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. It kind of hit me a few days ago that the Capitals could very well see rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov take the lion’s share of the starts this year from Braden Holtby. This is kind of like the situation with Pittsburgh a couple years ago. Remember when Matt Murray took over the net and everyone kind of accepted it because it was understood that Marc-Andre Fleury was going to Vegas in the expansion draft? Well with Holtby at 30 years old and his contract running out at the end of this season, we could very easily see the same situation here, to a degree.
Coach Todd Reirden said that Holtby is still the team’s No.1 starter, but it sure feels a lot like the general manager giving the coach a vote of confidence. Often, it’s the kiss of death.
What’s being healthy but getting Wally Pipp’d by your backup called? Pauly Wipp’d? (oct17)
2. Carter Hutton is now 5-0-0 with back-to-back shutouts this past week. Hutton and Linus Ullmark have basically been splitting starts this season, but Hutton should clearly hold the upper hand in this goaltending battle. Dare we say that Hutton is must-start? At least I can say that I’m confident in rolling him out there right now. (oct18)
3. I responded to a Forum question about whether to claim Phil Kessel in one league where he’d recently been dropped. If you are considering dropping a slumping sniper, is that player still getting shots on net? If the answer is yes, then you might want to remain patient. Or, buy low from an owner that isn’t.
Kessel is absolutely worth a pickup if he happens to have been dropped in your league, although you should be budgeting for a 60-70-point Arizona Kessel as opposed to an 80-90-point Pittsburgh Kessel. Even though the Coyotes are a dark horse playoff pick, they are still a low-scoring team. Kessel still might get his 30 goals but he’s also dependent on the players around him. (oct18)
4. With a goal on Saturday, Nick Suzuki now has goals in back-to-back games. With usage in the bottom 6 and the Habs even considering him for a healthy scratch in their practice lines recently, I had my doubts that he’d be able to stick around all season. The fact that he is being used with Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson isn’t ideal, but he’s making a case to remain on the big club and perhaps even be considered to move up the lineup. In the end I wouldn’t consider him a Calder candidate, but he has a very bright future. (oct20)
5. With no points thus far, James van Riemsdyk’s ownership level has been falling. In fact, I think I’ve seen multiple questions from people asking if he should be dropped. You can at least give JVR an A for effort, as he has taken nine shots on goal in each of the last two games. In fact, he leads the Flyers with 32 shots, a total that places him in the top 10 in the league. That’s zero percent shooting accuracy, friends. Nowhere to go but up. Take a flier (pun) if he’s on your waiver wire. (oct20)
6. The Oilers might be grabbing the headlines for their quick start, but their Pacific Division rivals in Anaheim are making some hay of their own. With a goal on Friday, Adam Henrique now has four goals and five points and a plus-7 over his last three games. Never mind the youth movement in Anaheim, as Henrique has formed what has turned out to be a strong veteran unit with Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg. Currently these linemates are the top three scorers for the Ducks. (oct19)
7. After some worry that he might be used as a third-line center, J.T. Miller may have found a home on the Canucks’ top line. His willingness to drive to the net and not look out of place with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the Lotto Line (6-40-9 – only people in Canada might understand that one) has helped his fantasy value, at least in the short term.
Micheal Ferland was bumped from that top line and now finds himself in the bottom-6. No, the Canucks don’t have a top-9 like some other teams; they have a top-6 and a bottom-6. Skating on a line with Brandon Sutter and Jake Virtanen, Ferland scored his first goal as a Canuck on Thursday. Ferland has played around 10-11 minutes in most games so far this season, so pure scoring leaguers should probably look elsewhere. The good news for the Canucks is that he’s delivering hits for them and not against them anymore (in a Flames uniform). So, there’s still value in bangers leagues. (oct18)
8. Be careful not to overvalue super rookies. Although their upside is considerable, their floor can also be very low. In Yahoo leagues, Jack Hughes was drafted (on average) just ahead of centers such as Vincent Trocheck, Max Domi, Jonathan Toews, Mathew Barzal, and Matt Duchene.
Answers may vary as to which players are better options than Hughes, but consider the type of production that those more established players bring. That’s your opportunity cost. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have drafted Hughes here – I’m only pointing out the kind of safe production that you were leaving on the table.
If you do draft a rookie like Hughes, then you might want to surround him with a ‘safe’ option or two that don’t usually deviate much in terms of overall production. Drafting Hughes with someone like Nikita Gusev is risky. Not necessarily because they play for the same team, but because their NHL track record is unknown. That means a high ceiling but also a low floor. (oct18)
9. It was none other than Corey Perry who brought the Dallas Stars from the dead on Saturday, scoring a goal and adding two assists with a plus-2 in a win over the Flyers. The points were Perry’s first of the season in just his third game with the Stars (he was injured in training camp). To attempt to inject some offense, Jim Montgomery spread his top players through three lines, which resulted in Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz being grouped with Perry. With the Stars earning a much-needed win, expect this line combination to stick for the time being. (oct20)
I don’t think we can get too hung up on where guys from Dallas are slotting on any given night, though. Beyond ‘Tyler Seguin is the team’s No.1 centre,’ there really isn’t a whole lot that stays constant on this team night after night among their forward group. Turning the lineup blender to ‘liquify’ night in and night out isn’t good for fantasy value for almost anyone. (oct17)
10. It took a couple games to get Gustav Nyquist to the top line in Columbus, but that line has been dynamite since being put together.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Nyquist is perhaps one of the more underappreciated players of this decade: he’s been able to drive offence better than his teammates in every season he’s played, he’s been a plus-shot share player in five of the last six seasons, and he’s been good with things like zone entries and exits with possession. But it’s not necessarily just the stats that stick out. Just watching him with the puck, he can do things very few players can in terms of giving himself space to make a play. (oct17)
11. For my money, Morgan Rielly is the second-best fantasy defenseman to own in a keeper league – that's right Rasmus Dahlin owners, you've got the top dog. Rielly should feast for a few seasons and has the talent, quality of mates, and deployment needed to push for a point-per-game as early as this season.
On the flip side, Tyson Barrie's power-play deployment has fallen off a cliff in Toronto. He has a single assist on the man-advantage while seeing just over two minutes on the second unit per game. This is a player who has relied on the PP for 47 percent of his production the last two seasons. Owners should be hoping for 50 points, but realistically, low-40s is probably happening. His agent must be pissed. (oct16)
12. Kevin Fiala was a healthy scratch last Tuesday for the Wild. For those of us who predicted another step forward for the skilled winger, the first two weeks have been especially unkind. Now after six games, he has just one assist and 10 shots on goal. He’s failed to mesh well on either of the top-six lines. Clearly the trip to the pressbox was designed to light a fire under the 23-year-old. (oct16)
13. Statistically speaking, Nikita Gusev having four points in eight games is palatable. Especially as he's been apart of the line blender and has found himself in the bottom six for stretches. However, his presence on the ice has not been as impactful. In all situations (before this weekend’s games), he's been a drag for his team with the Devils controlling just 36 percent of the scoring chances while he's out there.
I'm not ready to sell my Gusev shares though. I feel this team needs at least another month to gain cohesion and see what they can do. The members of that power-play unit are too good to be held down for long. (oct16)
14. One guy having a very good start to his season is Alex Iafallo. The energetic winger is basically going into his third year playing on the top line for the Kings alongside Anze Kopitar and he had 24 goals and 58 points in 157 games going into this year. That he – and Los Angeles in general – are off to such a strong start is a very good sign for his future. There is still much work to do here but if this franchise is going to wring one final playoff run from the aging core, guys like Iafallo need to keep this up for another, say, eight months. (oct15)
15. The Leafs have sent down rookie defenceman Rasmus Sandin. He had seen his role really minimized and it seems the plan here is to delay his ELC another year and have him be a full-time member next season when they have to potentially replace several pieces on the blue line. In fact, there’s not a single defenceman on the current roster with a contract past this season, so it’s really just a matter of time for Sandin. This doesn’t affect his long-term outlook in any way. (oct15)
16. You come to me for projections and insight every year with said Guide, so I know you will be curious about some of my ‘Biggest Worries’ on those projections, 10 days (give or take) into the season (Top 10 via the link). Counting ‘em down Letterman style, drumroll…
– Drake Batherson was close to being NHL-ready last year. The Ottawa Senators are a team desperate for skilled forwards. It was a match made in heaven. When projecting for prospects you need to do one of four things: a) have them not make the team and never get called up; b) have them just play a handful of games; c) have them get called up midseason and play approximately half the games, usually accompanied by modest numbers; d) have them make the team, play a full season and from their gauge if he makes a big splash or is more of a depth guy to start. I had Batherson under the latter category, and making a bit of a splash. He made the team, but wasn’t quite ready and was sent down. Not only that, but the team added Vladislav Namestnikov, thereby reducing the need to call up Batherson later on in the season. (oct14)
17. In the Guide I had Nik Ehlers bouncing back for 58 points. Which, frankly, is wussing out and I feel shame. That’s not me. I need to shit or get off the pot. His hot start, his much-ballyhooed offseason work (not just on the ice, but watching every single shift he took last year). He’s a potential point-per-game player and last year he was due for that breakout but suffered injuries. So a rebound should be something impressive, not a measly 58 points. I should have went bigger. (oct14)
18. Yanni Gourde had 20 points in the first 20 games last season and I remember writing a Ramblings at the time basically eating crow. Up until that point, I had been a non-believer in Gourde’s impressive rookie season, but he had finally won me over. Right on cue, he hit a wall and managed just 28 points in 60 games. So what did I do in the Guide? I doubled down on my crow-eating and had him for 62 points. Generally I don’t adjust my opinions with players in the first 20 games by too much, but I’m definitely re-thinking this one. Of course, that’s Gourde’s cue to reel off 15 points in six games now. (oct14)
19. And on the flip side, here are some ‘Not Budging’ items from my Guide projections (Top 10 via the link). Drumroll…
– John Klingberg vs. Miro Heiskanen. Klingberg is an elite PP option and proven point producer. Heiskanen will be an elite all-around defenseman and a guy who will likely take home a Norris or two before it’s all said and done. But we’ve seen this dynamic time and again. The elite two-way guy won’t get the offensive zone starts and PP time that the top, more-one-dimensional PP guy gets. Because he can be used in so many other situations. And that is what is happening (see here for the player comparison – seriously, take a look). Heiskanen is leading in points right now and of course he’ll still do well. But Klingberg will beat him. (oct14)
20. Christian Dvorak was on a short list of Breakout Threshold players with upside who I felt would have a strong season. But so far his ice time has been held down and he’s been given linemates with questionable upside. If he can’t play with Kessel, it would be nice to see him with Vinnie Hinostroza and Conor Garland, two small players with great talent and good upside. Give him 10 or 15 ho-hum games to start. Then go ahead and “buy low” because I still believe in him. For this year. (oct14)
21. Shayne Gostisbehere is a one-dimensional strictly offensive defenseman. And he is one of the best at that. And he is paid accordingly. With that kind of contract, the Flyers have to play him and they’re most certainly not going to play him on the penalty kill. That leaves the power-play. So despite the fact that Ivan Provorov is a superior all-around defenseman, Gostisbehere is going to be the man on the power play no matter how poor the results are or for how long though those results continue. I am not changing my projection for him one iota. I’ll consider adjusting in two more weeks but not before then. (oct14)
Have a good week, folks!!