Ramblings: Jones Activated, Ranking Ehlers and Barzal in Roto (June 19)
According to the Canadian Press, the Canadian government has issued an order that would allow a Canadian city (Vancouver, Edmonton, or Toronto) to serve as one of the NHL's hub cities. This would effectively remove the traditional 14-day quarantine for any NHL players or staff that need to enter Canada. For more, see the report from the CBC.
I would assume that if any Canadian city will serve as a hub city, it will be Toronto. I've mentioned before that the league office and sports networks are nearby. In addition, other reports have stated that Las Vegas will be named one of the two hub cities. For that reason, I would also think that the league would choose a city in the Eastern time zone, which Vancouver and Edmonton are not.
Nikolay Goldobin has officially signed a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow of the KHL. He was a point-per-game player in the AHL this season (50 points in 51 games), but he was never consistent enough to hold down a permanent spot in the NHL. With upgraded scoring options being acquired over the past season, the Canucks simply couldn't afford to be patient with Goldy any longer. If he racks up big numbers in the K, maybe we'll see him back in North America in two years.
There are also rumblings that fellow AHL forward Reid Boucher will follow Goldobin to the KHL. Boucher was an even better AHL scorer than Goldobin this past season, scoring 34 goals and 67 points in 53 games. Yet for whatever reason, Boucher couldn't make the most of his NHL opportunities. This clears the way for Sven Baertschi to be kept around for the play-in round, at least as a black ace.
For more names that could be added to NHL rosters for Phases 3 and 4, see thoughts 5 and 6 from Elliotte Friedman's 31 Thoughts (this isn’t the latest one). If you’d rather read the latest one, here it is.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have activated Seth Jones and Dean Kukan from IR. Jones was expected to return after being given an 8-to-10-week timeline to recover from ankle surgery. Even though Jones' point pace had decreased for the second consecutive season, he was still on pace for over 40 points in a full season. Jones is listed as #96 in the most recent Top 100 Roto Rankings, which I published on Monday.
Speaking of which… one follower on Twitter was surprised that Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathew Barzal were not included in the Roto Rankings. I'll take this opportunity to examine whether there's a case for either forward for a spot within the top 100.
I owned Ehlers in a single-season league, so I'll admit that I should have been paying more attention to him than I have. In that league, he posted the following:
The above league uses penalty minutes instead of hits (which is what the Roto Rankings assume). In a league with hits and blocked shots, Ehlers' rating decreases.
At the time I took over the Roto Rankings (just under a year ago), Ehlers was not a top 100 roto player. In fact, his ADP (average draft position) had fallen all the way to 160 in Yahoo leagues after posting just 37 points in 62 games in 2018-19. I had grabbed him at pick 176, which made him arguably my best value pick.
Over his previous two seasons, Ehlers had posted 60 and 64 points. This season, he posted a career high 0.82 PTS/GP, which would have given him 67 points over a full season. Points-wise, you could argue that his value is as high as it has ever been. Better yet, Ehlers led the Jets in 5-on-5 scoring with 46 points, which was four more than Mark Scheifele, six more than Kyle Connor, 11 more than Patrik Laine, and 15 more than Blake Wheeler.
5-on-5 metrics are a double-edged sword when it comes to fantasy, however. On one hand, it's an indicator that a player deserves additional icetime. On the other hand, roto owners may not get to take advantage of the double word score (to borrow a Scrabble term) from separate point and power-play-point totals. Note that Ehlers recorded just five power-play points all season. That is the lowest in his career, while he has averaged just over a minute per game while playing on the second unit for the past two seasons. Barring injury, it's unlikely that Ehlers easily supplants one of Scheifele, Connor, Laine, or Wheeler on the Jets' PP1 in the near term.
Ehlers at his peak deserves to be in the top 100. His value is going to be generated mainly from scoring, so that power-play point total is an important one. Out of the current top 100 (thanks to Eric for creating that list on Frozen Tools), no one had less power-play time per game than Ehlers (1:20 PPTOI) and only the injured Vladimir Tarasenko had fewer power-play points. For that reason, Ehlers is a player that I'll add to my bubble list for now, although I'm not quite there on him yet. Another season of low power-play time could lead to another sub-50-point season if he doesn't find the right even-strength linemates either.
Side note: Assuming the NHL returns to action this summer, Ehlers isn't a player to reach for in your playoff pool. In 21 career playoff games, Ehlers has yet to score a goal and has just seven assists. I don't give much weight to playoff production in determining a player's ranking, though.
In pure points leagues, I have no doubt that the talented Barzal is a top 100 option. He's even arguably a top-50 option. It's hard to ignore playmaking ability like this in your fantasy league.
Just like I explained with Ehlers above, roto is a different beast with more categories than points. Assists are what Barzal is particularly good at, as he's been in the top 50 in that category for each of his three seasons. What about other categories? Here's how he performed in one roto league:
Over a full season, Barzal would have recorded 72 points, which would have been a 10-point increase over last season. That total could have been even higher, as his season ended with 12 points in his last 10 games. It's fair to say he's established a 60-point floor as the Islanders' top scoring option, and he is entering that magical fourth year where things could really take off. Then again, he hasn't been able to build on his Calder Trophy 2017-18 season of 85 points. That's what two seasons of Barry Trotz will do.
Barzal can outscore the likes of Jamie Benn and Tom Wilson, who are in the top 100. Yet they and others on the list bring other valuable elements to the table that Barzal doesn't. For starters, there's the obvious hits category, where the finesse Barzal hasn't recorded more than 25 in a season. Barzal has also never reached 200 shots in a season, which has kept him in the range of 18-22 goals. The Islanders' power play ranked 29th last season, which resulted from both general ineffectiveness and a lack of power-play opportunities. Barzal scored just 12 power-play points, and that was despite leading Isles' regulars in power-play time.
To get a better idea as to where Barzal should be rated in roto leagues, let's compare him with scorers that recorded at least as many points as he did (60) and also scored fewer than 20 goals in 2019-20.
The closest comparable to Barzal this past season seems to be Toews, as their goals, assists, and shots on goal are identical in almost the same number of games. Toews is not in the Top 100, though. Barzal had arguably a better season than O'Reilly (who is near the bottom 10) and is even pushing Teravainen in points (who is higher than O'Reilly).
Here's the same stats over the last three seasons:
Over this period of time, Barzal's closest comparable seems to be Teravainen. If you account for just the past two seasons, Barzal will be lower than Teravainen, given Barzal's strong rookie season. The Trotz effect is in play, which is why I would assume that the last two seasons is more of what to expect from Barzal going forward.
Barzal is only listed as a center in many league formats, which is already the deepest in terms of talent pool. Because of the very light peripherals, Barzal will need to return to a point-per-game pace (or even closer to it) in order to maintain a spot in the top 100 long term. I'll add him in near the bottom of the list for now, which would rank him as a low C2 or high C3 in a 12-team roto league.
Running the stats on these players also gives me the opportunity to further demote Teravainen and O'Reilly, although both will stay in the top 100. O'Reilly in particular stays barely within the top 100 after a season with very low goal and shot totals.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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