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. I think Nick Suzuki is poised to top 65 points next year, or at least come close. He had 32 points in his last 51 games during the season, and was – most of the time aside from a couple of quiet games – Montreal’s best forward during the playoffs.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi started out the playoffs and play-in with a splash, but kinda faded away towards the end. But he proved that he’s ready to stay in the NHL for good. The points may take a couple of years though. (aug24)
But let’s be honest: Montreal had zero players reach 25 goals this year and no one outside their top line reached 20. They also did not have a single player reach 15 power-play points. That should kind of drive home just how offensively challenged this team is.
This team needs gamebreakers. Every successful team has them. The closest a recent Cup team would have gotten without a true game-changing player is St. Louis, and even then, Ryan O’Reilly is comparable to Patrice Bergeron and Vladimir Tarasenko is a top-end scoring winger. Suzuki, if all breaks right, might be an O'Reilly in the making. Cole Caufield, if all breaks right, might be a Tarasenko in the making. Those are still maybes, at the moment. I do think Suzuki looks every bit the future No.1 center the Habs need, and that’s a great thing. But they need help on the wings, and they likely need more than Caufield. (aug26)
2. An interesting tidbit from Jeremy Rutherford over at The Athletic. In his piece about Alex Pietrangelo‘s future, he says the belief is that Petro asked for less than what Roman Josi got (eight years at roughly $9.1M per) but that St. Louis hasn’t offered anything above $8M. I just find it interesting because it gives us a baseline on what teams can expect for an ask should he not return to St. Louis. I suspect that NTC/NMC might change things a bit. All the same, I was expecting somewhere closer to Drew Doughty ($11M AAV) rather than Victor Hedman ($7.9M AAV). This may not cost a team as much as we thought. (aug28)
3. The Arizona Coyotes must forfeit their 2020 second-round pick in this year’s draft and their 2021 first-round pick in next year’s draft for violating rules of the NHL Combine. Basically, the Coyotes were testing players before they were allowed. The rules allow leeway from the Commissioner as to what the punishment should be, and he decided to levy them against the team rather than any individual.
This is brutal for Arizona. My assumption is Taylor Hall is not re-signing, but even with the conditions of his trade, they have no first-round picks in either of the next two drafts, are going to be missing at least one second-round pick, and there are a couple nice prospects on the way but it’s not enough. They’re also cap-strapped. This team needs a big injection of talent and they’re not going to get it for years. Good luck, Yotes fans. (aug27)
4. Moving forward, a big question for the Hurricanes will be the veterans, namely Jordan Staal and Justin Williams. As it is, Williams sat out most of the regular season before joining in mid-January. Where his future stands is uncertain. Staal, meanwhile, will be 32 years old for next season, and it’s a wonder if he can keep taking top matchups every shift, every night.
Carolina was a top-10 team in the league this year. Their core is all under 30 years old, and most of them under 25. A good chunk of that core (Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce) are all signed for at least three more years. They have, at minimum, one impact prospect who is ready to debut next season (Jake Bean) and possibly a couple others if their development accelerates (Ryan Suzuki, Dominik Bokk). This is absolutely a team that has a Cup window open for years, but the years go by quickly. This was a weird playoffs, so they’ll get a mulligan, but they need to keep striking when the iron is hot. No need to mortgage the future but they need to keep up their momentum. (aug26)
5. The big news on Tuesday was Kasperi Kapanen being traded back to Pittsburgh, the team that originally drafted him, for Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-round pick (15th overall). There were other pieces on both sides and Cam Robinson had the full breakdown of the trade here.
Said Mike Clifford: I have a lot of hope for Kapanen. I know we say that about every player that ends up in Pittsburgh, but he ranked well from 2016-19 in things like shot assists, shots, and possession entries.
In his recap of the trade, Cam mentioned Kevin Fiala as a young guy who had had some success but found another gear in another locale. It’s a fair comparison for the most part, though I don’t think Kapanen has similar upside. Fiala had 58 points in 68 games this year, including the postseason, and did so playing with a 35-year old Eric Staal and rotating cast of non-top-line left wingers (depending how one views Zach Parise in 2020). Put Fiala in a situation like Kapanen found himself in Toronto’s top-6 (before 2019-20), and he could probably push a point-per-game pace. I don’t know if Kapanen has that high of upside in him, even in Pittsburgh.
The thing with Kapanen’s value in Steeltown is this: let’s say he does have an amazing season with either Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby, does he get regular top PP minutes? There is Crosby-Malkin-Jake Guentzel–Kris Letang. That leaves one spot for the likes of Jason Zucker, Bryan Rust, Justin Schultz, Patric Hornqvist, and now, Kapanen. I’m sure he gets some time there over the year. Does he get 200+ minutes on the top PP unit? I very much doubt it, and that’s another thing that Kaps his upside.
The Swedish winger is going to be a good addition for them, even if it’s an overpay. His issue is he may not get the opportunities necessary to make him a coveted fantasy option. If he can repeat his 2018-19 season – something around 20 goals and 45 points – that would be a successful season. He is good for a couple shots and a hit per game, too, so that’ll play in multi-cat leagues. Just don’t expect 30-goal seasons on the reg. (aug27)
6. Said Ian Gooding: I don’t really have much to add to it, except to say that you might want to wait a bit before adding lots of Kapanen stock. There’s still lots of offseason to go before we know what the 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins will look like.
As it stands now, the trade will help Kapanen’s value. However, the Penguins might not be done, as they will likely be trading either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry. They might be better off acquiring a defenseman (ideally, to replace Jack Johnson) than a forward, but it appears that GM Jim Rutherford is intent on loading up in any possible way for at least one more run with the Crosby/Malkin core. Trying to upgrade Nick Bjugstad or Jared McCann are other possibilities that may happen this offseason. (aug29)
7. The Bruins have an interesting situation brewing in net. A couple of months ago, they extended Jaro Halak for one year. They have Tuukka Rask for one more season, as well. Dan Vladar, who just signed a three-year extension, now makes three. The crux here is that for the Seattle expansion draft, the club must have at least one netminder under contract for the 2021-22 campaign. The Bruins do now.
My guess is that they're not too keen to lose the 6-5, 23-year-old Czech, though. Vladar posted a 0.936 save percentage in 25 AHL contests this past season – tops in the league.
Rask has already spoken about retiring at the end of his deal. 35-year-old Halak isn't your long term plan. The club does have a kid by the name of Jeremy Swayman who had a tremendous final NCAA season and is turning pro. But that's a can that'll need to be kicked around for a bit before it's ready. Vladar sure looks like the heir apparent to the Bruins crease at this moment. (aug25)
8. I want to talk about Alex Tuch for a minute. Here’s a 6-4 power winger who can absolutely fly. He also has a history of scoring at an impressive clip. While big men usually take a little longer to break out, he’s hitting that sweet sweet 240 career-game threshold as we speak and looks deadly on a fast and fun third line for the Golden Knights.
He also struggled through the worst season of his young career in 2019-20. A lower-body injury ended his regular season before COVID has a chance. But he fell off from a 22-goal, 58 point pace in ’18-19 to a 16-goal, 33-point pace this past year. So, what happened?
Well, he lost two minutes per night – 45 seconds of which were power-play time. On top of that, his PDO of 955 was the lowest on the Vegas’ squad – indicating luck was not on his side. Finally, his even-strength and total shooting percentages fell by three or more percent.
He posted seven points in his first nine playoff games with an extra minute of ice – 30 seconds of which is coming on PP2. There are signs here.
Without an avenue to the top-six or top power-play unit, it’s unlikely we see him spike to a degree that will make you kick yourself for missing out on him. However, he could blow past a guy like Reilly Smith who has two more seasons left on his deal while the younger, Tuch has six more. Then watch out. (aug25)
9. Nashville has loaned Eeli Tolvanen back to Jokerit of the KHL until their 2020-21 training camp begins in November.
On paper, this is a great move. Tolvanen experienced by far his most success as a player while skating for the sole Finnish club in Russia’s top tier. It was there that he recorded 19 goals and 36 points in 49 games as a 19-year-old – terrific production for a teen at that level.
Perhaps a spin back on the top line and top PP back home will reignite his scoring prowess. (aug25)
10. Detroit signed 24-year-old center, Robbi Fabbri to a two-year deal worth 2.95M per season. Talk about a nice low-risk move by the Red Wings. Fabbri has long been a player with immense upside. The 24-year-old, former 21st overall selection appeared to have first-line upside if it weren’t for those damn meddling injuries.
Well, he was healthy in his brief stint with Detroit and began to inspire the thought that maybe he could be a useful top-six guy. He recorded 31 points in 52 games for Detroit playing around the lineup but seeing the most time next to Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi. That was due to Anthony Mantha‘s lengthy trip to the IR, so don’t expect that spot to remain. However, a 2C role beside a burgeoning Filip Zadina wouldn’t be the worst place to be.
I’m cautiously optimistic that he could push 40-plus next season with some room for a bit more. (aug25)
11. Alex Nylander was a healthy scratch in the last game of the Hawks’ Round 1 series, after going eight postseason games without a point. The 22-year-old made the Blackhawks and started off pretty well, but then faded in December and January finishing the regular season with five points in five games. About a third of Nylander’s 26 points came while playing with Patrick Kane despite just 18% of his shifts with him. (aug24)
12. Phil Kessel really had me wondering there for a minute. He had four points in the four games of the play-in round. But then my judgment of his career decline was justified as he was completely shut out by the Avalanche (five games) and his ice time was chopped by four or five shifts in each of the last three games. He has 44 points in his last 83 regular season and playoff contests. He still has two years left on his contract at an AAV of $8 million. (aug24)
13. Very worried about Vincent Trocheck for fantasy leagues. After five months off, he came back and managed just two points in eight games. He wasn’t put on the top line (and yet Jordan Martinook was?). Not that you were considering him after back-to-back seasons with points in the 30s, but he’s 27 and in his prime and has had a long layoff to recover from any lingering injury concerns. (aug24)
14. Oliver Bjorkstrand really disappointed me with his production during the playoffs – and he played with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexandre Texier in the first round. His linemates won’t get better than that. I still think he’s going to be a superstar in the NHL, but early in his career I think he’ll struggle to figure out playoff hockey. (aug24)
15. Joonas Korpisalo has earned the right to start next season as the No.1 guy. Elvis Merzlikins is the better goaltender. But in the end, the top guy has to lose the job. And under John Tortorella’s coaching system that revolves around weaker forwards and elite defenders – it’s going to be tough for a goalie to lose that job. Another injury to Korpisalo needs to happen in order for Elvis to get another shot at showing what he can do. (aug24)
16. Erik Gustafsson had three points in the Flames’ first five postseason/play-in games, plus another point that was later taken away from him. But then going pointless in the next five games despite all that PP time was disappointing. Where he signs – and for how much – will tell me his odds of rebounding. Defensemen who get 60 points don’t grow on trees and it was just one bad year. But I have be honest with you, I don’t have a lot of hope here. (aug24)
17. The Caps said that it would be tough for them to re-sign Braden Holtby. I say there’s no way that happens – he’s gone. So get Ilya Samsonov while you can. The Caps may sign a cheaper but experienced goalie to take the pressure off the youngster. I’m thinking Corey Crawford, Craig Anderson, Thomas Greiss or Brian Elliott. (aug24)
18. I suspect that in 2020-21, T.J. Oshie‘s decline begins. He will turn 34 about a dozen games into next season. He showed signs of slowing later in this past season, and his playoff output was just three points in eight games. Oshie has five years left on his contract, and I have a nagging worry that the last four of those years will be the next contract joke. At least the Caps got three great years from his contract, plus next year will be “okay”. But man, signing players who are over the age of 30 to eight-year contracts would just be a personal no-no for me if I were a GM. Dobber for GM! (aug24)
19. The biggest fantasy thing with the Blues is the status of Vladimir Tarasenko. He underwent another shoulder surgery and the timeline for re-assessment is late January. Should the NHL manage to start the regular season in early December as they hope, that means Tarasenko would miss at least a third of the regular season. The later the NHL starts, the better for Tank. The timing of 2020-21 drafts will fluctuate his value a lot. (aug27)
Long term, it’s also worth mentioning that this is Tarasenko’s third surgery on the same shoulder in just over two years. The worst-case scenario is, of course, that he is forced to retire. After that (and a more likely scenario) is that he’s simply not the same player once he returns. To get the shoulder right, Tank could also be looking at considerable time beyond the initial five months for rehabilitation, which could put him out of action for the entire 2020-21 season. Him returning at 100 percent for the start of the season doesn’t seem possible here. (aug29)
20. Fantasy owners looking to get a leg up might be wondering which Blues might benefit from Tarasenko’s absence. As far as Blues that will continue to benefit, we can start with David Perron with top-line duties and power-play time. During the Blues’ first-series with the Canucks, one forward that I saw more often than I thought I would was Zach Sanford. Over a full season, Sanford would have reached 40 points, with his most frequent even-strength linemates being Perron and Ryan O’Reilly.
It remains to be seen whether Sanford’s spot on the O’Reilly/Perron line continues, as both Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou will be knocking on the door for a more expanded role. Thomas in particular has the potential for a serious breakout, as he was on a 50-point pace with mainly bottom-6 even-strength linemates. It might take a move to the wing to make that happen, but his 2.6 PTS/60 suggest that he should be in the top 6 in some way, shape, or form. (By comparison, Sanford was 2.3 PTS/60.) (aug29)
21. The close second in terms of fantasy questions for the Blues is the Jake Allen vs. Jordan Binnington situation. Winnington was, to be frank, terrible. His playoffs were terrible and his regular season was below average. And that’s worrisome because he wasn’t exactly an elite prospect to begin with. He was a good prospect who was fading quickly and most of us, myself included, had written him off by the time last season began as having any kind of an NHL career. Then the magic happened.
So, was he just pulling an Andrew Hammond? The Blues are a great team and they can win a Cup if they just had average goaltending. Binnington came in and gave them that. But in 2019-20 he did not. However, and I can’t believe I’m saying this – Allen did. In a backup role, with zero pressure, Allen was actually a good goaltender. My hunch is that Binnington will get the nod as the No.1 goalie to start 2020-21, but by the 25th game he will have ceded the job to Allen. But as No.1 again, will Allen fold like a rusty chair? I can’t say I trust him, but I think we’ll get a chance to see the answer. (aug24)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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