Forum Buzz: DeBrincat vs Seguin, Bertuzzi vs Suzuki, Goaltender Prospects, & More

Rick Roos


Welcome back to Forum Buzz, where I peruse the DobberHockey Forums and weigh in on very active, heavily debated, or otherwise relevant recent threads, reminding everyone how great of a resource the Forums are, especially now that the season is paused. Nearly anything might be covered here, other than trades and signings, which usually get separate write-ups on the main site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings, or questions specific to salary cap issues, which is the domain of Alex MacLean’s weekly Capped column.


As a reminder, you can access the forum thread on which the question is based by clicking on the “Topic” for each question.


Topic #1 – In a 10 team points only league with rosters of 25 players, starting 9F, 4D, 2G, and having a "points cap" representing the salaries of the winning team's top seven players, which skater (in addition to Artemi Panarin, David Pastrnak, Mitch Marner, Torey Krug, and Quinn Hughes) should be kept, Tyler Seguin or Alex DeBrincat?


I can see the dilemma in that both are coming off subpar years. Suddenly there are concerns Seguin could be starting to fade and that DeBrincat might not be on as fast of a track to stardom as was thought this time last year. As a cap is involved, Seguin having the 14th highest cap hit in all the NHL is relevant. Still, though, DeBrincat will get a big raise after coming off his ELC, either something in the $6-7M AAV range (if he's locked him up long term based on deals signed by similar players) or a bit less (if he opts to sign a short term deal). Long story short, Seguin will be more expensive, but perhaps not by a wide margin.


Normally I'd be inclined to write this season off as a fluke given Seguin's track record and the fact he's still only 28, which is a tad young for a player's scoring to start to wane due to age. The issue is he saw his minutes – overall and on the PP – drop, and his usually high SOG rate also cratered. There's also the reality that Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn both seem to be amid a decline, making it so Seguin doesn't have the supporting cast to help him. And as talented of a player as he's been, he's not of the "do it himself" caliber that would allow him to thrive even without capable wingers. And looking at his luck metrics, yes his team's shooting percentage at 5×5 was a paltry 5.7%; however, his IPP was right where it usually is and his OZ% was not working against him. I'd bank on a bit of a rebound in his team shooting percentage, which might be enough to get him back to 70 points.


As for DeBrincat, we see a decline in production but without accompanying drops in SOG, or in TOI overall or on the PP. He also had a similar IPP and OZ% as last season, and less of a drop in 5×5 team shooting percentage as Seguin. So why the 53 point scoring pace versus last season's 76? The big keys are goal scoring and individual shooting percentage. If DeBrincat was shooting the same as he did in 2018-19, he'd have 20 more goals, and voila, a scoring pace of 73 instead of 76. So what can we count on going forward in terms of his shooting percentage — 8.7% like this season or 18.6% like last season? In 2019-20, he had 43 SOG from 1-15 feet, 72 from 31-45 feet, and 68 from 45 feet or more, versus 33, 90, and 70 this season, i.e, no big difference. One key is he shot 15.6% as a rookie, so perhaps that's a tiebreaking data point? Given everything, it looks like DeBrincat had bad luck shooting the puck this season, and that should fix itself in the normal course, making it so 70-75+ points are realistic for next season just in the normal course. Also, he's right at his "Breakout Threshold" of 200 games played, meaning he could be primed for a major surge in scoring, as opposed to Seguin, whose best we've likely already seen.


Given DeBrincat's lower price tag even after he signs his RFA deal, his likely rebound in shooting percentage, and his breakout potential, versus Seguin's diminishing TOI and SOG metrics, age, and a supporting cast that's on the decline, I'm taking DeBrincat here.


Topic #2 – In a 12 team weekly H2H league with 3C, 3RW, 3LW, 5D, 2G, 5 Bench, 3IR and the following categories G, A, +/-, PIM, PP, HIT, BLK, FOW, SOG, W, GAA, S%, SO, which seven should be kept from the following list, noting that if Barkov or Draisaitl are kept they could only be kept one more season and if Kane is kept this would be his last season as a keeper:


C: Aleksander Barkov, Sebastian Aho,
LW: Leon Draisaitl (C), Evander Kane, Brady Tkachuk, Jamie Benn (C), Gabriel Landeskog (C), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C), Chris Kreider
RW: Tyler Seguin (C), Andrei Svechnikov (LW), Joe Pavelski (C), Jeff Carter (C, LW), Charlie Coyle (C)
D: Dustin Byfuglien, Ivan Provorov, Duncan Keith, Matt Niskanen, Connor Murphy, Stephen Johns
G: Jaroslav Halak, Igor Shesterkin


Let's start with RW, D and G since those aren't where the tougher decisions will lie. My guess is Buff has played his last NHL game, and everyone else except for perhaps Provorov is not up to par. I think Provorov is well-rounded enough, and likely to see further scoring gains, that he is a keep especially since not having a single keeper d-man, at a position where five must start, would be digging a hole out from which it would be tough to draft.


Shesterkin could be a keeper, in hopes that Henrik Lundqvist either retires or is bought out and Shesterkin outplays Alexander Georgiev enough to be at least a #1A netminder. Plus, even if it turns out that Shesterkin doesn't play a ton, the league counts SV%, rather than SV, making a netminder who might not play 50+ games still viable.


As for RW, for sure you want to keep Svechnikov, who took great strides as a 19-year-old and only should get better, plus chips in nicely with SOG and Hits. Notwithstanding what I said above you might want to keep Seguin, depending on how deep you are at the other positions, and especially since this is not a cap league and he gives you dual position eligibility.


That leaves three or four other spots unless the options at C and/or LW make it necessary to rethink a keeper at one of the other positions. And boy oh boy is this team loaded at these two positions, with an argument to keep everyone except Benn. For sure Draisaitl is a keeper; and with PIM, HIT and SOG you have to keep Tkachuk. I'm thinking one of Barkov and Aho should be kept and the other packaged with Kane or Landeskog plus Shesterkin to get Connor Hellebuyck or Andrei Vasilevsky, whom you'd then keep instead of Shesterkin. Who to keep out of Barkov and Aho? There is no bonus for goals, so Aho loses a bit of his luster. Also, although Aho might have a ceiling that is close to what Barkov has shown, we can't be sure he gets there. Yes, this means keeping two guys who can only be kept one more season in Draisaitl and Barkov and letting go of Shesterkin, but I think it's the best way to proceed. For the last keeper, go with whoever isn't traded, out of either Kane or Landeskog.


Topic #3 – Who should tally more points in 2020-21, Tyler Bertuzzi or Nick Suzuki?


I know that many are bullish on Bertuzzi, but after what I uncovered in a Goldipucks column a few months ago I see him as a complementary player who seemed to make Dylan Larkin worse and has a poor track record of 5×5 production. The other issue is Bertuzzi had pretty much been guaranteed a spot on the top line or and PP this year and last due to a dearth of talent present in Detroit. But with Filip Zadina, Michael Rasmussen and Joe Veleno all likely to make an impact within the next couple of years, Bertuzzi's "spot" isn't set in stone. I'll stick with what I said in the Goldipucks column, namely that he's likely a 50 point player if he remains in the top six.


As for Suzuki, unlike with Bertuzzi we only have his one season to go on. But the 20-year-old was able to string together a stretch of 31 points in 44 games after a poor start and before slowing down due to likely starting to hit a rookie wall. But even though his points dropped in the seven games he played in Q4 before the season paused, he had 22 SOG, which is certainly a positive. 


Just as Detroit is a tough team to play for, so too is Montreal, at least with Claude Julien at the helm. Julien's system isn't conducive to high scoring, nor is he known for leaning on younger players. But once Suzuki caught fire in Q2 he received – and continued to receive – between 16:30 and 17:00 per game. He also took the ice for nearly half of the Habs' PP minutes, posting 14 PPPts. Suzuki also did this with only a 54% OZ%, which is lower than many rookies receive, and an IPP of 69.5%, which is right near the 70% mark that I tend to see from players who can become top scorers, and is in contrast to the 62% IPP that Bertuzzi had this season and last.


I'd say for 2020-21 they'll likely both be at or near 50 points, with perhaps Bertuzzi having a few more due to still being a top-line fixture and Julien still being Montreal's coach. For 2021-22 an onward though, I see Suzuki as the better producer; and at their peaks, Suzuki could outscore Bertuzzi by 15-20+ points.


Topic #4 – In a 16 team dynasty league counting GAA, SV% and Wins as goalie categories, which of these prospects has the highest likelihood of becoming an NHL regular: Mikhail Berdin, Chris Driedger, Filip Gustavsson, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Vitek Vanecek?


First and foremost, we have to come to grips with the fact that far more goalie prospects do not pan out than do. Look no further than this list from fewer than three years ago. Yes, some are still young and could taste NHL success; however, most have fallen from grace, illustrating the difficulty in predicting the future when it comes to netminders.


Of these five, only one has made a mark in the NHL as yet in Driedger, who played well in the back-up role for Florida and happens to be a UFA after 2020-21. If he continues to do well I'd look for him to sign for a team that will likely use him as more of a 1B goalie, with a chance to win a starting job.


The rest of the four have signed and played in the AHL already, clearing one major hurdle in that many goalies, particularly ones from Europe, never come to the NHL despite being drafted and highly touted. These four, though, have indeed played US pro hockey. How have they fared? With the exception of Vanecek, not particularly well. That is of the most concern with respect to Kaskisuo, who, at 26, has played chunks of three seasons in the AHL and not improved. I see him as a depth organizational goalie with less than a 25% chance of even becoming a back-up for an NHL team. 


Gustavsson has also looked outclassed thus far in the AHL, although him being only 21 makes it so that's less of a concern. Moreover, he plays for the Sens, who have no stability in net and, in turn, might be more inclined to give Gustavsson a chance to strut his stuff at the NHL level.


Berdin is only 22 and plays for the Jets, a team that won't be searching for a starting goalie any time soon but which as of now has no back-up signed for next season. I'd be shocked if they turned to Berdin for the role though. Instead, they will likely ink an experienced back-up like Anton Khudobin, Mike Smith, Cam Talbot or Thomas Greiss. But if Berdin steps up his game for 2020-21, he could latch on as a back-up – in Winnipeg or somewhere – within a couple of years.


As for Vanecek, not only did he play well, but he's property of the Caps, who might lose Braden Holtby to free agency. If so, chances are they don't waltz into 2020-21 with a goalie tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vanacek; although never say never. Instead, I'd bank on Washington also inking a veteran back-up, but perhaps only for a season to see if Vanecek has what it takes to be their true back-up. And who knows – although Samsonov is the anointed one, in two or three years time Vanacek could outplay him and seize the starting role.


Long story short, I see only Driedger as being a shoe-in for the NHL next season. But everyone with the exception of Kaskisuo looks to have a chance to be at least a back-up, with Vanecek, due to ability and team, and Gustavsson, due to team, being the ones to which I'd most likely hitch my wagon.


Topic #5 – Who'll perform best in 2020-21: Carter Hart, Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Samsonov, Juuse Saros, Philipp Grubauer, or Marc-Andre Fleury?


Two of these netminders were covered in my Goldipucks and the Three Goalies column last week, namely Carter Hart (whom I said should put up comparable numbers next season) and Philipp Grubauer (whom I think is in danger of having a worse 2020-21). Given that Hart was the best performer of these six in 2019-20, the question becomes whether any of the other four are poised to do better than him next season.


If the crease was entirely his, I'd wager Shesterkin would be the best of the six, as he's excelled at every level and looked great in 2019-20, albeit in somewhat limited action. The issue is by the time next season starts New York could still have three goalies under NHL contract. And while Henrik Lundqvist might retire or be pushed aside, that still leaves Alexander Georgiev, and it's likely the Rangers use him as a 1A or 1B to smoothen Shesterkin's transition to the NHL and before Georgiev presumably gets poached by Seattle. Don't get me wrong – Shesterkin has it in him to play so well as to become "the guy" next season, but I think the Rangers want to take things slow and give him every chance to succeed, which, in turn, means a season of likely 35-45 starts, and which, in the end, won't make him better than Hart for 2020-21.


As the season was winding down, Saros ignited, with a stretch of top-notch hockey. And just in time, like last season and the first half of 2019-20 had many wondering if he'd been overhyped. But the hype looks real now. The issue is Pekka Rinne is also under contract for next season and probably the team would be looking to give Saros no more than 50 starts to not have him tire out and, like the Rangers with Shesterkin, to smoothen the transition for him in becoming a true #1. Could that be better than what Hart will bring to the table for 2020-21? Unlikely.


Samsonov is the heir apparent in Washington and should step into the #1 role if Braden Holtby opts not to resign. That being said, Samsonov didn't have a great 2018-19 in the AHL and his stats for this season are somewhat deceptive in that he performed much better before the calendar flipped to 2020 and many of his best games came against teams that are weak and/or struggle to score. As noted above, I could see Washington – if Holtby walks – signing someone like Anton Khudobin, Mike Smith, Cam Talbot or Thomas Greiss as an insurance policy and such that Samsonov doesn't immediately have to start 60+ games. If all goes as well as it could, Samsonov's value could rival that of Hart; however, I'd say Hart is the safer bet.


Lastly, there's Fleury, who, after two very solid seasons in Vegas, had a down 2019-20, with fewer than 50% of his starts being quality starts and having nearly 20% of his starts being really bad starts. He's also turning 36 next season; however, among the seven other goalies who, like Fleury and since 1990-91, had at least three seasons of 34+ wins from age 30 to 35, all of them had at least one 30+ win season at age 36 or older when they started 50+ games. With Fleury set to make $7M next season and in 2021-22, it would be difficult to envision Vegas signing a goalie who could seriously push Fleury. So most likely Fleury gets a similar number of starts next season as Hart; however, he probably doesn't fare as well in terms of Wins and peripherals.


So for next season, I'd rank Hart first, followed by Saros, Samsonov, Fleury, and Grubauer. The wild card is Shesterkin, who, if he gets the starts, could be the best of the bunch but might end up still being brought along slowly, in which case he's in the middle of the pack. Samsonov and Saros too could push Hart for the #1 spot, although as noted chances are instead they don't play enough games next season to do so.


Topic #6 – In a H2H, non-cap weekly league with 5 points for a goal, 3 for an assist and a 1 point bonus for a PPG or SHG, with 6F, 3D, 1G starting every week, and the following players being kept: Artemi Panarin, Elias Pettersson, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, Johnny Gaudreau, John Carlson, Cale Makar, Torey Krug, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who should be the last keeper – Evgeni Kuznetsov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kevin Fiala, or Kirill Kaprizov?


For certain Kuznetsov is the most proven; however, he's not leaped superstardom that many had expected he would've by now. RNH had been a mid-tier fantasy performer until he became joined at the hip with Leon Draisaitl, after which he proceeded to score above a 100 point pace for the last 30 games he played. Fiala, despite only not even skating 16:00 per night, was playing at a point per game level for three-quarters of the season and looks like he might just be scratching the surface in terms of his potential.


Kaprizov, of course, has no NHL experience; however, he is widely thought of as the best young forward not currently in the NHL, plus he is property of the Wild, a team which needs him and can thrust him right into the top six for sure the moment he sets foot on an NHL rink. The big wrinkle is although he's completely unproven in the NHL, of the four Kaprizov is the only one who is a prototypical goal scorer, with the rest being more set up guys. That's a big deal for a league in which goals are worth 66% more than assists. 


The decision boils down to appetite for risk. If this is a team looking to win in 2020-21, I think Kaprizov cannot be kept. Instead, it would be RNH, if there's a belief he's truly arrived or Kuznetsov as a safer pick. Fiala is intriguing, yet plays for a weaker team and could regress.


Topic #7 – In a 16 team H2H league with G, A, PIM, PPPts, SHPts, FOW, HIT, BLK, WIN, GAA, SV, SV%, and SO as categories, which eight of the following should be kept on a team that is still in a rebuild mode and with the understanding that two of the eight keepers cannot be kept again the following season: Martin Necas, Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Tyler Johnson, Conor Garland, Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Jason Zucker, Jordan Eberle, Barrett Hayton, Kirby Dach, Filip Chytil, Alex Iafallo, Nicholas Robertson, Marcus Pettersson, John Marino, Pavel Francouz, Marcus Hogberg


Let's start with the obvious, and that's Kucherov. Also, with that many goalie categories, one has to keep a netminder, who in my opinion should be Francouz, since as I wrote in last week's Goldipucks column he could be the 1A in Colorado before the end of next season. I also like Suzuki, Dach, Kubalik, Necas and Chytil as the best combinations of major upside, which is key on a rebuilding team but also being able to chip in now.


Who, then, should be the last keep? A case could be made for Zucker, Eberle, Drouin, or Garland, in hopes of being able to trade that player during next season to a GM whose team is contending to acquire more assets or picks to assist in the rebuild. Of the four, Zucker has the best home run potential, so I'd likely opt for him. What I'd do is try to deal any or all of the other three now, in hopes of finding a taker, even for a cheap price, as something is better than nothing. Or they could even be packaged with Francouz to try and get a younger goalie (Francouz, despite his limited NHL experience, turns 30 next month) with upside.




Questions for Mailbag column

Despite no hockey being played at the moment, readers have filled the mailbag; so I'm all set for questions for the next edition. But it's still never too early to put yourself in the queue for the following month. To get your questions to me, you can either private message “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or, instead, send an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.


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