Aho in 2018-19).
So long story short, keep Mantha and shop Rakell plus Pulock and Provorov to get an upgrade at your defenseman slot. If you do, I think you’ll be happy with the results.
Question #3 (from Joel)
Where do you see Sam Steel and Dylan Strome fitting in their own clubs in the future, with Getzlaf and Toews on the decline? Can either one be more than a second line center at best?
First off, Toews just had his best season…..ever, so saying he’s on the decline may strike some as odd. Here’s my take – Toews has always been capable of high scoring; but while the team around him was so potent, he didn’t have to ratchet up his offensive output. Or to put it another way, Toews always had the talent to be a point per game type player as he was last season; he just never prioritized it over his leadership role and other on-ice duties. But with Chicago in need of scorers last season more so than since the earliest stages of Toews’ career, he stepped up. With there being arguably a similar need this coming season, I’d bank on Toews finishing at around the 75 point mark, with a better shot of topping 80 than falling below 70. And look for this to continue so long as Chicago needs him in this capacity and, of course, while his skills don’t atrophy.
That brings up Getzlaf, whom I’m not sure I’d say is necessarily on the decline either. Yes, he’s not getting any younger and injuries do appear to be taking their toll; but of more concern is, as noted above in my response to the previous question, the lack of a strong supporting cast to help bolster his numbers. I think Getzlaf – if he plays 80 games – has as good a chance of finishing with 70 points as he does below 55. But more likely he finishes somewhere in between. He might slide too far in drafts, so folks should not be afraid to take a flyer on him with a risk/reward pick.
As for Steel and Strome, there’s not a lot of data to go on; but both ended 2018-19 with nice stretches (eight points in his eight games for Steel, and 51 points in his 58 games for Strome). What concerns me is both did this with pretty low ice times. And while that could mean they’d do even better with more ice time, it also might represent unsustainable production. Steel will likely see his ice time rise, as the Ducks are ageing and thus incented to give their youngsters more responsibility right now. Steel’s SOG rate was a bit low, although it was nearly two per game during his eight games at the end of 2018-19, and he had an IPP of just below 70%, suggesting he has a nose for scoring that should only grow. Were he on another team I’d be more optimistic about his near term prospects; however, for the long haul he should pan out well and be at least a second line center with a chance at a top line gig.
Strome, on the other hand, saw his ice time drop overall in the fourth quarter despite solid production, although that might have been a function of the team trying not to have him hit a wall with this being the first time he played more than 21 games in an NHL campaign. One also has to be concerned that Strome rode the coattails of Alex DeBrincat, as Strome’s IPP was below 60% for the season. Having an IPP that low is not an issue if one remains on a line with top players; however, it cuts against Strome morphing into a truly consistent top scorer. Based on what I’ve seen thus far, he might indeed project to be more of a second line center who could score in the 70s but perhaps not make a run at 80+.
What about player comparables? For Strome, if we look at forwards who, dating back to the 2005-06 season, appeared in parts of three or more campaigns and cumulatively tallied 60+ points but in 125 or fewer games by age 22, we get eight players: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Reilly Smith, Dave Bolland, Nazem Kadri, Adam Henrique, Andrei Kostitsyn and Mark Stone. In terms of Steel, if we focus on forwards who posted over ten points in under 25 games as a 20-year-old since 2005-06, we see a list consisting of just five: Marcus Foligno, Anthony Cirelli, Bobby Ryan, Jonathan Drouin, and Sven Baertschi. In both cases, there are some good names on the list, and some not so good. If we focus solely on former first-round picks, as both Steel and Strome were, then for Steel we eliminate Foligno and Cirelli, whereas for Strome that removes all but Kadri and Kostitsyn.
In short, both come with some encouraging signs but also questions marks; and of course, we’re looking at Steel having played a small portion of just one season under his belt and Strome with only 58 games with the Blackhawks, so anything still could happen. But as of now my sense is Strome might need to be carried more, although if he sticks with great linemates that won’t hurt him, whereas Steel, due to circumstance as much as talent, should get a chance to step up, although we can’t be sure he’ll seize that opportunity to be a star.
Question #4 (from Cody)
I’m in a 12 team league (6 F, 4 D, 2 G, 4 bench) where we can keep 2F, 1D and 1 “rookie.” Via trades made during last season, I acquired the 2nd and 5th overall picks in our league’s upcoming draft. I’m fairly certain the first overall pick will be Jack Hughes (the GM who owns the pick has all but said he’s taking him), meaning Mitch Marner will be available second overall. For my fifth overall pick, I was looking at Morgan Rielly. But I was also offered Connor McDavid in exchange for these two picks. I currently have Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel as my projected forward keepers. So if I took that deal I could probably trade Eichel for a defenseman, whom I’d keep in addition to Matthews and McDavid. Would you do the McDavid deal? Additionally, in this league how early would you pick either Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes?
There’s a lot to digest here, but let me give it a go. First off, you didn’t indicate the scoring categories, so I’ll assume it’s a points-only league. What it seems like you’re asking me is which of the following two outcomes I’d prefer:
Outcome #1 – you end up keeping Matthews and Eichel, and drafting Marner and Rielly
Outcome #2 – you end up keeping McDavid and Matthews, and get a defenseman in trade for Eichel
Seeing what Marner and Rielly did last season, I think I prefer Outcome #1. Yes, that makes you loaded up on Leafs (assuming Marner isn’t traded or offer sheeted); but is that a bad thing? Missing out on McDavid, who could truly explode once Edmonton finds its footing as a team, is somewhat of a concern; however, the pure firepower you get in Outcome #1 is too difficult to pass up. I also don’t love the idea of trading Eichel, as although he posted 82 points in 77 games I think poolies don’t yet see him as super elite, so I’d be worried about the kind of defenseman you’d be able to get in return for him via trade.
Another way to look at this is, with Outcome #1 you’d own – in terms of points scored last season – the eleventh best forward plus two who combined for 155 points in 145 games. Add to that Rielly, who’s poised to be a top 3-5 scoring D for seasons to come, and that’s a core you can build around to try and win this season. Yes, it does present you with a dilemma in terms of you having to give up very good forward next season since you can only keep two; however, that’s a problem for down the road. And if you have that much strength at forward, chances are you can find another GM in your league for whom one of Marner, Matthews, or Eichel represents an upgrade and make a trade with them.
The rookie keeper spot in your league does make Makar and Quinn Hughes very tantalizing picks, and I’d expect them to get picked pretty early on – likely among the first handful of rookies selected after Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. Makar is the risk/reward pick of the two since if Tyson Barrie re-signs with Colorado, that should curb Makar’s development, as could Bowen Byram. In contrast, Quinn Hughes – as noted in my answer to a question above – should have little to no impediments to right away becoming the top option in Vancouver for rearguard offense, yet on a team which lacks the firepower of Colorado. If you’re able to take either and aren’t concerned about Barrie or Byram, then grab Makar; otherwise, probably you should aim for Hughes.
Question #5 (from Francois)
I’m in a points only, eight-team keeper pool where we set a weekly roster with 2 active goalies and count wins and shutouts only. I already had Bishop and Holtby as my starters when I picked up Binnington from waivers. I'm starting to wonder if I should keep Jordan Binnington over Ben Bishop, especially since Bishop is a bit of a Band-Aid Boy. Or maybe I should keep all three, although that would force me to drop a forward (probably RNH or Sam Reinhart) as we can only protect 15 of our 30 player roster and those are my “weakest” two skaters. What do you think I should do?
I covered Binnington in detail in my Forum Buzz column from a couple of weeks ago, where the question was whether to keep him over Sergei Bobrovsky or Marc-Andre Fleury. In short, the data suggested that Binnington was a high-quality goalie in and of himself and not bolstered by the strong team in front of him, making him a potential keeper over Fleury.
In your case, keeping three goalies would mean retaining only 12 skaters (versus 13). In your league, a total of 120 players are kept. Assuming each team keeps two goalies, that would mean 16 netminders are retained and 104 skaters. In my mind, keeping Binnington as insurance and potential future trade bait is the better choice here. Yes, you’d have to toss back a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Sam Reinhart into the pool; however, last season the goalie with the 17th most wins had a total of 26, versus 39 for the top win getter. So theoretically if you let Binnington go, you could draft in his place a goalie who’d get you two-thirds of the best goalie. Let’s assume that of the 104 skaters who stand to be kept, 65 will be forwards. The 66th best forward last season had 61 points, whereas the best forwards had 95+ points, for roughly the same percentage drop off. So all things being otherwise equal, keeping a third goalie wouldn’t hurt you too much because the unkept forwards who should be available to draft should be barely below what RNH or Reinhart would stand to give you.
Of course, there’s also the very real chance that Binnington will be much better in what he’d provide as a goalie than either what Reinhart or RNH would as a skater. That having been said, you can only start two goalies, so Binnington would either have to sit or would replace one of your other two netminders for a given week. But from where I sit that’s okay, since at worst you can adjust your goalie line-ups based on who has the most games or easiest match-ups for that particular week, plus, as you noted, it gives you valuable injury insurance. Moreover, as the regular season unfolds and other teams are desperate for goalie help, you can ransom off one of your three for a very hefty price tag – far more than you’d likely be able to fetch in return for RNH or Reinhart.
Long story short, I think you should keep three goalies. Doing so will give you security in net, shouldn’t hurt you in drafting skaters and could put you in a position of added strength as the season unfolds.
Question #6 (from Joel)
I’m in a points only keeper league where I can keep just four forwards for next year. MacKinnon and Kucherov are locks, but I’m stuck on which other two I should keep among Aleksander Barkov, Johnny Gaudreau, Jake Guentzel and Elias Pettersson. What would you recommend?
As readers of my columns are aware, normally I like to provide in-depth analysis, player comparables and other data to back up my choices or recommendations; however, here I think in this case your two other choices are crystal clear – Barkov and Gaudreau. Both were top ten scorers last season, are the unquestioned offensive catalysts of their teams, thrive in points only leagues (particularly Gaudreau), and likely have yet to even hit their peak. Meanwhile, Pettersson will be the focal point for Vancouver, but that offense might take several years to hit its full stride, which will limit his upside. As for Guentzel, he might not even be on PP1 for the Pens, and thus may have already reached his realistic points ceiling.
Would it be great if you could keep all four? Sure; but you can’t. So here’s something to help perhaps cushion the blow of losing Guentzel and Pettersson – you should keep in mind that you were able to get all six of these great forwards on your team in the first place. That means one of two things happened, namely the league is very shallow or you’re an outstanding drafter. In either case, you should be able to restock your team with players who can hopefully give you something close to what you’d expect to get from Guentzel or Pettersson.
Thanks to all those who sent in questions. Although my next mailbag isn’t for another four weeks, it’s never too early to start providing me with more questions, which you can do in one of two ways: (1) by emailing them to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line, or (2) by 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!