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. Remember when people thought William Nylander sucked after he scored just seven goals in 54 games in 2018-19 with a five percent conversion rate? Those were good times.
Well, the recently-turned 24-year-old tripled his conversion rate and posted 31 in 68 this past season and looks all the way ready to push that even further. He’s finally locked down the top PP gig, bringing him up to 18 minutes a night. That number blossomed even further once Mike Babcock was shown the door. As Nylander was seeing four minutes on PP1 down the final set of games.
Now, I’m not certain the Swede is capable of consistently clicking at 15 percent, but even if he dips down into the 12ish range, another uptick in shots-per-game (expected) should help make up the difference. Gimme 30-plus goals and 70-plus points for next season. 80 is not out of the question. (may6)
2. Brayden Point hasn’t exploded the same way in 2019-20 that he did in 2018-19, yet his 0.97 PTS/GP still places him comfortably in the top 30 in that category among players that have played at least 40 games. A slow start to the season may have been expected after signing his three-year bridge deal in late September. However, his production has been fairly consistent all season.
The Lightning center has a higher shooting percentage than most players, as it has not been lower than 14% in any of his four NHL seasons. The upside is that he should have no problem scoring goals (at least 25 in each of his last three seasons), but the downside is that he’s not a high-volume shooter (less than 200 shots in each of his last two seasons). In fact, Point is barely within the top 150 in shots on goal this season in spite of missing only four games this season.
A major part of the drop from 1.16 PTS/GP (92 points) to 0.97 PTS/GP (64 points) is the lack of power-play points. After finishing sixth in the NHL with 35 power-play points, Point sagged to just 13 PP points this season. A major part of that was the overall effectiveness of the Lightning power play, which declined from a league-leading 74 power-play goals in 2018-19 to 49 power-play goals in 2019-20 (still good for fifth in the NHL). A 28.2% success rate from 2018-19 seems difficult to duplicate, so a rebound to 2018-19’s success rate might be too much of an ask.
Despite that, Point seems in a great spot to be a consistent point-per-game player for a while. He should be sufficiently motivated for at least two more seasons while he chases that long-term contract. He’s about where he should be in the Top 100 Roto Rankings. (may9)
3. The Canadiens have signed prospect defenseman Alexander Romanov to a three-year, entry-level contract. Under the current rules, Romanov wouldn’t be able to play if/when the season resumes, but there’s always the possibility that could change.
I’m not a prospects writer, and I don’t pretend to be one either. So I didn't know much about Romanov when I saw him play at the 2019 World Juniors in Vancouver. I came away extremely impressed with his hard work and two-way play, as he definitely seemed noticeable on the ice. I read the comparison on Romanov to Drew Doughty, which has more to do with style of play than suggesting that Romanov will be the next Doughty. Still, Habs fans should be looking forward to what Romanov will bring to their defense. (may9)
4. Here’s an opportunity to use the new GSAA (goals saved above average) stat from Frozen Tools. It’s used to determine the goalie’s save percentage versus league average to determine how many goals (positive or negative) were saved.
Carey Price‘s GSAA this past season was -1.31, which was 33rd among the 57 goalies who played at least 20 games (click the Quality Starts button for GSAA). That GSAA places Price slightly below average in that category, assuming that a GSAA of zero would be about average.
Price might still be widely viewed as an elite goalie, but his overall numbers haven’t been elite for about three seasons. His GSAA over those three seasons has been -3.92, which places him just below onetime workhorses Devan Dubnyk and Henrik Lundqvist; but just above Jake Allen and James Reimer, two goalies who have had their share of struggles.
If I remove the crummy 2017-18 season and just go by the last two seasons, Price jumps to a more respectable 13.63 GSAA. No goalie with a higher GSAA over that span has either played more games than Price’s 124 GP or has more quality starts than Price’s 71 QS. The quality might be slipping, but Price gets by on volume. If your league counts wins, Price is tied for fourth in wins over that span. Wins might be a misleading fantasy category, but you’ll still need to care about them if they’re counted in your league.
Price is still hanging onto a spot in the Top 100 Roto Rankings. The fact that he is not on any kind of goalie hot seat and didn’t have a disastrous season (like Sergei Bobrovsky or Pekka Rinne) keeps him there. (may9)
5. Who are the current active players that are borderline Hall of Famers? Not guys like who’ve already locked up their bids like Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, or Erik Karlsson, or guys who are certainly trending that direction like Connor McDavid or Nikita Kucherov. Who are the guys that are in their 30s that have a case that can be made both for and against? Let’s look at a few of them:
Steven Stamkos: The Lightning sniper should probably be a lock but until I see him actually get inducted into the Hall of Fame, I’m not going to hold my breath.
The case against Stamkos is as such: few individual awards and international achievements, and zero Stanley Cups. I’d like to think team accomplishments, or failure of such things, isn’t levied against a single player, but years of experience have taught me otherwise. Stamkos has no MVP trophies, and here’s something else to consider: he has one (1) season where he finished top-5 in MVP voting (second in 2011-12). And that’s what makes Stamkos’s career fascinating: he has no individual trophies, and no Stanley Cups, and yet he’s one of just 16 players to ever reach 400 goals and 400 assists by the end of their age-29 season. Of those 16 players, only four are not in the Hall of Fame. Of those four not in the HOF, two assuredly will be (Jaromir Jagr, Ovechkin), one is Stamkos, and the other is Brian Bellows. Hockey Reference has his point share in that span similar to names like Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur. I think it’s kind of understated how good he has been. It’s just been a matter of staying healthy these last handful of seasons.
I do believe Stamkos gets in easily, but I can see the arguments against him. (may8)
6. Eric Staal: This is where things start to get dicey. By the team he was 30 years old, Staal had over 300 goals and over 400 assists. As of today, he sits with 436 goals and 585 assists. Let’s say he gets to 500 goals and 700 assists by the end of his career (that may be a tad high but that’s assuming five more years in the league where he’d just need to average something like 15 goals and 25 assists a season). Of all 25 players to have reached 500 goals and 700 assists, only three are not in the Hall of Fame currently: Jaromir Jagr, Pierre Turgeon, and Jeremy Roenick. Jagr will get in, so that means just 2/25 players have not. That would translate to over a 90 percent chance of Staal getting in if he can get to the 500/700 mark.
Like others on this list, there are no individual awards to speak of, and he has that one Stanley Cup from his second year in the league. Since that Stanley Cup in 2006, Staal has played a grand total of 33 playoff games in 14 seasons, most of those (18) coming in their Conference Final run in 2009. Yes, he has a Cup, but it’s not as if there is a wide range of playoff performances to scan here.
I really do think how Staal finishes his career will be important. He’s already crossed 1000 points and has a Cup, but those are no guarantees of a call to the Hall: Vincent Damphousse has a Cup and over 1200 points, Steve Larmer has over 1000 points and over 570 goals with a Cup, Rod Brind’Amour had nearly 1200 points, two Selke Trophies, and a Cup, and none of them are in the Hall of Fame. Staal is not a lock, but a few more strong seasons could push him over the hump. (may8)
7. Brent Burns: The Eric Lindros Rule. What matters more: a player’s longevity or a player’s peak? It’s not like Burns hasn’t been in the league a long time; his first season was 2003-04 and we’re already looking towards his fantasy value in 2020-21. He didn’t really stand out in Minnesota though, whether on the blue line or up front, as he never broke the 50-point mark until 2014-15, his 11th season in the league and his fourth with San Jose. But then he had a stretch where in five seasons, he finished top-10 in the Norris voting four times, top-3 three times, and won it once.
He had 361 points in those five seasons, 35 more than the next-closest defenseman (Erik Karlsson), and they were the only two rearguards above 275 points from 2014-19. Burns blew the competition out of the water, but only for a half-decade once he got to his 30s.
There’s still a lot of time left here. He has five years left on his current contract and that puts 1000 points in the realm of possibility (he has 694). How many players have played both forward and defense, and reached 1000 points? Even if he only gets to 900, maybe he should get in just for how good and unique of a player he is. (may8)
8. Four years ago, we were treated to the World Cup of Hockey. It was effectively a substitute for the Olympics as a best-on-best tournament, seeing as the NHL’s Board of Governors are way too greedy to ever allow the fans to be happy. It likely exceeded expectations, in large part due to the u-23 team.
We’re obviously not getting a World Cup this year, but if we did have one, what would the team look like? Let’s try to put a team together of these players, just to see what it would look like.
There shouldn’t be much consternation about who the top center on the team is, and lucky for us he doesn’t turn 24 until January. We are sticking Marner with McDavid because Marner’s puck skills are among the best in the league, and McDavid’s overall offensive skills are the best in the league, so I want to see the two of them work together. That isn’t hard to figure out.
We’re putting a big body on that line, but it’s not a big body that can’t play hockey. Tkachuk’s numbers from his first two seasons are out-of-this-world, whether we talk about shot generation, getting to the net, or just scoring goals at his rate at his age; he reached 20 goals in each of his first two seasons despite missing more than 10 games in each season. He’s very good, and very large, and that type of presence will do wonders for McDavid and Marner in the offensive zone, while providing some defensive ability. (may7)
Both guys are already accustomed to playing heavy top-pair minutes for their respective NHL teams, so this will be an easy transition for them. But they’re not all about defense, these are guys who can move the puck and join the rush when they feel like it (Werenski more than McAvoy). By Evolving Hockey, McAvoy is two standard deviations above the league average in defensive impacts (elite) while Werenski is over a standard deviation above the league average by offensive impacts (near-elite). They’ll be fine.
10. I'm here to say that Adam Fox should be on the top unit and I'm betting money that's where he ends up. It may not happen to begin the season, but he's going to get there in 2020-21.
Last season, we saw the rookie blossom before our very eyes. He began the season seeing 17 minutes a night from the third pair and worked his way up to nearly 21 a game – almost entirely spent at 5v5. The production came along. 11 points in the final nine games set him on a 50-point pace for the year.
Fox will not get the same level of glamour that Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes or Rasmus Dahlin receive, but he has similar upside. One that can be achieved with all that talent bubbling in the Big Apple. The last hurdle to leap over is Tony DeAngelo.
If he can do it, a 55-60 point pace next season is possible. (may6)
11. The Rangers were supposed to bottom out this year, but instead found a lot of traction and insulation for their youngsters and turned out to be a lot better than expected. Now, they’ll be looking to take the next step.
What remains to be seen is whether they bring back their second-line center in Ryan Strome who is an RFA this summer. If they don’t – and I’m going to imagine they’ll think long and hard about it unless the price tag is quite favourable – something that is unlikely as Strome has built himself one heck of an arbitration case, then Filip Chytil is due for a major upgrade.
This past season, Chytil was seeing just under 15 minutes of ice with a minute of that coming on the second power-play unit. His most common linemate was a green Kaapo Kakko. If he replaces Strome, his most common linemate could very well be Artemi Panarin. Now we're pushing into a best-case scenario territory where Chytil could put up serious numbers.
But, let’s say the Rangers retain Strome and keep him as the 2C with Breadman. That still leaves Chytil to ply his trade next to a more mature Kakko on L3. Finding that top PP deployment will be difficult, but working a unit with Kakko, one of Adam Fox or Anthony DeAngelo and Pavel Buchnevich could be worse.
The 20-year-old has been about a 30-point player through the first 140 games. I like that number to balloon into the 50-point realm next season. (may6)
12. In case you missed it, DobberProspects head of European scouting Jokke Nevalainen found this nugget on a Finnish website: Apparently, Henrik Borgstrom (FLA) is rumored to be coming back to Finland to play with Jokerit of the KHL.
Borgstrom has played in 58 career NHL games, posting just 19 points (9g-10a) while averaging about 12 minutes per game. He has spent most of the past two seasons in the AHL, where he appears to be regressing as opposed to progressing. Jokke mentioned that this could only be a 1-2 year stay in the K if he actually signs over there.
Development issues with the Panthers’ AHL squad in Springfield have also been brought up. Aleksi Heponiemi, another top prospect, has been held to just three goals and 14 points in his first 49 AHL games this season. Should Grigori Denisenko keeper owners be worried, now that he is set to come over to North America? Maybe not so much, as Owen Tippett seemed to be doing all right in the A with 40 points in 46 games before undergoing wrist surgery at around the All-Star break.
Florida has been a tough place for a forward to crack the top-6; however, there could be openings as both Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are set to be UFA this offseason. Depending on who stays and who goes, Tippett and even Denisenko could push their way onto the NHL team next season. Borgstrom and Heponiemi seem a little iffier at this point. (may10)
13. It seems to me that many people have basically settled on Nico Hischier being just an average fantasy asset despite being just 21 years old. However, the magical fourth-season is coming for the 2017 first-overall pick.
Through the first 209 games of his career, Hischier has been a solid even-strength producer. 107 EVP in 209 games equals 0.512 even-strength points per game. That’s damn near the exact output that Nathan MacKinnon (0.518) produced during his first three campaigns at evens.
First 3 career seasons at even-strength:
– Nate MacKinnon: 113 points in 218 games (0.518)
– Nico Hischier: 107 points in 209 games (0.512)
Now, I’m not ready to say that Hischier will be one of the top three players in the world in the near future, but we’d be remiss to completely wash away high expectations for the Devils center.
Hischier should see his PPTOI continue to increase. There’s little reason that he, Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev shouldn’t be pushing 3:30 per game while up a body. As each of those three improve, the Devils PP efficiency should climb as well. They were 21st in the league last year. That's due for a bump.
I’ve been harping all ‘offseason’ on the value of finding undervalued talent and I think Hischier sits right near the top of that heap. He has the skill, pedigree, opportunity and surrounding talent. Now he just needs to put it all together. (may6)
14. Last week, our own Alex MacLean wrote a column on changing hit rates over the last several years. This is important for fantasy owners need to know what their benchmarks are heading into a draft. Do I need 80 hits per player? 90? 100? Fewer than 80? More than 100? The answer to that question can change not only how we value players, but our strategies in drafts. I would recommend reviewing Alex’s article. It’s one of those things that will be very helpful to keep in mind whenever we get hockey back. (may5)
15. The Leafs signed defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to a one-year contract beginning in the 2020-21 season. The 26-year old left-shot blue liner led Jokerit in scoring in the KHL, no small feat from the back end. He is expected to battle for a spot on the third pair whenever the next season begins.
Where Lehtonen fits in remains to be seen. He’s a left shot, and as far as right-shot defensemen go, they have Cody Ceci (pending UFA), Tyson Barrie (also a pending UFA) and Justin Holl. If we assume that they just let the UFAs walk, there could be five LHD in the lineup next year, which would make it a lot easier for Lehtonen to crack the lineup (what they do with Timothy Liljegren is TBD). My assumption right now is that Lehtonen cracks the lineup, and with the scoring on that roster, it immediately puts him on fantasy radars. It could be on either the left or right side, let’s just hope he plays closer to 19-20 minutes a night than 14-15.
Before making any firm declarations, let’s wait and see how their offseason (whenever that is) shakes out. The UFAs may be back, they may trade for or sign someone else. There are still a lot of moving parts here. (may5)
16. Reader @NHLRankKing asked: If the NHL draft does happen in June, how will that impact fantasy leagues and their drafts?
Keepers: I think in keeper leagues this opens up options for some formats. To me, it’s a no-brainer that your keeper league draft has to wait until after this season ends, after the NHL draft and after free agency (i.e. just the first two days when most of the signings happen). But in a crunch, having the fantasy draft after the NHL draft is at least a feasible option. Those leagues with prospect drafts separate from main drafts, you could now have the prospect draft as scheduled.
But, if at all possible, wait until the free agents go to their new teams before having your annual draft. And, pay attention keeper-league commissioners – disallow all free agent pickups involving players who just get drafted. Put out an announcement now so there is no doubt or question about this rule: no waiver snags on 2020 draftees! And if you do have a prospect draft before the season resumes, then those players do not count in regular season standings. If the NHL allows them to play. (may4)
17. Non-Keeper Leagues: Can NHL teams play the player they drafted? Geez, what a confusing issue. When the NHL returns in August, can Detroit put Alexis Lafreniere on the ice? If they do, then I guess in fantasy leagues he has to be allowed. In keeper leagues that didn’t hold the draft (and again – I think you should wait, to get your final draft order because unlike the NHL we don’t have $500 million on the line), he’s just an undrafted player who is doing well. In roto-leagues – one-year leagues – waiver rules apply. The person who holds the next waiver claim gets a sweet advantage. But it’s just for the final 12 games or so – dems da breaks. Do not allow claims before the Draft. Set a firm date to re-open the waiver wire and communicate this clearly (via email, if your fantasy manager platform does not have an option to do this).
For what it’s worth, if the NHL allows their 2020 drafted players to play the rest of this season, I don’t believe we will see more than five or six take part. Just communicate with your league what the rule will be, if you’re the commish. (may4)
18. Reader @pahlsson26 asked: What pieces do teams like Anaheim, LA, Chicago etc. need to become a viable fantasy option again and how long will it (probably) take?
Anaheim – Whenever it all comes together, thankfully John Gibson will still be around. So goaltending is covered, which is key. As for the pieces, some things do need to happen. First priority is health on defense. Cam Fowler is money in the bank for getting hurt. And lately this seems to mean 15 or 20 games missed. That’s not a good use of $6.5M AAV. The only other rearguard signed for long term is Hampus Lindholm – and he’s been just as bad for injuries as Fowler. No team can go year in and year out with half of their season missing one of their two top defensemen. They have a couple of promising defensemen on the way, but nothing elite. Up front I like what is in the pipeline, so what the Ducks really need is for most of those players to pan out. They need Trevor Zegras to become closer to a Ryan Getzlaf than a Mikael Backlund. Getzlaf is no longer a franchise player and so they need one. (may4)
19. Los Angeles – Goaltending is still a question mark, but I ‘think’ it will be in capable hands with Cal Petersen. Assuming that works out, the Kings have a nice group of forwards and defensemen on the way. And Anze Kopitar is still in a position to lead and mentor. While I think Anaheim is two years away from making their mark, I think Los Angeles is closer to three. But both teams have solidified the future fairly well. (may4)
20. Chicago – I think this team is pretty close. Ironically, what they need the most is a Robin Lehner. How stupid is that? He was their answer. They have some pretty good defensemen ready to slide in over the next year or two. The forwards on the roster are, to me, already very good and will only get better. Alex DeBrincat is 10 times better than he was/is in 2019-20, and both Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik will get better. Had the Blackhawks kept Lehner (and extended him), I think they’re a playoff team next year. But they didn’t, so to me this team’s future outlook is in limbo. They can’t afford to solve their problems via free agency in the summer. (may4)
21. Reader @beeprocs asked: Any other personal "rules"/wisdom you follow for fantasy hockey such as your 4th-year breakout.
Yes, I have the Fourth Year Breakout rule that I developed in 1996 in one of my fourth-year math classes in university (it may have been a fourth-year stats class, but same diff). I’ve since merged into Striker’s 200-games BT (Breakout Threshold) because I like the preciseness of using actual games played. But I am more inclined to think it is 220 games (and 440 for big forwards), I just haven’t had time to properly analyze that change. But I’m happy using anything in that ballpark.
I do have other strategies I use in my keeper leagues. Goaltenders are overvalued everywhere, and I find that snoozing is losing. This means grabbing a goalie early. But this often conflicts with other strategies (below). So I try to grab promising sleeper prospect goalies two years before they are ready (because it always ends up being four). So I miss out on Ilya Samsonov (will be a five-year wait), Spencer Knight (will be a six-year wait) and Carter Hart (ended up being just three years). But I got Cal Petersen, who I later used as part of a package to get Robin Lehner. I got Kaapo Kahkonen and Collin Delia, too. One of those could pan out. They just need to get enough value to use in a package to upgrade. I look at team depth charts, and focus on teams running out of goalie options in two years. Then I look at the most promising option in the system
I also place a value in roster spots. This means I value limiting prospect wait times. Just like NHL teams value cap space, I value roster space. I don’t care how great a player is, I don’t want him on my bench for five years. I love Kirill Kaprizov and I think he’ll be a top three scorer in the league and possibly a generational talent. His upside is ridiculous-high. But he was drafted in leagues five years ago so I wasn’t interested in that. He’ll pay off for his current owner. But how many times did I win over the last five years? This of course all depends on the depth of your league, but my league is pretty deep, 15 teams and 35 players per team. I don’t draft 18-year-old goalies, I don’t draft 18-year-old defensemen. I can always find 22-year-old goalies and 20-year-old defensemen who are studs. I don’t need to sit on one for three years. This is a personal rule I have and it only involves goalies and defensemen. For forwards I have no such rule as they tend to make the jump quicker. And not only that – they tend to produce to fantasy standards quicker too. Your typical prospect forward can start helping your team at 21 or 22, while defensemen are more like 23 or 24 and goalies you can add another couple of years yet.
Bottom line is – someone sitting on your bench for five years is taking a spot that you could have used with three different draft picks. Surely one or two of those three pan out for you almost as much as that one guy? (may4)
Have a good week, folks!!
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