21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

Mario Prata


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. Call me crazy, but I'm ready to take an extra-long look at some young players in playoff pools this summer. The youth factor cannot be overstated in this bizarre world we're living in. The young kids maintain their fitness easier. They're less likely to pull groins, hamstrings, or abdominal walls. They're bouncy and full of unbridled enthusiasm. They haven't been burdened with all of life's bumps in the road.

So, some of the players that we'd normally look at to breakout next season, should have a decent chance of pushing that timeline up a tad.

I'm talking about Anthony Cirelli, Jake DeBrusk, Denis Gurianov, Adam Gaudette, Alex DeBrincat if Chicago can get hot. Players who won't necessarily waltz into top line, top PP roles, but who have the talent and pop in their step to maybe find a way as the rounds move along. Hell, I'd even watch out for a kid like Noah Dobson or Adam Boqvist to snake a top PP gig on the blue line.

Respect the youth this spin around the Cup. (july15)


2. Speaking of the upcoming 2020 playoffs, I expect the most impact fantasy-wise will be with respect to goalies. There’s already been rumblings that teams might not reflexively go with who was considered the #1 (or 1A) goalie during the season, and instead let Phase 2/3 determine the netminder who gets the nod.

Given this, who do I think are most vulnerable? Mainly guys who weren’t clear-cut #1s by the time the season ended, like, off the top of my head, Philipp Grubauer, David Rittich, Petr Mrazek, Pekka Rinne, Mikko Koskinen, Elvis Merzlikins, and Devan Dubnyk. That’s a lot of names! I’d even add guys like Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop, although in both their cases it shouldn’t have a spillover effect into 2020-21 due to their contract sizes. For the others I named though, there could be repercussions into 2020-21; and if you’re in a league that allows trading right now, I might consider dealing one or more of those I named if you think they’re vulnerable to getting passed on the depth chart by a hot playoff goalie. (july14)


3. My picks for surprise players from Western Conference teams will not include any obvious superstars. Only players who I feel will step up their production over the next two-plus months… Below are a few, and you can see the rest by clicking this link. Tomorrow's Monday Ramblings will have my Eastern picks.

Conor Garland, LW, Arizona: He won’t be the top point-getter for the Coyotes, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was in the top three while at the same time leading them in goals (as he did during the season). I’m almost treating this as a new mini-season, given the break between games here. And Garland is the type of player who will make nice strides with each new campaign. He’s a clutch player who steps up when they need it most (six game-winners this season), so the postseason is a chance to put an emphasis on that.

Andrew Mangiapane, LW, Calgary: He saw increasing ice time quarter-by-quarter and increased production quarter-by-quarter, Mangiapane was riding a wave of 17 points in 26 games before the pause. He plays on a line with Matt Tkachuk, who you just know is going to be known as a huge playoff performer in his career. (july13)

Adam Boqvist, D, Chicago: With Erik Gustafsson gone to Calgary, Boqvist becomes the best PP option on the blue line for the Blackhawks. In the postseason, I look to the top PP QB as a potential playoff pool steal because they are often the rare player on the team who actually increases his points-per-game average from that of his regular season.

Shea Theodore, D , Vegas: Another PP quarterback on the list here, Theodore was having a great season tracking for 53 points before it was cut short and he was held to 46. Still, I believe there is another gear yet – and playoff hockey is when we’ll see it. He had 37 points in his last 49 games (62-point pace).

Josh Morrissey, D, Winnipeg: The top six scorers on the Jets are obvious picks and Bryan Little was left off the Phase 3 roster. So, that left Morrissey or Jack Roslovic. I like both of those players, but as a forward Roslovic is buried and will have a hard time climbing out of it during playoff hockey. Whereas Morrissey can easily take the PP QB job back. Yes, I do think Neil Pionk is the PP quarterback to start. Morrissey will get it back eventually (he will, he’s the superior player). But will it happen in these playoffs? That’s my only concern. It’s not impossible to see Pionk getting snakebitten early on while Morrissey enjoys success on the second unit, which eventually moves him back up to the top unit. (july13)


4. For those who are in playoff pools, it was revealed Wednesday that Lars Eller will play for the Capitals against the Tamps Bay Lightning in the play-in round, for a couple of games at least. According to TSN, Eller’s wife is due with the couple’s second child on Aug. 8. The plan is for him to leave to be with his wife for the birth of his child and then get back to Toronto for the series. However, he will then have to quarantine in his hotel room until he has four consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, or 14 days if he comes into contact with someone else who tests positive for the disease. So he could wind up missing a few games.

Eller is normally a sneaky good pick in postseason pools. He had 18 points in 24 games when the Caps won the Cup a couple of years back, and 13 points in 17 games for Montreal during their run to the semis in 2014. (july16)


5. Corey Crawford has been deemed unfit to play in the upcoming play-in round/playoff series. That would put one of Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, or Kevin Lankinen in Chicago's net for the series against Edmonton. It wouldn’t be unprecedented for an unproven goalie to go on a playoff run, but I would have a difficult time picking the Hawks to win this series if Crawford isn’t available. I wrote about Crawford in a May Ramblings, suggesting that his strong pre-COVID-19 shutdown play could make him a threat against the Oilers. (july17)


6. The Mr. Irrelevant of my recent playoff draft was… picked (by me) at 240th overall… Morgan Geekie of the Carolina Hurricanes! I can tell you two things about Geekie: 1) I saw him play as a junior for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL (I had never heard of him at the time, but he looked like a solid player with an easy-to-remember name), and 2) If you go to Frozen Tools and sort by PTS/GP, he appears at the top of the list with 2.0 PTS/GP, thanks to his three goals and assist in only two games. Yes, there’s a minimum game played filter on Frozen Tools, so he doesn’t have to appear at the top of the list if you don’t want him to. For more on Geekie, you can check out his Dobber Prospects profile here. (july17)


7. Vladislav Namestnikov scored four goals and six points in his nine games as an Avalanche after arriving from the Senators at the Trade Deadline. He also spent some time on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Playoff deep sleeper? (july12)


8. Also with the Avs: I noticed that Bowen Byram was skating with the team and I was really considering him as my postseason pool's final-round boom-or-bust pickup in the hopes that he could repeat Cale Makar‘s playoff output from last season. Then I remembered that the Avalanche still have Makar. Oh well, I’d love to see him get into some playoff games. Watching him play for the nearby junior team, I can say that this kid can play. (july12)


9. Among teams that I think have around a 50/50 chance to advance during the upcoming play-ins, Ryan Johansen has been a better player than he's shown, although I wrote more about him here as to why we shouldn’t expect a huge rebound. (july12)


10. I’m hoping Jordan Eberle can show the same playoff magic he did last season, even if the Islanders don’t get very far in the playoffs. Over eight playoff games last season, Eberle scored nine points, including four goals. Eight games in two series means that the Islanders swept in the first round and got swept in the second round. (july12)



If you haven’t already, purchase your DobberHockey 2020 Interactive Playoff Draft List today! As has been the case in previous seasons, you can customize the teams that advance, or if you’re not sure you can go with Dobber’s picks. There will also be updates, based on injuries and updated player news.


11. One of a few signings to note this week: Ducks' Troy Terry. The soon-to-be 23-year-old is coming off a stagnating second ‘half’ season in the league. Anaheim obviously used that leverage to get him at a very reasonable 1.45M per for three seasons.

Terry saw his shooting percentage fall from 16 percent as a rookie to a disgustingly-low five percent this past season. This is a talented player, so let’s go ahead and assume he finds a way back into the middle ground of 10-12 percent.

Look for him to find some consistency with a set of linemates next season rather than bomb around the roster as he did in 2019-20. I like him to jump into a half-point-per-game realm next year with room to blossom further.

This is the type of contract you look back on as a steal of a deal in the final year of it. He’ll be one of those fun 10.2C players at the conclusion too. Meaning he’ll have no arbitration or offer sheet options. Tidy piece of business by the Ducks. (july15)


12. Elsewhere, the Canucks inked their top defensive prospect in Jack Rathbone. The 21-year-old decided to leave Harvard as the NCAA club had already cancelled their fall schedule. The offer to burn a year off of the ELC without playing NHL games this summer turned out to be the sweetener needed to get it done. Rathbone led all college defenders in shots-per-game (3.36) and was third in points-per-game (1.11). He is a dynamic transitional blueliner with pro-plus skating and a wicked shot.

The 5-11, 190-pound lefty could conceivably step into the NHL lineup to begin 2020-21. The left-side on the third-pairing is wide open. Jordie Benn underwhelmed. Oscar Fantanberg is a UFA. Olli Juolevi will likely be his greatest challenge.

Look for Rathbone to develop into something similar to what Sam Girard is to Colorado. While Cale Makar steals the spotlight and the top power-play billing, Girard is quietly very effective in a secondary role. Quinn Hughes will not be supplemented, but Rathbone can carve himself a nice role with the next class of players. (july15)


13. The Panthers signed Grigori Denisenko to a three-year entry-level contract on Wednesday. The former first-round pick from 2018 has the ability to step into a top-six role next year, especially if Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov aren’t re-signed. Denisenko has all the tools to be a stud and should be drafted in keeper pools.

As well, the Islanders signed hot-shot goalie Ilya Sorokin to a one-year deal, while Blackhawks prospect defenseman Ian Mitchell signed his three-year ELC.

Of course, all of these prospects are featured in DobberHockey’s 2020 Fantasy Prospect Report. The report has more than 450 profiles on NHL-drafted prospects, plus another 100 profiles on potential 2020 draft picks. I keep the guide open on my laptop, and anytime there’s news on a prospect or if I am sent a trade offer involving prospects in one of my keeper pools, it’s the first place I turn to. The report is an excellent resource and can be ordered here. (july16)


14. According to a report on Twitter, Jesse Puljujarvi has rejected an offer to play in the KHL next season. Instead, the report said he will only play in Finland or the NHL. The 2016 fourth-overall pick had 53 points in 56 games in Liiga play this year.

Puljujarvi is reminding me of the aforementioned Grigorenko. Drafted high, rushed to the NHL only to be put in a position that makes it difficult for a young player to succeed (less than 12 minutes a night with Milan Lucic and Jujhar Khaira). He needs a fresh start, even if it is some type of hatchet-burying with the Oilers. If not, he could spend another year or two overseas before he gets back to the NHL. (july16)


15. On Monday, I ran a list of the top 10 worst players when it comes to giveaways vs takeaways. By assigning each giveaway a minus-one, and each takeaway a plus-one, we can look at a player's net total to see if he’s better at giving away the puck or getting it back.

Over the past three seasons, Ryan O’Reilly had the best net positive with 134 more takeaways than giveaways. Mark Stone was second with a net of 102 but led the league with 258 takeaways. The rest of the top 10 had a couple of surprises. Jaccob Slavin is the top defenseman with 95 more takeaways than giveaways, while Nick Schmaltz had 90. (july16)


16. I try to look for hidden meanings behind certain stats. I’ll focus on SOG. Of course the belief is the more SOG a player has the better, not just because it’s often its own category in leagues, but also due to the perception that more SOGs means more goals.

Interestingly though, of 29 forwards who fired 200+ SOG this season, five had fewer than 20 goals, nine had 20-29, 10 had 30-39, and the remaining five potted 40+.

Who were those players with under 20 goals but 200+ SOG this season? Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Dylan Larkin, Johnny Gaudreau, and Alex DeBrincat.

Oh, in case you’re wondering where I got all this useful information. It was via the Frozen Tools Report Generator under the “Shots” category, serving as yet another reminder of how invaluable a resource Frozen Tools is! (july14)


17. Lastly, while we’re on the subject of Frozen Tools, this season there was only one team (Boston) who had a top line that skated together for more than 60 percent of even strength shifts. In some cases injuries might’ve led to lower percentages on some teams; but it brings up a key point in fantasy, namely that lines are less set in stone than they were even a couple of years ago. Consequently, if you draft someone based on his expected presence on a scoring line, you could hit a home run but just as easily end up very disappointed if he’s bumped in favor of someone else. In other words, be worried Kailer Yamamoto and Victor Olofsson owners…….

Knowing this, what can be done when it comes to fantasy research? Focus on duos. There’s an nhl.com sub-site I bookmarked a few years ago which I don’t think a lot of people use, and can be accessed here. Only six different reports can be generated, but the key one to me is “Point Pairs,” which lists players who both received a point on a goal scored while they were on the ice. If you restrict it to forwards, you get this data. Are there a lot of surprises? Not at the top, but I definitely didn’t realize Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone had such amazing chemistry. Same for Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz, as well as Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo.

If you’re looking for players who are likely to remain on the same line in 2020-21, this is a resource you want to use. While you’re there, check on the same data for Power Play Point Pairs, as from that you can help figure out who’ll likely stay on the same man advantage unit, which can be just as important. (july14)


18. In case you haven’t heard, it was reported that the Canucks had been discussing a potential Brock Boeser trade. I understand that GMs discuss all kinds of trades involving all kinds of players, and it’s only natural to inquire about another team’s top players. Yet these rumors were far-enough reaching that even Boeser and his teammates were well aware of the situation.

For those asking why on earth the Canucks would trade Boeser, it all boils down to cap space. Jim Benning signed the likes of Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, and Tyler Myers to far more than they’re worth for far too long of a term. He also wants to sign UFAs Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, and Chris Tanev. Out of all of this, Boeser could be the casualty, which is a complete mishandling of valuable cap space. If the Canucks acquire a top-4 defenseman with a reasonable cap hit in return, then it could soften the blow for Canucks fans.

Boeser’s actual value is subject to debate. An optimist would view Boeser as a sniper who will one day make a serious run for 50 goals, with that day possibly coming sooner rather than later. A pessimist would view Boeser as a Band-Aid Boy who has yet to score 30 goals or play 70 games in three NHL seasons. So if the Canucks were to trade Boeser, would they be selling low, or is he only capable of what we’ve seen thus far?

The sobering truth for Boeser owners in the here and now is that Boeser finished the season ice cold. He did not record a point in his last five games, and he did not score a goal in his previous 12 games. That goal drought dates all the way back to January 12, as Boeser missed a month with a rib-cartilage injury, returning for the Canucks’ final game before the shutdown. Boeser finished the season with 16 goals, which would have put him on pace for 20 goals if all of the Canucks’ remaining games had been played and he was in the lineup for them.

There’s a reason that you may want to consider buying low, though. Boeser’s overall shooting percentage of 9.5% is down from his career average of 12.7%, while his IPP of 55.6 this season is lower than his previous seasons of 63.6% and 72.4%. Even with the reduced goal total, Boeser was still on pace for a career high in assists, which are a result of having more scoring threats to pass the puck to now (eg. Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller) than when he started in Vancouver.

Boeser may still have a nagging wrist issue, which is why I can’t be 100 percent that his goal scoring will rebound. It’s also possible that the presence of Tyler Toffoli could push Boeser down the lineup during the play-in round. If Toffoli stays with the Canucks beyond this season, Boeser could also be negatively impacted if he is not traded. All in all, what happens in the Canucks’ offseason will factor into Boeser’s fantasy value. (july18)


19. Maybe it’s trade rumor week here at Dobber Hockey. That’s probably not true, although Johnny Gaudreau is another player who has also been recently discussed with the word “trade” in the same sentence. The Flames are another team that are up against the cap. Gaudreau is coming off a down year, and he has a cap hit of $6.75 million for two more seasons.

Like with Boeser, Gaudreau’s shooting percentage was down in 2019-20. After a 36-goal season with a SH% of 14.7%, Gaudreau scored just 18 goals while shooting at 8.6%. The Flames team scoring was down across the board, as the team fell from third in goals for per game played in 2018-19 to 20th in 2019-20. Look for a key player on the Flames, and his scoring probably fell from 2018-19.

Under new coach Geoff Ward, Gaudreau’s ice time dropped from about 20 minutes per game to just over 18 minutes per game. In case you’re wondering whether the reduced ice time negatively impacted Gaudreau’s production, he actually ended the season on a high note with 20 points in his last 20 games. That after he started the season with 38 points in 50 games. That’s a great sign for Johnny Hockey, who had been a point-per-game player over each of his previous two seasons.

Gaudreau was kept in a separate group from his regular linemates Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm at the opening of camp, which fueled speculation in Calgary that the team was not happy with his conditioning (NHL.com). Playoff poolies who drafted Gaudreau shouldn’t worry, as he should be back with his regular linemates for the play-in series against Winnipeg.

Since Gaudreau is from the eastern United States, there’s going to be speculation that the Flames might accommodate a trade to a place like Philadelphia or New York as long as he’s in Calgary. Whether he is traded or remains with the Flames, Gaudreau will remain a force that can drive offense on his own. He seems like a good bet to return to a point-per-game pace in 2020-21, regardless of team.

For more on Gaudreau and the Flames, listen to Keeping Karlsson’s 31 Beats interview with Flames reporter Kristen Anderson. (july18)


20. Although the Kings were praised for landing Ilya Kovalchuk on July 1st two years ago, it goes without saying that his return to the NHL hasn’t gone as planned. Should that have been a surprise?

Kovalchuk had just turned 35 and had been away from the NHL for five seasons after the Devils got out of their massive contract. This signing is one of numerous reasons that the Kings are now in a rebuilding state, as both the player and team no doubt regret this signing.

About the fantasy value: Kovalchuk started well in LA with 14 points in his first 14 games. Then coach John Stevens was fired, which really hurt Kovalchuk’s value. It didn’t work for Kovalchuk under either Willie Desjardins or Todd McLellan in LA, so his contract was terminated. He then signed the two-way minimum contract with the Habs and looked like a reborn player, scoring 13 points in 22 games. Remember that he was then traded to Washington? Before the league shut down, he played just seven games with the Caps and scored a goal and added three assists. Expect him to provide secondary scoring for the Capitals in the playoffs, but his status after that remains to be seen. (july12)


21. Yes, the Leafs continue to have cap issues resulting from the John Tavares signing, and he may not be exactly the player they need to get over the hump. And yes, Tavares’ point pace (0.95 PTS/GP) this season was his lowest in three seasons. But signing in Toronto may have improved Tavares’ fantasy value simply for the reason that he was able to avoid Barry Trotz’s defense-first system in Long Island.

You see, over those past two seasons, the Islanders have the 24th-ranked offense in the NHL (2.75 GF/GP). Conversely, the Isles scored 3.18 GF/GP in Tavares’ last season. That may have something to do with Tavares leaving, but it definitely has something to do with Trotz changing the style of the team.

We’re not talking about a major increase in value for Tavares. He’ll continue to record his 70+ points per season in Toronto or wherever he plays. The worry with many of these guys is that they get the big contract and then they coast knowing that they’re now set for life. That hasn’t been the case with Tavares, who with a 974 PDO may still improve over last season. It’s the guys that Tavares left in Long Island (eg. Josh Bailey) that have suffered. (july12)


Have a good week, folks be safe!!

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