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. Many fantasy owners will remember Dominik Kubalik from his lights-out second half, where he scored 18 goals and 24 points in just 27 games. Of course, fantasy owners will be curious as to whether he can follow up on his 30-goal campaign.
I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Kubalik entering the season. And after this season’s surprise 30-goal NHL debut, I still don’t really know how to forecast him. Kubalik led the Swiss league with 57 points in 50 games, just ahead of former NHLer Mark Arcobello. Props to Dobber on this one, as he had the foresight to include Kubalik in the Prospects Report and the Fantasy Guide, while not every guide or writer out there mentioned him.
It’s difficult to project whether Kubalik’s season was a fluke or a sign of things to come from a season-by-season standpoint. His shooting percentage of 19.1% is quite high, as is his 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 10.5%. Just because the shooting percentage is high doesn’t mean it will regress next season, as he could be a sharpshooter who scores lots of goals without having to take a ton of shots (T.J. Oshie is an example here). In roto, that might not be such a good thing, as his shots on goal total will be quite low relative to other similar scorers.
Back in April, Mike Halbany wrote a Geek of the Week piece on Kubalik. Halbany mentions the possible shooting percentage regression as a reason for a decline, but the shot volume and increased ice time and power-play time as reasons he could maintain his numbers. Halbany projected 60-65 points here, but I think I’ll estimate a more conservative 25-30 goals and 50-55 points given the low assist totals. Those are still numbers that will get him drafted in many fantasy leagues. (jun4)
2. I’ve seen Martin Necas‘ name on the top player profile searches during previous weeks, but I’m just getting around to writing about him. Frozen Tools Forensics writer Chris Kane listed Necas as a potential breakout candidate next season, while Dobber mentioned in a recent Q&A Ramblings that he thinks that Necas could reach 55 points next season.
One positive trend is that Necas started the season on a line with Ryan Dzingel and Erik Haula while finishing the season on a line with Nino Niederreiter and recently acquired Vincent Trocheck – I bet you forgot he was traded to Carolina. However, a negative trend shows that Necas’ ice time only increased by less than a minute from the first quarter to the fourth quarter, while remaining under 15 minutes overall. He is making the most of that ice time, as his 2.4 PTS/60 was behind only top liners Andrei Svechnikov, Sebastian Aho, and Teuvo Teravainen.
It’s quite possible that the Necas-Niederreiter-Trocheck unit forms the second line for the Canes, which could boost his ice time a bit more. As well, Necas has sleeper potential from this line since teams will be matching up their top defensive pairings on the Aho line. Something like 50-55 points while on the second line and the second power-play unit seems very attainable here. (jun4)
3. Quite often, lucrative early July free agent signings don’t end up paying off for their new teams. Artemi Panarin hasn’t fallen into that category, delivering exceptional return on investment on the $11+ million cap hit the Rangers used on him. The Bread Man finished the season tied for third in NHL scoring with 95 points, including a career-high 32 goals in just 69 games. In addition, his plus-36 was the league’s second-highest total. Although he is among elite company in the Roto Rankings, that deserves a slight bump.
Having said that, there are reasons that Panarin will be worth more in pure points leagues than multicategory leagues. His peripherals aren’t terrible, but they’re not in the same category as his point totals. The easy one to point out is his 25 hits. His 209 shots isn’t bad, sitting at 25th in the league. His 24 power-play points sits tied for 17th. Again, not bad, but not in the same category as Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid or David Pastrnak or Nathan MacKinnon. In addition, his 10.43 5-on-5 shooting percentage raises mild cause for concern of a slight regression.
Panarin probably won’t be a bust next season. In addition, his fantasy value very well may have improved with the move from defensive-conscious Columbus to a young up-and-coming team in the Rangers. Just keep in mind that he will have a tough act to follow on his career-high 1.38 points per game. (jun4)
4. Earlier this week I made some significant changes to the Top 100 Roto Rankings, which you’ll see on the 15th. Between now and then, I may make further changes. You can, of course, view the May Roto Rankings.
I’m also open to the changes that you suggest. So far, I’ve received suggestions to remove Dylan Larkin from the top 100 while adding Mikko Rantanen back into the top 100. Based on that feedback, I’ve lowered Larkin’s ranking (although I’m reluctant to remove him completely), while Rantanen will be a no-brainer addition into the top 100. I had removed Rantanen when he was injured in February, but from what I understand, he should be able to return from injury once play resumes. (jun3)
I just found it interesting how these two bangers ended up with the exact same goal (21) and assist (23) totals. Fantasy owners might think of the younger Tkachuk as more of the scorer and Wilson as more of the banger. That might become more apparent in the coming years, but Wilson actually had the better points-per-game total (0.65) because he played in three fewer games. As well, Tkachuk (303) had the higher hits total than Wilson (253), who might be more known for playing on the edge than the sophomore Tkachuk. Tkachuk also had more penalty minutes (106) than Wilson (93).
In case you’re wondering whether Wilson is becoming more of a scorer and less of a banger, that is true for the most part. Wilson’s point total represents a career high, while his penalty minute total is his lowest over his seven-year career. However, even though Tkachuk outhit Wilson, the Capital’s hit total tied for his career high despite 14 fewer games.
The Capitals have four more years at just over $5 million per invested in Wilson, so it makes sense that they’ll continue to play him on the opposite wing of Alex Ovechkin with either Nicklas Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov centering them. In fact, over half of Wilson’s even-strength minutes over each of the past three seasons have been on Ovie’s line. As long as that arrangement continues, Wilson will be a must-own in any bangers league. (jun3)
6. When looking for potential Selke Trophy winners this year – and by that I mean who I think the writers will choose, not who I would choose – it seems likely that Patrice Bergeron is nominated again. He was plus-23 with 56 points in 61 games and has finished top-3 in Selke voting eight years in a row. This should be nine.
I also think Brayden Point will get some looks. He was tied for second in the NHL among forwards at plus-28 and had 64 points in 66 games. He’s often revered as one of the great young centers in the game, so this will be his coming-out party, of sorts. As for the last guy, I’m torn between Brad Marchand, Sean Couturier, or Teuvo Teravainen. All were at least plus-20 on playoff teams and two of the three had at least 60 points (Couturier had 59).
But that’s who I think will get nominated by the writers. Were it up to me, my list would look a bit different. I’m going to have just one criteria: at least 60 games played. Most teams were in the 68-71 range, and playing 60 out of 68 games would mean playing roughly 72 out of 82 in the regular season. A 10-games missed cut-off seems about right for this.
Even-strength defense goals above average, or EVD, is a metric to measure how much value a player brings defensively over a replacement forward, or basically the 13th forward on a team. The leader in EVD among forwards this year? Our old pal Valeri Nichushkin.
If anyone reading this has been reading my work for years, they know how much I loved this guy coming out of the draft. He looked great early in his career in Dallas, had injuries derail him, and he couldn’t get his roster spot back. After a brief interlude overseas, he returned to the NHL, and had a great season for the Avalanche.
Sometimes, just saying a player was good at something, and showing some numbers that people may not be familiar with doesn’t really help. Sometimes pictures can help. Check out my June 4 Ramblings if you want to see my complete analysis with such images from HockeyViz.com to back it all up.
For our purposes today, let me say that Nichushkin was the best defensive forward in the NHL this year. Give him the trophy. After seven years of being a Nichushkin fan, I never imagined I’d be pushing for his Selke nomination before he ever had a 20-goal season. Hockey is weird. (jun4)
Beyond him, though, I would definitely nominate Tuukka Rask. He ranks basically just behind Hellebuyck in most metrics, or ahead of him in some. Sure, he had a great team in front of him, but that doesn’t mean that Rask didn’t have a great season as well. He and Jaroslav Halak continue to be a fantastic duo for fantasy owners.
My last nominee would be Ben Bishop. That wasn’t a very good Dallas Stars team this year, or at the very least they were underwhelming. All the same, the team finished fifth in the Western Conference, largely thanks to the guy who finished runner-up in the Vezina last year, giving him three top-3 finishes. (jun4)
8. Seth Jarvis wrapped up as the top WHL draft-eligible producer with an impressive 42 goals and 98 points in 54 contests for Portland. But what is even more impressive is how he went about gaining those points. He began the year in the bottom-six and was given a B-rating indicating a player likely selected in the second or third round. However, this is a player who simply refuses to be denied access to the inner portion of the offensive zone. His penchant for clicking at a high conversion rate blends well with this style.
Through the final 30 contests, Jarvis went off. He recorded 30 goals, 70 points, 95 shots on goal and 160 attempts from December 1st onwards. As you can see by this shot map, he has a favourite home when releasing the puck. That home is right in the goalie's kitchen.
At 5-10 and 175 pounds, Jarvis is not the biggest player even at the junior level. Yet, he is fearless in his approach to the home plate. That will only become more challenging as he levels up, but his skill and motor should help keep him in the high-danger scoring areas.
Projected Draft Slot: 10th-25th
Project Wait Time: 2-4 years (jun3)
9. Noel Gunler has been something of a polarizing prospect for a while now. His skill level and production in the J20 SuperElit league was that of an elite prospect. Yet, when he was afforded chances on the national team whether it be at the U17 or U18 level, he didn’t see prime deployment and the production wasn’t there.
This past season, the October 2001-born winger spent the majority of his season in the SHL playing for a quality Luleå club. He skated primarily on the third line and produced strong metrics for a teenager in one of the top leagues in the world. His 13 points in 45 games were third-most for U19 skaters and trailed only Alexander Holtz for draft-eligibles.
Gunler’s number one asset is his release. It is heavy, quick and accurate. And he has that rare ability to know how to use space to create room for himself to get it off.
While Jarvis is a player who loves the inside, Gunler is more of a gunslinger who is willing and able to let it fly from the outside. He has the gifts to beat netminders from that distance, but that became more difficult in the SHL. Very few of his goals from this past season were from the outside. Compare that to his shot map from 2018-19 in the J20 where he had more success from deep. As he becomes more accustomed to the tighter checking and continues to develop physically, you'll find his shot will become more dangerous from out high.
Regardless, he will need to continue to find ways to the higher danger areas in order to round out his offensive game.
Speaking of rounding out his game, the knocks on Gunler are clear. He can look disinterested at times away from the puck. This isn’t to say he’s always a negative drag on the defensive side. I’ve watched several games where he’s active and smart without the puck. But he needs to continue to work on it and prove it as a strength. This aspect will likely keep him down draft boards, but that just means you have a chance to snipe a good one later in the draft.
Projected Draft Slot: 15th-40th
Project Wait Time: 2-4 years (jun3)
10. Jake Sanderson watched his stock ROCKET upwards in the back half of his draft-eligible campaign. The USNTDP’s top blueliner has always boasted above-average defensive skills. The left-shot defender maintains a nice gap, a smart stick and he’s unafraid to lean into an opponent to separate man from puck. But it was his transitional offense that has noticeably improved this past season.
The sharp curls and acceleration to shake pressure have become more regularly seen. The deep outlets, the smart pinches, and timely rushes have begun to raise their heads. He remains a player who projects as a more complementary offensive contributor, but his multi-category upside is real.
There are scouts out there that feel he could continue to blossom offensively and become the top rearguard from this grouping. He's off the University of North Dakota next year and will have substantially more offense to work with upfront. It will be very telling to his long term upside.
Projected Draft Slot: 5th-20th
Project Wait Time: 2-3 years (jun3)
DON'T MISS IT!
The Fantasy Prospects Report (14th Edition) will be released on Friday June 12. I have decided to go ahead and release this on that date because I didn’t want to delay the announcement any longer. If the Draft is on June 26 then you will be able to use this with plenty of time to prep. If the Draft is in October after the 24-team playoffs that is forthcoming, then instead of posting an update on June 19 with a Mock Draft, I will post this update in October. Basically whenever the draft order is set, then we will update the Fantasy Prospects Report. I will have the Packs and this Guide up for pre-sale in a few days.
Announcement II: We've launched subscription plans for the first time. Platinum, Gold and Silver plans, or you can just by the Guide or the Packages as per usual. Up to you! Check it out in the Shop…
11. The Kamloops Blazers were something of a surprisingly good team in 2019-20. And the straw that stirred the drink for their club was Connor Zary. The 18-year-old center was born just 10 days late past the cutoff to have been included in the 2019-crop. That extra week and a half will impact the perception around him greatly. If he had been in last year’s group, his point-per-game 2018-19 campaign would’ve garnered interest in the late first or early second. This season, his 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games have put him on the map as a potential top-15 talent.
Zary is a nifty finisher. He blends deception with a short windup and heavy release. He is deft at changing the angle on the fly to keep goaltenders guessing. He owns a non-stop motor and can be downright relentless defensively.
Coaches love that. But maybe the best part of Zary's game is his swagger. The kid has it in spades.
Projected Draft Slot: 12th-30th
Project Wait Time: 2-3 years (jun3)
Carlson: If we look at the more advanced stats – former DobberHockey managing editor,à Steve Laidlaw mentioned GSVA and the explanation for that can be read here – Carlson doesn’t look great. Despite the 75 points, Steve mentioned that Carlson comes in at 10th by GSVA and he’s way down the list by WAR/60. A lot of this is driven by defensive issues, which brings the counter-balance to all the production.
The thing is, he still has 75 points. That’s 10 more than the next-closest defenseman, and 20 more than third-place Victor Hedman. It’s a lot of points. When it comes to awards, I do try to look at things other than points, especially for defensemen. But it’s still a lot of points. Sorry, but defensemen over a point-per-game with three weeks left in the season make my Norris ballot. (jun2)
13. Roman Josi: Do the Predators get to the play-ins without Josi? Maybe, maybe not. But the guy was second in the league for points among defensemen with 65 and no forward on his team cracked 50. This must be what Oliver Ekman-Larsson felt like for half a decade.
For one, Josi’s transition metrics are absurd. They’re not off the chart, they fill the chart:
His puck-moving in 2019-20 was otherworldly, which puts his forwards’ struggles under an even bigger microscope. Josi turned around, pointed to his back, and said “hop on.” That’s not the criteria for the Norris, but he was an absolute monster this year. He’s a nominee. (jun2)
14. Alex Pietrangelo: He doesn’t rank at the top of things like expected goal share/60 or WAR/60, but he doesn’t rank very highly, and Pietrangelo plays a lot of minutes. He also plays in all three phases. In that sense, if I have a guy who can be top-15 at his position by some advanced metrics, and he was the anchor for a top-3 power play in the league and played heavy minutes for an average penalty kill, well, that’s a lot of contributions.
In talking with Steve on the pod, I said that, anecdotally, the 2019-20 season was the best season I had seen from Pietrangelo. Now, I don’t imagine I can specifically remember how Pietrangelo played in each season – I do not remember, specifically, how good he was in 2014-15, for example – but it just seemed he took charge of the blue line and was being more aggressive than normal.
I’m sure people will have other takes here (Victor Hedman, Cale Makar, Shea Theodore) but Pietrangelo probably would have set a career-high in points this year if the season had finished, and they played almost the whole year without Vladimir Tarasenko. (jun2)
Leon Draisaitl: Sometimes a player puts up too many points to deny him his rewards. Draisaitl hit 115 points this year and no other player cracked 100. That’s an immediate huge checkmark on his resumé.
I’ve often derided Draisaitl in my Ramblings because I was not of the belief that he was a top-10 player in the NHL (or thereabouts) like some others had said. I’m still not sure of that, but I will say that he’s much better offensively than I ever gave him credit for, so I’ll take a mea culpa there.
Anyway, we could point to things like his insane PPP total or defensive issues, but at the end of the day, the Oilers would be nowhere near a playoff spot without this performance from him, and again, he had 115 points. He’s in. (jun2)
16. Nathan MacKinnon: When we look at the injuries the Avalance had to sustain this year, it’s little wonder why MacKinnon would be included:
Landeskog missed 23 percent of the season, Rantanen 40 percent, Makar 19 percent, Kadri 27 percent, and MacKinnon was still fifth in the league in scoring while the team was tied for third in the league (with Tampa Bay) by points percentage. What MacKinnon did was pretty much inhuman.
I could go on about MacKinnon’s more advanced stats, but they all paint the same picture: he was among the very best in the league this year. With the context that he was missing significant pieces of his supporting cast for significant chunks of the season, and, yeah, he’s one of the finalists. (jun2)
17. Connor Hellebuyck: By total wins above replacement, Hellebuyck led all goalies in the NHL this year at 4.8. The next-closest goalie was Tuukka Rask at 3.5. In other words, by WAR, Hellebuyck was 37 percent more valuable in 2019-20 than the next-best goalie. That is astounding. (One reason I didn’t want to discuss the Vezina is if I have Hellebuyck on my Hart Trophy list, he’ll be on the Vezina, and assuredly my winner.)
By WAR/60 minutes, Hellebuyck falls to third, behind Darcy Kuemper and a shade behind Tuukka Rask. The thing is, Hellebuyck played 17 more games than Rask and double the games of Kuemper. I don’t doubt either goalie is great, but whether they would have kept up the play for nearly 60 games is an entirely different matter than 40 or 50, had the season finished.
When play was suspended, the Jets were in the first wild card spot by two points, and they had more games played. Points percentage tells us that the Jets were 20th in the league this year. Had Hellebuyck not been supernova basically all year, are they anywhere close to playoffs? I doubt it. This was a bad defensive team kept afloat by a superstar goalie. Plain and simple.
I would give the trophy to MacKinnon, but I fully understand that this is Draisaitl’s to lose. (jun2)
18. While I would normally try to look for a different name than the ones bandied about like Dominik Kubalik or Victor Olofsson, it just isn’t possible to do it with a straight cursor. It seems very likely that the three finalists are Adam Fox, Quinn Hughes, and Cale Makar. I haven’t gone through the history of the Calder Trophy, but I can’t imagine another year where we’ve had all three finalists be defensemen. It’s rare enough to have a d-man win the thing – just three have won it this century – so to have all three as the nominees has to be a first.
In my mind, all three are incredible defensemen and I wouldn’t bat an eye at any of them winning the trophy. In that sense, let’s start splitting some hairs. Stats from Hockey Reference or Evolving Hockey. A glossary of terms used below can be read here. Zone starts from Dobber’s Frozen Tools.
- Points per game? Makar.
- Points/60 minutes at 5-on-5? Makar by a landslide.
- Both primary and secondary assists per 60 at 5-on-5? Both Makar.
- TOI? Hughes.
- Expected impact both offensive and defensive per 60 at 5-on-5? Both Fox.
- Shot share driving? Fox in a landslide.
- Defensive zone start percentage? Fox again.
I hate to say it, but other than raw point totals, there’s not a lot here for Hughes. I imagine there’ll be some Vancouver fans reading this who will take that as a slight, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Hughes is a wonderful defenseman, but at this stage, we’re comparing three guys who look every bit the part of future number-1, cornerstone defensemen. The one tick in Hughes’s favour is that he played considerably more minutes than Fox and a bit more than Makar, but that’s about it.
Now that it’s all laid out, my voting would go Makar-Fox-Hughes, but realistically, if those three finish in any order for the Calder, I would be pretty much fine with it.
The NHL is blessed with loads of young, superstar defensemen. Let’s just enjoy it. (jun2)
19. There will be a new twist on playoff drafts this year. And I don’t just mean due to the format (although I should touch on that, and will further down). I am referring to the player options.
In a given year, NHL teams will sign their college players or their European players after their particular season ends and those players join the team for the very end of the campaign and into the playoffs. Alexander Radulov did that with Nashville once, jumping on board for their playoff run in 2011-12. Chris Kreider played meaningful playoff games for the Rangers in 2012 after finishing up with Boston College, despite not playing a single regular season game.
You won’t see that this year. Players signed after the season was canceled on March 12 cannot be signed for this year. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly referred to them as “ringers”, saying it would not be fair for teams to bring in ringers like that. So no Kirill Kaprizov to help the Wild. No Alexander Romanov to help the Habs. No Ilya Sorokin to help the Islanders. Two of those three haven’t signed yet (only Romanov has signed so far), and they may not sign at all if it means not being able to play until the end of December. I’m hearing strong rumors of Sorokin staying in the KHL for at least another year because of this.
This means the following players, who may have gotten into a playoff game or two, won’t be able to:
– Grigori Denisenko, Panthers (profile here)
– Max Gildon, Panthers (profile here)
– K’Andre Miller, Rangers (profile here)
– Wade Allison, Flyers (profile here)
– Scott Perunovich, Blue (profile here)
– Jack Dugan, Golden Knights (profile here)
These are all great players, very promising prospects. I am pretty sure that one or two of them would have had an impact on the playoffs had the season run smoothly and the postseason began on schedule. Maybe a “Kreider” or a “Radulov” impact is asking too much, but a couple of these guys would have done something. But they aren’t eligible. From what I could dig up, correct me if I’m wrong, but the player needed to be under contract before the ‘pause’.
20. Instead, the teams can and will turn to a different type of player. I’m talking about the junior players who were already signed to entry-level deals. These players would normally still be playing in the CHL playoffs, or they would be deemed as not yet ready for an NHL audition – especially for the rigors of the postseason. But now some of these guys will be in the Hub cities as Black Aces, and some of the better ones could see limited roles. Offensive, power-play roles. Here are the players who may get an opportunity when normally they would not:
– Jakob Pelletier, Flames (profile here)
– Bowen Byram, Avalanche (profile here)
– Liam Foudy, Blue Jackets (profile here)
– Ty Dellandrea, Stars (profile here)
– Thomas Harley, Stars (profile here)
– Alexander Khovanov, Wild (profile here)
– Philip Tomasino. Predators (profile here)
– Samuel Poulin, Penguins (profile here)
– Cal Foote, Lightning (profile here)
– Nicholas Robertson, Maple Leafs (profile here)
– Connor McMichael, Capitals (profile here)
Foudy is almost certainly a shoe-in for getting into the Columbus lineup, and I've already heard rumblings that Robertson will at least get a long look. Colorado and Dallas would be crazy not to give those stud prospects a long look as well. And with Pittsburgh now missing both Nick Bjugstad and Dominik Simon (note below), I wonder if Poulin gets consideration… (jun1)
21. News I missed from two weeks ago – Pittsburgh forward Dominik Simon underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. He is sidelined until late November, which wipes out the playoffs (likely) for him.
Also, you may have missed this a couple of days ago, but word is that the seven non-playoff teams are now allowed to make trades with each other. Detroit, Ottawa, New Jersey, Los Angeles, San Jose, Buffalo and Anaheim can start doing deals right now! (jun1)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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