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: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber


1. Matt Duchene from a fantasy perspective? I’m kind of ambivalent here. My vision is that Nashville runs pairings of forwards and then mixes and matches a third winger to go with the pairings. Something along the lines of Filip ForsbergRyan Johansen on the top line with Duchene-Viktor Arvidsson on the second line, with guys like Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund filling in the empty roles.

That’s one reason I’m uncertain this really helps the star Nashville forwards, at least at even strength. The line of Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson was pretty good for fantasy purposes and this can’t possibly help that. All that can change is if Duchene brings the needed boost to the power play.

If Nashville and Duchene can turn the PP around, this could be a boon to PP production for all involved. If not, then it’s probably going to be status quo production-wise, at least for guys like Forsberg and Arvidsson. (july2)


2. Cody Ceci’s fantasy hockey value should improve in Toronto on the basis of plus-minus alone, as he has been a combined minus-49 over the past two seasons. He was a top-50 option in blocked shots while being just outside of the top 50 in both shots and hits among defensemen, so he’s not as much of a complete stiff in fantasy as you might think. He would take on the more defensive role in a pairing with Morgan Rielly, which probably won’t help his point total. So, what you see is probably what you get.  (july5)


3. What happens when a struggling goalie finds a strong system? If Semyon Varlamov hopes to revive his career, he couldn’t have picked a better spot than Long Island, where coaches Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn turned the league’s worst defense (in terms of goals allowed) into the league’s best defense. Robin Lehner wasn’t the only goalie to succeed in that system. Thomas Greiss also put up some top-5 numbers in both goals-against average (2.28 GAA) and save percentage (.927 SV%).

Performance-wise, I don’t have enough faith in Varlamov that he’ll take the starting job outright. In addition, Greiss still got into 43 games in spite of Lehner’s impressive season, so there’s a chance this could turn into another timeshare. It might be a reach to assume that Varlamov will have a Lehner-like season, but I’ll say that I like him better now because of this signing than I did at the end of last season. In addition, he was gifted the four-year contract, so if any goalie has the edge here, it’s Varly. If he can truly benefit from the Isles’ system, there could even be some keeper value. Greiss has only one year remaining on his contract; however, KHL star Ilya Sorokin may make his way over from Russia after that.

If you ask me which goalie I’d rank higher between Varlamov and Lehner, I’d still say Lehner, even with what I wrote about in yesterday’s Ramblings. I’ll also qualify that by saying that depending on how both goalies are ranked, I may prefer to wait on Lehner a bit compared to his ADP (average draft position), while I perhaps I reach a bit on Varlamov if his ADP mainly reflects his second-half performance in Colorado. (july6)


4. There may still be room for growth for Pens’ Jake Guentzel. He is about to hit that magical fourth season. As well, only six of his 40 goals and 11 of his 76 points were on the man advantage. Only nine players recorded more even-strength points than Guentzel (64) last season. So, Guentzel could potentially add another 10-15 points, mostly on the power play. His shooting percentage last season (17.6) was a bit higher than his career average (16.3), so there could be some minor regression in the goal total.

Overall, I think a 20-25 point increase (as one commenter suggested) seems like a reach. Then we’re talking 100 points, which seems high even to the most passionate Guentzel supporter. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and assume he will score more power-play points than Evgeni Malkin (26) or Sidney Crosby (29) had in 2018-19. However, after what I thought was a breakout (48 points in 2017-18 to 76 points in 2018-19), yes, there could be further improvement still. Whether that is a result of Phil Kessel being traded or his being on the first-unit power play permanently regardless could be up for debate, but Kessel leaving certainly doesn’t hurt Guentzel’s fantasy value. (july1)


5. The Lightning have signed Cedric Paquette to a two-year contract worth $1.65 annually. Paquette scored a career-high 13 goals while chipping in 80 penalty minutes for the Bolts last season. He fills a bottom-six role for the Lightning, so he isn’t worth targeting in straight scoring leagues at all. However, his 269 hits were sixth in the entire NHL last season, while his 80 penalty minutes led the Bolts in that category. (july6)


6. From a hockey perspective, the Marcus Johansson acquisition is a decent signing for the Sabres. If the 28-year-old Johansson can’t shake the injury bug or fails to meet expectations, then the term is only two years. As well, $4.5 million per season isn’t a reach for a forward who has reached the 40-point mark five times in his career.

Before the injuries of the past two seasons which limited him to 87 games over that span, Johansson posted his career high of 24 goals and 58 points in his final season with the Capitals. In spite of the injuries, Johansson averaged 0.60 points/game, which placed him the range of players like Mikael Backlund, Brendan Gallagher, and Tyler Bozak over that span.

Johansson still has 50-point upside, but that assumes he will stay healthy over a full season. Something around 40-45 points might be a more reasonable assumption with his new team. In case you missed it, here’s the Fantasy Take on Johansson joining Buffalo. (july7)


7. The Avalanche have signed Nikita Zadorov to a one-year contract. Zadorov doesn’t supply much offense (14 points in 70 games in 2018-19) but over the past two seasons he has more hits (506) than any other defenseman. As the Avs have improved, so has his plus-minus (minus-20 in 2016-17 to plus-19 in 2018-19). As well, he is fourth among defensemen over the past three seasons with 251 PIM. If you have multiple ‘bangers and mash’ categories and play in a deeper league, Zadorov might be worth considering. (july6)


8. Evgeni Malkin finished the 2018-19 season with 89 penalty minutes. If you think that’s unusual for Malkin, his three-year total of 253 PIM is 14th in the NHL. He has more points (242) than anyone above him on the penalty minute list. As well, he has averaged between 60-90 penalty minutes over each of his past six seasons. Make sure you give him a bump in multicategory leagues that count penalty minutes.

In case you were thinking Brad Marchand was above Malkin in terms of penalty minutes, he checked in at “just” 240 PIM. However, Marchand has 270 points compared to Malkin’s 242 over that span. Even with Malkin’s usual games missed, Marchand still holds a higher P/GP (1.19) compared to Malkin (1.16). So we now live in a universe where Marchand is a better scorer than Malkin, yet Marchand is also the less penalized player of the two. Huh. (july7)


9. To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of the Rangers signing Artemi Panarin. There are a lot of angles here.

This probably means 2019-20 – if he lasts the season – will be Chris Kreider’s final year with the Rangers. He’ll likely command north of $6M a year with a new contract. They could sign him but I really don’t see them committing around $18M a year for seven years to two left wingers in their late 20s. There are too many young players on this team that, if they pan out, will cost the team a lot in two or three years.

It’s a good problem to have – “woe is me, we have too many good young players” – but there are always casualties. General manager Jeff Gorton seems too smart to make that mistake, as good as Kreider is, and his return on the trade market will help bolster an already deepening group of prospects.

Then there’s the line combinations. It’s very possible the team does something like Panarin-Mika ZibanejadKaapo Kakko, and it’s something I would love to see. It would also expose Kakko to elite competition right away and I’m not sure that’s what the team wants to do. Or, maybe they do! I don’t know.

Let’s assume they go with Panarin-Ziba-Kakko out of the gate. That leaves Kreider as the second-line left wing (for now) and the rest… ??? Ryan Strome as the 2C, or Brett Howden, or Filip Chytil? Is Pavel Buchnevich on the second line, or in the bottom-six? Is Vitali Kravtsov on the second line, or in the bottom-6?

Or, maybe Panarin starts on the second line, while Kreider plays with Zibanejad in some sort of shutdown role. But does Kakko go with them, or does he move to the second line?

What I’m trying to get at is this seems like giant headache right now. There is a lot of offensive talent that will be worthy in fantasy drafts of all stripes, but how it all fits together is as clear as a puzzle when you first dump the pieces out of the box. Thankfully, we have all summer to figure this out. (july4)


10. It might be easy to assume that Cam Atkinson’s production will suffer in Columbus without Panarin. However, he’s perfectly capable of driving the play himself.

Before Panarin arrived, Atkinson already had a 35-goal season under his belt. That was with Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner as his even-strength linemates over 50 percent of the time. If you thought those two would be a drain on his production (neither reached 45 points that season), note that Atkinson was helped by a career-high 21 power-play points that season. Atkinson hasn’t recorded more than 14 power-play points in any other season, so that number will have to improve for him not to regress.

Further to even-strength production, Atkinson recorded 51 even-strength points in 2018-19, compared to 38 in the aforementioned 2016-17 in which he scored 35 goals without Panarin. As I can’t help but think that a minor drop in production might happen, there’s something there to substantiate that. It’s fair to say that overall offense will decrease in Columbus with both Panarin and Matt Duchene gone and only Gustav Nyquist (so far) added. (july7)

What went down on the first day of NHL Free Agency? See the July 1 Moving Day Tracker.  

11. Gustav Nyquist should replace Panarin both at even-strength and on the power play, so there may not be as many Columbus players helped by the Panarin departure than by the Duchene departure. Two to watch could be Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner, who both had relatively low power-play point totals (seven and three, respectively) compared to their overall point totals (47 and 38, respectively). (july3)


12. Long story short: Nazem Kadri is going to be one of my favourite draft picks this year. He won’t get to play at even strength with the elite guys but 20 PPPs is very reachable for him. A bounce back to 25 goals and 50 points, with his peripherals, will play very well in multi-cat leagues. (july4)


13. A trickle-down effect of the Kadri acquisition could be a potential loss of value to J.T. Compher. As you’d expect, the Avs used Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog as their first three power-play forwards. The fourth forward was often Compher, who was a minute per game (3:07) in power-play time higher than the next-highest forward (Alexander Kerfoot and Colin Wilson at 2:05). Compher was only able to accrue nine power-play points all season, so he’s an easy candidate to be bumped to the second power-play unit and even the third line with the recent additions. (july5)


14. The trading of Tyson Barrie has a lot of ramifications all around. It was less than a week ago in these very Ramblings that I discussed the Colorado blue line. The future of Barrie, the brief preview of Cale Makar, and the emergence of Sam Girard were all covered. Now, we have to review this under different circumstances.

At the top of the minds of fantasy owners, as pointed out by our good friends at Keeping Karlsson, is this: Girard or Makar for PP1? As with most answers about things pertaining to sports, this answer isn’t neat and tidy.

We have to consider handedness. Girard is a lefty while Makar is a righty. Barrie, remember, was also right-handed. If we assume that Girard and Makar have similar abilities on the power play – and we can only assume as we don’t have much data to go with – then handedness would probably be the tiebreaker. That power play was lethal last year and just substituting one good right-handed puck-mover for another right-handed puck-mover seems like the shortest distance between two points.

If only it were that simple.

We know coaches usually like to give the first crack to players with some sort of track record. Just think back to the Sabres with Rasmus Ristolainen/Rasmus Dahlin, Detroit with Mike Green/Niklas Kronwall/Filip Hronek, Chicago with Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook/Erik Gustafsson, Edmonton a few years back with Andrej Sekera/Oscar Klefbom, and the list goes on. This isn’t true in every case, like Thomas Chabot in Ottawa, for example, but that was more of a case where there was literally no one else to do the job.

If I were to hazard a guess, it’d be that Girard gets the top PP unit out of the gate but Makar eventually takes over. Does that take a month? Two months? Three months? Who knows. But fantasy owners should prepare themselves for a fluid situation. (july4)


15. Question from a reader: Any thoughts on how this (Phil Kessel acquisition) affects Christian Dvorak's output? Will he get more of a role as a 2C?

In an interview with The Athletic, Rick Tocchet noted that Carl Soderberg, Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, and Barrett Hayton could all play on the wing. Which line that would be remains to be seen but usually a move to the wing means that a player moves up the lineup, not down. Schmaltz and Derek Stepan look like the top two centers on the Yotes for now, so I don’t see Dvorak as the 2C at the moment. In fact, the potential Coyotes lineup in the story had Dvorak listed as the 4C with rookie Barrett Hayton and one of Christian Fischer and Conor Garland. But in reading the story, I didn’t get the impression that these were the locked-in lines at all. The Coyotes’ forward group as a whole seems to have plenty of mobility anyway.

I also saw a few comments about Schmaltz being a player to own or target because of the Kessel acquisition. Maybe he should have been No.1 instead of No.2 on the ‘Players This Helps’ list, as Tocchet says he plans to pair Schmaltz and Kessel together because they are “great off the rush.” I have a feeling Schmaltz will be ranked too low in a lot of pre-draft rankings because of his injury last season (played only 17 games for the Coyotes, 40 overall). Yet, in that short sample, he was by far the Coyotes’ most productive player (0.82 PTS/GP). Considering the price that the Coyotes paid for Schmaltz (Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini), you know that Tocchet will give Schmaltz a long look with Kessel.  (july3)


16. The very definition of doing something for the sake of doing something. Mike Smith has had probably one season out of the last six where he’s been a top-10 goalie in the league and now he goes to play behind a defense corps that has some prospects coming but is still looking pretty bad right now.  It’s just a one-year deal and Ken Holland’s hands were tied by his predecessor but this seems like a huge gamble.


17. Another signing that is confounding. Minnesota trades away Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle but goes ahead and signs a winger turning 32 years old in September to a five-year contract?

This isn’t disparaging Mats Zuccarello. He’s quite good and a fun player to watch. It just doesn’t seem to make sense from Minnesota’s perspective. This is a team that missed the playoffs, still has Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed for six more years (!), and they add Zuccarello because…? They’re a lot further away from being a contender than just signing a big-money winger.

Honestly, my heart goes out to Minnesota fans. This is a rudderless ship.

Fantasy-wise, I don’t expect Zucc to be anything more than the 50-60-point zero-peripherals guy he’s usually been. It sure does make their PP situation a bit more of a mess. (july2)


18. I think Tyler Myers gets unfairly maligned sometimes because he’s not bad offensively. He can help move the puck and generate from the blue line. But he’s bad defensively, and he’s been bad in sheltered roles.

Assuming Myers plays with Quinn Hughes, which has been the assumption I’ve seen, that would indicate he’ll continue to get sheltered roles. He’ll get more minutes, but it seems unlikely he faces top competition. That’s probably the best deployment to get the most out of him and it’s still not a very good contract. (july2)


19. The Panthers clearly needed help in goal and Sergei Bobrovsky is exactly that. Like most goalies, Bobrovsky has seen some inconsistency in his career but he’s one of the top netminders in the NHL and has been for a while; since the start of the 2013-14 season, he’s third in Goals Saved Above Average, behind only Henrik Lundqvist and Corey Crawford.

This is a big, big gamble for Florida. If Bobrovsky is closer to his 2018-19 form than 2017-18 for the duration of his contract, this will be a disaster. If he’s closer to his 2017-18 form than 2018-19, it could work out very well.

There has been a lot of talk about giving goalies rest to ensure peak performance in the playoffs, or 1A/1B situations. This won’t one of those cases. If healthy, Bobrovsky cruises to 60 starts. That’ll make him very valuable in fantasy. (july2)


20. Not a new-team signing, but Joonas Korpisalo has signed a one-year contract to stay in Columbus. Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins could be the two goalies battling for a starting job in Columbus. Man, the Blue Jackets are suffering the biggest net loss of talent in free agency, and it's not even close. But we knew that was probably coming. When we have more time, we'll break down the Jackets' goaltending situation in more detail. Merzlikins has a bright future but how soon will he be ready? In the short term, it's sure looking like slim pickings in net for the CBJ.


21. Markus Granlund agreed to a one-year contract worth $1.3 million with Edmonton. The Canucks have more than enough forwards on their roster and could afford to lose Granlund. In 2016-17, Granlund was one goal shy of reaching 20 goals and may have reached that mark had it not been for an injury that cost him the final two weeks of the regular season. Expect him to battle for a third- or fourth-line spot with the Oilers. (july1)


Have a good week, folks!!



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