21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
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. One of the big drivers of expected goal rates is proximity to the net, and few players crash the net like Brady Tkachuk does. With that said, players that crash the net can sometimes see their goal totals fail to live up to their expected goal marks.
A good example of that is Brendan Gallagher, who has been much better in this regard in recent seasons, but once went four straight seasons with a higher xG than actual goals scored. There are others that fit this bill, such as Patric Hornqvist, who went from 2011-2019 having only one season outscoring his expected goals rate. Tyler Toffoli also had three straight years, from 2016-19, failing to outscore his xG rate (though that may have also been line mate-related).
All this is to say just because Tkachuk puts up 1.25 ixG/60 doesn’t mean we can expect him to score near that rate every year. It does give him a nice floor, especially with his peripherals, just be wary of assuming he’s one of the best goal scorers in the league now. We’ll have to give him a couple more years to prove that. (mar26)
2. I had a Ramblings post that discussed, in part, how good a season Bo Horvat was having despite not getting anywhere near the quality of line mates that fellow Canucks centre Elias Pettersson was enjoying. When you consider that his 5-on-5 shooting percentage this year (5.22 percent) is exactly half of his three-year average prior to 2019-20 (10.44 percent), we see just how much better his season could have been. Double his 5-on-5 goals and he’s flirting with 30 goals with 14 games to spare. Again, that’s without elite line mates (which may be partly why his shooting percentage dropped so much). He’s a guy to invest in for 2020-21. (mar26)
3. Although he has had four 20-goal campaigns entering 2019-20, Nicklas Backstrom is/was on pace for fewer than 20 goals this season. Backstrom has a slightly lower than expected 9.1 SH%, which could be partially due to an age-related decline from the 32-year-old center. Backstrom’s career high of 33, set way back in 2009-10, seems like an outlier, since he has never reached even reached 25 goals in any other season.
Backstrom is as consistent as it gets when it comes to assists. Entering this season, he had posted at least 50 assists over each of his previous six seasons. That makes him the top assist-getter since the 2013-14 season. As many players’ production has increased over the past few seasons, Backstrom’s has declined slightly, as he is 22nd in total assists over the past three seasons.
His current production and consistent deployment with Alex Ovechkin on the top line and first-unit power play means that the 32-year-old should push for 20 goals and 50 assists again, so something close to 70 points should be expected again next season.
4. Shooting 4.1 percent is going to make anyone’s goal totals look bad, but it’s the expected goals rate that is really of concern here. Gustav Nyquist has never really been a big goal scorer, at least not since his first couple years in the league, but his expected goals rate/60 this year of 0.44 is by far a career-low (0.55 in 2015-16) and considerably lower than his marks going back three years (0.83, 0.65, 0.75, respectively).
I think there’s a good chance there are some team effects here. Even Cam Atkinson, a guy who has posted three seasons above 1.0 ixG/60, was suffering from a three-year low this year. The team as a whole was in the bottom-10 for xG/60 so maybe there is something to the team effects. That John Tortorella had this team playing much more defensively than in seasons prior wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone given the exodus of talent they suffered a year ago.
Not that I think Nyquist is a great fantasy asset, but it seems pretty obvious there’s more to give here. Maybe if some of the young guns step up more in 2020-21, and they add some talent in the offseason, he can get back to where we expect him to be. (mar26)
5. It’s been a while since Jordan Staal broke the 50-point mark (he was still in Pittsburgh, actually), so I’m not sure how many people have been paying attention to his production in recent years, or even just this year. Well, he had eight goals in 68 games and that’s really not going to cut it, even if he would have flirted with 160 hits. (I guess there are so many fantasy hockey variants that there are leagues where eight goals from a centre is fine, just not something I would target.)
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here because there’s not a lot of fantasy relevance, but Staal’s days of any fantasy relevance may be numbered. He’ll be 32 years old for next season, and as the Hurricanes have improved their team (and their depth), his ice time has declined; his 17:30 in 2019-20 was his lowest mark per game since his rookie 2006-07 season. (mar26)
6. Overlooked in Oscar Klefbom‘s career-high point pace (0.55 PTS/GP) is the fact that he leads the league with 180 blocked shots. That total is by far a career high for him and likely a result of his overall increased usage of 25:25 per game, a total only surpassed by Thomas Chabot, Drew Doughty, Roman Josi, and Kris Letang.
For a player who was drafted in a similar position to the likes of Nate Schmidt, Cody Ceci, and Tyler Myers, Klefbom has provided incredible value this season. Off the top, the blocked shots total might be a reason not to knock Klefbom down too far in your rankings, assuming he continues to receive that level of icetime.
Having said that, only nine of his 29 assists have been of the primary variety. Not surprisingly, 16 of those 29 total assists have been on the power play, 11 of which were secondary. The scenario of Klefbom to Leon Draisaitl to Connor McDavid (or with the forwards in reverse) on the Oilers’ top-ranked power play likely played out numerous times. Assuming Draisaitl and McDavid don’t drop off considerably, there’s still plenty of opportunity for Klefbom if he stays on PP1. It might be safer to say that number won’t get any higher, though.
Something to keep in mind with Klefbom, though, is that he’s a certified Band-Aid Boy. Klefbom had already missed nine games this season, so we’ll assume he’d have played in all of the Oilers’ remaining games and end up with 73 GP. Over his previous two seasons, Klefbom played in 61 and 66 games, giving him an average of 67 games played over the previous three seasons. Any point projections have to come with an injury discount (let’s say 10 games), with anything above that a bonus.
If you’re expecting Klefbom to cruise to a 50+ point season riding off the coattails of McDavid and Draisaitl, you might want to temper your expectations for the reasons I’ve listed above. Klefbom maintaining his current point pace would be a more realistic projection. (mar29)
7. Like many things in life, Charlie McAvoy's breakout in 2020-21 is dependent on external factors. Namely, will the Bruins be able to afford to sign impending UFA, Torey Krug. Krug will be looking to cash in and if he’s not interested in playing ball with Boston’s internal ceiling he could easily walk. If he does, the PP1 job will be handed to McAvoy on a silver platter.
Through the first three seasons of his career, the 2016 first-rounder has clicked sustainably at a 40ish-point pace. That’s while never seeing an average of two minutes of man-advantage. He was tied for 9th in even-strength scoring this year. Ahead of the likes of Quinn Hughes, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns.
Double his PPTOI and slide him out with the B’s top unit and we’re looking at a threat to push for 55-plus. The seven points in his final seven games this season were a nice sign of things to come. (mar25)
He’s a high-end producer on the man-advantage. On a per-minute basis on the power play, his 4.6 power-play points per 60 minutes this season sat amongst the top-20 in the league. I expect he has the ability to live in that area and likely push up a bit more.
The real gains will hopefully come at even-strength. If the Avs can remain healthy up front, Girard will have more to work with at 5v5. He produced 21 EVP in 70 games this past season. If he can find a way to push that closer to 30 – where the top-25 guys live, then he should be set up for another step up the ladder.
Additionally, Makar hasn’t had the healthiest start to his career. The moment he goes down, Girard’s PPTOI goes up. (mar25)
Also like Girard, the 21-year-old Russian was an extremely impactful power-play producer on a per-minute basis. Even moreso than his Colorado comparable. Finally, just like Girard, a step up in even-strength scoring will be needed to hit the next level.
Sergachev saw his minutes jump nearly 2.5 minutes this past season to 20:22 per game. Nearly all of that came on 5v5. This is a nice indication of where he’ll be going long term, and I expect that is upwards. 2018-19 saw him produce 26 EVPs. This past year just 21. He’s not as sheltered, but he’s also playing more minutes with better players. I like him to be closer to the sophomore total at even-strength next year and a push for 45-50 overall. (mar25)
10. If we consider Mike Hoffman an upper-echelon goal scorer – not the elite tier, but a step below – then we have to admit his shooting talent is a big reason for that. But there’s something else bugging me: just how reliant he is on power-play goals.
The concern is that he’s a UFA. Does he re-sign with Florida? Maybe, maybe not. And if he doesn’t, where does he end up? Is it somewhere with an elite power play like Florida’s, like Edmonton? Does he go somewhere with a lot of cap room and is rebuilding/re-tooling, but with a much worse power play, like Anaheim or Montreal? We just don’t know what the future will hold.
Regardless, what he’s showing over his career is that to flirt with, or push past, 30 goals, he probably needs double-digit PP goals. That level of PP production, year in and year out, is difficult for any player that is not among the handful of elite in the NHL, and Hoffman is not one of them. That’s why I worry about Hoffman’s future fantasy value. He is likely going to need top PP minutes on a good power play to maintain scoring rates and there’s no certainty he’ll get both those things. We’ll have to wait and see where he lands. (mar24)
11. I’ve been on the record saying I think Dominik Kubalik should at the very least be in the top-3 for Calder Trophy voting this year, and based off different metrics like WAR per 60 minutes, there’s a good argument he should win it outright.
That’s not to say that he hasn’t been lucky. He obviously has been, as evidenced by his 19.3 percent shooting at 5-on-5, the third-highest on our list. Players just can’t sustain that for years on end; tops in the league over the last three seasons is Brett Connolly at 16.7 percent, and he’s the only player over 16 percent. Sustaining 19 percent year in and year out is just not in the kards for Kubalik.
To that end, though, we can’t discount the possibility that he is a true 30-goal scorer. He reached 30 goals this year in 68 games, yes by virtue of a high shooting percentage, but he also did it skating 14:22 per game. If we get to next season and he’s playing 17:30 a night, that could be more than enough additional ice time to offset the impending shooting percentage decline.
The question becomes his draft cost. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. (mar24)
12. Let's get to a few questions from readers:
Reader @jLamber6 asks: Conor Ingram in the NHL next season somewhere? Does he have the potential for a future in the NHL?
Real nice NHL future in my opinion but no way it happens next season. Three years away. A backup in two if he plays very well. I think Nashville would like to apprentice him the way they did with Juuse Saros. What he needs to work on is his workload. He needs to eke up his games played until he can play 55 in the AHL (31 this year, 31 ECHL/AHL the year before, 34 the season before that). (mar23)
13. Reader @GEARSofWARP asks: What direction do you see the Bruins goaltending headed? Halak a FA, Rask contract is up after next year. Do they trust the system? Or go after a FA?
I think given the strides that Daniel 'Darth' Vladar made this season, the Bruins would be comfortable letting Jaroslav Halak and his potential big contract walk and slide Vladar in as a backup. But Vladar still has to earn it – he doesn’t have to clear waivers until 2021-22, so if he shows early on that he can’t handle the backup role the Bruins could easily bring a short-term backup in. But ideal for them is Vladar succeeding in a limited role next year, and then they would be able to let Tuukka Rask walk away in 2021.
Jeremy Swayman has had three good years in college, with his junior season (this one) the best of them all (0.939 SV% in 34 games for Univ. of Maine). The Bruins signed him last week so he’s turning pro. Vladar successfully winning the backup job next year would allow Swayman to continue to develop for two years in Providence as their starter – and Boston’s goaltending conveyor belt can be a thing. (mar23)
14. Reader @James_K_Yamada asks: Was this just a down year for Dubnyk or is he done?
On one hand, Devan Dubnyk is in a contract year next season. But he’ll be 34 next year and I don’t like where he’s trending – 0.923, 0.918, 0.913 and 0.890 the last four seasons in order – and this season his third quarter was his worst quarter and in his one game in the fourth quarter he allowed four goals on 26 shots. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on him being done – but call it 65/35 confidence. (mar23)
15. Reader @Johnny_Hinds asks: Will Gibson ever return to form or is this the start of his decline?
John Gibson will return to form. And then the team in front of him will crumble by December and his numbers will get hammered. He’ll get it right when the team around him gets better, which is still two or three years away if you ask me. For two or three seasons now, Gibson has been so awesome in October and November that my readers get upset with me that his ranking doesn’t have him in the Top 5. Those readers start shutting up by January, and fade to oblivion by February. I expect that to happen again next year! (mar23)
16. Reader @davidgoodburn asks: Has Ullmark earned the starting job in Buffalo? Will that team ever turn the corner and be a contender?
I think Linus Ullmark has over-achieved and earned a temporary status as the team’s No.1. It’s still very much up for grabs and there are a couple of decent goalies in the pipeline. I just have my doubts that Ullmark has 55-game workhorse in him. Let’s also keep in mind that Carter Hutton is an easy buyout candidate in the offseason and in that case the Sabres would be very much in the mix for Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom and even their old buddy Robin Lehner. (mar23)
17. Reader @lusshouse asks: So, Rittich is Tier3, but ranked in ‘points’ ahead of all but 1 Tier2.
The prime example why I like going by Tiers instead of rating when it comes to my goalie rankings. The Tiers give you a sense of security and risk management. David Rittich is still very risky. But he does have some upside to be a 60-game quality starter on a very good team that should get lots of wins. He’s also in his prime. His great win total of 2018-19 came alongside mediocre stats (0.911 SV%) – and this year he also has 24 wins, which helps a lot of leagues, but his other numbers are terrible. A lot of question marks with him, and he’s being out-performed by Cam Talbot. Yet Talbot is a free agent in the summer. Rittich is a Tier 3 until he either seizes the top job outright, or the Flames fail to sign a proven goaltender and – say – Jon Gillies comes up to be the backup next year. (mar23)
18. Reader @lusshouse asks: Also, is it time to drop Gustafsson or Montembault in a full keeper if I need to free a spot for next year?
I’m okay with dropping either Filip Gustavsson or Sam Montembault, depending on who you pick to replace them. Monty looks like he’ll be a solid backup, so there’s little upside there. Gustavsson is struggling as a North American pro, but his upside is huge so I feel like the wait time is long before we truly see. But if that type of prospect goalie is the only type you can pick up then you may as well keep them. If you can do better, then go ahead. (mar23)
19. Reader @stormey10 asks: How will Pens goalie situation end up?
Holtby: I think Detroit and Ottawa will be hard in the mix for Braden Holtby and Jacob Markstrom. Edmonton is also a strong possibility, but the salary cap plays a huge role here. The projection was for the cap to be around $84M, but with the season on pause and revenue lost – could the cap stay the same or even go downward? If the latter, you can stroke the Oilers off the list. (mar23)
20. Reader @stormey10 asks: How will Pens goalie situation end up?
I think Matt Murray will sign a cheaper contract, unless he leads them to another Cup. But if the Pens are gone in the first two rounds (assuming playoffs happen!), I think they get him for $5M at a low term “show me” contract where he needs to prove he can stay healthy. I think Tristan Jarry signs for under $4M, also a short-term “show me” deal. The team then gives this situation another year to play out and make a decision on who will be their future goalie – and trade the other one. With Justin Schultz off the books and possibly buying out Nick Bjugstad, the team will have the cap room to do this. (mar23)
21. Reader @kelly_kjp asks: Is Cal Peterson an elite goalie and a workhorse to carry the king?
Not elite and perhaps not a workhorse, but he is a very good goalie and a potential starter. I think next year he’ll be the 1A to Jonathan Quick‘s 1B (assuming the Kings can’t move Quick). If Cal Petersen flourishes without pressure (thanks to having Quick around to shoulder that), then he’ll progress to starter in 2021-22. I think he can be a 55- to 60-game guy, but I don’t think he can be a 70-game guy. Next year’s step will be an important indicator. (mar23)
Have a good week, folks!!
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