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. I mean this in all honesty: there’s a very real possibility that Jesperi Kotkaniemi is the 1C for the Habs before the season is out. I’m very ready for the team not to rock the boat too much early on but it won’t take long for Kotkaniemi to show his worth above Phillip Danault (who is good and underrated in his own right). It could take a few months to get there, so being vigilant on the waiver wire is the key here. (sep10)
2. Detroit’s Jeff Blashill said explicitly that the Red Wings are going to use Tyler Bertuzzi–Dylan Larkin–Anthony Mantha as a line this year. I normally don’t believe coaches but seeing as this was a line they ran quite often in the second half last year, I don’t see a reason not to believe him. That’s good news for Tyler Bertuzzi dynasty owners. And both Mantha and Larkin are being undervalued in drafts (the latter by a significant amount). (sep13)
3. Jack Hughes. Yahoo! draft rank: C34. My rank: C87.
This is going to 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 centers. 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. (sep12)
4. Miro Heiskanen. Yahoo! draft rank: D26. My rank: D65.
Does anyone realize Heiskanen wasn’t a top-75 defenseman 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 defenseman, 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? (sep12)
5. 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. (sep12)
6. Maple Leafs finally signed Mitch Marner (six-year contract with an AAV of $10.893 million). The fantasy implications are simple: Rank Marner where you normally would, which in many leagues is as a top-20 player. This would be a great time to mention that Marner's projections have been updated in the Fantasy Guide. This would also be a great time to mention that the September edition of the Top 100 Roto Rankings will be ready on Sunday, and they will no doubt include Marner. Here’s August’s Roto Rankings. (sep14)
7. Evgeny Kuznetsov owners should breathe a sigh of relief that the suspension (three games) from the NHL wasn’t much longer. This shouldn’t affect his fantasy value a great deal. Looking way ahead to the first week of the season, Kuznetsov would miss the entire first week of the season (October 2, 4, and 5) but be back for the second week. Fantasy owners will now have the opportunity to draft an extra center to fill the void, and it’s a position in which options are easy to find. If you’re looking directly at the Capitals’ lineup, Nicklas Backstrom would center the first line, while Lars Eller should get promoted to the second line. (sep15)
8. Is it just me, or did it seem like Julius Honka was the prospect you wanted on your team five years ago? He’s now 23, although it’s not inconceivable for a blueliner to make an impact after that age. But if you’ve been hanging on all this time and are thinking about making room for someone else, you might be safe to do so, depending on what else is out there. However, you may wish to wait to find out if he lands somewhere else and what that team’s plans would be for him before actually making the move. Yet so far, he hasn’t accomplished anything at the NHL level that would make me inclined to be patient with him. (sep14)
9. 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. (sep12)
Malkin is a player that I refuse to sleep on. Despite looking slower, frustrated, and prone to untimely mistakes. Witnessing his goals drop from 42 to 21, and seeing his shot and conversion rates dip. The 33-year-old looked slower and frustrated in 2018-19 yet still managed to produce over a point-per-game. Health will always be a concern – even more so as he ages, but this is a player who has failed to produce more than a ppg in just one of his 13 campaigns. He’s also shown a propensity for coming back with a vengeance after a ‘down’ year too.
I’ve put Malkin down for 33 goals, 77 points in 71 games next season. (sep11)
11. Speaking of Kessel, he may be content with two Cup rings, but I like his addition to the top of the lineup in the desert. If I’m running things, I’d pop Kessel next to the recently extended, Clayton Keller and former Blackhawk, Nick Schmaltz.
Yes, that makes the Coyotes a one-line team. But hey, they’ve been a no-line team for a loooong time. Don’t hang Kessel out to dry on Derek Stepan’s wing. Give him a chance and he could return to the volume-shooting, speed-demon he has proven to be in the past.
While in Pittsburgh, Kessel was often the second (or even third) option on his line. Whichever line he lands on, he’ll be the primary shooter. It’s nuts to me that he didn’t cusp the 35-goal mark in four seasons with the Penguins. I’m not counting him out from hitting that level in 2019-20 with the desert dogs – if they give him the right pieces to work with. (sep11)
12. Word around the proverbial campfire is that Anaheim is pushing hard to obtain Justin Faulk from Carolina with Ondrej Kase rumoured to be moving the other direction. If this does indeed come to fruition – which is far from a lock as apparently Faulk has Anaheim on his soft No Trade list, this will be another coup for the Hurricanes.
I and many others have discussed Kase’s potential on several occasions. His even-strength shot generation is supreme. He needs to stay healthy, but a 50 or even 60-point season appears to be on the precipice. Even more so if he’s playing in Carolina.
For the Ducks, their moves mimic that of a bored fantasy manager – making trades just for the hell of it. This a team that moved a young, club-controlled, right-shot defender in Brandon Montour to end last season. Now, they’re targetting an older, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defender in exchange for their best right-winger.
Doesn’t exactly scream competence. (sep11)
13. Having Mikael Granlund on the roster muddles things for Eeli Tolvanen for 2019-20, so it does seem eminently possible he spends the year on the third line/second PP unit. But I’m a believer in the talent and if Tolvanen performs to his ability, it’ll be hard for the coaching staff to limit him to 13-14 minutes a night, especially with the pressure the franchise is facing to win. (sep10)
14. What really stands out about Maxime Comtois’ brief 10-game NHL stint is that he had 27 hits. I repeat: 27 hits in 10 games. He’s a player known for his sandpaper, but that works out to over 200 hits in a full season. That was be a colossal total. I’m not saying he’ll break 200 hits in a full season – that’s hard for any player, but I will say that I have him projected at 195 – but it does show his propensity for laying the body, and that’s a good base to build off.
The problem Comtois is going to run into is that Rickard Rakell is tied at the hip with Ryan Getzlaf on the top line. However, with a good training camp, we could easily see Comtois as the LW2 at the start of October.
Not that playing on the second line for the Ducks bodes well for a lot of production; we’re talking playing with decent veterans or unproven rookies at best. But it does bode well for ice time, and we saw the hit volume he can put up playing 14-15 minutes a night last year. What does he do if he’s playing 16-17 minutes? He’s a guy I won’t be targeting in leagues that don’t count hits, but in leagues that do count hits, he might be worth a roster spot, even in shallower leagues.
Think of Brandon Tanev: he didn’t even get to 30 points last year but was a top-125 player in standard Yahoo! leagues because he had a pile of hits. I don’t think Comtois puts up 278 hits like Tanev did, but I think Comtois can also put up more points than Tanev so there is upside here. That goes double for fantasy owners in cap leagues where his cap hit is $820K. (sep10)
15. It feels like Martin Necas has been around a lot longer than he has, but he’s just 20 years old. He had a very successful AHL season in 2018-19 and if he hits the ground running at training camp, we could see him line up in the top-6 in a month’s time. He’s being virtually undrafted on Yahoo!, I did a 12-team draft on Fantrax last week where he went undrafted, and he wasn’t ranked inside ESPN’s top-250 at the end of July. He’ll easily be available outside the top-200 players and is a very real threat for 50 points.
One caveat: I don’t expect much for peripherals so he’s a much better option in points-only leagues. (sep10)
16. One bit of really important fantasy news we got this past week pertains to the health of Patrice Bergeron:
* Joe Haggerty – @HackswithHaggs: Not to sound any alarm bells, but Patrice Bergeron said his groin is still nagging him this point with camp starting Thursday. Said he had a shot to calm it down over the summer and hopes that will do the trick *
That doesn’t sound good to me. I’m clearly not a doctor, obviously, but a soft tissue injury like this – which still hasn’t healed in three months – worries me a lot. We’ll see how things progress, but it seems hard to draft him inside the first few rounds right now. (sep10)
17. I’m not hearing Sam Steel’s name enough and I should be. Per my projections he’s the sixth-highest rookie scorer in the coming campaign. The Ducks are in rebuild mode and Steel is a key part of that. The team is not very deep and that’s because they have left spots open for the youngsters to grab. Steel played 22 games last year, still maintaining his rookie status. But he looked great in those games, picking up 11 points. He may begin on the third line, but he’ll work his way up to the second line in an awful hurry. And with Ryan Getzlaf’s injury issues last year, there may be more opportunities ahead for Steel than you think. (sep9)
18. Let me be clear – Alex Barre-Boulet is not going to make the Lightning…unless Brayden Point holds out. If that happens, the Barre-Boulet could surprise. If your draft is late in training camp and Point has not yet signed, Barre-Boulet is worthy of a pick in the final round of, say, a 24-round draft. If Point does sign, depending on your waiver options and bench size, I think he’s worth stashing for late in the season. I know the premise of this section is really about moving guys up your draft list and I’m not recommending ABB for the majority of drafts here. But I don’t think he is on many radars and he should be. As an AHL rookie he picked up 68 points in 74 games. Now that’s what I call transitioning to the pro game. In the Guide I have him playing 24 games in the NHL this year, mostly in the second half. But the Point situation will have a big impact on how this plays out. (sep9)
19. We just saw what the Blackhawks did with Dominik Kahun. Now we have a guy, the reigning NLA MVP, who wasn’t a free agent signing but he was actually drafted, in the same position. Literally. Because the team traded Kahun, so that spot is there for Dominik Kubalik to grab. He has higher upside with more of a scoring touch. Since Kahun finished with 13 goals and 37 points, there’s no reason why Kubalik can’t get 17 or 18 goals and hit 40 points. (sep9)
20. Prospects who are drafted in the Top 10 tend to have expectations of immediacy from fantasy owners, but Filip Zadina is not going to be a regular in Detroit’s lineup this year. Could he be? Sure, he has enough talent and he tends to thrive better when the players around him are better. But the 2018 sixth overall pick still has some things to learn and will hone his craft at the AHL level, other than a couple of cups of coffee. The Red Wings have 13 NHL forwards already, plus Michael Rasmussen (who I’m not convinced will be in the NHL either), plus Evgeni Svechnikov. That’s a lot to leap frog. And with Steve Yzerman running things, you know that prospects won’t be rushed. If it’s a one-year league then let someone else take the chance that Zadina makes the big club because I really don’t think he will. And if he does, I feel like he won’t contribute a lot and will just be sent down again relatively early. (sep9)
21. I’m seeing a lot of confidence in Mackenzie Blackwood as the starter for the Devils and great fantasy asset right away. While that could happen if Cory Schneider gets injured – and Schneider is certainly a risk for that – don’t pin your hopes on it. Schneider is the starter.
Even without looking deep into his numbers, the $6 million annual contract can tell you that much. For all the promise that Blackwood has shown, he is not going to be the starter unless Schneider gets hurt. Those who purchased my Guide (and what are you waiting for, exactly?) would know that after February 15, Schneider was 6-6-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 SV% with 57.1% Quality Starts – an indication that he may be back into form. His hip surgery was about 16 months ago, and Roberto Luongo (who had similar surgery) said that it took 18 months before he truly felt back to his old self again. If Schneider can stay relatively healthy, Blackwood won’t even get 35 starts. (sep9)
Have a good week, folks!!
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