Ramblings: Top Frozen Tools Searches – Kotkaniemi, Pulock (July 4)
According to Jeremy Rutherford and Scott Burnside of The Athletic, the St. Louis Blues have closed their facility over the weekend and cancelled Friday's practice because of multiple positive COVID-19 tests. The names of the players who tested positive were not released.
With multiple teams in various sports having players test positive for COVID-19, it's easy to shrug off this news at this point. However, Phase 3 is supposed to start in a week, hub cities still haven't been officially announced, and the players still haven't approved a return to play. Even with a proposed schedule, there's still a lot up in the air here. None of the sports leagues planning a return have pulled the plug, which is still a good sign if you're hoping for sports to return. However, it's Fourth of July weekend in the US, and COVID-19 cases stateside are not trending in the right direction.
Speaking of which, Happy Fourth of July to our American visitors! Enjoy your holiday, but please do so responsibly.
Here are the top 10 Frozen Tools searches from the past week.
As I have been each week, I'll focus on players new to the top of the search results. This week, there are two new names that will be of varying interest in fantasy leagues.
Earlier this week, I took my sons to the nearby dollar store. My older son wanted to buy the last two surprise mini-figurines there, who would be unknown until after we purchased. He was excited that one of the figurines turned out to be Elias Pettersson. When I asked him who the other player was, he said it was some Montreal player that he'd never heard of with a long name. Although my son probably won't read this entire article or even this section (he's more of a hardcore video game player than hockey fan), this is perfect timing for me to tell you about that player.
Coincidentally, Kotkaniemi and Pettersson had a meeting last season that Canucks fans may remember for the wrong reasons. No, I don’t think my son will be trying to re-enact that hit with his figurines.
Recent news on the Canadiens has Kotkaniemi reporting for camp after spending time in Finland recovering from a March spleen injury (TSN). Kotkaniemi had been sent to the AHL at the end of January, so it's not certain where he would fit into the Habs lineup for their play-in series against Pittsburgh. For what it's worth, the 2018 third overall pick was a point-per-game player in the AHL (13 points in 13 games) before the injury. At the very least, it seems as though he'll be available if Claude Julien wishes to use him.
After a rookie season in which he scored 34 points (11g-23a) in 79 games, Kotkaniemi fell victim to the sophomore slump with just eight points (6g-2a) in 36 games. Before declaring Kotkaniemi a bust or jumping to the conclusion that the Habs passed on better players in the draft (eg. Quinn Hughes), remember that Kotkaniemi went straight to the NHL after his draft season and will only turn 20 in a matter of days. Although someone like Nick Suzuki might be a young center with higher upside on the same roster, the Habs will still have very high hopes for a player that they drafted third overall just two summers ago.
Pulock has been the top-scoring Islanders defenseman the past two seasons, yet he did not lead the Islanders in power-play time among defensemen. Devon Toews (2:14 PPTOI) spent more time on the first-unit power play than Pulock (01:46 PPTOI), even though Pulock (8 PPP) outscored Toews (6 PPP) on the power play.
I wonder if this is a possible "handedness" issue. Pulock is a right-handed shot, while Toews is a left-handed shot. On the Islanders' power-play videos I could find, the Isles seem to position either Mathew Barzal or Jordan Eberle at or near the point. Both Barzal and Eberle are right-handed shots, hence using the left-handed Toews as the one defenseman. One example is below at about the 1:38 mark.
(On a side note, I like watching Barzal. This isn't the first time I've posted a video of one of his highlights.)
The Islanders' power play could be due for a reconfiguration, though. It finished the season with a 17.3% success rate, which was 24th among 31 teams. The Islanders as a team also finished 31st (dead last) in overall power-play time and 30th with 29 power-play goals, so they're also not receiving a ton of power-play opportunities to start with. So even a bump to the first unit may not help Pulock's value a great deal. Barzal led the team with 12 power-play points, but he didn't even finish in the top 100 in the league in that category.
Earlier in the week I was bored, so I took Dobber's advice and paid a visit to the Forum. I stumbled upon a playoff pool with an interesting twist, which was that each participant could choose one player from each of the 24 remaining teams. No adds, drops, or trades, and all players will remain on each roster at all times.
Since the draft is in the Forum, you can follow along with the draft and read more about it here. I'll provide updates in the Ramblings as well, as well as commentary on each of my picks. At the time of writing, we haven’t quite completed Round 1 yet.
- Nathan MacKinnon – Avalanche
- Nikita Kucherov – Lightning
- David Pastrnak – Bruins
- Connor McDavid – Oilers
- Leon Draisaitl – Oilers (my pick)
- Brad Marchand – Bruins
- Sidney Crosby – Penguins
- Patrice Bergeron – Bruins
I'll explain my rationale for picking Draisaitl in this spot. For starters, he was the Art Ross Trophy winner as the league's leading scorer, and a good 13 points ahead of second-place finisher and teammate McDavid (picked one spot earlier). That has to count for something, even if the Stanley Cup betting odds are better for Colorado, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Pittsburgh (Oddsshark).
I'm not sure about the Oilers' ability to advance through the playoffs, but I'd have to think with the long layoff and unusual situation that it's anyone's guess which teams will be more successful. Maybe, just maybe, Edmonton's role as a hub city helps McDavid and Draisaitl in some way. It won't be in the sense of typical home-ice advantage, since there won't be any fans, and players from the local team will also be staying in a hotel. Maybe with familiarity with local amenities, but we won't be talking about teams entering a hostile environment or anything like that.
Whether playoff games are actually played or not, I'm looking forward to the rest of this draft, as it gives me something to do fantasy hockey wise!
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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