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. It seems as though we are one step closer to the NHL returning:
@NHLPA: The NHLPA Executive Board has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format, subject to reaching an overall agreement with the League on resuming the 2019-20 season: http://ply.rs/Ql6850zOjtv
You’ve probably seen the potential matchups by now. You’ve probably also given some thought to who will win between, say, Montreal/Pittsburgh or Vancouver/Minnesota. I won’t make any predictions today, since we still have hundreds of miles to travel before this gets the official go-ahead and the puck drops on the first matchup – assuming the fragile health situation allows. Yet, since baseball is being played in South Korea and soccer is being played in Germany, there is growing hope that the proposed 24-team tournament can work in North America. (may23)
2. In my fantasy league, my acquisition of Evgeni Malkin bumped Sam Reinhart down my center depth chart, perhaps to the point in which he became more of a spare part (my other centers were Aleksander Barkov, Mika Zibanejad, Brayden Schenn, and Eric Staal). Now before you say: “I would easily play Reinhart over Staal and/or Schenn,” remember that before the pause Reinhart had been held without a point in his last eight games. That definitely factors in when I make roster decisions of who to start or sit.
What happened over those eight games? Reinhart’s Frozen Tools Player Calculator said that he still played an average of over 20 minutes over that span, including being on the ice for 70 percent of the Sabres’ power-play minutes. On a Sabres’ team that isn’t overflowing with scoring options, Reinhart still spent over 70 percent of his even-strength minutes with leading scorer Jack Eichel. Yet, Eichel himself crashed and burned over that span, recording just a single point (a goal in the final game) over his last eight games. The Sabres won just two of those last eight games, so team performance factored in.
Going forward, we can assume that Reinhart’s success is tied to Eichel’s. Reinhart played over 80 percent of his even-strength minutes with Eichel, and the two are also joined at the hip on the first-unit power play. As the Sabres rebuild, young players like Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Cozens could give the Sabres more legitimate scoring options down the road for Reinhart should he be split from Eichel. Yet, the way the Sabres are constructed now, Reinhart owners should hope that he sticks with Eichel. (may23)
3. I was reading an article from Murat Ates of The Athletic and it revolved around their second-line center problem. Beyond the blue line in general, that 2C slot is the most glaring need the team has, and it was such a black hole that they eventually broke up Mark Scheifele/Blake Wheeler to get the latter as the 2C. Guys like Bryan Little (healthy or not) and Jack Roslovic just aren’t up to the task. They can't trade for one at the deadline every year, can they?
What I found interesting about the article was two players named: Tyler Johnson and Anthony Cirelli. Johnson as a trade target because of the Lightning’s cap crunch and Cirelli for the same reason (he’s due a pay raise as an RFA).
If the Jets were to trade for Cirelli, it would probably have to be at the expense of one of their marquee forwards. Not in a straight one-for-one swap, but some sort of package. What would a trade revolving around Cirelli and Patrik Laine look like? Or even Roslovic and Cirelli? There’d obviously have to be more attached in either scenario, from either side, but it’s something to think about. If Winnipeg wants to keep their window open, they need a 2C. A legitimate 2C. And they don’t have one. (may22)
4. I just wanted to do a quick review of my 2019-20 predictions. A week before the season, I summarized a lot of my stances and calls by Conferences, both East and West. Let’s start with the East, see where I went wrong, and how it could inform our decisions for the 2020 playoffs and into next season:
Sergei Bobrovsky was the one goalie I was high on because I figured he was a near-lock for 70 starts. In reality, before the season was suspended, he lost the net to Chris Driedger. Goalies, man. (may21)
5. My hope was that this would be the season we’d see the breakout for Nico Hischier. The team added some weapons in the offseason, Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri were still around, and Hischier was coming into his third full season. I thought all the stars were aligned, and the team hit the ground running with all the pace of a sloth. I still think Hischier will have a full-fledged breakout, it just didn’t happen this year. (may21)
6. It’s hard to say what to make of Andreas Johnsson. He had a decent start to the season but he eventually lost his role both at 5-on-5 and on the top PP unit, due to injury and under-performance (and how those two may be related, I won’t even make an attempt). He went from playing nearly 18 minutes a night in November to fewer than 12 minutes a night in February. What that means for his future, I really don’t know right now. I’m still a believer in his offensive talent, but if he’s not in the top-6, it doesn’t matter. (may21)
7. And three Western ones: To begin, I got a lot wrong about Anaheim. I thought the team would have a rebound in general, but they really weren’t much different from last year’s team. That obviously did not lead to great things for the team, nor much for the individuals fantasy-wise. I specifically named Ryan Getzlaf and Max Comtois in my column. Neither player was a high pick, but we still have to eat our vegetables, so I need to mention that Getzlaf posted his worst point/game mark of his career while Comtois was eventually sent to the AHL.
I guess I overestimated the impact that the rookies and young players would have while thinking an abysmal team could turn their fortunes in one year without a significant injection of talent. Anaheim has a long ways to go before they’re contenders again. Some lessons are harder to learn than others, so consider this a lesson learned. (may22)
8. These Ramblings have been covered how I missed on Roope Hintz, as I was not high on him at all before the season and at the very least, he showed a good scoring touch. Having written on Hintz recently, I won’t rehash all the ways I was wrong, just know that I’m sorry. I was also kind of wrong about Jamie Benn: I expected a rebound in points, but that didn’t come to pass. He did, however, set a 10-year high in hits and had an outside chance at 200. That, along with his meagre production, made him valuable. We’ll call it a push. (may22)
9. I won’t take an ‘L’ on Vince Dunn because I admittedly knew there were a lot of obstacles ahead of him to getting the ice time necessary to be a consistent fantasy contributor. I did hope against hope, much like Maid Marion in ‘Robin Hood: Men In Tights’ and was not rewarded. Such is life. (may22)
10. Strong bet for a comeback: John Klingberg's inconsistency of late was highlighted perfectly by his 2019-20 season. He began the year with a putrid four points in 17 games. He was seeing the fun ice but just couldn't do anything with it. He wasn't the only Star to be struggling, but he was indeed struggling.
The next 17 games saw him flip the script and post 14 points. It was the same deployment as before, just now the points were flowing. In totality, the back 41 games represented a pretty solid 56-point pace and in line with his 'usual' level of production. It was also a terrific sign of where he should hopefully be heading next season.
The key here is whether you're concerned with Miro Heiskanen stealing the top power-play deployment from the 27-year-old Swede. It's a valid concern. Heiskanen just saw the highest PPTOI of his career with 2:14 this season. Meanwhile, Klingberg saw the lowest of his career at 2:33.
I'm betting that the Stars utilize their players to their highest potential, and that means giving Klingberg a lot of offensive deployment. They'll need the forwards to wake up, but both players should be locks for 40 points, but I'm taking the over on Klingberg at 49.5. (may20)
11. A little less sure (for a comeback): Tyler Seguin remains an elite talent. That didn't go away in his age-28 campaign. What did go away was the volume-shooting, low-teens converting, power-play dominant scorer that we've become accustomed too.
Seguin saw nearly all of his metrics take a serious hit this past season. The conversion rate has been slowly dropping the last few seasons, but I don't know anyone who thinks Seguin is a 6% finisher. The Stars aren't adding any new offensive firepower for next season, so they'll have to hope the gains from Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov can help ease the slides of Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov.
At the end of the day, it'll be up to Seguin to find his mojo and push back to being an 80-point threat. He's got the skill to do it, but it's not a lock at this point. (may20)
12. Insider Chris Johnston @reporterchris announced: Mikkel Boedker signs a two-year deal with HC Lugano. In announcing the new contract, the Swiss team says it “will wait for” Boedker in the unlikely event that Ottawa Senators are required to play more games in 2019-20.
This is super interesting. Boedker, who was dealt for Mike Hoffman less than two years ago, is now out of the league. Hoffman, by the way, was on pace for a 35-35-70 season with the Panthers. But it's pretty wild that Lugano signed him now, knowing he could play more games with the Sens. Almost as wild as Boedker signing knowing he could play more games with the Sens. How's that going to work in the room?
At the end of the day, there are zero reasons for the Senators to play any more games this year, so it's likely just a wave good-bye to the former eighth overall selection. (may20)
13. Don't miss this: Over at DobberProspects, we've begun to release our Fantasy Organizational Rankings series. This piece always delivers a plethora of goodies for those in deep keeps and dynasty leagues. This year, our Special Content Manager, Peter Harling has been tabulating the results from myself, our Director of European Scouting, Jokke Nevalainen, our Director of North American Scouting, Tony Ferrari, and our remaining Associate Editors.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
14. Sometimes, wishes do come true. Things I had wanted to see for years finally came to fruition in 2019-20, like Dougie Hamilton being PP1 before his injury, Tyler Toffoli finally getting prime minutes with a top center again (with PPTOI as well), and Kevin Fiala receiving the ice time he deserves, as he averaged over 18 minutes a game in his final 15 games before play was suspended. These are all things I’ve clamoured for in these Ramblings in the past, and they happened.
In that sense, what else would I like to see happen with certain players and situations across the league if we get a normal 2020-21 regular season? Let's check out a couple below, or you can follow this link for other things I'd like to see. (may19)
15. Frank Vatrano has been a favourite of mine for years, going back to his AHL days in Boston. I always look for guys who shoot, and Vatrano shoots a lot: over his five-year career, among 317 forwards with at least 2500 minutes in that span, he’s 13th in shots per 60 minutes, between Cam Atkinson and Timo Meier. That’s spectacular shot generation, and that’s why he has the same goal scoring rate as Aleksander Barkov, Artemi Panarin, and Mark Stone. That’s pretty good!
Both Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are pending UFAs. They’re going to get raises, but the good news for Florida is there is a lot of cap space should they choose to use it (even if the cap stays flat, or decreases a little, they’ll have ~$20M in space). In other words, we could easily see the Panthers run it back next year with, more or less, the same roster.
After Dadonov, Hoffman, and Jonathan Huberdeau, there’s one spot left in the top-6. Vatrano has gotten some time there in the past, but there are guys like Noel Acciari and Brett Connolly who’ve taken those minutes in the past, and Mark Pysyk actually got some time up there this year. The team doesn’t see Vatrano as a lock top-6 guy yet, it seems.
I hope he gets it. This is a guy who’s bounced around, not just between franchises but between roles. He’s good and he deserves some run to prove it. Let him have a top-6 role, Florida. (may19)
16. I’m dubious as to Jeff Blashill’s effectiveness as an NHL coach, but that’s a tirade better saved for another time. For now, just one plea: leave Tyler Bertuzzi–Dylan Larkin–Anthony Mantha together.
For the 2019-20 season, that trio skated together for 314 minutes at 5-on-5. Their expected goal share of 56 percent was higher than the Zach Hyman–Auston Matthews–Mitch Marner line from Toronto and the Chris Kreider–Mika Zibanejad–Pavel Buchnevich line from the Rangers. That was done, mind you, while skating for one of the worst teams of the 20th century. That line was amazing when everyone was healthy.
Detroit’s rebuild continues. They have Filip Zadina, Robby Fabbri and Joe Veleno already in the system or on the team. What I think they should do is keep that strong top line together to soak all the tough minutes and let the kids find their legs together with softer deployment. Is this optimal for the team? I don’t know. Is it optimal for my fantasy rosters? Absolutely.
The top line is all in their early-to-mid 20s, so they could be together for a while. I don’t envision them as the next Perfection Line, but if they keep putting up results like they have, why break up a good thing that allows your younger players to find their way in sheltered roles? (may19)
17. I took a look at some key fantasy players who really let their fantasy squads down this year, trying to figure out if they will bounce back. Players where my confidence level is at or above 50% that they will rebound. In order of least confident (still somewhat confident at 50-50) to very confident (100% being extreme) – check out a few below, or, you can follow this link for the entire pack of 17:
P.K. Subban (55%): I still have my doubts, of course. But I was nudged upward from 45% (slightly more confident that he is done) to 55% (slightly more confident that he can rebound) thanks to the recent TSN article where he truly believes he is still one of the top defensemen in the league. He had a 59-point season, and then an injury-riddled season. And then last year on a new team. Sure, he’s 31 years old now. But with hard work he can get back there. Part of me wonders if my “second baby” theory in which a player declines for a season when a second baby is born with a couple years after the first, before bouncing back again, can also be applied to upcoming weddings. I know it sounds silly and over-analytical, but Subban’s engagement and relationship has been pretty public, and he’s had a lot of upheaval in his life too. With a good training regiment, strong health and settling into the New Jersey system with an improved team around him, I think he can bounce back. (may18)
18. Mikael Granlund (70%): Granlund had 14 points in 35 games under Peter Laviolette and 16 points in 28 games under John Hynes. The latter number was actually 15 in 22 before he fell into a six-game skid heading into the break. Hynes was giving him more ice time and the first-line treatment. Wherever he signs as a UFA in the offseason, Granlund will maintain that first-line treatment and could possibly have a career season. He will be one of the most coveted free agents on the market. (may18)
19. Dylan Strome (70%) This season just a sophomore slump. Other teams are keying in on Strome and he’s been struggling with it. However, in the eight games leading into the pause, Strome tallied seven points. Top players work through these things and tend to have it figured out for Year 3. Strome is a serious buy-low candidate right now. (may18)
20. Clayton Keller (75%): Too much talent to hold back for long, Keller is now past the 200-game threshold (237 actually) and about ready to pop. Next season, his fourth, I think will be one to watch. The highest chance of a breakthrough out of any year in his career is the 2020-21 season. (may18)
21. Johnny Gaudreau (95%): Johnny Hockey was coming off a 99-point season…and I still felt he had another gear. And then he comes out and does…this. Now a 68-point pace that just 20 games ago was pacing for 62, Gaudreau’s year has been a fantasy bust. If the NHL finishes the season and Gaudreau gets two points per game, then I’d consider it salvaged. But aside from that unlikely event happening, his owners will continue to be frustrated. But I firmly believe that he is a future 100-point player and why can’t that happen in 2020-21? (may18)
Have a good week, folks – stay safe!!
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