Ramblings: Lightning Players, Matthews Test Positive for COVID-19; Popular Searches Gurianov, Gustafsson (June 20)

Ian Gooding

2020-06-20

Friday's news of the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily closing their training facilities due to COVID-19 should serve as a reminder that there is no guarantee that the NHL will return to play this summer. This news doesn't mean that the NHL should shut everything down immediately, considering that this is only Phase 2 of the return-to-play plan. However, there are definite concerns if someone brings COVID-19 into the bubble before it is sealed during Phases 3 or 4, or if that bubble isn't tight enough.

The fact that the team shutdowns (Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays) have all occurred in the state of Florida should be no coincidence. The decision makers in that state have been far too lenient in the handling and reporting of the pandemic. Maybe it's a good thing that the NHL's restart plan isn't occurring in Florida, although Nevada's recent numbers after the casino reopenings haven't been promising, assuming Vegas is announced as a hub city.

And as if we didn't need another reality check, Auston Matthews has also reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, according to Steve Simmons. Numerous other NHL players have tested positive, although Matthews is the first name that has been mentioned. Matthews had been rooming with Frederik Andersen in Arizona, although Andersen did not test positive and is no longer in Arizona. 

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see hockey restart, even if it's nice outside. If it's possible to play games and remain safe, then let's do so. Actual games mean that I have more potential topics to write about here. But as I've seen multiple sports writers state on Twitter, the virus will determine when the sports league returns to play. We should know over the next week or two whether today's news is simply a speed bump or the beginning of the end of the return-to-play plan.

As I finish writing this, the NHL has announced that over 200 players have undergone COVID-19 testing from entering NHL facilities, with 11 players testing positive. Out of that sample, there were sure to be positive tests. Maybe it's good that this happens now so that the league is better prepared to handle potential positive tests in Phases 3 and 4.

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Here are the top Frozen Tools searches for the past week:

Most of these are players I've covered in previous weeks. You can find them in other Saturday Ramblings, the most recent of which you'll find here.

There are two new names to this list, which I'll discuss below today.

Erik Gustafsson

It's difficult to get an overall read on a player who a) was surprisingly successful last season, b) declined significantly this season, c) was traded at the deadline, and d) will be a UFA whenever this offseason occurs. At stage c, Gustafsson had made a moderate impact for the Flames in recording three assists in just seven games, none of which occurred on the power play.

A more interesting stat is the power-play time. Yes, Gustafsson was used on the first unit over those seven games, leading the Flames with a 1:41 PPTOI. And yes, regular first-unit option Mark Giordano was bumped to the second unit with just 0:30 PPTOI over that same range. Giordano's declining production may have been a factor, as he would have been on pace for just 13 power-play points, down from 21 the season before. The Flames as a whole had many scorers with declining production, but the power-play success rate actually improved from 19.3% in 2018-19 to 21.2% in 2019-20. It is worth mentioning that Giordano was close to returning from a hamstring injury at the time of Gustafsson's acquisition.  

We still don't know for sure which defenseman will play on the first-unit power play when (or if) the Flames face the Jets in the play-in tournament. We also don't know whether the Flames have any intention on trying to sign Gustafsson after this season. Signed for two more years and a pillar of the Flames, Giordano's value shouldn't be affected a whole lot entering next season unless Gustafsson re-signs in Calgary.

Fantasy Impact: Flames Bring In Gustafsson and Forbort

So if you're searching for Gustafsson and wondering what to expect from him next season, he's very much a wild card. He could end up with less than 30 points, or he could score over 50 points again. A lot depends on where he lands. Hopefully you don't have to make your keeper league decision by the end of next week.

Denis Gurianov

Just as the Flames had multiple players with reduced scoring numbers, so did the Stars. One of those players was not Gurianov, who in his first full season reached the 20-goal mark (in just 64 games). This may surprise you, but Gurianov's 20 goals led the Stars. The Stars had only one player reach 50 points (Tyler Seguin), but their scoring was more balanced as it has been in previous seasons (four other players with at least 15 goals).

Because he played in just 21 games in 2018-19, Gurianov qualifies as a rookie in 2019-20. That means his 20 goals tied him for second in goals among rookies (with Victor Olofsson). Unfortuntely, Gurianov recorded just nine assists all season, which pushed him all the way down to eighth in points for both the Stars and NHL rookies. Gurianov might not win the Calder Trophy, but he's definitely in contention for the Cy Young Award.

Among the 87 players who scored at least 20 goals this season, Gurianov had the lowest average icetime per game (12:59), and it wasn't really close. The 20-goal scorer with the next lowest icetime per game was Conor Garland, who averaged over a minute more per game (14:09). Also among 20-goal scorers, only Noel Acciari had fewer assists (7) than Gurianov. So Gurianov made the most of his somewhat limited icetime, finishing 27th with 1.4 G/60 and 19th with 0.5 PPG/60 among all players who played at least 40 games.

Even though Gurianov mainly played on the second-unit power play, the Stars deployed their power-play fairly evenly among their first and second units. According to Sean Shapiro of The Athletic, Gurianov's low icetime can be attributed to two factors: He doesn't kill penalties, and he takes relatively short shifts. Still, Gurianov finished 17th on the Stars in average icetime among players who played at least 40 games. If the Stars want to improve on their 26th-ranked scoring next season, they would be wise to ensure Gurianov receives more icetime.

Gurianov is just 6 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, so he would qualify as a deep sleeper in many formats. Getting as much icetime as Seguin or Jamie Benn won't happen, but even a small uptick in icetime could be something to build on.  

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
BRAYDEN POINT T.B 5 5 3 8
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 5 1 7 8
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 8 3 6 9
ONDREJ PALAT T.B 5 3 2 5
JOE PAVELSKI DAL 5 4 1 5
JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 8 1 7 8
MIRO HEISKANEN DAL 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency MTL Players
32.5% JOEL ARMIA JONATHAN DROUIN NICK SUZUKI
20.9% PAUL BYRON MAX DOMI JESPERI KOTKANIEMI
17.5% PHILLIP DANAULT ARTTURI LEHKONEN TOMAS TATAR

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