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. Shea Theodore has been a monster for Vegas. This cat is ready to explode in fantasy next season. Three straight seasons of improved goal, point, and shot totals. And now this magnificent playoff run. The recently-turned 25-year-old offers significant value despite Vegas often splitting up their power-play units. Get him early.
2. When I speak of Vegas' depth, I’m referring to someone like Alex Tuch. On many other teams, he’d be in the top-6. Yet, on a deep Vegas roster, his most frequent linemates have been Nick Cousins and Nicolas Roy. They’re talented players in their own right, but definitely not top-liners. I’m surprised Tuch doesn’t score more often, considering his breakneck speed and ability to find openings. But this comes back to the fact that he's on the third line. If he can find his way onto one of the two big lines, look out. (aug30)
3. I’m not sure if this is common knowledge among the Dobber audience, but Vegas will be exempt from the Seattle expansion draft. Talk about another break going their way. If any team could handle losing a player in the expansion draft, it would be the Golden Knights. Interesting read from Golden Knights blog The Sin Bin explaining why. (aug30)
4. Andre Burakovsky finished the postseason with over a point per game (17 points in 15 games), so you would have received great mileage from him in your playoff pool in spite of what might be an earlier-than-expected exit from the Avalanche.
Most notably, he led the Avalanche with 5.1 PTS/60. It didn’t hurt that he was moved up to top line with the Gabriel Landeskog injury. With 0.78 PTS/GP during the regular season, Burakovsky is a potential sleeper in next season’s drafts. (sept5)
5. The Stars are putting it together at just the right time with their second-string goalie in Anton Khudobin. And how about that scoring? The Stars are scoring at 3.2 goals per game during the postseason, over half a goal better than they had been scoring during the regular season. Leading the charge is Miro Heiskanen with 21 points in 16 playoff games. With two more assists on Friday, Heiskanen is now riding an eight-game point streak. If Dallas can get to the final, Heiskanen should be a Conn Smythe favorite. (sept5)
6. If you’d never heard of Joel Kiviranta before Friday, you definitely weren’t alone. The undrafted Finnish forward scored one goal in 11 regular-season games. Then he had recorded one assist (with a plus-4) in two postseason games prior to Game 7.
Kiviranta’s insertion into the Dallas lineup as an injury replacement for Andrew Cogliano didn’t generate a ton of buzz before Game 7. Yet all he managed to do was put together a performance for the ages. First, a second-period goal to tie the game at 2. Then, a game-tying goal just 10 seconds after the Avalanche took the lead with less than four minutes in regulation. Then, the overtime winner for the hat trick.
His Dobber Prospects profile doesn’t jump out at you, as he is the fourth-ranked right wing prospect in the Stars organization, but even if his career is uneventful going forward, at least Kivitanta will be known forever to Stars fans as Mr. Game 7. It’s fair to say he’s also earned a spot in the lineup for tonight's Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. (sept5)
7. Now that the Boston Bruins have been eliminated, what might be in their future? There probably won’t be many changes up front, but blueline could look very different next season. Zdeno Chara is now 43 and without a contract, so he might have to contemplate retirement. Torey Krug is a UFA set for a raise, but the Bruins don’t have much coming off the books to make room for that raise. However, there is the flat salary cap, which might limit the lucrative offers to Krug. For the record, Krug stated on Thursday that he is very opposed to accepting a one-year contract.
The Bruins’ window hasn’t slammed shut, but it is closing. Chara is ancient (in NHL years, not human years). Patrice Bergeron is 35. David Krejci is 34. It doesn’t seem like Brad Marchand has been around that long, but he’s now 32. Tuukka Rask, who has been rumored to be considering retirement in the next season or two, is 33. It’s been nearly a decade since the Bruins won their Stanley Cup, so another one with the same core is getting out of reach. (sept4)
8. Nick Ritchie was brought in to provide the Bruins with both scoring and a physical presence, yet he only scored one goal with no assists in eight postseason games while being a healthy scratch for the last three games of the Carolina series. There’s still some potential for Ritchie in bangers leagues since he’s only 24 and is closing in on 300 career regular-season games. Yet, his time with the Bruins so far hasn’t been memorable. (aug30)
9. Tampa Bay has about $6M in signing space with Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak to sign. Even if it were just Cirelli and Sergachev, they’d have to make some nifty trades to make it work. Add in Cernak, and it complicates things further.
I think Cernak is a trade candidate for Tampa. He’s a proven second-pair defensive defenceman and just turned 23 in May. He should fetch a good price in the trade market.
(I think, given the handedness of their other blue liners, that trading Sergachev makes more sense, but I can’t imagine they’re keen on trading him. They’d have to have their doors blown off by a trade offer.) (sept3)
10. Ondrej Palat is benefitting from both time on the top line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov and first-unit power-play time. A Steven Stamkos return at some point might hurt his value, but for now he has the potential to roll alongside Tampa’s big guns. (aug30)
2020-21 GUIDE: Last week I broke ground on the 2020-21 Fantasy Hockey Guide. It’s my 15th Guide. The timeline will be tight this year, with Free Agency opening up on October 9 and the season kicking off December 1 (tentatively). Many of your drafts will be held in late October, so I want to get this guide out as quickly as possible. Which means writing whatever I can in advance. Any analysis of the season that just ended can be done now – pretty much everything up until the final team rosters and injury notes. My projections rely on the actual team makeup, so that part needs to wait. I am targeting a release of October 16 for half the Guide, with the complete version ready by October 30 (or earlier if I can).
Oddly enough, a few leagues out there are actually holding drafts now. And they have pre-ordered my Fantasy Guide…and then wondering why it’s not out yet. I can’t do projections if I don’t know the teams! Where will Braden Holtby sign? Alex Pietrangelo? Taylor Hall? Tyson Barrie? I do appreciate the eagerness, but commissioners: delay your draft. It needs to take place in the offseason, after the NHL Draft and Free Agency.
11. Jim Rutherford effectively said that Justin Schultz has played his last game as a Penguin. The defenceman is set to be a free agent and the team does not have the cap space to keep him around. He’s also not the type of player that Rutherford should be cleaning out cap space for, either.
Injuries are a fickle thing and a player is injury-prone until they’re not. But I think it could be a reason – along with the flat cap – that teams aren’t going to be bidding very highly, or for many years, for Schultz’s services. He’s not a guy that can come in and play 22-23 minutes for 80 games on the top pair. Teams should realistically be expecting 19-20 minutes for 70 games on the second pair.
When Schultz is at his best, he’s a complimentary offensive defenceman, not a core piece of the team. In other words, I think the team that signs him should be a team in their Cup window that needs help on the blue line, not necessarily a big piece. It shouldn’t be a team like Detroit, Ottawa, or Anaheim. Of course, with fewer suitors and a flat cap, maybe Schultz isn’t as expensive as we may think. (sept3)
12. St. Louis has traded goalie Jake Allen to Montreal, along with a seventh-round pick, in exchange for a third- and seventh-round pick. The Habs get a true backup for Carey Price while the Blues get cap space to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo.
Cam Robinson’s fantasy take on the trade can be found here.
As a Habs fan, a third-round pick for what looks to be a non-playoff team (certainly not a contender) for a backup to play 30 games feels like unnecessary spending. When you’re nowhere near being a contender, it doesn’t matter who your backup goalie is. It’s like Bergevin decided to build a car, and he has the chassis, but instead of shopping for his engine, he’s buying rims, and the rims self-destruct in 12 months. Though maybe Allen ends up being flipped at the deadline like Ilya Kovalchuk was.
On a personal note, it's super effing cool seeing someone from my hometown play for the Habs. (sept3)
13. Now that Allen has been traded, Ville Husso should be ready to play his first NHL game next season. This is a positive development for any long-standing Husso keeper owner. By signing Husso to a two-year, one-way contract in January, the Blues have been eyeing a roster spot for Husso for a while and were chomping at the bit to trade Allen. Husso is now 25, which is definitely not old for a goalie, but his age signals that he’s moving out of prospect territory. (sept4)
14. The Florida Panthers have hired Bill Zito to be their new general manager, a few weeks after Dale Tallon was let go. Tallon’s era was marked by a lot of turmoil between hiring, firing, re-hiring and a plethora of terrible moves that sunk a team that had Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad under contract long term for under $20M total per season. Zito is coming in to right the ship.
Zito comes from Columbus where he was an assistant general manager. Realistically, with the aforementioned pieces, he has a decent start. But then there’s also the $26M per season going to Keith Yandle, Anton Stralman, Mike Matheson and Sergei Bobrovsky for the next two years, and the same grouping less Stralman for the next three. It’s a lot of money tied up in players who aren’t worth their level of payment. At least not by raw value. They also have Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Erik Haula as UFAs up front and MacKenzie Weegar as a UFA on the blue line.
This is a team that’s supposed to be in its Cup window and now they have to re-tool on the fly. That’s not easy. Florida is a cap mess and they have two years left on Barkov’s team-friendly deal before he’s up. The clock is ticking.
(I tried to buy out Matheson’s contract on Cap Friendly and that would give the team a cap hit between $1.3M and $2.3M every season for over a decade. Yandle’s is shorter term but it would be a massive hit the year Barkov is due for a raise, which is bad timing. If they can replace Stralman with a near-min player, Stralman’s buyout could save them a couple million each of the next two seasons and then even more savings two seasons beyond that, when they’ll need the money for Barkov and Huberdeau. A Stralman buyout might be one to watch for.) (sept3)
15. Thatcher Demko could only be a brick wall for so long. He made 98 consecutive saves before Shea Theodore finally broke the Golden Knights through with just over six minutes in the third period of Game 7. I counted 123 saves from Games 5-7 for Demko, which was an average of over 40 saves per game and a .985 save percentage over those three games. This was one of the best stretches of playoff goaltending in some time. It’s too bad the team in front of him was thoroughly dominated for much of this series, but the Canucks went about as far as they probably should have.
16. Do we have a brand new goalie controversy in Vancouver? Probably not in the moment, but with word that contract negotiations have been tough between Jacob Markstrom and Canucks and Demko showing he can handle high tensions, it does open up some further discussion.
Demko has always had the unflappable demeanor that I look for when scouting goaltenders. He plays the game like he doesn't have a pulse. He has always had this potential. He needed time to marinate. He needed the opportunity. He’s at the point in his development where he’s ready to roll If you’re going to move on from a talent like Markstrom. Demko is a great bet, but it’s still a bet with risk attached. (sept2)
Signing Markstrom could mean opportunity cost in losing Demko in the Seattle expansion draft next summer (or whenever it is, given the current state of the world), not to mention other free agents like Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev. Keeping Demko means that the Canucks will probably need to shop for a 1B-type goalie, since Demko has never been an NHL starting goalie. (sept4)
17. Vancouvers exceeded my expectations both before the season and before the return-to-play and there’s a very bright future with this core. Many Canucks were brand new to the postseason, but they did not seem out of place at all. Elias Pettersson finished off with 18 points in 17 games. Quinn Hughes recorded 16 points in 17 games. Brock Boeser struggled at times, but he ended up with a respectable 11 points in 17 games. And Markstrom, he finished the postseason with an 8-5-1 record and .919 save percentage.
18. J.T. Miller can definitely hold his head up high when it comes to his performance in the postseason, too – 18 points in 17 games. This is on the heels of 72 points in 69 games in the regular season. Obviously his breakout season, but I honestly think he would have had this one in 2018-19 with Tampa Bay. He started the season off with 14 points in 16 games that year playing on the top line. Then, inexplicably, he was buried deeper in the lineup. And then traded. But this breakout ‘should’ have happened a year before it did. (aug31)
The pick used to acquire the 26-year-old will be at best 20th overall. That deal looked like a bit of an over-payment at the time, but it looks like found money now. He still has three years at 5.25M, too. (sept2)
19. Generally speaking, there aren’t a lot of busts at the top of fantasy hockey drafts. Outside of goalies and injuries, guys generally perform similarly year after year; names like Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin and on and on. They usually bring it season in and season out. It’s the depth that matters.
This year, did you draft Ryan Strome in the 30th round? Good for you! It may have helped you win a fantasy season. Bryan Rust? Alex Killorn? Ryan Graves? Those are the guys that probably won your fantasy season, and not McDavid or Brad Marchand or Sebastian Aho. (sept1)
20. Regarding the Isles' line consisting of Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier: It wouldn’t surprise me if all three of them post around 60 points next season. Nelson’s pace this past season pro-rates to 65, while Bailey’s pace was for 52, after seasons of 56 and 71. Beauvillier was on pace for a 47-point season, which would set career highs. But at just 23 years of age, I think Beauvillier can be the best of all three of them. (aug31)
Between Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Bailey and Beauvillier, the Islanders have their top-6 wingers locked in for a while. That means Beauvillier is in a spot like Jakub Vrana in Washington: he’ll have to replace a proven player to earn more (and better-quality) ice time. That’s not easy for a young player to do. Beyond that, we know that the Islanders like to split their PP units, which means expecting more than maybe 15 PPPs from Beauvillier in any given season is asking too much. (sept3)
21. Brady Keeper was signed to a one-year deal by the Florida Panthers. They said they were impressed with him in the Return to Play and wanted to have him around another year. I’ll say this much: that Panthers blue line is awful and he should have as good a chance as any at earning a depth role. We’ll see how the rest of the off-season shakes out. (sept1)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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