21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
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. Sebastian Aho was eligible at all three forward positions in Yahoo leagues last season, while Jack Eichel was only eligible at the center position. If you’re in a live draft, I could see the case of drafting Aho ahead of Eichel, particularly if you have separate C, LW, and RW slots. Maybe it’s pedigree but I think Eichel still has the higher scoring upside. (aug3)
2. I’ve already written extensively about Sam Girard this offseason. We discussed his exit rates and the post-Tyson Barrie fallout. If Girard runs the Avs’ power play this year, his newest contract – seven years, $5M AAV – will look like a steal almost right out of the gate. Regardless, in a few years, we could be looking back at this contract like we do with Roman Josi’s.
What to do in cap leagues is another matter. Again, if he runs the power play, he’ll be worth the $5M hit. If he doesn’t, I’m not sure there are enough peripheral stats from a 21-year old defenseman for the cap hit to be palatable. He then presents a big risk in these kinds of leagues. My personal belief is that he’ll be their PPQB out of the gate but whether he remains there is a different discussion. It’s a precarious situation for cap league owners. (aug1)
3. Cody Glass has been the Golden Knights’ premier prospect from the moment the club selected him sixth overall in 2017. They’ve staved off many attempts from other clubs who have targeted him trades – moving their second and third best prospects instead (Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki).
Glass has been a prisoner of the CHL-NHL agreement for the past two seasons. Seasons in which he would have been better suited in the American Hockey League than putting up 0.51 goals and 1.68 points-per-game in the 102 WHL contests the last two seasons. When elevated to the Chicago Wolves to conclude 2018-19, the 20-year-old displayed his impressive skill set, scoring five points in six regular-season games, and 15 points in 22 playoff contests, helping take the Wolves to the Calder Cup final. His seven goals were second on the team and he was the co-leader in points.
The possibility of rolling three, serious scoring line in Vegas next season took a hit last Monday when the club shipped Nikita Gusev to the Devils due to their salary cap restrictions. There was a very real chance that Gusev and Glass would’ve been skating a good deal together at five-on-five. That loss of a potentially elite offensive winger to connect with is tangible. Glass remains projects to center the third line. He’ll be afforded one of Reilly Smith or Alex Tuch on the right wing, but a spot on the left side remains wide open. Perhaps we see another rookie in Lucas Elvenes snatch it up?
Glass should be well insulated in Vegas. He’ll see secondary defensive pairings and should be a staple on the team’s second power-play unit. His upside as a front-line, offensive center is very real but also not forthcoming in 2019-20. The boom is coming but unlikely to be right away. Conservative 82-game pace: 48 points (july31)
4. There shouldn’t be much doubt that Mikhail Sergachev is on the cusp of stardom. When we look at defenseman his age to have posted 70 points over two seasons, the list is small and distinguished with names like Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Zach Werenski, Bryan Berard, Scott Niedermayer, and so on. There are some misses on the list (Tyler Myers being one), but they are mostly stars.
There is work to do defensively with Sergachev, of that there is no doubt. But we have to remember how young he is and how much he has to learn still. That will come with time, but his performance so far has been nothing short of superlative.
He’s an interesting name this year because he’s supposed to be the third-pair LHD but with Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Brayden Coburn around, there has been talk of moving him into the top-four and having one of the left shots move to the right. Now, that would mean more minutes for Sergachev but we know having two same-handed defensemen on the same pair will mostly likely hurt their outcomes. Would additional minutes help offset the potential decline in offense?
That the team will be so good offensively, and Sergachev has seen steps forward in ice time and peripheral production, means a good fantasy season is likely in the cards. I’m just not convinced the move to top-four minutes will be the immediate boon to production that it appears to be. If anything, it’d be more production on PP2 that will help. (aug1)
5. Sabres have avoided salary arbitration with goalie Linus Ullmark, signing him to a one-year, $1.325 million contract. Ullmark posted a 15-14-5 record with a 3.11 GAA and .905 SV% in 37 games for the Sabres last season, which was fairly similar to that of starter Carter Hutton.
This one-year deal is another example of a ‘prove-it’ contract, as Ullmark is now at an age where goalies start to peak (26). He will probably need more than the 60 games he has played at the NHL level in order to reach his prime, though. He will also need to put a weak second half behind him, where he went 6-13-2 with an abysmal 3.36 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage. He wasn’t the only Buffalo goalie to struggle in the second half, either, as Hutton went 4-13-2 with an even worse 3.65 GAA and .894 SV%.
With upgrades on the Sabres’ defense, it’s possible that one of these goalies could be in line for better numbers. For now, this should be viewed as a goaltending competition and possible timeshare throughout the season. I wouldn’t target either goalie right now, but that could change if one of these goalies can take the job and run with it. (aug4)
6. As for Hutton, he was signed to be the new starter in Buffalo in the summer of 2018, coming off strong numbers in St. Louis (2.09 GAA, .931 SV%). But team systems matter when it comes to goalies. The Blues have a strong defensive system. The Sabres don’t (or at least haven’t until this point).
Hutton was definitely the starter in 2018-19 (50 games) but he allowed nearly a full goal per game more in a Buffalo uniform. His quality start percentage only dipped from 59.4% in 2017-18 to 54.0% in 2018-19, so he for one could be in line for some improved numbers now that the Sabres are stockpiling NHL defensemen. (aug2)
7. Leafs have signed forward Matt Read to a professional tryout contract. Read spent most of 2018-19 in the AHL, playing just 12 games with the Iowa Wild and scoring one goal. He has reached 20 goals and 40 points twice in his career, so he could find his way onto the Leafs’ roster (or another team’s roster, since they also might be watching) with a strong training camp. (aug3)
8. It doesn’t sound like general manager Ken Holland has been able to convince Jesse Puljujarvi that Edmonton is the place to be. According to a Finnish newspaper, Puljujarvi stated this week that he would like “a new start with some other team.” There’s a good chance Puljujarvi spends the season in Europe if the Oilers can’t arrange a trade. Don’t expect a return for the Oilers that would normally be the equivalent of a player picked fourth overall just three years ago. Even if Puljujarvi plays in the NHL this season, it’s a reach to think that he’d receive any kind of top-six minutes. (aug3)
9. Cam Talbot’s fantasy value actually went from bad to even worse last year! The Oilers’ system is not goalie friendly, but Talbot did not do himself any favors with his own play. Sometimes bounce-back predictions don’t work, although many fantasy owners will likely give Talbot another chance now that he is a Flame. (aug2)
10. Rangers made the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout official on Friday, buying out the final two seasons of his four-year contract. The Rangers obviously had to make salary cap room for their shiny new toys in Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba and still have Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux to sign as RFAs, so I’m not at all surprised that this buyout has happened.
Even though Shattenkirk has been bothered by a surgically repaired knee, I’d expect another team to buy low on him in the hopes that he can regain his scoring touch.
I wrote about DeAngelo during Bubble Keeper Week, when I mentioned a possible Shattenkirk buyout. Now that it has happened, DeAngelo has a better chance of getting first-unit power-play time. I still think Trouba is on PP1 because of the Rangers’ investment in him, but DeAngelo could also sneak onto the first unit if coach David Quinn elects to go with a 3F-2D PP1. This assumes that someone like Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich or even Kaapo Kakko slides onto the second unit. Don’t forget about newly-acquired Adam Fox in this mix, as well. (aug2)
Shattenkirk is not the player he was but he’s still more than serviceable. Remember that his first year with the Rangers saw him playing with an injured knee for half a season before shutting things down and having surgery. His second year saw the team trade almost anything that wasn’t nailed down. Maybe he’ll be better when he isn’t injured and surrounded with AHLers? (aug1)
The 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide is now available!
Inside you’ll find the usual projections for each player by team, plus sleeper picks, draft review and Calder nominees, advanced stats, breakdown of the 2019-20 schedule, and more!
Don’t forget: the Fantasy Guide is updated as more signings, trades, injuries, and other events affect player projections. You just have to log back in, go to your Downloads folder, download the latest version, and view the updates in blue.
11. Flames bought out defenseman Michael Stone’s year that he had left on a three-year, $10.5 million contract. Because of a lengthy blood clot issue, Stone played in just 14 games in 2018-19, recording just five assists. Moving on from Stone likely ensures that youngsters Rasmus Andersson and Juuso Valimaki are full-time Flames in 2018-19, while Oliver Kylington should be in the mix as well. The Flames still have Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane to sign as RFAs, so they may need to make a trade before the start of the season. (aug2)
12. Minnesota has reportedly begun their GM search. It will be interesting to see whether the new GM immediately tries to undo the moves that the ousted Paul Fenton made, or whether like many new bosses simply decides to observe for a while before making any important decisions.
Had Fenton stayed on, it sounded like he was going to find a way to trade Jason Zucker, but the new GM could instead decide that Zucker is an important piece for whatever it is the Wild are doing. The new GM will also inherit all of the Mats Zuccarello contract, which may not have been one that he would have signed. If this new GM decides to go the rebuilding route, he will be in for a tall order given the 5+ years left for over-30 players such as Zuccarello, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter. (aug2)
13. It’s hard to see how Devils’ Will Butcher will live up to this value in cap leagues. Quite literally half of his points (37) in his career (74) have come with the man advantage and the team trading for P.K. Subban has pushed Butcher to, at best, the second PP unit.
While the Devils have certainly improved their scoring, a guy who doesn’t post peripherals losing up to half of his point production – it won’t be that much, but he could lose 30 percent – makes the cap hit tough to stomach.
One thing I do wonder is if the Devils go to two even power-play units. They have Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Jack Hughes, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds, Subban, Butcher, and Damon Severson. That’s nearly two full units and they could easily be split evenly, both in terms of talent and ice time. In that kind of situation, Butcher could flirt with 40 points again. Without at least double-digit PP points, though, it’s hard to see him being worth the fantasy cap hit. Butcher signed for three years with an annual cap hit just over $3.7M just this past week. (aug1)
14. Devils continued their stellar offseason by acquiring winger Nikita Gusev from the Golden Knights for a second- and third-round pick. New Jersey then signed Gusev to a two-year deal with a $4.5M AAV. You can read Dobber’s take on Gusev in New Jersey here.
One area I disagree with Dobber is how the top PP configures. I have Palmieri-Hall-Hischier-Gusev with Subban on the blueline and Jack Hughes on PP2. Over the last four years, Palmieri has more PP goals than: Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, John Tavares, and Sean Monahan, and the same number of PP goals as Tyler Seguin. He’s one of 12 players with more than 40 PPGs over those four seasons, and he’s just 28 years old. He’s the team’s best goal scorer, regardless of strength. Maybe I’m wrong here but it seems like that kind of goal scorer should never be left out of prime PP minutes.
Regardless, there is some serious offensive upside for a team that needed it. If Gusev works out as we hope, this is a roster with two very threatening scoring lines, and some good depth pieces like Miles Wood and Blake Coleman. The Metro looks wide open this year and the Devils will figure into the mix heavily. (july30)
15. The word is that Jake Gardiner is set to sign with a team but said team needs to move out a contract first.
The team that immediately popped in my mind was Buffalo. They have a lot of RHD depth and both Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian seem like logical moves. If either was traded without the team taking salary back, it would leave them with over $8M in cap space and signing Gardiner would give them a 1-2 on the left-hand side of Rasmus Dahlin and Gardiner. That would be formidable.
Detroit is possible but with them only one year away from clearing so much bad money, it would make more sense to wait until you can clear space rather than trading picks/prospects to clear those bad contracts now. (aug1)
16. Evan Bouchard is far from a lock to skate the season in Edmonton, but he does bring an element that is greatly lacking from the Oilers squad – a defender who can hammer the puck and run a power play. If Bouchard proves capable of keeping up at even-strength, his time on the top power-play unit won’t be far behind. This makes projecting his production difficult. He may end up with 10 points in 40 games. He may end up 35 in 75. Conservative 82-game pace: 27 points.
Bouchard looked calm and composed in his foray into the AHL during last season’s playoffs. He was efficient and effective exiting the puck from his end – often wheeling it out himself. He managed to put over two shots on goal per game while showcasing his overly dangerous set of shots. (july31)
17. Sens’ Erik Brannstrom led all U20 defenders in scoring at the AHL level last season. It isn’t an overly long list because, well, teenage blueliners rarely play in the league and produce offense. In the last 10 years, only John Carlson’s 39 points in 48 games trump Brannstrom’s 32 points in 50 games. Brannstrom has not been assured a roster spot but the left-side in Ottawa is wide open behind Thomas Chabot. Conservative 82-game pace for Brannstrom: 14 points.
Speaking of Chabot, his presence will likely dampen the long-term potential for Brannstrom in point leagues. While Ottawa doesn’t boast the forward power to roll out a guaranteed 4+1 power play scheme, they’d have to play either Chabot or Brannstrom on the right point to get both out there together – not ideal. (july31)
18. Sabres took care of all of their remaining UFAs, signing defenseman Jake McCabe to a two-year contract with a cap hit of $2.85 million. McCabe, who scored four goals and 14 points in 59 games in 2018-19, was fifth among Sabres’ defensemen in average ice time with just under 19 minutes per game.
With offseason acquisitions Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju, McCabe may be bumped down the pecking order. However, since injuries are fairly common among blueliners, McCabe should still find his way into the lineup fairly often. He shouldn’t be considered much of a scoring threat, as he sees very little power-play time. (aug4)
19. Meanwhile, Coyotes have also taken care of their RFAs, as goalie Adin Hill has reportedly accepted his qualifying offer for one year. Hill spent the majority of his time in 2018-19 in the NHL, but he filled in for awhile while Antti Raanta was on the shelf.
Remember that Hill was a desired waiver-wire add after he allowed just two goals in his first three starts of the season (all wins) in late November/early December. Then he allowed at least three goals in seven of his next eight games and was back in the AHL not long after. By then, Darcy Kuemper was starting just about every game for the Yotes.
Hill is considered the Coyotes’ goalie of the future and could be in the NHL full-time as early as next season. Kuemper has just one more year left on his contract, while Raanta has two more years left. By the way, the Coyotes’ goaltending competition will be another interesting one to watch. Kuemper helped one of my teams immensely last season, while Raanta helped another team considerably the season before. At the moment, I’m much more inclined to add a Coyotes’ goalie in the late rounds of a draft than I am a Sabres’ goalie. (aug4)
20. When I did my projections a couple weeks ago, I split the Canucks’ top power-play minutes among all three of Alex Edler, Tyler Myers and Quinn Hughes. Not equally, mind you, but by percentage it was a 50/30/20 split, respectively. The basic assumption is that Edler starts on the top PP unit but when his injury history inevitably catches up with him, Myers will be the guy to replace him, with Hughes eventually taking over later in the year.
Of course, this is mostly guesswork based off assumptions in the last week of July. Should we get indications at some point during training camp that Edler won’t be on the power play, or Hughes gets a straight shot to the top unit, these projections will change drastically.
Before scoffing at the idea of Edler on the top PP unit, keep in mind that Vancouver’s power play was really good with Edler last year: the team scored 9.4 goals per 60 minutes at 5v4 with Edler and Elias Pettersson on the ice in 2018-19. For reference, the Bruins had the second-highest goal rate last year at 5v4 with 9.2 goals per 60 minutes. With those two off the ice, or playing apart, the team generated far fewer shots and goals with the man advantage.
Now, that’s partly due to the lack of scoring depth, and thus the lack of PP2 options for a good second unit, but it would be foolish to switch up the PPQB for a unit that had so much success. If they flounder out of the gate and don’t turn it around, then that’s another story. (july30)
21. I’ve been busy trying to acquire some promising players I feel have a good chance of popping this year. These are players who seemed to have taken long enough, and perhaps their owners were getting sick of waiting. Perhaps I can sneak in there and acquire them at fair value. I say fair value because my league that’s ‘buying low’.
For example, Jakub Vrana. Here I had to be creative. I had a side goal of adding a couple of Panthers and this GM also owned Aleksander Barkov. I put together a package of Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang for Barkov, Vrana, a first-round pick and a second-round pick.
We were stuck on the Barkov for Crosby part. He insisted that Barkov is worth more than Crosby. I wasn’t buying it. Maybe next year, or the year after you can cite age as a factor, but a generational player that will continue to produce at a high level well into his 30s. Crosby’s last five seasons: 84, 85, 85, 89, 100. That’s trending up, not down. Barkov has missed at least 13 games in four of the last six seasons and our points-only league does not have an injured reserve. If he misses 12 games, you’re going to miss those 12 or 13 points and never get them back.
There’s a reason I have Crosby ranked 7th on my Keeper League Players list and Barkov 17th – it’s because Crosby is the better bet to get more points this year, next year and the year after. Gun to the head, that’s who I would choose.
Anyway, he had a couple of conservative GMs working with him and whispering advice to him. Guys who over-value youth, draft 18-year-olds at the draft, and then sit on them for six years until they get going. That type. Great guys, lots of fun, love them – but this is what I was dealing with and I knew it. So, the bigger deal didn’t get done. He instead offered Vrana, a first and a second for Letang. Which was what I was looking to do to begin with. Mission accomplished. (july28)
Have a good week, folks!!
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