Welcome back to “Forum Buzz,” a monthly column where I weigh in on some of the most active or heavily debated threads from the past month on the DobberHockey Forums. Pretty much anything within the forums might be covered, other than trades and signings, which usually will get their own separate write-ups on the main site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings, or questions relating solely to salary cap issues, which is the domain of Alex McClean’s weekly Capped column). It’s been a longer than usual wait due to Bubble Keeper Week, so let’s get down to business!
Topic #1 – What does 2019-20 hold in store for Clayton Keller, and will the arrival of Phil Kessel help or hurt him?
After an age 19 rookie season that saw him post 65 points, Keller slumped to just 47 in 2018-19 despite similar ice times and SOG. Some might view that as a step in the wrong direction; but I think it’s more accurately a buy-low opportunity, as his IPP and team shooting percentage were both well below his rookie numbers, so much so that had they been on a par with 2017-18 he’d have likely scored 60-65+ yet again. Something else that shouldn’t be ignored is Keller getting those 65 points in a season before age 20, since if we go back to 2000-01 only three other players (Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, and Sidney Crosby) managed to score at least that many points as a teen. To me, that’s a hugely telling statistic, as Kane and Crosby have gone on to become superstars and Matthews looks to be headed down that same path.
What Keller needed are players who could help make the team better and fuel the offense. And say what you want about Kessel’s effort level or off-ice habits, he has found ways to score at all stages throughout his now 13 seasons career, whether it was initially as a 30+ goal, 300+ SOG sniper for lowly Toronto teams or as a 200-250 SOG, point per game, pass first PP specialist for recent Pittsburgh squads. Is it possible Kessel was being propped up somewhat by the strong Pittsburgh team around him? Perhaps to some extent, although it’s difficult to ignore the fact that in posting 36 and 42 PPPts in his last two seasons he became one of just three players (Nikita Kucherov and Claude Giroux being the others – note no other Pens on the list) to tally 36+ PPPts in consecutive seasons dating back to 2010-11.
Kessel being a PP catalyst will help Keller, who managed 19 PPPts last season on a team which had the sixth-worst PP conversion rate. Moreover, the eight forwards who averaged more PP time per game last season than Keller’s 3:31 and who played in 80+ games, averaged 33.4 PPPts, so clearly Keller could stand to gain a lot of points if simply the Coyotes PP were to improve, which one has to think will occur with Kessel in the fold.
Beyond what he actually brings to the team on the ice, Kessel coming to Arizona also signals to the players that the franchise wants to improve. Something like that can have an impact on the ice, as instead of the players feeling like they were not on a par with the teams they were facing, they’re filled with a sense of competition and optimism. While not quantifiable in terms of effects on scoring, from where I sit it’s something that’s bound to help the team from top to bottom, but especially at the top, where Keller sits. Long story short, I’d look for Keller to hit 70+ points this season and have a good chance at a point per game or better scoring starting in his magical fourth season in 2020-21.
Topic #2 – On a team (roster below, along with league details) that’s deep at center, and looking long term, does a trade of Bo Horvat for Eeli Tolvanen, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and a first-round pick in 2020 (likely to be around 10th overall) make sense?
14 Team H2H Dynasty
Start: 4C ,4LW ,4RW, 6D ,2G, plus have 8 Bench and 15 Farm
Skater Categories: G, A, PTS, STP, PIM, SOG, HIT/BLK, TOI, CORSI
Goalie Categories: W, GAA, SV, SV%, SO
C: Dylan Larkin, Bo Horvat, Dylan Strome, Pavel Zacha
LW: Teuvo Teravainen, Brady Tkachuk, Ryan Dzingel, Brett Connolly
RW: Alex Tuch, Ondrej Kase, Jakub Vrana, Kasaperi Kapanen
D: Morgan Reilly, Miro Heiskanen, Ivan Provorov, Shea Theodore, Ryan Pulock, Josh Morrissey
G: Robin Lehner, Jack Campbell, Linus Ullmark, Jonathan Bernier
Bench: Mike Matheson, Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Vinnie, Hinostroza, Dalton Heinen, Joel Eriksson Ek
Farm: Casey Mittelstadt (C), Alex Turcotte (C), Filip Chytil (C), Gabriel Vilardi (C), Sam Steel (C), Kirill Kaprizov (LW), Nicholas Robertson (LW), Noah Dobson (D), Jusso Valimaki (D), Josh Mahura (D), Tristan Jarry (G), Ilya, Sorokin (G), Linus Soderstrom (G), Mads Sogaard (G), Connor Ingram (G)
I like the idea of trading Horvat right at this very moment, as I think he fits the bill as a sell-high player. He’s seen his scoring rate increase in each of his NHL seasons, plus his PP Time increase and SH ice time decrease as well, which would lead to whomever you trade with likely envisioning this trend continuing and Horvat’s stats having nowhere to go but up.
Moreover, while there’s room for him to see organic scoring growth if Vancouver improves as a team (they were 26th in goals last season), the truth is Horvat might be maxed out in terms of his personal scoring. For one, last season he received 20:50 of TOI per game, of which 3:26 was on the PP and only 0:27 on the PK. Just 16 forwards averaged more TOI than Horvat per game last season, and of them the only center who averaged more PP TOI but less SH TOI was Nathan MacKinnon, whom most everyone would agree is not a realistic comparable to Horvat because unlike Horvat having Elias Pettersson in his midst, MacKinnon has no other player who could effectively stand in the way of his abundant ice time.
Speaking of Pettersson, his presence leads me to believe Horvat’s deployment last season might be at or near the best he’ll ever get. Why? Pettersson projects to be the top-line center and in fact by the fourth quarter had already assumed that role, being joined at the hip with star winger in the making Brock Boeser, leaving Horvat with scraps like Loui Eriksson and Tanner Pearson as his most frequent linemates at even strength by the fourth quarter. The presence of Pettersson also had an effect on Horvat’s offensive zone starting percentage, which finished the season below 40% after being between 46.4% to 48.4% in three of his four NHL seasons. And no matter how skilled Horvat might be or how many minutes he receives, his scoring realistically will be capped if he can’t even manage to start 40% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Now that I’ve presented the case for trading Horvat, the question becomes if the deal makes sense, and I say yes. As noted, the team with Horvat is very deep at center and looking long term, which also means there will be time for Luukkonen – and the team’s other goalie prospects– to mature and, in the case of at least a few, to presumably step into starting roles. And in a 14 team league, if a team ends up with three or four young starting netminders it will be in a position of tremendous strength – much more so than having comparable strength at center, which is by far the deepest position in fantasy.
What’s also key is you’re not just getting Luukkonen, but also Tolvanen. And although Tolvanen is no longer seen as a can’t miss superstar in the making (now barely among the top ten prospect forwards after being in the top five for the previous year), chances are he still can and will be impactful, whether for Nashville or another team. On top of all that you’re getting a draft pick sweetener. I think it is a deal worth doing, which I realize puts me at odds with most of the replies within the forum thread and what the Horvat owner decided to do; however, perhaps this might persuade him/her to reopen trade talks, in which case I think he/she be doing his/her team a service long term by making the deal.
Topic #3 – In what order would these defensemen rank in a keeper: Morgan Rielly, Victor Hedman, Tyson Barrie, Torey Krug, Bowan Byram, Filip Hronek, Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson?
This is a tough one, since the person who started the thread didn’t list his or her roster, nor give any details about the league such as categories, number of teams, how many players start at each position, numbers of keepers, and lastly, whether it is a dynasty or instead a league where players can only be kept a certain number of years. Why do details like these matter? If more d-men are kept and it’s a dynasty, that lets a team possibly hold onto a player like Byram, who might not even be in the NHL for another season or two, whereas if each team keeps only two or perhaps three d-men then it’s important to prioritize production for the here and now.
For purposes to trying to answer the question, I’ll assume a 12 team league where six defensemen, 12 forwards, and two goalies start and each team is allowed six keepers with a limit on the number of years a player can be kept. Right at the outset, I think you put OEL and Hronek at the bottom. Excluding his 59 point season OEL has scored 39-44 points going back to 2013-14. Plus, he’s now 28 and thus is already at the peak age for his position. He’s a fine guy to have on a team and Arizona should fare better this season, with OEL a presumed beneficiary, but someone has to be at the bottom and compared to players like these it’s him. As for Hronek, who had a nice partial season in 2018-19 and likely will be the top option for blueliner offense for the Red Wings once Mike Green leaves as a UFA next summer, he too is outclassed by the rest of the names on this list who bring with them guaranteed top production, whereas Hronek has yet to prove he’s even capable of the floors of the other players.
Looking more closely at Byram, what he has going for him is the track record of success for other d-men picked in the top ten, as looking back to those selected in the top ten in 2013, 2014, and 2015, all but two have already produced a 39+ point season and only one hasn’t reached the 30 point mark. That being said, even if this was a full dynasty I’m not sure Byram would make the cut since Colorado has recently extended Samuel Girard and has Cale Makar in the fold. Sure – Byram could somehow become the best of the bunch when all is said and done; but with your other options, he’s not in the mix.
That leaves Rielly, Hedman, Barrie, Gustafsson and Krug. Although in an earlier Forum Buzz column I dug deep on Gustafsson and found that he could be for real, and perhaps a Brian Rafalski type of late bloomer, with only one big year under his belt and not being younger than the rest of the bunch, I’d put him above Byram and Makar but below the rest.
The top two, in my opinion, are Rielly and Hedman, as they’re both “the guy” on teams that are offensive powerhouses, plus are in no danger of slowing down soon. If you decide to hold onto a third player, then it gets trickier, since Krug and Barrie are so similar in terms of how they’re deployed and in that they’ll likely be UFAs next summer because they’ll be priced out of their current teams.
Of the other two, it’s super close but I like Krug, whose scoring pace has increased each of the past three seasons and is somewhat more of a proven scorer on the PP plus will likely outpoint Barrie this season. That being said, they’re close enough that the difference between them beyond this season will be determined by the team they sign with, as if one goes to a squad that struggles to score and the other to an offensive powerhouse, then that would clearly tilt the scales. But since you have to make the decision now, I’d keep Krug. But if you prefer Barrie, then try to trade Krug if that’s allowed.
Topic #4 – Who are the ten keepers given this league set up and these players available (see below)?
Active Line-up: 3C, 3RW, 3LW, 6D, 2G
Forward Scoring: 5 points per Goal, 3 points per Assist, 1 point per specialty team point
Defensemen Scoring: 6 points per Goal, 4 points per Assist, 1.5 points per specialty team point
All Skater Scoring: 0.3 points per SOG, 0.35 points per Hit, 0.35 points per Block, 0.1 points per FOW
Goalie Scoring: 6.5 points per win, 2 points per SO, 0.25 per Save, -2.5 points per GA
C- Anze Kopitar, Aleksander Barkov, Patrice Bergeron
LW- Artemi Panarin, Jake Guentzel, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Chris Kreider
RW- Blake Wheeler, Cam Atkinson, Mark Stone, T.J. Oshie, Sam Reinhart, Mats Zuccarello
D- Seth Jones, Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba, Shea Weber, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Suter, Nate Schmidt, Justin Schultz
G-Frederik Andersen, Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick
In situations like these, I prefer to start to get to the ten keepers not by picking out the best players right away but instead by eliminating – one by one – players who don’t make the cut. Right off the bat, we can remove Nate Schmidt and Justin Schultz since defense is your deepest position and they’re outclassed by the other six. Suter also can be tossed back, as a healthy Dumba will cannibalize his PP time and he’s not that great in peripherals. Similarly, I can’t see a case for protecting three goalies in a league like this, so I’d toss back Jonathan Quick, who I think should rebound but is no match for your other two netminders, whom I think should each easily be in the top ten if not top five leaguewide given your categories. For forwards, Zuccarello, Reinhart and Oshie are pretty easy toss backs, as are RNH and Kreider. Kopitar would be a consideration if there were more categories or you had weaker options at the position, but like Quick, he’s outclassed by the other two whom you can choose.
That leaves us with five defensemen, three right-wingers, two left-wingers, and two centers for eight skater keeper slots. One thing we don’t know from the post is whether any of the forwards are eligible at more than one position since if they were that would be a nice factor in favor of keeping the player(s) over others who are otherwise comparable. Going on the assumption that no one on the list has dual position eligibility, I think I’d opt for keeping at least 3 defensemen since you start six, and one or two at each forward position.
Right off the bat, I’d go with just Wheeler at RW. Yes, Atkinson had a career-best season; however, so many of his points were with Artemi Panarin on the ice and his SOG rate was so much higher than his previous best, all at age 29. I think he drops back to 55-60 points and less than three SOG per game, and to me, that’s not enough to justify being kept. Wheeler, on the other hand, shows no signs of slowing down and is a must keep.
I’m also keeping both Barkov and Bergeron. They are huge in FOW and scoring, such that I think both are likely top ten pivots in your format. Thus, although center is the deepest position in fantasy, I still like the idea of keeping two here rather than one, especially with how great those two are.
The question then becomes whether to keep three defensemen or three left wings, and I think you must keep three d-men or else you’d have a tough time at the draft. Which three? Rielly is a lock, and after that, it becomes a tougher choice among your cross-category options of Jones, Trouba, Weber, and Risto. As I noted in my Bubble Keeper Week Goldipucks column, I think Risto is likely to see his points go down; so although he might give you the best combo of SOG, Hits and Blocks, his points should be low enough to let him go.
That leaves Trouba, Weber, and Jones for the remaining two spots. In that same column, I noted that I see Weber as a solid be for 50 points. That being said, he’s 34 so I can see why you might opt to let him go and instead stick with Trouba, who had 50 points last year despite not being a true #1 in Winnipeg but will be “the guy” in New York and could post 55 points with solid peripherals. If you don’t keep Weber, then Jones becomes your last keep, as although he’s ceded his PP1 spot to Zach Werenski he’s still very solid all-around and likely should get you 45-50 points.
Topic #5 – In a 13 team keeper with G, A, +/-, PIM, PPPts, GWG, SOG, HIT, BLK, W, GAA, SA, SV% and SO as categories, which two of the following seven players should be kept: Steven Stamkos (C, RW), Mitch Marner (C, RW), David Pastrnak (RW), Evander Kane (LW), Erik Karlsson (D), Connor Hellebuyck (G), and Martin Jones (G)?
This question brings up a key point. Often you have too many keeper-worthy players for too few keeper slots; however, usually, when that’s the case, it means you’ll have plenty of great players to redraft or you drafted so well that you’ll be able to once again put together a great team. This is an example of the former situation, as with apparently only 26 players being kept leaguewide there will be stars – if not superstars – available at the draft. What you need to do in cases like these is keep the surest of sure things – that is, the players who truly should be the best of the best at their position.
At the outset, we remove Jones and Kane, who is outclassed by the rest of your options. For the first keeper spot, I’m going with Erik Karlsson. He was playing much of last year hurt; however, there are no indications he’ll have lingering effects of the injury and when he did play he showed that he can still be the same EK despite the presence of Brent Burns.
The second pick is tougher. If you know for sure that each other team will keep a goalie, then you have to keep Hellebuyck, since he’ll be a top 10 and probably top-five goalie in your format despite Trouba and Tyler Myers having left town. I covered Hellebuyck extensively in my recent mailbag column. But if you believe no one or almost no one will keep a netminder, then a case could be made to retain either Pasta or Stamkos, as although right-wing is deeper than LW, both positions had an equal number of among the top 15 scorers last season (positions according to nhl.com). Stamkos, I worry, might have unsustainably benefitted last season due to a near career-high in PPPts and he’s also now past peak age for forwards. Then again, there’s talk Boston will move Pasta off the top line to stabilize offense. I suppose a case could be made for Marner, but I fear a potential projected hold-out that would not only cost you games but also leave Marner less prepared once he does play, ala William Nylander last season. Given the question marks surrounding each of your RWs, the answer might just be Hellebuyck either way.
Questions for Mailbag column
As it turns out, I’m already set for questions for my next monthly mailbag column, where I answer your fantasy hockey questions. But if you don’t mind waiting a bit longer for an answer, you can still go ahead and send me questions either by private messaging them to me (rizzeedizzee) via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.