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. I wrote about Timo Meier a few weeks ago about what’s going wrong/what went wrong this year. For that reason, I won’t dig in too much further here. Just rest assured I was wildly incorrect – I assumed another step forward and that has not been the case in any regard. He’s not having a bad year, being on pace for over 25 goals, over 200 shots, and nearly 200 hits. In banger leagues, and that’s going to play well (he’s rosterable even in shallow leagues in these formats).
One reason we always beat the drum of multi-cat performers like Meier is even if they don’t have great point totals, they can still bring value to a fantasy roster. He just won’t bring top-25 value this year and now I’m concerned about his next few years, given the general direction of the franchise. (jan23)
2. The league’s hottest scorer post-Christmas was scratched last Tuesday because of an injury. Artemi Panarin missed the Rangers’ crosstown match with the Islanders because of an upper-body injury. Panarin didn’t participate in the All-Star Game, as teammate Chris Kreider was selected to replace him. The Rangers don’t play until January 31), so the Bread Man will have plenty of time to rest. Since December 27, he has been the league’s top point-getter with 23 points (6g-17a) in just 11 games.
Panarin’s injury meant that Pavel Buchnevich was elevated to the top line and first-unit power play during that Tuesday matchup. He made the most of the opportunity, scoring a power-play goal while firing six shots on goal in 24 minutes of ice time – a jump of over eight minutes from his previous game. If Panarin’s injury is more than a short-term thing, then Buchnevich might be worth an add. (jan22)
3. Take this for what it’s worth, but Darcy Kuemper has been removed from IR, according to the NHL’s official media site. This is in line with the original projection for his injury, so to the best of my knowledge, fantasy owners should prepare to have him back this upcoming week.
Kuemper’s injury meant a golden opportunity was handed to Antti Raanta, who has had a strong run with the Coyotes when he hasn’t been injured. Yet since Kuemper’s injury a month ago, Raanta hasn’t been able to make a case for more starts once Kuemper returns, stumbling with a 4-5-0 record with a 3.30 GAA and .900 SV% over the past month. Raanta has even battled a brief injury of his own, which gave third-stringer Adin Hill a run of starts this month.
I projected about a 60/40 split in favor of Kuemper once he returns. However, I’d adjust that to at least a 2:1 split for Kuemper once he returns, and might even be willing to round that up to 70/30. Kuemper was making a serious push for the Vezina Trophy before his injury, and he could still even be in the running once all is said and done (he was listed as a midseason finalist from the PHWA). In fact, I think Raanta is trending toward being a backup because of his injury history and recent struggles, but a strong one at that.
The Coyotes have fallen out of first place in the Pacific Division to a Western Conference wild card spot. So, in order to get back to their bread and butter of a stout defensive system, expect them to lean heavily on Kuemper as they attempt to secure a playoff spot down the stretch. (jan24)
4. Reader question: I've had John Gibson as my third goalie behind Elvis Merzlikins and Jacob Markstrom, but now with Darcy Kuemper off IR I'm going to have to make room. Is it crazy to just drop Gibson? His team stinks and while his peripherals are solid, I just can't see keeping him. For this season, he's the fourth best goalie out of this bunch.
This is not a crazy question at all. In fact, I own Gibson in two leagues, and I’ll admit that the thought has creeped into my head as well. Gibson is strong from an analytics point of view, as he is one of seven goalies who has saved 0.2 goals above expected per game or more over the past three seasons. However, the Ducks mired at the bottom of the Pacific with their two California rivals, and there isn’t much to suggest they will turn it around. In fact, they may find themselves to be sellers at the deadline. Wins will continue to be difficult to come by, and Gibson is already struggling in that category (tied for 24th with 14 wins).
Analytics can help fantasy owners discover trends and hidden information to improve decision making. However, there’s a point where you would need to separate the analytics that prove how skilled a goalie Gibson is with what your fantasy team needs are. We’re learning more and more about how much a team’s success or failure plays a significant role in that of a goalie. In other words, the Ducks’ lack of success is setting Gibson up for failure on your fantasy team.
As for your individual decision, I’d wait until I see Kuemper in game action or at least some sort of confirmation of that before cutting Gibson loose. I would first consider putting Gibson on your trade block or sending trade offers in case another owner still overvalues him. Once Kuemper returns, I don’t think I would start Gibson over any of your other three options when you have to choose. (jan25)
Whether you hold onto Hintz ultimately depends on how many players you’re allowed to keep, who those other keepers are, and your league settings. For example, if you’re in a keep 4 format in a 12-team league (like I am), you should pass. If you’re in a much deeper league with unlimited keepers, then I would consider it.
What happens with him the rest of the season might factor into your decision. A fast start (nine goals in his first 15 games) didn’t appear sustainable. Even after slowing down (six goals and 14 points in 26 games), his shooting percentages (8.5% 5-on-5 and 19.0% overall) are still fairly high. Based on that, don’t expect another explosion similar to what happened in October. So, to the statement on whether his hot start was just a flash in the pan, it probably was, although there’s still some room for the second-year forward to grow on his current 44-point pace (calculated based on games missed and assuming he plays every remaining game). (jan25)
6. If Matt Dumba was shooting his three-year average of 9.3 percent rather than his paltry 2.5 percent, he’d have 11 goals. In fact, if all he was doing was shooting his three-year average and no other numbers changed, this would be his 82-game paces this year: 18 goals, 18 assists, 202 shots, 113 blocks, and 122 hits. That is awfully close to what my expectations were from him this year.
I still think Dumba can be an excellent fantasy asset. He just can’t shoot under three percent; very few defensemen can and still be wildly valuable. Maybe now would be the time to see if he can be had for cheap, be it for the balance of this year or loading a keeper/dynasty for next year.
7. Ryan O’Reilly had back-to-back seasons with at least 230 shots on goal and doesn’t have a season with fewer than 170 shots in at least 72 games played since he was a teenager. This year, he’s on pace for 139 shots. In fact, his shots/60 minutes at 5-on-5 (4.43) is nearly half of what it was last year (8.31).
It’s something pervading the entire team. With Vladimir Tarasenko injured, the team leader for shot attempts per 60 minutes is Oskar Sundqvist, and out of 240 forwards with at least 500 minutes played, he’s 92nd, and no other Blues forward is inside the top-110. This team isn’t shooting at all, posting the third-lowest shot rate in the league, just ahead of Detroit and Buffalo. Last year in the second half of the season, they were 13th in shot rate. Even up to when Tarasenko was injured, the team was only 26th in shot rate this year. Everyone is shooting less, and it’s hard not to think it’s related to coaching. Just something to keep in mind for next year. (jan23)
8. There are a number of factors that suggest Joonas Donskoi won’t be as productive once he returns. For one, Donskoi’s overall ice time was nearly three minutes higher and power-play ice time was over a minute higher when Mikko Rantanen was out of the lineup and Donskoi was playing alongside Nathan MacKinnon. Rantanen is back in the lineup, which will push Donskoi back down the lineup. Not surprisingly, Donskoi’s hot stretch (19 points in 15 games from November 7 to December 9) lines up closely to the time that Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog were out of the lineup.
As well, Donskoi’s advanced stats (16.7 SH%, 11.4 5-on-5 SH%, 1051 PDO) suggest that a regression is on the way. Add it all up and you probably shouldn’t expect any significant point-per-game stretch from Donskoi in the second half, unless the forward lines and power-play units are somehow organized directly to his advantage. (jan26)
9. With Morgan Rielly expected to be out of the lineup until March, is Rasmus Sandin a legitimate fantasy option in all leagues? You could certainly make an argument that the 19 year old is worth taking a flier on (just 20 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues), especially with defensemen that are not much older such as 20-year-old Quinn Hughes and 21-year-old Cale Makar not only in the lineup, but also making a significant impact.
If Sandin is going to be that midseason addition that gives your blueline an extra boost, he’ll need to contribute on the power play. He has been deployed on the second-unit power play over the last three games with no power-play time before that. He doesn’t seem likely to unseat Tyson Barrie on the first-unit power play, so those power-play points won’t necessarily come easily. That’s not the same prime opportunity that Makar and Hughes were given straight away, so that’s going to be a lot to ask for. Still, blueliners with 8/10 upside on Dobber Prospects (which amounts to 55-point upside) are worth taking a flier on in single-season leagues if you have the roster space. (jan26)
10. When I was looking at potential streaming options last week, I had considered Justin Williams, yet I was concerned that he’d need a bit of time to become reacclimated to the NHL pace. Williams didn’t seem to have any issues with that last Tuesday, scoring two goals while firing five shots on goal in the Hurricanes’ 4-1 win. Williams played just 11:45, but that included over four minutes of power-play time on a unit with the big guns (Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen).
The now-38-year-old Williams might still need time to get back in the swing of things, but he’s coming off back-to-back 50-point seasons with the Hurricanes. He’s just 5% owned in Yahoo leagues, so he’s a viable option for deeper leagues. (jan22)
11. Speaking of Teravainen, he now has seven points (2g-5a) over his past six games. As well, he also leads the Canes in scoring as a near-point-per-game option (48 points in 50 games). Imagine trading a player like that just so that another team will agree to take on your team’s ugly contract. Sorry, Chicago. (jan22)
12. You may not have wanted any part of Erik Gustafsson when he was in his early-season slump (just four points in his first 16 games). Yet as the Blackhawks have been lighting the lamp recently (at least three goals in each of their last six games), Gustafsson has been finding his way onto the statsheet again. With two assists on Tuesday, Gustafsson has posted two points in each of his last three games.
If you’re looking for Gustafsson on the first-unit power play, though, that’s not happening. Currently Adam Boqvist has been given that responsibility, yet with no points in seven games he hasn’t been able to make anything happen. Boqvist is no doubt being groomed for the role, but Jeremy Colliton might have no choice but to give it back to Gustafsson if Boqvist’s slump continues. (jan22)
13. If you read your Midseason Guide, you would have noticed that Frank Vatrano was mentioned as a potential second-half riser. At the time of writing, his 5-on-5 shooting percentage sat at 5.3%, which was “dreadfully low.” Well, that shooting percentage has corrected itself in a big way. With a hat trick last Tuesday, Vatrano now has five goals and nine points with a plus-6 over his past five games. That 5-on-5 shooting percentage is now 6.5%, which is more in line with his career average.
Vatrano is not getting huge minutes and probably won’t see the first-unit power play on a stacked Florida scoring attack. Yet, he’s holding a hot stick and could be a sleeper in deeper formats down the stretch. He was 24% owned in Yahoo leagues last week, which might be higher than normal because Florida is not on its bye week yet. I added him as a streamer and am considering holding on to him even while his team is on bye week. (jan22)
14. I didn’t have high expectations when I added Brian Elliott in one of my leagues when Carter Hart went on the shelf, but since then, he has won all three of his starts, allowing just four goals with a .954 save percentage.
Elliott has thrived when he’s been the backup or in a timeshare, but he hasn’t succeeded when he’s been elevated to a starter’s role. He could cut into Hart’s workload when the latter returns (in a week, or so), but it’s better to assume that Elliott will be a short-term option than one that will carry the mail for the rest of the season. (jan22)
15. He’ll never reach the lofty totals of his days riding shotgun with John Tavares, but Josh Bailey (11-19-30 in 49 GP) has been producing reasonably well recently. Bailey has seven points (3g-4a) over his last seven games. (jan22)
16. Anders Bjork was never expected to be an impact player at the NHL level, which is why he was a fifth-round pick in 2014, but he did have a good college career and has put up solid production rates in small AHL samples. Bjork’s issue is that he's not a shooter. In fact, his shot attempt rate this year is lower than his rookie year, and his rookie year (11.51/60 minutes) was below the league average (12.87). Maybe he can help their depth woes by setting up Jake DeBrusk or David Krejci, but he won’t be scoring a lot of goals himself, barring a high shooting percentage.
All the same, in hits leagues, with some more ice time, Bjork can put up maybe a hit per game with some assists, if all goes right. He won’t have much value outside of deeper leagues, though, especially considering how often Boston’s middle-six lines change. (jan21)
17. Watching the Golden Knights last week, it stood out to me just how good Jonathan Marchessault is. I know, hot take and all, but what I noticed is that it seems Marchessault does something positive for his team every shift. Maybe something unexpected, even. Whether it’s digging out a puck on the boards, batting a pass out of mid-air, or a backcheck to break up an opportunity, it seems like he manages to contribute something to his squad every time he hits the ice. There’s no floating or half-inspired backcheck efforts. I’m not foolish enough to think he plays at 100 percent speed every shift, but he seems to pick his moments to have an impact. It’s impressive.
Anyway, that got me looking up some of his stats this year and here’s something that stuck out to me: he was second among all players in the league (minimum 50 minutes at 5-on-4) in shot rate on the power play behind teammate Max Pacioretty. Despite that shot rate, Marchessault had just three PP goals on the year because he was shooting 5.41 percent. Now, we certainly wouldn’t expect a guy who can score 25-30 goals a year playing 17-18 minutes a night to shoot five percent on the power play, and that probably improves over the balance of the season. On the other hand, he shot just 9.1 percent last year with the man advantage, and 7.58 percent the year before. So, yeah, 5.4 percent is low for him – it’s low for any forward on the power play – but this is now his third straight season of a sub-10 percent PP shooting percentage.
All this is to say Marchessault is a very good fantasy asset, especially in leagues counting hits, but he’s still not reaching his potential. If anything can happen to unlock his PP production, he could threaten double-digit PP goals and really take that next step. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t, but the potential is there. (jan21)
18. Patrick Kane picked up his 1000th career point midway through the third period of his 953rd game. He became the youngest US player to reach 1000 points (nearly a full year younger than Jeremy Roenick was when he did it). The only active player to reach that milestone at a younger age than Kane’s 31 years and 61 days is Sidney Crosby (29 years, 193 days). Kane also now has a 10-game points streak and it’s the seventh time in his career that he’s done that.
19. And don’t look now, but the Blackhawks are suddenly in the playoff hunt. They’ve won five of their last six and they have a Vezina candidate in Robin Lehner between the pipes. They also have the Cup-winning core still together, and now it seems they have a soon-to-be 35-goal scorer?
Dominik Kubalik needs 14 goals in 33 games to hit 35 on the season. His rookie season. If a player scores 35 goals as a rookie, his ticket is punched. It means he’ll get all the ice time and prime linemates in the world next season, setting him up to avoid a sophomore slump. (jan20)
20. Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo are both third-round draft picks and both 25 years old. Contracts are similar. Elvis has a career 0.926 SV% (21 games), while Korpisalo is at 0.908 SV% (122 career games), or 0.913 in 32 games this season. Any way you slice it, Merzlikins has been the better guy with the brighter future. The Blue Jackets will put all their eggs in that basket now. Coach John Tortorella is a good guy, so I’m sure he’ll employ the “you shouldn’t lose your job just for getting hurt, when you were doing your job well” philosophy. So, when Korpi gets back, I’m sure he’ll get the start and the two will rotate until a winner emerges. But we all know that winner will be Elvis. (jan20)
Have a good week, folks!!