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. There was a lot of chatter after Brayden Point‘s 5-point game a couple nights ago about his draft. As was often mentioned on social media, he finished with 91 points for Moose Jaw in his draft year, on a roster that was 19th in scoring out of 22 teams. That year, no one else on his team had more than 55 points. For reference, it was the same year Sam Reinhart went second overall out of the WHL (from a team that scored nearly a half-goal more per game than Point’s) and Leon Draisaitl not much later (from a team that scored even more than Reinhart’s). This isn’t ancient history, either. This is from 2014.
It’s a good reminder that stats are only useful if they have context. Sure, Point wasn’t a top-10 scorer in the league in 2013-14, his draft year. But his team was also pretty bad and he was head-and-shoulders above everyone else. That kind of context is important when looking for, say, a future franchise center. (sep10)
2. Not long ago, I was talking with some other hockey writers about Torey Krug‘s future in the NHL. He’s a free agent and this is probably his last chance for a major contract.
What I wonder: how much is Krug worth? Like, really worth? I don’t project future contracts; I leave that to Alex MacLean over in our ‘Capped’ section, and he has Krug’s future contract pegged for $8.1M AAV, and that’s right around where John Carlson signed. So if we think that Carlson and Krug are somewhere in the vicinity of each other in terms of skill (and I do), then that $8.1M per season for Krug is fair.
The thing with Krug is he doesn’t play monster minutes. Carlson has averaged 24:50 per game in the regular season over the last three years. Krug has never averaged 22 minutes in any single season and has averaged under 21 minutes a game over the last three years. There is a chasm of difference between playing 20 minutes a game and 25 minutes a game. Those extra five minutes have to go to someone, and it’s doubtful it would be someone of Krug’s calibre.
It’s not to say Krug can’t play 24-25 minutes a game, it’s to say we haven’t seen him do it so it’s fair to wonder if he can. Would you feel good about your team signing a defenseman who can’t play 23 minutes a night for 10 percent of total cap space? It feels like there are a lot of red flags here that should concern teams, especially with a flat cap. (sep10)
3. Late Friday, the Wild announced that they had acquired Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad from the Penguins for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. The 6-6 Bjugstad underwent back surgery during the season, which explains why he played just 13 games and was held to just two points. The Penguins are retaining half of Bjugstad’s $4.1 million cap hit for 2020-21, which will be the final year of that contract. Expect Bjugstad to start on the third or fourth line with the Wild as he tries to get his career back on track. The Wild are effectively acquiring Bjugstad to replace Mikko Koivu, who will not be offered a new contract.
Examining the trade further, the Penguins basically handed Bjugstad away for nothing. On the surface, this might seem like strictly a salary cap dump. Yet because of COVID, saving actual dollars is more of the focus, as this article over at Pensburgh explains. They’re not the only team that will be trying to do this, which is going to make for an offseason unlike what we’ve seen recently. (sep12)
4. On Friday, a report surfaced that the Golden Knights and Robin Lehner had agreed to a five-year, $25 million contract extension back in June. Even though the report has not been confirmed by either party, it’s becoming more apparent that Lehner is the preferred goalie over Marc-Andre Fleury not only for the playoffs, but also going forward. Even if Vegas doesn’t win another playoff game in 2020, what a trade this has turned out to be. It will be interesting to see what happens with Flower in the offseason, as well as what will happen in the goalie market should Lehner sign with his current team. (sep12)
5. One signing that was confirmed on Friday involved the Kings re-signing defenseman Sean Walker to a four-year extension worth $10.6 million total. Walker finished his first full NHL season with 24 points (5g-19a) in 70 games, trailing only Drew Doughty in points and shots (127) among Kings defensemen. Walker also showed strong possession numbers (54.8 CF%), so this contract could provide great value for Los Angeles even if you’re not that familiar with Walker. (sep12)
6. I was going over some of the playoff stats before Game 4 and something jumped out to me: Shea Theodore was second in shot attempts per 60 minutes among defensemen in the playoffs (after the play-ins). But anyone who’s watched the Golden Knights this postseason could probably guess that. What surprised me was who was in 10th place: Nate Schmidt at 15.1 shot attempts/60 at all strengths. (Natural Stat Trick).
The reason for pointing that out is that Schmidt has never had a season where he shot above 10.6 shot attempts/60 minutes. A 42 percent jump in shot rate is… extreme. We’re also just talking about a 14-game sample where over a third of those games were against the Blackhawks.
All the same, it reminds me of Ryan Ellis. Up until the 2017-18 regular season, Ellis had never launched 12 or more shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. But, in the 2017 playoffs, he landed 12 shot attempts/60 minutes. Then, in 2017-18, Ellis posted a career-high shot rate which was followed not long after his second-highest shot rate in 2019-20.
Schmidt has never been a volume shooter, which is why this is notable. Ellis, too, was never a volume shooter, until all of a sudden he was, at the age of 27. Schmidt, by the way, just finished his age-28 season.
All the digital ink will be spilled on Theodore and his performance, and rightly so. It’s also going to inflate his value going into next season, where he may or may not be a value. I do think that Schmidt is trending in the right direction, as is the whole team. He doesn’t hit much, so that’s a concern in multi-cat leagues, but he’s not someone to eschew. (sep11)
7. Just wanted to highlight what a good playoffs Ryan McDonagh is having. He had the game-winning assist on Wednesday night, a crisp, super-clean royal road pass to Nikita Kucherov to push a very short-handed Tampa team over New York and take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Not only is McDonagh leading the Lightning in ice time per game while on the penalty kill, he’s leading the entire team in ice time per game, period. Yes, he’s averaged more TOI per game than Victor Hedman (by only a handful of seconds, and Hedman was injured during a game a while back, but still).
It’s just been awesome to see McDonagh kind of turn things around. Not that he was flat-out bad in the regular season, it just wasn’t his usual self, and that was partly due to injury. Regardless, he’s looked much more his normal self, and that’s been a very welcome development for the Lightning. (sep11)
8. Sean Couturier took home his first (but I’m sure not his last) Selke Trophy has the NHL’s top defensive forward (or two-way forward, or forward demonstrating defensive skill, etc) with 117 first place votes. In second place was Patrice Bergeron with 21 first place votes. In other words, it wasn’t really close.
Ryan O’Reilly took bronze with 11 first place votes.
No qualms from me here. I didn’t have Couturier first but I had him top-5 and anyone that gets that high on my board is fine. The fun comes in who else got a first-place vote, namely Auston Matthews, Artemi Panarin, and Nick Bonino. Fine players, all, to be sure. I do think there were clearly better options.
Regardless, Couturier is one of the top players in the game and this just further cements that. Next stop: Hart Trophy (in a future season). (sep11)
9. We need to keep an eye on Buffalo this offseason. I’ve talked a lot about the cap space that Colorado has – and they have a lot of it – but the Sabres have over $30M in space this summer with the only significant in-house contract likely being Sam Reinhart. After that, it’s about filling out depth. In other words, they have a lot of room to play with.
This is important for Buffalo. There will be a lot of teams looking to shed salary as the cap stays flat the next year or two. Realistically, Buffalo is nowhere near where they want to be, so taking on bad contracts with a year or two left on them is very much viable.
It could be a tough sell to the team and fans. This team has mucked up their current rebuild and so asking for faith in this regard is asking a lot. But just going out and adding third and fourth liners isn’t going to change the fortunes of this team. They need impact players in the franchise 2-3 years down the road when Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin are both firmly in their peaks. Adding draft picks or top-end prospects in exchange for taking in bad contracts is a good way to go about this. They have a lot of flexibility, and they’d be stupid not to use it at a time when many other teams do not. (sep10)
10. Watching these playoffs, one question keeps popping into my mind as I’m watching the Dallas Stars: who is running the top power-play unit next year? That question, if posed to me a year ago or more, would have elicited a laugh. John Klingberg is an excellent defenseman, at the very least he is excellent at driving offense. He’s a great puck-mover, he’s a great playmaker, and he has great vision.
It’s not just hyperbole; note his offensive impacts (at even strength and on the power play) over the last three years. And he’s excellent driving offensive play because he’s excellent with controlled zone entries/exits. All this has resulted in a 5-on-5 assist rate over the last three years higher than the aforementioned Krug, and a higher assist rate on the power play over the last three years than guys like Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Ryan Suter.
Even with all those accomplishments, it’s a legitimate question to ask whether it should be Klingberg on PP1 next year, or whether it should be Miro Heiskanen.
I don’t have a real good answer here. They’ve maintained Klingberg on PP1 throughout the playoffs so that is obviously the initial lean. But is Heiskanen going to surpass him in 4-5 months? Maybe they see the two guys as having different offensive skill sets and Klingberg is best for what they want to do on the PP. That there’s even a decision to be made speaks to just how good Heiskanen has been. He’s so much fun to watch. (sep10)
But seriously, we’re seeing this Tampa Bay team run roughshod over the playoffs without their captain and a frontline asset. It seems to me that the team could quickly solve this lingering salary cap issues if they took a page out of the Oakland As and dealt a premier, expensive asset for some cheap, entry-level goodness.
Brayden Point is legitimately a top-five center in the world. You could make the argument for an even loftier mantle, but I’ll let someone else spill the proverbial ink. Nikita Kucherov remains a supreme producer. Do they really need a 30-year-old, oft-injured Stamkos making 8.5M for the next four seasons?
I know, I know. The NMC will nix any potential deal. These are the questions left rattling around my mind at midnight on a Monday. (sep9)
12. There were whispers that 19-year-old Vasily Podkolzin had grown a couple of inches and put on 10 pounds of muscle over the summer. However, I reached out to someone in the know and that has been deemed incorrect. Podkolzin remains about 6-1 and weighs 202-205 pounds.
I have a big piece that I'm working on for EliteProspects diving into the deployment of youngsters in the KHL and how that affects their production and perception. But spoiler alert: Podkolzin is unlikely to see L1 and PP1 on this year's SKA team. That means we won't be seeing Kirill Kaprizov-like numbers.
That said, he has the skill and tenacity to push for 30-odd points in 50-odd games. That level of production will be very telling towards his early impact in the NHL. (sep9)
13. A reminder: the KHL regular season ends in February while the playoffs end in April. Podkolzin, Vitali Kravtsov, and other expiring KHL prospect contracts will be available to cross the pond at the completion of their team's season.
Don't be surprised if the Canucks slide the 2019 10th overall pick right into the lineup for the playoff push. His brand of heavy skill was sorely missed against the Blues and Golden Knights this summer. (sep9)
14. Last week, TSN’s Frank Seravalli – who despite all evidence to the contrary is 32 years old and not pushing 50 (sorry, Frank, I had to clarify), had Laine at the top of his Trade Bait List.
The 22-year-old sniper has been something of an enigma in Winnipeg so far in his young career. He’s dazzled for long stretches and gone quiet for equally long periods. He’s also just one of 14 players to record 40 or more goals in a single-season before his 20th birthday.
I feel exceptionally confident that whoever is fortunate enough to trade for Laine will immediately place him with the team’s top pivot at even-strength and on the PP. That, my friends, would represent a nifty little upgrade for a player who has found himself more often than not on L2 in Winnipeg – a team that lacks a legitimate 2C.
In all honesty, I’m buying Laine in fantasy leagues whether he’s dealt or not. He’s an elite offensive player who is a good bet to continue figuring things out as he matures. If he ends up in a spot like Carolina with his good buddy Sebastian Aho, then I'm even more titillated. (sep9)
15. Until being supplemented by Tyler Toffoli at the trade deadline, Brock Boeser had 39 points in 41 games in 2019-20. After a line demotion (and a return from injury), he had just six points in the remaining 17 regular-season contests. He saw similar results in the playoffs – skate with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller on L1? Points come. Anywhere else in the lineup? Points don’t come.
The double-edged sword is what happens with Toffoli. If Vancouver management decides they can extend Toffoli at a similar number as Boeser (maybe even less) and then have Boeser as a trade chip, then it could make some sense. If they decided to keep Toffoli AND Boeser, well, now we’re a spot where Boeser may not be on L1 or PP1.
Does Toffoli walk in free agency? Well, now Boeser is back to king of the castle. If the club did decide to move on from Boeser to help build the backend, then whoever trades for him would likely slot him on PP1 – good for us in fantasy. But it’s very unlikely he is matched with anyone on the same level as Pettersson or Quinn Hughes to work with at even-strength. A Boeser trade likely means a more secure spot in a less talented lineup. So, a wash? (sep9)
16. Matt Dumba was named the most recent King Clancy Memorial Award winner for his anti-racism and community work. His courageous effort with the Hockey Diversity Alliance has been inspiring to so many.
It was also revealed by The Athletic's Michael Russo that his name is out there on the block. “I am hearing from a lot of sources that they are shopping Dumba”, Russo said in an episode of The Russo Hockey Show. You can find the discussion about Dumba around the 39:00 mark of the hour-long show.
The 26-year-old, who has three more seasons at 6M per, just struggled through his most difficult offensive season since 2015-16. He paced for just 29 points after pacing for 50 and 56 the two prior seasons. Despite that, he should be an appetizing target for teams looking to add offensive punch from the back end.
From a fantasy lens, whoever trades for him would most likely consider him an option on PP1 – a place where he had to share duties with Ryan Suter. That could be a boost to his overall value. The same goes for the quality of teams who would likely target him – they should have some nice pieces to work with. You never know for certain until it gets done (if it even does) but a move for Dumba could certainly end up improving his fantasy value. At the very least, I predict a rebound for him – whether that's in Minny or elsewhere. (sep9)
17. Over at DobberProspects, Mason Black put together a list of players that have been loaned overseas. If all goes smoothly (which, you know), the NHL hopes to start the 2020-21 regular season in early December. Loaning players overseas would just give them a chance to continue to develop while waiting for NHL training camps to open.
Perusing that list can help give fantasy owners some insight into where their dynasty players may be playing in the fall (and some are already). There may not be NHL to watch, but could we interest you in some SHL or KHL?
18. Your best players need to be your best players to win in the playoffs, and that did not happen for Philly. Kevin Hayes signed for a boatload of money last summer, but I doubt he should be expected to carry the offensive load for the Flyers. Yet there he was leading the Flyers in playoff scoring (13 points in 16 games).
No Flyer had more than nine points during the playoffs. Couturier scored just two goals, while Claude Giroux scored just one goal. Travis Konecny, the regular-season team leader in goals and points, did not even pick up a single goal. That’s a lot of production that was left on the table.
Those who focused on Flyers in their playoff pools were likely left disappointed, but facing Carey Price and an air-tight Barry Trotz-led defense did them in. So did an 0-for-13 power play against the Islanders. (sep6)
19. What needs to be said, though, was the performance Carter Hart gave the Flyers. He posted a .926 save percentage across 14 games, and that included a league-leading .904 save percentage on high-danger shots (among goalies with 300 minutes played). He kept them in most of their games and there’s not a lot to be asked from a goaltender beyond exactly that. A few stats (from Natural Stat Trick, all goalies with 100 minutes at all strengths that advanced to the first round):
- third-most rush attempts against/60 (all strengths)
- sixth-most expected goals against/60 (at 5-on-5)
- fifth in high-danger save percentage (at 5-on-5)
- first in total high-danger goals saved above average (at 5-on-5)
He wasn't supernova, but he was pretty good. (sep8)
20. Keeper owners of Ivan Provorov should probably have any and all concerns quelled. He had a rough third year in the league last season but his 2019-20 campaign would have seen him probably get to 15 goals and 40 points with a full year, to go with triple-digit hits/blocks and over two shots per game. That’s the guy we saw in 2017-18, and it’s also the guy we saw in the 2020 postseason: he had three goals and seven points in 13 games, adding 19 blocks and 24 hits. He didn’t shoot as much but it’s the playoffs and the team wasn’t good offensively anyway.
Provo still has a ways to go before he’s truly among the elite fantasy options but he has a real good case to be a top-10 defenseman in multi-cat leagues next year. (sep8)
21. In my playoff pool, Brock Nelson was drafted with pick number… (looks down) … 101. And it might have been even lower had the league rules not stated you have to pick one player from every team (including play-in teams). Yet Nelson is right outside the top 10 in playoff scoring with 17 points (8g-9a) in 19 games.
A closer look at Nelson’s stats shows that his points-per-game totals have crept up over the past two seasons, from 0.43 PTS/GP in 2017-18 to 0.65 PTS/GP in 2018-19 to 0.79 PTS/GP in 2019-20. The first jump is a result of John Tavares leaving the Island, where Nelson’s ice time increased from 14:43 to 17:58. The progression continued in 2019-20, where the soon-to-be 29-year-old Nelson produced at a similar pace to Gabriel Landeskog, Taylor Hall, and Brock Boeser.
Even if the playoff performance doesn’t result in another value increase next season (which I don’t think it will), Nelson is still an undervalued fantasy asset. (sep6)
Have a good week, folks – be safe!!
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