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'.
Writers/Editors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. We need to start preparing for the 2020-21 season given the uncertainty with this year right now. Whether the 2019-20 season finishes, whether we have playoffs, and whether 2020-21 starts on time, all that is up in the air. I do know we need to start getting ready about the possibility of the 2019-20 season being completely finished.
I just wanted to give a list of guys I’m really intrigued over for next season, whenever it happens. These are just preliminary thoughts and a lot will obviously change in the next 2-14 months. They are 10 guys who rank from potential young stars to future Hall of Famers.
Anthony Cirelli: Before the 2019-20 season, I wrote about Cirelli and how I thought he’d end up being the second-line center for the Bolts sooner rather than later. I didn’t anticipate “basically from the start of the year,” but it was nice to see him get such a vote of confidence from the coaching staff. He cruised past 18 minutes a game and though a good chunk is still on the penalty kill, he earned over two minutes more per game at 5-on-5 compared to 2018-19 and was even starting to see some top PP minutes before the league went on break. When I think of most underrated players in the NHL, Cirelli is near the top of the list, and if he can earn consistent PP1 minutes in 2019-20, there’s a 70-point season waiting to happen. He won’t be drafted as such, I assume. (apr28)
2. Nick Suzuki: There wasn’t a Habs player more impressive to me this year than Suzuki. Though Tomas Tatar has been excellent since being acquired in the Max Pacioretty trade, Suzuki was the real pearl of that deal and he had a wonderful 2019-20 season. The problem is that Phillip Danault is, presumably, still the team’s top-line center, and this isn’t a situation like Cirelli's where Suzuki can earn a ton of ice time. Historically, Habs' coach Claude Julien doesn’t dole out a lot of minutes; only Danault averaged over 17:30 per game among Habs regular forwards and even when Suzuki was earning more ice time, he was averaging out around 17:30 a game. That ice time combined with what is likely to be split minutes on a bad power play make me worry for his fantasy value. I think Suzuki will be very good, but his situation is not. (apr28)
3. Adam Boqvist: If there’s one thing we learned about the Blackhawks as a team in 2019-20, it’s that they’ll score goals. Maybe they won’t be very good in general, but with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome (TBD, I guess), and Kirby Dach, there is a lot of offensive firepower here.
Not that Duncan Keith has been shoved to the side entirely, but there were times in 2019-20 when Boqvist was playing, well, 19-20 minutes a night, and that included some top PP time. He showed why he was highly touted coming out of the draft, posting very good offensive play-driving numbers (defensive numbers, well, not so much). I think next year will be kind of a transition season where we see Boqvist slowly wrangle more minutes, and there is a sneaky 40-point season coming here if a few things break right.
Before: 25 GP, 6 G, 3 A, 9 PTS, 0 PPP, 13:06 TOI
After: 35 GP, 10 G, 13 A, 23 PTS, 6 PPP, 14:37 TOI
Considering that Bratt’s most frequent linemates after the Hall trade were Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, he should slot in as a top-6 forward next season on the Devils as currently constructed. There are some red flags with both his overall and 5-on-5 shooting percentages, which appear to show a minor regression. In addition, Bratt is not a high-volume shooter, as his 101 shots in 60 games this season represents a career high.
That being said, prorating his post-Hall stats over a full season shows about a 0.65 PTS/GP pace, which could amount to just over 50 points. There is potential for that kind of fourth-year breakout with more things going right than wrong. The shot volume increased to about two per game after the Hall trade, so maintaining that number will be key if a breakout is to happen. (may2)
5. Luke Kunin‘s first full season seemed to fall under the radar, as he was on pace for 40 points (15 goals and 31 points in 63 games). His power-play time in particular increased over the past month of the season, so he seemed to benefit from the coaching change to Dean Evason. Kunin was also on a hot streak before the season pause, as he had a four-game point streak and had taken three shots in three of those four games. One strength to his game is his shot total, which at 128 is fourth on the Wild.
One reason for the more recent success is the line placement. To start the season, Kunin lined up with Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway, two 23-year-olds who haven’t found their way as top-6 NHL forwards, at least not yet. Kunin finished the season on a line with Zach Parise and the red-hot Kevin Fiala, which should probably be considered the Wild’s top line at this point. Does that make Kunin a number one center? It’s certainly more than I had bargained for with Kunin, which could make him a sneaky deep sleeper in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. (may2)
6. I just have to get this out of the way. Christian Djoos‘ father is a former Red Wings defenseman named Per Djoos, which is undoubtedly one of the best names in hockey. I just remember that name from a Pro Set hockey card from the early 90s. Remember those?
Okay, back to the task at hand. After suiting up for just two games for the Capitals, Djoos was traded to the Ducks at the deadline for Daniel Sprong (see more in Dobber’s Intriguing Minor Deals That Could Pay Off). Dobber pointed out that Djoos had 90 points in his last 108 AHL games, yet he hadn’t figured it out at the NHL level with just 24 points in 110 games with the Capitals.
Djoos has found new life in Anaheim, however. His three points in nine games probably won’t scream “add me,” but there is another number that might get your attention. Over those nine games, Djoos led the entire Ducks team in power-play time, and he was second in overall icetime (21:22).
Before you get too excited, there is a caveat here. Over most or all of that span, the Ducks’ defense has been without Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, who both lead Ducks’ defensemen with eight power-play points each. There may be opportunity for Djoos, though, as only Ottawa had a worse power-play conversion rate than the Ducks (14.7%). I’d consider him penny stock with a bit of upside, as he’s currently less than 1 percent owned in Yahoo leagues. (may2)
7. If the NHL decides to jump straight to the playoffs without any more regular season, the Boston Bruins would be the league’s top seed. But if we’ve seen the last of the 2019-20 season, the Bruins have at least solidified their goaltending situation for next season, signing Jaroslav Halak to a one-year, $2.25 million extension. Both Halak and Tuukka Rask are now signed through the 2020-21 season.
$2.25 million might seem a bit expensive for a backup goalie. However, Halak has provided great value in his two seasons in Beantown, posting a 40-17-10 record with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage, and eight shutouts.
Should one or both of Halak or Rask leave after the 2020-21 season (remember, there are rumors about Rask retiring after that season, Hobey Baker finalist and NCAA top goalie Jeremy Swayman could be ready to step onto the big club. The former University of Maine goalie recently signed a pro contract with the Bruins, so expect him to spend next season in the AHL. Swayman is ranked #12 in the latest Top 65 Fantasy Prospect Goalie rankings, and you can also view his profile at Dobber Prospects.
8. Looking for players that you could consider if your league counts blocked shots?
Alex Edler: To a tee, Edler fits the role of a blueliner that you could draft in the late rounds, yet retain all season. Even though his icetime dipped two minutes per game in 2019-20, Edler is still a minute muncher who fits so many roles for the Canucks. That ice time is all in the form of power-play ice time, and it all has to do with Quinn Hughes taking on the first-unit power-play minutes as he should. That has led to a dip in Edler’s power-play points this season (17 PPP in 2018-19 to just 7 PPP in 2019-20). Since Hughes has taken the PP1 job and run with it, Edler will only be back there if Hughes is injured.
Despite the decreased power-play usage, Edler still managed to provide his third consecutive season of 30+ points. Based on his points-per-game averages, Edler could be a 40+ point scorer, but injuries have been a long-term issue. Edler will miss at least a handful of games every season, as he has missed at least eight games in each of the past seven seasons. Now that Edler is 34 years old, it won’t get any easier, particularly since the Canucks don’t have the defensive depth to limit his minutes. When he is active, he’ll fill the fantasy categories, though. (may1)
9. Ryan Graves: The lanky blueliner burst onto the fantasy scene thanks to his plus-minus, which at this point is at a league-leading plus-40. I’m sure we’ll discuss plus-minus at some point, not because I might like it more than you do, but because it’s still an often-used fantasy category. If you’d like to know whether Graves’ plus-minus is sustainable, it likely isn’t. However, it should still be fairly strong considering that the Avalanche appear set to be a Western Conference power for many years to come.
Even though Graves’ scoring wasn’t spectacular (26 points in 69 games) and his power-play time nonexistent, he brought the peripheral stats in 2019-20. Not only did he lead the Avs in blocked shots, he was also second on the team in hits (112), third in shots on goal (134), and fourth in penalty minutes (45). All of this while finishing sixth in overall icetime (18:57), including fourth among defensemen.
Graves’ most frequent defense partner in 2019-20 was rising star Cale Makar and the two were effective together, being involved in 238 scoring 'chances for' compared to 184 scoring 'chances against' in 5-on-5. Graves will no doubt play the role of the defensive conscience of the pair, yet those peripherals won’t be a fluke if his icetime rises. Keep an eye on him if your league counts these categories. (may1)
10. Elsewhere, Oiler Kris Russell might be better known for dominating the blocked shots category, having finished third last season and leading the category in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. If you sort by the blocked shots per 60 category in Frozen Tools, Russell finished 12th among blueliners with 6.6 BkS/60. Because Russell played just 55 games this season, he is outside of the top 30 in total blocked shots this season.
Something to bear in mind if you’re considering Russell to help you with blocked shots: He may be on the downswing with the Oilers. His ice time declined from 20:26 in 2018-19 to just 16:47 in 2019-20. With one more season at $4 million and some young defenders ready for a bigger role in E-Town, Russell could also be shopped around this offseason. (may1)
11. Another player that I’d exercise caution on in adding for blocked shots is Andy Greene. Not only does he provide very little offense, but he’s also now 37 years old and will be a UFA this offseason. Teams don’t exactly line up to sign players with those characteristics, even though Greene is in the top 5 in blocked shots. I did add him late in the season last season to help me with a late-season push with blocked shots, so if he lands somewhere, there could be some usefulness for that single category. (may1)
12. Before the 2019-20 season, I was particularly high on J.T. Miller (I had him ranked much higher than consensus over on FantasyPros). The basic premise was that he was a guy who proved he could post 20-goal/50-point/100-hit seasons and had done so with decent ice time limits and infrequently great linemates. My theory was that he would, at worst, be skating with Bo Horvat at even strength (hopefully with Elias Pettersson), as well as top PP minutes. Thankfully, this all came to fruition and he had already set career-highs across the board when the season was suspended. For once, I didn’t look like an idiot.
The question then becomes: was his superlative 2019-20 season a new normal or an outlier? Looking at his case in totality, there’s nothing that immediately screams monster regression. Sure, his individual 5-on-5 shooting percentage will probably come down and his on-ice scoring rates possibly a touch. What we’re talking about, though, is a guy who would go from being over a point-per-game player to a guy who can put up 70-75 points. It’s a drop, but it’s not as if it’s catastrophic by any stretch, and when including his very stout hit totals, I don’t think there’s any reason for concern next year. We’ll see where his ADP lands, but I would be comfortable taking him inside the top-50. (apr30)
13. A name that came to mind when writing about Miller was Tomas Tatar. The guy has one year left on his deal and that will be his age-30 season. I don’t see the Habs extending him, so he’ll likely be traded at some point; maybe the 2021 trade deadline (if it happens).
All the same, we’ve seen what Tatar is capable of to a degree. He had a career-high 58 points in his first year with the Habs and was even better in year two, posting 22 goals and 61 points in 68 games. He did that, mind you, with a combined 22 power-play points in those two seasons. He may have been a 70-point player in 2019-20 had the season finished anyway, he certainly would have gotten there had he been on a team with a great power play (he had 14 PPPs).
He’s also a guy that hits, having two seasons with at least 90 hits back in Detroit, and he was on pace for over 90 in 2019-20 when the season was suspended. Maybe he won’t post the 120-hit seasons like Miller can, but I also think he’s shown to be a better goal scorer in his career, as he’s posted six straight 20-goal seasons. At the same time, when his next contract starts, he’ll be 31, so there's a lot of uncertainty here. (apr30)
14. The Coyotes are gunning to get Matias Macelli back to North America after a terrific draft-plus-one campaign where he led all U20 Liiga skaters with 30 points in 43 contests. Maccelli spent the two previous years with Dubuque of the USHL so the transition should be fairly seamless.
It'll be interesting to see if his deal signed this week has a Euro out-clause and they send him back to Ilves or if the desire is to have him work in the American League. He's not the best skater in the world, but he boasts terrific instincts and puck skills. He's one to have on your radar. (apr29)
15. The Detroit Red Wings have signed Swedish free-agent forward, Mathias Bromé. The soon-to-be 25-year-old recorded a career-high 17 goals and 43 points in 52 SHL games this past season. That total was good for sixth-most in the league.
Apparently, it came down to Detroit and Vancouver – two franchises with a long history of Swedes. Bromé made the smart decision to go to the Red Wings where his opportunities will be more plentiful. I wouldn't be rushing out to draft him, as the upside is likely fairly limited. Depth piece. (apr29)
16. In case you were wondering, now is absolutely the time to try and sneak Alex DeBrincat away from his (hopefully) disappointed owner. After scoring 41 goals in 2018-19, the 22-year-old barely matched that in points this season with 45 in 70 games. But it was almost exclusively due to poor luck. His shooting percentage dropped by 10 points from the previous campaign, yet his shot rate increased ever-so-slightly from 2.68 to 2.96 per game.
This isn’t a player who will shoot eight percent. He has LONG been a proven high-conversion finisher. He’s one of the more devastating finishers in the game. That doesn’t just go away. This was felt most at even-strength where he went from nearly an 11 percent conversion rate to just a hair over seven percent.
Some of this can be explained by his usage. The 5-7 winger spent about 40 percent of his even-strength ice time next to Kirby Dach, a rookie. Dach is going to be an explosive talent for a lot of years, but his first-run through clearly wasn’t going to produce a ton of production. That is going to change – and likely beginning next season.
I like DeBrincat, who is heading into that magical fourth season, to push his shot volumes up into the 3.2-3.5 per game level and witness his conversion rate balloon back into a more respectable zone for a goalscorer of his ilk. And of course, it doesn't hurt that he sees an abundance of power-play time next to Patty Kane and the gang. His 3:29 average last year was firmly amongst the top-30 forwards. That means we’re looking at a return to the 40-goal level with an outside shot at 45 if he really gets cooking. Sign me up. (apr29)
17. Some players have nice-looking stats, but in a few cases they had red-hot starts to the season. So a player may be 30th in scoring today, but without that Top 10 start he would probably be sitting 60th. It doesn’t take away the end result (i.e. that of helping you), but it does give a bit of an illusion as to just how good the player is leading into next season (and/ the end portion of this one). This week I looked closely at where things stood heading into December, and compared them to where they stand now. Some real interesting stuff.
Did you know that on December 1, Connor McDavid was on pace for 193 points? Leon Draisaitl was on pace for 189? Brad Marchand was on pace for 179 and John Carlson had 37 points in 28 games, which is a 145-point pace! Nikita Kucherov was waaaay down in the scoring race because he was only on pace for a piddly 128 points. (apr27)
18. Anyway, I pulled out 10 players of note. These guys had been cooling off more than others, and their last three months tell a different story versus their first two months. Players who were elite in those first two months, and are still elite now (just not superhuman), I won’t list here. For example, John Carlson (from 37 points in 28 games to 38 points in 41 games after that) cooled down, but we shouldn’t be alarmed over it.
So without further ado, three of the Top 10 Cooldowns are listed just below — you can get the fill list by clicking here!
(first set numbers represent October/November stats, second set of numbers are December onward)
(10th) Evgenii Dadonov 21 in 26 (0.81), 26 in 43 (0.60)
Proof positive that Dadonov’s bigger numbers are tied at the hip with Aleksander Barkov. Without Barkov on his line and rolling, Dadonov is closer to a 50-point player. Considering Dadonov is an unrestricted free agent soon, this should be concerning. Whatever contract he signs, it will be rather big. And that means he’ll likely get paired with his new team’s top center. But there are never guarantees that it works and in fact odds are probably against it. (apr27)
19. (9th) Tyler Bertuzzi 23 in 29 (0.79), 25 in 42 (0.56)
Still young. Still on the rise. But his upside is probably close to that 0.79 number and at the time I thought it was a little early for him to get there. The Red Wings will get better, and quickly. And for all we know he’ll be Alexis Lafreniere‘s sidekick next year, blowing that upside out of the water. Without the star linemate, his number really is closer to the second one. But I say that knowing full well that he’ll mostly have sweet linemates over the next decade, making the point moot. (apr27)
20. (8th) Matt Duchene 20 in 25 (0.8), 22 in 41(0.54)
Nashville has a habit of bringing the worst out of a player’s point totals. I don’t really know what to make of this, other than that 0.8 number is probably not one he will get to again unless Nashville trades him. He’ll be 35 in his next contract year, so the usual Duchene-contract-year ‘pop’ won’t happen. Fun fact: Duchene’s average ice time this season is his lowest in eight years. (apr27)
21. The NHL is seriously considering holding the draft in June, which would significantly alter my plans for the release of the Fantasy Prospects Report. I have said on several occasions that this would go out sometime in the first half of July and that I would nail down an exact date in early May. But if the NHL does indeed go ahead with this, I would expedite things so that the FPR is released in June (usually it’s out June 1).
I can just imagine the petty crap that the league is going through as they try to set these things up. If the NHL tries to move ahead with the playoffs and no season, you have teams on the cusp (on the outside looking in) whining about how they deserve a shot to play in the playoffs. If the NHL tries to move ahead with the draft lottery, you have teams on the cusp (in the Top 16 playoff teams so not in the lottery) whining about how they deserve a shot at a lottery pick. The NHL is getting it from both ends! Everyone is looking out for numero uno. Sound like a job you want? (apr27)
Have a good week, folks!!
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