As crazy as it sounds, by the time you read this there are now less than two months left in the 2019-20 regular season. With that being the case, even if these questions didn’t come from you they're likely to be relevant to your players or those of your chief rivals. In other words, be sure to read on; and as a reminder, if you want your fantasy hockey question answered check out the end of the column, where I explain the two ways to get it to me. The earlier you send a question the more likely it is to be included, and the deeper dive I can provide with my reply.

 

Question #1 (from Todd)

I'm in a H2H limited keeper, non-cap league. As my question is a goalie related one, the relevant categories are Wins, Shutouts, GAA, and SV%, each of which counts for one point in a traditional weekly matchup. I currently have the Arizona tandem (Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper) on my squad. I successfully stowed Kuemper away on IR and picked up Elvis Merzlikins and MacKenzie Blackwood when Raanta was also hurt.

 

My question is which one should I keep out of Merzlikins and Blackwood now that Kuemper is back? Who’ll have a better 2020-2021 season? To thicken the plot, as of right now, Igor Shesterkin has not been picked up. Does he leapfrog Merzlikins and/or Blackwood as the best option for 2020-2021?

 

Answer: A piece of missing information is how many skater categories there are, as that will indicate how crucial it is to do well in the goalie categories each week. One key is counting SV% instead of Saves. That opens the door to a goalie who plays less frequently than a true starter but when he does play he gives you very good GAA and SV%, or to owning both goalies from a strong defensive team, as you’d been doing.

 

I covered Blackwood in my most recent Forum Buzz column where I noted he’s a guy who, unless the Devils go and sign a big name UFA (unlikely due to them being stuck with Cory Schneider’s nearly $5M salary for two more seasons), figures to be a true #1 or at least 1A in 2020-21. The issue, of course, is his numbers are all worse this season than last, so he might be someone who ends up being unable to shine when the spotlight is squarely on him. Or he might come back next season vastly improved.

 

In Merzlikins you have this year’s come from nowhere netminder, unless you bought the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide, where, let’s not forget, Merzlikins was championed. Columbus has set itself up as a very goalie friendly team, which is good news for Merzlikins in real hockey and fantasy. The issue is he and Joonas Korpisalo are RFAs this summer; and barring a Jordan Binnington-like run from Merzlikins, odds are both goalies will get deals that don’t anoint one the clear-cut starter for 2020-21.

 

As for Shesterkin, there’s a logjam in the New York crease, with the team carrying him plus Alexander Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist. Georgiev is set to be an RFA this summer but the other two’s deals don’t expire until 2022. Most pundits think Georgiev will be re-signed to be left exposed for the 2021 expansion draft and to pave the way for Shesterkin to be “the guy.” For 2020-21 though, all three could still factor into the equation, unless of course, Shesterkin carries through the stellar play he’s displayed at every level and runs away with the starting job. But a lot would have to go right for that to happen.

 

One thought might be to part with Raanta, as before Kuemper got hurt Arizona seemed to be favoring Kuemper; and let’s not forget, Kuemper is signed for an additional season at a higher salary. Perhaps you drop or trade away Raanta now, pick up Shesterkin (if somehow he’s still available – probably not), and then after Blackwood and Merzlikins sign their deals (assuming your keeper deadline comes later in the summer) you decide which one of those two it makes sense to keep? Good luck!

 

Question #2 (from Brandon)

I’m in a 10-team, H2H, non-keeper with G/A/PPP/PIM/SOG/FOW/Hits/Blocks/DEF/W/GAA/SV% as the categories. As I send this to you, I'm in first place despite Carey Price's subpar play. My other goalie is Andrei Vasilevskiy. The league allows for seven moves weekly, with no caps on games played, making it so it’s better to have two goalies rather than three, as that extra skater slot is valuable. What I’m wondering is whether it’s time to consider dropping Price and filling his slot with spot starts from a rotating cast of 1As, back-ups or tier 2/3 starter with favorable match-ups? Or is Price capable of a strong finish like we saw from him last season?

 

Answer: I can feel your pain, as a Price owner in my main league. One important detail that many have not yet noticed is the Habs have exactly one back-to-back remaining over the rest of the regular season; so as long as their playoff hopes are still technically not dead, you’ll probably see a lot of Price.

 

Thus, Price figures to give you a good chance to get Wins. You might do better by cobbling together a rotating cast of netminders for his “spot” though, what with two of your only three goalie categories not benefitted by number of starts. The issue is, others in your league will likely be trying to do the same thing, making it difficult for you to successfully embark upon that strategy. Plus, if you did so, someone could swoop in and snag Price, in which case he’d be gone from your team and you’d kick yourself if he once again turns in a superb last quarter, as he indeed did during 2018-19 when from February onward 20 of his 28 starts were quality starts. And he’s looked very good over the past few weeks.

 

My take is when in doubt you stick with what you have, as you’d regret it more if Price keeps ratcheting up his play again as he did last season. How about this plan – give him until mid-February to really heat up; if he does, then lock him in, but if instead, he continues to perform at a subpar level, do your best to go with a Plan B of a rotating cast of netminders for that second goalie spot. Good luck!

 

Question #3 (from Paul)

I’m in a 12 team, keep 4, roto league that counts G, A, PTS, PPG, PPP, SHP, Hits, W, GAA, SV%, SO. Each night we start 2 of each forward position, 4 defensemen and 2 goalies, to go along with 4 bench.

 

My keepers for this year were Patrick Kane, Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, and Jake Guentzel. I acquired Sean Monahan and Thomas Chabot (both keepable). I also already acquired 3rd and 4th round picks for next season, and if I traded Kane I’d get a 1st rounder as well. Do I pull the trigger, or can I not afford to trade Kane if I want to win it all next season?

 

Answer: Looking at the categories, they are pretty good for Kane, as it’s not much of a banger league, although by the same token you don’t get his great SOG total. Still, he excels in five of the seven offensive cats.

 

Even though the trade is just Kane for a first-rounder; the ripple effect is larger. If you parted with Kane, you get a first-rounder, which will be probably one of the 50-60 best players, what with 48 being kept and 11 others being drafted as first-rounders. You’d also have value provided by Chabot or Monahan. If you opted to keep Kane, you’d not get the first-rounder nor would you keep Monahan or Chabot, but you’d have your four very solid keepers and the third and fourth-round picks you acquired. So the real question is, what’s more valuable – Kane or one of Monahan and Chabot plus a first-rounder?

 

I subscribe to the adage that the winning side of the trade is the side that gets the best player; and in this case, Kane definitely is the best player. Even though you’d be foregoing a first-rounder plus Chabot or Monahan – a decent package – I think Kane’s value, and the fact that you already accumulated third and fourth-round picks tilts the scales to keeping Kane more so than trading him for a first-rounder if indeed the goal is to win next year. Good luck!

 

Question #4 (from Matt)

In a keeper league, I've got Mats Zuccarello and Dominik Kubalik and was wondering when it comes time to keep one for next year, do I expect a sophomore slump from Kubalik and ride with a steady but unspectacular MZA, or is Kubalik the real deal?

 

Answer: First off, kudos for not just reflexively deciding to keep the younger player. As I pointed out in my most recent mailbag, forwards over 30 comprise a good chunk of the NHL’s most productive players. And although MZA’s first campaign in Minnesota has been a disappointment, let’s not forget he’s just one season removed from 40 points in 48 games (0.83 points per game) where he also fired over two pucks on net per contest.

 

What do those numbers help tell us about MZA’s future productivity? Since 2010-11, seven other age 31 players averaged between 0.8 and 0.9 points per game while also averaging at least as many shots and have since gone on to play to age 33 or beyond, with 33 being how old Zuccarello will be next season. Of them, one (Alex Ovechkin) has completely defied father time, while another (Patrick Marleau) managed another 70 point season, a third (Henrik Zetterberg) had seasons of 66 and 68 points and a fourth (Radim Vrbata) had seasons of 63 and 55 points. Two other players (Brad Richards and Jeff Carter) saw their production wane amid injuries. One interesting player on the list is Alexander Radulov, who this season, at age 33, has looked like he’s lost a step, and, based on the type of game he plays, might make for the best comparison to Zuccarello.

 

Lastly, although the Wild have had well-publicized struggles, their offense is actually in the middle of the NHL pack. Even still, that’s in contrast to the higher-flying Caps, Sharks, and Red Wings squads on which Ovi, Marleau, and Zetts were part of when they put up strong seasons in their golden years. So hitching your wagon to Zuccarello comes with risk.

 

As for Kubalik, at 24 he’s older than most might realize for someone in his first NHL season. And since 2010-11 there’ve been only six forwards who were that age or older as rookies, with only one (Artemi Panarin) posting even 50 points in any NHL season, although Alex Iafalo has a shot at doing so in this, his third campaign, at age 26. So the fact that Kubalik is a rookie at such a late age does factor against him turning into a star unless he’s somehow cut from a Panarin-like cloth. Of course, there is the possibility Kubalik will defy comparison, as he’s on pace for over 30 goals, which would surpass Panarin’s rookie total and be a good bit above the highest goal total of the other five, among whom only Matt Read (who potted 24) had more than 14 goals as a rookie.

 

Moreover, Kubalik’s percentage of secondary assists (versus primary assists plus goals) is the lowest in the entire NHL among those who’ve scored at least 30 points, at 9.4%. And looking at the list of players who also are below the 15% mark is like reading a who’s who of stars (Alex Ovechkin, Sebastian Aho, Taylor Hall, Mika Zibanejad) as well as two very up and coming young players (Nikolaj Ehlers and Alex Debrincat), plus Jakub Silfverberg and Anthony Duclair.

 

So while the data isn’t favorable in terms of long term success of rookies who were 24 or older, Kubalik’s high goal total and super low secondary assist percentage are impressive. And they also tilt the scales toward keeping him over Zuccarello, whom past comparables suggest probably won’t score in droves over the remainder of his career.

 

Question #5 (from Chris)

Does Martin Jones hold any value the rest of the year? He's been playing awful and seems to be losing starts to Aaron Dell lately.

 

Answer: I covered Jones in a Forum Buzz column, but that was nearly two months ago. What has happened to Jones since then? More of the same, as Jones’ second-quarter stats, were almost identical to what he did in Q1 in terms of GAA and SV%, although he had five quality starts of 14, which, believe it or not, represented a slight improvement versus Q1. As for Q3 though, he’s back to struggling mightily.

 

The reality is the Jones of 2019-20 is on track to be worse than the Jones of 2018-19, who, as noted in the Forum Buzz column, had stats that put him in not so fine company, especially since some of those other goalies – unlike Jones – were able to rebound in their very next season whereas Jones has, as noted, shown no signs of doing so. Beyond that, new coach Bob Boughner is thus far not content trotting Jones out there night after night despite Jones’ fat contract that runs through 2023-24. Instead, it’s Dell who has essentially become the team’s 1A goalie, at least for the time being.

 

I think it is good for Jones to be sitting more. It allows him to get extra coaching plus could light a fire under him, perhaps leading to him coming back and showing signs of positive play. Let’s keep in mind he was at his best when Dell was playing strong too, so there is some reason to be hopeful that Jones could turn things around. Is that a realistic hope though? I think the more he sits the more chance it occurs; however, he might need a full offseason to try and rediscover his game.

 

For sure a stretch of play, this long and this poor by Jones is worrisome. But that fat contract of his all but ensures he will get another long look next season, although my guess is the Sharks let Dell, who’s set to be a UFA this summer, walk, and bring in someone like Jaroslav Halak, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford or Thomas Greiss. The idea would be for someone to both pressure Jones or to step in if he continues to play subpar hockey, which, if it happens, might mean a ticket to the minors for ala Cory Schneider. Or Jones might respond positively as he did in the past when he had a capable back-up. Time will tell.

 

How do I see the rest of 2019-20 unfolding for Jones, as was the focus of the question? I’d say the odds of him righting his ship fully before the end of 2019-20 are only about 15%, while the odds that he plays somewhat better are about 25%, versus the odds of him playing roughly the same being about 30%, and, lastly, the odds of Dell taking over as a true #1 for the rest of the season landing also at about 30%.

 

Question #6 (from Roger)

In this a 12 team, keep 15 league with skater categories of G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, and SOG, I own Quinn Hughes and am being offered Rasmus Dahlin in a straight-up trade. Do I bite?

 

Answer: First things first – let’s look at the categories to see if those somehow tilt the scales toward one of the two. Unfortunately, they don’t provide much differentiation, as Dahlin is shaping up to be better in PIM but his SOG rate is down sharply to be even lower than that of Hughes, who seems to be a PP monster, although Dahlin does quite well in that area too. And for what it’s worth Dahlin is clearly avoiding the sophomore defenseman curse, whereas Hughes has yet to face that challenge. Advantage……neither.

 

Without the categories providing an answer, let’s see what past comparables tell us about each. Dahlin had 44 points as an 18-year-old, a total that was bested by only one defenseman in NHL history – Phil Housley, who went on to score over 1200 points and had 60+ points in each of his first 11 seasons. Granted, the NHL was different back then, especially in how high scoring teams were; but the lack of anyone else accomplishing the feat over decades of hockey is very telling. Moreover, even despite missing eight games this season Dahlin is on target to post over 90 points as a teen d-man, with no other rearguard in history – other than, again, Housley – tallying more than 76 before age 20.

 

Where concern arises is in Dahlin’s lower SOG total, as he’s not even averaging 1.65 SOG per game after having bested the two per game mark as a rookie. And since 2010-11 there’s been only three instances of a 50+ point output by a rearguard who averaged 1.65 or fewer SOG per game, namely Toby Enstrom, Jake Gardiner, and Brian Campbell, which is not fine company in which to find oneself.

 

As for Hughes, he’s on target for over 55 points as a rookie, with more than 25 of those points coming with the man advantage. It turns out that nine players met or exceeded both thresholds as a rookie in NHL history, with seven of them (Ray Bourque, Gary Suter, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Leetch, Housley, Chris Chelios, and Larry Murphy) being fantasy stars or superstars. What of the other two? One was Reed Larson, who, although not as much of a household name, still scored 58+ points in each of his next seven seasons, and the other was Stefan Persson, who bested 60 points twice more.

 

So Hughes has more comparables, and they’re all pretty favorable with some being superb, whereas the accomplishments of Dahlin are so unprecedented as to put him in a club with only one other member, who it so happens went on to be a superstar. How then do we decide between them?

 

It might boil down to their teams. The Canucks have taken a big step forward this season and look to be poised to be a high scoring squad for the near and long term. Buffalo too has improved and should continue to make strides, but they don’t seem as well-stocked for offensive success as the Canucks. Yes, the Sabres have Jack Eichel, who individually might turn out better than anyone on Vancouver; however, the Canucks have a deeper core of talent, which I think positions them to score more in the next 3-5+ years than the Sabres, and, in turn, helping Hughes more so than the Sabres might help Dahlin.

 

As such, and without non-scoring categories that favor either player, the scales might tilt toward not making the trade and holding onto Hughes. Plus, as I said earlier in response to the Price question, when in doubt I stick with what I have, as for me at least I find it to be a tougher pill to swallow if I had someone and got rid of him and he turns out superb than if I opted not to pull the trigger on a trade and the player I could’ve received does better. But that’s just me – if you have more faith in Dahlin then I think it’s certainly defensible for you to make the deal, as this is as close to what seems like a win-win trade as there is in fantasy hockey today. Good luck!

 

Question #7 (from Ethan)

Long question, sorry.

 

H2H points league where each team keeps 6 (must be 4F and 2D)

Rosters — 6F, 4D, 2G, 4 BN, 2 IR, 2 IR+

Skater categories — 2 pts for Goals, 1 for Assists, 1 for PPP, and 0.25 each for SOGs, hits, and blocks.

 

My roster is:

 

Forwards – Nathan MacKinnon, Miko Rantanen, Filip Forsberg, Victor Arvidsson, Clayton Keller, Chris Kreider, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Vladimir Tarasenko, Dylan Strome, and Oliver Bjorkstrand

Defensemen – Rasmus Dahlin, Matt Dumba, John Marino, Tyler Myers, Quinn Hughes, Connor Murphy, Dustin Byfuglien

 

This is the first year for the league, and I’m trying to position myself to have solid keepers and to be able to sell some players for draft picks, which is allowed.

 

My main question involves my defensemen. I'm definitely keeping Dahlin but am having trouble deciding between Hughes and Dumba. The rest of my keepers figure to be young, so I'm fine waiting for Hughes to reach his full potential with 60+ points (a lot of them PPP) every season; however, I'm worried about his goal-scoring and lack of peripherals. Dumba has quite good peripherals and a much higher threshold than what we’re seeing this season; after all, he scored 12 goals in just 32 games last season. But Dumba’s poor offensive output this season has me anxious, as does him being on a team like Minnesota, which might be weak for several years.

 

Am I overthinking this – is Hughes the obvious keep? Will Hughes' peripherals get better as he gets older, and, presumably, bigger? Will Dumba rebound; and even if he does, will Minnesota’s offense be so bad for the next several years as to act as a cap on Dumba’s output? Or should I pull an audible and try and trade for somebody, perhaps an injured Dougie Hamilton?

 

Also, please give your quick thoughts on trying to trade Vladimir Tarasenko to get Andrei Svechnikov after this season is over.

 

Answer: Here we are, right back to Hughes and Dahlin, although this time it’s whether Hughes is a keeper when Dahlin is apparently already being kept. After reading that I favored Hughes over Dahlin in the last question, it should be a slam dunk to take him over Dumba here, right? Not so fast, as we’re dealing with different categories, a couple of which are not at all favorable for Hughes.

 

Looking at Dumba, his SOG rate is lower this season than last, as is his overall TOI by 0:48 per game. But his PP Time has held steady, as have, roughly, his combined hits and blocks. His IPP, however, is 30.2% after being between 45 and 50% each of the prior two seasons and his shooting percentage is a third of his norm. So his actual splits should be closer to ten goals and 15-20 assists. His OZ% is down by a good chunk too; however, that is likely a function of the Wild being a below-average defensive team, and. as noted above, their offense is in the middle of the NHL’s pack. Given all the circumstances, Dumba is probably still a 10-15+ goal, 40+ point d-man who can chip in with three Hits+Blocks per game.

 

As for Hughes, you weren’t kidding when you said his peripherals are poor, as he has fewer hits for the entire season than many players have amassed in a single game. So low are his Hits totals, that no other defenseman who’s played in 40+ games has fewer and all but one have at least twice as many. And the news isn’t much better with respect to his blocks, as in that case, his total is sixth-worst among 40+ game players. Oh, and one of the d-men with fewer blocks than Hughes is Dahlin, just so you know. The good news is Hughes’ prowess in PPPts helps to offset some of these shortcomings. I also wouldn’t worry too much about goals, since he seems to be a somewhat selective shooter, as many rookies can be. Over time he should shoot more and, with that, see his goal total grow, perhaps to rival that of Dumba.

 

In terms of Hughes getting more Hits over time, with a rookie total this low, Hughes is likely to stay a drain in the category; however, it is rare for a player not to see his Hits numbers tick upward at least somewhat even if he was terrible in the category to start (see, e.g., Victor Mete). As such, although you shouldn’t get your hopes up too much (see, e.g., Shea Theodore), you should not automatically assume that Hughes will do as poorly in Hits in future seasons versus his rookie outputs. Concerning blocks, those are even more likely to see improvement, as sooner or later he’ll be expected to contribute more in that area, although there too I would temper expectations. In other words, Hughes will always lag well behind Dumba in combined Hits and Blocks, and it would surprise me if Hughes ever even had half of Dumba’s totals in these categories in any future season.

 

As for luck metrics, Hughes is getting coddled, with an OZ% of 61.8%. But that probably won’t drop much if at all, as the Canucks see the value he brings and won’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole. His IPP of 50.7% though might be a tad high though. Also, there is the dreaded sophomore defenseman slump to worry about, although to some extent that’s an overblown concern and Hughes seems to be playing at a level which would make him unlikely to be slowed next season. And lets of course not forget the very favorable comparables we identified in answering the last questions.

 

Looking at them together, if Dumba was scoring at his normal rate he’d have 23-30 points right now. Still, though, Hughes could be a special player who’ll pile on PPPts; and if he gets, let’s say, 15 more PPPts than Dumba in a season, that’s equivalent to 60 added Hits/Blocks, which suddenly narrows the gap in that area.

 

Looping in the second part of your question, you probably would need to part with Hughes or Dahlin or one of your blue-chip forwards (probably Rantanen) at minimum to even try to land someone with as much perceived keeper value as Svechnikov. Tarasenko simply won’t move the needle, as not only is he nearly a decade older than Svechnikov (and, as such, likely already peaked), but trading someone who’s hurt never will net you an appropriate return. If you don’t opt to make the trade, I’d likely keep Hughes and then try to redraft Dumba, whose value will be so low after this ostensibly disappointing season that you should be able to land him for a bargain pick. Good luck!

 

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A Quick “Real Life” Note

As longtime readers are aware, I have a “day job” as an attorney. As it happens, the position I had (for 13 years) is being eliminated due to my company being purchased. If you’re aware of anyone that is in need of a very experienced intellectual property/patent attorney (located in Massachusetts), I’d like to hear about the potential opportunity, which you can do by private messaging me at “rizzeedizzee” at the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Job Lead” in the title. Rest assured, my column will not be affected.

 

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For those reading this now, it’s never too early to start providing me with mailbag questions, which you can do in one of two ways: (1) by emailing them to [email protected] with the words “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line, or (2) by sending them to me via a private message on the DobberHockey Forums, where my username is “rizzeedizzee”. Or if you prefer to wait, the time to get me questions is right after each Poll, since the mailbag normally runs the following week.

 

When sending me your questions, remember to provide as much detail about your league/situation as possible, since as you saw above in a couple of the questions there were some omitted details which made it difficult for me to give a truly proper answer. Examples of the types of things I need to know include what type of league you’re in (i.e., limited keeper, dynasty, or one-year; roto vs H2H), does the salary cap matter, how many players are rostered (and of those, how many start at each position), what categories are scored and how are they weighted, plus other details if necessary (such as free agents available if you’re thinking of dropping a player or rosters of both teams if you’re thinking of making a trade). The key is to tell me enough for me to give you a truly proper answer, and for readers of this column to benefit from the answer/advice I provide. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. See you next week for Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!