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. Alex Ovechkin recently ended a goal drought of four games and it was just the 10th time in his entire career that he went so long without a goal. I then saw a list of players who played 1000 games who also did that just 10 times (or fewer). Only six players. Mats Sundin did it just 10 times. Marcel Dionne and Dale Hawerchuk just eight times, Gilbert Perreault just five. Amazingly, and the reason for this blurb – The Great One did it only once. Can you imagine? In Gretzky’s career he went four games without a goal just one time. (dec23)
2. Joonas Korpisalo’s five-game win streak ended on Friday, as the Blue Jackets lost to the Capitals in overtime. I’ll admit that I shied away from the Columbus goaltending situation because of the uncertainty of who would replace Sergei Bobrovsky, yet Korpisalo has emerged not only as the starter but as a relatively consistent fantasy option. In fact, Korpisalo is tied with Connor Hellebuyck as the leader in games played among goalies (31 GP), and with 17 wins is a top-5 option in that category. Another example of why goalies are difficult to predict. (dec28)
3. Roope Hintz has taken only three shots in his last six games. Not surprisingly, he has just one goal over his last 13 games. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he’d already reached nine goals by November 1 on a slow-starting Dallas squad. (dec28)
4. Timo Meier, who recorded a hat trick on Saturday, is on pace for a significant drop from his 66-point breakout from last season. The problem isn’t goals, as Meier is on pace for a similar number of goals as last season (30). Meier has been affected by much of the instability in San Jose, but he’s also receiving far fewer minutes with San Jose leading scorer Logan Couture than he had last season. You could try buying low, particularly if you need help with goals. (dec29)
5. If you’re looking for every possible edge, the Lightning have played fewer games (36) than every other team. And since you’re probably now wondering which team has played the most games, it’s the Golden Knights with 42. So, if you offer Reilly Smith for Brayden Point (almost the exact same season numbers), you’ll get six more games out of Point than Reilly.
If you don’t own Reilly but instead own another Vegas top-6 forward, I say make the offer. Maybe you can’t make that exact deal (I doubt that asking for Point for Smith is accepted by any sane owner), but this games-played theory could at least get the creative juices flowing to formulate an idea or two for a potential trade. You could actually buy a bit low on Point at the moment, as he’s below last season’s scoring pace (under a point per game as opposed to being over a point per game). (dec28)
6. The word on Oliver Bjorkstrand’s injury and it’s not good: A rib contusion/oblique strain that will take him out of the lineup for four to six weeks. Probably my favorite sleeper pick and breakout player for this year was finally doing my projection justice by posting 17 points in his last 17 games. And now this, which likely takes him out through the All-Star Break, but hopefully not a moment beyond that. Add in the fact that Cam Atkinson is out and will be re-evaluated during the holidays, and Columbus is in trouble offensively. They had a tough time scoring to begin with. (dec23)
7. I remember Dobber mentioning a little while ago about how a player could Martin Frk his way out of the league because of poor plus/minus. Well, Frk (career minus-26 in 100 GP) is back in the NHL, and he might stick around at least for the short term. In both his season debut and Kings debut on Friday, Frk scored two third-period goals to lead the Kings to a come-from-behind overtime win over the Sharks. The one-time Red Wings prospect has been lighting it up in the AHL this season with 14 goals and 23 points in 26 games with the Ontario Reign.
Frk was placed on a line with Jeff Carter and Nikolai Prokhorkin, who both assisted on both of Frk’s goals. Carter scored the OT game-winner to give him a three-point game. Carter is flirting with a point-per-game pace (eight points in his last nine games) since around mid-December. No Kings player has more shots on goal this season than Carter, who has at least a puncher’s chance at fantasy value as long as he is firing the puck at the net. (dec28)
8. Remember when James Neal exploded out of the gate and appeared to be a slam dunk for comeback player of the year? Yeah, he’s now minus-24 for the season. He has just two goals in all of December, as well. Hope you sold high when you had the chance. (dec28)
9. Patrice Bergeron now has two goals in each of his last three games to give him 17 goals on the season. He’s on a point-per-game pace yet again this season, and at age 34 appears to be that fine wine that is getting better with age. Bergeron wasn’t a point-per-game player during any season in his 20s, but since the 2017-18 season Bergeron has 176 points over his last 159 games. (dec28)
10. Hopefully you haven’t been in a position where you’ve been forced to be patient with Mikael Granlund. The struggling Nashville forward made an appearance on the boxscore on Saturday, scoring twice with a plus-2. Over his last five games, Granlund has taken just six shots, which doesn’t offer much hope for a turnaround. Granlund has been on a line with Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene, which is better than being buried down the lineup for his lack of production. (dec29)
11. With the World Juniors underway, maybe just a little reminder that fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too high. It’s not just the yelling and screaming at teenagers – some of whom have been in the NHL already – but it’s just the success rate of prospects.
For a quick little exercise on just how many of even the top performers can flame out, let’s go back through the top-10 scorers from some recent WJC tournaments:
That’s just four years and a handful of players (at different ages, admittedly) to show how much just ranking by points throughout the tournament can lead fans and analysts astray. Of course, that doesn’t change much for bar room debates, but let’s try to be a little bit more level-headed about this on social media. (dec26)
12. Speaking of the World Juniors, now that I’ve read the requisite number of other peoples’ articles (be sure to keep it locked to DobberProspects.com throughout the tournament), I feel comfortable enough to throw out some guys I’m looking forward to watching. They’re players with obvious fantasy upside and seeing how they can perform with the elite of their peers is always a good stepping off point for these kinds of players. Some of these guys will be drafted, some won’t be, but they’re guys to keep an eye on, mostly with dynasty implications.
Ty Smith, D, Canada: The mid-first round pick from 2018 was a dark horse to make the New Jersey roster right out of camp but was one of the late cuts to the team. He was returned to the WHL, where his point production has declined from his previous two seasons. It’s obvious he figures into the Devils’ plans, and likely as soon as October 2020.
Smith possesses everything that teams want in a future puck-moving defenseman: great skating, great vision, great playmaking. That he’s under-sized is probably why he fell to the middle of the first round rather going near the top-5. As far as this tournament goes, does he control the offense like he’s able? Is he not only starting the rush, but joining the rush? Does he run the power play with efficiency? All questions relevant to his fantasy future.
More than anything, it’s obvious the Devils need puck-moving defensemen in the lineup as soon as possible. Smith fits what they need to a tee. (dec26)
13. Arthur Kaliyev, W, USA: It’s no secret that if the Los Angeles Kings have any sliver of hope to recapture some of their past glory while Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still moderately useful, then Kaliyev (among others, one of whom will be mentioned later) needs to be an impact player, and needs to be an impact player soon. This is not a case of where the team can wait until 2022 for Kaliyev to come around.
The problem with Kaliyev, as explained in our Dobber profile on him, is his skating. And, quite honestly, if there’s a skill a player can lack at this point of their career without it being a huge issue, it’s skating. There are lots of instances of players, particularly elite ones, refining that aspect of their game in as little as a year. Recent examples include Leon Draisaitl and Jamie Benn.
For that reason, it’s not Kaliyev’s skating that needs to be scouted here (though it will be). It’s whether he can get himself in dangerous positions consistently. As I outlined at the top, it’s not always a straight line from production in the WJC to production in the NHL, which is why Kaliyev doesn’t need to score five or six goals to impress. He just needs to consistently put himself in a situation to score, whether it be finding soft spots in the defense or exploiting a turnover.
14. Our Decades series, with feature articles from Rick Roos, Cam Robinson, Mario Prata, Tom Collins and Ian Gooding will continue on New Year’s Day with Mike Clifford’s piece on Multicategory Beasts, and culminating in the overall Top Players of the Decade for Fantasy Hockey penned by yours truly! Have a look at what’s been rolled out thus far!
15. Both Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi have already cooled after similar hot stretches with each one point in their last nine games. That’s something to pay attention to if you’ve been sitting on either player since October or November. (dec28)
16. Mika Zibanejad has been on fire recently with eight goals and 13 points over his last eight games. The presence of Artemi Panarin on the first-unit power play and at least a part-time even-strength linemate is certainly having an effect. (dec28)
17. Filip Hronek is the only Red Wings blue line performing better than a replacement-level defenseman this year. The only one. One. Une personne. Solo. It’s literally Filip Hronek and a bunch of AHL defensemen. We wonder why the team is so bad defensively, but also wonder why they can’t sustain offense, either.
Here’s the upside: this is the last year for each of Mike Green, Trevor Daley, Alex Biega, and Jonathan Ericsson. If we exclude Biega – he was a recent signing for a couple years – that’s three regulars (all below replacement, mind you) gone from the lineup, that’s nearly $13M in cap space freed up on the blue line. In fact, they’ll have a lot of cap space next year – over $35M for sure. Now, they have a lot of RFAs to sign like Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Robby Fabbri, but even chewing up $20M for their RFA would still leave them a lot of cap space left to use.
There will be a great UFA group of defensemen available next summer. We’ll have names like Alex Pietrangelo, Tyson Barrie, Jake Muzzin, Chris Tanev, Torey Krug, a rehabilitated Kevin Shattenkirk, and more. Now, whether they all get to market is a different story, but it seems eminently possible that the Red Wings can go out and sign, say, Barrie and Tanev, and still have cap space left over. (Whether they actually want to use their free cap space right away or not, you’ll have to ask Stevie Y.) The Red Wings will have lots of cap space to replenish their blue line and should have the options to do so if they choose.
All this doesn’t mention Moritz Seider, who has been very good in the AHL this year and should be ready for the NHL next year. If they go out and grab a couple good guys among the UFA market, Seider continues his ascendance, and Hronek keeps doing his thing, they have the makings of a competent top-4 here. That would be something the team hasn’t had in years. (dec24)
18. Alex Edler returned to the Vancouver lineup just before the Holiday break following a 10-game absence due to injury. That he’s back is a good sign but it seems pretty clear that he’s not going to wrangle the top PP minutes away from Quinn Hughes anytime soon. (dec24)
19. Bryan Rust is a player who was a must-add earlier this season due to opportunity with some high scorers on the top line and first-unit power play. Rust added to his total on Saturday with two goals and two assists, giving him 30 points in just 24 games. You might have to take this next stat with a grain of salt, as Rust’s season didn’t start until late October, as his point-per-game total is currently 11th in the league, and similar to the likes of John Carlson, Mitch Marner, and Patrick Kane. His advanced stats scream regression (19.8 SH% is an example), but you’ll want to keep rolling him out there while he’s getting sustained ice time with Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. He very likely won’t have the staying power of those two, though. (dec29)
20. Interesting stat: Joe Pavelski played his 1000th NHL game last weekend and he sits ninth all time in scoring among players who were drafted in the seventh round (or later). Steve Sullivan is 10th with 747 points, Pavelski has 777. Gary Suter (844), Cliff Ronning (869), Special Agent Peter Bondra (892) are 8th, 7th and 6th. The Top 5:
1. Doug Gilmour (1414)
2. Luc Robitaille (1394)
3. Theo Fleury (1088)
4. Dave Taylor (1069)
5. Henrik Zetterberg (960) (dec23)
21. What do you think of Acciari-ander Noel-vechkin? I kicked around a bunch of ideas incorporating that name, but that was the best I could do. Six goals last year, had a career high of 10 and he’s 28 years old…suddenly gets seven goals in three games (now has 12 in 34 GP). That probably helped a total of zero hockey pools, and it’s a shame. As Ian Gooding said last Sunday, Noel Acciari is playing with Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck and the Panthers have caught lightning in a bottle there. And I’m all in. Of course it’s unsustainable, but I’ll take it while I can get it.
Perhaps Acciari can be another Chris Clark. Remember him? A solid and proven 20- or 25-point player for the Capitals and a career checking-line guy. He was put on Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin’s line midway through 2005-06 and he finished the season with 39 points. The next season, he played on that line the entire year and tallied 54 points. Injuries took away whatever he may have done after that. But I wonder if Acciari has something like that in him? In the meantime, in my one league that has waivers I made sure I won the bid on him. And I will ride it until he is off that line. (dec23)
Have a good week, folks!!