I guess I should start sending out my I’m Sorry I Was Wrong holiday cards right now.
More than once over the course of the summer, I stated in these Ramblings I thought both Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar would be eased into the top power-play role, with their respective coaches not opting for a rookie to take the reigns immediately. Rather, I had assumed that Makar would take a few months to take over from Sam Girard while Hughes would take until whenever Alex Edler suffered some minor injury. Well, as we’ve seen in training camp, it looks like they’ll both have the top spot right out of the gate. That changes things for me a bit.
In my projections, this has a bigger effect on Makar than on Hughes. The reason for this is that my projections assumed Makar would take longer to take the top PP spot than Hughes would, which meant Makar had more to gain from starting on the top PP unit right away. It moved Hughes from ~34 points to ~40 points but it moved Makar from ~39 points to ~48 points, with each of those gains all being made on the power play. They also made small gains in shots on goal, too.
Even after the adjustments, I’m still not drafting Hughes among the top-50 defencemen (assuming roto format, non-keeper). I have serious concerns that his peripheral production will be meager and 40 points from a blueliner just doesn’t buy what it used to in a high-scoring era in the NHL. He’s being drafted somewhere around the top-50 defencemen and it’s cheap enough of an ADP that he’s replaceable, but I just don’t see him returning value with the weak peripherals I have him projected for – ~145 shots, ~40 hits. Meanwhile, my new projections have Makar ranked roughly where his ADP is, which is to say about a top-30 defenceman, so no issues drafting him now.
One of the biggest RFAs was signed yesterday as Brayden Point and Tampa Bay came to an agreement on a three-year bridge deal for $6.75M per season and like those before him, there’s a high actual salary in the third year. Needless to say, this is a pretty big win for almost everyone from Point, to the fans, to the team, to fantasy owners, and on and on. Maybe not for the NHLPA and future comparable players, but that’s for another day.
We should also note that Point and the team hid an injury from the media, and he will not be ready for the start of the season following a hip surgery. The team said he’s expected back at the end of October, but that’s still a big concern for fantasy owners. We can normally deal with a player missing 10 games throughout the year, but hip surgery and late for the season? That’s a big red flag for me. I’ll be interested to see where he’s drafted over the next 10 days.
Now that training camps are starting to get down somewhat close to the actual roster. We can start piecing together some line combinations. This is a big one:
In the first group: Aho with Svechnikov, Nino; Staal with Teravainen, Foegele; Haula with Dzingel, Necas; Wallmark with Martinook and McGinn.
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) September 23, 2019
I say it’s a big one because Niederreiter is being drafted considerably later – like, several rounds later – than Teravainen, Necas is basically free and though we’d like him higher in the lineup, he’s at least going to have some value with top-9 minutes, and Svechnikov is skating with a centre who can actually score, which would obviously help his point totals.
I wrote about Niederreiter and why his ADP is absurd last week.
It certainly looks like Rasmus Sandin is going to make the Leafs roster out of camp. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares this year and what happens when Travis Dermott returns.
Also, with the Leafs putting most of their NHLers in the same group, Andreas Johnsson remained with Matthews at even strength. His ADP is strapped to a rocket right now; hopefully those with early drafts got in on the ground floor.
Looks like the Devils are going to stick with Hall-Hischier and Hughes-Gusev forward pairings. That top-6 is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Staying with New Jersey, Jesper Boqvist was skating on the third line in practice yesterday with the Zajac-Coleman duo. Boqvist is a guy who has caught my eye during the preseason but it’s still not certain he’ll make the roster out of camp. Even if he does, I doubt he’ll have much fantasy value, but this could be the start of a nice career.
The Flyers say Morgan Frost is going to miss a week with injury. Might not bode well for him making the roster out of camp.
The Habs have had a pretty split training camp as they had players in New Brunswick for the Kraft Hockeyville while others stayed behind in Quebec. But one thing I did find interesting is a couple times so far in training camp is that Artturi Lehkonen was skating with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin. Fantasy owners might remember that last year, that spot often belonged to Andrew Shaw, sometimes Paul Byron. Anyway, Shaw is back in Chicago and Byron is on the third line, and Lehkonen and Shaw have produced incredibly similar underlying results over the last three years:
Domi and Drouin are talented offensive players, but they aren’t guys who necessarily drive shot differentials, which means just putting some spare third wheel on the wing could get them caved in in their own end regularly. Rather, having a responsible two-way guy like Lehkonen – who also usually has high shooting rates – is the perfect addition for them. Whether he finds the success that Shaw did last year, I don’t know. However, Lehkonen put up over two shots per game and 120 hits, so if he can get near 20 goals and 50 points like Shaw did, there is a very good roto season in the making here.
I was disappointed to see Eeli Tolvanen sent down to the AHL, but not really surprised. They have a lot of wingers under contract and I doubt they want to lose anyone of consequence to waivers. I imagine he makes his way back up at some point and will be a roster lock at the start of the 2020 season.
The cases of Makar and Hughes got me thinking about which players have the most to gain if they can get some PP time breaking their way. That is to say, which guys do I have ranked reasonably high but that is without significant power-play contributions. It’s worth talking about those If Everything Goes Right kind of players.
We had both Rasmuses (Rasmusii? Rasmux?) in the lineup for Buffalo over the weekend and it was Dahlin on the top power-play unit and not Ristolainen. This shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone but it does take away quite a bit from Ristolainen’s upside. In roto leagues, his peripherals are so stout that he has legitimate top-5 upside with top PP minutes and a reasonable plus/minus. He has no such upside with Dahlin taking the reigns, but we saw last year that sometimes they’ll go back to Risto, and sometimes they’ll both share the top unit. I’ve done three mock drafts now and it seems he keeps slipping down the ADP list. I’m fine with taking him outside the top-30 defencemen.
At this point, I still don’t know how the Minnesota power play is going to shake out and to be quite honest, I’m not sure that the Wild do, either. They effectively have four defencemen who can run a power play and other than Brad Hunt, there’s no one guy clearly behind the others. At least I don’t think the coaches see it like that.
Anyway, Dumba has the ability to put up 50 points with over two shots and 1.5 hits per game (in fact, he did that in 2017-18), which means he has top-5 upside with the right power-play usage. Whether he’ll get the right PP usage is one impediment here, as well as to the quality of the team in general at even strength.
The Islanders power play is a situation right now is an absolute mess. They haven’t really pushed all their NHL regulars into one group as the Leafs have yet, so we still don’t know how Toews and Pulock will mix in because Nick Leddy has spent most of camp in the group with Barzal and Lee. Regardless, Pulock will have good fantasy value independent of his PP production while I’m not sure Leddy would be a top-50 roto defenceman even with 20 PPPs. That means we’re left wondering about what to do with Toews. He’s not a name to know in shallower leagues but he could be a very important fantasy asset in deeper leagues or cap formats. It all depends how this works out on the power play and like Minnesota, I’m not sure the team even knows what they’re doing just yet.
With the uncertainty surrounding the future of Dustin Byfuglien, the top PP slotting for the Jets is open, and though my assumption is that it’s Josh Morrissey’s role, we can’t preclude Pionk. Now, they’re still without both Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine, but there’s still more than enough top-end talent to put together a great power-play unit. Over his career, Pionk has been close to two shots and 1.8 hits per game, which would play well with any kind of offensive production. He has been hard-pressed to produce points outside of the man advantage but going to Winnipeg should help a bit in this regard (assuming everyone is signed). I really don’t think Pionk is a very good defenceman in real life but with his peripheral stats, he can be very valuable in fantasy if he gets that PP slotting over Morrissey.