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. What do we do about Kaapo Kakko?
It was a bad year for the second overall pick from 2019. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not unusual for rookies to not live up to our expectations of them, but this was spectacularly bad: from Evolving Wild, Kakko’s 2019-20 season was the fifth-worst season for a forward since 2007 by WAR/60. We’re talking Much Worse Than Anything Justin Abdelkader Has Ever Done-bad. Even if we cut it down to just teenagers, Kakko has the worst season since 2007 (-1.7 WAR), and the next-worst season (-0.7 WAR by Jesper Bratt in 2017-18) wasn’t even in the same neighbourhood. Kakko’s season was beyond abysmal.
But if we look at the rest of the list of teenagers with bad seasons, there is hope. We see Filip Chytil‘s name, and though he wasn’t great in 2019-20, he was at least roughly NHL-calibre. But three names with negative WAR values in teenage seasons really stick out Jordan Staal, Andrei Svechnikov, and Tyler Seguin. Staal ended up being more a two-way player, but both Svechnikov and Seguin turned into top-tier fantasy assets.
I guess this is just a reminder that development isn’t a straight line for everyone, and even future all-star players struggle early in their careers. I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t say one way or another whether Kakko is the next Nail Yakupov or the next Seguin. What I do know is that if anyone is looking to sell him for cheap in keeper/dynasty leagues, it’s probably worth extending an offer.
By the way, the same applies for Jack Hughes. He had a bad season by WAR as well but there were signs of goodness along the way, particularly his play around the net. What was just said about Kakko applies to Hughes as well. (june11)
2. One thing I always tell people about rookies: they almost never perform to expectations. This was the case in 2018-19 with Rasmus Dahlin, for example. He was a top-12 defenseman by ADP before the season on Yahoo! and finished 30th overall. (Even if we discount his ADP because of keeper leagues, he was ranked as a top-75 player before the season at NHL.com. Some other spots, like ESPN, were much lower. All that is meant is that there was clearly a contingent who was very high on him). It was the case with Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko this year, both of whom I was also much lower on than most people.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Connor McDavid, Patrik Laine, and Auston Matthews have all had wonderful rookie seasons over the last half-decade. On the other hand, we’ve had two rookies reach 25 goals these last two years (Elias Pettersson and Dominik Kubalik). We had a shortened season, but even if we pro-rate, the only two rookies we can add to the list of potential 25-goal scorers in 2019-20 wer Victor Olofsson and Denis Gurianov, who both finished the season with 20.
Drafting in keeper/dynasty leagues and drafting in one-year leagues is considerably different for this reason. If I’m drafting a first-year keeper league this summer, Alexis Lafrenière is a top-50 pick. If I’m drafting a redraft league before the next regular season, he probably shouldn’t be a top-100 pick. (june11)
3. The last thing I’ll mention about drafting rookies is that it’s not often they’re true multi-cat performers. Yes, if you had Auston Matthews in his rookie season, you probably didn’t care that he only had 14 penalty minutes and 21 hits because he scored 40 goals. If you had Elias Pettersson in his rookie season, you probably didn’t care that he only had 12 penalty minutes and 42 hits because he scored 28 goals and 66 points, 22 of those points coming on the power play. Like I said, those are rare instances of rookie success, and if a guy doesn’t score a pile of goals or points, he needs to do other stuff to stand out. Consider this: the last rookie to manage 20 goals, 30 assists, 40 PIMs, and 200 shots in a season was Gabriel Landeskog in 2011-12. Very few guys step into this league as Brady Tkachuk. (june11)
4. ICYMI, Dobber, he examined top players for points/60, hits/60, and shots on goal/60 after December 31. Noah Gregor and Yakov Trenin (more on him below) both made the top 40 for this list, which he created if you are looking for players that you don’t know about that could make an impact in the hits category next season. Dobber also briefly mentioned both Gregor and Trenin, which resulted in the high volume of the Frozen Tools profile visits of each.
In run-of-the-mill single-season pure scoring leagues, Gregor wasn’t appealing overall (five points in 28 games in 10 minutes per game). However, Gregor does possess some long-term scoring upside. He scored 43 goals and 88 points in just 63 games in his final season in the WHL, as well as 19 points in 25 games in his first AHL season. More recently, Gregor recorded four of his five points over the Sharks’ last seven games while his most frequent fourth-quarter linemates were Logan Couture and Evander Kane. Two of those points were on the power play, where he saw action on the Sharks’ second unit.
Due to playing just 28 games, Gregor was well down the list in terms of total hits among Sharks’ players this past season. Yet in terms of overall hits/60 among Sharks’ players who played at least 10 games (using Dobber’s criteria), Gregor was third with 10.7 hits/60. If you change the minimum games played to 20, Gregor was first on the Sharks. In case you’re wondering about the usually positively-correlated-to-hits penalty minutes category, Gregor has never had a high PIM total in his career and only received 8 penalty minutes in his first season as a Shark.
Deep keeper leaguers that count hits could keep an eye on Gregor for next season. Given his most recent production and deployment, there’s a chance he could find himself in the Sharks’ top 6 next season. However, he still needs to battle with a handful of other young-ish Sharks forwards for a spot in the lineup next season. Gregor's DobberProspects profile. (jun13)
5. Yakov Trenin was a similar type of player to Gregor last season, a hard-hitting forward who recorded six points in 21 games in just under an average of 10 minutes per game. Unlike Gregor, however, Trenin ended the season ice cold, as he didn’t record a single point in his last 10 games. This in spite of ending the season on a line with Viktor Arvidsson and Kyle Turris. Trenin was over a point-per-game scorer in each of his three seasons in the QMJHL, and he also reached a point per game in his 2019-20 AHL time (35 points in 32 games).
Trenin is also down the list in terms of overall Predators’ hit totals with 46 hits overall. Plugging in Dobber’s criteria for hits/60 (minimum 10 GP), Trenin was tops on the Predators with 13.5 hits/60. That didn’t register in the top 30 league-wide among hits/60 with a minimum 10 GP, but then again Nashville wasn’t a hard-hitting team overall (30th in the NHL).
Trenin’s penalty minute total wasn’t significant in the NHL (9 PIM in 21 games), but he was a near PIM/GP player in the AHL (29 PIM in 32 GP). Included in those nine penalty minutes was a five-minute major resulting from a fight with the two decades older and much taller Zdeno Chara (even though Trenin isn’t short at 6-2).
His chances of sticking in the NHL seem promising, since he’s established himself as a two-way player in the Nashville system. He’s a player you could treat similarly to Gregor in that he’s worth keeping an eye on in deeper bangers leagues. Trenin's DobberProspects profile. (jun13)
6. I could have sworn that I’ve seen a writer or two mention that Adam Fox is a preferred option over Tony DeAngelo. I might need to keep looking, or maybe someone reading this has noticed something that I haven’t.
For now and to me, DeAngelo > Fox.
Basically, DeAngelo is the one with the first-unit power-play time, and he’s made the most of it (19 PPP). DeAngelo should also still be considered the Rangers’ top offensive option from the blueline, considering his 50+ point breakout after what seemed like years as a top prospect. That shouldn’t be a slight against Fox at all, as he had a fine rookie season with 40+ points of his own. In fact, Fox would probably generate more Calder Trophy attention if not for Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar. In the June 2 Ramblings, Mike Clifford presents a great argument as to why Fox should be mentioned in the same breath as the other two.
The fact is that both DeAngelo and Fox are young defensemen with tremendous upside, which makes this situation fluid as far as PP1 goes. Maybe the Rangers decide not to fit RFA DeAngelo in the long term, which would be a prime opportunity for Fox. Either way, the Rangers will extrapolate the exceptional value of $925,000 for two more seasons of Fox. Needless to say, it’s a situation worth watching. Even without first-unit power-play time, Fox will still be worth drafting in 12-team leagues that require four d-men per team. (jun13)
7. If we include Sam Bennett‘s one game played in 2014-15, his ice time has been declining for six seasons. The 2019-20 season saw him fall to a career-low 12:31 per game. The only Calgary forward who played less per game than Bennett at 5-on-5 was Tobias Rieder. Yes, Bennett did suffer injuries this past year. Surely that factored in somehow. It still doesn't discredit his constant TOI decline for a half-decade.
To me, Bennett feels like one of those “change of scenery” trades in the making, like Cody Hodgson or Alex Galchenyuk. Whether he ever lives up to the fourth overall selection status remains to be seen. But I just can’t help but think a guy who is just 23 and has been getting his role cut for years is on the trading block.
Bennett does two things that fantasy owners should enjoy: he shoots a lot and he hits a lot. His shot attempt rate at 5-on-5 over the last three years is 14.33 per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. For reference, that’s about the 80th percentile among forwards league-wide, and higher than names like Matthew Tkachuk, Brad Marchand, Mike Hoffman, and Brock Boeser. He’s also in the 83rd percentile for hits per 60. In other words, with more ice time, there is a mutli-cat monster lurking here.
The question is whether he gets the ice time to do it. That depends on a lot of things. All I’m saying is that with decent TOI allocation, there are 20 goals, 40 points, 180 shots, and 150 hits here. That will play very well. Keep a sharp eye on Calgary’s transactions whenever the offseason hits. (jun12)
8. This is besides a lot of things, it’s just something I want to talk about: what does Jonathan Quick have left in the tank?
I say this because the Los Angeles Kings have not been very good of late. In the last three years, they’ve made the playoffs once, and it resulted in their sweep at the hands of Vegas. (Quick, by the way, had a .947 save percentage in that series. He lost two games 1-0 and a double OT game 2-1.) But he was great in the 2017-18 season (like, Vezina-worthy great) before having a real bad 2018-19 and then bouncing back in 2019-20. So is he great, bad, or good?
Quick will be 35 years old for next season. In general, we don’t like players and goalies on the wrong side of 30. All the same, we’ve seen guys like Jaroslav Halak and Pekka Rinne have very good seasons in recent memory, both guys in their mid-30s. It’s not impossible for Quick to still be good.
That ties into what I was saying in my Ramblings yesterday about the Kings: can their young prospects develop fast enough to take advantage of the current window with guys like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Doughty, and yes, Quick? I still believe Quick has something left in the tank. Does the rest of the team? I guess we’ll find out in the next couple years.
This isn’t some sort of fantasy prognostication, either. I wouldn’t be drafting Quick too highly next year. Just someone to keep in mind. He may not even be the starter. (jun12)
9. One small note: Jeff Carter underwent core muscle surgery but is expected to be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season. I know that the start of the season is ambiguous, but with this type of surgery, Carter may have been ready for the play-ins had the team actually reached them.
I wonder if this wasn’t some lingering issue. My personal view on Carter is that he still has something to give in the fantasy game and the Kings looked like a much better team this year than last, even if they weren’t winning many games. They need an influx of talent, so hopefully guys like Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Ramus Kupari and Gabe Vilardi can be that influx of talent they need.
While I’ll wait for our prospects team to kick in their opinions but as I list the Kings’ prospects that could make an impact in the next couple years, there is a lot of talent coming. I guess the real question is whether all those guys develop into impact players, and quickly enough to still make use of their aging superstars? It’s a race against the clock, and Father Time waits for no one. (june11)
10. On the flipside of that above, all the warm and fuzzy feelings I have about the Los Angeles Kings’ prospect depth was about the same feeling I had for the Anaheim Ducks before the 2019-20 seasons started: a few aging superstar vets surrounded by unproven, yet highly-coveted prospects. In particular, guys like Troy Terry and Max Comtois were higher on my draft list than most. That didn’t quite work out, obviously. Will the Kings fall to the same fate? I sure hope not, because that’d be a large waste of talent. (june11)
11. The 2020 Fantasy Prospects Report is now available! Inside, you’ll find team-by-team listings of prospects, as well as fantasy hockey profiles of 2020 draft-eligible players – everyone from Alexis Lafreniere to Alex Laferriere.
Keep in mind that with the draft likely still months away, the FPR is still a work in progress. Sections such as the mock draft won’t be completed until after the draft order is set. Of course, you’ll be able to download an updated copy. Even without that, there’s still a ton of information to pore over. Get yours by clicking this link!
12. When I was looking through stats for my Ramblings on the major awards, something stood out: just how good of a season Ryan Ellis had. I don’t mean, like, “yeah he was pretty good!” I mean that he had one of the best seasons in recent memory, he just didn’t play enough games (49) to be considered for any kind of award.
From Evolving Hockey’s WAR metric, Ellis led all blue liners at 4.1, and no other defenseman was 3.5 or higher. Per their WAR metric, Ellis was over 20 percent valuable than the next-best defenseman in nearly 20 fewer games played. That is beyond absurd.
Now, WAR isn’t everything, obviously. But Ellis finished with a higher points/60 at 5-on-5 than names like Hamilton, Karlsson, and Hedman, he was sixth in both actual goal share and expected goal share, and he was even Nashville’s defenseman on the ice for the fewest shots and goals against per 60 while short-handed. In other words, there were many areas in which Ellis excelled, which is why he had such a strong WAR rating.
The kicker to this story: Ellis has two of the three best seasons by a defenseman since 2007 by WAR/60, with the other coming in 2013-14. All told, among the 263 defensemen with at least 5000 minutes played since 2007, Ellis is first (number one; at the top; the big Kahuna Burger) in WAR/60, and by a considerable margin. What I’m saying is there’s an argument that he’s been the best defenseman in the post-lockout era.
Now, I don’t actually believe he’s the best defenseman in the league since 2007. But I think this highlights just how good he is and how underappreciated he is. Without consistent top PP minutes, he will never reach his ceiling, but it’s worth noting his 82-game pace over the last three seasons – two of them cut short – is over 50 points. He may not be the best defenseman in the league since 2007, but we can probably say he’s the most underappreciated. (jun10)
13. I asked a simple poll question on Twitter: of the four players named, which would you not have as a top-3 for the Hart finalist? The names listed were Leon Draisaitl, Artemi Panarin, Connor Hellebuyck, and Nathan MacKinnon. There were two purposes to my question: determine whether Hellebuyck has any support (he does not), and which of the front-runners is the biggest front-runner. (My theory here being that whichever player got identified least often as the one left out is the one most in the forefront of fans’ minds for the Hart, meaning more support.)
The three skaters finished somewhat close together so I don’t think I gleaned what I wanted to in that regard. I do find it fascinating that Hellebuyck has almost no support, and lends credence to a theory I floated on Steve Laidlaw’s podcast: the general consensus among hockey fans is that Winnipeg is still a good team, or close to the team that went to the Conference Final a couple years ago. That is not the case whatsoever, as they were among the worst defensive teams in the league.
(Steve’s podcast can be listened to here.)
Regardless, narratives drive a lot of the momentum here and it does seem like it’ll be a close race. (jun10)
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. (jun9)
15. 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 center, 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 center.
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. (jun9)
16. There is a ton of stuff at DobberProspects 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. (jun9)
17. 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 center who then has a terrible year. Does that sound like something that could happen to Kyle Connor? Winnipeg’s second-line center 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. (jun9)
18. Shots on goal. I love looking at this as an indicator of future likelihood of reaching potential. It’s how I identified Dominik Kubalik as a prospect to watch and confirmed early in the season that he could really explode (felt so satisfied that he actually did).
You won’t see some of the following players on the top SOG list, but because they are on the top SOG/60 list they could eventually get to that top SOG list. And if you shoot a lot, odds are you score a lot (or you’ll stop getting the ice time to keep shooting!).
– Jonathan Marchessault. Fifth in the entire league in terms of shot volume by ice time? It gives me second thoughts about his decline.
– Uh…Blake Coleman? I had to take a closer look. Nope, false alarm. Just 18 shots in nine games since joining Tampa. He was going nutty at the end of his New Jersey tenure, posting 93 shots in his last 19 games there – nearly five shots per game.
– Frank Vatrano and Vinnie Hinostroza are names that jump out at me. Great shot volume that makes me wonder if more ice time and better linemates would do something for them. But I won’t be moving them up any lists until I actually see something like that happen (I have faith this could happen with the former, but little faith on the latter).
– Rocco Grimaldi is your typical late-blooming small, skilled guy. But has he already been pigeonholed? Probably. But I do love it when a player busts his way out of that pigeonhole to gain fantasy value, so consider him a Dobber Darling hopeful. (jun8)
19. Looking to dig up some hidden gems in leagues that use Hits as a category? Particularly young prospects: look at Noah Gregor! (More on him in the Fantasy Prospects Report). Just a 10-game sample size, but you know he likes to throw down the Hits – 34th in the entire league in terms of Hits/60.
I also had no idea that Filip Chlapik was quite rowdy out there. It points to his future as unlikely in the top-six, but rather as a third-line energy guy. We all figured he was heading that way anyway.
Yakov Trenin, Sam Lafferty and Givani Smith are other youngsters who should be on the radar if you’re in a league with Hits. I particularly like Trenin here because I think he can put up decent points, as well.
It’s also worth noting Nick Ritchie. Dig deeper to see the difference between Boston and Anaheim – and it was vast. Anaheim: 79 Hits in 41 games (1.92). Boston: 23 Hits in seven games (3.29).
One further observation: Nicolas Roy averaged 6.6 Hits per 60 minutes over 21 games. When he becomes a regular, he should be good for 150 Hits or more in a season to go along with reasonable production. (jun8)
20. On Gabe Vilardi: Not a big enough sample size and it’s not a sustainable pace this early in his career, but even 3.3 Pts/60 after 10 games is a great indicator that he not only has a future in the NHL, but he will likely be a top-sixer. I’m not the only one who was worried about that guy slipping in terms of development thanks to time missed. I stupidly took Henrik Borgstrom as an add-on in a trade over Vilardi, back in January, because I didn’t trust Vilardi’s back. (jun8)
21. Robert Thomas was on his way to a 52-point season, but let’s not forget that he began the year with just four points in 16 games! That means he picked up 38 points in 50 games after that, which is a 62-point pace. Thomas doesn’t hit his Breakout Threshold for another 64 games, but he’s a pretty great candidate to breakout early. The key for him his PP time, which was starting to eke upwards in the latter two quarters of the season. (jun8)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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