Fantasy Mailbag: Matthews vs Pastrnak, Keller, Giordano, Wheeler, & Varlamov

Rick Roos



Time to empty the mailbag one last time before the puck drops on the 2019-20 campaign. As usual, I’ll maintain the goal of giving thorough enough responses while at the same time providing useful fantasy advice and food for thought to other readers, even if they don’t own the player(s) which happen to be the subject of these inquiries. For example, a lot of the questions for this mailbag involve keepers, which likely have already come due in your league. But even if that’s the case, the logic involved in deciding keepers still can be useful in terms of drafting and/or trading decisions. Onto your questions…….


Question #1 (from Rory)

I’m in my second year as part of a 15 team keeper league (keep 5 – maximum of 1 goalie).

Rosters are: 2C, 2LW, 2RW, 3D, 2G, 2 Utility, 4 Bench

Categories are G, A, P, +/-, PIM, PPPts, SHPts, SOG for skaters; GS, W, L, GA, SV%, SHO for goalies.

I finished 11th last season with the following roster: Aleksander Barkov, David Pastrnak, William Nylander, Clayton Keller, Max Pacioretty, Rickard Rakell, Jaden Schwartz, Jonathan Drouin, Brayden Schenn, Ondrej Kase, John Klingberg, Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, Mike Green, Frederick Anderson, Juuse Saros, Roberto Luongo, James Reimer

I’m having a very difficult time landing on my final two keepers after Barkov, Pasta, and Andersen, each of whom I see as no-brainers. I’m leaning towards Klingberg to have at least one defense spot shored up. The question is whether to go with a veteran like Pacioretty, Schenn, or Schwartz, or instead a younger player like Keller, Nylander, or Rakell.

Which five players are you keeping in my shoes? 


Minor issue – I count 18 players that you listed, but only 17 roster spots. Perhaps you omitted IR? Not a big deal in terms of the analysis, but I figured I’d point that out.

First off, you’ll get no argument from me whatsoever about keeping Barkov, Pasta, and Andersen. I also think that Klingberg should be kept although – as I noted in a Goldipucks column – the presence of Miro Heiskanen might keep Klingberg in the sub-60 point range. Even still, I believe he’s a better option than most, if not all, of your remaining forwards, and this way you go into the draft needing one less D.

That leaves one more spot, and I’m for the idea of keeping a young player over your veterans, although Schwartz did impress in the playoffs and might be “back” for fantasy purposes. So if you want to go with him I can see a case being made to do so, although he strikes me as more of a redraft target.

If you do opt for a younger player, I think it should be Keller. He’s someone I wrote about at length in a Forum Buzz column, where I stressed that him getting 65 points as a teen puts him in the company of just Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews for players to accomplish that feat since 2000-01. There’s also the reality that the incoming Phil Kessel is a PP catalyst, which is key since Keller managed to get 19 PPPts on a team which had the sixth-worst PP conversion rate. If Arizona’s PP improves, then Keller could see a significant PPPts spike since he already gets tons of PP Time and the eight forwards who had more PP time than him last year averaged 33.4 PPPts.

Why not Nylander or Rakell? Without putting too fine a point on it, I worry Nylander will not be part of the hugely stacked – and thus hugely vitally important – Leafs PP1, and Rakell is on a team that will likely still have trouble scoring goals despite a new coach/philosophy. So although both Nylander and Rakell are capable of more, circumstances are such that I favor Keller over them in your league.


Question #2 (from Robert)

I’m in a 10 team, keep 5 roto league where a player can be kept for up to 3 years. Rosters are 4C, 4RW, 4LW, 6D, 2G, 3 Bench, and the scoring categories are G, A, +/-, PPPts, SHPts, GWG, SOG, PIM, FOW, Hits, Blocks; GAA, SV%, Saves, SO, Wins.

I made a huge push to win last year, depleting my draft picks in the process; so I’m looking to keep 5 who will give me the best chance to win now before I embark upon a rebuild. The top candidates for keeping, with their 2018-19 Yahoo rankings for my league, are: Brent Burns (4), Mark Giordano (5), Dylan Larkin (17), Mika Zibanejad (18), Blake Wheeler (25), Sergei Bobrovsky (38), Morgan Rielly (43), Joe Pavelski (56), Matthew Tkachuk (62), Connor Hellebuyck (130), and Shea Weber (152). Only Burns, Wheeler and Pavelski were previously kept by me.

My first instinct is to keep Giordano (despite his age), Burns, Rielly, Larkin and Zibanejad, I like to load up on great defensemen, as they’re rare. It pains me to keep 2 centers because they’re so plentiful, but Zibanejad and Larkin are young and fill so many categories. What do you think?


One key piece of information I’m lacking is how many teams tend to keep a goalie, since if all do then I think Bob is a must keep, especially based on your indication you won’t have many draft picks to use to grab a goalie early. If keeping a goalie is common, then keep Bob and breathe easier.

Keeping Bob would leave four spots for skaters. In my most recent Forum Buzz column I explained, with respect to Giordano, that he will be 36 in October and 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 age 36 – which Giordano will be this season – or older. Even still, let’s say he sheds ten points – chances are he’s still of huge value in your league. And while I have similar age-related concerns regarding Burns, he’s probably going to produce well enough this season (which you said is your main concern) to merit a keeper spot.

For one of your final two spots, I’m taking Wheeler, as he plays a shallower position and has shown no signs of slowing down, making it likely he produces as well this season as he did in 2018-19. For the last spot, I’m surprised that Larkin had such value in your league; however, I see Zibanejad’s 2018-19 ranking despite being on such a lousy team, and add to that he’ll now have Artemi Panarin with him, who has a habit of making his linemates better, and I think I’m opting for him over Larkin. Of course, if you don’t keep Bob, then Larkin can be the fifth keeper; or if you’re inclined to take d-men, you can go with Rielly as planned, although Barrie’s presence could hurt him this season when you need to win.


Question #3 (from Chris)

I’m in a 12 team Keeper, $275 per team auction league. To keep a player his price increases $5 each year (no limit to players being kept or years you can keep them). Rosters are 3C, 3LW, 3RW, 3F, 6D, 3G, 5 Bench. It’s an 8×4 league (G, A, +/-, PPPts, PIM, SOG, Hit, Block; Wins, GAA, Saves, Save%).

After seeing teams often spend $40+ on goalies with seemingly little impact on the standings, I decided to try to use nearly all the $275 on skaters and attempt to win the two goalie categories (i.e., GAA, SV%) that do not require lots of games played. The result has been me finishing in 2nd place the past two years with above-average $1 backup netminders and winning most skater categories.

This past season I was able to trade for a waiver pick, which I used on Jordan Binnington for $1. In the offseason, I traded away some overpriced veterans and acquired Semyon Varlamov ($15) and Antti Raanta ($16). I want to change strategies this year, but I’m also concerned that would mean less money to spend on elite skaters and whether these are the right goalies on which to pin my hopes.

My questions are:

1) Could Varlamov and Raanta actually be difference makers, more so than $1 back-ups?

2) If a second team copies my original strategy, how would this play out if two out of 12 teams draft 6 backup goalies?


First off, do Varlamov and Raanta’s listed prices factor in the $5 increase? For purposes of answering the question, I’ll presume they do, even though I’m not sure it would change how I end up replying, as I think both are not goalies to which you should hitch your wagon. Binnington at $6, however, is a snap keep.

We saw last season that Barry Trotz/Mitch Korn were quite content playing Robin Lehner, a goalie who was a Vezina nominee, barely more than his back-up. On top of that Thomas Greiss’s deal expires at the end of this season and he’s had a full campaign of Trotz and Korn’s goalie whispering under his belt, so I think Varlamov – bigger deal notwithstanding – might have a tough time getting to even 50 starts. As for Raanta, Darcy Kuemper showed he was quite capable and, like Greiss, is playing for a new contract. Raanta is also coming back from an injury that could recur or leave him not on his A-game at the outset. And there are already whispers of the two possibly sharing the crease. Long story short, I think these guys are not much better – if even better – in your league than some of the more skilled back-ups.

Of course, if you believe others have sniffed out your goalie strategy and will try to replicate it, that is an added wrinkle. But if they try to do so, there will be a domino effect of skaters costing more and goalies, especially mid-range ones, costing less. Sure – Varlamov and Raanta might end up costing more if they were tossed back in the auction pool, but I’m still not sure they’d be worth it to keep. In a league like yours, I’d look for guys who will be starters but not “sexy ones,” like Jacob Markstrom, Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider or Petr Mrazek. I’m guessing those four will go for reasonable prices, and, whichever two you choose on top of a $6 Binnington, would give you a pretty decent crop of netminders.


Question #4 (from Steve)

I’m in a 12-team league where we keep nine and draft nine each year. Skater categories are G, A, PPP, SHP, SOG, HIT, BLK, and ATOI (replacing +/- this year); goalie categories are W, SO, GAA, SV%.

For my nine keepers, I have eight locked in Ben Bishop, Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, Mark Giordano, Jake Guentzel, Elias Lindholm, Blake Wheeler, and Keith Yandle. For my last keeper, I’m deciding between Evander Kane, Joe Pavelski, and Cam Atkinson.

What are your thoughts on who I should keep, to help me remain champion again this season?


You didn’t indicate what positions you have to fill; but I’m not sure it matters, because for a 12 team league your keepers are very, very good. Those would be competitive in an 8 team league; but in one that has 12 squads, you have to be a favorite, on paper, going into the season regardless of who your ninth keeper turns out to be. But you came here for advice, and I’m glad to give you my thoughts.

Atkinson concerns me because his 69 points last season was roughly a ten-point increase from the what was the average scoring rate of his previous three campaigns. Also, as indicated in the poll I conducted last week, of Atkinson’s 55 even-strength points last season only 24 were shared with Pierre-Luc Dubois, suggesting – to the surprise of not many I’m guessing – that Artemi Panarin was the key to Atkinson and Dubois setting career highs in points. The Blue Jackets seem poised to struggle this season, and I think Atkinson – who also is now a past peak 30 years old – will see his stats nosedive.

As for Pavelski, I covered him in detail in my Goldipucks column from August. To sum up the negatives I noted there, he was lucky (one crossbar and no posts hit), had an unsustainably high PP shooting %, is at an age when few players score 35+ goals without averaging three SOG per game (which Pavelski has not averaged in his last four seasons), scored the types of goals that don’t usually equate to as high of a goal total as he had in 2018-19, and had a lower than usual IPP (suggesting he’s losing his nose for scoring).

That leaves Kane. Yes, he lost his most frequent 2018-19 linemates in Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi; and it’s quite possible that Pavelski also played a large part in keeping Kane focused on hockey and less so on his usual “distractions.” The reason I’m going with Kane though is even in an off-year he would fill your categories so well. And it’s possible that with fewer forwards in the top-six mix on San Jose that Kane steps up even more. In short, there’s some downside risk but at least comparable if not more upside reward; and barring a situation where Kane misses 30+ games he’ll help your team – which is already stacked with scorers – in some of the key multi-cat areas.

So although I think your team likely would have the best retentions regardless of who you go with, I’d chose Kane. Good luck in defending your title!


Question #5 (name withheld by request)

In a H2H league counting G, A, Pts, PPPts, +/-, SOG, how would you compare Auston Matthews to David Pastrnak? My sense is Matthews has the potential to improve as he’s still younger; but would his lack of power-play points as compared to Pastrnak make him significantly less valuable even if he developed further?


Interesting that when arguing against Matthews you didn’t mention him having missed 14+ games the past two seasons. Yes, Pasta missed 16 last season; but he played 74 and 82 in the prior two campaigns. So Matthews is a Band-aid boy in the making, whereas Pasta is more dependable in that area so far.

As for the PP issue, as I noted in my most recent Goldipucks column, Toronto drew the fewest penalties of any team last season. As such, although Matthews took the ice for 60% of his team man-advantage time, that translated to an average of only 2:34 per game of PP Time, whereas Pastrnak had 58 seconds more PP Time per game despite not taking the ice for 70% of Boston’s man-advantage minutes. Still, the fact that Boston draws more penalties and Pasta sees a higher percentage of PP Time are strikes against Matthews, as they’ll cost him 5-10 points that Pasta achieves. If there’s a silver lining for Matthews, it’s that despite receiving the 113th most PP time among forwards last season, his 20 PPPts tied him for 45th in PP scoring. Yet here too Pasta outpaced Matthews in that he received the 58th most PP minutes among all forwards in 2018-19, yet still managed to tie for ninth in PP scoring and in doing so was one of just two forwards (Nikita Kucherov being the other) to average one PPPt per every other game.

Both players log under 19 minutes in TOI, so there is reasonable room to improve in that area, although it’s unlikelier for Matthews to see more ice time due to Mike Babcock’s tendencies of not leaning on even his top players. Of course on the flip side, there also are always rumors of Pastrnak being moved off Boston’s top line, in which case it’s not clear how well he’d do.

In terms of Matthews, we also can’t ignore past precedents in terms of what he’s done in his young career, despite limitations on his ice time. For one, as noted above he had 65+ points as a teen, which, since 2000-01 and looking at players older than Matthews, was only also accomplished by Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby. Moreover, if we look at players who, like Matthews, had two-point per game seasons within their first three campaigns and by age 21, only six others have done so since 1990-91: Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Lindros, Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. And we know how great five turned out to be, and, in the case of McDavid, are becoming now.

So this boils down to whether history and present talent are enough for Matthews to overcome question marks related to his health and ice time, because if so he’d be the pick over Pasta. But Pasta is likely the safer choice of the two given his team and situation. In the end, because you count PPPts, and since he’s always going to be eligible as a winger, I’d give the very slight edge to Pasta.



One quick programming note – next week would normally be a Goldipucks column here at Roos Lets Loose; however, instead, I’ll be running my annual 15 Fearless Forecasts for the upcoming season. Look for Goldipucks to return in two weeks.

And although my next mailbag isn’t for five weeks, it’s never too early to start providing me with more questions, which you can do in one of two ways: (1) by emailing them to [email protected] with the words “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line, or (2) by sending them to me via a private message on the DobberHockey Forums, where my username is “rizzeedizzee”.

When sending me your questions, remember to provide as much detail about your league/situation as possible, since as you saw above in a couple of the questions there were some omitted details which made it difficult for me to give a truly proper answer. Examples of the types of things I need to know include what type of league you’re in (i.e., limited keeper, dynasty, or one-year; roto vs H2H), does the salary cap matter, how many players are rostered (and of those, how many start at each position), what categories are scored and how are they weighted, plus other details if necessary (such as free agents available if you’re thinking of dropping a player or rosters of both teams if you’re thinking of making a trade). The key is to tell me enough for me to give you a truly proper answer, and for readers of this column to benefit from the answer/advice I provide. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. See you next week for the return of Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!



Mar 29 - 12:03 PHI vs PIT
Mar 29 - 15:03 CHI vs L.A
Mar 29 - 15:03 N.J vs CAR
Mar 29 - 15:03 WPG vs VGK
Mar 29 - 19:03 STL vs MIN
Mar 29 - 20:03 EDM vs ANA
Mar 29 - 21:03 COL vs NSH
Mar 29 - 22:03 S.J vs ARI


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