Ramblings: Top 100 Decisions on Shesterkin, Rust, Nylander (July 3)

Ian Gooding

2020-07-03

Although the NHL hasn't made a formal announcement, it appears that Edmonton and Toronto will be the hub cities for the league's return to play. As well, Bob McKenzie suggested that Edmonton would likely receive the Stanley Cup Final portion of the series. So as misleading as this video from Alberta premier Jason Kenney might have been, it might be the difference maker. (I sure didn’t see those mountains the last time I was in Edmonton.)

I understand that the video was more about promoting Alberta to the players' families as opposed to promoting Edmonton to the NHL. I also understand that until a formal announcement is made, the league could still change its mind on the hub cities. Or the whole return-to-play thing. Or at the very least, push the start date of the return to play a little past August 1.  

I've mentioned this before, but Edmonton and Toronto make the most sense, and the numbers back it up. Despite its many amenities, Vegas was simply too risky, just as many other US cities are at the moment. Vancouver would have been ideal, but the NHL's contingency plans for players testing positive for COVID-19 didn't sit well with BC chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (those of you from BC and many of you from Canada will already be familiar with her calming words "be kind, be calm, and be safe").

McKenzie also announced that November 1 is expected to be free agent frenzy day. So instead of the signings happening during your Canada Day celebrations, they'll happen the day after your Halloween party or taking your kids trick-or-treating. Although I couldn't tell you what Halloween will look like this year, I do know that October 31 and November 1 fall on a Saturday and a Sunday, which will make things easier for the Monday to Friday folks.

For more on what the proposed NHL schedule would look like for the rest of 2020, go to TSN.ca.

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As I work through the Top 100 Roto Rankings for July, a couple more questions have popped into my mind.

Is Igor Shesterkin a top 100 option?

Honestly, I don't know whether to include Shesterkin in the Top 100 Roto Rankings. On one hand, he took the league by storm this past season and should be a must-own in keeper leagues. On the other hand, we don't know how many starts he will receive next season, or if he will even be the starting goalie for the Rangers' play-in series against Carolina (NHL.com).

Take a look at Shesterkin's game log on his Frozen Tools profile. There's a lot of green checkmarks and not a lot of red x's there. More specifically, 10 wins to two losses, and nine quality starts to one really bad start. Only Corey Crawford, Carter Hart, and Anton Khudobin have a higher percentage of quality starts since January 7, the day Shesterkin made his NHL debut. As well, only Tuukka Rask and Juuse Saros have a better save percentage than Shesterkin (.932 SV%) since January 7. Shesterkin has dominated everywhere he's played (KHL, AHL) with a sub-2.00 GAA since 2016-17. There's nowhere for him to be except the NHL.

The only problem is the near term. Shesterkin might not even be the starter for the play-in series against Carolina. Although Henrik Lundqvist started only one of the Rangers' last 19 games, his splits against Carolina are impressive (3-0-0, 2.33 GAA, .947 SV% this season, 24-4-0, 1.73 GAA, .947 SV% since 2011). In a short series, David Quinn could opt for Lundqvist's experience and track record. Then there's Alexandar Georgiev, who has also played reasonably well in front of a Rangers' defense that doesn't really provide an easy goaltending environment. If either Lundqvist or Georgiev are traded, Shesterkin will have an easier path. Yet with Seattle expansion forthcoming, there will be more goalie sellers than goalie buyers, which won't make a goalie trade an easy task.

I might be jumping the gun here, but I'm going to say that Shesterkin should be worth reaching for. He may very well hit the under on 40 starts, but the ceiling is extremely high. It's the kind of pick that you will either hit a home run or strike out on, but you don't win fantasy leagues by making nothing but safe picks. If you play any single-season leagues where fantasy owners might be drafting volume goalies, Shesterkin might slip down the rankings. Draft a more stable option as your first goalie, then make your move for Shesterkin at around pick 100. There haven't been many stable goalies these last few years anyway.

As for who the starter will be for the Carolina series, my guess is that it will be either the veteran Lundqvist or future starter Shesterkin. I know that doesn't narrow it down fully if you are looking for a Rangers starting goalie.

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Bryan Rust or William Nylander?

In his Monday Ramblings, Dobber answered an interesting question that has relevance in single-season roto leagues. Specifically, who should be drafted higher in a league that counts hits and shots: William Nylander or Bryan Rust.

When I started writing fantasy hockey articles over a decade ago, I used to use much more simple analysis to determine potential busts. One method I would use was to compare a player's point total to his previous season's totals. Assuming that the player was not a top prospect on the rise, there would be some doubt as to whether the player could repeat that output. Obviously there's a lot more to it now, but Rust is a potential bust next season using both simple and more detailed analysis.

Simply put, Rust had a tremendous season. With 56 points in 55 games, only 20 other players had a higher points-per-game average than Rust (1.02 PTS/GP). However, many of his advanced stats checked out higher than normal, including both overall shooting percentage (17.9%) and 5-on-5 shooting percentage (12.2%). He was able to benefit from playing on Evgeni Malkin's line for much of the season, but he's had access to either Malkin or Sidney Crosby for much of his career anyway. Rust had never reached 40 points in his career before, so don't expect a point per game to be the new norm until you see at least one more season at that pace.

Nylander has never been a point-per-game player in his career, but his three-year average (0.71 PTS/GP) is still higher than Rust's (0.66 PTS/GP). As well, only 14 players scored more goals than Nylander last season, all of whom are in the Roto Rankings. Because of a higher-than-normal 15.7 SH%, he may not score 31 goals again next season. Yet his seven goals in 54 games the season before is clearly an outlier resulting from a slow start from his contract dispute. In other words, 2018-19 should be considered the outlier for Nylander.

As Dobber said in the Midseason Guide, there's a higher upside/3-year peak career average for Nylander (85/69) than Rust (70/58). Rust is much better in hits, but ultimately you should target the scorer with higher upside, even in roto leagues. 

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Finally, among all the bad news that 2020 has thrown our way, here's something positive from Oskar Lindblom.

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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
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency NSH Players
31.9% VIKTOR ARVIDSSON FILIP FORSBERG RYAN JOHANSEN
20.7% MATT DUCHENE MIKAEL GRANLUND KYLE TURRIS
17.8% CALLE JARNKROK COLTON SISSONS AUSTIN WATSON

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