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. If Phase 1 of the Draft Lottery was the only new entertainment we as hockey fans receive for a while, then it was well worth the half hour. The only outcome more intriguing than a placeholder team winning the first overall pick would be if all of the first three picks went to placeholder teams.
That placeholder team (or to be more precise, Team E) will have the opportunity to choose Alexis Lafreniere. However, if Cam Robinson were the GM of Team E, he would pick Quinton Byfield. View his Final 2020 NHL draft rankings if you haven’t already. I don’t know if I agree with Cam (and I certainly don’t put in the work that he does watching prospects), but I admire his bold take.
Entertaining? Yes. Fair? Not so sure. If the NHL wanted to deter teams from tanking for the first overall pick, then it has accomplished its purpose. The Detroit Red Wings, with the lowest point percentage of any team in 20 years, fell as far as they could to the fourth overall pick, losing the first overall pick to a team with just 2.5 percent odds of winning it. If you combine all eight placeholder teams, a placeholder team was more likely to land the first overall pick (24.5%) than the Red Wings (18.5%), so maybe we should have expected this. Although I have faith that Steve Yzerman can rebuild the once-proud franchise, that’s the worst possible outcome for a team that needed as many positives as it could get. (jun27)
2. In case you’re wondering what happens if the play-in cannot be completed…
Elliotte Friedman: If, for whatever reason, the play-in cannot be completed….the remaining bottom 8 teams will have a one-in-eight shot at the top selection.
Not long after I saw this, I then wondered about who exactly these bottom 8 teams would be. Good grief.
Elliotte Friedman: People have asked if this means next 8 or next non-playoff 4 per conference (via points percentage). As I understand, it is the latter. (jun27)
3. So, if you’re a fan of a team that is in the play-in tourney but not one of the bottom 8 teams of that group (like I am), a more favorable outcome would be to lose in the play-in series than for it to not happen at all (and thus not experience the agony of defeat). Some fans of those teams will even prefer that their team lose than win since their first overall pick odds (12.5%) from losing the play-in series will most likely be better than their Stanley Cup odds from winning the play-in series (6.25%, if every team in the round of 16 has the same odds). Then again, it’s just math, and this probably won’t be it for weird outcomes.
In case you missed it or don’t have it memorized by now, here’s the draft order:
1. Placeholder team
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres (jun27)
4. Since we’ve been talking NHL Draft, this is probably a good time for me to mention that the 2020 Fantasy Hockey Prospects Report is available. Head over to the Dobber Sports Shop and download yours! You can read about the top draft-eligible prospects, as well as prospects already drafted and/or signed. (jun27)
5. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been kind of previewing the play-in matchups by reviewing the seasons of each team. That entails how they performed through the year, how good (or not good) their top-end guys were, how strong they are at each position, and any injuries that may linger. The idea is to get everyone back up to speed about where we stood when the season was suspended, and how teams may be getting reinforcements in terms of players returning from injury.
We’ve finished the West and are making our way through the East. Here are the matchups reviewed to date, with a few excerpts from each just below:
6. By the end of the regular season, before it was suspended, Chris Driedger was getting regular starts. Now, it was due to a lower-body injury from Sergei Bobrovsky, but how much leash is Bob going to have for the play-ins? The Panthers got a second life, and now have a chance to make a Cup run. If Bobrovsky gives up five in the first game, does he get a second game? This uncertainty in Florida's net is a problem. (jun26)
7. Flat-out, Ryan Pulock was one of the best defensemen in the league this year. By Evolving Hockey’s WAR metric, Pulock was number-2 in the league this year, behind Ryan Ellis. His points/60 at 5-on-5 was higher than Thomas Chabot‘s and Shea Theodore‘s. He was outstanding. (jun26)
8. As explained by our own Brennan Des in a recent Eastern Edge column, the Montreal top line of Tomas Tatar–Phillip Danault–Brendan Gallagher wasn’t just underrated, they were flat-out one of the best lines in the league at 5-on-5 (Danault had as many 5v5 points as Jonathan Huberdeau). They scored, they controlled the play, and they could be relied in all three zones. That’s a true top line, at least at even strength. (jun25)
9. In Pittsburgh, the top defense pair of Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin was solid, but it’s the emergence of John Marino that could be the difference-maker in the playoffs. There were a lot of good rookie defensemen this year, which means Marino may be underappreciated. He was outstanding at both ends of the ice – he finished just 0.04 points/60 behind Letang at 5-on-5 – and gives them a second pair they’ve been lacking in recent seasons. That kind of depth helps a lot. (jun25)
10. It’s the blue line that was the difference for the Rangers this year. There’s a reason they went out and acquired Jacob Trouba; they knew they had to rebuild the back-end. Oddly enough, it wasn’t Trouba that had the great year. Rather, it was Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo
I won’t spend a lot of time here. I discussed Fox at length doing a Calder Trophy Ramblings a few weeks back and DeAngelo’s offensive prowess has been well documented here and elsewhere. Rather, let’s talk about Trouba for a minute.
Trouba had a very bad season on the surface but it does seem percentages were not in his favour. He spent 651 minutes skating with Brady Skjei as his partner at 5-on-5 this year. In those 651 minutes, the team had a .902 save percentage behind him, which is pathetic goaltending. In the 576 minutes he skated without Skjei, that goaltending went up to .934, which is great, but the on-ice shooting went down to 5.7 percent, which is again pathetic. Whether it was goaltending or finishing, Trouba found himself unlucky often this season.
That turning itself around could be huge for the Rangers. The triumvirate of Fox/Trouba/DeAngelo help the team feature a stout top-4. If one of them doesn’t perform, it leaves them with one reliable defense pair, and that’s not enough. (jun24)
11. The Hurricanes forward core going into the play-in? Justin Williams returned to the lineup in mid-January and found his chemistry with Jordan Staal again. With that duo on the ice, the team controlled 55 percent of the expected goal share and 63 percent of the actual goal share. Having those two on the second line gives them a true shutdown line to use at home, allowing them to use Sebastian Aho‘s line as they see fit.
The top-line duo of Aho and Andrei Svechnikov was great and they should continue to be great. The team controlled 57 percent of the shots and 58 percent of the goals with the two of them on the ice at 5-on-5. That’s extremely good.
So they have a great top scoring line and a good shutdown line. They also have Teuvo Teravainen – he led the team in assists – who is able to seamlessly skate on either line. Their top-6 is fairly set.
Carolina traded for Vincent Trocheck and he, along with guys like Martin Necas, Ryan Dzingel, and Nino Niederreiter, give this team a very, very good third line. It’s the type of line that can win a series in their matchups, and that should worry the opposition. They remind me of an HBK-type line for the Penguins a few years ago; they’re good forwards pushed down the lineup due to depth, and that can give them an advantage. It certainly will in this series. (jun24)
12. Calgary versus Winnipeg play-in matchup: What has made Calgary dangerous when they are firing on all cylinders is having a top line (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm) that can score at will and a second line that's been elite at both ends of the ice. Matthew Tkachuk had a good year again and Mikael Backlund was solid, while Andrew Mangiapane had a breakout of sorts; he was second on the team in goals/60 at 5-on-5 this year. The top line was a letdown in 2019-20 but if they figure it out, they have their formidable top-6 back and that means a very good Calgary team. (jun23)
13. The defense for the Flames is murky, unfortunately. Mark Giordano won the Norris Trophy last year but his play fell off considerably in 2019-20. He was still good, just not Norris-level good. Rasmus Andersson took a step forward this year but Noah Hanifin took a step back. T.J. Brodie was solid and they did add Erik Gustafsson. When looking at those names, it’s not hard to envision this team having a solid puck-moving blue line that can transition this team from defense to offense. It’s a matter of getting everyone playing to their potential at the same time. (jun23)
14. If there’s one advantage for the Jets versus the Flames, it should be in goal. Now, saying either team in a best-of-5 has the goaltending advantage is precarious because goalies vary a lot season-to-season, let alone in five games. But Connor Hellebuyck was a Vezina-calibre goalie, and I’ve talked about his Hart Trophy case before in these Ramblings. He’s elite, and he’ll need to be. I wrote about his Hart Trophy case here. Despite the abysmal defensive team, they were never below .500 after October. He was the difference-maker for them in the regular season, and he can be that again in the playoffs. (jun23)
15. What Winnipeg does have is a lethal top-6 and a good power play. Mark Scheifele was over a point per game again, Kyle Connor probably would have cracked 40 goals had we finished the year, the same could be said for Patrik Laine and 30 goals, while Nikolaj Ehlers was two points away from giving the team five different 60-point forwards in a shortened season. That’s a lot of potency, but it’s also about where the sunshine ends for Winnipeg. (jun23)
16. Mining for value using the Pts/60 Report in Frozen Tools, and filtering in a 15-game minimum, below are 10 players who stuck out at me. None of them will shock you and I’m sure you had most of them on a list of expected players on the rise. These are players who rank high in the league in terms of their production per 60 minutes of ice time:
Kailer Yamamoto (17th) – the Oilers actually seem to be doing this one right and bringing a prospect along in just the right way. I have some concerns about Yamamoto’s ability to stay healthy, but as far as points-per-games-played goes, I think he’ll do better next season than most people think. (jun22)
17. Kevin Fiala (18th) – He had 26 points in his last 18 games, so I’m sure you have already concluded that next season will be a biggie…
Andre Burakovsky (28th) – He started off fairly well, but then suffered an injury. Upon his return, his production was back to the Washington Burakovsky production so we all just moved on. But wait – he found his groove again in January and posted 20 points in 17 games. The problem is, Burakovsky gets injured every season. But I think 65 points in 70 games or something along those lines is in the cards for next season.
Jakub Vrana (33rd) – Pretty steady each quarter, but it was only in the third quarter that he got the first-unit PP time. That meant an additional three points for him. If he got that throughout it would mean an additional 10-15 points, which would put him up to 70 next year easily. (jun22)
18. Anthony Mantha (44th) – Once again the problem is the ability to stay healthy, but if this guy can ever play 80 games (he has done it once) then I think he’s an 80-point player.
Dominik Kubalik (46th) – The surprise rookie ended up on an 82-game pace to reach 55 points and 36 goals. But he had 33 points in his last 35 games. As Chicago’s only 30-goal scorer besides the mighty Kane, you know Kubalik will get a ton of ice time in Year 2.
Adam Gaudette (53rd) – This one, to me, is the biggest surprise name in the Top 60. I know Vancouver loves him and I knew he was a tremendous asset in his role on a depth line. He’s been stuck playing with pluggers, and has been used on the second PP unit. But man, did he ever take advantage of the limited PP time? Twelve (!) power-play points despite averaging barely 90 seconds of PP time each game! He’s a player who could see a boost with more PP time and better linemates, but my confidence in those things is 50-50 at best. For now, anyway. (jun22)
19. Nikita Gusev (54th) – Gusev’s struggles in the first quarter rested primarily in his inability to produce on the power play. But he caught on by December, picking up his first PPPt on December 2 after 22 games without one. After that – 15 PPPts in 44 contests.
Robert Thomas (65th) – I remember getting a handful of questions early in the season asking if he’s ever going to see his potential (he started with four points in 16 games). His 38 points in the last 50 games was fifth on the team, but it was just four points behind first (Ryan O’Reilly).
Dylan Strome (67th) –Strome’s ice time was cut in February by more than four minutes. He had returned from an ankle injury and they were likely just easing him back into the lineup. Give him a Mulligan for the one point in 11 games that he picked up in February. He’ll come back huge next year.
20. Last week when stating that Seth Jones had been activated from IR, I also mentioned that he was listed in the Top 100 Roto Rankings. I then realized that Jones’ teammate Zach Werenski was not listed in the Top 100, in spite of a higher point-per-game total (0.65) than Jones (0.54) this season. That got me thinking: Should I include Werenski? And if so, should it be at the expense of Jones?
I went to the Compare Players function at Frozen Tools to help me. Werenski was the only defenseman to score 20 goals this season (Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo tied for second with 16). Werenski also finished sixth among blueliners with 187 shots, and he did so in spite of missing seven games.
As I was digging up some more information, I also noticed that Werenski’s and Jones’ upside and 3-year peak in the Midseason Guide are almost exactly the same (67/53 and 67/52, respectively). Over the past three seasons, Jones’ point totals have fluctuated from 57 points in 2017-18 to 30 points (in just 56 games) in 2019-20. Meanwhile, Werenski’s have remained steady in ranging between 37 points in 2017-18 to 41 points in 2019-20. In particular because of 2017-18, it would appear that Jones would have the higher ceiling, but that could be debated because it’s only one season.
There are many categories which could be considered practically the same here, especially over the last three seasons. Points, power-play points, shots, and even plus-minus (by virtue of playing on the same team). Werenski has the clear advantage in goals, which are more valuable as a point because there are fewer of them. Jones, however, is clearly the better option in bangers leagues, as both his hits and penalty minutes totals will attest to. Werenski also doesn’t block a ton of shots, which I discussed back in an early May Ramblings.
In the end, Werenski is a player that I could make some room for in the top 100. It shouldn’t be at the expense of Jones for the similarities that I’ve listed above. Maybe I bump a player like Jeff Petry, who has thrived over the past three seasons because of Shea Weber‘s injury issues. At the much more advanced age of 32, Petry’s ceiling will be lower than both of that of Blue Jackets defense partners Jones (25) and Werenski (22).
21. Take a look at Andre Burakovsky‘s season-by-season point total. His first season in Colorado was his best, as he reached 20 goals and 45 points for the first time in his career. Then take a look at his 82-game pace (a new column on Frozen Tools). Over a full season, he was on pace for 64 points. Of course, he wouldn’t have reached it because he missed 12 games due to injury. Yet, because other Colorado players also missed time with their own injuries, Burakovsky finished third on the team in both goals (20) and points (45).
This spike in production is what happens when a player receives additional opportunity. Although Burakovsky’s 15 minutes per game did not even come close to leading the team, it was a four-minute per game increase from the previous season in Washington. What’s more, his 2:23 per game in power-play time was the highest of his career, which also led to a career-high 11 power-play points.
There are still areas of concern, though. Burakovsky scored those 20 goals on just 103 shots, which works out to be an overall 19.4 SH%. Although he’s never been a high-volume shooter, there is some concern of a possible regression in the goal department considering that his shooting percentage is usually between 12-14%. In addition, Burakovsky is listed as a Band-Aid Boy trainee, as he has suited up for 70 games in just two of his six NHL seasons.
Burakovsky helped provide the Avs with some much-needed secondary scoring this past season. If he can stay healthy for all of next season, then we could very well see that 60+ point campaign play out for real. (jun27)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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