Ramblings: Aliu and Kane form HDA; Dobber Prospects Guide; Kyle Connor; Jared McCann; Tyler Ennis – June 9

Michael Clifford


It's officially the week for our release of the 2020 Dobber Hockey Prospects Guide! Circumstances had forced Dobber to move back the release date a little bit but the extra couple weeks' wait is more than worth it. Be sure to head to the Dobber Shop and pre-order your copy so that you're all set when June 12th rolls around.


Akim Aliu and Evander Kane have co-founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance, an organization with the aim at eradicating racism from hockey. I'll let Aliu's statement explain:


I cannot commend them enough for taking the first steps necessary to eliminating prejudice that permeates all levels of hockey, but it's sad it has had to come to this. We should all be taking a long look in the mirror, asking ourselves what we did (or did not do) to allow racism to continue nearly unabated in our game.

Moving forward, we need to take responsibility for not only our words and actions, but of those around us. We can't just bury our head and assume the problem will resolve of its own volition. It doesn't mean smash every person in the face, but at the least take them aside and explain why something said/done was not appropriate and will not be tolerated. It's the least we can do for kids learning to love this sport.


Our team over at Dobber Prospects continues churning out the excellent analysis for the upcoming draft and beyond. This piece from Jokke Nevalainen explaining who performed well at drafting and who did not last decade. It's been a continuing series from Jokke as he looks at different areas of drafting – position on the ice, position in the draft – and seeing who has done well and who hasn't. It's a fascinating look at success, or lack thereof, in the draft.


There is a ton of stuff at Dobber Prospects that is useful for fantasy hockey owners of all stripes. One thing I like to check once in a while is their organizational rankings. Basically, it's just a way to take an aggregated look at who our team thinks has the best/deepest/most talented farm system.

The particular reason I pay attention to overall depth, on top of just individual players, is that sometimes an entire franchise becomes relevant in a span of a year or two because of its progression as a whole. The most recent example of this is probably Carolina, as they were a team who couldn't score an empty-net breakaway 4-5 years ago and now have at least a half-dozen very fantasy-relevant players. Kind of the same thing applies in Vancouver right now. If you can time it right, you can get a lot of very good fantasy options for cheap in dynasty start-up drafts, rookie drafts, or best ball leagues.

Of course, if you don't time it right, you've probably sunk your roster. Such is the trade-off.


Speaking of teams with a bevy of fantasy-relevant players, let's talk about Winnipeg. More specifically, let's talk about Kyle Connor.

Yesterday, our own Tom Collins mentioned Connor's rising shot rate in his Top-10 column. Indeed, his individual shot attempt rate at all strengths increased by about 10 percent while his SOG rate increased by about 11 percent, per Natural Stat Trick. He saw roughly the same increases at 5-on-5.

As Tom mentions, it seems he's one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the NHL. I mean, the guy has three straight 30-goal seasons, one of eight players to do so over the last three years. Six of the other eight – Matthews, Pastrnak, Ovechkin, McDavid, Kucherov, MacKinnon – are all first-round picks next year. The last guy is Patrice Bergeron, and he plays on the best line in the world. In other words, he's scoring among the very best players, and most coveted fantasy options, alive.

There is a problem here, though.

I agree that Connor, in a season where everything goes right, is a threat for 50 goals. It might seem insane to say, but he would have approached 45 goals in 2019-20 had the season finished. Thinking he might get to 50 some day is not extreme.

The problem is that he absolutely needs Mark Scheifele to do it, if not even to just have a good fantasy year. I think of Jeff Skinner: a proven goal scorer moved off the line of the team's only good offensive centre who then has a terrible year. Does that sound like something that could happen to Kyle Connor? Winnipeg's second-line centre issue has been a problem for nearly a half-decade and it continues to be a problem. That leaves Connor without a safety net; he needs to stay with Scheifele or he's cooked.

That's what we call a fragile player. Not by injury history or anything, just that any small change to his situation could (and will) have profound effects to his upside. These kinds of players can absolutely help win a fantasy title for people. They can also sink an entire season. Buyer beware, especially considering his lack of multi-category appeal.


Something I can't help think about: what is the 2020-21 regular season going to look like?

Yes, we have to get through the 2020 playoffs first, and we need to do it without adverse health implications for the players, staff, and support. That's the absolute top priority at the moment.

I can't help, however, looking at what's going on with MLB and wondering if the NHL (and other sports leagues) is not going to have the same problem. The last 15 years alone has seen 1 Β½ seasons cancelled just due to CBA negotiations. What if the NHL (or NFL, or NBA) wants to do something like the MLB owners are offering with paying one-third of a salary for half a season's work, or something in that neighbourhood? The NHL and NBA were lucky that they had nearly completed their respective seasons. The real battle is yet to come.


I was reading Dobber's Ramblings yesterday and one thing stuck out to me: we should be paying more attention to Tyler Ennis.

Dobber pointed out Ennis's shot rate, which was the highest of his career. Doing that at 30 years old is kind of weird, but maybe he's back finally healthy and to the level of the player he was early in his career with Buffalo.

The other thing: he had 96 hits in 70 games this year, including 20 in nine games with Edmonton. It seems likely he would have cruised past 100 hits for the first time ever. It's not as if he's never shown a penchant for hitting, too: he had back-to-back seasons of over 80 hits back in 2013-14 and 2014-15. After the 2015-16 campaign, he started hitting less when injuries and inconsistency hit his game. That picked itself up in 2019-20, though.

Let's say Ennis reached 20 goals, 45 points, and 100 hits this year. That plays well as a depth winger in multi-cat leagues. He's also UFA after this season. Let's say he continues to show well in Edmonton and they sign him for cheap. We could be looking at McDavid's future winger for the near-term after the 2020 postseason. When factoring in his hits, there's a lot of appeal here. What a miraculous resurrection of his career.


Another guy on Dobber's list that interests me is Jared McCann. It seems logical that he was acquired with the intent of using him as the team's third-line centre, filling the Nick Bonino role from a few years ago. He didn't play a lot with Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby this year, and he probably would have set a career-high in face-offs taken had he stayed healthy and the season not suspended. So, it does seem he has that third-line role locked up.

But we've seen this team move pieces around a lot in recent years. Phil Kessel was also a third-liner for the HBK Cup run; Jake Guentzel wasn't always a lock to skate with the power play; Patric Hornqvist has been moved all around the lineup. That is to say, I don't think McCann is necessarily going to always be the third-line centre.

McCann is a guy that can put up hits – he would have reached 100 this year – and clearly has good instincts at both ends of the ice. I can't help but wonder the fantasy seasons he could have in the top-6. It's worth paying attention to how he'll be used in the playoffs.


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