21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

Mario Prata


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


Man, a lot has happened in the past few days. Maybe I’ll start by reminding you all to stay safe out there. The usual stuff you’ve been hearing a lot lately, like washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your arm, and staying home if you don’t feel well.

Transitioning to the (relatively) micro world of fantasy hockey, you are probably sailing in uncharted waters. In terms of an action plan, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Dobber wrote a must-read Fantasy Hockey Impact piece within hours of the NHL suspending its season, while Cliffy also weighed in with some tips in Friday’s Ramblings. Both mention specific types of fantasy leagues in the event that the season is completely cancelled, while Dobber runs through scenarios with both the season continuing and the season being cancelled.

Something I’ll add is that hopefully the game providers (Yahoo, ESPN, CBS) take the lead in terms of determining a winner. This will be easier if the regular season continues in some way. The league providers providing an outcome removes potential bias, although not everyone will view the decision as fair. Yet, I’ve heard many people through the years – from my father to Bill Gates to a former supervisor – tell me that life isn’t fair. The older I get, the more I believe that to be true.

As for the Dobber websites, obviously you’re not going to see articles like Looking Ahead, Daily Fantasy, and Saturday’s Game Picks while there are no NHL games. However, other articles will still appear. Also, don’t forget that we will continue to post daily Ramblings even while the NHL and other hockey leagues go dark. There may not be a lot to write about, but we’ll find something to keep you entertained and informed. – Ian



Here are this week's 21 fantasy hockey rambles:

1. It really is wonderful to see Kevin Fiala break out in Minnesota. I have always been a firm believer in him and that one bad year in Nashville did nothing to dissuade that. Look at where he lines up in P1/60, and that’s including his bad year last year with the Preds. There is a lot of literature on him from me over the last few years, feel free to check our archives.

The upside here is he’s playing a lot more minutes. If he continues to play 19-20 minutes a night in the 2020-21 season, I think 70 points is well within reach, and he could even be a point-per-game player if he does serious damage on the power play. (mar11)


2. If you asked 100 hockey fans to name the player with the highest rate of primary points/60 minutes at 5-on-5 over the last two years, how many people would say Artemi Panarin as their first choice? I would be pretty stunned if the number was more than “one”.

I’m not going to feed a fed horse on the Kane/Panarin arguments from a few years ago, but more to make the point what a difference-maker he is in general, and has been for the Rangers this year. Yes, it’s a big, long contract, but it seems pretty obvious he’ll be a cornerstone for this team for the next few years, and that’s good news for a roster that has loads of talent already and more on the way. (mar12)


3. Sometimes I see Leafs fans complaining about John Tavares, and that’s probably just due to the sheer volume of Leafs fans relative to fans of other teams. Regardless, I wonder if we told them that he’s been only marginally less productive than Nathan MacKinnon what they might think.

As a Maple Leaf, Tavares has 73 goals and 148 points in 145 games. He’s done that with a shot rate well over three per game in both seasons. There might be some peripheral issues because he doesn’t hit a lot or take a lot of penalties, and that’s a worry for fantasy owners, but he’s been real good in real life.

I’m interested to see where he goes in drafts next year. He was a slam-dunk second-round pick this year and may have even gone at the end of first rounds. As of right now, he sits with 26 goals on the year (he’s missed a handful of games). Let’s say he finishes with 30, a decline of 17 goals from the season prior. Does he remain a second-round pick or drop to the third? Hope it’s the latter because I’ll be a buyer. (mar12)


4. Brendan Gallagher has long been very productive at 5-on-5 on a per-minute basis. It should speak to his upside if he got the 20-minute, top-line, top-PP treatment similar to players like Jake Guentzel, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Huberdeau.

But when I think of Gallagher’s game, I wonder if he’s able to play 20 minutes a night. He’s a guy that is very physical and digs hard every shift. Can he do that 20 minutes a night? Maybe he can, maybe he can’t. I think that type of game is much harder to maintain for 20 minutes a night than someone who is a pure playmaker, for example.

To that end, though, it doesn’t explain his (relatively) low raw totals. What does that is his PP production. For his career, he has two seasons with at least 10 PP points, one season with at least 15, and none with 20. This is his seventh full season in the NHL. Whether it’s his skill set that doesn’t mesh on the power play, the general lack of talent on the team for his tenure, or coaching systems (I submit it’s likely a mix of all three), it seems that it’ll be impossible for him to really reach his fantasy upside. (mar12)


5. Nils Lundkvist needs to be on your dynasty radar. The 19-year-old has been absolutely torching the SHL from the backend this season. Last Tuesday saw him record his 10th goal and 30th points in 44 SHL contests for Lulea. That mark leads all U20 defenders in SHL HISTORY. It also sits as the ninth most productive season by a U20 skater in the last 20 SHL seasons. Not just defenders. All skaters.

NYR boasts one of the deepest blueline pipelines in the game. There’s a chance Lundkvist becomes the best all-around guy from the lot. (mar11)


6. J.T. Miller has been beyond good for the Canucks and for fantasy teams. If you were one of the people who drafted him in hopes of sneaking 55 or 60 points then you're swimming in gravy. The 26-year-old has 72 points in 70 games – tops on the Canucks and just chilling amongst the top-20 in the entire league. (mar11)


7. Roman Josi kept building on his career-season last week. Make it 65 points in 69 games for the soon-to-be 30-year-old. Methinks this offseason would be the 'puuuurfect' time to look to sell high on the should-be Norris winner (if it weren't for the nutso season John Carlson is having). (mar11)


8. Miro Heiskanen clocks in at 35 points in 68 games – a new career-high. It's easy to forget about the 20-year-old a bit with so many electric young blueliners putting up gaudy totals. But this guy has a huge upside and hasn't yet taken the juicy minutes. If he can ever pry John Klingberg off of PP1, watch out. (mar11)


9. It hasn’t been the freshman season many people expected from 2019 second-overall selection, Kaapo Kakko – myself included. But fret not, he’s a legitimate star in the making. Next year will be a big jump. 2021-22 will be when things get really interesting.

Go on and see if you can buy-low on this kid in the summer. Sell the owner on him not living up to the hype or some other nonsense. (mar11)


10. Do you know who was having a souped-up rookie year before the NHL suspended action? Igor Shesterkin.

After suffering his first real test of adversity by giving up five to the Devils in his first game back after a car wreck fractured his ribs, the first-year netminder was back between the pipes and stopped 31 of 33 for his 10th win in 12 games. Nine of those games have seen him stop 30 or more shots. His .932 SV% is oh-so-sweet.

This kid has Vezina Trophy upside written all over him. (mar11)


11. On Johnny Gaudreau: In four of his first five seasons, the Flames outscored their expected goal pace by at least 10 goals at 5-on-5, the one exception being 2016-17 when the team scored 41 goals with Gaudreau on the ice against 38.6 expected goals. The reason I bring him up is because the team has scored 40 goals with him on the ice this year at 5-on-5 against 39.96 expected goals. He’s right on pace with expected goals numbers after a half-decade proving he has innate skill to outscore them.

Of course, it should be noted he also has the lowest on-ice scoring percentage of his career (7.6 percent) which is factoring in here. To that end, even if the team was shooting nine percent with him on the ice, they would still only be outscoring his expected goal pace by eight, well shy of what he’s done in years gone by (though there would still be four weeks for him to catch up).

Despite all this, I don’t think there’s a real reason to be down on Gaudreau heading into next year. If his individual shooting percentage were normal, he’d be knocking on the door of both 30 goals and 80 points. It’s a far cry from his 99 points in 2018-19, but it’s certainly not bad by any means. There’s more work to do here in the off-season but I will probably be a buyer. (mar10)


12. Jake Virtanen is a guy I’ve reversed course on over the last couple years as his underlying metrics have shown signs of good productivity, and he’s on the verge of his first 20-goal season. I don’t think it’s reasonable for Virtanen to get top PP minutes with the forward talent this team has, but even more even-strength minutes would help here. I hope he gets them sooner rather than later. (mar10)


13. The Ducks were very consistent putting Christian Djoos out there for the top PP unit before the league lockdown, rolling a four-forward group with Djoos as the QB. He scored his first goal with his new team last Sunday and had three points in nine games since the trade deadline. The 25-year-old really needs to make this count. (mar9)


14. Carolina prospect Morgan Geekie got into his first NHL game and picked up both his first NHL goal and first NHL assist. He ended up with three points on the day. He has 42 points in 55 AHL games with Charlotte and I had him still two to three years away and with second-line upside. I’m still firm on that upside, but I think he could be ready by middle of next year. He’s a likely third-line, but as noted I think he ‘could’ do better with chemistry with the right teammates. Geekie's DobberProspects' profile here. (mar9)


15. I sat on Tyler Bertuzzi all season long until my tenuous hold on top spot in one of my keeper leagues couldn’t carry his ass a moment longer. He picked up six points in three games before the league hiatus. If you recall, Bertuzzi went on a huge run late last year when he posted four consecutive three-point games in late March. After 20 points in the first 20 games, Bertuzzi made us fantasy owners suffer with his 22 points in 48 games after that. I held onto him until February 24 when I just “had” to drop him and blow my waiver budget on Andreas Athanasiou. Oops. I would have been seriously lucky had the other owner outbid me on that one and I was “stuck” keeping Bertuzzi.

Upon further analysis, Bertuzzi’s drop is directly attributed to the Anthony Mantha injury. As long as he has Dylan Larkin and Mantha on his line, Bertuzzi is a productive player. I should have delved deeper on that one before the decision to drop him was made. (mar9)


16. Dobber had a small bit on Bertuzzi above and in his Ramblings yesterday and I want to talk more about that, as well.

The line of Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha has been excellent together over the last couple years, but if we break them down into pairings (Bertuzzi-Larkin, Bertuzzi-Mantha, Larkin-Mantha), the common link seems to be that Mantha is really the large wooden spoon that stirs the cauldron. That worries me, because if coach Jeff Blashill breaks them up next year, it could hurt everyone on that line quite a bit.

What would help is Robby Fabbri or Filip Zadina continuing to take steps forward. Maybe one of them can step in and replace some of what Mantha does but it’s far from a guarantee.

I’m relatively high on the fantasy prospects of the top of the Detroit roster but it would seem that it’s dependent on the lineup configuration, and that should be a concern. As long as Mantha stays on the top line, they’ll be good-to-very-good. If he’s not, then things get a bit murky. Murkiness is bad for business in the fantasy game.


17. Jake Allen has turned into a very good backup goaltender. As long as a team isn’t forced to try him as their starter, it looks like he’ll be a great NHL asset. His problem has never been a lack of Quality Starts. His QS% has always been fine and very much comparable across all NHL goalies. No, his problem was the Really Bad Starts. He single handedly loses every sixth game. Last year, it was every fourth game. This year, it’s been every eighth game. Keep him as a backup and you avoid a lot of that.

Overall, Allen’s numbers this season are better than Jordan Binnington‘s. But the latter has held his RBS numbers down to one in every 10 games this year. And that puts a great team like the Blues in a position to win the other nine. (mar9)


18. A goalie I had on my watchlist, Chicago’s Ivan Nalimov, has finally crossed the pond. He’s no Igor Shesterkin by any stretch, but he’s a good goaltender, with decent KHL numbers and he joins a club with no set future between the pipes. He doesn’t have any track record in terms of logging a ton of starts – his career high is 39 – so pencil him in as a potential backup or possible 1A/1B guy in a couple of years. He’s 25, so we won’t have to wait long to see. Nalimov signed a PTO with Rockford of the AHL. (mar9)


19. Goaltender controversy coming up? Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner were taking turns getting starts before the league suspended games.

In one corner, Fleury, the champion. Three Stanley Cups. A $7M AAV in each of his next two seasons. Closing in on 500 career wings. And he has billboards and banners all over town. He is the face of the franchise.

In the other corner, Lehner, the challenger. A formerly highly-touted prospect who struggled and disappointed. But has since come back after beating his personal demons. He is fighting for respect and fighting for a long-term contract. Performance-wise, he has arguably been the third or fourth best goaltender in the entire league over the past 17 months. (mar9)


20. Mika Zibanejad is a better player than I took him for – but Artemi Panarin has certainly helped bring the boosted offense out of him. I acquired Zibby at the deadline along with Anze Kopitar in my keeper league and it cost me Jakub Vrana, Nicklas Backstrom and Ondrej Palat. I was reluctant to part with Vrana, as I felt that a year from now he’d be the best player in this deal in terms of points. (mar9)


21. I’ve always liked Jayce Hawryluk as a prospect, not for his tremendous upside but because I felt he had underrated upside. He has also been one of those guys who really picks up his game the bigger it gets. He’s not a big player but he’s a gritty one and I thought the Panthers made a huge mistake when they placed him on waivers.

He’s recently turned 24 and I think he’s carving himself a spot into Ottawa’s future plans. The franchise is stockpiled with high picks and top prospects, so getting a spot in the top-six is a pretty tall order. But a spot on the third line with impressive PIM and point totals for that role is within easy reach for him. And I wouldn’t bet the house on him not pulling off surprise numbers in three or four years either – he’s that clutch player you can’t count out. He had seven points in his last nine games and was fitting right in with Nick Paul (power forward) and Anthony Duclair (goal scorer). It’s the right chemistry mix both on paper and on ice. (mar9)


Have a good week, folks!!


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