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. Which players would hold some kind of advantage should the regular season resume? I’ve seen this question asked a number of different ways, so I’ll try to tackle it here. The best way I can probably answer it is to provide general categories of players as opposed to a list of specific players that you should target or avoid.
This answer assumes that the NHL goes ahead with its rumored plan to restart in July. Depending on what happens, one or more of these thoughts may not be relevant, depending on how the season is restarted… if it is restarted at all. In other words, don’t bet your first-born child’s college education that all of this will play out as planned. If the season is cancelled, none of this will matter anyway. There are still too many unknowns at this time.
The two-month pause has allowed many players to recover from injuries while no new players have suffered injuries as a result of game action. For fantasy owners hanging onto players on IR, this is like finding money under the sofa cushions that could be anywhere from spare change to a $100 bill. A significant number of players who were injured in March should be ready for game action by July, if not right now. To find out who should be ready and who still won’t be, check out our latest Injury Ward article.
On a personal and related note, thank goodness I didn’t trade Mark Stone in my keeper league for more immediate help. Anyone else who didn’t make a similar trade of an injured stud for a short-term but lesser option must be thanking their lucky stars. Conversely, I feel your pain if you went all in this season in the hopes you would win, as I made a few other trades sacrificing the future to try to live for the moment. (may15)
2. Assuming that the NHL restarts with the regular season exactly as it was left off, as opposed to starting with some type of playoff format such as the 24-team playoff being discussed. Carolina and the NY Islanders provide the most opportunities for games (14 games remaining), while everyone else either has 13, 12 or 11 games remaining. Even if all these games are played, they could be played in hub cities while being more closely condensed than originally designed. In other words, if this does turn out to be an advantage, I wonder how much of an advantage it will really be.
On that note, I wonder how motivated the Detroit Red Wings will be, having already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Should the season restart with the 24-team playoffs, non-playoff teams could be looking at a long layoff. Under that scenario, I wonder how rusty players from those teams would be once the 2020-21 season finally starts. (may15)
3. Socially-distanced hockey could mean no fighting, no scrums after whistles, and wingers maintaining two feet of distance. That will result in fewer penalty minutes and quite possibly fewer hits, which would hurt Tom Wilson‘s value in multicategory leagues. However, I wonder how on board players would be with these changes. If opponents don’t maintain two meters of distance, can I whack them with my stick?
Full face shields have also been discussed. Players might have a hard time adapting, especially those who don’t normally use a face shield. Extra protection is never a bad idea in a contact sport, but hockey players are creatures of habit.
I’m not sure how banning spitting will affect the fantasy game. Somebody help me with that one. (may15)
4. Logan Couture is expected to be ready to play if play resumes. Couture had been struck in the head with a puck shortly before the pause. As well, he missed about a month and a half previous to that with an ankle injury. As you’d expect, Couture’s scoring was down, as his 0.75 PTS/GP this season is his lowest production in three seasons.
One surprising stat (and not in a good way) was that Couture failed to score a single power-play goal this season. Even with the Sharks’ decreased production, that seems odd considering that he’s had at least 5 PPG in each of his previous five seasons. As you’d expect by now, the Sharks’ power play dipped from the top third of the league in 2018-19 to the bottom third in 2019-20. Couture’s shots total per game didn’t decrease by much, so this is just a case of bad luck.
Couture has been on pace for between 55-70 points for nearly the past decade. At age 31, he should continue to be within that range in the short term, regardless of the Sharks’ fortunes as a team.
5. Alternative histories are always fun, be it television shows or sports articles. They’re something I think of often, particularly when I finished a handful out of first in a fantasy league and wonder where things went wrong. Let’s take a spin through some things that have occurred in recent memory and how things could have been different.
What if: JT Miller is not traded to Vancouver…
I’m going to start with one that had immediate fantasy implications. The Lightning were facing a cap crunch heading into the 2019-20 season and the casualty of that cap crunch was winger J.T. Miller. He was shipped to Vancouver for a pair of picks (one a conditional first, which, well, who knows what happens there) and proceeded to have by far his best season in the league, skating mostly with Elias Pettersson.
What happens if Miller isn’t traded to Vancouver?
Well, the Canucks go into the season a bit thin on the left side, but it would likely have left Tanner Pearson on Pettersson’s wing, especially given the injuries the team suffered through the year. As it is, Pearson set a career-high with 45 points in just 69 games. If we swap his PPP total (10) with Miller’s (25), Pearson is sitting at 60 points. (Yes, I know it’s not fair to just do a straight swap because everything wouldn’t have turned out the same way. But this is a What If exercise, not a This Is What Would Have Definitely Happened exercise.) That would be 60 points in 69 games, and we’re not even talking about increased point rates at even strength.
And does J.T. Miller put up the same points if he ends up in, say, Arizona or Montreal? It’s doubtful. In other words, this worked out as well as it possibly could have for the Canucks; Pearson has his best season ever, at least by points, and Miller has his best season ever as well. Any other ‘what if’ scenario probably falls short of this. (may14)
6. Re-drafting Boston’s 2015 first round:
I hate getting on the case of drafting because we all know how much of a crapshoot drafts can be. It can only take a couple years to look back and see the plethora of mistakes in every round. Such is the nature of drafting teenagers.
On the other hand, after the Bruins made a trio of picks at 13-14-15, we saw names like Thomas Chabot, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny, Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, and Anthony Beauvillier go by the end of the first round.
Barzal was a guy who was high on a lot of boards from people I respect, which is why the Bruins drafting not-Barzal was funny then but prescient in retrospect. Again, drafting is a very precarious endeavour, but sometimes it’s best just to listen to the nerds.
What if instead of drafting Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshen, they draft Connor, Chabot, and Barzal? Or Konecny, Boeser, and Barzal? Or Chabot, Barzal, and Boeser? There were at least seven impact players left in that first round when pick 13 rolled around and Boston ended up with one.
I ask this ‘what if’ because Boston has been one of the best teams in the league over the last few years. What if that lineup has Barzal as the 2C with Boeser next to him and Chabot on the second pair? Does Boston have another Cup by now? Two? It’s hard to say, but to use a gambling term, they definitely left money on the table. (I know it’s not strictly a gambling term.) (may14)
7. Coming off of a career-high 96-point season as a 23-year-old in 2018-19, Sasha Barkov slipped down the point leaderboard with ‘just’ 62 points in 66 contests this year. That’s not ideal for a player that was likely selected very high in one-year leagues and earmarked as the franchise piece in many keepers.
So, what happened and why should we believe the Finnish center will rebound?
In the three seasons predating the 96-point effort, Barkov had already established premier deployment. He was seeing 22-plus minutes per game – at least three of those coming on the top power-play unit. But it wasn’t until 2018-19 that his PPPs joined the creamy part of the league. He had averaged 15 power-play points per season before popping off with 31 that year. In 2019-20, he had 17 – which was a pace of around 21.
Taking a look at the Panthers’ as a whole on the man-advantage paints a clearer picture. From 2015-16 to 2017-18, Florida was the 27th most effective man-advantage team clicking at just 17.6 percent. During Barkov’s career 2018-19 campaign, they were second in the league with a 28.2 percent rate. This past season, they dipped into a most sustainable 21.3 percent rate – good for 10th in the league.
With the firepower in South Florida, I think it’s fair to expect the Panthers to remain amongst the top half of the league in that 20-22 percent zone. And that means we can look for around 20-25 PPPs from Barkov in a normal season.
The shooting percentage should level out in the 12-15 percent range – which should lead to around 30 goals. But what’s most interesting is that Barkov saw just 42 percent of his starts in the offensive zone in 2018-19 when he torched the world. This past season that number spiked to 58.8 percent.
So while he was given far greater opportunities for offense this past season, the results refused to follow. I’m of the mind that this is an anomaly. If you continue to provide those times of minutes, opportunities and quality of linemates to a player such as Barkov, the numbers will hit back. You throw in he and Jonathan Huberdeau in the midst of their prime statistical seasons and there are reasons to be optimistic.
I’m buying Barkov as a 90-point player for next season. If you can find an owner who thinks he’s maybe a 75-80 point guy, then it’s time to push hard for that purchase. (may 13)
8. We do try our best to isolate some multicat options in the Fantasy Prospect Guide (coming soon), but I’ll give you a couple more here as well. (While you're at it, just start cruising the DobberProspects' 2020 Draft Section. It's full of goodies
Shooters – There are going to be a good amount of volume-shooters at the top end of this crop. But especially:
Hitting Machines – Sorry to disappoint, but there aren’t too many potentially impactful fantasy assets who also love to bang. That said, I think we see a couple of them develop enough in that regard to be tangible producers. Usually, if you’re hitting a fair amount, you’re adding some PIMs to the table as well. This category is usually filled by true, energy line bangers or the defending crop. Of note, there aren’t many clearly physical D that I’d be jumping to draft early in this group
9. I saw a Twitter poll the other day asking about future HOFers that are playing or have played for the Wild. I was pretty surprised to see little support for Ryan Suter. Do… do people realize he’s been one of the best defensemen in the league nearly 15 years?
From Evolving Hockey: he’s fourth in WAR among defensemen since the 2007 season, trailing only Zdeno Chara, Mark Giordano, and Victor Hedman. Beyond that, Suter finished top-20 in Norris voting for 10 years straight, including three top-5 finishes. Since entering the league, he has more points than both Chara and Shea Weber, and he’s never played fewer than 70 games in any season.
He never put up monster point totals, hitting 51 points twice in 15 years but never more, but Suter was a reliable number-1 defenseman for over a decade, playing monster minutes along the way. I think I would put him in but I’m not sure others would. (may12)
10. Sometimes, it’s all about situation. Blake Wheeler finished his career at the University of Minnesota, meaning he didn’t get to the NHL until the age of 22. For the next two years, he was largely stuck on Boston’s third line (sometimes moving to the second line). That means it wasn’t until age-25 that Wheeler became a true first liner when he got traded to then-Atlanta. We have to wonder how many points that cost him.
All the same, we can only judge him for what he’s done. For the decade of the 2010’s, this is how he fared: fourth among wingers in points, behind Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin and Phil Kessel. That’s more than Taylor Hall, or Jakub Voracek, or Corey Perry, or Brad Marchand. Out of the eight guys listed, including Wheeler, there are probably four Hall of Famers listed. Do I hear five?
The lack of individual trophies, or any real consideration for them, is going to be a big issue. He has numerous All-Star nominations, but as for actual trophies, one top-10 finish for the Selke is as good as it gets. Granted, the Hall of Fame committee is not the same as the people who vote on Hart or Selke Trophies, but that lack of hardware is going to hurt. Double that with little playoff/international success, and, well, the picture looks grim.
Again, we have to wonder about his path. What if Wheeler is in the NHL at 19 and a first liner by 21 or 22, rather than in the NHL at 22 and a first liner by 25? I don’t think there’s much doubt he’s been one of the best wingers of the last 10 years, but he hasn’t been the best, and without the individual or team accomplishments, it may not be enough. (may12)
11. I was thinking of goalies that might get in the Hall of Fame. I imagine Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist both get there. Carey Price has fallen off in recent seasons but he had a very, very high peak, which included a lot of hardware, plus he has the international gold medals, so I think he gets there too. Does anyone else?
Had Pekka Rinne not won that Vezina a couple years ago, I may not have included him here. But now, Rinne has a Vezina Trophy to his name, plus three other top-3 finishes, including runner-up in 2011 and 2015. Since entering the league, he’s second in wins and tied for seventh by save percentage. Other stats are less flattering, as he posted a lower goals saved above average mark than Tomas Vokoun, and Vokoun had more than 400 fewer games played than Rinne. GSAA is a cumulative stat, so it really goes to show how much volume Rinne needed to shine.
All the same, I think voters are coming around to the idea of how random goaltending can be. When they see a goalie with a Vezina and a couple runner-up finishes, maybe they give him the call. Maybe not. Like goalies, the HOF committee can be unpredictable. (may12)
12. Matt Roy's Frozen Tools page shows a prospect upside of 4.0, which converts to a fantasy upside of 32 points. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, although is Roy still considered a prospect if he is now 25 years old? Roy’s scoring hasn’t really moved the needle fantasy wise. In his first full season, the Kings’ defenseman scored 18 points (4g-14a) in 70 games while receiving very little power-play time. That scoring seems to be in line with his prospect upside, so you can ignore him in pure scoring leagues.
Where it gets interesting is in the peripheral categories. In his 70 games, Roy managed to squeeze in the following:
– Plus-16: 1st on the Kings
– 132 hits: 3rd on the Kings
– 100 blocked shots: 1st on the Kings
In his most recent Top 10 list, Tom Collins mentioned that Roy was one of only 12 players to reach triple digits in hits, blocked shots, and shots on goal (112). If you need to fill out your deep multicategory roster with a player who can fill the non-scoring categories, then Roy might be a viable option for you as he establishes himself as a top-4 defenseman for the Kings. (may16)
13. Boone Jenner is owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues, and I’d be willing to guess that many of those leagues are banger’s leagues. Although he has scored just 11 goals and 24 points in 70 games, Jenner has also recorded over 100 hits for all seven of his NHL seasons. As well, he has been good for at least 70 blocked shots in each of the past five seasons. That’s not a huge total if you’re a defenseman, but it’s near the top among forwards.
Another category that Jenner quietly holds value in is shots on goal. Jenner has taken at least 170 shots in each of the past five seasons, including a career-high 225 shots in his career season of 2015-16, when he scored 30 goals. That five-year shots total of 972 SOG places him within the top 50 among all forwards.
Deeper bangers leagues might want to have a look at Jenner for next season. Jenner’s 5-on-5 SH% is just 5% in 2019-20, which is a bit lower than the 8-9% that he has produced throughout his career. Among Columbus forwards, only Nick Foligno had more overall icetime, so Jenner is going to get his minutes. Given his ability to block shots and defend, his OZ% will likely continue to be below 50%, as it has been throughout his career. That means we’re not talking about a player with high upside in pure scoring leagues. (may10)
14. Reader @Mawesome21 aks: What kind of season can we predict for Fabbri?
Robby Fabbri: Even if his injury troubles are being him, and I hope they are, I’m not super high on him. He relied a lot on playing with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, as well as on his power-play time. But a lot of that was with Anthony Mantha sidelined. Now that Filip Zadina is a part of the team, Fabbri becomes a second-unit guy. And at even strength he didn’t show much in the way of offense if Larkin wasn’t around, other than maybe Andreas Athanasiou – and he’s gone now. I guess if Detroit adds Alexis Lafreniere then that makes Fabbri worth stashing in keeper leagues. Fabbri is a passenger, not the driver. So his value lies solely in his playing with Larkin or Lafreniere.
My prediction: 65 games (play that safe), and a range of 32 to 52, depending on what percentage of his ships are with one of those two. I know that is a wide range, but frankly it’s a pretty extreme situation. (may11)
15. Reader @kjazz_1 asks: Thoughts on Nolan “wasted my high draft pick” Patrick.
Nolan Patrick: A quality player with 70-plus upside for points. But he’s been injury prone since junior and I fear that he may never play a 70-game season again. He only played 73 and 72 games in his first two years in the NHL and that was before the migraine became serious. If you’re in a points-only league with no IR, treat him the way you would treat a prospect who you expect to get 35 points next season and has a long-term upside of 60-plus points. (may11)
16. Reader CharlesBelley16 asks: Your take on what next season could be like for Bemstrom, Donato, Haula and Niño.
Emil Bemstrom: A pure goal scorer who probably has a ceiling that limits him to 60 points, and probably needs to be on the top line to do it. Won’t happen next year, as I think the next two will be stepping stones. His pace this season is for 29 points and next year I see low- to mid-30s.
Ryan Donato: A dark horse next season, but probably more for the second half. He should hit his 200-game Breakout Threshold next January or February. I’ll be softly inquiring about him this offseason in my keepers, but go at it with more urgency a year from now.
Erik Haula: The usual Haula stuff expected for next year. Decent production, hints of something really great for a few games before he twists, strains, or breaks something and gets sidelined again.
Nino Niederreiter: This is the player who has me the most confused this season. Goes to Carolina in his prime, clicks with Sebastian Aho and pounds out 33 points in his last 44 games. This year, he gets put on the same line. Time after time after time. And he failed, again and again and again. I wish I had a crystal ball for this one. The numbers say that with average puck luck and the usual bounces he ‘should’ have about three more goals and six more points. But that still would only put his pace at 43. My hunch is that he doesn’t come back from this. It would seem that the top six is in place and it doesn’t include him. On the third line he’s not much more than a 40-point player. (may11)
17. Reader @WWIFlyingAce asks: Where do you see Lehner landing next season and beyond?
Robin Lehner: To me his best fit was Chicago. I can’t believe he left that situation. Yes, he’s earned a bigger contract than the Blackhawks can afford, but this is a career maker. Take a three-year deal there, lead this team back to respectability by simply playing the way he’s been playing for two years, and he gets his payday after that. I don’t know if he’ll get much more elsewhere, with Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss, Corey Crawford and Cam Talbot also UFA. He better have a lot of faith that his agent can navigate this game of musical chairs to his advantage.
As for what teams could look at him: Calgary, Chicago, Minnesota, Buffalo (!!), Detroit and Ottawa (!!).
18. Reader @pahlsson26 asks: With Seattle expansion after the 2020-21 season, do you see the Wild keeping Kahkonen over Stalock at 785k and Dubnyk on an expiring contract? Would that mean that Kahkonen gets to be the backup in 2020-21? Is it realistic to think he’ll play 40 games in 2021-22?
Yes, yes and yes. No way they keep Alex Stalock over Kaapo Kahkonen. He’s nine years older and, while he’s coming off his best season (still in progress), his SV% is only 0.910 so it’s not like he’s an untouchable superstar. His last 17 games that SV% has been over 0.920 but that’s too small a sample size. Kahkonen’s future depends on what the Wild do this offseason. Lots of great, proven goaltenders hit the market. Do they dive in? Devan Dubnyk has one year left on his contract. (may11)
19. Reader NickDeStef7 asks: 1- Werenski floor/ceiling for next season assuming he and Seth Jones play full 82. 2- Hertl floor/ceiling next season?
Zach Werenski: That’s always the thing when it comes to the near ‘sure things’ – playing the 82 games. I think in a full season his floor is 52 points and his ceiling is 71. And I limit it there because it’s Columbus. It’s also important that Oliver Bjorkstrand plays at least 75 games because I think he’s their only legit star forward so his presence is required for anyone to put up big points.
Tomas Hertl: Again using 82 games, which he’s never done…so come to think of it I’m going to use 75 games. So, 75 games his floor for next year is 48 points and ceiling is 70. It’s a little underwhelming because the Sharks are a team in transition now. How healthy will Erik Karlsson be? Will we see Kevin Labanc from 2018-19 or from 2019-20? Those two questions alone could add or remove a dozen points from Hertl’s numbers. (may11)
I have rather moderate expectations for Byram, Niku and Jokiharju. I would be surprised if any of them got 30 points, though eventually all three will reach 50 one day (I don’t see much higher though). Boqvist is another matter. Assuming the Blackhawks don’t find another option, and their lack of cap space tells me they won’t, then ready or not – he’s the guy. Potentially, he could surprise and be a 50-point player. Would I put money on that? Not a lot of money, no. But I’d pretty easily slap some down on 45. (may11)
A close call here and great question (although there is no downside for getting the answer wrong, IMO). The Coyotes love Soderstrom and feel he’s NHL-ready or very close to it. He has great upside and is a right shot in an organization that has Oliver Ekman-Larsson (left) and Jacob Chychrun (left). I don’t like how Chychrun was always getting hurt after being drafted – and then Soderstrom gets hurt last season. Not the organization’s fault and probably just a fluke, but I’m wired to see patterns like that.
Seider, drafted five spots ahead of Soderstrom last year, also has great upside. At just 18, he slid right into the AHL seamlessly and I have no doubt that he can do it again in the NHL. He is a right-shot defenseman and so is Filip Hronek. For that reason, I go with Soderstrom. If Detroit ends up with Alexis Lafreniere it makes this opinion much more difficult to reach so I repeat: no downside to going with the wrong guy. (may11)
Have a good week, folks!!
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