Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles – originally 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. Connor Hellebuyck might be the Jets’ MVP this season. On Friday, he stopped all 24 shots he faced in the Jets’ 3-0 win over Anaheim. Given Winnipeg’s broken-down defense, there was some worry about Hellebuyck’s ability to earn wins and decent ratios this season.
Well guess what? Hellebuyck is tied for the league lead in wins with 13 (including five wins in his past six games), while his ratios (2.23 GAA, .933 SV%) are helping your fantasy team. In terms of quality starts on Frozen Tools, only Darcy Kuemper (16) has more than Hellebuyck's 15 (who is tied with Jordan Binnington). To think, my head-to-head opponent this week nearly caught up to me on Friday with stellar starts from both Hellebuyck and Kuemper. (nov30)
2. Nikolaj Ehlers seems to be gelling with Blake Wheeler lately, which is a positive sign for frustrated Wheeler owners. Grant Campbell wrote a great Frozen Tools Forensics piece on forwards with cold starts, which includes some info on Wheeler. Summary: Wheeler should rebound (he already is), but don’t expect him to catch up to his 91-point total over each of the previous two seasons. Wheeler has set the bar high in terms of expectations with quite an assist run over these past few seasons (187 entering 2019-20). (nov30)
3. As far as top goalies of the past decade go, Pekka Rinne deserves serious consideration. His win on Friday was number 350 in his career, and he has the most shutouts of any goalie (58) since 2008-09. Maybe we shouldn’t rush to assume that Rinne will give up his reign as the long-time Nashville starter. (nov30)
4. Ivan Provorov has taken over on the Flyers’ first-unit power play, adding those duties to an already full workload as a minute-munching blueliner. With Provorov fitting in nicely, I wonder if the trade talks are heating up again with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Trading a player when his value is low isn’t the best idea, yet having one 65-point season under his belt might make Ghost hard to resist for a team looking to breathe some life into its power play. At this point, his fantasy owners can only hope he will receive that fresh start somewhere new. (nov30)
5. Oliver Bjorkstrand had a six-game point streak with nine points (2g-7a) snapped on Saturday. Bjorkstrand’s ice time is up over four minutes per game over last season, with the power-play time alone a minute higher. We knew Columbus wouldn’t be as deep in scoring as last year, which benefits a player like Bjorkstrand, who had been hovering between 12 to 15 minutes per game prior to this season. By the way, Bjorkstrand is owned in just 9 percent of Yahoo leagues. (nov30)
6. Figuring out which Rangers’ defenseman to own is like throwing darts at a board. Or, for me, picking series winners in last season’s playoffs. Jacob Trouba was supposed to be the man but not so given his production so far. Unlike Trouba, Tony DeAngelo has been better than advertised but with seven goals already, is he due for a regression?
Enter Adam Fox, who has been taking regular shifts on the Rangers’ first-unit power play. With six points over his last seven games and 20 shots over his last six games, Fox might stick around on that top unit for the foreseeable future. Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes are the rookie blueliners getting all the attention, but Fox stands third among rookie defensemen with 14 points in 25 games. Or, maybe all I need to say is that he’s a PP1 d-man that is owned in only 13 percent of Yahoo leagues. (nov29)
7. Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, responding to a question about John Tavares and Auston Matthews playing over 22 minutes and 20 minutes, respectively, said it’s a trend you’ll see moving forward. That’s music to the ears of poolies worldwide. (nov28)
8. After missing the past 16 games with a lower-body injury, Mikko Rantanen returned with a bang to the Avalanche lineup on Sunday. Rantanen scored a goal and added three assists in the Avs’ 7-3 win over Chicago. Rantanen was back in his usual spot with Nathan MacKinnon. With Rantanen now back and Gabriel Landeskog a possible return on their eastern road trip next week, Colorado will be one dangerous team to contend with going forward. (dec1)
9. The Avs soldiered on quite well without both Rantanen and Landeskog for the past month. During that stretch, you may have wondered whether MacKinnon’s numbers would suffer. Well, this is just like Evgeni Malkin right now without Sidney Crosby. Over that stretch minus Rantanen and Landeskog (since October 30), MacKinnon had 10 goals and 24 points in just 14 games. In other words, MacKinnon is linemate-proof. Stick him on the checking line with Tommy Stonehands and Jimmy Lunchpail (as Dobber calls them) and he’ll still score at least a point per game. (nov30)
10. Joonas Donskoi might be the biggest benefactor of the Mikko Rantanen/Gabriel Landeskog injuries. Donskoi scored two goals and added two assists of his own on Saturday, which gives him 14 points (6g-8a) in his past 11 games. You might get some more big production from Donskoi next week from the top line, but a Landeskog injury could push him back to a more secondary role.
However, his most frequent linemates during the first quarter of the season were Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky, who have both already reached 20 points. So, there might still be something there with Donskoi once everyone is healthy. It’s also possible that coach Jared Bednar breaks up the usual top line to keep Donskoi there, which would be amazing for his owners. (dec1)
11. Robert Thomas was seen on the top line this week alongside Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn. This is something I hope sustains itself moving forward. With Vladimir Tarasenko likely out for the season, it’ll be tough for the Blues to make another deep Cup run. Even if he is back in time for playoffs, what kind of shape will he be in? I think it’s a perfect opportunity for the Blues to acclimate Thomas to a bigger role against tougher competition. Get him used to playing 17 minutes a night and get him used to playing with the team’s top forwards. Just a thought. (nov28)
12. It should be noted that Max Pacioretty is on pace for 70-75 points right now, which would be a career-high. He’s also putting up nearly four shots per game and managing over a hit per game. It’s been a pretty good start to the year.
13. The Jakub Vrana breakout season is truly a sight to behold. As of Sunday afternoon, he was on pace for 35 goals and 67 points. The lack of assists don’t really mean a lot to me because this is a guy we pegged for goal scoring. And scoring goals is what he’s doing.
However, Vrana will come nowhere near his ceiling until he starts earning more ice time, particularly on the power play. He’s on pace for 35 goals this year and he’s playing about 14:30 minutes a night with sparse secondary power-play time. Until he starts playing 18-19 minutes a night with top PP minutes, we’re going to have to be satisfied with 30-goal, 60-point seasons. He’ll be a valuable fantasy option, but not nearly as valuable as he could be. (nov28)
14. Patrice Bergeron stayed back in Boston this past week with a nagging groin injury (day to day). No worries though, as David Krejci took the top spot and produced to the tune of 1-3-4 in the three games Bergeron has been out (entering Sunday action).
I’ll be honest, I thought last season’s rejuvenation by Krejci was an aberration and we’d see the veteran centre fall back to the 50-60 point range. But so far this season – especially the past dozen games, he’s been very good. Obviously we like him, even more so when he's centering the top line – which sounds like it will occur fairly frequently as the Bruins attempt to manage Bergeron's load. (nov27)
15. John Klingberg is back and he is looking like his old self. After producing just four points in 17 games to begin the year, the 27-year-old defender has returned from injury and had four points in the four games since. It sure doesn’t hurt that the Stars and their, well, stars, are back rolling as they should. I told you all to buy Klingberg and Tyler Seguin if possible. I remain lukewarm on Jamie Benn. He was certainly due for some positive gains, but I still don’t like him for much more than a 60-point pace. (nov27)
16. Jack Hughes, day-to-day with a lower body injury, has struggled to string together productive games with just two points in his last 10 contests. Like Kirby Dach, the big numbers are coming in the future. And just like Dach, the ceiling is very high. Don’t sell low in keeper leagues. Just grit and take the hits this year so future you can reap the rewards. (nov27)
17. Carey Price owners, look away. The price is wrong at the moment, as the Montreal goalie has now allowed at least five goals in each of his last three games and is winless over his last five starts entering Sunday action. The Canadiens as a team are winless in their past seven.
Price’s season numbers (10-8-3, 3.19 GAA, .897 SV%) don’t inspire confidence for fantasy owners that drafted him within the top 50, but at least we can admit that goaltending is a crapshoot these days. Still, the truth is that among 43 goalies with at least 10 GP, Price was 35th in save percentage and 37th in goals-against average at one point late this week.
The Habs’ defense isn’t doing him many favors, but in paying him over $10 million per season, the Habs have the right to expect more. So do his fantasy owners. I guess we’re at a ‘pick and choose’ your starts point with Price – at least for the moment. (nov29)
18. I was one of those people, a couple years ago, who was incredibly concerned about Montreal’s future down the middle. They hadn’t really had a true top-line centre in, well, years? Then Jesperi Kotkaniemi has a very good year last year and now Nick Suzuki is off to a great start this year.
The growing sentiment from some Habs fans seems to be that Max Domi and Suzuki should be sticking together, and I agree. Don’t forget about the third wheel on that line right now, though, in Artturi Lehkonen. Earlier this past week, he was in the 91st percentile for shot rate among forwards so far this year, meaning he’s a guy who likes to shoot a lot. Domi has shown himself possible of creating goals since he got to Montreal, and Suzuki looks every bit the playmaker he’s been built up to be. Lehkonen, then, could stand to be the beneficiary.
I’m worried that coach Claude Julien will keep tinkering, especially with Joel Armia, who has seen some time on the second line. Lehkonen is a guy that doesn’t mind laying the body, too, considering he had 120 hits last year and is on pace for around the same this year. That combined with his shot volume makes him someone to keep in mind, but his current slotting makes him a guy to add in banger leagues. (nov26)
19. It’s been a tough start to the year for one of my favourite player in Ondrej Kase. He has just 10 points in 21 games and hasn’t been able to stay completely healthy, which is an ongoing issue. He’s also playing less per game this year (15:10) than he was last year (15:39). So, what exactly is going on here?
It should be noted his shot volume on a per-minute basis is down from last year, as well, but even with his own personal decline, he still hovers among league leaders. Personally, I think it’s a matter of time before we see Rickard Rakell–Ryan Getzlaf-Kase reunited, and at that point, all three players will very much take off in the fantasy game. (nov26)
20. My sense is that Nikita Gusev’s talent was evaluated properly in training camp (all offense, little defense) and now he is just being eased into a new league. Is the game plan to continue easing him in until the 20-game mark? Forty? Your decision on this comes down to your comfort level.
Myself? I would do everything I can to make room for him on my bench. But if that’s just not possible, then I’d drop him – but I’d keep my finger on the trigger ready to quickly claim him back if I hear of any changes to his linemates. That could happen next game… or, next season. I wish I could get in the head of coach John Hynes and find out for sure, but I haven’t developed that power yet. I’m close though, just a few more experiments in my labr…oh but I’ve said too much. (nov25)
21. John Marino has points in nine of his last 13 games. Who? Yes, the guy has come out of nowhere. He’s doing this without PP time (00:46/game has been the most), and his track record in other leagues (NCAA, USHL) screams ‘20-point player at best’.
If you look deeper, however, he was behind Adam Fox (NYR) and Devils’ third-round pick Reilly Walsh when he was at Harvard. So, maybe there’s more to this guy. For now, I have him going through a Max Lajoie-type of hot run, with the potential to fade just as quickly as Lajoie did. Marino took full advantage of his time due to injuries suffered by Kris Letang, who has now returned to the lineup, and Justin Schultz, now on injured reserve with a lower body ailment. (nov25)
Have a good week, folks!!