We had a busy day for news considering it was a Wednesday. Let's get to it.
I say, "if that timeline holds" because as a Twitter friend reminded me, it was just a few years ago that Carey Price's knee injury went from out for a couple weeks to out for the season. I really do hope Weber is back in that 4- to 6-week timeline but fool me once…
Paul Maurice signed a multi-year deal to stay as coach of the Winnipeg Jets, amid rumours that this might be his final season with the team. I've always liked Maurice and think he's a coach who has grown with the game. This team still has a lot of good, young pieces and Maurice will be the one to guide them.
The Leafs have signed forward Pierre Engvall to a two-year deal worth $1.25M AAV.
I've been impressed with Engvall this year. Both he and Ilya Mikheyev, actually. I would say the latter has more fantasy value than the former but both could have value depending on his the team configures their lines next year and in years to come.
This, along with the Seth Jones news, is a pretty big blow for the Jackets.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is still not skating with the Washington Capitals in practice, and he will be out for Thursday night's game in Colorado. The good news is that he will be joining the team on the road trip, so the absence may not be longer than that one game.
David Pastrnak managed a hat trick in Boston’s 4-1 over Montreal. That gives him 41 goals on the year, and pushed him past 80 points for the third straight year. It’s Pastrnak’s first 40-goal season, but surely not the last. Brad Marchand had three assists while Patrice Bergeron had one and one. The Perfection Line did their thing.
The Sedins had their jersey retirement ceremony on Wednesday night, meaning no future Canucks will wear their numbers. An appropriate tribute for two guys who largely carried a franchise for 15 years and are responsible for Vancouver's most successful seasons.
Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever see something like that again. Having twins is rare enough just in general (my rough math based on some googling tells me there are only 240 million people on Earth that is part of a set, or 3.2 percent), while having twins who grow up to play hockey would be even more rare (the IIHF estimates 1.65M organized hockey players in the world, or 0.02 percent of the world's population). So, to even just have twins who play hockey is incredibly rare in the general scope of things. To have twins who play hockey and are good enough to get to the NHL, and be Hall of Famers? I'm going to need another napkin to figure out this math.
Anyway, a special moment for Daniel, Henrik, their families, and the Canucks fanbase. Would be cool to see them behind the bench somewhere down the road.
Not a ton of games in the NHL but one thing I wanted to talk about was upside in fantasy hockey.
We have a couple months left in the season and by now, most players are near the range where they'll finish, fantasy-wise. Some guys have impactful hot/cold streaks left, but nonetheless, we have a reasonable handle on how good or bad players have been this year. Some of the top performers this year in terms of profiting off ADP include Max Pacioretty, J.T. Miller, Andrei Svechnikov, and David Perron. Each player was drafted outside the first 10 rounds (or thereabouts, based off ADP data), and each player is a top-25 player in standard Yahoo! leagues, which include hits.
What does each player have in common? They hit.
The fact is that players infrequently have monster point seasons out of nowhere. Honestly, think about the last guy who was maybe a 35- or 40-point player to jump to a point-per-game, who wasn't a high-end rookie or sophomore? The closest I can think is Elias Lindholm, and even he's fallen off considerably this season from his 78 points in 81 games last year. Teuvo Teravainen might also fit that bill seeing as it took him four or five years to really hit his stride. From the last few seasons, those are basically the only guys I can think of. In that sense, if you're looking for upside from a fantasy player in multi-cat leagues, looking for 90-point players outside the first five or six rounds is not the way to go about it. Looking for guys who can put up 210 shots and 120 hits, just as a random example, while adding 65-70 points is a better idea.
Let's look at two guys I think might be on the list to break out next year based on either performance, expected role, or hopefully both.
Anyone who has read my writing for a few years knows I'm a big fan of Lehkonen. At one point, I had hopes that he was the top-line, two-way winger of the future to complement Brendan Gallagher's contributions.
The reason for that belief is that over Lehkonen's first two seasons in the NHL, he was in the top half of the league's forwards in hits per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 and the top third of the league in shots per 60 minutes. In that time, his impacts both offensively and defensively, were well above average, the latter more than the former. (At the time we would have been using a different measurement of impact than the one linked, but the same idea pervades.) My reasoning was that if he performed so well in a lesser role, and could do so while still being responsible defensively, it would be a matter of time before he was a top-line winger getting 18 minutes a game with loads of PP time. Things, obviously, haven't worked out that way.
Part of it is Claude Julien. He just doesn't believe in giving his forwards heavy minutes. There are 327 forwards with at least 1000 minutes at 5-on-5 since the start of the 2018-19 season. Of those 327 forwards, 62 of them have played at least 14 minutes, and none of them are Habs. Brendan Gallagher has been getting less TOI per game than Andreas Athanasiou, and Danault less than Alex Iafallo. It's hard for a forward to have a big breakout season playing 15-16 minutes a night.
In that sense, I'm not sure a full breakout will ever come for Lehkonen. Not in the way I had imagined, anyway. Again, players just can't be expected to put up monster fantasy seasons playing 15 minutes a night. But he's certainly carved himself a spot in Montreal's middle-six winger mix, and with his peripherals, he'll have value for years to come. It's just a matter of how much value.
I will admit I was not as high on Kunin as others but he is having a nice fantasy season. He could threaten 20 goals, especially if he keeps playing up the lineup as he has in the last couple games. Add that to his two shots per game and one hit per game, and there's a nice fantasy season brewing here.
The upside for Kunin is that he's the obvious successor to be the top-line centre. Mikko Koivu's future with the franchise is in doubt while Eric Staal has one year left on his deal and turns 36 in October.
Here's where I become a wet blanket: I don't think Kunin is as good as he's shown this year. The team has been expected to allow more goals than the team's average with him on the ice (and opponents have in fact scored at a higher rate than the team average with Kunin on the ice), and the team has been expected to score less with him on the ice (and they have). Now, we can chalk this up to a lot of things – youth, tough matchups – but when I have visions of a future top line centre in mind, being buried in his second year isn't a good start. He is also just 22 years old, so there is growth to come, but he has a lot of growth to do.
To that end, the big reason for liking Kunin next year is, barring a major acquisition, he's likely to be the second-line centre, and all the ice time that comes with it. That should lead to stronger peripherals and hopefully more production. If he can keep up his development (and stay healthy), that would go a long way in helping move that breakout along.