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It's Bubble Keeper Week! This week, we’ll take a look at a few players in the Eastern Conference who haven’t quite done enough to be considered ‘keepers’ in your fantasy league but are certainly in the conversation. I’ll make an argument for keeping Jake DeBrusk and Tomas Tatar – advice which will vary based on your league format. Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza and shoot me a message if you have any questions or concerns. Before we begin, I must recommend you read this week’s article in a nice bubble bath, it helps get you in the mood for Bubble Keeper Week!
The 22-year-old forward scored 27 goals in 68 games last year and probably would have broken the 30-goal barrier had he remained healthy throughout the campaign. He put up 26 points in the final 35 games of the regular season – a pace which translates to 60 points over 82 games. To make a long story short, DeBrusk is a really good player who’s trending in the right direction but isn’t quite getting the recognition he deserves.
When you think about which players on the Bruins’ roster can be classified as ‘keepers’, the team’s top line comes to mind first – Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak – a trio that is widely considered the best in the league. From there, Tuukka Rask is a pretty solid option in net, with Torey Krug and maybe Charlie McAvoy rounding out the list. At this point, Jake DeBrusk hasn’t done enough to be considered a keeper, but I strongly believe that’s going to change in the next few years.
Bear with me for a second as we analyze the mindset of different managers in fantasy hockey leagues. There’s the noob that doesn’t invest much time in the hobby – they lack the commitment and dedication needed to read a poorly-written fantasy hockey article in the middle of the offseason when nothing else is going on in the NHL (thanks for reading by the way). This person probably takes one look at DeBrusk’s back-to-back 40-point seasons and foolishly deems he’s not a keeper. A step up from the noob is someone who recognizes that DeBrusk’s unimpressive overall numbers are partially explained by the injuries that prevented him from playing in every game. However, this oaf has probably labelled DeBrusk as injury-prone and won’t waste a keeper spot on him for that reason. Then you have the managers that are capable of using their brains – they recognize that DeBrusk hasn’t reached his full potential but are slightly discouraged because he’ll never surpass Brad Marchand on the depth chart. Finally, there’s you – an individual whose IQ is too high to measure. You recognize that fantasy hockey success is driven by the acquisition of players who are on the cusp of breaking out. You know that DeBrusk is often deployed as the fourth forward on Boston’s top power-play unit, alongside the three forwards on the amazing top line we mentioned earlier. You have seen David Krejci’s playmaking skills complement DeBrusk’s goal-scoring abilities as the two of them outscored opponents 32-21 last year, while controlling a sizeable majority of shots and scoring chances (via Natural Stat Trick). You, my friend, are one of the few with enough intelligence to recognize that DeBrusk’s status as a ‘bubble keeper’ is temporary. The clock is ticking.
If you’ve had the pleasure of dabbling in some of this week’s ‘Bubble Keeper’ articles, you’ve probably come across thoughts on Brendan Gallagher. As Tom pointed out in yesterday’s Top 10 Keepers on the Bubble, Gallagher’s status as a back-to-back 30-goal scorer and ability to contribute to multiple categories make him an appealing option to keep on your fantasy roster. To avoid wasting your time saying the same things my fellow writers have already said, I thought I’d offer a new perspective with thoughts on a different ‘bubble keeper’ in Montreal.
Tomas Tatar put up a career-high 58 points last season – his first with the Canadiens. In the process, he managed to hit the 20-goal mark for the sixth-straight season with his 25 goals. When a 28-year-old has a career-season, it’s common for people to predict regression in the year that follows. However, in this case, it’s important to remember that Tatar’s ‘career-season’ wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. As I mentioned earlier, he’s been a consistent goal scorer who has hovered around the 50-point mark throughout his career. During the 2018-2019 campaign, he scored on 12.8% of his shots – which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from him. His production wasn’t inflated by unsustainable numbers on the power play (PP) either, as he tallied just four points with the man advantage. He should see improvement in that category going forward as Montreal is bound to improve its PP after converting on just 13.2% of chances last year – only Nashville had a worse success rate.
When thinking off forward keepers in Montreal, names like Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi come to mind – high-skill guys. While I believe those two will have strong showings next season, I’m slightly concerned that the departure of Andrew Shaw will have a greater impact on those players than we realize. I really liked how Shaw’s grit and net-front presence complemented the offensive abilities of Domi and Drouin, but I’m curious to see if they can be as effective without him. Speaking of effective lines, the trio of Brendan Gallagher, Philip Danault and Tomas Tatar made up one of the best lines in the league last year. Through 675 minutes of ice-time, they controlled 61% of the shot-share, 62% of all scoring chances and 63% of high-danger opportunities. Not often do we see a line show such dominance over the opposition over the course of a season, as 55/45 splits are already impressive, but a 60/40 difference is almost insane. Not only did were their possession numbers impressive, but they converted on their chances – outscoring opponents by a score of 40 to 20 (via Natural Stat Trick)!
Now I’ll admit, I am slightly concerned that Montreal’s lines will look different during the 2019-2020 campaign as the team’s young talent graduates to the NHL roster – Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki will likely be integrated into the team’s forward corps. However, it’s hard to ignore how good the Tatar-Danault-Gallagher line was last year, so I’d expect coach Claude Julien to keep them together for the majority of the upcoming season. While I definitely like Tatar’s fantasy value more if he stays with Danault and Gallagher, I think he’s displayed a level of diligence and effort that will result in success no matter where he plays in the top-six. If a potential 25-goal, 60-point player is worth keeping in your fantasy league, take a flyer on Tomas Tatar!