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. Nikita Kucherov is on pace for 100 points and it’s somehow considered pretty meh.
This is a lesson to all you kids out there – don’t peak too early or your parents will expect high grades on all your report cards. It’s all about a nice steady incline. (Yes, I am a school teacher). (feb5)
2. There has been plenty of love spread around Quinn Hughes and his spectacular rookie campaign. But one area that hasn't been discussed much is that he's seemingly turning Chris Tanev into a potential fantasy target.
The long-time defensive defender has been matched up with Hughes for a healthy portion of the year. And as Hughes has ratcheted things up, so has Tanev, who's on pace for a career-high 28 points. He's always been a block machine, but this year he's already added a career-high in hits. Most importantly, he's been healthy for the first time in… well, forever. Nice timing as he approaches UFA. (feb5)
3. Speaking of quietly good years, how about Ryan Suter? As it stands, he's on pace for 58 points, which would be a career-high, having never surpassed 51 points before. He's already at seven goals, two off a career-high nine goals set in 2016-17.
Some of his peripherals have taken a hit as his ice time has gone down the year, but the point production (including 16 with the man advantage) has been very strong. He's never been a guy to rely on for peripherals anyway. I'm not sure how much he has left in the tank given he's 35 years old now, but it seems he's always underappreciated. (feb6)
4. Over the past month, I feel like I've written about Elvis Merzlikins so often in the Ramblings that I'm running out of Elvis jokes. So, any stellar game performance should come as no surprise by now.
I don't know when exactly Joonas Korpisalo is returning, although he travelled with the Blue Jackets last weekend. In the meantime, Merzlikins is a matchup-proof must-start. At this juncture, I don't see how John Tortorella sits the hot hand even when Korpisalo returns.
5. Mark Giordano will be sidelined "week to week" with a lower-body injury. Flames fans and Giordano owners have to be breathing a sigh of relief, as this injury could have been a lot worse. At least now Giordano should be back this season, though he will be out for at least a few games.
Rasmus Andersson is worth keeping an eye on. The Giordano owner in one of my leagues grabbed Andersson – he might be a fallback option for Giordano.
6. Still more injury news, unfortunately. The Canadiens placed Shea Weber on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. After missing significant portions of last season and the season before, Weber missed his first game of the season on Thursday.
You may recall that Jeff Petry burst out of the gate last season (17 points in 24 games) while Weber missed nearly the first two months of the season. Petry's production didn't drop off considerably after that, and he is now on pace for his first 50-point season and has even just passed Weber in points. Now is a great time to own him.
7. Antti Raanta is injured again. This is not a recording. After being tabbed to start Saturday's game, Raanta was scratched at the last minute with a lower-body injury. Injuries are never timely, but the good news for the Coyotes is that Darcy Kuemper was expected to practice on Sunday. The Coyotes play back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday, so expect third-string goalie Adin Hill to start at least one of those games. Hill stopped 29 of 32 shots he faced in a loss to the Bruins on Saturday. (feb9)
8. Kyle Connor added a goal and three assists on Saturday, which makes him a point-per-game player (56 points in 56 games). Yet, the Jets are so hard up on defense that Connor's name is being mentioned in trade rumors, with one possibility being Bowen Byram in Colorado. With a player like Connor who is on pace for 82 points, I'll believe it when I see it. Besides, teams usually hold on tight to their top-pairing defensemen. (feb9)
9. I don't normally pay attention to trade rumours but when it's on TSN from one of their insiders, and it's a name that is seemingly out of nowhere, I think it's worth paying attention. Anyway, they were talking about the possibility of Josh Anderson being traded by Columbus. It seemed wild to me when I first heard it, but thinking it over, it kind of makes sense.
Remember, it was a few years ago that Anderson went through difficult contract negotiations with Columbus that went through training camp. He rewarded them by playing to a 26-goal pace per 82 games over the next two seasons before struggling in 2019-20. Part of it is injury-related, part of it is him shooting 1.6 percent (!!!), and part of it that this isn't a good offensive team, it's a good defensive one. Anyway, it doesn't make it a stretch to seem Anderson wanting a big contract given he's a year away from UFA status, but Columbus doesn't want to pay big money for a power forward who will be 26 years old for next season. We've seen power forward after power forward struggle as they approach and surpass 30 years old; Jamie Benn, Corey Perry, and Milan Lucic being recent examples. Not wanting to sign Anderson for seven years makes sense.
This is a fascinating fantasy player because he is eminently possible of reaching 30 goals, 200 shots, and 200 hits, something very few players can manage. If he can get traded to a good offensive team where he sees 17 minutes a night, there are special fantasy seasons ahead. At his age, though, there probably aren't a lot of those potential seasons left. (feb6)
10. This week, the Leafs acquired goaltender Jack Campbell and winger Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings for a pair of third-round picks (one conditional) and winger Trevor Moore. Clifford is in the final year of a five-year deal, at the end of which he'll be a UFA, while Campbell has two more years left ($1.65M AAV), and Moore has one ($775K AAV). Campbell will be a UFA at the end of his deal while Moore will be an RFA at the end of his. Here is the fantasy hockey breakdown of the trade. (feb6)
11. Taro Hirose was called back up by the Red Wings. Now, this is an awful, awful team but Hirose had been getting some run on the top PP unit earlier in the year. I certainly wouldn't pick him up unless my league was rostering like 500 players, but keep an eye on his slotting when he gets in the lineup. (feb6)
Don't sleep on the Wings' Jonathan Bernier, either. He's back from injury and Jimmy Howard has been putrid in every regard this year. I know the Red Wings are hunting Alexis Lafreniere, but they also want good goaltending for their young squad. Bernier is 11-14-0 with a 2.89 GAA and 0.908 save percentage. (feb5)
12. Troy Terry only has 11 points in 40 games. Is his ability to create overstated, or is Anaheim so bad at scoring that Terry's apparently real playmaking abilities are being wasted? We don't have nearly enough of a sample to say definitively either way, but the fact that Anaheim may not have a player reach 25 goals this year should speak volumes.
Aside from the fact that he's only playing just slightly more than 14 minutes a night, there are a lot of peripheral concerns here but the playmaking abilities – long lauded as Terry's strength – appear to be real (he showed well in a very small sample last year as well). (feb4)
13. Projecting Robert Thomas over the next three, four, or five years is a bit tough. He certainly has the playmaking abilities and the hands to be a great distributor, but is that all he ends up being? What I mean is, does he end up as Nick Schmaltz – someone who can put up 40 assists but may not threaten 20 goals – or does he end up as Brayden Point, and prove capable of 30-goal, point-per-game seasons?
To end up the latter, we need a big shot volume uptick, and he hasn't shown that ability to any significant degree yet. It's worth remembering, however, that Thomas only has 121 regular season NHL games to his name. He hasn't rounded into the player he will be just yet.
There's a lot to be excited about here for Blues fans but my concern for fantasy hockey owners is they become enamoured with the skills (which are very real) while ignoring the peripheral pitfalls, which are also very real. Just something fantasy owners need to be aware of should they be looking to acquire him in dynasty leagues. (feb4)
14. Kieffer Bellows was recalled by the Islanders. I get that a lot of people may be excited that a first-round pick is finally getting to the NHL, but he has 43 points in 118 AHL games and is going to a team that is offence-adverse. I would really, really hesitate to add him in anything shallower than 15-teamers. (feb4)
It is worth mentioning that Bellows was named AHL player of the month for December with 10 goals in 11 games. I happened to list him in the Fantasy Guide as a long-term project in leagues that count penalty minutes, as he also reached 101 PIM last season in the AHL. So, take his current ice time, lack of sustained production at a professional level, and style of play as a power forward, and you have a forward that should need considerable time to develop. (feb7)
15. Dustin Byfuglien looks like he is heading to mutual contract termination with the Jets. If that's the route this goes, then the Jets would free up cap space this year and next, and Byfuglien would be free to re-sign wherever he wants. I'll leave the speculating as to what's going on in the background to others. This is for the fantasy impact of the decision.
First, it means Neal Pionk's role is almost assured for the balance of the season. Were Byfuglien to return in March, that could have thrown Pionk's status into the air. With Byfuglien gone, barring the PP completely tanking, Pionk's role on the team should stay pretty consistent.
Secondly, there's a chance an elite fantasy defenceman gets his pick of where to play this year. Keep in mind, we still don't know when (or even if) Byfuglien is returning. He could be back in a month, or sit out the rest of the year, or just retire. I think it's worth speculating on the waiver wire, but not at the expense of a useful player. This is more for roto leaguers needing a home run or a first-place team employing a pre-emptive pickup, not a seventh-place team in a race to make H2H playoffs. (feb4)
16. I love Warren Foegele's trajectory and I can see 40 to 45 points next season followed by a breakout in 2021-22. Not the highest upside, but he seems like the type of player who will get there. (feb3)
17. It's time to stop underrating Phillip Danault. Pigeonholed early on as a depth guy and likely checking-line forward, he's done nothing but overachieve and improve each year since being a rookie.
Most of his points are still at even strength, but now he's given top billing in terms of his linemates. I'm still not sure where he'll top out. My best guess is the mid-60s. But, at least in my circles, he's still being talked about like a high-40s guy who is having a great year.
My vote for the Frank Selke winner, he didn't even place in the overall voting – so he's underrated there, too. (feb3)
18. I was in the Forum a lot the last couple of weeks and when explaining to a user what I thought of Oliver Bjorkstrand, I used a great comparison. I said to treat him – right now – as if his name was Mark Stone. No longer treat Bjorkstrand as this good young player who has upside and could be a star. Because Bjorkstrand has arrived. Now. There is as little risk with him as there is with Stone. You'll get your points at the same clip as Stone, and frankly I think he can exceed Stone in the coming seasons, but we shall see if the future Columbus offense will allow for that. Bjorkstrand has 23 points in his last 24 games. (feb3)
19. Circling back to Bjorkstrand and Columbus. Bjorkstrand was put on Pierre-Luc Dubois' line since returning from injury and PLD has taken off like a rocket. The two youngsters now clearly represent the future of this team and the fact that they have such great chemistry bodes very well for their upside and their odds of hitting it.
Dubois, to me, was a product of Artemi Panarin. Sure, Dubois has loads of talent and he's a big man who plays a tough game. Generally that means five or six years in the NHL before dominating the NHL. Panarin expedited that timeline and really showed him how to exert his will on the opposition, and to have the confidence to shoot or make plays. Dubois struggled a little early on without that high-end talent on his wing. But now that he has that back again in Bjorkstrand, PLD has taken yet another step. (feb3)
20. Another player I had my eye on as a breakout player this season (hitting that 200-game threshold) is a player a little further along than Bjorkstrand. I spoke of him last week – Anthony Beauvillier.
His issue this year has been the fact that his line is being used as more of a shutdown line. He faces the opposition's top players and he doesn't often see zone starts in the other end. It's usually in his own end where he starts. Despite that, he's on pace to hit 50 points and set career highs in both goals and assists. He's been around for a long time and his owners are growing tired of waiting. Now is a good time in keeper leagues to acquire him. He is still just 22 years of age. (feb3)
21. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Nikolaj Ehlers' career. His micro-stats have been elite basically since he stepped into the league. He's on pace for his third 60-point season in four years (he was hurt last year) and has done so playing 16-17 minutes a night with little power-play exposure.
What gives me hope here is Jakub Vrana eventually being moved to the top PP unit in Washington. If that can happen, surely Ehlers can supplant someone on the top PP unit in Winnipeg, right? Right?! (He won't.) (feb4)
Have a good week, folks!!