Ramblings: Young Defenders On The Rise, The Playoffs Are Coming! And So Is Alexander Holtz (May 27)

Cam Robinson

2020-05-26

The big news in the world of hockey is the Return to Play directives have been decided. And along with them, the draft lottery and time of the draft. Hallelujah! 

The league officially welcomed in the 24-team 'post-season' plan which will feature 16 squads battling it out in a best-of-five series to earn the right to enter the 'actual' post-season of 16 clubs. The remaining eight teams who make up the top four teams in each conference will play a mini round-robin tournament to determine seeding.

That means, that the eight teams who are ousted in the play-in round will become lottery clubs and will have a chance at landing a top selection in the upcoming draft. I'm talking about a team like Pittsburgh Penguins who were seventh in the entire league at the time of stoppage, could end up a non-playoff team with balls in the lottery and walk away with Alexis Lafreniere

 

Straight chaos. And I'm definitely here for it.

 

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This also clears up all the potentially messy situations regarding conditional picks, especially between the Canucks and Devils. Under this design, if Vancouver loses to Minnesota in the play-in round, they would be deemed a non-playoff team and would keep their 2020 first-rounder and have a shot at a top-10 pick. They would then surrender an unprotected 2021 first (something you know the Devils are hoping for). If the Canucks win, they ship the pick this year and keep their 2021.

Easy peasy.

 

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This announcement was the final nail in the coffin for any leagues who were holding out a sliver of hope that there would be a resumption of regular-season games. The season is over. Time to pay out the remaining teams left standing in your league.

I hate this as much as the next person. I was en route to defending my crown in my main deep keeper. Now we have put 'COVID-19' on our beautiful trophy. 

 

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Another revealed portion of the announcement is that the 2019-20 regular season is now completed. That means awards are now locked in. As such, Alex Ovechkin will take home his ninth Rocket Richard Trophy but this time, he’ll share it with David Pastrnak as the two each ended the year with 48 goals.

Yes, this does mean that I cashed in on my preseason Rocket bet for Pasta that pays out 26-1. Thanks for asking!

 

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I've been deep into scouting film of the upcoming 2020 class during this life-altering pandemic shutdown. And I must say, the top-10 or 12 kids are serious. The crop has long been lauded as an elite group, and while I don't think that holds true for depth, the cream is creamy. 

One player who I don't think has been receiving the level of attention amongst fantasy players is Alexander Holtz. So today, let's take a gander at the most explosive goalscorer in a class of tasty twine-benders.

Alexander Holtz, RW (Djurgårdens, SHL)

In a class littered with high-end finishers, Holtz stands alone at the top. The Swedish winger was a terror in the J20 circuit as a 16-year-old in 2018-19. His 30 goals in 38 SuperElit games that year set the single-season record for U17 skaters, passing Daniel Sedin. He came just a single goal short of matching the U18 mark. 

This season, the 6′ 183lbs winger moved up to the SHL on an (almost) full-time basis. A quick three-game stint in the J20 league led to seven, yes seven, goals. But while up with the top club, he scored nine times and totalled 16 points in 35 contests. That was double the goal output of any other draft-eligible player in the league. Hell, it was more than any draft-plus one player scored too. 

The thing about Holtz's scoring ability is that he thrives both off of the rush and set up in the offensive zone. He lives to score goals. He's not the fastest player in the group (although he skates well) but his desire to find the open space and let it rip is unmatched. One of the more impressive developments of his game this past season was further willingness to get into the dirt areas of the ice and whack away. He won’t be able to score just highlight reel tallies, so this newfound grit is a welcomed sign.

Speaking with scouts and staff who are around him every day, the consensus is that there are few players who enjoy scoring as much as him. He's beloved by his teammates and his drive to win is infectious. Those qualities are often precursors to tremendous NHL careers. 

The kid has 40-plus goals written all over him. 

 

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Speaking of youngsters, the boys at Keeping Karlsson asked me to identify a few candidates to snipe the top power-play job on the backend next season. I’ll dive a bit further into a couple of them now.

First off, I’m of the mind that Adam Fox should already be the top power-play blueliner for the Rangers. I know, I know, Anthony DeAngelo was very good in that role this past season and is of the age where more progress should still be coming. But, there are no assurances that he’ll even be back.

As an RFA this… whenever the offseason occurs, Tony D is primed for a big-time raise on the 925K he had been earning. Chris Kreider‘s extension is kicking in next year as well. The team is loaded to the nines with high-end blueline prospects and could absorb trade DeAngelo for a forward to bolster their top-six.

But let’s say DeAngelo is signed and comes back, I still feel like the Rangers will give Fox looks on the deadly top unit for two reasons:

  1. Get him reps and build that confidence
  2. DeAngelo could be the team’s best trade chip and Fox would be the quick replacement

 

Miro Heiskanen

I’ve spoken in some length about Heiskanen, John Klingberg and the Stars deployment decisions so I won’t get too deep here. But it was clear last season that the ball was no longer just for Klingberg to play with. In 2018-19 the PPTOI splits were clear:

Klingberg – 2:59

Heiskanen – 1:40

This past season, the gap closed considerably.

Klingberg – 2:33

Heiskanen – 2:17

Klingberg had an up-and-down season in 2019-20. If he finds himself slipping early on next year, I expect the Stars to give Heiskanen a long run on the top unit. Their window is closing as a franchise and they can no longer be patient. It doesn’t hurt that Heiskanen is a monstrous talent either.

 

Adam Boqvist

The Blackhawks may be getting a turn in this summer’s play-in round, but they’re not a playoff team. They’re a team in transition. And part of that transition is moving 37-year-old, Duncan Keith‘s time as the team’s top PPQB to a new player. That player is Boqvist.

The former 8th overall selection from 2018 is a pure offensive driver. He has a long history of working the power play in junior and on the international stage. He kept his head above water in 41 and produced six points in the final seven contests.

2020-21 will be his time to really snatch those minutes.

Noah Dobson

The New York Islanders have been searching for a serious PPQB on the backend for a very long time. Dobson should be that player for them. He was used very sparingly this past year because he was stuck in the trap that is the CHL-NHL agreement that precludes CHL-drafted teenagers from playing in the American League.

It wasn’t a wasted year of development though. He gained experience in the league and that will help him greatly next year. He’s the most talented prospect in their system and should be able to get some looks in that spot. Whether he grabs it right away will be up to him. But long term, it’s his.

 

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Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 4 0 6 6
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 5 1 5 6
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 4 2 2 4
PAUL STASTNY VGK 6 2 4 6
BLAKE COLEMAN T.B 5 1 3 4
SHEA THEODORE VGK 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency NYR Players
30.7% PAVEL BUCHNEVICH ARTEMI PANARIN MIKA ZIBANEJAD
25.3% KAAPO KAKKO CHRIS KREIDER RYAN STROME
19.1% FILIP CHYTIL BRETT HOWDEN BRENDAN LEMIEUX

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