21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

Mario Prata


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. The reason Nino Niederreiter is going so late in many fantasy drafts is because he wasn’t productive in 2017-18 and there’s less than a half-season of data to work with in Carolina. But Niederreiter is one of the most underrated players in the league and is easily a top-line-calibre winger. Carolina is the smartest team in the NHL, which is why you saw Niederreiter’s ice time increase by nearly four minutes with the Hurricanes compared to earlier in the year with the Wild. I suspect that will maintain. (sep16)


2. Even with the massive salary jump that keeper salary cap owners will have to swallow next season, Thomas Chabot’s game is made for fantasy hockey. Chabot was third on the Sens in scoring (first among players on the roster at the end of the season) with 55 points (14g-41a) in 70 games. With almost no short-term competition for power-play minutes (Erik Brannstrom notwithstanding), Chabot has a golden opportunity to match that output again this season and going forward with what are likely to be huge minutes.

Something to be aware of with Chabot, though: He scored 38 points over his first 38 games through late December, while he scored just 17 points in 32 games after that. The losses of Matt Duchene and Mark Stone likely would have had an effect, as would a shoulder injury that he suffered in late December that forced him to miss eight games. Whatever it was, Chabot went from scoring a power-play point every three games before the injury to a power-play point every eight games after the injury. The plus-minus also went from plus-2 to minus-14 over those two spans.

Expectations will be high for Chabot, but the lack of scoring on the rebuilding Senators’ roster could limit what he is capable of producing, at least this season. (sep20)


3. Rookies and Sleepers at center: Jack Hughes, Sam Steel, Dylan Strome, Kevin Hayes, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nazem Kadri, Nico Hischier, Anthony Cirelli.

With the exception of Hughes (who many fantasy owners will reach for, perhaps even within the top 100), these centers can likely be found after pick 150. These are players who could easily improve on their production last season, in a few cases from changing teams (Hayes, Kadri). Perhaps the truest sleeper of this group is Cirelli, who will benefit tremendously if he is moved up the Lightning’s lineup. There are certainly players who could be added to this list as well. (sep21)


4. Great-value defensemen: Dougie Hamilton, Rasmus Ristolainen, Darnell Nurse, Jacob Trouba, Charlie McAvoy, Zach Werenski, Shea Theodore.

These are names that you should definitely save for later (after pick 100). The first three names (Hamilton, Ristolainen, Nurse) have sneaky good value in roto leagues for their ability to contribute in multiple categories, even if they’re not considered top-pairing blueliners. The others should provide minor breakout potential. This group could also be expanded to the various other blueliners who should be capable of around 40 points, which I’ve often considered a benchmark for owning a defenseman on a 4 D roster in a 12-team league.

I’ll also include Josh Morrissey in this group. Morrissey has a Yahoo ADP of 162.8. Although he is already owned in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, he’s looking at potentially 25+ minutes and first-unit power-play time in Byfuglien’s absence. (sep20)


5. The Sabres have announced that Brandon Montour will miss the rest of the preseason with a hand injury. This injury puts Montour’s availability for the start of the regular season in doubt, which could have a number of minor fantasy implications.

The Sabres might appear to be stacked on the blueline, but keep in mind that they have all of Lawrence Pilut, Matt Hunwick, and Zach Bogosian sidelined. Obviously there will be a logjam once everyone returns, but anyone who has followed an NHL roster for awhile knows that you can never seem to have enough NHL-level defensemen.

Rasmus Ristolainen has been rumored to be on the trade block all summer (hey, you wanna go to Winnipeg?) but I would have to think that those plans get put on hold.

Montour’s injury could also mean that Henri Jokiharju moves up the lineup, as he is a natural right-shot defenseman who had been used on the left side earlier in camp. Jokiharju was thought to have lost value when he was traded to Buffalo (Fantasy Take here), but a Montour injury could help his value in the short term, possibly even with a pairing with Rasmus Dahlin. (sep20)


6. I thought it would be worth taking the time to discuss some less-obvious combo-meal forwards; guys who can not only stuff the peripherals like shots and hits but can put up a healthy amount of points. Here are two:

Blake Coleman was a guy I had pegged as a potential 20-goal breakout in 2018-19 and he ended up with 22, so I’ll call that a success. What’s more important than the 22 goals for our purposes is that the ‘Goalman’ put up over 200 shots and over 200 hits. Those are titanic totals. A lot of it was due to an increase to 17 minutes a game, which was partly due to the injury to Taylor Hall. However, Goalman has been skating with Nico Hischier at times in training camp when they’re giving Hall some time off, so they clearly are still high on him. I foresee a small TOI hit – my projection for his EV TOI is about 45 seconds per game lower than last year – but the impact to his peripherals of 45 seconds lost per game isn’t a death knell by any stretch of the imagination. Both 200 shots and 200 hits are well within reach again, making him valuable in almost any roto format.

– Not sure a lot of people realize Frank Vatrano had 24 goals, over 200 shots, and 139 hits last year? That’s pretty good! There are certain segments of the fantasy community who’ve been waiting years for Vatrano not only to get a shot with a team’s top-6, but to stick there. Now, it doesn’t look like Vatrano will be a lock for Florida’s top-6 mix this year, but he’s a guy who can play both wings and there is one open spot in the on the top two lines aside from the trio of Hoffman/Dadonov/Huberdeau. At worst, he should stick around the third line and he showed last year what he can do in multi-cat leagues even with third-line minutes. He won’t get to the top PP unit without a few injuries, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be valuable, even in shallower formats. Consider that he was the 151st-ranked player in standard Yahoo! leagues last year and did so while falling short of 40 points and was a minus-10. Seeing both those marks improve doesn’t take a vivid imagination. (sep19)


7. Alex Nylander was skating on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the team’s preseason game on Wednesday night. With that kind of deployment, there are no excuses for him not making the team other than he’s not good enough. We shall see. Also with the Hawks, Adam Boqvist was paired with Duncan Keith. Hmmm. (sep19)


8. The line of Brady TkachukColin WhiteConnor Brown has been pretty consistent all camp long (well, a week, anyway). It seems like a good bet that that is the top line for Ottawa on opening night. Remember: there’s a good chance those guys have their plus/minus slaughtered, but it also leads to a lot of minutes. (sep19)


9. In Detroit, Moritz Seider was paired with Trevor Daley at times this past week. The sixth overall pick from the 2019 Draft is clearly thought of very highly by the organization. There’s always a chance this turns into a Jakob Chychrun situation where he makes the team out of camp when he’s not expected to, but the Red Wings have a bunch of bad contracts on the blueline running out this year. It would make sense to give Seider another year to develop and come back in 2020 when the defence corps is pretty wide open. (sep19)


10. The Preds have apparently set up their top power-play unit:


Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan): Matt Duchene says he’ll be net-front on the Predators’ power play. Based on what Peter Laviolette said last night, the team’s “PP1” appears to be Duchene, Forsberg, Johansen, Arvidsson and Josi.


This bodes well for Roman Josi owners who were banking on him pushing for monster returns during his contract season. I’ve spoken about Josi a few times this summer, and continue to feel that his value is going be met in points-only setting, but to knock him down a few pegs in multi-cat setups.

This news should also give a little relief to Duchene/Johansen owners who feared one would be banished to the second line AND second power-play unit. Duchene as the net-front likely snakes a few of his PPAs though.  (sep18)


11. The latest on Dustin Byfuglien, according to the Bobfather:


Bob McKenzie @TSNBobMcKenzie: WPG has suspended Dustin Byfuglien for failing to report to camp. If he doesn’t report by opening day, WPG loses his cap hit until he does report.


This isn’t Winnipeg sending a message to punish Byfuglien or anything like that. It’s simply a paper transaction that will allow the Jets to free up Big Buff’s cap space. That should improve the likelihood that Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine are signed sooner, although it by no means should hint that a signing of either winger is imminent.

As for Byfuglien, this news should also mean that he’s not anywhere close to making a decision. One scenario could be a 2007-08 Scott Niedermayer or 2008-09 Mats Sundin-type decision that results in a midseason return, should Byfuglien return at all. If you’ve already drafted him (like I have in one league), your best bet is to simply stash him on your bench and wait it out, unless you are in a shallow league with very little bench space. (sep21)


12. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Brock Boeser’s 55 goals sit firmly amongst the top 50 goal scorers league-wide. On a per-minute basis, things become even rosier. Boeser’s 1.4 goals per 60 minutes sit tied for 15th in the league with Connor McDavid, Kyle Connor, Vladimir Tarasenko and Taylor Hall

He is an elite finisher who is just getting started. Now, just like any high-end finisher worth their salt, there will be stretches of fire amongst a few icy spells. That’s just the name of the game. But for Boeser, his close relationship with Elias Pettersson is his ace in the hole. He will be locked to Pettersson at even-strength and on the team’s top power-play unit. Those two boast two of the more lethal shots in the game. If teams sag off of one to lock down the other, well, you can guess where the puck will end up. 

The knock on Brock has been injury concerns. He’s missed 33 games the past two seasons with back and wrist ailments. Providing a full season worth of games in year three should go a long way in convincing fantasy owners that he’s an elite piece.

By signing a three-year deal worth 5.875 million per, Boeser is banking on himself. He will conclude the deal in the heart of his statistical prime and if things go to plan, it will be set up for a monstrous third contract. For the Canucks, they get their second-best player locked up for a reasonable price and find out if the health concerns are real or just bad luck to begin a career.  (sep18)


13. When drafting fantasy hockey teams, it’s important to remember where you’re drafting. I don’t mean ‘where’ as in Where Are You Located Right Now, or some existential ‘where’ either, but rather but ‘where’ as in ESPN/Yahoo/CBS/Fantrax etc. There can often be big differences of ADP and that can play to your advantage if you’re aware of these discrepancies and your league mates are not.

Now, to be sure, every league isn’t the same so discrepancies can be explained by differing league settings. One guy who relies on hits for a good portion of his value won’t be as valuable on ESPN (where PIMs replace hits) as Yahoo! (where hits replace PIMs). Let’s take a look at a few:

Auston Matthews: Yahoo! ADP: 8; ESPN ADP: 28.
This is one that’s really hard to figure out. Matthews neither hits a lot nor takes many penalties, so we’d think that the ADPs would be similar across the two sites. Alas, he’s separated by over a round and a half, making him a relative steal on ESPN. Because he doesn’t hit or take penalties, in this roto setup, I have Matthews ranked as the 29th skater (excluding goalies) overall, so it’s not far off from where he’s going on ESPN. He’s almost certainly not going to be worth the price on Yahoo! (sep17)


14. Gabriel Landeskog: Yahoo! ADP: 45; ESPN ADP: 20.
Yet another player whose value I just don’t understand given the league settings. Again, on Yahoo!, we count hits instead of penalty minutes. Landeskog has averaged 44 PIMs a season over the last two years – solid if unspectacular totals. Meanwhile, he’s averaged 135 hits a season over the last two years, a very stout total. It’s very hard to find a guy who can put up 70 points and 130 hits; it’s easier to find one who can put up 70 points and 40 PIMs. I have Landeskog as a third-round value on Yahoo!, which means his ADP is great value right now. (sep17)


15. Roman Josi: Yahoo! ADP: 36; ESPN ADP: 60.
I’ve spent much of the off-season saying I’m not buying that Roman Josi will be the PP1 quarterback in Nashville all season, and that Ryan Ellis will be running things eventually, making Ellis a great fantasy value. But even I have my limits. Josi is not a defenseman who hits at all – he has one season of at least 60 hits in his career – so that Yahoo! ADP prices him way out of my range. He does take a reasonable amount of penalties, though, making that two-round savings over on ESPN a lot more palatable. I have Josi as my 14th defenseman and that ESPN ADP has him as D11. I might draft him at his ADP on ESPN, but I absolutely would not draft him on Yahoo! in the third round. (sep17)


16. Not something to get too riled up about, but at times this offseason I’ve mused whether Anthony Cirelli will move up to center Steven Stamkos, and that’s exactly what he did during scrimmage at some points this past week. Again, just a scrimmage, but something to watch for as training camp rolls on. (sep17)


17. Max Domi out-produced his norms last year. He shot 14.5 percent at five-on-five, by far a career-high, his IPP at 5v5 was a career-high, and his on-ice shooting percentage was also a career-high. Moreover, Domi’s zone entries and exits with possession, which were good in Arizona, were elite with the Habs last year.

While he may not be a defensive stalwart, Domi knows how to get the puck moving in transition, and playing with a guy like Jonathan Drouin, that’s a good thing. While we’d like them to be play-drivers, it does appear that at least Domi is the exception to the rule: he can drive goals without necessarily driving shot differentials.

So, we have a guy who we now know has a track record of driving goals, playing with a very good playmaker in Drouin, putting up four-year highs. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s really not all that surprising. As of right now, these are my projections for Domi: 26.9 goals, 42.6 assists, 16.1 PPPs, 216.1 shots, 63.5 hits

A lot of Domi’s PP projection is also based on Montreal’s power play last year, which was an absolute mess. If that improves, Domi’s numbers should as well. (sep16)


18. I understand the reticence of drafting a defensemen such as the Leafs' Jake Muzzin because he’ll be stapled to the second PP unit over, for example, Drew Doughty, who will get top PP minutes in Los Angeles. However, it’s important to remember that the Kings are possibly the worst team in the NHL, certainly among the bottom-3, with almost no scoring and likely to trade Tyler Toffoli. I’ll draft the guy putting up good peripheral stats playing heavy even-strength minutes for a team (like Toronto) that could score 100 more goals than Los Angeles this year, and I’ll draft him several rounds later, thanks. (sep16)


19. While the Ducks have been shuffling their lines all camp so far, one line that has seen a lot of time together is Rickard RakellSam SteelJakob Silfverberg. That’s good news for Steel dynasty owners but bad news for Rakell owners in any format. I like Steel as a prospect, but there’s a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between his value for wingers and Ryan Getzlaf’s value for wingers. Could be good news for Max Comtois, though, a guy I wrote about recently. (sep16)


20. I’ve been stressing it all off-season, but Andreas Johnsson is going to be one of the best values in fantasy this year. He’s lining up with Auston Matthews and William Nylander right now and I believe he’s going to be in the top-6 all season (even when Zach Hyman returns). Finally, as mentioned before, I think he’s going to be the fourth forward on the top PP unit. We know Mike Babcock doesn’t really like to change his lines, so there is every opportunity for Johnsson to explode for 70 points this year. Fair warning. (sep16)


21. Tyson Barrie explicitly said that Morgan Rielly will be running the top PP unit while Barrie will be on the second PP unit. I’ve been saying this for months, but I still cannot believe Barrie is ranked as a top-10 or top-12 defenseman in so many places around the industry. It’s a bad pick and you should feel bad if you do it.

Also, in that same tweet, the phrase “no more changes” was used, which would assume that Andreas Johnsson replaces Nazem Kadri, as he did at times last year. So, remember kids: do not draft Tyson Barrie in any format at his current ADP, draft Andreas Johnsson in every format at his current ADP. Thank you. (sep18)


Have a good week, folks!!



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