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. Tristan Jarry, everyone’s favorite backup-stealing-starter-job guy this year, definitely makes Matt Murray expendable. With Murray’s contract up this summer, it will be interesting. They could sign him to a backup’s contract and easily roll with Jarry – who also has a contract up this summer. Oh boy this could get interesting. If the Pens end up keeping both goalies (which would be odd, with Casey DeSmith also signed but I digress), how the contracts land will determine your starter for next year. And knowing the NHL – and I think I do – these two get David Rittich/Cam Talbot contracts, but higher. You can’t ignore Jarry’s season, but you also can’t ignore two Stanley Cups. (jan13)
2. Tony DeAngelo now has 37 points in just 46 games. Only five defensemen currently have more points, which isn’t something we expected entering the season. It seems as though these offensive-minded d-men who need to work on their defensive game can either bust out like DeAngelo has, or they can end up like Derrick Pouliot, who is now racking up points in the AHL.
In DeAngelo’s case, he has made the most of his opportunity, as only John Carlson has a higher points/60 than DeAngelo (2.6). That high points/60, along with a high shooting percentage and IPP, might suggest a sell high, which you could consider if you could consider if you’d like to add a more established name in a single-season league. (jan17)
3. The biggest hurdle in maximizing the defensive assets that are occurring in Colorado is that… they’re all so damn good. There simply won’t be enough prime ice to go around for Cale Makar, Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram (when he arrives next year). Either one of them will lock it down and the other two will fight for the scraps. Or, we see a rotation that leads to streaky production for all.
I’d do a lot to own any of the three in different circumstances, but when they all suit up for the same squad it throws more wrinkles than can be ironed out. (jan15)
4. We’re already starting to see the transition as Adam Boqvist has started to eat more power-play minutes in Chicago as the season has worn on, but with Brent Seabrook out for up to two years, Duncan Keith not being the guy he was in 2013, and Henri Jokiharju traded, there aren’t many impediments remaining to Boqvist being the full-time, go-to guy on the top PP unit.
As with all things, it’s a function of how well the top PP unit can perform. With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane still producing, and the next wave in Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach already contributing, there are still pieces there for a great top PP unit. There might not be much else on the roster, but that doesn’t really matter for our purposes.
It’s still far too early to make a determination on Boqvist’s career but the early returns are promising. There are glimpses of the puck-mover everyone hopes he can be. There is also a lack of options for Chicago to turn to. I imagine he’ll come expensive in dynasty trades, though. (jan14)
5. One Hawk that’s been lighting it up is rookie Dominik Kubalik, who now leads all rookies with 20 goals. With two goals and an assist on Saturday, Kubalik now has nine goals over his last seven games, including multiple goals in three of his last four games, and 18 points over his last 14 games. Kubalik has spent considerable time with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, clearly benefiting from the opportunity. The 24-year-old should be considered at least a dark horse for the Calder Trophy. (jan19)
6. Elvis continues to add to his legend. Elvis Merzlikins had to work for his third shutout in four games, stopping 41 New Jersey shots on Saturday. Merzlikins took over from the injured Joonas Korpisalo on December 31. Since then, Elvis has posted an 8-2-0 record with a 1.51 GAA and .955 SV%. Simply outstanding.
In fact, Elvis’ play has been so impressive that we might have to rethink Korpisalo getting the net back when he returns from injury. Without suggesting that the Blue Jackets are going to win the Stanley Cup, could Merzlikins have a Jordan Binnington-like run in him? Or at least an Andrew Hammond-like run from 2015? Korpisalo should receive at least a few starts once he returns from injury, so don't expect Elvis to start every game like the others I mentioned seemed to. (jan19)
The more this goes on, the more I think the Capitals let Holtby walk in free agency. Some team will salivate about having a former Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winner and offer him the earth, moon, and stars – maybe not a contract like the big three of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Sergei Bobrovsky, or Carey Price, but one that will be regrettable later. Not just because it’s free agency, but because goalies are so volatile. (jan18)
So, is he due for a regression? Unfortunately for Rust owners, many of the advanced stats say so. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage currently sits at 12.4%, significantly higher than the 6-8% throughout his career. His overall shooting percentage, points/60, and PDO are also higher than normal. If you’re about to say “yeah, but he has better linemates than last season”, keep in mind that his most frequent linemates last season by far were Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Rust has significantly more power-play time than last season, with the power-play time yielding 12 of his 42 points.
Keep running with Rust while he’s hot, but don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade for a more established option. A quick search on one-for-one deals on Yahoo shows Rust being traded for multicategory studs like Max Pacioretty and Tom Wilson, as well as the now-injured William Karlsson, just to give you a ballpark figure on what a possible return would be. (jan18)
9. You might have already been preparing for the worst with Dougie Hamilton, yet the news is still difficult to hear anyway. Hamilton underwent surgery for a broken left fibula on Friday and will be out indefinitely. Based on what I’ve read about broken fibulas, the timeline for recovery could be anywhere from several weeks to what would amount to be the rest of the regular season. If you want a best case-scenario, Jason Zucker only missed about a month with a fractured fibula, as he recently returned to the Wild lineup.
As far as how things went for the Hurricanes in their first full game without Hamilton, it was Jaccob Slavin, and not Jake Gardiner as I had predicted, who took on the first-unit power-play minutes on the blue line. This might seem a bit out of nowhere, as Slavin had averaged a meager 11 seconds per game of power-play time this season. And he’s now suddenly on the first unit? Huh.
Slavin will also replace Hamilton at the All-Star Game. Despite the low prior power-play time and zero power-play points as a result, Slavin has a plus-minus almost as high as Hamilton’s to go with a decent shot total and a team-leading total in blocked shots. Add the power-play time in and he could be a decent fantasy contributor if he can stick around on the first unit. (jan18)
10. Ilya Kovalchuk has probably found himself a home in Montreal for the rest of the season, scoring eight points in eight games. This after nine points in 17 games with the Kings. In addition, he’s averaging nearly 20 minutes per game in Montreal, over four minutes higher than in LA. Montreal still has a way to go to get back into a playoff spot, so there’s a possibility that he could be a trade chip should the Habs decide to bail. If not, he at least seems to be enjoying life in Montreal, so he could at least provide some positive vibes in Montreal down the stretch. (jan17)
11. I'm not sure what Jonathan Huberdeau needs to do to be recognized as one of the truly elite players in the game today, but whatever it is, he hasn't found it yet. All he's done is been one of the most consistent point improvers of the last half-decade. Breaking 90 last season. On pace for 111 this year. Take notice, world. (jan15)
12. Brock Boeser is another guy who should receive more love than he does. When he burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2017-18, the world fell fast and furious at his feet. The finish. The flash. The flow. He was must-see-tv wherever the Canucks went. He was a rookie All-Star and Calder finalist.
Since then, and in subsequent seasons, the Canucks have added an all-world talent, two-time All-Star, and Calder winner in Elias Pettersson. And now another rookie All-Star and likely Calder finalist in Quinn Hughes. Somehow this has led to Boeser falling down fantasy respectability charts. Yet, all the 22-year-old has done is improve and produce. This year, the right-winger is on pace for 27 goals and 72 points. That's with his personal and even-strength shooting percentage appearing to be down a titch or two. And I also can't shake the notion that the Canucks, despite having one of the most lethal power-plays in the league, have yet to truly unlock he and Pettersson on opposite wings. When they do, watch out.
This is just a friendly reminder that Boeser should be viewed as a player capable of living in the 75-90 point range in each of the next six or seven seasons. The deployment and situation are as good as it can get. He's shown continual progression and the best is yet to come. (jan15)
13. Rasmus Dahlin is a bad man. The kid is just 19 years of age and pulling the rug out like a grizzled vet. I'll reiterate, Dahlin is pacing at a clip we haven't seen from a U20 defender in the last 36 years. He's just barely scratching the surface.
I was recently asked who I would choose in a dynasty between Dahlin and Quinn Hughes. It was a cruel question because I love them both so much. But my gut leans Dahlin by a hair. I like Hughes's position in Vancouver a touch more, and I expect Dahlin will become leaned on a bit more in all situations, but still, the Swede has damn near generational-type abilities. (jan15)
14. Fantasy hockey owners had to start saying goodbye to Esa Lindell’s production as John Klingberg returned to action this week. Lindell always seems to do an admirable job when Klingberg is out, this time putting up six assists in the four games the latter was out. He’ll never be a real high-end point-getter though and we know that. The Stars rely too heavily on him on the PK and defensive zone. And he’ll always have Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen ahead of him. Thomas Harley won’t be far behind either. (jan15)
15. We’ll call a spade a spade and dub Nicklas Backstrom’s new contract as a ‘payment-for-past-performances’ deal. Backstrom was on a tremendously team-friendly deal that paid him just 6.7 for the past 10 seasons.
However, I really like the Swedish centre and see his game ageing well. His approach is predicated on sky-high intelligence and patience with the puck. The typical skills that break down with age – speed and physicality, won’t impact his style as much as it would to, say, a power winger. Sure, the Caps will be eating some production in the latter years, but I like Backstrom to continue to be at or near a point-per-game for the next few seasons. Cap leagues justifiably hate this deal and I can dig that. (jan15)
16. After a two-month absence at the hands of a sports hernia injury, Sidney Crosby returned to action last Tuesday evening against the Wild. The Pens' captain officially took the reins back from Evgeni Malkin, who was unconscious during that spell. As he always is when Crosby is out with injury.
Pittsburgh led the league with an 18-6-4 record while Sid was on the shelf. And they can thank Geno for most of that success. Here’s hoping Malkin doesn’t just fall back to ‘earth’ aka a point-per-game pace rather than the 120 clip he was rolling at. Check out Malkin’s last two months with Crosby on the shelf:
• 26 games played
• 11 goals
• 27 assists
• 91 hots on goal
• Pittsburgh led the league with 42 points over that span.
The 101st best player of all-time, ladies and gentlemen! (jan15)
17. This one is a bit more out there, I’ll fully admit. I also suspect that this is also a longer-term project, looking three or four years down the road. With that said, I do believe that Mikhail Sergachev is the heir apparent to Victor Hedman on the top PP unit and what’s more, I think he takes that role from him in the next few years.
It basically breaks down like this: Hedman is excellent at what he does but I think Sergachev will be better. I know, that’s very high praise considering Hedman is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, but I do believe Sergachev will be that good, at least offensively. In fact, over his first couple seasons, he posted zone exit and entry rates comparable to Hedman, and remember that Sergachev did that as a 19- and 20-year old. It feels like he’s been around forever, but he doesn’t turn 22 years old until June. How good of an offensive defenceman is he going to be when he’s 25 or 26? And Hedman is in his age-29 season now; it’s a wonder how effective he’ll be at 32 or 33.
All told, I think Sergachev is one of the better players to own in dynasty right now. At the least, he’s proven he can be a 40-point defenceman even if all he gets is 17-19 minutes a night (and Tampa Bay stays a high-scoring team, which, given how often they find extremely talented forwards, is not as much a concern as it is with other teams). If Hedman maintains is role for the next six seasons, at worst, Sergachev could still be a top-25 fantasy defenceman. If Hedman doesn’t, Sergachev could be an elite option three or four years down the road. That’s a perfect storm of floor and upside. (jan14)
18. The Red Wings had been using Dennis Cholowski a lot on the power play, both last year and this year, but he seems to have fallen out of favour and is now in the minors. The top PP distinction is now going to Filip Hronek, and he’s the guy I would target. I’m a Cholowski fan but he hasn’t been able to take the next step in his development, and I’ll always bet on the guy with the inside track. Hronek might be expensive to acquire in a trade, though, given the season he’s having. (jan14)
19. Taken individually, I don’t think Ray Shero did a bad job in New Jersey. Nikita Gusev was and is a fine acquisition. He stole Taylor Hall from Edmonton. Acquiring Kyle Palmieri was great. I think he did fine in Hall’s trade to Arizona. Did anyone know that P.K. Subban had faltered so badly? And should he have drafted different players besides Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier? So far I’m just seeing criticism of…drafting Pavel Zacha sixth overall as his big bungle (when Shero was just a couple months into the job)? I guess in the end he failed to resolve goaltending (yeah get in line) and overall his draft record has been weak. But I think this team just needed one more year. Watch it take off now and the new GM will get all the credit. Happens all the time. (jan13)
20. He’s back. Sometimes injuries take longer than others to recover from, but Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 14 games. And with him now rolling, the domino effect up and down the lineup will be impactful. Mike Hoffman (eight-game points streak), Brett Connolly (four points in six games) and Frank Vatrano (five points in his last three games) are among the many forwards benefitting from the “return” of a true top second-line center. (jan13)
21. The acquisition of Michael Frolik coupled with the stronger-than-expected play of Curtis Lazar allowed the Sabres to scratch Jimmy Vesey early last week. Vesey has fallen from grace in just half a season, after beginning his Buffalo career as Jack Eichel’s linemate. Frankly, I think they should have kept him away from Eichel until he’s had 20 regular-season games under his belt, let him get comfortable, and then give it a go. Anyway, Frolik’s presence has given the Sabres much better depth and it’s really helped in all aspects. (jan13)
Have a good week, folks!!