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 think now is the time to pry Kyle Connor away from his owner. We’re about to head into that magical fourth season and his progression has been as steady and impressive as can be. Yet for some reason, I feel like his perceived value remains lower than his actual impact. The perfect recipe for a potential buy-low.

His shot rate is up amongst the league-leaders, sitting 10th overall at the time of shutdown. But here’s where it gets really interesting. Of those top 10 shooters, only Brady Tkachuk has more shots from the high-danger area. Connor’s 91 shots from within 15 feet of the net are second in the league and speak to his ability to get into the home plate area with possession as he’s not a prototypical ‘netfront’ guy. He’s just a player who knows how to nose his way into opportunities.

With the minutes – both at even-strength and on the PP already secured, the mid-high teens' conversion rate established, and the juicy QoT, there’s little reason to believe he won’t up his goals, points, and shot rates once again next season. I’m calling for a career-best season in 2020-21. (apr22)


2. Sticking with the Jets for a moment, don’t forget about a couple of their young Finns in Kristian Vesailanen and Sami Niku.

I know there were some who figured Vesailainen a potential early star, but don’t let the ‘disappointing’ first two seasons in North America sway you away from some nice upside. He’s a power forward who will turn 21 this June. He may take a bit more time, but he remains the type of talent who can occupy a top-six job and produce some across-the-board numbers.

Meanwhile, Niku already has an AHL Defender of the Year award under his belt as well as a swath of NHL games to acclimate. The Jets are a team with a ton of moving pieces this summer. Josh Morrissey‘s new contract kicks in. They need to add or resign three defenders – with a focus on the right side, they need a back-up netminder and only have eight forwards under contract for 2020-21 and beyond. And they’ll have around 15 million to do it. You know what that means. Cheap talent will be at an absolute premium. Insert Niku and Vesalainen.

If I’m a betting man, I’d say we see Niku occupying the right side on the bottom two pairs at even-strength and working PP2 consistently. I want to say he has the goods to replace Neal Pionk on the top unit (assuming they don’t bring in a new piece to try and replace Byfuglien), but the Jets like having a lefty up there to offer dual one-time options with Laine working the right point. So, while it's unlikely either young player hits gold next year, they could certainly find themselves as full-time NHLers and nose around for more minutes as they go. (apr22)


3. While the NHL has been paused, the Blue Jackets have been taking care of business with their netminders. By signing Elvis Merzlikins, both of their goalies are now signed for next season. In case you missed it, Elvis receives $4 million per season compared to $2.8 million per season for Joonas Korpisalo. That might be the vote of confidence given by management to make Merzlikins at least the 1A starter. My very early prognosis for next season (and even with the continuation of this season still a possibility) is a 60-40 split in favor of Elvis. (apr25)


4. Regarding shot rates: Cale Makar? Well, not only did Makar put up 50 points in 57 games, with 19 PPPs mixed in, but he finished fifth among defensemen in shot rate on the power play. What can’t he do?

All the same, would the Avs be better served if he didn’t shoot all the time? The goal rate with Makar on the ice is more than fine at 8.2 goals per 60 minutes, and that’s with the injuries the team endured all year. What would it have looked like if Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri were healthy all year? I’d like to think they’d have scored more but who knows.

The other side of that being: what would it have looked like if Makar shot less and passed more? I’m not saying for sure one way or another because we just don’t know. What I do know is that shots from defensemen turn into goals far less often than they do from forwards, so in general, yes, I think they’d be better off if he shot less, but that's just a guess.

Here’s what I do know: Makar is uber-talented, is on a team loaded with skill, and has a lock on the top PP unit. Not only that, but unlike some of other younger defensemen across the league, Makar has shown the ability to at least be passable in peripheral categories like shots and hits. All this is going to keep improving. Makar is a top-3 asset among defensemen in dynasty leagues. (apr23)


5. Ivan Provorov has a scoring problem: At the outset of the season, I was bullish on Shayne Gostisbehere, mainly due to ADP. Well, he floundered and Provorov rebounded and the latter d-man ended up being the guy to own in the fantasy game. When NHL play was suspended, Provorov had 16 PPPs which put a 20 PPP season well within reach. The problem was his lack of PP assists, as seven of those 16 PPPs were goals. Of all defensemen on our list, he was third in shooting percentage, coming in just a shade under 18 percent.

The Flyers haven’t had a top-10 power play by goals/60 minutes since 2014-15. Not having power plays that score a ton of goals makes it hard for players to put up great fantasy seasons year after year; PP production is too important to overall production for that to happen. In that sense, we should be thankful that Provorov is scoring so much, otherwise his overall fantasy value would surely have taken a hit. All the same, it is a concern moving forward that a team with a lot of talent hasn’t been able to be among the elite in half a decade, and that the defenseman running said power play may need to score 8-10 PP goals a year to approach 20 PPPs. That’s too much to ask.

Remedying this situation seems easy enough: score more goals. Of course, saying it and doing it are two different things. Provorov does enough elsewhere across the board that if he had 40 points with 15 PPPs rather than 45 points with 20 PPPs, it wouldn’t kill his value too much than if it were someone like Miro Heiskanen or Quinn Hughes.

Provorov has a bright future as an important fantasy asset in almost any kind of league. We just need to be aware that the biggest reason for his success this year – well, one of the big reasons – is his shooting percentage, particularly on the power play. That’s not something we should rely on year after year. (apr23)


6. Thomas Chabot does not have a scoring problem: There were 60 defensemen with at least 100 minutes on the power play in 2019-20, and five of them failed to score. The one with by far the most PPTOI (by over 70 minutes) was Chabot. He scored zero goals on 27 shots.

We should probably focus on the power-play goals here, of which Chabot had none, but even the PPPs were low at just 11 in 71 games. Again, he did that with loads of PPTOI, coming in fifth in the league in that regard this year. Even just chipping in a few PP goals with a production rate anywhere near the guys around him – Chabot was at 2.86 points/60 minutes and no one else in the top-10 by PPTOI was under 4.3 – and Chabot would have easily pushed for 50 points this year. All that, mind you, on an abysmal team as a 23-year old defenseman. That’s how good Chabot was.

I guess the whole point here is to show just how solid Chabot’s production was despite scoring zero PP goals, despite a PP assist rate much lower than his comparables, and all on a team that was among the worst in the league. What is a typical Chabot season going to look like in a couple years once this team starts rounding into form? With his peripheral rates, it’s hard not seeing him as a top-5 dynasty defenseman right now. (apr23)


7. For some reason, we've seen the NHL Draft public rankings world fall in love with Tim Stützle and apparently out of love with Quinton Byfield. Many are attributing this to Stutzle's better WJC performance or a simple falling into the 'groupthink' mantra. I may not be the best person to hammer this home as I'm the only public figure with Byfield at No.1, but there are very few reasons to consider the German ahead of the big Canadian. Here's why:

Stützle is a terrific talent. He's a player I was pumping up before it was hip. He owns terrific acceleration and shiftiness in-flight. It allows him to be menacing while in transition – something that NHL teams love. I, too, love it. He has good puck skills, good vision, quick hands, and a nice shot. He plays a style very reminiscent of Nikolaj Ehlers.

But he's also played his entire draft-eligible season on the wing and struggles to get into the middle of the ice to attack. Instead, he relies on burning wide and creating his chances by either cutting in or going around the net. Those opportunities will be less available in the NHL. He sure looks like a winger to me. (apr22)


8. Meanwhile, Byfield was left on the bench for much of the WJC. Not all that surprising for the youngest player on the team. The same thing happened to Alexis Lafreniere a year earlier when he was a U18 at the event. But if you watch Byfield in junior, you can see the potential oozing from his game. He's 6-5 but skates at an excellent level. He's not shifty like Stützle or Lafreniere but controls the puck and his body more in the vein of Leon Draisaitl or Evgeni Malkin. His shot and vision are rated higher. His balance and agility below. His potential is incredible.

If you're looking to bet on the upside of a player at the top of the draft, I'm taking the horse of a center over the dynamic skating winger 10 times out of 10. That includes fantasy drafts. We'll let the dust settle on who goes to which organization before locking in the fantasy rankings – as we know, opportunity and QoT play a huge role, but I cannot fathom putting Byfield (or Lafreniere, or Marco Rossi) behind Stützle.

It sucks that I need to be the one squashing the Stutzle hype as an OG supporter of the 6-1, 180-pound forward. But these are the times we're living in. (apr22)


9. Sabres top prospect, Dylan Cozens was named the WHL Eastern Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday. The 19-year-old should be expected to break camp with Buffalo next season. There's nothing left for him to accomplish in junior and he'll be too young for the AHL.

I'd love to see the team slide him in on the second line next to a vet like Marcus Johansson and either Jeff Skinner or Victor Goalofsson. Cozens is a natural center but likely ends up on the right-wing for a while to begin his career. (apr22)


10. Some unsurprising news out of the WHL on Tuesday saw presumptive first-overall pick, and the first-ever Western League exceptional status player, Connor Bedard signed with the Regina Pats.

The WHL Draft officially kicks off on Wednesday, but the Pats aren't wasting any time locking up the future superstar. I've spoken about Bedard in a previous Ramblings as well as a look at him when he was first granted the status. But I'll reiterate now. This kid has all the makings of a franchise player.

Shame we have to wait three years to draft him in our fantasy leagues. Time to start loading up on 2023 first-rounders! (apr22)


11. Phil Kessel has not taken more than 12 hits in any of his last five seasons. In fact, his career high is 25 hits, which happened back when he played for the Leafs. This is a number that will likely never improve. The benefit to that is that his non-physical style means that he’s only 121 games away from passing Doug Jarvis as the NHL’s iron man. You can rely on Phil the Thrill to be in your fantasy lineup every game.

Fantasy owners were willing to ignore the low hit totals as long as Kessel was scoring. Unfortunately, he has hit a wall there too. You could see the lower offensive totals coming from a mile away after the trade to Arizona, but perhaps you didn’t suspect they would be as dry as the desert that he relocated to. Kessel is on pace to finish with his first sub-20-goal season since his rookie season in 2007-08, including just one goal in his past nine games. He is also on pace to finish with the first sub-200-shot season of his career (lockout-shortened 2012-13 not included).

Throw in some meager peripherals such as a minus-21, 22 penalty minutes, and 20 blocked shots, and you have a player that can simply be avoided in many multicategory leagues. There are several advanced stats (9.2 SH%, 5.7 5-on-5 SH%, 1.9 PTS/60) that suggest a rebound is on the way. Maybe a slight rebound, but never to the 70+ points he recorded in each of his last three seasons in Pittsburgh. Arizona simply doesn’t have the firepower nor plays a style that lends itself to Kessel’s skill set. (apr26)


12. Let’s go through some interesting players and stats and see if we can find anything that stands out like a sheepdog herding the flock.

Jason Zucker shot 50 percent: 

This is a case where looking how things were broken down in one area helps with another. On the power play in 2019-20, Zucker shot an even 50 percent, scoring seven goals on 14 shots. When looking at his overall shooting percentage, he shot an even 18 percent, the highest of his career. Some people might look at his 18 percent shooting at all strengths and assume that he’s due for some big goal regression next year. Well, his shooting percentage at 5-on-5 in 2019-20 was lower than it was in 2017-18 and 2016-17. So, yes, his shooting percentage on the power play will decline, but if he can find an uptick in shots or minutes, it could easily balance out for him. That’s why he’s a good bet to get close to 30 goals again next year. Well, that and the fact that he’s in Pittsburgh. (apr21)


13. Anthony Mantha likes to shoot:

Of 249 players with at least 100 PP minutes this past year, Mantha was 11th in shot attempt rate, sandwiched between Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews. If you want to score goals, doing things that put you in that kind of company seems like a good idea.

Including a 10-game stint in 2015-16, this was Mantha’s fifth year in the league. In that span, his shot rate on the PP has climbed every season, and that tracks for a guy we know is a good goal scorer getting to his mid-20s. Had he played all 82 games this year, there would have been a reasonable chance at double-digit PP goals. And he posted seven PP goals last year and nine the year before. It seems reasonable to assume he can actually get to double-digit PP goals in a full 2020-21 season.

I am intrigued to see where Mantha’s ADP will end up for 2020-21. He’s a guy who can throw up 30 goals, 70 points, 250 shots, and 100 hits, and those types of players don’t grow on vines. (apr21)


14. Travis Konecny… assist machine?

In our sample of 100-minute players, Konecny came in at 8th in assists per 60 minutes while on the power play. His rate was higher than guys named Mitch Marner, Nikita Kucherov, and Brad Marchand. That’s pretty good!

One thing that worries me about saying he’ll be a great playmaking PP forward in the coming years is that he had a very high IPP this year on the power play. IPP, for the uninitiated, is the rate at which a player garners a point when a goal is scored for his team with him on the ice. A rate of 82.1 percent would constitute a career-high for him, which isn’t a huge problem in and of itself. The problem is just how high that is, as most of the forwards above him are the elite like Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, Nathan MacKinnon, and Jack Eichel. Over the last three years, there were 107 forwards with at least 500 total power-play minutes. Of those 107 forwards, only one had an IPP above 80 percent, and it was Connor McDavid. The next three names on the list are Kopitar, Taylor Hall, and Kucherov, all between 77-80 percent. In other words, expecting Konency to repeat anywhere near an 82.1 percent IPP is expecting too much.

That’s why just extrapolating Konecny’s 23 PPPs to next year probably isn’t a good idea. There’s going to be some pullback, it’s just a matter of how much. (apr21)


15. Last week I listed my Top 10 signings of drafted prospects of the highest fantasy interest. This week, I will look at the undrafted prospects who were signed and are of interest in fantasy leagues.

NHL teams are getting much better at drafting. And what’s more – they are getting much better at developing. They have an entire army of people dedicated to walking their prospects through every step of life, from health to fitness to finance to how to handle the media. Practices and drills have been honed to near-perfection. So once a player is drafted, he is thrust into an environment and situation where he can best reach his potential.

An undrafted player may initially have the potential to be better players – but look at the mountain they need to climb just to keep up with their drafted peers!

What I’m saying is, you aren’t going to find as many undrafted players becoming stars as you once did. I feel strongly about this when it comes to college hockey. There may still be the odd gem coming out of Europe, and Artemi Panarin proved that just five years ago. But in college? The days of the undrafted star might be done. Torey Krug might be the last. (apr20)


16. Anyway, without further ado:

(10th) Cam Lee, D, Pittsburgh – Lee is a solid puck-mover from Western Michigan University. He picked up 55 assists over his last 99 NCAA games. I like the fit here because Justin Schultz will be gone so maybe after a year in the AHL Lee can make his mark with the Penguins. How well he transitions to the AHL will determine future value. Ethan Prow is a defenseman who put up similar college numbers and the Penguins signed him a few years ago. But by the time Prow translated those numbers into the AHL he was 26 – and not many teams offer 26-year-olds a chance. Lee would need to have a big season for Wilkes-Barre right away. (apr20)


17. (9th) Patrick Khodorenko, C, NY Rangers – A solid prospect, Khodorenko put up middling numbers (around a point-per-game) for Michigan State. But I like him because he’s young – still only 21. So there’s untapped offensive potential. What I don’t like is that he’s on the Rangers. The top six seems to be spoken for, so he tops out as a third liner. (apr20)


18. (8th) Jake Christiansen, D, Columbus – The 20-year-old posted 50 points in 38 games in the WHL as a defenseman. He will get a couple of AHL seasons to show what he can do, and by then the makeup of the Columbus defense could be quite different. His transition to the pro game next year will be a key indicator, and I think the fact that he got in nine games for AHL’s Stockton before the shutdown will help in that transition.

You can see the test of this Top-10 by following the link here… (apr20)


19. BTW: I will add that Austin Rueschhoff on the Rangers is massive (6-7, 230 pounds) and if he ever gets into the NHL, his Hits and PIM potential is pretty nice. Ditto for Nick Wolff (6-5, 229) for Boston.

Alec Rauhauser is an honorable mention here. Very good, consistent production for a defenseman and the fact that he was team captain speaks to his leadership and work ethic. But signing with Florida is tough because to me they have three defensemen firmly entrenched in PP consideration. I didn’t like his decision there, so he misses my list. He’ll see some NHL games, but won’t be of fantasy help. And I think Mitchell Chaffee was a great signing by the Wild and he is bound for some NHL games. But I really think he tops out at 30 points. He could be a checking-line force though. (apr20)


20. Golden Knights Ryan Reaves' is the very definition of a category killer, as he has been the league leader in hits in both 2019-20 (316) and 2018-19 (305). That might explain why a player with just 15 points in 71 games is 16% owned in Yahoo leagues. I’m a Reaves owner in one roto league, and not surprisingly, hits is one of my better categories.

Whether you decide to add a one-category wonder like Reaves should not only depend on how deep your league is, but also how many categories your league counts. If there are only four other non-goalie categories in your league, then Reaves takes care of one-fifth of what you might need. However, if your league counts something like 10 skater categories, then adding more well-rounded players might be more important. Knowing your league categories is a critical element to winning your fantasy league.

Reaves is also widely regarded as one of the league’s toughest players, so I was curious to see if he is one of the league leaders in fights. Did you know that Frozen Tools also has a Fights button? I might dive into that later on if the offseason extends for quite a while. But for now, Reaves is not one of the league leaders in fights, having been in just three fights in each of 2019-20 and 2018-19. Reaves also took just 47 penalty minutes this season, which is a career low in 10 NHL seasons. (apr25)


21. The Lightning added Blake Coleman for the same reason the Penguins added Tanev: to provide a much-needed physical element. He has done just that, dishing 25 hits in his nine games for the Bolts. However, that scoring touch that he had found in New Jersey (back-to-back 20-goal seasons) has eluded him in Tampa Bay, where he has yet to score a goal and has added just one assist in nine games.

Coleman is owned in more Yahoo leagues (55% ownership) because he has more of a scoring touch than Reaves or Tanev, although his hits total is lower. Can his scoring rebound for the Bolts, or should his ownership actually be more in line with that of Reaves and Tanev? If you’re a Coleman owner, you won’t like the fact that he has received just five seconds of power-play time with the Lightning. That’s five seconds total – not an average. Coleman averaged 30 seconds of power-play time with the Devils, but that usage had increased dramatically over his last six games with New Jersey (maybe as the Devils were trying to shop him).

Since the Lightning have considerably more scoring options than the Devils, Coleman won’t likely see a top-6 role or much power-play time with his new team. Both the Devils and the Lightning have used him in more of a penalty-killing role. However, Coleman will make the most out of the icetime that he’s given, having taken at least 200 shots in back-to-back seasons. That’s why a goal regression may not occur, assuming he can continue to shoot at around 10 percent. In fact, Coleman was in the top 10 in non-power play (even strength + shorthanded) shots on goal this season, having taken 193 shots of that kind.

Coleman will be an interesting player to watch next season for his strong totals in goals, shots, hits, and even penalty minutes. Don’t reach for him, though, as he will be a liability in other categories such as assists and power-play points. Coleman trade analysis (apr25)


Have a good week, folks!!


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