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. It’s now officially official. The NHL and NHLPA have voted to accept the new CBA and the return-to-play plan. Barring a massive COVID-19 outbreak either in the bubble or nearby, we will witness playoff hockey in less than a month. Training camps will open on Monday, with teams travelling to the hub cities on July 26. After months of virtually nothing to talk about, the stretch from August onward could be very jam-packed with hockey news both on and off the ice. Weekday daytime hockey may not be ideal, but it’s better than what we’ve had the past few months.
Here are key dates per NHL Public Relations:
– July 13: Training camps open
– July 26: Travel to Hub City
– July 28-30: Exhibition Games
– August 1: Stanley Cup Qualifiers Begin
– August 10*: Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery
– August 11: First Round Begins
– August 25*: Second Round Begins
– September 8*: Conference Finals Begin
– September 22*: Stanley Cup Final Begins
– October 4*: Last Possible Day of Final
– October 9-10*: 2020 NHL Draft
2. Player opt-outs have to be submitted by 5 p.m. ET on Monday. I don’t think there will be a ton of players that will go this route, even though just over 20 percent of players voted against the full CBA and RTP package. Travis Hamonic was one of the first, as he informed the Flames on Friday that he will opt out due to family reasons. In a statement, Hamonic attributed his daughter’s battle last year with respiratory virus. For that reason, I can wholeheartedly respect Hamonic’s decision here. (july11)
3. Thinking of the Lindy Ruff coaching hire, something else came to mind: where does Ty Smith stand?
I ask this because P.K. Subban is the obvious bounce-back candidate on the blue line. If he does bounce back, he’s a top candidate for power-play minutes, as are Damon Severson and Will Butcher. If we expect the Devils to be a low-scoring team – or not among the top-10 anyway – then their blue line probably needs PP exposure to have relevance in a lot of fantasy leagues. Just think of guys like Dante Fabbro or Victor Mete. Both of their teams were middle-of-the-pack scoring-wise, but both were stuffed down the depth chart for PP minutes, and so they had very middling production totals. (Fabbro was playing 19 minutes a night.)
4. If you’re not playing top PP minutes (Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes), you need a high-scoring team (Mikhail Sergachev) to have a good chance at being fantasy-relevant as a defenseman. New Jersey will almost certainly not be high-scoring, so does Smith get PP duties out of the gate next year? I like to think he at least has a chance, given how things went for the team last year. What’s the worst that could happen, they’re a lottery team again? It's a rebuild.
Our own Prospects Report made note that the Devils management (who just had the interim tag taken off) said that Smith may spend time in the AHL next year. It seems like their plan may be if he doesn’t blow the doors off at training camp, he’s in the AHL to start the season. We have months to talk about this. (july10)
5. One prospect who also caught my eye while perusing the Prospect Report was Minnesota’s goalie Kaapo Kahkonen. I didn’t realize how good his AHL season was (that’s why reading the Prospect Report is so invaluable): Most Outstanding Goalie and First Team All-Star. He even got a handful of games with the team.
Kahkonen turns 24 years old in August, has two AHL seasons under his belt, and his latest was superb. Our Report indicates that he could be a full-time NHLer by 2021-22. I think it may be next year. The Wild have a worse save percentage over the last two years than the Kings do, and there does seem to be a youth movement underway. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kahkonen in the NHL next year, even if it’s as a 30-start backup. It would get his feet wet before Devan Dubnyk's contract runs out at the end of 2020-21. (july10)
6. We had a lot of important nuggets drop late Wednesday and into Thursday and I want to discuss them one by one. Some have a fantasy impact while others are more to hockey in general. I lifted them from Bob McKenzie’s Twitter feed. See just below for one of them – regarding next year's cap – and click here for the others. (july10)
7. So, the cap? It will remain flat next year and our own Alex MacLean wrote about what this means for your teams and your leagues in his ‘Capped’ column yesterday. He’s much better with this stuff than me, so I would go read his analysis. But this is going to make for a wild offseason, whenever that happens. For example:
- Tampa Bay will have $5.5M in cap space with Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak, and Anthony Cirelli to sign. There are going to be several moves made here.
- Toronto has less than $5M in space and though they don’t have big ticket signings to make, they have to fill out the bottom of the roster and Tyson Barrie is UFA. That means he walks, and a lot of kids filling the depth next season.
- Colorado will have over $21M in cap space with no big signings to make. It’s guys like Andre Burakovsky, Matt Nieto, Tyson Jost, Valeri Nichushkin, and Ryan Graves. They could be big players in the trade/free agent market, which is a scary thought.
- St. Louis is pushed up against the cap (less than $2M in space) and has to sign Alex Pietrangelo. If they do sign him (they will), it’ll probably be anywhere from $8M-$10M a season. They’re going to have to make a lot of moves.
There are teams like this all across the league. Some have a ton of space, some have none. With no reprieve coming, a lot of players are going to be moved this offseason. There’s no other way for teams to deal with the crunch. It’s going to be the wild west. (july10)
8. To me, Charlie Coyle has the potential of being a big playoff performer. He had 17 points in his final 27 games, which is over a 50-point pace. That might not seem great, but he was playing often with the top PP unit towards the end of the season, and he averaged 18:34 of total TOI in his final 10 games. I don’t care what line he’s playing on at even strength, if he’s playing over 18 minutes a night and is on the top PP unit for Boston, he has a lot of production potential. (july9)
9. Every player should be fresh for the play-in tournament, but none more so than Vladimir Tarasenko, who was set to return from IR (shoulder) not long after the season was paused. At this point, the downside might be rust, as Tarasenko has not played in a game since October 24. He will have the benefit of round-robin games to get settled in, though. (july5)
10. I want to mention the rise of Robert Thomas‘s ice time. The first two quarters of the 2019-20 season saw TOI rates of 13:43 and 13:59. The latter two quarters rose to 15:22 and 15:47. In fact, in their five games in March, Thomas was fifth among the Blues' forwards in 5-on-5 TOI per game, and he had often been skating on a line with David Perron and Zach Sanford, or down on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen.
My hope is that Thomas stays on the second line and they run something like Jaden Schwartz–Ryan O’Reilly–Vlad Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn-Thomas-Perron. Thomas has really picked up his game since he entered the league and I think he’s on the cusp of a breakout playoff performance. (july9)
11. In the weeks before the season was suspended, the Stars’ most frequent line combination saw a top line of Jamie Benn–Tyler Seguin–Corey Perry. I get that people want to buy into a Seguin turnaround, seeing as he put up his worst season (by pace) since he got to Dallas, but those aren’t the linemates to do it with. The Stars play a deliberately slow pace for a reason and getting saddled with two past-their-prime wingers isn’t the key to this treasure hunt.
It’s also necessary to note that they had largely gone with stacking the top PP unit with Alex Radulov-Seguin-Benn-Pavelski. There had been times that guys like Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson moved up, but this is what they had settled on for the stretch run.
Therein lies the problem. The known guys are going to get the PP time – or at least they look like they should – but the 5-on-5 line combinations and pace of play greatly limit upside. I understand wanting to pick from teams that have a bye, but honestly, I’d rather stack guys from Carolina or something. Buyer beware. (july8)
12. One pair that played often together before the season was suspended was Flyers' Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny. Their left winger rotated – Joel Farabee and Scott Laughton being the two most popular – but those two stayed together. On top of that, Konecny was stapled to the top PP unit alongside their top even strength line. When everyone else is loading up on lesser teams and lesser players, maybe take advantage of a Flyers team without much fanfare? Might I interest you in one slightly used Konecny? (july8)
13. I want to mention John Carlson because I think a lot of people will look at his season and assume it was just some massive power-play binge that got him to 75 points in 69 games. That’s part of it, but there’s nothing sinister here, I think. This is what I mean.
Carlson came in seventh by IPP at 5-on-4 in 2019-20 at 77.8 percent. That is undoubtedly high, as we’ve demonstrated. But the fact is he posted 70.7 percent last year, 73.7 percent two years before that, 80 percent in 2014-15, and 77.8 percent way back in 2011-12. Yes, the 77.8 percent this year was high, but it wasn’t even the highest of his career, and he has several instances over 70 percent. He’s a good puckhandler, and the Caps trust him to do just that.
Had he played 82 games this year, Carlson was on pace for 31 PPPs. Last year, he finished with 33 in 80 games, and 32 in 82 games the year before. Yes, Carlson’s IPP and all that was high, but the end result was basically the same. The Caps actually scored a three-year low in goals/60 minutes at 5-on-4 with Carlson on the ice this year, so if that rebounds, it could be a situation like Burns: the IPP declines, but the rising goal rate largely offsets any production losses.
Carlson’s production will decline next year, but it won’t be largely due to the power play. (july7)
14. In one of the more surprising trades during the 2019 offseason, the Leafs acquired Tyson Barrie from the Avalanche (Fantasy Take here), giving them two defenseman that could run the first-unit power play. As you may have expected, the production for both defensemen declined significantly (by at least 0.2 PTS/GP). Neither Barrie nor Morgan Rielly could grab a firm hold of the PP1 job, effectively eating into the other’s value. To add injury to insult, Rielly missed two months with a foot injury, with his season ending at just 27 points in 47 games. He was a 72-point defenseman the season before.
The good news for Rielly keeper owners is that Barrie is a UFA after the season, and the cap-strapped Leafs probably won’t be in a position to fit him in. When we write that Fantasy Take piece of Barrie signing with Team Other Than The Leafs, Rielly might be at the top of the list of Players This Helps. This by itself is one reason that Rielly is a great buy-low candidate for a keeper-league owner that was frustrated with the lack of production last season.
Another reason to buy low are some advanced stats metrics that show that Rielly was the victim of some serious bad luck, as well. With just three goals in 2019-20 after scoring 20 the season before, Rielly’s shooting percentage dipped from 9.0% to 2.4%. The 9.0% would be much higher than normal, as Rielly shouldn’t be counted on to score 20 goals. Ten (10) goals might be a more reasonable target, but that goal total has nowhere to go but up. In addition, his IPP of 38% was quite low relative to the 50-52% he had reached the previous two seasons.
Rielly is currently at #69 on the Top 100 Roto Rankings. That might be a bit high, given his production from last season. Yet considering that he had fallen from #34 from September and that he’s a great bounce-back candidate, I’m fine with leaving him at around that spot noting the injuries, unlucky advanced stats, and possible Barrie departure. (july11)
15. @Mawesome21 asked: Domi vs R. Strome?
Max Domi seems like a safer play and has more of the ability to produce on his own, whereas Ryan Strome is more of a boom-or-bust guy who relies on Artemi Panarin. Put me down for the boom-or-bust guy. I'm confident he'll have Panarin on his wing for the foreseeable future. The Compare tool. (july6)
16. @joncharles500 asked: Fiala vs Ehlers?
I think Nik Ehlers‘ upside is at a point-per-game and there was a time where I believed that Kevin Fiala‘s was maybe 70 points. But seeing Fiala in the second half last season has me firmly in his corner now. He is ready to take off. This flies against where I have them in the rankings (see the Compare tool), but their ranking is close and I’m just telling you my hunch – Fiala is the better own. (july6)
17. @MickMurphy71 asked: Kahun vs Mikheyev – now that Mikheyev is healthy – most points next season?
Dominik Kahun looked good in Buffalo, posting four points in six games despite limited minutes. I don’t know if he will ever be a 50-point player and would certainly need a lot of luck to get there, such as playing with Jack Eichel. But Ilya Mikheyev, to me, is a rapidly-improving player who seems hell-bent on not only becoming a 50-point player regardless of who he plays with, but at his rate of development I wonder how high he can go. I like Mikheyev for next season and I love Mikheyev for beyond next season. I’m excited to see how much he improves over the next 12 months. (july6)
18. @elCobronte asked: Borgstrom vs Denisenko, is there room for both in FLA?
I think this is Grigori Denisenko all the way. I think he has higher upside, and frankly I think he’s closer to being NHL ready. There is room for both players, but it remains to be seen what kind of niche Henrik Borgstrom carves out. He needs to flourish in the AHL offensively this season and if he doesn’t, then he may end up being a third-liner. (july6)
19. @thewritestart asked: Virtanen vs DeBrusk?
I love how Jake Virtanen‘s production has steadily progressed (0.27, 0.36, 0.52 points-per-game year over year). As a bigger forward, I don’t expect him to come into his own for two or three years yet. In the meantime, I expect steady progression. But Jake DeBrusk is at his Breakout Threshold (200 games) right now. Next season could and should be his breakout year. But what is a breakout for DeBrusk? I don’t think it will be 60 points, so let’s call it mid-50s. I think he’s your better option for next season, and possibly the one after that. But three seasons from now, and beyond, I lean towards Virtanen. Here is the Player Compare tool for them. (july6)
20. As you know, July 1 this year was much more understated for us than it has been in previous years. We had socially distant Canada Day celebrations with no Free Agent Frenzy broadcasts on TSN, Sportsnet, or the NHL Network. So, maybe this is a good time to take a trip down memory lane and revisit a couple of the biggest signings of July 1 last year and how they’ve worked out for the various teams thus far. (You can also read up on a couple more by clicking here.)
Teams are usually spending out of control that day, and the majority of signings don’t provide great value. Yet some signings can work out for teams, no matter what the price. Rather than focus on the dollar amount of the deal, I’ll look at whether the player’s fantasy value has increased or decreased with the move.
Panarin was the big fish on July 1, and he did not disappoint. In just 69 games, he racked up 95 points, which was good for fourth in league scoring. That would have put him on pace for 113 points over a full 82-game season. Only Connor McDavid has a higher cap hit at the moment, so there wasn’t a whole lot of room for error for Panarin here. Still, 2019-20 turned out to his best season, and his point totals have only improved from Chicago to Columbus to New York.
Panarin will have a tough act to follow, given the kind of season that he had. Keep in mind that his 12.2 5-on-5 SH% and 1054 PDO are slightly higher than normal, so a bit of regression should be expected here. Yet on an up-and-coming Rangers squad, he is primed to do more damage. Could a big-ticket free agent actually be worth the money? So far, he’s been a major hit on Broadway. (july5)
Also writing on this one, I had an inkling that Pavelski wouldn’t be as successful in Big D as he was in San Jose. I just didn’t think he’d fall as much as he did. Some regression should have been expected after 2018-19, when Pavelski scored 38 goals while taking under 200 shots (20.2 SH%). His goal total was cut in half (14 goals in 67 games), while over 82 games he was on pace for under 40 points.
I described Dallas as a one-line team prior to the Pavelski signing. Yet instead of improving its scoring, Dallas regressed to a bottom-third offense with only one player (Tyler Seguin) reaching at least 40 points. This lack of scoring didn’t seem to hurt the Stars that much, as a defense-first system has pushed them into a round-of-16 playoff spot.
Like Duchene, Pavelski might have had a bit of bad luck in his first season with a new team. His 1.6 PTS/60 and 50 IPP were slightly lower than expected, and some better line combinations might help him rebound a bit. However, Pavelski is now 35 years old and on a less offensive-minded team than the Sharks, so bet the under on 30 goals and 60 points going forward. (july5)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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