21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

Mario Prata


Every Sunday, we’ll share 21 Fantasy Rambles 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. Nick Suzuki is quite clearly a notch or three ahead of Jesperi Kotkaniemi these days in Montreal. One finished his sophomore season in the American League, the other was pushing for that third spot on the Calder ballot.

But if you put a gun to my head over who I think will be the best player in their prime, watch out now, because I'll be picking Kotka.

Don't forget that this kid is quite literally, a kid. He was the youngest player in the league in 2018-19. This year he was 19 for all his action. And will continue to be so into June. He has all sorts of potential and a great deal of time to get there.

Suzuki is great, and I'm tickled to own him in a dynasty. But don't sleep on the 2018 third-overall selection. His bust out may yet be down the line, but it's coming. (mar18)


2. Speaking of the Habs, their top prospect, Cole Caufield has decided to return to the University of Wisconsin for a sophomore season. The 15th overall selection from 2019 had a standout freshman season at UW. He co-lead first-year players with 19 goals. He led the way in shots (140) and shots-per-game (3.89). His 36 points in 36 games were third.

From a developmental standpoint, going back from another NCAA season is just fine. He was always supposed to be a two-year wait. From a fantasy perspective, it’s less ideal in non-dynasty setups. I myself have Caufield in a league that’s dipping down to 15 keepers. I drafted him with the full intention of keeping him. I also thought he’d turn pro and be on the Habs top PP next year.

Decisions decisions. (mar18)


3. The two true-freshmen ahead of Caufield on that scoring list are Colorado’s Alex Newhook and Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras. We haven’t heard what their plan is for next year, but I think there’s a decent chance they both turn pro. If they do, their impact next year will be very limited, but their upside remains high.

I had Zegras and Newhook ranked fifth and sixth respectively last June. Points just seem to follow them around, albeit in many different ways.


4. Zegras is a bit undersized but plays an overly feisty style – almost too feisty at times. He’s also a premier distributor. We’re talking about elite levels of creativity and precision. He can dish it with the best of them.

Meanwhile, Newhook has the speed and skill combination that makes opposition coaches game plan against and fans drool. First of all, it was a travesty that he was sitting there at pick 16. Colorado nabbing him and Bowen Byram last year was a coup. (mar18)


5. Reader @PhoenixFan23 asks: How good is Kaapo Kahkonen going to be? Would you take Ilya Sorokin ahead of him?

I think Kahkonen will be a really good goaltender and he has a strong chance of becoming an NHLer in some capacity. Very promising, in a world where there are no guarantees. Sorokin is much, much better. As close to a guarantee as you’re going to get. He’s a step below Igor Shesterkin, but boy could this become close. It will be interesting watching the Three Russians Who Start With “I” battle it out over the next decade: Ilya Samsonov, Shesterkin, Sorokin (my money is on Shesterkin winning this battle more years than not). (mar16)


6. Reader @JensHinderlie asks: What’s Kevin Fiala‘s ceiling in Minnesota? He’s playing like a very confident hockey player. Where would you draft him next year with the assumption Kaprisov signs too.

Fiala has arrived. He is now the face of the Minnesota franchise. Kirill Kaprizov has the elite upside (I think better than Vladimir Tarasenko or Evgeny Kuznetsov). But Fiala is too good for Kaprizov to hold him down, and he’ll probably prop him up. I think Fiala will be a point-per-game player. (mar16)


7. Reader @Marc_LevesQ asks: Hey! Can you please make a comparison between Victor Olofsson and Oliver Bjorkstrand? Same expected ceiling?

Olofsson I believe is a 70-point player who plays with Jack Eichel, which naturally brings him up to the 80-point stratosphere. But so far I get the impression that he is prone to injury, so my early guess is for something close to 70 games and just under that for points. There may be a sophomore slump to be faced next season, but he’s the type of overachiever to beat that relatively quickly.

Bjorkstrand has 90-plus points upside to me. He’s the driver, not the passenger and I would rather own him for that elite upside. However, his injuries this year worry me just as much as they do with Olofsson. So again I’d pencil in 70 games, with points that match or even exceed those games. Playing for Columbus may hold him to a point-per-game, but he really is capable of much more. I am very high on both of these players and I hope they shed that proneness to injury rather than feed that hunch. (mar16)


8. Reader @JaFy_ asks: Mika Zibanejad elite? Another 40+ goals next season?

Elite. Zibanejad has ascended. I don’t think he’s a 40-goal scorer as his S% is very high (19.7%). But I think he’s a 100-point player and 35-goal guy. However, he does get hurt a lot so I still consider him a 70-game guy, but still getting 90 points. (mar16)


9. Reader @kjazz asks: I got two players I’m thinking of bailing on that I’d love some thoughts on: Nino Niederreiter and Andreas Athanasiou.

It’s probably time to give up on El Nino, who will enter next season as a 28-year-old. He’ll bounce back, but is 50 points any big whoop? As for Athanasiou, it would depend on the rules of your league. In my league, I would keep him for another year and see. But his plus/minus borders on hilarity, and getting demoted on a team like Edmonton that is dying for wingers really says something. But he’s still young enough (enters next season at 26) to see if he can still build on last year’s 30-goal season. (mar16)


10. Reader @jldtwo asks: What do you see from Adam Fox NYR points wise next year? 

I think Fox will be a regular visitor of the 50-point club, but I don’t think that happens next year. To me he is a prime candidate for a sophomore slump due to the fact that the Rangers have an elite option in Tony DeAngelo, as well as a highly-paid Golden Boy in Jacob Trouba they can turn to. So Fox will have to work his own way out of any tough obstacles commonly faced in a second season, and I figure it will take him a big chunk of next season to do that. Without a full analysis, I would say 38 points (his full-year pace this season was 49 points). (mar16)


11. Reader Brandyn Olfert asks: Is Tony DeAngelo a top 10 d man in the league?

100%. Great points guy, and great PIM guy. And now he’s broken through. I have him No.6 in my Top Keeper League Defensemen list. (mar16)


12. After back-to-back near-50 assist seasons and a Stanley Cup, it might be fair to say that these past two seasons have been the best of Ryan O’Reilly‘s career. The one downside, though, is that O’Reilly was down to just 12 goals this season, which would be his lowest total since 2010-11. Just something that would make ROR a good option instead of a great one in multicategory leagues.

The surprise here? O’Reilly’s 5-on-5 shooting percentage is actually a bit HIGHER than normal. So the downside of his matching last season’s career-high assist total (49) is that he has taken far fewer shots this season (118). O’Reilly has taken over one fewer shot per game in 2019-20 as opposed to 2018-19, when he totaled 234 shots. Digging deeper, O’Reilly’s 5-on-5 S/60 has dipped considerably from 8.32 last season (one of the highest on the Blues) to 4.37 this season (one of the lowest on the Blues).

That low shot total might be temporary, though. O’Reilly spent a considerable portion of 2018-19 with Vladimir Tarasenko, a player who has been absent for most of this season. If the 2019-20 season does continue in some form, Tarasenko may even be ready to return, as he was targeting a return for around this time. If O’Reilly is matched with Tarasenko instead of David Perron, then the shot totals could return. Then so could the goals. (mar21)


13. Matt Duchene‘s shot total has decreased slightly in Nashville, but it’s the shooting percentage that has taken a real hit. After shooting a career high 18.0% overall last season, Duchene has been shooting a career low 9.6% for the Predators. Duchene was on about a 50-point pace, which would have been much lower than the 70 points the season before. So, if his shooting percentage averages somewhere in between next season, he could finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 points. Now that he is 29 years of age, don’t expect any major gains beyond that projection, though. (mar21)


14. Remember back in October when it appeared that the Oilers would be the runaway winner of the James Neal/Milan Lucic swap of bad contracts? Nine of Neal’s 19 goals were scored over the first eight games of the season. Since that period, Neal has scored 10 goals over 47 games. You could see that decline coming from a mile away.

The most alarming stat of all? Neal has not scored a goal in the calendar year of 2020. Yes, that was interrupted by injury, but that’s a stretch of 13 games that Neal has suited up for in which he hasn’t scored a goal. He barely produced for fantasy teams during that time, adding just four assists with barely over a shot per game (19 SOG). This in spite of considerable time on the Connor McDavid line (although granted, it wasn’t the Oilers’ truly hot Leon Draisaitl line).

If regular season play resumes at some point, Neal (28 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) would be a player to cut bait on. He has most recently been skating on a line with Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira, who aren’t going to drive scoring on their own. Going forward, you can probably treat him as a boom-or-bust option that can probably be dropped at the earliest sign of a slump. (mar20)


15. You may also remember that Noel Acciari, who had previously never scored more than ten goals in a season, went on quite a run from mid-December to early January, scoring 12 goals in 12 games. That run was kicked off by back-to-back hat tricks on December 16 and 20.

Since January 12, Acciari scored just three goals with four assists in his last 25 games. However, you may now be wondering if there’s been a benefit to Acciari since Vincent Trocheck‘s departure. Since the Trocheck trade, Acciari has scored a single goal over his last seven games. His power-play time has remained virtually nil during that time, although his overall icetime has been nearly a minute higher than his season average.

You can probably go back to valuing Acciari as before the hot streak, which is another way of saying he holds very little value in pure scoring leagues. Since he leads the Panthers in hits (121) and finished with over 200 hits last season, you could make a case for him in deep bangers leagues. (mar20)


16. Jean-Gabriel Pageau had already reached a career high in goals (24) even before his inevitable trade from Ottawa in late February. He had scored the majority of those goals (16) over his first 29 games in which he had been shooting an incredibly high 22.2 percent. This from a player who had shot below 10 percent in multiple previous seasons. Fantasy owners had noticed the goals and were riding the Pageau train for as long as possible, though a decline seemed inevitable.

Since then, Pageau has cooled off with just ten goals over his past 36 games, which still prorates to a 20-goal pace. That includes two goals and no assists in seven games as an Islander, skating mainly with various players, most recently Leo Komarov and Anthony Beauvillier. His overall icetime has remained constant, although his power-play time has increased as an Islander. If you’re wondering how that could have happened, the Islanders’ offense is barely better than that of the Senators.

Pageau is still owned in 62 percent of Yahoo leagues, which seems a bit high for my liking. Beauvillier is a player who could be on the rise, so Pageau might be in a decent place for another 20-goal season if the two can form chemistry. However, I have a feeling that the defensively conscious Barry Trotz is more likely to use Pageau in a shutdown/defensive faceoff role behind Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson, as he had been deployed in Ottawa. For that reason, Pageau’s ceiling is that of a player you could fill out your roster with in a non-shallow league.


17. The Vladimir Tarasenko injury has had an impact on numerous Blues. For example, Jaden Schwartz‘s ice time has remained constant, yet over a similar number of games he has doubled his goal total while also increasing his assist total. So instead of 36 points (11g-25a), Schwartz has 57 points (22g-35a).

There are a number of factors driving the improvement. First, Schwartz’s power-play icetime percentage has increased from 46.1% to 61.4%, which might have something to do with Tarasenko’s absence. That’s not a major jump, as it has resulted in about an extra 30 seconds in power-play time. Yet the increase in power-play points has been astounding, from just 2 PPG and 5 PPP in 2018-19 to 9 PPG and 20 PPP in 2019-20 – both career highs.

Also, Schwartz’s shooting percentage was an abysmal 6.0% last season, yet has returned to 13.6% this season, which is more in line with his career averages. You may also remember that in spite of the disappointing regular season, Schwartz was on fire for much of the playoffs with 12 goals and 20 points in 26 playoff games. It’s fair to say that the success, or the confidence that has resulted, has carried over into 2019-20.

I haven’t addressed injuries, which must factor into how confident you feel about him going forward. Schwartz is on the Band-Aid Boy list, yet he’s managed to play in every game this season. If we remove injuries from the equation, then you could say that the 2018-19 regular season was more of the outlier for Schwartz when it comes to points per game.

Overall, I wouldn’t worry about Schwartz’s production once Tarasenko returns. Also remember that the two have been frequent linemates in the past (see his line combinations on his Frozen Tools page), and the two also play opposite wings. (mar22)


18. Although it may look as though Jonathan Huberdeau doesn’t score many goals, he has averaged nearly 27 goals over the past three seasons. His 80-goal total places him 38th in that category, which certainly isn’t terrible considering that he’s more known for assists. His goal total might look worse than it is because he’s 13th in assists over the past three seasons. That assist total gets even better over the past two seasons, where only six players have more assists than Huby.

Huberdeau might produce considerably more assists than goals. Yet it’s not going to hinder his fantasy value the way it will for someone like Alexander Wennberg or Joe Thornton. In a multicategory league, you should probably rank Huberdeau below players with similar point totals that are more frequent shooters and more goal heavy as a result – Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel are two players that come to mind. However, we’re not talking about dropping Huberdeau well below Matthews and Eichel either. (Also keep in mind that Huberdeau is a LW and Matthews and Eichel are C’s, which further narrows the gap – Top 100 Roto Rankings here).

For what it’s worth, Huberdeau’s 5-on-5 shooting percentage (11.3%) is a bit higher than normal. He’s scored his 23 goals on just 152 shots. Over a full season, his shot total projects to 180 SOG, which would be his lowest total over the past three seasons. That shot total is something that will need to increase; otherwise, he could be in danger of failing to reach 20 goals next season. (mar22)


19. If you were stuck with a line of three players in the woods and needed to survive off the land for weeks or months, which line would it be?

This isn’t a question that’s easy to answer on its face, I don’t think. We don’t necessarily need guys who put up a lot of points. When you’re stuck in the woods with a lighter, a pocket knife, and your wits. You don’t need guys who can pull off a bar-down off-wing wrist shot. You need guys who work well together, aren’t afraid to work their hands to the bone, and who have a variety of skills. We can’t have all three players being helpers, now can we?

Which line has three guys of varying skill sets, helpful skill sets, and have good chemistry? Give me the Andrei SvechnikovJordan StaalJustin Williams line from Carolina.

I know it’s not an official line as Svechnikov has (had?) often been playing on the top line, but it was a familiar trio in the 2018-19 season, so I’m counting it. Who’s going to stop me, anyway?

We have the youthful enthusiasm of Svechnikov, and that’s going to be critical. Guess who’s getting sent out every morning to chop down wood or hunt for breakfast? Sharpen your axe, Svech. He’s also creative enough to recognize other ways out of a jam that may not be apparent to others. We have the steady, overall value from Staal. He might not have the raw upside, but he knows everything that needs to be done, from building shelter, to gather wood/food, to keeping a fire, as well as low-range scouting. When we get to Williams, man, that guy’s been through it. He has seen everything. There is nothing that can take him by surprise at this point, and that calming influence would be necessary for me as I scream “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” every 30 minutes.

Maybe people will quibble about this choice of line, but I truly believe each player brings a unique aspect to the group, enabling us to survive this ordeal in these unnamed woods. (mar19)


20. As a Habs fan, it was awesome to see Ilya Kovalchuk in a Canadiens jersey, even at this stage of his career, even if it was just for a month or whatever. Back in his days with Atlanta and New Jersey, there were few players more electric. When I think back to the one year that he, Marc Savard and Marian Hossa all played on a line together, it makes me nostalgic. One of the best trios I’ve ever watched skate together.

I think it’s with New Jersey that he came to the forefront of the hockey world’s mind, even though by that point he already had three 40-goal seasons and two 50-goal seasons. He helped carry the Devils to the Cup Final in 2012, doing so while playing nearly 23 minutes a night.

What made him different is he could do it all offensively. Rush the puck and beat the defenseman one-on-one? Yep. Pull up and rip a wrist shot? Sure. Post up at a face-off dot and wait for a one-timer? Not quite Alex Ovechkin-esque, but yeah. Be a distributor if he had no room? Well, he had five 40-assist seasons in his career. Over-commit to him, and he found an open teammate. Under-commit to him, and he’d have no problem doing it all himself. Just one of the most special players of his millennium. (mar17)


21. I don’t think I’m alone here in saying that when Evgeni Malkin is on his game, whether it be 10 years ago or now (well, not NOW now, given, you know), there is no offensive player more terrifying. When he was determined, and had a head of steam, no one could stop him. It’s why he’s performed so well in the times that Sidney Crosby has missed significant games.

Some people might say “why doesn’t he do that all the time” but playing at 100 percent all the time at the NHL level while skating 20-22 minutes a night is, uh, very hard.

Regardless, he’s a through-and-through Hall of Famer and like Ilya Kovalchuk, he could do it in any number of ways.

Sometimes I wonder what his legacy would be if he were not on Sidney Crosby‘s team his whole career. Obviously, he’s still considered as a great player, but something like the snub from the NHL top-100 is something that sticks out. What if he ended up in Washington and Alex Ovechkin in Pittsburgh? It’s funny how things work out sometimes. (mar17)


Have a good week, folks!!



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