The offseason sure has flown by, as it’s time for the final edition of “Forum Buzz” before the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL campaign. As a reminder, Forum Buzz is a 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). 


Topic #1 – In a 10 team league (counting G, A, pts, PPPts, SHPts, +/-, PIM, SOG, FOW, Blocks, W, SV%, SVs, GAA, SO) where the poster has 8 picks in the first 5 rounds, which four of the following players should be kept: Patrice Bergeron, Evgeni Kuznetsov, Mikko Rantanen, Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, Kris Letang, Mark Giordano, William Nylander,?


First off, I think the poster can remove Nylander from consideration, as he’s just not in the same class as the other six. The poster also mentioned that most teams keep at most one goalie; given that, and his or her surplus of early picks, I think one goalie keeper is likely plenty. The consensus in the forum was to go with Holtby and I think that’s defendable, as he’s a solid netminder who also will be playing for a UFA contract. Still though – if the poster decides to keep Bishop instead, I think that is also reasonable.


Keeping just one goalie leaves three spots for Bergeron, Kuznetsov, Rantanen, Letang, and Giordano. In this particular league, I see Bergeron as a must keep because he excels at so many of the categories even though he might be an easier redraft than Rantanen or Kuznetsov. Probably the second choice would be Rantanen, as he could still have another gear, and especially if positions matter.


As for the defensemen, Giordano is the top dog for a team on the rise; but he will be 36 in October and it turns out that’s a significant factor when it comes to past precedents. Since 1990-91 there were seven instances of defensemen age 34 or 35 who posted 65+ points in a season, but only two from any d-man age 36 – which Giordano will be this season – or older. Thus, age is working against Giordano more so than Letang, who’s only hang-up is his checkered injury history and who fills your categories quite well. I’m going with Letang as the defenseman to keep. So in summary, I’m keeping one goalie (probably Holtby), plus Bergeron, Rantanen and Letang.



Topic #2 – In a 12 team, points only keep 6 league, the poster is keeping Brent Burns and Morgan Rielly. For his third defenseman keeper, the poster is looking for someone youngish who can hit 50 points and be keeper material. Given this, who should the poster draft as a third d-man from among these choices: Thomas Chabot, Seth Jones, Matt Dumba, Jacob Trouba, Shayne Gostisbehere, Oliver Ekman-Larsson?


Those who read my mailbag column a couple of weeks ago know that I think Dumba is poised to have a very, very good 2019-20. To reiterate what I said in my mailbag before he got hurt last season Dumba already had 22 points in 32 games. But going back a bit further he also tallied 19 points in his final 25 games to end 2017-18, meaning he has 41 points in his last 57 games, for a 59 point pace. In doing so, he supplanted the ageing Ryan Suter as the Wild’s top PP option and saw his TOI rise to over 23:00 per game. What’s also key is despite added ice time Dumba’s offensive zone starting percentage was up markedly to 54.8%, giving him a best of both worlds combination (i.e., lots of minutes and mainly offensive zone starts) that fuels fantasy success.


The question is whether anyone else is better. I’m ruling out OEL, because although – as noted in my last Forum Buzz column -I think Arizona will be much better, with OEL the top-dog on defense and thus in prime position to benefit, I see his ceiling as Dumba’s floor. As such OEL would not be my choice.


I’m also not going with Ghost, as – fun fact (or maybe not so fun if you’re a Ghost owner) – Alain Vigneault has coached for 14 previous full seasons, none of which produced a rearguard who tallied more than even 50 points! Vigneault’s system is low tempo and spreads out ice time, which might be encouraging for Philly in terms of NHL standings but most likely spells fantasy disappointment for Ghost.


Jones, who turns 25 in October, is already one of the most all-around talented defensemen in the NHL. But not only does Columbus figure to be a lower-scoring team in 2019-20 after losing some of its top offensive talent, but 2018-19 saw Jones relinquish PP time to Zach Werenski such that Jones went from seeing over three minutes on the man advantage in the first quarter of last season to under two minutes by quarter four. And considering that in 2017-18 when he posted 57 points over 40% (24) came via the man advantage, Jones’ new normal likely will be closer to the 46 points he tallied last season; and that won’t cut it among this group of rearguards.


As for Trouba, last season he had 32 second-half points as he finally took the ice for 23:00+ per game, with 3:00+ of that being with the man advantage, both of which are numbers he likely figures to duplicate in New York. The issue is although the Rangers should be vastly improved given their offseason moves, they won’t be on a par with the Jets in terms of offensive firepower. Even still, with Trouba’s luck metrics last season being reasonable he should coast again to 50 points, with a shot at 55 or even 60 depending on the team around him. Still, although it could be close, I see Trouba more likely than not putting up fewer points than what Dumba will give you.


That leaves Chabot, whose 55 points last season is more than anyone from the group has posted, except for Ghost, whom we’ve already ruled out. The concern is Chabot had 43 of those points in his first 38 games, followed by 17 in 32 second-half contests. And it wasn’t a case of Ottawa’s offense slowing, as the team scored 124 goals in the first half and a nearly identical 118 in the second half. Therefore, we cannot tell for sure whether the real Chabot is what we saw during the first half, the second half, or overall. What we do know is since 2000-01 only four other defensemen tallied 55+ points by their age 22 season: Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Mike Green and Dion Phaneuf. Karlsson has become a superstar, Green was magical until being derailed by injuries, while Doughty and Phaneuf both broke 55 only once more in their career. Yet all four had at least one other season where they bested their first 55+ point campaign. Also, based on the type of game he plays, Chabot can be likened more to Karlsson and Green than an “all-around” d-man type like Phaneuf or Doughty.


So it boils down to Chabot and Dumba. I think Dumba is the safer pick; however, Chabot has more home run potential with likely not much of a downside. He’s also about three years younger than Dumba, so that is enticing as well, enticing enough to likely give him the narrow edge over Dumba.



Topic #3 – What does the future hold for Miro Heiskanen, and might he start to improve his output in multicat areas, particularly hits?

At the outset, I’ll say it’s rare for a defenseman to up his Hits or Blocks as years pass. If anything, I’d say the opposite is true, in that when they’re very young they make an extra effort to “do dirty work” to impress the coaching staff and distinguish themselves from others. But as we saw, Heiskanen had only 34 hits and 71 blocks as a rookie. To put that in perspective, among the 15 rookie defensemen who played 40+ games, Heiskanen’s 34 Hits were third-lowest, with the two finishing below him having suited up for 48 and 52 games respectively and only Dennis Cholowski having a lower per game Hits average. Extending the scope to non-rookies who played in 62+ games, only four (Shea Theodore, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, T.J. Brodie and Victor Mete) had fewer hits.


Moreover, Heiskanen’s 71 blocks were also very low, as all four of those non-rookies had more than him. And in fact, the highest game total for a player who had both fewer hits and blocks than Heiskanen was 54 from Taylor Fedun, and he’d have had more blocks had he played 82 games like Heiskanen and kept on blocking shots at the same per game rate. Digging even further, no defenseman played 40+ games with a lower per game rate of both blocks and hits than Heiskanen. So yeah, he’s likely to be a drag when it comes to multicat leagues.


But what might the future hold for his scoring? One might think that by producing 33+ points and 182+ SOG as a teen he’d be in the company of players who went on to fantasy greatness; however, the only other two d-men to meet all three criteria as a teen since 2000-01 are Aaron Ekblad, who’s yet to even hit the 40 point mark in five seasons, and Werenski, who’s yet to top his 47 point rookie campaign. So although past comparables do not predict the future, it would be more reassuring to see other names besides those two.


There’s also the looming presence of John Klingberg, who’s not going anywhere due to being signed to a very team-friendly $4.25M per year deal through 2021-22. And if we look at instances since the 2010-11 season of a team with two 50+ point defensemen, we see only six, three of which occurred last season. What’s more – in all six instances the two rearguards were both age 23 or older, with all but one having both players being at least 25. As Heiskanen only 20 years old now, that further cuts against his chances of co-starring with Klingberg as double 50+ point d-men.


In the end, Heiskanen is multicat poison, other than his SOGs. And if past precedent is any indication, the chances of him being a big point producer with Klingberg still in the fold are low. If I’m a Heiskanen owner in win now/soon mode and get a great offer for him, I might look to sell.



Topic #4 – The poster has been offered a trade of Mark Scheifele for his/her Elias Pettersson straight-up in a Head to Head 16 team Dynasty League with 26 player rosters and scoring categories consisting of G, A, PIM, PPPts, SOG, FOW, HIT, BLK. Is Pettersson's long term upside worth more than the immediate impact of Scheifele?


Quick answer – I don’t do this deal in your shoes. 


I covered Scheifele in a previous Forum Buzz column, where I noted that the belief has always been that Scheifele, who’s still only 26, could become one of the NHL’s elite, especially on the high octane Jets. Yet for each of the past three seasons, he’s been right at a point per game. With all his talent, he has to have another scoring gear, right? I don’t think so, and the data also suggests it’s looking less and less likely by the year.


Why? His SOG and PPPts are simply too low, as he’s never fired 200 SOG nor had more than 23 PPPts. And of the 34 instances of 90+ point scoring since 2010-11, only five were by players who didn’t have 220+ SOG per game that same season, with each of them having 27+ PPPts and the average among the five is 33. And of the only three instances of the 34 with PPPts of 25 or lower, each had at least 233 SOG that same season, with the average among the three is 270. With the Jets unlikely to get much better as a team, meaning that a rising tide won’t lift his scoring, Scheifele likely will continue to provide a scoring output much like what he’s done thus far, making 90+ points less likely than not and 80-85 points a realistic expectation for his next few seasons, until he begins to decline or cumulative injuries (he missed 20 games and 11 games in two of the past four seasons) take a toll.


As for Pettersson, he had a rookie output of 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games on 144 SOG. Moreover, before he got hurt and hit a rookie wall he had 22 goals and 42 points in his first 38 games on 79 SOG. Even still, his per-game points, goals, and SOG per game averages put him in elite company for those who, since 2000-01, played 70+ games as a rookie aged 20 or younger, as the only others to have as many goals, points, and SOG per game within that time frame and meet the other criteria were Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. And whereas Pettersson’s Canucks scored 225 goals last season, that is a good bit below the average of 252 goals scored in the rookie campaigns of those three, which makes Pettersson’s membership in this club all the more prestigious.


Also, as a rookie Pettersson had an IPP of 75.9%, which is well above the 70% I’ve found necessary for a player to have a chance at being truly elite. He also put up his numbers while taking the ice for 2:30 fewer non-shorthanded minutes than Scheifele, who’s likely maxed out when it comes to TOI, while Pettersson has ample room to see more minutes. Pettersson also had an encouraging 24 primary assists to only 14 secondaries, whereas Scheifele had a still good but just slightly less impressive 27 to 19 ratio. Lastly, Pettersson had eight of his 28 goals scored via slap shot, which is meaningful because among the four players who had double digits in slap shot goals their totals ranged from 36 to 51 markers, so Pettersson is excelling in an area where other snipers tend to excel. As if that wasn’t enough, Vancouver took several steps to better itself by signing Michael Ferland and Josh Leivo and also trading for J.T. Miller while losing only Markus Granlund to free agency. Whether those players line up with Pettersson or play on other lines, the fact that Vancouver is a deeper and more potent team can only help, as now opposing teams will have a tougher time contending with the likes of Pettersson. As for Winnipeg, they still arguably lack a proven second-line center, making it so defenses can key in on Scheifele’s line.


In what feels like revisiting my days of penning Cage Match, my take is that the poster should not trade Pettersson for Scheifele, at least not straight up and perhaps not at all.



Topic #5 – In a H2H league with rosters of 2C, 4W, 4D, 1 Util, 4 BN, 1 IR, categories/scoring of Goals (6), Assists (4), +/- (2), PPPts (2), SOG (0.9), Blocks (1), Wins (5), GA (-3), SVs (0.6), SO (5), and both Patrick Kane and Nathan MacKinnon being kept, who should be the third and final keeper: Sergei Bobrovsky, Taylor Hall, or Aleksander Barkov?


The first step in answering this question is to determine if a goalie should be kept. While there are four goalie categories to six skater ones, the scoring value of the categories are such that it is necessary to see what a top goalie like Bob would be worth. For goalies in this league, it’s all about saves, as with -3 for each GA, every goalie – even an elite netminder like Bob – will be at negative 200 or worse before factoring in saves. As such, you should not keep Bob, as the drop off from him to average netminders figures to be less steep than that of Hall and Barkov versus average skaters.


In deciding between Barkov and Hall, I think the answer lies in looking at their “career years.” If we compare Barkov’s 2018-19 with Hall’s 2017-18, the scoring totals we get for your league are roughly 700 for Barkov and about 800 for Hall. So Hall did better with less talent around him, and while playing at the more shallow position of wing. With the Devils having since improved, on paper, as a team, and Hall still in his prime, he’s the one to keep here. Yes, Hall is a certified Band-Aid Boy; however, Barkov’s track record when it comes to health is far from stellar. Plus, an argument that we’ve yet to see the best from Barkov could be countered by saying the same about Hall. In the end, Hall has the edge in this league and should be the last keeper.



Topic #6 – In a non-cap keeper league where goals count for two points and assists for one, in what order would the following ultra-elite defensemen rank: Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, John Carlson, Erik Karlsson, Morgan Rielly, Roman Josi, and Mark Giordano?


For starters, I’m putting Giordano last, with the reasons being the same as I outlined in one of the earlier topics. And although, as noted in a recent Goldipucks column, I think Josi has the potential to score 65 points this season, that’s probably the floor for the remaining d-men, so he occupies the second to last spot on the list.


After those two though, things get murkier. I believe that Burns will be the scoring leader among the group this season, but probably will start to slow quite soon thereafter, much like what will happen with Giordano. Moreover, he doesn’t figure to outproduce the other four by much this season – maybe ten or so points – so that probably is not enough to give him the top spot, which I think goes to Karlsson.


Yes, Karlsson is coming back from injury issues; however, even while playing at far less than 100% for most of the season he scored at a 69 point full season pace. Plus, as Burns ages and slows, Karlsson should see his points climb back to the previous point per game or even better levels. As such, I put Karlsson first on the list, narrowly over Burns.


For third place, give me Carlson, who has proven he’s as elite as they come and, unlike Hedman and Rielly, has no one else who is lurking to siphon away points. Carlson is the top dog in Washington at ES and on the PP; and although the Caps might not be the offensive machine they were as of a few seasons ago, they’ll still have a top ten NHL offense, with Carlson there to reap the benefits.


Hedman and Rielly are in a virtual deadlock; however, since this is a keeper I’ll give the slight edge to Rielly, as Tyson Barrie almost assuredly will be gone after this season and even when Jake Gardiner was present Rielly still managed to best 70 points. Hedman has Kevin Shattenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev this season to eat away at his scoring, plus Sergachev is likely being groomed to be an offensive force, which is an issue that Rielly doesn’t have to contend with. So I’m putting Rielly third, Hedman fourth.


Questions for Mailbag column

There will be one last preseason mailbag column posted on September 25th, so be sure to send me questions if you want them included. You can get them to me by private messaging “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.