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. I’m not convinced Jack Hughes is a top-line centre for 2020-21. And if he’s not getting top-line minutes (and the linemates that go with it), I’m not sure how much raw upside there is; it’s hard to see 70-point seasons playing with Miles Wood, Jesper Boqvist, Jesper Bratt, and the like. There are good real-world players on the roster, but with Taylor Hall gone, Kyle Palmieri is the only proven winger. We can probably throw Nikita Gusev into the mix as well, but I’m less certain about his upside and there’s no guarantee he’s even on the roster for next season. In that sense, I’m very worried about Hughes’ quality of teammate and that’s going to keep his projections tempered for the near-term.


2. In my bones I felt that the 2019-20 season would be the year Nico Hischier, Hughes' young teammate, had his full-fledged breakout. His rookie season saw 20 goals and 52 points, a very solid output for a 19-year-old rookie center. He followed that up with 47 points in 69 games in 2018-19, which actually represented an increase in points/game. Even with Hughes in the fold for 2019-20, I assumed Hischier would play 18-19 minutes a night on the top unit with Hall and Palmieri eating top PP minutes, as well.

It’s not that 2019-20 was horrible, but his points/game declined slightly, he missed time due to injury, and the Devils as a whole basically floundered. Hall was traded, the team restarted the rebuild, and Hischier’s season was basically lost.

I still think he’s an excellent player but here, as well, the void of offensive talent, particularly on the wings, is an issue for his fantasy value. I’m also nervous that Hischier will be used mostly in a defensive role with similarly-inclined wingers, while Hughes gets the cushy offensive slotting and better wingers. Hischier is a very good player but it seems like his real-world value will exceed his fantasy value for the foreseeable future. (apr2)


3. If everything looked normally for Jonathan Marchessault this year under the hood, we’d expect him to be somewhere near a 65- to 70-point range, rather than the 55-60 points he may have accumulated this year. With his ability to contribute in peripherals, he’s a strong rebound candidate and will be going later in drafts next year than he did in September 2019. I’ll be a buyer. (mar31)


4. After a career-high 56 points with Minnesota in 2016-17, Charlie Coyle has settled in as around a 35-point player over the last three seasons. He’s a solid option as a third-line center for the Bruins, but since the three top-end scorers all play on the top line, Coyle won’t have much upward mobility in the Bruins’ lineup unless there is an injury. Having said that, it’s worth mentioning that Coyle had seven points in the nine games that Patrice Bergeron missed because of injury earlier this season.

Don’t be surprised to see a slightly higher assist total from Coyle going forward, but it shouldn’t swing his fantasy value in a significant way. (apr4)


5. If your multicategory league rankings don’t tell you this, then I will: Brady Tkachuk is a top-50 player in any such league with any banger categories. Only Evander Kane and Brendan Lemieux recorded more penalty minutes than Tkachuk this season (106 PIM). Right now, he’s a 50-point player based on current pace. Think of the kind of value that he’ll have if he becomes a 60, 70, or even 80-point player, particularly when the Senators are able to surround him with stronger and more developed scoring options. (apr4)


6. We can further break down Taylor Hall‘s primary and secondary assists ratios before and after his trade to Arizona:

– New Jersey: 14 A1, 5 A2
– Arizona: 14 A1, 3 A2

And in terms of overall scoring:

– New Jersey: 30 GP, 6 G, 19 A, 25 PTS
– Arizona: 35 GP, 10 G, 17 A, 27 PTS

Hall has experienced a slight decline in his scoring rate since being traded to Arizona, although it hasn’t been significant. Perhaps you saw the number somewhere about how Arizona’s record took a nosedive after the Hall trade. In my opinion, that had more to do with Darcy Kuemper‘s injury shortly after, as he was having a Vezina Trophy-level season at that point. For what it’s worth, Hall may have been finding his groove just before the shutdown, firing 14 shots over his last two games.

As for Hall’s scoring, we’ve already seen the best-case scenario, when he scored 93 points (39g-54a) en route to a Hart Trophy. In terms of whether an improvement next season is in the cards, we’ll have to find out where Hall plays next season. New Jersey and Arizona both ranked in the bottom third in terms of goals per game, so could there be an improvement on a better team? Hall’s most frequent linemates in Arizona have been Christian Dvorak and Conor Garland – talented players to be sure, but not first liners.

One way or another, Hall will look to improve on what was a 66-point pace this season, which was his lowest point-per-game pace (0.80 PTS/GP) over the last three seasons. (apr4)


7. This was not a particularly good season for Ryan Johansen. Not only was his point-per-game pace (0.53) his lowest since his 2012-13 sophomore season in Columbus, but he only recorded eight primary assists. For a player who led the Predators in total assists (50) and primary assists (29) last season, that’s an extremely low total. To put it another way, the likes of Kyle Turris, Rocco Grimaldi, Calle Jarnkrok, and Nick Bonino all recorded more primary assists.

So, let's shed some light on what Johansen’s prospects are like going forward. On one hand, Johansen could be a safe 45-point assist-heavy option with a low ceiling going forward. That doesn’t sound very appealing, but there’s also a glimmer of hope for a turnaround. Frequent Johansen linemate Viktor Arvidsson, who was surprisingly not one of the Preds to reach the 30-point mark, could himself be a rebound candidate next season. That could be good news for both players.

Coaching changes also matter, so it’s worth mentioning that the John Hynes hiring has hurt Johansen’s value considerably. Since Hynes took over, Johansen has been held to just 10 points in 27 games. Worse yet, Johansen was held to 15:43 in ice time, down considerably from the 19:33 that he averaged last season. Hynes and Johansen might have to make it work somehow, since Johansen is under contract for $8 million per season for the next five seasons.

As it stands, Johansen is just 28 percent owned in Yahoo leagues. It shouldn’t be any higher than that. (apr3)


8. Adam Gaudette is a play driver that Canucks’ fans in general would like to see more of, but with Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat firmly planted as the Canucks’ top two centers, Gaudette won’t likely be used as a top-6 forward unless he is moved to the wing. This deployment will limit his value going forward, in case you had any inclination of drafting him as a sleeper. Second-unit power-play minutes could help the former Hobey Baker winner take a run at 40 points, as long as he is used mainly with players with some offensive upside. (apr3)


9. I wasn’t going to bring up Yanni Gourde because of his role in Tampa, and the unlikelihood he ever gets enough minutes to be fantasy-relevant again, but he could be a cap casualty given they have to re-sign Anthony Cirelli, need to replenish the blue line, and will only have a few million in cap space assuming it doesn’t increase next year. Someone will have to go, much like J.T. Miller a year ago, and Gourde makes sense given he’s way overpaid for a third/fourth liner on this team.

Three reasons for Gourde’s poor 2019-20 season: he played 14 minutes a night, he shot nearly half (9.1 percent) his career rate (17.9 percent), and the team shot just 7.2 percent with him on the ice, like three percent lower than the team average. Despite all this, even if he just shot around his career average, which would only solve one of our three problems, he’d be very close to 2.00 points/60 at 5-on-5. That’s the fine line most fantasy assets walk every season.

It’s also why I’d be encouraged for Gourde to land somewhere he can grow with the team. Somewhere like New Jersey would make a lot of sense. I’m already picturing him on the top line with Nico Hischier, and it’s putting a little smile on my face. Whether he actually gets traded, well, we have no idea what the hockey gods have in store for us at the moment. I just think it makes a lot of sense that he gets moved, and if he can get 17 minutes a night somewhere, 50-60 points is within reach again. (apr2)


10. Rasmus Ristolainen was on track for his fifth consecutive 30-assist season, although he was also on pace to finish below 40 points for the first time over those five seasons. The slightly below average projections have much to do with overall icetime and power-play time both being down. Since Rasmus Dahlin is now on the team, Ristolainen is no longer leaned on heavily for 25 minutes per game, and he has been bumped off the first-unit power play.

Ristolainen has been known for his multicategory value over the past few seasons, some of which has been due to his heavy usage by the Sabres. He has reached 200 hits for three consecutive seasons, and over that span only seven players have recorded more hits. When you combine that with the fact that he’s been a 40-point scorer for several seasons, he’s been a must-own blueliner. Unfortunately, because of lower usage this season, his power-play points, shots, and blocked shots are all projected to be down.

The fact that two-thirds of Ristolainen’s assists were of the primary variety helps his cause going into next season. However, his name has been tied to trade speculation for at least a year, so you may want to wait for offseason activity (whenever that will be) before writing any projections in pen. Even without the first-unit power-play time and with the slightly reduced minutes, there’s still a lot to like from a multicategory fantasy perspective. (apr5)


11. While you are waiting for the leagues to start, why not take stock of your keeper league prospect situation. New writer Dave Hall has you covered with Draft Worthy Defenders in 2020 for The Journey. One of the d-men profiled was Devils prospect Ty Smith. If you follow the WHL or prospects in general, you may remember his hat trick and eight-point game in late February for the Spokane Chiefs. As I told Dave over email, I don’t think it will be long before you’ll see Smith running the New Jersey first-unit power play. (apr5)


12. The LA Kings recently inked Tyler Madden. The sophomore centre was firmly in the running for the Hobey Baker award before injuring his hand in mid-February. He was acquired by the Kings as a part of the Tyler Toffoli deal with Vancouver.

Madden is a very exciting young player and another one who will look to push right into the NHL lineup for next season. However, this is a guy who plays a feisty style yet sits under 160lbs. Some time to acclimate to pro hockey in the AHL will certainly be an option.

Long term, I think he likely moves to the wing. Especially with Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan as young Cs in the organization. (apr1)


13. Speaking of Toffoli, the Canucks have some serious decisions to make this offseason. The biggest one looms in net where Jacob Markstrom will have an opportunity to test free agency. Markstrom has taken the long road to becoming a high-end starter, but he's there now. In fact, his level of play in 2019-20 before going down with an injury was that of a Vezina-level. Do the Canucks want to pay him big dollars with term attached as he crests the 30-year peak, though?

The next big decision will come down to long-time, top-pairing defender Chris Tanev and newbie Toffoli. For fantasy owners, it's hard not to root for Toffoli taking the last bit of cap space in Vancouver. His time was short in blue and green (just 10 games) but he had 10 points while averaging 3.8 shots and seeing a very healthy dose of deployment next to Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller.

This happened to occur at the same time that Brock Boeser was out, so you never know how the coaching staff breaks things up with a fully healthy lineup, but you can imagine Toffoli would see extended periods with that group in all situations. He may be able to get a bit more money elsewhere, but the situation won't get much better. (apr1)


14. General manager Kyle Dubas was quoted as saying when training camp occurs (whenever that is) that the Leafs’ top pick from 2019, Nicholas Robertson (53rd overall), will be given every opportunity to make the club. And while that may just be lip service to keep the young man motivated, it’s not altogether unrealistic.

For some reason, Robertson slipped out of round one last June and fell right into the Maple Leafs’ laps. At the time, I said that there was little reason to think Robertson wouldn’t go back to the OHL and score 40 goals. Turns out I was underselling him. The 18-year-old went off in 2019-20. He tallied 55 goals in just 46 games. That 1.196 goals-per-game is the most we’ve seen from a U19 OHLer in the last 28 years. It trails only Eric Lindros’ 1.24 goals-per-game in the history of the league. We’re not talking small peanuts here.

While the Leafs may boast a bevy of goalscorers on their team already, they’re also a team that is up against the cap wall. That is likely to be even worse with the lack of revenue from the COVID-19 shutdown. Finding cheap, productive players is paramount and the best way to do that is to provide opportunities for players on ELCs. All this to say if you didn’t have  Robertson on your radar before. You damn well better now. (apr1)


15. Since we’re talking about young players who may get a chance next year, how about Adam Beckman with the Wild? This is a kid that slipped all the way to 75th overall last draft. He rewarded the Wild by going back to the WHL and scoring 48 goals and 107 points in just 63 games to lead the league in both categories.

Beckman will turn 19 later this spring, and as such is bound by the NHL-CHL agreement that prohibits him from seeing AHL action. Do the Wild want to send him back to junior to dominate once again, or do they find a home for him in their top nine with some secondary power-play opportunities?

It’s not as if Minny is bursting with talent up front. Especially with Mikko Koivu and Alex Galchenyuk up this summer. They recently signed the electric winger to a well deserved ELC. It’ll be a situation to watch closely. (apr1)


16. I just wanted to briefly mention Elias Lindholm because I think after the seasons he and Johnny Gaudreau had in 2018-19, a lot of people were hoping for more of the same. Well, I was at least. That certainly didn’t come to fruition. The thing is, his entire drop is from his assists, where he fell from 51 in 2018-19 to 25 in 2019-20. He probably would have lost 10 assists alone to a regression in secondary assists, and that’s a big portion of his overall drop.

That ties into the underperformance of his linemates, as Sean Monahan had averaged over 30 goals over the prior two seasons but was going to struggle for 25 this year. Gaudreau also saw his goal total literally halved (36 to 18) over the last year. There aren’t enough goals missing from his line to completely make up the drop in secondary assist rate, but it’s certainly short-changing him quite a bit.

The conundrum here isn’t whether his teammates bounce back – I believe they do – but to what level the bounce back affects Lindholm, who was due for secondary assist regression anyway. I think it’s reasonable to expect a 60-point season from Lindholm, but expecting 75-80 points again is asking too much. (mar31)


17. I’m going to look at some key players who suffered long-term injuries, yet could be back as soon as the league returns. With the understand that the NHL could return with a regular season schedule that has zero remaining games (with a mini-tournament, or nothing at all), or to 72, 74, 76, 78 or even 82 games, I’m going to reference the 82 and the 74 here… (mar30)

Dougie Hamilton – He suffered a fractured left fibula on January 16 and was looking at an early-April return. The Canes have 14 games left on the slate (or six, if season is reduced). Since Hamilton was sidelined, Jake Gardiner has seven PPPts in 22 games and nearly two minutes per game of PP time to lead all Hurricanes. He can kiss that goodbye when the NHL resumes. (mar30)


18. Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen – Kadri (LBI) was set to return within a couple of games, before the league pause. So we know he’ll be good and ready. Kadri had 36 points in 48 games – 11 on the power play – prior to his injury, which was the second-best pace of his career. One guy to watch when Kadri returns is Valeri Nichushkin. He was clicking really well with Kadri and Burakovsky, when suddenly he lost both of his linemates. Now, he’ll have him back for the final 12 (or four) games that Colorado has left. Rantanen was also set to return, which would disrupt the nice run that Vladislav Namestnikov was on. There is, of course, the chance that Namestnikov disrupts a Nichushkin rebound by stealing his spot. Both Rantanen and Kadri were expected back soon regardless, so this league pause really just saves them a game or two. (mar30)


19. Oliver Bjorkstrand – Possibly the most underrated player in fantasy hockey (big words, but I stand by them), Bjorkstrand was set to return in mid-April from his ankle injury. Getting extra time for that to heal is a great thing. Bjorkstrand gets a lot of respect in fantasy hockey. A lot. But still not enough. He’s still that “young guy who is finally showing his potential and should be a solid 70-point guy with upside for more”. No. To me he’s that “young guy who is finally showing his potential and will be a solid 80-point guy with upside for more”. Bank on it. He had 30 points in his last 30 games, including two points in the game in which he got injured. And this is on a team that probably won’t have a 60-point player. It doesn’t matter who he plays with. Always ask: who gets to play with him? Treat Bjorkstrand as if his name was Mark Stone. (mar30)


20. Jake Guentzel – Set to return in June, Guentzel now likely gets until July or later to finish rehabbing his shoulder. He will almost certainly now play the remaining 13 (or five) games that the Penguins have in their schedule. Playing 13 games would actually give him a shot at a 60-point season! I can’t imagine how good a Guentzel – Sidney CrosbyJason Zucker line is going to be. The Penguins ‘should’ also have Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon and Nick Bjugstad back, which is an entire line. That would put Conor Sheary suddenly at risk of getting scratched. (mar30)


21. Steven Stamkos – Another situation with Stamkos that pads his fantasy value. You see, Stamkos is a bit of an injury risk. A Band-Aid Boy. And yet…he’s pretty much played a full season in four of his prior five seasons! But the truth is, he missed much of 2016-17 with a broken leg, and he suffered a blood-clot issue in 2015-16. But that ailment struck at the end of that year, so it only cost him playoff time. This means that looking at his career stats, you see a high game total year after year. And now you could see it again this year. Instead of missing 25 games with a core muscle injury, the damage will be just 13 games. So his five-year career stats numbers will look only softly hit, with really just the 2016-17 injury that jumps out. That’s three times in five seasons where, with different timing and circumstances, he was looking at missing at least 35 games each. But the untrained eye won’t see that, and evaluate his risk accordingly. Don’t. (mar30)


Have a good week, folks!!



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