21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
Every Sunday, we’ll share 21 Fantasy Rambles – the original 20 Fantasy Thoughts – from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s 'Daily Ramblings'.
Editors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. In a game with massive playoff implications for the Jets, Connor Hellebuyck stopped all 29 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over the Golden Knights on Friday. Hellebuyck has now earned shutouts in two of his last four games. He’s also put together an impressive run of quality starts, with 11 quality starts over his last 14 games. In fact, he leads the league with 34 quality starts.
Remember that Paul Maurice received an extension earlier this year, and how we mentioned that a high percentage of the performance-related fired coaches were victims of poor goaltending? I don’t watch enough Jets games to know this, but I wonder if any of the Winnipeg faithful would consider Hellebuyck to be the team’s MVP, given the Jets’ offseason downgrades on defense. His performance seems to be having a similar effect on the Jets as Jacob Markstrom has had on the Canucks. (mar7)
I maintain my love for Kakko despite the muted rookie totals. I expected him to be better than he’s been this year, but that’s okay. It’s damn difficult being an 18-year-old in this league. So, even though I don’t see 35 goals and 70-75 points likely coming next season (although it is conceivable) I do see Kakko pushing up into the 30-goal, 60+ point range. Watch for year three to be the big banger.
3. Of the Flyers’ nine consecutive wins, Carter Hart has won seven in a row. How about this for a home/road split: Hart is 20-2-2 with a GAA hovering around 1.60 and a SV% of over .940 at the Wells Fargo Center. Away from Philly, he’s a much more abysmal 4-10-1 with a 3.81 GAA and .857 SV%. Even though the Flyers are on a heater right now, only one of those last six wins has been on the road. Something to think about if you’re in a daily league or need to choose goalies. (mar6)
4. I had been wondering why Alex DeBrincat was having a down season this year. After scoring 28 in his rookie season, and 41 in his sophomore campaign, he's on pace for just over 20 goals this year. I saw his low all-situations shooting percentage and decided to look deeper. It didn’t take long to diagnose the problem: at mid-week of last, and out of 219 forwards with at least 700 minutes played at 5-on-5 this year, DeBrincat was 216th in shooting percentage at 3.76 percent. For reference, that was lower than Milan Lucic at 3.77 percent. I suppose I didn’t need to add context to show that being 216th out of 219 players in shooting percentage is bad, but when you see it’s lower than Lucic, it really hits home.
There may be something sinister under the hood here but on the surface, it seems to be a bit of bad luck. I’m not sure he can repeat his high shooting percentages from his first two seasons, but he’s a talented shooter playing with talented players. He’s too good to shoot under four percent continually.
I’m not sure there’s a buy-low opportunity for DeBrincat because his owners will still have that 40-goal season fresh in mind. All the same, I think his acquisition price is lower now than it will be a year from now. No need to sell the farm in a trade, but it’s likely worth inquiring what he might cost, especially for those out of the H2H playoff picture who need players for next year (assuming your deadline hasn’t passed). (mar5)
5. Gabriel Landeskog's goal on Friday was his 20th of the season, which now gives him seven 20-goal seasons in his career. This season’s 20-goal season might not seem like a big deal, but remember that he’s only played in 51 games. He’s bounced back after a slow start by his standards (seven points in 11 games in October before getting injured). (mar7)
6. You’ve probably forgotten by now, but Kevin Fiala had just one point in his first eight games. He was also a healthy scratch for a game early on, and suffered an injury that cost him four games. So, on November 1, he was still sitting with one point. Huge congrats to you if you acquired him that day. He has 51 points in 55 games since then. If he stays healthy, to me he is a very strong candidate to top 70 points next season on a team without many big scorers around him. He hit out the Breakout Threshold late last season. So, he was a preseason target joining Anthony Beauvillier, Jakub Vrana and Oliver Bjorkstrand (among others) as players who were BT candidates that paid off. (mar2)
Earlier this week, only five players had more points than Fiala since the All-Star break. He’s clearly having a breakout year while injecting life into a Wild team that appeared to be headed in the wrong direction. (mar6)
7. Mikhail Sergachev played on the first-unit power play and logged a season high 28:20 on Saturday. Should Victor Hedman miss games (he did not play after the first period), Sergachev’s fantasy value could skyrocket in the short term with the wealth of scoring options that Tampa Bay possesses. By providing a goal and an assist within that extended look, Sergachev may have given us a glimpse of what is possible without Hedman in the lineup. Sergachev had only recorded two points (both assists) in his previous eight games. (mar8)
8. Another game against the Dallas Stars, another shutout for Juuse Saros. This time, the Predators goalie stopped all 37 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Stars on Saturday. I mentioned Saros in the Friday Ramblings after his Thursday shutout, but here’s a little more: Saros has posted quality starts in each of his last seven starts. If you’re looking at games played, that doesn’t count the four saves he made in relief of Pekka Rinne when the Preds were blown out by the Oilers earlier this week. You can probably consider Saros the starting goalie at this point, although that may not be permanent considering both goalies have one more season left on their contracts after this season. (mar8)
9. What about Ilya Kovalchuk, you ask? He scored a goal and added two assists with a plus-3 in Thursday’s back-and-forth goalfest with the Rangers. However, as a Capital, he has a point in just one of the five other games. He was held without a point in just under 13 minutes on Saturday, although that may have had to do with the Capitals jumping out to a big lead early against the Penguins and keeping it in lockdown mode after that. Going to a team loading up for a Stanley Cup run might not help a player’s fantasy value, as they might be viewed as more of an insurance/depth piece by that team. (mar8)
10. Jesper Bratt, I'm all over this kid. I liked him as a deep sleeper this season and he's making me look smart the last few months. The 21-year-old has 184 career GP to his name and is finding his stride in 2020. I like him to lock down a top-six role and plenty of PP time next year and shoot up to 55+ points. (mar4)
11. Jake DeBrusk is right in that sweet spot. He's at 202 regular-season GP with a boatload of clutch playoff experience. He lives in the Bruins top six and he sees a good chunk of time on that big-boy top PP. We've seen what Travis Konecny can do with the fourth season. I like DeBrusk to push for a similar type of breakout – maybe a hair less. (mar4)
12. Kirill Marchenko is the Blue Jackets’ top prospect. That might not have the same level of cache since the club graduated Emil Bemstrom, Alexandre Texier and Elvis ‘King of the Crease’ Merzlikins this season. But it still holds weight. The 2018 second-round pick is a very interesting and versatile player. His seven goals and 16 points in 31 KHL games comfortably led all U20 skaters. That includes Grigori Denisenko. The kid is hard-nosed, has a good amount of skill and he’s not afraid to get a little creative either. It’s a nice combo. (mar4)
13. I think I’m about to pull the plug on hoping Pavel Zacha will end up being 'A Thing' in the fantasy hockey game. He had shown promise in his teens, which is why he ended up the sixth overall pick five years ago, but hasn’t done anything in his NHL career. We like to talk about fourth-year breakouts around here, and with a dozen games remaining in his fourth year, he has eight goals, 31 points, and 97 shots. Regardless of the team he’s playing for, that’s not going to cut it when you’re playing a tad more than 16 minutes a night.
There just hasn’t been much improvement. Top line or third line, Hall or no Hall, rebuilding or playoff-bound, it hasn’t really mattered for Zacha. He just hasn’t improved.
I hate giving up on a player completely because sometimes they do figure it out later in their careers (Valeri Nichushkin says hi). But as for Zacha having much fantasy relevance, I just don’t see it. He hasn’t been able to do anything outside of small spurts. Combine that with New Jersey having started another rebuild now, and even if Zacha does figure it out, will he be surrounded by talent to help him reach his fantasy ceiling, whatever that is? I doubt it. I just don’t see this breakout coming, and I’m not even sure how much longer he’ll be in the league, frankly.
14. The Flames are really pushing for David Rittich to step up and take over that goaltending job. The organization knows him, they’ve brought him along, he’s in his prime (27) and if he can be their legit starter then team brass can breathe a sigh of relief. But Rittich hasn’t done that, especially lately. Every time he gets on any kind of a role he hits a bump. He started four straight games and had settled into a pattern of starting three out of every four games as of early January. (mar2)
15. Looking closer at Sergei Bobrovsky, I’m still pretty confident in the 31-year-old finding his game next season (see Florida? I’m already looking ahead to next season, that’s how insignificant you’ve become down the stretch). He had a rocky start, and although he hasn’t returned to his normal self, he has certainly improved. Overall his SV% is 0.900 and to me that paints him in a pretty dark shade, which means – buy low.
Bobrovsky owners might be desperate. In 2015-16, he had a 0.908 SV% and he bounced back to 0.931 the following year. But the team around him needs a culture change. Coach Joel Quenneville is going to get more of his fingerprints on the team that he wants to coach for next year and hopefully that includes more character guys and better depth in general. (mar2)
16. Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar? That’s been the debate around the Calder Trophy basically since Victor Olofsson got injured in January. I would like to submit another name for consideration: Dominik Kubalik. Dobber has been pumping Kubalik’s tires for months now, so readers will be very familiar with his talent level. I would like to talk about what he’s done this year.
On the season, Kubalik has 29 goals and is on pace for 35. If he can get there, he’ll be just the fifth rookie since the 2005 lockout to reach that mark. The others are Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin. When we’re talking about great production, it seems like that’s a good list to be on.
The media narrative has been Hughes vs. Makar basically since October and once Victor Olofsson was injured, it was deemed a two-horse race. Kubalik will get some votes, I’m sure, and may even finish third place. I understand that it’s hard to compare across positions (or age, for that matter), and Kubalik is not on a playoff team (which shouldn’t matter in the slightest for Rookie of the Year, but I digress), but he’s been legitimately great this year, and not just among first-year players. Regardless of what happens with the Calder, Kubalik’s dynasty owners are going to be happy for years to come, I think. (mar3)
17. Adam Fox leads all rookies with a plus-19 rating, while Dominik Kubalik not only leads with 29 goals, but he also has 74 Hits and is a plus-3. Quinn Hughes, Jack’s brother, was just named the NHL’s rookie of the month for February. In November, Hughes had 15 points in 13 games, and his 13 assists in a single month were the most by a Vancouver defenseman since Jeff Brown back in 1995. Quinn is the first rookie in the NHL to reach 50 points this year, and that’s the first time in NHL history that a defenseman was the first rookie to reach 50 in a season. (mar2)
18. The $8M man Jacob Trouba saw just 18:09. He’s taking a lot of heat from Rangers fans for that contract, but he’s been ‘the’ defensive defenseman for the Rangers. He gets most of the defensive zone starts against tougher opponents, has been a top penalty killer, and he’s been saddled with Brendan Smith as a D partner at even strength. His 5on5 S% sits at career-low 6.9%, so some bad puck luck is at play. But because Tony DeAngelo is so good on the PP (5.8 PPPts/60), Trouba is doomed to be the second-unit guy for the foreseeable future. So, while I see a rebound season for him next year, that rebound will be held to 40 to 43 points due to his PP production being cut in half from his Winnipeg days. (mar2)
19. In just his second full NHL season, Tony DeAngelo has now cracked 50 points. You probably didn’t project this at the start of the season, but only three defensemen (John Carlson, Roman Josi, Victor Hedman) have more points than DeAngelo's 53. He was one of those players who was projected to be either a boom or a bust with no middle ground. You might have had to be super patient to keep him on your keeper team since Tampa Bay drafted him in 2014, but he’s finally delivering on that promise. (mar6)
20. Mika Zibanejad is now up to 39 goals in just 55 games, including 21 goals in his last 20 games. In terms of goals per 60 this season, only David Pastrnak, Alex Ovechkin, and Auston Matthews had more entering Saturday action, and not by a huge margin. If Zibanejad hadn’t missed nearly a month from late October to late November, we may be discussing him as a potential 50-goal scorer as we are the other three.
He’s also in the top 10 in terms of points per game (72 points in 55 games), so this is a player who at 26 years of age is knocking on the door of becoming an elite fantasy option.
By the way, I believe one of my first fantasy takes for DobberHockey was Ottawa trading Zibanejad to New York for Derick Brassard. I knew at the time the Rangers could easily get the better of the deal, but I had no idea it would be that one-sided. The exchange of picks even favored the Rangers. I know it’s easy to pile on the Ottawa Senators, but wow. (mar6)
21. Travis Sanheim is looking like a sneaky pickup for next year. He’s showing what he can do when Shayne Gostisbehere is out of the lineup. Two assists on Sunday give Sanheim seven points in 10 games. He had just 16 points all year long prior to this run. (mar2)
Have a good week, folks!!
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