Ramblings: Roto Rankings Fallers – Ristolainen, Benn, Boeser (June 14)
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I don't know if many keeper leagues have turned the "allow trades" button back on, or even that they never turned it off in the first place. I've kept it off in my keeper league and don't plan to turn it back on until after the playoffs at the very least. For those who are making trades for next season, just a word of caution that there are still playoffs to be played and an offseason to be transacted (is that a word?) before next season.
Of course, it won't be your typical offseason. Activities may be out of order and over a shortened timeframe, and teams won't be as aggressive in spending with a likely flattened cap resulting from COVID-19. I wonder if that results in a higher proportion of bridge deals for RFAs (which is my thinking on Tony DeAngelo, whose situation I touched on yesterday). Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, and Tyson Barrie (among many others) will experience opportunity costs from entering UFA status at the wrong time.
I bring this up because I was recently asked a question on Twitter about the Blackhawks power play next season, specifically on defense. There are still many unknowns before we can map that out. For starters, the Hawks still have a play-in round against Edmonton, with the possibility for more. Last I checked, Duncan Keith was still manning the first-unit power play. Yes, I know he's 36 years old and the Blackhawks have several young prospects in the pipeline. But what are the chances that they try something different during something as important as the play-in round? Maybe they wouldn't have traded Erik Gustafsson had they known how things would transpire with the expanded playoff format.
Then there's the offseason, which may look much different once all is said and done. I'm not a Blackhawks insider, so I can't say for sure whether the Blackhawks could target a potential PP1 d-man in free agency or a trade, although their cap situation suggests free agency won't be a possibility. That makes it more likely that they'll make the switch to Adam Boqvist or possibly even Ian Mitchell to start the 2020-21 season. Boqvist's 2019-20 output (13 PTS/41 GP, 2 PPP) suggests that he isn't quite ready for regular PP1 duties, but he's still the Blackhawks keeper on D to target (#1 on Top 50 Fantasy Prospects).
The Blackhawks might not be the best example of the point I'm trying to make, which is the overall risk of making fantasy hockey trades at this moment. The 2020-21 season could start over six months from now, and there's so much uncharted territory to cover before that. Having said that, if you have that trade offer that you can't refuse in your hand, don't let me stop you. Just understand the added risks during these times.
The June version of the Roto Rankings will be posted on Monday, with plenty of player movement. To preview, I'm going to cover more players whose rankings will fall this month. You can check out more risers and fallers for June below.
And in the meantime, you can check out the May Roto Rankings.
Here's a player whose roto value exceeds his points-only value based on his contributions in various categories. Yet even that roto value is falling. Not only did Ristolainen post his lowest points-per-game numbers (33 points in 69 games) since his sophomore season, but he was also well off his previous pace in shots on goal (128) and power-play points (9).
A closer look at Ristolainen's icetime totals shows a near four-minute-per-game overall decline over the past two seasons. This includes a drop of over a minute per game in power-play time. The power-play time decline in particular has to do with the presence of Rasmus Dahlin, who has taken over first-unit power-play duties. Back in 2016-17, Ristolainen had recorded 25 power-play points. Since then, it's been on a steady decline (23, 17, 9).
The Sabres have been rumored to be shopping Ristolainen for a while now, so by now it might seem like it will never happen. However, another season without the playoffs might be all that is needed for the Sabres to take action. The departure of Lawrence Pilut to the KHL means one less body on the Sabres' defense pushing for minutes, so barring offseason moves, I'd expect Ristolainen to stay put for now.
Ristolainen might seem like an easy choice to move out of the top 100 Roto Rankings. Yet he is still something of a unicorn in that he was the only defenseman with at least 30 points who also recorded at least 180 hits this past season. (He also led all defensemen with 203 hits.) A continued decline in points will eventually push him out, but for now the cross-category contribution should still be considered desirable in roto leagues.
Benn's scoring and hits totals seem to have an inverse relationship. While the scoring has decreased from 0.96 PTS/GP to 0.68 PTS/GP to 0.57 PTS/GP the past three seasons, his hits have increased from 89 to 140 to 142 to 163 the past four seasons. Usually players' scoring totals and bangers totals both decrease as they reach Benn's age (turning 31 this summer), but at least we're seeing the hits increase.
The scoring, though. While scoring as a whole has increased league-wide, the Art Ross Trophy winner five seasons ago was on pace for barely over 46 points this season. True, the Stars play far more of a defensive system than they used to, and the only Star to reach 50 points this season was Tyler Seguin. A coaching change didn't help Benn, as defensive-minded Jim Montgomery was replaced by… defensive-minded Rick Bowness.
Fun fact: The Stars are the only one of the eight first-round bye teams to finish in the bottom half of the league in goals for per game. In fact, they finished 26th in that category. Drafting Benn, Seguin, or Alexander Radulov because of who their linemates are doesn't make a lot of sense if none of them are scoring.
Make no mistake. Without the hits, Benn would no longer be in the top 100. Only five players currently in the top 100 had more hits than Benn's 167 hits. Of those players, only Alex Ovechkin had significantly more points. Given Benn's importance to the Stars, it's difficult to think his points will fall much further. Yet at the same time, his ceiling has been crashing down these past few seasons.
Since January 12, Boeser has not scored a goal and has just two assists to his name. Sure, there was the rib cartilage injury that sidelined Boeser until a somewhat unexpected return on what turned out to be the Canucks' final game of the regular season. Yet that's a slump that managed to last 12 games for Boeser.
Boeser's injury was a key reason the Canucks acquired Tyler Toffoli not long before the trade deadline. Yet for a time, Boeser had been bumped to the third line while Jake Virtanen was given an audition there. From all accounts Boeser is healthy and should be motivated to face the team from his home state of Minnesota in the play-in round, although it's not known where he would fit in on the Canucks' forward lines.
Because of injuries, we've never seen Boeser hit 30 goals and 60 points, although he is fully capable of that and more. In the three full seasons he has played in the NHL, Boeser has missed a minimum of 12 games per season. He's currently a Band-Aid Boy trainee, but he could make the jump to certified as early as this summer. Until we see Boeser play a full season, we should budget for him playing about 65 games and consider anything higher a bonus.
Between the injury history and the recent slump, I've removed Boeser out of the top 100 for now. When things get back on track for him, I'd totally expect him to be back on this list.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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