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. Does Jonathan Huberdeau have as much fantasy trade value as Jack Eichel and Nathan MacKinnon? Hell no. Should he? I’m starting to think he should. This isn’t just a hot streak, the guy has been elite for five quarters now. He has 133 points in his last 106 games. MacKinnon has 134 in his last 105. You tell me. (dec30)
2. In his first three games in the NHL this season, Kailer Yamamoto has been placed on a line with Leon Draisaitl, so he’s being given real opportunity as opposed to being buried on a checking line and expected to make something out of nothing. So far it has worked for Yamamoto, who has scored a goal and an assist over those three games. Keep in mind that he’s no longer considered a rookie, given his 26 games over the last two seasons.
Size (5-8, 158) is a concern in terms of handling everyday life in the NHL, but smaller players are in an easier work environment now than they have been in the last 20-30 years. It’s not as though the Oilers are overflowing with talented scorers, so I’m going to say that the chances that Yamamoto stays with the Oil for good are better than 50-50. Not 100 percent (nothing ever is), but since only Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and perhaps Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have a higher upside, I like his chances. (jan4)
3. Signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a one-year, two-way league minimum contract is a potential low-risk, high-reward signing, as Montreal has numerous injuries in its forward group including Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, and Paul Byron. Consider this a tryout for the 36-year-old veteran looking to cling onto his NHL career, where he won’t have a ton of time to acclimatize himself to the Montreal system. If he can produce before the Habs become healthy, he’ll stick around for the rest of the season. If not, then it’s off to the AHL and probably curtains for his NHL career.
Kovalchuk got off to a great start with the Kings last season with 14 points in his first 14 games. Then John Stevens was fired and replaced by Willie Desjardins. Kovalchuk could not make it work under either Desjardins or this season’s coach, Todd McLellan, and simply wasn’t a fit on the slow, rebuilding Kings. Even though there’s a chance he may find new life on the Canadiens with potential power-play usage, I would not use a roster spot on him unless you play in a very deep league in which you’re trying to replace someone like Byron or even Armia as opposed to someone like Drouin or Gallagher. (jan4)
4. I guess everyone starts fading away eventually, but I really thought Brent Burns would be an elite fantasy option for a few more years; there was a reason I had him ranked inside my top-5 this season. I know that the Sharks lost some talent, especially in Joe Pavelski, but that this team has gone from Cup contender to potential lottery team mirrors the decline in Burns’ game.
The thing is, it’s not really that bad of a season for most any fantasy hockey defenseman. At the least, he’s on pace for over 10 goals, over 50 points, over 200 shots, over 100 blocks, and some 20 PPPs. That’s something that very few defensemen will produce every year, but that’s certainly a downturn for Burns.
What’s curious about all this is that I’m not sure how much is related to Burns. It’s likely just a confluence of a bunch of guys being in their decline, plus the loss of Pavelski, that is the issue here. It really does seem like none of their defensemen can pass anymore, but it’s naturally more involved than that. What I do know is that until this team gets some influx of talent, there’s about six good players on this roster and most of them are over 30 years old. It seems the future for Burns is more 50-point seasons rather than 70-point seasons. (jan2)
5. J.T. Miller has now reached 40 points in 42 games. Even if the Canucks give the Lightning an unprotected lottery pick, the results that Miller has provided have been what the Canucks had to assume was the best-case scenario. Lining him up with Elias Pettersson (3 points on Thursday) and Brock Boeser has given the Canucks one of the league’s top scoring lines and a top-5 power play. (jan3)
6. David Pastrnak is the league’s first 30-goal scorer this season. He’s also the third player to reach 60 points (after Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl). I should also mention that Pasta has a 10-game point streak in which he has scored 15 points (5g-10a). He’s also the league leader with 15 power-play goals. Since he’s one game over the halfway point of the season, Pasta is knocking on the door on not just a 50-goal season, but a 60-goal campaign. (jan3)
7. Maybe this one is more my own personal bias than it is for others, but I was really concerned about the apparent co-dependence between Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. As someone who was a MacKinnon owner in a keeper league, I was nervous that one player needed the other to succeed. Sort of like how Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid need each other (even if McDavid is much less dependent than Drai).
Well, as we saw in that MacKinnon performance when both Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog were out of the lineup, it certainly isn’t a co-dependence situation. At the very least, we now know that MacKinnon can do the heavy lifting no matter the surrounding talent, which is a nice cushion to have. (jan2)
8. Whether Sergei Bobrovsky’s woes are mainly due to his own poor play or the Panthers’ defensive issues (or Columbus’ stronger defense) is up for debate. Either way, the second-half turnaround that you thought you could set your watch to has been delayed, and fantasy owners are continuing to watch a high draft pick cost their team valuable points. This might serve as a cautionary tale on not using a high pick on a goalie, given the volatility of the position right now. Benching him might continue to be your best option, as I don’t recommend selling low on a player. Bob was a winner for fantasy teams in February and March last season, so you’ve at least got that to lean on if you can be patient for a little longer. (jan5)
9. The Sens have been the laughing stock of the league for the back-half of the decade. And they're bad right now. But they could quickly start to turn things around. Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk are already core pieces. They'll add two top-10 selections this year that should be infused into their lineup within two seasons. The turnaround is coming. As long as they can find a real netminder. (jan1)
10. Jake Guentzel’s season is all but kaputz. Shoulder surgery and out for the next 4-6 months. The 25-year-old was doing what he does – making and finishing plays. After popping 40 goals a season ago, Guentzel was on pace to match that mark and push for 90-points. He's been the 12th most productive forward this calendar year. It’s a damn shame. (jan1)
11. I thought it’d be worth going back to some bold preseason predictions of mine and see where they stand. Remember, these are bold predictions. These are not predicting Connor McDavid leads the league in points:
Timo Meier will score 40 goals:
Well, it’s not impossible that he gets there, he just needs a David Pastrnak-type streak. So, yeah, it’s very unlikely he gets there. What a mess the Sharks are this year. Age-related decline is always a factor but it’s as if every defenseman not named Erik Karlsson forgot how to play hockey. Regardless, Meier was a guy I was higher on than most people and I’m going to take a giant ‘L’ on that one. (dec31)
12. Shea Theodore breaks 50 points:
Right now, Theodore is on pace for 46 points, and that’s following a start that saw him put up five points in 14 October games. There’s a lot more here to give, so I’m not giving up on Theodore. One thing that has surprised me is the lack of ice time for Theodore. I mean, it’s a career-high of 21:29, but he’s being given second-pair minutes and there’s a good argument he’s their best defenseman. (dec31)
13. Jordan Kyrou outscores Robert Thomas:
I wonder what this would have looked like if Kyrou was called up a few weeks into the season rather than a few months. If everything breaks right, this could still happen this year. However, the team has seemingly pushed Kyrou down the lineup of late and, for a young player, that could mean a demotion back to the AHL soon. It’s weird because I’ve made a point to watch as much of him as I can since his call up and at the very least, his line has played very well, and he helps add a much-needed speed dynamic.
It’s a team that preaches defense-first and his trio has put up very good defensive numbers, both by traditional metrics and just plus-minus of goals. So, Kyrou being pushed down the lineup made little sense to me. Alas, not much about this world does. For more bold preseason predictions by Michael Clifford, follow the link… (dec31)
14. So, Elvis Merzlikins looks to be the guy for the foreseeable future and to be honest I think this is his chance to finally prove himself. Consistent games is what Elvis needs. A good, consistent workload. (dec30)
15. Mackenzie Blackwood to me is not a great or even a good goaltender. But his number is called, so he’s the guy for an NHL team – and he’s been adequate. Is he the new Martin Jones? He is if he gets a head-scratcher of a massive contract. But for now, his job is not secure and if he ends the season with a lot of wins behind what I think is a pretty good team, but with a SV% that sits at 0.908, then he may be destined to become a backup.
Blackwood’s contract is up in the summer and he is an RFA. If I’m his agent I try my best to lock him at $3M for at least a couple of years. Because I think at $3M you get the team to hesitate in bringing in a top UFA, which opens the door for Blackwood to remain a starter and possibly put up better numbers, which in turn gets a huge contract in the future. If he’s signed to $2M or if he’s allowed to head into the summer without a contract, you risk the Devils signing a Robin Lehner or a Braden Holtby or a Jacob Markstrom. And then Blackwood’s fantasy value is toast. It’s a situation to watch. (dec30)
16. Nikita Gusev is figuring it out. He now has 10 points in nine games and his ice time is eking upwards. He’s still playing with the pluggers Blake Coleman and Travis Zajac, but he’s converting nonetheless. And he’s also cashing in on the PP. (dec30)
17. Jaden Schwartz is on fire. He now has 13 points in his last nine games. The last time he did anything like this was early in the 2017-18 season. He’s still trying to find that other winger to play with he and Brayden Schenn, as that’s still a work in progress. Schenn and Schwartz seem to be doing just fine with the revolving door linemate. Vladimir Tarasenko is usually the other guy, but as you know he is out for the season. (dec30)
18. An injury to Alexis Lafreniere would not have knocked him out of the first overall selection this summer. Kudos to the talking heads for the NHL and the networks for floating the idea. But an NHL GM would be crazy to overlook him. You see this every year:
“Taylor vs. Tyler.” Um, no. Taylor.
“Ovechkin is a generational player, but this other Russian Malkin is also going to be generational and you could see him actually going first overall instead.” Nope.
It’s a time-honored tradition. Casting doubt on the top overall pick when it’s been established a full year before the draft even happens. And while I appreciate the attempt at fake drama, it never works. The only time there is any drama with those top two picks is when those top two picks are up in the air from the very beginning, such as with Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.
Alexis Lafreniere. Period. (dec30)
19. Trevor Zegras made a name for himself at the WJC. There have been spinning backhanders, deep sauce and nifty shifties. Zegras was the ninth overall pick last June to Anaheim and is a sublime playmaker – arguably the best in the 2019 class. He's posted a point-per-game as a freshman so far this year in the NCAA. The kid is serious. (jan1)
20. Nils Hoglander, the Canucks’ 40th overall selection from 2019 has been good in the SHL this season and has stolen many of the clips this holiday season at the WJC. He’s been clear that he wants to cross the pond and make the Canucks next season. An ambitious goal but one that could be doable. I’m thinking more like 2021-22 but we’re talking about a player who should firmly be on your keeper league radar. (jan1)
21. Having watched Germany, I just wanted to drop in and say that Tim Stützle is up there for the most impressive players I’ve watched this World Junior tournament. His ability to maneuver in and out of traffic consistently is something that will translate well to the next level. What I worry about is that he’s a guy that seems to love having the puck on his stick a bit too much. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, I just want him to know he doesn’t have to do all the work all the time. Regardless, it’s easy to see why scouts are falling in love with the kid’s skill set. (dec31)
Have a good week, folks!!