21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
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. The loss of Jake Guentzel is big, even if it hasn’t shown in Pittsburgh’s team results yet. This is a franchise that hasn’t been scared to make big moves in the past as they head into the final month of the season, and that they’re without their top winger for the remainder of this campaign should only thrust them into action.
To me, the obvious move here is to go acquire Tyler Toffoli. I imagine the asking price is high for him with Taylor Hall off the market, so it’s a matter of what Pittsburgh is to pay for him. Looking back to scoring wingers in previous seasons moved at the deadline – Mats Zuccarello and Gustav Nyquist – neither commanded a top prospect and neither commanded a direct first rounder (there were conditions that could turn a second into a first). If that was the case for those two, I can’t imagine Toffoli, who has 27 goals and 63 points in his last 134 games, commands more than Zuccarello or Nyquist, which would price him into Pittsburgh’s range.
Regardless, now is the time to acquire Toffoli. We know he’s almost assured to be moved and it’ll be toward a much better situation than the one he’s currently enduring. (jan28)
2. Jakub Vrana’s breakout season continues. He now has 23 goals and 44 points in 52 games on the season, and he’s doing that largely without top PP minutes while playing under 15 minutes a night. He’s a special player, and he’ll be a perennial All-Star now. (jan28)
3. Not everyone on the Lightning has been scoring recently. Yanni Gourde is now 10 games and counting without a point. He’s only been receiving 11-13 minutes per game over his last three games. Gourde’s point totals have slid from 64 to 48 to on pace for 30 this season. A Lightning player’s fortunes can turn around quickly with the right linemates, but Gourde isn’t doing himself any favors. (feb1)
4. Entering Sunday action, Alex Ovechkin was 200 goals from Wayne Gretzky's record. He’s on quite a pace, but that’s still a ton of ground to make up. I’ll give Ovechkin this: He’s played in a much tougher era. Watching some game highlights from the 1980s recently, I’m amazed that the small standup goalies of that era didn’t allow 10 goals every game.
Ovie continues to be a SOG machine, leading the league again with 240 shots and with 37 goals is also in a race with David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews for the league lead in goals. Age might push him down the keeper rankings, yet in single-season roto leagues the 34-year-old is playing as well as anyone right now – $9.5 million per season for 13 seasons seems like a recipe for disaster, but for Ovechkin it’s actually been a bargain. (feb1)
5. Spending considerable time on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, Alex Iafallo has received at least 20 minutes in three consecutive games and in five of his last nine. The Kings are near the bottom of the league in terms of offense, yet Iafallo (4% owned in Yahoo leagues) could serve as a deeper-league add with this kind of opportunity. (jan31)
6. Although there is a one-month gap due to injury, Jeff Skinner has just one point since December 7. That’s one point in his last 12 games, with a minus-11 to boot over that span. Buffalo, you sign him to the $9 million per season eight-year contract. Then you stick him on a line that isn’t scoring, which in Buffalo is any line that doesn’t include Jack Eichel. Then you wonder why he isn’t scoring. Hmmm. Hey, at least he’s used to it, as Carolina often gave him the same treatment. (jan31)
7. Yes, five of Tanner Pearson’s 15 goals are empty-netters, which leads the league. Yet, it’s a certainty that the Pearson – Bo Horvat – Loui Eriksson line will be out there if the Canucks are protecting a lead. Sometimes you don’t ask how, you just pocket the points. Since November 12, Pearson has been just below a point per game with 33 points over his last 34 games. Pearson is only five points shy of matching his career high of 44 points set in 2016-17. (jan31)
8. Tomas Hertl is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Already well below the Western Conference playoff bar, the Sharks will have to try to survive without arguably their two top forwards, as Logan Couture is also out of the lineup. If the Sharks didn’t consider themselves trade deadline sellers before the Hertl injury, they have to be seriously considering it now.
Assuming he sticks around, the assist-heavy Joe Thornton could provide one last short-term kick at the can for fantasy owners. He and Kevin Labanc were linemates for much of the latter’s ‘breakout’ of 56 points last season, and they were back together this week, once Hertl was injured. Labanc has already seen a healthy dosage of power-play time this season. Over his last six games, he has fired 20 shots, that's more more than three per game.
I’m not considering adding Thornton in any of my leagues because of his age and reduced point totals with lack of goals at the deep center position, but for the reasons I listed above, I’d be okay with adding Labanc in a deeper format. Beyond that, am I allowed to say that I have a hunch that the Hertl injury will help Labanc, especially with all the stats out there nowadays? (jan31)
9. It’s worth noting that everyone’s ice time in Nashville is declining. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to do here, fantasy-wise. Guys like Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson obviously aren’t droppable. Then again, if Forsberg is going to play around 16:30 a game (like he has often done lately) on a team with a bad power play, is it worth holding on to him? Would it be worth going out to see what he can fetch on the trade market? If he can be traded for a comparable top-50 or top-75 winger, I would have a hard time saying no right now. It’s just really difficult to have significant fantasy value playing about 16:30 a night. (I would also say this is more for one-year leagues than keepers.)
Whether that 16:30 a night lasts is another question, too. My inclination is that new coach John Hynes continues this because he doesn’t know what else to do; there’s no real history of giving his top-end forwards a lot of minutes. This could be a brutal two months for anyone with Nashville players on their fantasy rosters. (jan30)
10. The Canadiens sent Jesperi Kotkaniemi to the AHL. In his second season, KK hasn’t been scoring with just eight points (including just two assists) in 26 games averaging 13 minutes. The Habs have been in a state of flux with various injuries to the forward lines, so a move to the AHL for development purposes can’t hurt. Kotkaniemi shouldn’t have even been an option in single-season leagues before the demotion.
11. Would now be a good time to remind Montreal fans that Kotkaniemi was drafted a few picks ahead of Quinn Hughes? I know, there’s lots of career ahead of both players, so it’s too early for an overall judgment. Still, Hughes added to his amazing rookie season on Saturday, scoring twice against the Islanders, including the overtime winner.
Those two goals moved Hughes ahead of Cale Makar as the rookie scoring leader. Because of Victor Olofsson’s injury, this rookie scoring race could be a two-horse battle between defensemen Hughes and Makar. Hughes now has two points with a plus-5 in back-to-back games, and his 38 points places him in the top 10 in overall scoring for defensemen. His presence is a major factor in why the Canucks look like a different team this season (won 14 of their last 17 games, including five consecutive wins). In fact, in the Canucks’ 50-year history (technically 49 years, but that’s another discussion), they’ve never once had a puck-moving defenseman with the upside of Hughes.
12. Before the season, I said I was still a believer in Jamie Benn and that while he wouldn’t regain former glory, he wasn’t the 50-point guy he was last year. Given what he’s actually produced this year, I’m wrong. In that sense, maybe I’m looking at this with rose-coloured glasses.
I do think there’s a mathematical basis to show that he’s been better than his raw production, but the issue going forward will be ice time. If he routinely plays 16 minutes a night as he has much of this year, it’ll be hard to be a consistently reliable fantasy asset in shallower leagues unless they count hits. (jan30)
13. Regarding Zack Kassian’s four-year extension worth $3.2M in AAV. He’s having by far the best year of his career, as he’s already matched his career-high in points and we’re just out of the All-Star break.
I’m extremely wary he’ll provide anywhere close to this value in real life, but as long as he’s attached to Connor McDavid at 5-on-5, he’s very much worth it in any format that includes hits and/or PIM. It’s just staying attached to McDavid that is the key here. With no NMC/NTC, he's definitely expansion bait. (jan30)
14. At the time of last week's injury, Linus Ullmark had been enjoying a solid fantasy season, coming in as the number-24 goalie in standard Yahoo! leagues. In reality, he was top-20 by goals saved above average per 60 minutes (how many goals he saves his team based on a league average save percentage), sandwiched between Joonas Korpisalo and Semyon Varlamov. Doing that, mind you, on a pretty bad Buffalo team.
I’m still not sure what to make of Ullmark. He turns 27 this summer and has just 96 NHL games under his belt. It seemed like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was the goalie of the future, but he’s just 20 years old and has played most of this season in the ECHL. I don’t think he’s ready for full-time status, and Carter Hutton has another year left on his deal anyway. Hopefully Ullmark can come back and have a strong final month to the season. (jan30)
15. Vasily Podkolzin has busted down the door and the points are flowing in freely. After going pointless through his first 20 career KHL games – while often seeing incredibly limited minutes, the 18-year-old is riding a four-game point streak (2+2). On Tuesday, he made a nice play to steal the puck which led to a goal. But even more indicative of his confidence (and his potential as a multicar monster) was a tilt against 27-year-old, former NHLer, Shane Prince. The kid more than held his own.
Podkolzin is the first U20 player for SKA to record a four-game streak. He's also forming an exciting youth line on the contending squad with Vegas' Ivan Morozov, and CBJ prospect, Kirill Marchenko. Their ice time is up and each looks invigorated after a successful World Junior Experience.
16. We've been trumpeting Igor Shestyorkin for a long while now. It's been supercharged in the last 18 months with the Rangers clearing rebuilding, his commitment to crossing the pond all while being the clear heir apparent. Now, it's time to pump up another Russian netminder. Ilya Sorokin is coming.
The Islanders' prospect has been chewing up and spitting out the KHL competition for perennial powerhouse, CSKA for parts of eight seasons. The result has been a ridiculous 176-79-22 record with a sparkling 0.932 save percentage and 56 shutouts. You read that right. 56 shutouts!
Word around the campfire is CSKA offered him a major contract – one that would make him the richest netminder in KHL history. So far, he's resisted. If he maintains that stance and holds strong, he'll be 25 when training camps open next fall and will be stepping into an interesting situation on Long Island. Thomas Greiss is a pending UFA and Semyon Varlamov will be entering the second year of a four-year pact. He's been about league-average in 31 starts this year. Good, but not amazing. That's a job that is ripe for the picking in the next 18 months.
There's a better than average chance that Sorokin comes in and immediately takes the backup role. If that happens, there's a reasonable chance he's the starter by midseason. If he begins the season in AHL – as Shestyorkin and Ilya Samsonov did when they crossed, then look for him to dominate and climb up around the New Year – just as Shesty has. If you're in a deep keeper, he's likely been on your radar for some time. But if not, maybe a late add or a careful eye towards his situation next year could pay immediate dividends. (jan29)
17. Young defenders, I maintain my ranking of their keeper league value as such:
18. The most interesting moments for me during the All-Star events? Mat Barzal dethroning Connor McDavid as the fastest skater… and a forward setting an all-time professional hardest shot standard instead of the usual defenseman. What’s more is that forward is not an NHL player, but an AHL player. That’s right – on Sunday Martin Frk blasted a 109.2 MPH shot, which topped Zdeno Chara’s record of 108.8. This a new NHL/AHL record.
Whatever his issues over the years – attention to defense, footspeed…whatever. He’s in his prime now, he obviously has a wicked shot, he’s a point-per-game player in the AHL and he has three goals in four NHL games this year. Why not Matt Moulson him? That is to say take this AHLer and stick him with your version of John Tavares and try to force it for 10 games. In the case of LA that’s Anze Kopitar. See what happens. Sometimes it works (Rob Brown, Moulson, PA Parenteau come to mind). (jan27)
19. I had a ‘soft’ trade deadline in one of my leagues and I’m looking at both tanking and going for it. I could go either way. Here were a few internal interrogations:
Brad Marchand vs. Vladimir Tarasenko. This is obviously Marchand, no question. Marchand is getting more points this season, will get more next year and is a great playoff guy to own. But how big is the gap? If I get a first-round pick and a pair of second rounders will that be enough?
Tarasenko is coming off seasons of 66 and 68 points, and he’s a write-off for this year. Is he just a 70-point player now? Well, he’s in his prime now and in his last 48 games played he actually has 55 points. He is also a great playoff guy to own and he’ll be playing in the playoffs this year. That’s what sold it for me – the thinking that he at least has the ability to produce 85 points next season. (jan27)
20. Does Henrik Borgstrom still have reasonable value?
As a taller player (6-3) my thinking is that he needs an extra year or two to get acclimated to the pro game. His college career was prolific, as was his first pro season (22 points in 24 AHL games and 18 points in 50 NHL games). But this year he has been working more on his defense and is playing with different players. The Panthers are now a much deeper team and can afford to wait on him.
I think next season is pivotal for him and if he starts off strong in the AHL (point-per-game) then he will join Florida midseason as a third-line player. By 2024, if all goes well, he can be a top-six player with high-60s upside. Those first 30 games in the AHL next season will give the indicators we need to see. He is worth rolling the dice on as a deep bench stash if I’m willing to wait. (jan27)
21. Where will Alexandre Texier top out at? Is Texier a worthwhile asset or is Columbus just a team that will hold middling offensive players’ production down?
Some teams take a possible 55-point player and turn him into a 70-point guy because they’re a dynamic offensive team and they play him with great linemates. Some teams take a possible 55-point player and turn him into a 45-point guy because they stifle him and most offensive players on their team. The truly great talent, such as Oliver Bjorkstrand on this team, can shake that off. But the second-tier guys, such as Texier, can not. This can change awfully quick if there is a coaching change (unlikely to happen anytime soon) or with new players. Or, if Texier happens to click with Bjorkstrand. So far, Texier has been playing mostly with either Pierre-Luc Dubois or Cam Atkinson. Great players, but not drivers who can push Texier higher.
Where will he top out? This is a question that requires a fluid answer. What I like about Texier is the fact that he is only 20 years old and an NHL regular. And right now his coach likes playing him with his top offensive guys, which means he too is considered a top offensive guy. I don’t expect big production from Texier this season or next, but when he’s 23 or 24 who knows what the situation will be? His upside very much depends on his future with Bjorkstrand (because I think Bjorkstrand will be a star). (jan27)
Have a good week, folks!!
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