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. Hurrah! I just won Jonathan Huberdeau in auction bidding. Now I have both Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov on the same team. Do you think it’s a good idea to have linemates from the same team? It can be a risky strategy, should the line dry up or if I have the Panthers for just two games in an important head-to-head matchup.
At the end of the day, though, talent wins, and I don’t think you should be targeting an inferior player because you’re afraid to put all your eggs in one basket. Plus if the line gets hot, you’ll pile up the points. By the way, I owned those two AND Mike Hoffman last season. And something like three Ottawa Senators, before Matt Duchene and Mark Stone were traded. (aug30)
2. Let’s look at a few players that are ranked too high in Yahoo!’s pre-draft rankings. IMO:
Mark Giordano (Customized Pre-Draft 76, Player List 70): I’ll admit that one season ago I would have taken these rankings to be too high for Giordano, as he had just come off two consecutive sub-40-point seasons. What a difference a year makes, though. The reigning Norris Trophy winner was a near point-per-game player and an absolute beast in multiple fantasy categories as well. While I would expect some regression the following season when a player jumps 36 points while playing a similar number of games, the Flames possess enough firepower that the decline shouldn’t be that steep. I’d be fine with drafting Giordano a round or two earlier, especially in leagues that place special emphasis on scoring from defensemen or require more than four defensemen. (aug31)
3. Elias Pettersson (Customized Pre-Draft 82, Player List 39): When I took over the Roto Rankings back in June, I had Pettersson ranked at #58. After some derision on social media, I thought about it and bumped Pettersson within the top 50. No doubt some of you reading this will think that this ranking is crazy, although keep in mind that his shot total was low (144) and he doesn’t possess huge peripherals. Is it possible that Pettersson is a better real-life player than roto player? The scoring upside is there to make him a top-50 player, so go ahead and draft him there. (aug31)
4. Now, let’s look at three players that, IMO, are ranked too high in Yahoo!’s pre-draft rankings:
Taylor Hall (12): This has nothing to do with Hall’s scoring upside and everything to do with his injury history, which I expanded on earlier. In fact, if Hall stays healthy for an entire season, he could pay off at that spot. But can you afford using a late first-round, early second-round pick on a player that has a history of missing significant time? (aug30)
5. Evgeni Malkin (16): Again, injuries here. This has nothing to do with Malkin as a player. Yet over the last six seasons Malkin’s games played totals have been as follows: 60, 69, 57, 62, 78, 68. That’s an average of around 66 games. Because I try to be balanced, the positive is that only Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane have a better points-per-game average than Malkin (1.12) over that span. Grab the points and run when Malkin plays, but build some depth to your center position to be ready when Malkin misses his dozen or so games again. (aug30)
6. Jack Hughes (86): I’ll admit that it’s very difficult to rank rookies, so a valid argument could be made to rank him either higher or lower. So to the question of where I would rank him, I don’t really have an answer. I’m not one to make a splash on rookies in single-season drafts, so I’m not sure I would go with Hughes within the top 100 if we simply don’t know what he’s going to be out of the gate. He might be an x-factor by the time fantasy playoffs arrive, but remember that you need to get there first. If you can grab him after pick 100 when no one is paying attention, then I think he’s worth the gamble. (aug30)
7. It was made official a couple days ago, but Jesse Puljujärvi is indeed heading to Finland for the 2019-20 season. He has an out clause that would allow him to return to the NHL but barring a trade, I don’t see that happening. Yesterday, Cam dug deeper on the ramifications for the forwards in Edmonton, so I recommend reading what he had to say.
This topic has been discussed by myself, and others, for months (years?) now, so there’s not much point in digging deeper. Just thought I’d throw this out there: The Oilers had a better CF%, xGF% and GF% with Pulju and McJesus on the ice over the last three years than Drai and McJesus?
The Oilers did well – very well – with Pulju and McDavid on the ice together, even without Draisaitl. And yet, both Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock refused to leave Pulju on the top line. You mean to tell me he didn’t look good playing on the fourth line with the likes of Jujhar Khaira and Colby Cave? I’m shocked. Stunned, really. (aug29)
8. It’s funny how a year ago, we were talking about Mike Hoffman as potential damaged goods after the public feud between him and Erik Karlsson that forced him out of Ottawa. There was also worry about a lack of power-play time in Florida, yet Hoffman ended up leading all Panthers’ forwards in power-play points last season. And with the first 30-goal of his career, Hoffman’s value actually improved with a move to the Panthers. Thank heaven I didn’t flinch at the league members who were trying to play up Hoffman’s personal situation in an attempt to acquire him at pennies on the dollar. Moral of story: Don’t sell low. (sep1)
9. It was announced on Wednesday that Cam Ward will be retiring from the NHL. The 35-year old netminder signed with Chicago last year but with the signing of Robin Lehner and the emergence of Collin Delia, not to mention Corey Crawford having a year left, it didn’t seem like a return was possible. It has been many years since Ward has had a good season, so it makes sense that now is the time for him to hang up the skates.
Ward retires with a Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup from 2006, over 700 games played, and millions of dollars in the bank. Not bad.
Ward was a punching bag in recent seasons but he was really good earlier in his career. That was a long time ago, though – pre-lockout – and he was just never the same goalie after. Regardless of his performance of late, he always seemed like a good NHL citizen and very much respected by his peers. He had a long career and reached the pinnacle of the sport. All in all, a very good NHL tenure. Best of luck to Mr. Ward and his family in the next phase of their lives. (aug29)
10. I wonder if we ever see former first-rounder, Nicklas Jensen give the NHL another go around? The now 26-year-old failed to secure a big-league job with the Canucks or Rangers before departing for Jokerit of the KHL in 2017-18. Since then, he's become one of the better offensive players in Russia.
The 6-3 forward is capable of playing either side of the rink and has matured into a confident two-way player. His goal-scoring ability has never been in doubt (outside of the NHL) and he has the pedigree that GMs often trip over themselves for. Jensen will be 27 at the end of the season and should be free to explore NHL options for 2020-21. There is an option on his current deal, but it is unclear if it's a team or player option.
Just something that popped into my head when I saw he scored a couple in a preseason game this week. (aug28)
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11. Let’s talk about Roope Hintz for a moment. This is a player that has taken a beat to acclimatize to a new level of competition and then promptly accelerates his production. It was that way in the Finnish Liiga and the American League. And now many, myself included, are predicting he’ll do the same in the NHL.
Despite his consistent growth, the 22-year-old was mostly unheralded as a rookie last season. And with just cause for the most part. Hintz recorded just three goals and nine points his first 38 games. However, the last 20 contests saw him score six goals and 13 points while putting 2.5 shots on goal per game.
He still failed to earn a single Calder trophy vote.
The postseason saw him continue that fourth-quarter trajectory. He scored five goals and eight points in 13 spring contests. The burst in production coincided with the Stars sliding him beside Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov. Which shouldn’t be considered a negative. Not only did his play elevate while being surrounded by more talent, but Seguin and Radulov played at their best paces in the final quarter with Hintz as their primary left-winger.
Many people are sliding Hintz onto the second line beside Joe Pavelski – which would be just fine for a potential 40-plus point season. However, I feel the Stars are going to look long and hard at keeping Hintz up on the top line while meshing Pavelski with Jamie Benn. Now all of a sudden a one-line team has some depth. Hintz won’t be peeling off top power-play deployment anytime soon, which will inevitably keep the boom from being spectacular. But this is a player who could realistically challenge the 50-point mark in 2019-20 while chipping in some shots, blocks and hits in the process. (aug28)
12. The question for Travis Konecny owners is where he slots in the Flyers lineup; does he get to the top-six? Something like Claude Giroux–Sean Couturier-Konecny on the top line and JvR–Kevin Hayes–Jakub Voracek on the second line makes a lot of sense to me. On the other hand, maybe they want Konecny down on the third line to help lengthen the lineup a bit more. I also doubt that Konecny gets much run on the top PP unit, which does cap his upside.
Konecny’s problem is that he’s not very good defensively. Now, he’s only 22 years old but even a significant improvement in this regard would get him to average levels. That may actually work in his favour though because I doubt the team wants Konecny skating with Nolan Patrick, where they might get run over in tough road matchups. Rather, putting a guy who has defensive issues but can score on the top line with one of the best two-way centers alive seems like a good way to get the most out of Konecny. Even just bouncing around the lineup, Konecny can pop 25 goals, 50 points, nearly 200 shots, and hopefully rebound his hit totals to a hit per game. That would be a good year, but I think Konecny has more in him, especially if he can get the right line mates at even strength. (aug27)
13. Here are some bold predictions for 2019-20, starting with forwards today. Reminder: these aren’t probable, but that’s not the point here.
J.T. Miller is a top-75 skater in hits leagues: After back-to-back seasons exceeding 20 goals, 55 points, and 100 hits, Miller fell below the goals and points marks, considerably, in 2018-19. That was largely driven by three things: a four-year low in shooting percentage, a primary assist rate at five-on-five that was about 60 percent lower than what it was in the three years prior, and, relatedly, an individual points percentage (IPP, or the rate he garners a point when a goal is scored with him on the ice at 5v5) that was 15 percent lower than his three-year rate prior. The final thing was ice time, posting just 14:40 per game, or the lowest for him since 2014-15 and a complete reversal of his ice time gains made throughout his career.
I suspect Miller will be skating with Bo Horvat both at 5v5 and on the top power play, which should mean 17-18 minutes a game at least with lots of opportunities to produce. This could push him towards 60 points again, and significant fantasy relevance. If he ends up with Elias Pettersson at 5v5, well, even better. (aug27)
14. Timo Meier scores 40 goals: I wrote last week about just how good Meier is, so there’s not much need to go further in that regard. At this moment, my projection for Meier is 31.5 goals, which is an improvement on last year, but a far cry from 40 goals. However, he checks all the boxes for a guy set for a monster year: hitting his prime scoring years, a couple players have been moved which should mean more ice time about both 5v5 and on the PP, and multiple years of monster shot volume rates. The stars are aligning. (aug27)
15. Jordan Kyrou outscores Robert Thomas: In the AHL last year, Kyrou had 43 points in 47 games playing on a team that finished a distant last in their division and scored the fourth-fewest goals in the league. He finished third on the team in scoring, four points behind the leader, in 24 fewer games. That was his first full year in the AHL, and he was 20 years old. Kyrou has all the skills necessary – a knack for scoring, great speed, and great hands – to be an offensive force in the NHL.
Thomas had a great rookie year for the Cup-winning Blues but I do wonder if they use him more as the 3C this year. It would make sense to have someone like Brayden Schenn slide to the wing, bolstering the left side, while moving up Tyler Bozak to the 2C and having Thomas be the 3C. That would likely mean having a winger like David Perron on the third line to help out Thomas, leaving Kyrou with some room in the top-6.
There are obviously a lot of moving parts here. The Blues, even with the departure of Pat Maroon, have a deep forward group, and have guys like Kyrou, Dominik Bokk, and Klim Kostin knocking on the door (to various degrees; I don’t think Bokk and Kostin are significant challengers for roster spots this year). My thought process is that talent wins out and Kyrou has as much talent as almost anyone not in the NHL on a full-time basis in 2018-19. That should change in 2019-20. (aug27)
16. Aaron Ekblad is a top-15 defenseman in multi-cat leagues: Time flies doesn’t it? This will be Ekblad’s sixth season in the NHL. It really feels like he was just drafted a couple years ago. Anyway.
Did you know: Over the last five seasons, there are six defensemen with at least four seasons of 10 goals, 20 assists, 30 PIMs, and two shots per game, and those defensemen are Brent Burns, Dougie Hamilton, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mark Giordano, Victor Hedman, and Ekblad. Between staying mostly healthy and playing consistent minutes, Ekblad has been able to put up solid fantasy campaign after solid fantasy campaign, to the tune of being consistent to the level of some of the best defensemen alive (though, obviously, to a lesser degree than guys like Hedman and Burns).
I do think Ekblad has been overrated in general over the last few years but is now really starting to come into his own. There are measures, like Goals Above Replacement from Evolving Hockey, which show consistent improvement over the last few years, culminating in a great 2018-19 effort. Now, I think Ekblad is much better defensively than he is offensively and he won’t get the prime PP minutes. But he’ll be relied upon heavily at even strength on teams deep with scoring threats and on the penalty kill to help boost those real-time stats.
Across the industry – ESPN, CBS, Yahoo – Ekblad is going as the 30th defenseman off the board or later, which means he can be had as a third or fourth defenseman. That seems like fine value to me. There is significant upside here even if he doesn’t post a 50-point season just because of what he brings across the board. (aug29)
17. Matt Dumba finishes among the top-3 defensemen in the West in multi-cat leagues: When you think of d-men in the Western Conference, there are some definite heavyweights. Just consider names like Burns, Erik Karlsson, Roman Josi, John Klingberg, Ekman-Larsson, Erik Gustafsson, Alex Pietrangelo, Dustin Byfuglien, Giordano, Drew Doughty, and Shea Theodore. While I don’t have Dumba ranked among the top-3, I do think he’s in line for a great fantasy campaign.
Dumba’s 2018-19 season was cut short due to a pec injury so I wanted to go over his 82-game paces from the last three years in aggregate. They are 16.0 goals, 29.8 assists, 52.2 PIM, 172.6 shots, 15.5 PPP, 126 hits, 97.5 blocks. If he can do that, he’ll have an elite fantasy season in multi-cat leagues.
The real issue is how the power-play minutes will be divided. Until his injury last year, Dumba was essentially part of a three-headed monster on the blue line with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. However, Dumba’s PPTOI per game has increased every year for four years while Suter’s has declined in that span and Spurgeon’s has remained relatively consistent. I hope that is a good indication for 2019-20.
Regardless, Dumba should have a good fantasy season this year, it’s just a matter of how good. If he can keep gobbling up more PPTOI, getting over 50 points with great multi-cat totals is very possible. That would make for a great fantasy season. (aug29)
This one is tough. All I know for sure is that I wouldn’t drop Huberdeau. But Tarasenko and Laine are each coming off of poor seasons and both could really light it up. And both can score 40 goals (hell, Laine can score 50). But in leagues with very few keepers, I don’t wrestle with these decisions. If you drop a Laine you can always draft a Laine. The pool of players available at the draft is almost like a re-draft (frankly I don’t understand keeping anything less than 12 – may as well not have a keeper at all). But I digress. While I do believe Laine will rebound…Tarasenko already has rebounded. Tarasenko posted 45 points (22 goals) in his last 38 games and a further 17 points in 26 playoff games. You really do need to drop Laine, even though all those goals he could score may end up burning you. (aug26)
19. Question from @Ommmzzz: How long until Thatcher Demko is the starter in Vancouver and how long until he's actually fantasy relevant?
Either one year or four years. If Jacob Markstrom has a great start to his season and signs a lengthy extension, Demko owners would be in trouble. Last season, Markstrom had 38 quality starts and 63.3% of his starts were QS. That’s fourth and sixth in the entire league (minimum 20 starts). If he does that again, then come January, I have a hard time believing the Canucks won’t come to him with a long-term offer to keep him. Then again, if he slips while Demko flourishes, Demko will be a great fantasy asset in as little as one year from now. But we really won’t know until around Christmas.
If you want my guess, I really like Markstrom, who seems to have finally come into his own. I remember when he was 19, 20 and 21 and considered the best goalie prospect in all of hockey. Sure, it’s three or four years late, but stuff like that sticks in my head. Demko is still only 23, so if Markstrom is showing any sign that he can do it again, the team will play it safe and try to keep him, knowing Demko can wait three years and still be on a normal goalie track (just look at Juuse Saros). (aug26)
Vesey: A highly-touted prospect who hasn’t yet panned out, Vesey has first-line upside but seems likely to top out as a second-liner. His trade to Buffalo was huge for his fantasy owners, because the Sabres have been hot for this kid since he turned pro and the team tried to sign him (and failed). That makes him a Golden Boy. So there is absolutely a chance that he gets to play with Jack Eichel. As a bigger forward, but not necessarily “huge” (6-3, 199), Vesey is by our definition a 400-game breakout guy. He’s currently played 240. That’s two years away. But because he’s barely on that ‘big forward’ standard that we arbitrarily set, his big year coming before the 400-game mark wouldn’t surprise. I have him as a strong sleeper for 55 points (20% confidence in the guide).
Olofsson: Had a very successful transition to North American hockey last year, making an immediate impact in the AHL with 63 points in 66 games for Rochester. He added four in six games in his NHL debut. He’s ready, and he has upside that is higher than that of Vesey. He won’t get the early opportunities that Vesey will, nor does he have the same Golden Boy status. However, he has thus far been the type of player to make his own opportunities. To force the matter. And boy do I love those players. I am more confident in Olofsson’s long-term fantasy value than I am Vesey’s and would rather own Olofsson in a keeper league. However, my money is on Vesey in one-year leagues. (aug26)
Rittich has to go. Wins will be hard to come by for Gibson this year but he should still get 25 of them but post great stats otherwise. I have Rittich for 21. By the time he takes the top job full time (assuming he even does that), it will be two months into the season and it will be too late for him to get many wins beyond Gibson’s 25 – and I suspect his GAA and SV% won’t be as good. (aug26)
Have a good week, folks!!
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