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’.
Editors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. I really feel like Filip Forberg is a forgotten superstar. Maybe not as much as Jonathan Huberdeau, who is top-10 in total points since the start of last season. but severely underrated. If Nashville ever went out and bought a true superstar that would compliment Forsberg, his numbers would skyrocket. Or, if he could stay healthy. Health would be good. (dec4)
2. In the month of November, where the Avalanche was largely without both Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, as well as other assorted injuries, Cale Makar led all NHL defensemen in points. Like, holy.
I still don’t really know what to make of Makar here because we haven’t really seen anything like this before. The guy is literally a point-per-game rookie ‘as a defenseman’. Two guys in the history of the NHL have done that for a full season (Mark Howe and Brian Leetch) and none have done it outside of the 1980s. He’s sitting at 20 minutes a night on the season but has seen a lot of recent games over 24 minutes. If he can get that TOI boost consistently, then we could be looking at a real, real special season. (Ed. note: Makar left Saturday’s game against the Bruins because of an upper body injury). (dec3)
3. Hey, so, reuniting Timo Meier with Tomas Hertl has been a pretty good idea? From what I can tell, Meier’s last game on Logan Couture’s wing was November 2, also the fifth game in a five-game losing streak. Since November 3, Meier has 15 points in 16 games. It was a great month for Meier, and hopefully you guys bought low on him when we told you to. (dec3)
4. Kevin Labanc played at a 65-point pace in the back 40 last year. He's on a 43-point pace in his first 31outings of this year. Which is the real Kevin Labanc? Realistically, this year he's probably somewhere in the middle. And holds the medium high-end (65-70) as an upside, but will need to find consistent minutes and usage. (dec4)
5. With no Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the Oilers at the moment, Alex Chiasson has moved up to the first-unit power play. He managed to cash in on Friday, scoring a power-play goal while adding a power-play assist on Leon Draisaitl’s goal. This matters because the Oilers possess the league’s top power play, firing at a 32.2 percent success rate. Since the Nuge has been out, Chiasson has five points in six games, with four of those points coming on the man advantage. You may remember Chiasson riding shotgun with Draisaitl and Connor McDavid for a time at even strength last season. (dec7)
6. Tristan Jarry has started five of the past seven games for the Pens. Does that mean that Matt Murray owners should panic? Well, you may recall that around this time last season, Casey DeSmith also had better numbers than Murray. Much of that had to do with the team playing better in front of DeSmith. Then in mid-December, Murray started to turn things around to make his overall season numbers more respectable. Like last season, Murray will also receive every opportunity to rebound because of salary ($3.75 million for Murray, $675,000 for Jarry).
That doesn’t mean Jarry (Dobber Prospects profile) will fade away like DeSmith (although I think DeSmith could still be a decent backup goalie for some team – ahem Toronto). For one, both Jarry and Murray are RFA beyond this season. So, aside from the equity that Murray has built as a two-time Stanley Cup winner, the Pens might not be any more tied to him than they are Jarry. So not only are they competing for a job, but also potentially protection in the Seattle expansion draft in 2021.
Let’s not go too far down the keeper status rabbit hole yet, since we still have over half a season to play and much can happen. In the near term, simply consider this to be the coach riding the hot hand because the team needs wins. Hang on to Murray if you can. One other fact: Although it seems as though Murray has been in the league a lot longer than Jarry has, he’s actually only one year older (25 to 24). (dec7)
7. With his assist on Thursday, Patrik Laine now has as many assists in 27 games this season (20) as he had all of last season. Becoming a more complete player has also improved Laine’s fantasy value, even if his goal total is projected to be slightly down from last season. Laine is on pace to smash his career high of 28 assists, while his current assist total places him in the top 20 in that category. That’s not something you would have expected when you drafted Laine. (dec6)
8. I don’t think anyone assumed Phil Kessel would match his Pittsburgh scoring totals over the past two seasons (average 30 goals and 87 points) with the move to Arizona. I’m sure some owners even had Kessel on their Do Not Draft lists entering the season. And with Kessel now on pace for a mediocre 45 points, that would all make sense.
Given his current numbers and the lack of high-end scoring talent in the desert, a significant scoring decrease is pretty much a sure thing at this point. And unless he is traded back to a high-scoring team, don’t expect him to match his Pittsburgh numbers ever again.
This might go against your gut feeling, but there might be a buy-low opportunity on Kessel. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage (4.41%) is significantly lower than expected, while his 960 PDO is also low. So if you’re thinking of dropping or trading Phil the Thrill, you might as well hang onto him. It’s ironic that one of the least defensively-oriented players plays for one of the most defensively-oriented teams, yet sometimes life takes an interesting turn. Despite all of that, Kessel is still a top-50 power-play scoring option on a Coyotes power play that is surprisingly in the league’s best. (dec6)
9. Filling in for Devan Dubnyk, the duo of Alex Stalock and Kaapo Kahkonen have been steady between the pipes. Stalock has won three of his last four starts. Kahkonen has won both of his two career starts as well. With Dubnyk out indefinitely while his wife battles an unknown medical illness, Stalock is worth an add for next week since the Wild play four games, including three at home. (dec6)
10. On Friday I told you that Alex Killorn “could be a sneaky add, particularly in leagues that count power-play points.” Well well well… Killorn scored a goal and added three assists with two power-play points in the Lightning’s 7-1 rout over San Jose. (I’m generally not one to gloat, as I’ve had an uncanny knack of embarrassing myself not long after I brag about something.) Power-play time with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman was too tempting to pass up. It may not last forever, but surprisingly Killorn has remained at 12 percent ownership over the last two days. With Saturday’s output, that number should rise. One other thing: Killorn now has goals in three consecutive games. (dec8)
11. Hot prospect Cayden Primeau started his first NHL game on Thursday, stopping 32 of 35 shots he faced in the Habs’ 3-2 loss to the Avalanche (Dobber Prospects profile). With the Habs playing back-to-backs, Primeau was given the slightly tougher Thursday start against Colorado, while the struggling Carey Price was between the pipes on Friday against the Rangers. For now, Primeau can be left on the waiver wire in non-keeper leagues. (dec6)
12. Getting closer to full health, the Colorado Avalanche are going to be a tough out for opponents. If they can manage to acquire Taylor Hall, then they have to be on the short list of favorites to win the Stanley Cup. And if Nathan MacKinnon decides to sign again for less than his market value, then the Avalanche will hold a competitive advantage for years to come. (dec6)
13. Mainly because of a weak start to the season, Sebastian Aho owners might feel underwhelmed by his season production given his high draft price (ADP 38.3 in Yahoo leagues). However, Saturday was easily his best game of the season, with Aho scoring a hat trick with two assists and a plus-2 and six shots. If you’re still not satisfied with Aho’s production, remove the rough October and he’s scored 13 goals and 21 points over his last 18 games. Now there’s the point-per-game scoring you were expecting. I certainly hope you didn’t drop him during October, which seems to be the month in which fantasy owners seem to be at their least patient. (dec8)
14. Nikita Gusev has been a liability – amongst a sea of young players who are liabilities. The Devils are obviously going to be patient and give Jack Hughes all the chances he needs. A 27-year-old Gusev on a two-year deal? Not so much. I still think Gusev has the goods to be an impact player. And perhaps the new coach will help facilitate that. Maybe now is the time to kick the tires on a very low, buy-low? (dec4)
15. With Rasmus Dahlin still missing from the lineup, it seemed likely the Sabres just turn to Rasmus Ristolainen for top power play duties. While they did for the first couple games, Henri Jokiharju is also receiving his fair share of time running the power play. He’s a very good puck-moving defenseman even this early in his career, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with this opportunity. (dec3)
16. The Habs will be without Victor Mete for a couple weeks due to an ankle injury. While I’m not sure there are a lot of Mete fantasy owners out there, this all but ensures 25 minutes a night for Ben Chiarot moving forward. (dec3)
17. The Wild gave up a lot to get Kevin Fiala and it took until November to see it – but the gamble has really paid off. While Mikael Granlund has struggled to find his way in Nashville, Fiala faced similar struggles with Minnesota. But Granlund is going to be a UFA this summer, so the Preds don’t have as much vested interest in pushing him.
Meanwhile, Fiala is getting the Golden Boy treatment. I got the feeling that the team would not let Fiala fail. And now he’s thriving, with 14 points in his last 15 games. I think he reaches 55 this year – it’s his BT season (Breakout Threshold – he hit 200 games late last season). And the only reason he doesn’t hit 60 is because the Wild are a low-scoring team. (dec2)
18. The Wild will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for a little while with an upper-body injury. A couple things here. First, Jonas Brodin took his spot on the power play. Whether that’s a long-term solution or not remains to be seen, but it would be at least a little boost for Brodin, who was mostly fantasy irrelevant this year.
The second thing is that Mathew Dumba played over 26 minutes, a season high. He probably won’t play that much once they get a sixth defenseman in the lineup, but he probably should see more than the 23-24 he had been getting this year. It’ll be a nice little short-term bump for Dumba owners. (dec5)
Dumba is still trying to find his mojo after missing most of last season. He’ll get going, but give him another month or so. Before his injury, Dumba had 12 goals in 31 games. He is a consistent scorer, hitting at least 10 goals in each of his first four full NHL seasons. (dec2)
19. David Krejci, of course, has been playing on the big line with Patrice Bergeron out. The results? In the nine games without Bergeron, Krejci has nine points. He has 12 in 15 with Bergeron in. Krejci, with a body that is pretty beaten down over the years and he’s now 33 years old, is somehow finding ways to be better. Last year he tied his career high and if he can stay healthy this year, he can challenge it again. (dec2)
20. Oilers fans are having fits over this but I think Jesse Puljujarvi is fine to develop over in Finland. Had he been signed, he would have been in the AHL. Instead, he’s in the liiga. What’s wrong with that? He’s 21 years old. This is good for him. Whether the Oilers have to trade him, or they convince him to stay. Jesse has hit the reset button and I don’t see how that can be a bad thing. His career was quickly Nail Yakupoving it’s way into the toilet. A hard reset strikes me as the only thing that can save him. And that’s what he’s done. If the Oilers make the playoffs and enjoy some success, the new regime under Ken Holland and Dave Tippett can probably convince him to stay. And next year, as a 22-year-old with some maturity and more strength, under the tutelage of Tippett, perhaps things turn out differently. (dec2)
21. PK Subban. Is it over? Is he done? At 30 years of age and coming off a season that saw him tally just 31 points, he’s struggling even worse. Just a 14-point full-season pace so far. I rate Subban a ‘buy’. His owners are giving him away right now (in those leagues where you can’t just drop him) and it’s time to acquire as to the price. Especially in weekly leagues where the end-of-season total doesn’t matter – just the weekly active roster totals.
Subban could very well by the Tyson Barrie to the new coach’s Sheldon Keefe. Subban went on a run last year of just nine points in 27 games – very similar to this current run. But he put it together and had a strong final seven or eight weeks. His 5on5 S% and his personal S% are each very low, indicating weak puck luck. Those factors, along with a new coach, will get things going. (dec2)
Have a good week, folks!!