Ramblings: Fiala signs; Toronto drama; players to avoid this year – September 12

Michael Clifford



Another RFA was knocked off the TBD board as the Wild signed winger Kevin Fiala to a two-year deal carrying an average annual value of $3M. The 23-year old winger had a breakout in 2017-18 with 23 goals and 48 points, but regressed production-wise in 2018-19 with just 13 goals and 39 points.

I wrote about Fiala in August and what was said then holds true now. This is a guy who has shown the ability to shoot a lot, to score, and he has a lot of good underlying metrics like his zone exits/entries with possession. This guy does a lot of things we look for in productive offensive players and he’s being virtually forgotten about. He’s not worth a look in shallower leagues, but if I’m in a league where we’re rostering close to 300 players, he’s absolutely worth serious consideration.


Just as a general observation, it really does seem like we need to start preparing to begin the fantasy season without Mitch Marner playing for the Leafs. Whether he’s traded or still unsigned, if he’s not in the lineup opening night, that has a cascade of effects throughout the lineup. How does this affect John Tavares? Who replaces Marner on the power play, and who replaces him on the top line? Do they still stack the top power play or go to two even units? Something to ponder. 


The terms ‘undervalued’ and ‘overvalued’ are relative terms in fantasy hockey. They are relative to each individual owner, each individual league, and each individual scoring setting. A player I might think is overvalued is someone you may think is perfectly valued, while a player that is overvalued in leagues counting real-time stats, for example, may be undervalued in points-only formats.

With that in mind, I want to discuss some players I believe are being overvalued. At this point, we have *some* ADP data, we have rankings from many sources around the industry, as well as other data points. These, obviously, are going to be players being drafted highly because at a certain point, players aren’t undervalued or overvalued, they’re just dart throws. Let’s jump in.

(note: my projections are currently for standard Yahoo! leagues, or G/A/PPP/SOG/plus-minus/Hits, and I will be continuing to refine my projections until the season starts, so while these will be close, they aren’t firm.)


Phil Kessel

Yahoo! Draft Rank: RW13

My Rank: RW21

Cam Robinson covered Kessel yesterday, I recommend reading his piece in addition to this.

There’s going to be a common theme here: people underrate the impact of producing next to nothing in an entire category. Here, we’re talking about hits (and we will be for others on this list as well). One of my dynasty leagues includes hits, and to finish in the middle of the league, you need about 90 hits from each active roster spot. To finish at or near the top, we need about 140 per roster spot. Phil Kessel had 86 hits… over the last six years. In other words, he’s detrimental in the hits category, and really needs to make up for it in offensive contributions. So, we need to talk about offensive contributions.

There’s no doubt that Kessel has been one of the best offensive wingers in the league for about a decade. Over the last three years, all with the Penguins, Kessel skated on a team with the second-highest scoring rate in the league. He’s going to a team that had the lowest scoring rate in the league over the last three years and was 29th in 2018-19.

Back in July, I wrote about the new scoring environment Kessel finds himself in, and which instances in his past we can look to for guidance. What I said then holds true now. One thing I will update: my projection for Kessel has moved a lot, all the way to 74.5 points. Even with a big bump in his expected production, my projections still have him as very much overvalued, and that’s because of how little he provides in the hits column. Again, if we’re talking points-only, that’s a much different story. In roto leagues counting real-time stats, think long and hard about how much you want to draft a 32-year old winger who doesn’t hit and is going to one of the worst scoring environments in the NHL.


Artemi Panarin

Yahoo! Draft Rank: LW4

My Rank: LW13

This isn’t a case of me being pessimistic about Panarin or the Rangers, at least offensively speaking. Right now, I have Panarin with 27.4 goals, 57.4 assists, and 25.1 PPPs. I have him in a virtual dead heat with Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand in point totals. No, I’m rather optimistic about Panarin and the Rangers this year, at least offensively speaking.

Again, though, people forget how much bringing absolutely nothing to an entire category hurts a player’s value. Consider this: last year, Panarin had 87 points, and wasn’t a top-50 player in Yahoo! standard leagues. Part of it is a shot decline, part of it is just the 18 PPPs. But he was also a plus-14 and is going to a team that is going to struggle defensively, so even picking up 5-6 PPPs and 20 shots might not be enough to offset the (likely) plus/minus drop. Despite all this, I’m supposed to draft him in the second round? No. NO!

The only path I can see to Panarin paying off anywhere close to that ADP is just an absolutely monster offensive season. Assuming a big hit to the plus-minus, I’m talking over 100 points. If you were to draft Alex Ovechkin in the first round, I can understand drafting Panarin in the second. I wouldn’t do it, but I understand it.

As a general draft strategy though, I think if you don’t get Ovechkin, you’re fine waiting a few rounds for your left winger. There are a lot of talented guys going later like Matthew Tkachuk, Gabriel Landeskog, Jake Guentzel, and Filip Forsberg, all of whom I have outright ranked higher than Panarin, and they’re all being drafted after him. To me, this is a really good year to focus on other areas of your roster and then stocking up on left wingers once you get past the first two or three rounds.


Brad Marchand

Yahoo! Draft Rank: LW2

My Rank: LW3

My ranking isn’t far off but this is assuming everyone is healthy, and that’s the whole point here.

I’m not going to dig too deep here but there should be a lot of concern about Brad Marchand, and the Bruins in general. We got word earlier this week that Patrice Bergeron still hasn’t recovered from his groin injury and it’s been three months. It’s a question of whether he’ll even be ready to start the year, how effective he’ll be if he’s actually in the lineup, and whether he’ll miss time once the season starts. It’s a lot of questions that directly effect Marchand, who is currently a top-10 pick. I don’t like question marks with my first rounders.

Honestly, Boston’s scoring numbers with Marchand on the ice without Bergeron over the last couple years are still really good, but that’s buoyed by a high on-ice shooting percentage; there’s about a 10 percent decline in shot attempts generated. As of right now, I would bypass Marchand. It’s just not a risk worth taking at that price.


Jack Hughes

Yahoo! Draft Rank: C34

My Rank: C87

This is going rile up the citizens of the internet, I imagine.

I will completely admit I’m very far off almost every ranking. As mentioned, he’s being drafted much higher on Yahoo!, he’s the C25 on ESPN (which doesn’t include hits, so it’s actually more reasonable than Yahoo!’s ranking), and he’s ranked highly on Dobber’s draft list. I disagree with all of them, and as such, am prepared to wear as much egg as you guys can find in seven months’ time.

It’s a question of his role. In my mind, Nico Hischier is going to be the 1C all year long. There’ll be intermittent times when he’s moved down or whatever, but in general, I expect Hischier to earn the most 5v5 and PP ice time of all of New Jersey’s centres. That would then leave Hughes as, at best, the 2C on a team where if the top line is Hall-Hischier-Palmieri, there isn’t a lot of scoring left over outside of an unproven Nikita Gusev. And I suspect he’ll also spend time as the 3C, which would only hurt his production even more.

Beyond that, while I do expect Hughes to climb to the top PP unit eventually, I have him on the second PP unit to start the year. My PP split basically has him on PP2 for the first six weeks, but then a staple of the top unit, working out to 202 PP minutes.

My projection is 18 goals and 36 assists for 54 points, with 16 of those points coming with the man advantage. Now, 18 goals and 36 assists might seem like a pittance, but just three 18-year old players have reached each of those marks since 2005: Sidney Crosby, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nathan MacKinnon. So, yes, Hughes will probably be great in the fantasy game down the road, I just don’t think it’s this year, and drafting him ahead of Jonathan Toews or Dylan Larkin is, in my opinion, not a very good idea.


Miro Heiskanen

Yahoo! Draft Rank: D26

My Rank: D65

Does anyone realize Heiskanen wasn’t a top-75 defenceman in roto leagues last year? What are we doing here?

Heiskanen relies on finesse and playmaking rather than laying the body. Not that his hit totals won’t improve, but even if he lays 60-70, a big improvement from last year, it’s still not very much. For example, in standard Yahoo! leagues last year, Thomas Chabot was the number-25 defenceman, and he had 14 goals and 55 points, with a plus/minus nearly identical to Heiskanen’s. So, if Heiskanen’s plus/minus doesn’t improve – and if he’s playing with Roman Polak again, I have my doubts – we have a baseline for production necessary to pay off his ADP. But even if it does improve, Seth Jones was D24 with a plus-1 last year, and he had 46 points and 106 hits. Heiskanen won’t reach that hit total, and it’ll be very hard to reach that point total without top PP minutes (which he won’t have consistently without an injury) while playing for a low-event team. So, again I ask, what are we doing here?


Tyson Barrie

Yahoo! Draft Rank: D11

My Rank: D30

Another guy I won’t expand on, this time because I wrote about Barrie in July and my opinion hasn’t changed. If he doesn’t get PP1 minutes – and I have my doubts he will consistently – then I have absolutely zero interest in drafting him as the anchor of my blueline. It’s the same situation as Marchand but a bit less extreme: do I want to spend significant draft capital on a player with such a big question mark? I’d rather wait a couple rounds and draft guys like Keith Yandle or Rasmus Dahlin.  


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