Let’s catch up on some signings first. The Vancouver Canucks have signed RFA forward Nikolay Goldobin to a one-year, one-way contract worth $900,000. There was some doubt as to whether Goldobin would be back after scoring just seven goals and 27 points in 63 games, with some of those games missed as a healthy scratch with Travis Green questioning his work ethic.
Considering that Goldobin was given substantial minutes with Elias Pettersson and for the most part didn’t deliver, this will be an important season for his NHL future. Considering that the Canucks had added J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland during the offseason along with Tanner Pearson and Josh Leivo during the season, there will be less incentive for the Canucks to try the enigmatic Goldy in a top-6 role going forward. Because he will likely need those quality linemates to have any sustained success in the NHL, he should be ignored for fantasy purposes going forward. In other words, don’t expect a ton of scoring if either Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle is his center.
The Edmonton Oilers have signed free agent forward Riley Sheahan to a one-year contract worth a reported $900,000. There’s a connection between Sheahan and Oilers’ GM Ken Holland from their days in Detroit
And guess what? The Sheahan signing has been updated in the Fantasy Guide, which you can now purchase in both English and French. That’s dedication to fantasy hockey.
Does your #FantasyHockey Guide have Riley Sheahan on Edmonton's depth chart with projections?
— Dobber (@DobberHockey) September 5, 2019
Regarding the Sheahan signing, if you’re kind of shrugging it off as no big deal, he actually projects to be the Oilers’ third-line center. This speaks to the lack of depth in the Oilers’ organization beyond the obvious names, but it also states that Sheahan should get into the lineup on a nightly basis. Imagine that he could even receive top-6 minutes if one Connor McDavid isn’t ready to start the season (a story I believe would be getting more coverage if not for all those unsigned RFAs). #herecometheoilers
In an under-the-radar signing, Jimmy Schuldt signed a one-year, one-way $850,000 with Vegas. He was a two-time Hobey Baker finalist, scoring 118 points in 156 games with St. Cloud State University. Although he played in just one regular-season game and no playoff games following his late-season signing, he should be able to crack the Golden Knights’ roster this season.
A few of you asked if I could scan the ESPN rankings, so I’ve listened. Just as I did with Yahoo and CBS in earlier Ramblings, I’ve mined the ESPN rankings looking for players who I believe are improperly valued, or perhaps at least valued much differently from to other sites.
I’m starting today with players that I believe are ranked too high. The rankings I’ve listed below are based on scoring type ESPN Standard, which includes the following categories: G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, ATOI, SOG, W, GAA, SV%.
Matthew Tkachuk (13) – The young Flames’ forward will be a very strong roto option for his points and penalty minutes for many years to come. For that, he’s a deserving top-50 option. Right now, though, I’m not willing to use a first- or second-round pick on him just yet. Compare this ranking to our Roto Rankings, where he checks in at 36; and on Yahoo, where he checks in at 56. Tkachuk will be just fine offensively, but he may not be able to take it to another level as long as his linemates are Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. I won’t even cite his unsigned contract, since it is such a common theme among this year’s RFA crop anyway.
Dylan Larkin (23) – The good news for Larkin owners is that he is the guy in Detroit. The bad news is that it’s going to be a long season in Detroit. Larkin had chemistry for much of the season with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, but at the end of the season he held a 19-point lead on the Wings’ second-highest scorer (Andreas Athanasiou). Unlike Tkachuk, I’m not sure I would even draft Larkin in the top 50, as he is listed slightly lower in the Roto Rankings and even lower than that (85) on Yahoo. Having said that, he could legitimately be a top-50 fantasy player by season’s end.
Max Domi (35) – This ranking jumped out at me right away as being too high, as you might be able to pick Domi after the top 100 in other formats. Domi is a candidate for a possible goal drop with a higher-than-normal shooting percentage of 13.8% in 2018-19 compared to 10.4% in his career. Domi’s value improved with a move to Montreal from Arizona, yet I’d still bet the under on him reaching 70 points again if he maintains about the same number of assists. Remember that he’s not a high-volume shooter either, as he cracked 200 SOG for the first time in his career in 2018-19.
Semyon Varlamov (67) – Because of his move to the Islanders, I probably like Varlamov more than the average fantasy owner. In fact, I made a point to keep him in my own keeper league. However, he is ranked one spot higher than Marc-Andre Fleury (68), as well as landing ahead of all of Jordan Binnington, Devan Dubnyk, John Gibson, and Frederik Andersen – all goalies who are normally ranked ahead of him in other formats. ESPN fantasy owners are cluing into that somewhat, as both Fleury and Binnington’s ADP are higher than Varlamov’s. You could easily draft Varlamov outside of the top 100 in other formats.
Andrei Svechnikov (76) – There are numerous reasons to like Svechnikov as a potential sleeper. For starters, he’s not a rookie anymore. He could force his way onto the Canes’ top line. His 5on5 SH% was just 6.11%. He delivered over 100 hits in his rookie season, which is a bonus for multicat leagues. I’m just not ready to draft him this high just yet. Having said that, he is a player to remember after pick 100, where you could either roll the dice that he will score over 30 goals or pick a safer 20-goal option.
Darnell Nurse (87) – I could contrast this by saying that Nurse is probably ranked too low on Yahoo (243). This after his first 40-point season to go with first-unit power-play duties and his usual contributions to penalty minutes and hits. Nurse is falling somewhat in drafts (ADP 96.3 at ESPN), although another strong season could put him in the top 100 discussion. There’s always the worry that Oscar Klefbom will be given another chance on PP1, which would cut into Nurse’s value.
Mikael Backlund (91) – Is there something I’m missing with Backlund being drafted this high? There are solid peripherals (78 PIM in 2017-18, plus-34 in 2018-19), yet scoring is usually the name of the game when drafting centers. Backlund has just one 50-point season in his career, and the forwards being drafted at this point are usually expected to reach 60+ points. Unless a forward puts up the penalty minute totals of someone like Tom Wilson, I’m not drafting a forward inside the top 100 strictly based on peripherals.
Max Comtois (135) – I suppose you could rank Comtois this high if you feel strongly that he’s a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate. Once he’s playing regular minutes, Comtois could be a solid points/penalty minutes option. The argument against drafting him this high would be that there are a number of other rookies that could be drafted in this spot or higher. I’d only draft Comtois as a late-round flier in deeper leagues, as you’re probably still trying to fill out your roster with proven NHLers at this point.
Justin Williams (136) – In fairness, ESPN may not have updated this ranking yet. Or they may have by the time you read this. But in case you missed it, Williams is taking some time off and may return at some point. Think of it as what Scott Niedermayer did about a decade ago. Regardless, move Williams out of your rankings entirely.
Zach Hyman (184) – I know it’s hard to quibble with a pick this low, yet Hyman is expected to miss the first month of the season and doesn’t bring a ton of offense to begin with. Usually at this point, I might be looking for either sleepers or players who fill specific team needs as opposed to best player available. So although players that I draft here might not stick, I’m certainly not looking to throw away my picks.
I was expecting to see a no-name (like Martin Marincin on Yahoo) sneak into the top 200 and get drafted in a lot of leagues. So I’ll give ESPN credit because I didn’t really see any of that. As the picks get lower, the number of players you could legitimately draft here increases.
Tomorrow I’ll list players on ESPN that I think are valued too low. At least that’s the plan.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.