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. As part of the Fantasy Prospects Report, I always gather every contributor’s Top 50 list of players they would draft in points-only keeper leagues – only players who have not yet played a regular season game in the NHL. This list also includes the draftees for that year, and defensemen get credit for double their anticipated goal total (to better balance with the forwards, otherwise it would just be a list of forwards). Here are some interesting notes, observations and back stories that I’ll share:
– Everyone had Alexis Lafreniere first on their list. Numero Uno. Unanimous.
– A lot of the writers this year had Alexander Khovanov, a Minnesota prospect, as a backup player (either 51, 52 or 53). I’m a fan of his upside, and I also like the way the Wild is looking in terms of allowing prospects opportunities over the next couple of years. So I had him 28th on my list. But I guess the other contributors felt he wasn’t quite appealing enough to put in their actual Top 50, yet he was too good to ignore completely, so he was on a lot of backup lists. Myself and Pat Quinn (DobberProspects Associate Editor) had him rated the second-highest to Dave Hall, who had him 27th.
– I had the following players rated higher than anyone else: Grigori Denisenko (5), Vasili Podkolzin (6), Nicholas Robertson (7), Nils Lundkvist (8), Philip Tomasino (11), Victor Soderstrom (15), Jakob Pelletier (25), Jan Jenik (35).
– I was the only person to have Matt Phillips on my list (my usual small, skilled player bias), and I was one of just two people to have Pierre-Olivier Joseph on my list. I was one of three people to have Sasha Chmelevski and Jeremy Bracco (ahem) on my list. (jun15)
2. Robertson: Very high upside and a natural when it comes to high shot volume. I also don’t think the wait time will be very long. The Leafs will need him and his rookie contract sooner rather than later.
Lundkvist: I think the only thing holding Lundkvist down on everyone else’s list is the fact that Anthony DeAngelo has proven to be an elite offensive defenseman, Adam Fox made a massive rookie debut in terms of production, and Jacob Trouba is a proven 50-point defenseman. How will Lundkvist fit in? Well, the cream always rises to the top. He won’t be held back, one way or another.
Jenik: We have him at three years of wait-time. But I have this hunch that he expedites things, and this becomes painfully obvious over the course of 2020-21. So I want him on my team before he gets snatched up in the first round of my league’s draft next year. Arizona, two years from now, seems like it will be a good fit for him. (jun15)
3. Phillips: As I noted above, I have a bias towards the smaller skilled guys because it’s boom or bust, more often than not. You’re probably not getting your typical 55-point fantasy player. He’s either a 75-point NHL star, or he’s an AHLer or Euro-hockey star. And with Phillips, we should have a good idea as to which one he will be within two (or possibly three) years. So that aligns nicely with my “I hate waiting” strategy.
Joseph: The timing for Joseph is lining up beautifully. He’ll make the jump in 2021-22 (so just waiting a year), and at that point Kris Letang will be 34 years old with two years left on his contract. A nice apprenticeship under Letang for a year and a half (before Letang inevitably gets traded at the deadline of his UFA season) and then the reins are passed to Joseph. And at that point Sidney Crosby will still have three or four really good years left in him. Yes please.
Chmelevski: I’ve had Chmelevski high on my radar for a couple of years now. I’m happy with how he transitioned to the pros and I love how shallow San Jose is at forward – now and in the immediate future. The road to success is already paved for him. (jun15)
4. As usual, I had the fewest of this year’s draftees on my list. Those who have been reading my stuff for a long time know that I place a lot of value in roster space – and I don’t like a prospect taking up that space for five years without contributing. I generally like prospects who have a chance of helping me within two seasons. Because often that means it’s more like three, and I was wrong. So I can’t imagine being “wrong” on a projected four- or five-year wait time, as then we’d be talking six years or even seven. No thanks – not when I can find good 21-year-olds out there who are still available.
Of the 2020-eligible players, I have Cole Perfetti ranked ahead of Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz for points-only keeper leagues. Because in the end, hockey sense can’t be taught, and in close comparables I always go with the smarts. More often than not, it pays off. (jun15)
5. Anyone who had Kirill Kaprizov ranked lower than second on their lists will quickly realize how wrong they were. I think he’s stepping into the league next year and winning the Calder Trophy, or at least making it close with Alexis Lafreniere. And I think over the next 10 years he will have more points than anyone on that list, other than – maybe – Lafreniere.
Year after year I see, both when compiling this list as well as in real-life fantasy drafts, that there is a heavy recency bias that nudges people in the direction of drafting the hyped-up new draftees. It’s not a bad move, it’s just that in my opinion it’s not the best move. It’s an extra year of waiting versus the hyped-up draftees from last year (why not take those?). And it’s two extra years of waiting versus the hyped-up draftees from two years ago (why not take those?). (jun15)
6. 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, Erik 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.
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. (jun20)
7. Just as the Flames had multiple players with reduced scoring numbers, so did the Stars. One of those players was not Denis 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). Unfortunately, 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 ice time per game (12:59), and it wasn’t really close. The 20-goal scorer with the next lowest ice time 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 ice time, 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 ice time 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 ice time 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 ice time.
Gurianov is just 6 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, so he would qualify as a deep sleeper in many formats. Getting as much ice time as Seguin or Jamie Benn won’t happen, but even a small uptick in ice time could be something to build on. (jun20)
8. 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. (jun19)
9. Over a full season, Mathew 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.
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. But 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? Follow the link to see how he performed in one roto league… (jun19)
10. Still regarding this past week's Roto Rankings: Nikolaj 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 our own Eric Daoust 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. (jun19)
11. When discussing the Wild, I’d be remiss to not discuss their depth at forward. Whatever the line combination, guys like Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, and Luke Kunin brought great defensive ability to the team; out of the 10 best defensive lines in the league this year by expected goals against per 60 minutes, the Wild had two combinations in the Top-10. They provided a true shutdown line, and that can come in handy for playoffs. (jun18)
12. Vancouver’s big problem is the blue line. Quinn Hughes was great in 2019-20, of that there is no doubt. But Alex Edler is not the guy he was five years ago, and he still has a hard time staying healthy, Chris Tanev didn’t have a typical Tanev season, and Tyler Myers is a replacement-level player eating more than 21 minutes a night. (jun18)
13. A bit of news on the injury front. Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller had a media interview last Wednesday and he confirmed he’s made progress on his kneecap injury that’s keep him out all year. Now, it’s small steps – tying shoes, climbing stairs – but it’s progress. It sure seems this season is out of the question, though it’s good news for his longer-term future. (jun18)
14. I do believe the Coyotes have very good goaltending, but scoring remains an issue. They were tied for 23rd by goals per 60 at 5-on-5, 18th on the power play, and 23rd at all strengths. Nick Schmaltz had a solid season as he may have cracked 50 points, but the problem is that he led the team in scoring. Having your highest point-getter be on pace for 53 points doesn’t really bode well for future scoring. The thing is, they’re tied for sixth in shots generated and 11th by expected goals. If guys like Taylor Hall, Phil Kessel, and Clayton Keller can pick up their shooting percentages, it may be enough to make them a mid-road offensive team, and that would be a big improvement. (jun17)
15. The blue line has been an issue all year in Chicago. Brent Seabrook won’t be back in the NHL anytime soon because of hip surgery, Adam Boqvist showed proficiency at puck-moving but still has work to do defensively, and Erik Gustafsson is now in Calgary. Both Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy had solid seasons, but even with Duncan Keith around, all this isn’t enough. It’s a bad defensive team, and though it isn’t all on the blue line, they should bear a lot of the weight, and there’s nothing that can be done about it right now. (jun16)
16. In Edmonton, the worry is in goal. Mike Smith is 37th out of 39 goalies (min. 4000 minutes at 5-on-5) over the last three years by goals saved above average and 33rd by high-danger save percentage. He turned 38 years old during the pause. Mikko Koskinen had a much better season than Smith, but they were still splitting starts just before the season’s suspension. If they let Smith start a game or two, and he doesn’t perform well, it may be too late to turn to Koskinen in a best-of-5 (and even then, Koksinen is an unproven commodity). It’ll be interesting to see what they do in net. (jun16)
17. Oskari Laaksonen, a Buffalo Sabres third-round pick from 2017, has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team. Buffalo’s right side already includes Rasmus Ristolainen and Colin Miller, with Henri Jokiharju waiting in the wings. With that said, Lawrence Pilut heading to the KHL probably forced their hand a bit here. There’s legitimate depth there and that could be a problem for the next couple years. Though with the way Buffalo has been performing this last decade, almost everyone’s job should be a year-to-year contract with that franchise. (jun16)
18. Roman Polak has signed a multi-year contract in the Czech Republic. It appears his intention is not coming back to the NHL for the 24-team playoff and staying home. While we’re relying on Google Translate here and that is a precarious endeavour, it appears Polak believes he needs considerably more than three weeks to get ready for a season, and he doesn’t want to leave his family behind for (potentially) months.
The family thing I understand completely and we’re probably going to see more players feel that way. The “not ready in three weeks” thing was something I hadn’t considered. I did think about injuries once players returned, but not about veterans needing more time.
It’s something we’ve heard often in the past, right? Guys who know their bodies and know how much time they’ll need to be ready. Not every player can be ready for playoff hockey in three weeks, and it’ll be interesting to see if other borderline veterans feel the same way as Polak. (jun16)
19. As mentioned, the June version of the Roto Rankings were posted last Monday, with plenty of player movement. Further below, three players whose rankings fell this month. You can also check out more risers and fallers for June here: Roto Rankings Risers and Roto Rankings Fallers.
– Rasmus Ristolainen: 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 ice time 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. (jun14)
20. Jamie Benn: 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. (jun14)
21. Brock Boeser: 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. (jun14)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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