Ramblings – Investigating the Keeper Value of Khudobin, Roy, Kiviranta and McCann (Sept. 21)
A couple of teams were eliminated last week and now we are down to two. As I've been doing throughout the playoffs, here is a post-mortem on those teams.
New York Islanders
The player who jumped out at me the most is obviously Brock Nelson. He's a big forward who hit his breakthrough at just the right time 18 months ago, and then found another gear this season that I figured might be a bit of over-achieving. But after these playoffs, I'm sold. I'm buying into him being a 65-point player. In 90 regular season and playoff games this year he had 72 points, which is a 66-point pace. He's in his prime and he's secure on a line with linemates who work well with him. Josh Bailey, who led the team in the playoffs with 20 points in 22 games, seems primed to have his production dragged upward alongside Nelson and I can see him flirting with 60 again. Anthony Beauvillier, whose breakout was set to happen this year (and it did), had 53 points in 90 combined games (playoffs and season), which is a 48-point pace. He just turned 23 and still has a couple more steps to take before he's peaked. But on this line I can see him progressing with another handful of points – into the 50s.
That top line of Anders Lee – Mat Barzal – Jordan Eberle has been an elite line in terms of driving possession. One of the best in the league. Offensively-speaking, however, they are only as good as that second line. Barzal will get five or 10 more points than Nelson of course, but Lee and Eberle are probably not going to combine for the same points that Beauvillier and Bailey combine for. But overall this is a fantastic one-two punch. And with Ilya Sorokin in the mix next season I'm pretty excited about this team.
The other player who impressed me was Ryan Pulock. He's a defenseman with high upside and we've been waiting for him to take off for some time now. But keep in mind that he's only 25 (26 next month) and he is the most talented rearguard in the system there. That means that he's their defensive defenseman. Their Alex Pietrangelo. And with offensive options available such as Devon Toews and Noah Dobson, Pulock is going to see a lopsided amount of defensive zone starts. But his skill level is such that he's going to build on his production year after year regardless. His pace this season was for 42 points and I believe next year he'll be adding to that – perhaps by as many as 10.
Vegas Golden Knights
My pick for the Cup couldn't solve Anton Khudobin. They pushed Dallas all the way through, but were snakebitten. I thought Vegas had a well-balanced and well-coached team.
If Robin Lehner did indeed agree to a contract in June but was waiting to sign it after the playoffs – why hasn't he signed it yet? Was this rumored contract contingent on his getting the team to the Final? Lehner had denied the rumor and stated in no uncertain terms that a contract had not been agreed to. But I do think Vegas is a good fit. What would they do with Marc-Andre Fleury?
Besides Lehner, two players impressed me. The first, of course, was Shea Theodore. He's arrived. Nineteen points in 20 playoff games, including eight power-play goals. I always knew he was a dynamite defenseman, but had figured his upside to be somewhere in the low 60s. After seeing the points roll in I now think he could hit 70, which is rare air indeed.
The second guy is Nicolas Roy, who just refuses to be sent to the minors or left out of the lineup. He takes what little ice time he gets and makes things happen regardless of how weak his linemates are. And the coach has noticed these things. Roy's average ice time by quarter this season: 9:28, 9:41, 10:26, and 15:32 plus 14:26 in the playoffs when unproven rookies get sent out less often. He had at least a shot on goal in each of his last 15 games. That's with no power-play time and 14 minutes of ice time. He's formed some chemistry with Alex Tuch and that could be a scary combo in two years. Each of them are 6-4 and if they click with, say, the 6-2 Cody Glass it would be fun to watch.
Joel Kiviranta is the third player in NHL history to score his fifth career postseason goal before scoring his second career regular season goal. Who were the first two? Post your answer in the comments – I'll post my answer there Monday at around 2pm.
Kiviranta was touted as this diminutive energy player, but I wonder if he has Stu Barnes-type upside for points. As in, maybe a few years down the line the occasional pop to 60 points but mostly a reliable 40-point guy. Just musing…either way, he's proven to be pretty clutch.
When the Lightning took 22 shots on goal in the third period it set a record for most shots in a period by one team in the Stanly Cup Final (post-expansion).
I know Miro Heiskanen is having an out-of-this world postseason, but if the Dallas Stars win the Stanley Cup then Anton Khudobin wins the Conn Smythe hands down. If Khudobin wins the Cup and the Smythe as a 34-year-old, how high can his fantasy value get in a keeper league? The best comparable here is Tim Thomas. Thomas didn't become an NHLer until he was 31. He was nearly 32 when he stole the job from Andrew Raycroft and he was 33 when he started putting up elite fantasy numbers. Thomas was an elite fantasy goaltender from 2007 through 2012. So from age 33 through 38.
Khudobin has been a backup for forever. But he's been an elite backup for two seasons now and in his last 91 regular season and playoff games he's 45-31-9 with a SV% of over 0.925. If he wins the Cup and the Stars manage to sign him to large dough, then they'll be trading Ben Bishop no question. But whoever signs Khudobin will be signing him to be their starter, despite his never playing more than 45 games in a season (he did play 54 games in 2010-11 in the AHL/NHL combined). Winning a Cup gives a goalie a long leash (see Binnington, Jordan) and I'm sure more than a few teams would be willing to sign him and push to get 55 starts out of him. I think Khudobin's age and his track record as a backup makes him acquirable in most leagues – for a price. But I feel good about that price being worth paying, within reason.
I realized on Saturday that I picked against the Stars every…single…round. Including this one. I just had no respect for this team. Among other things, I didn't expect them to go back in time and grab Jamie Benn from 2016 and bring him back.
I hear Jared McCann's name mentioned so often in trade rumors that part of me wonders if he was just signed to a two-year deal so that he's easier to move. If I'm wrong about that, then I'd really like to see him play alongside Sidney Crosby, with whom he enjoyed tremendous success in the final quarter of 2018-19. Or Evgeni Malkin. The odds of either of those are slim at least to start, given that the team just acquired Kasperi Kapanen and already have Jason Zucker. Plus there was the Bryan Rust breakout and the return to health of Jake Guentzel. So McCann needs an injury to one of those six guys so he can get his shot. What I like about McCann is that he's still only 24 (seems like he's been in the league forever) and he managed a 43-point pace last year pretty much playing with the likes of Patric Hornqvist, Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev and Dominik Kahun. If he is indeed stuck on the third line next year, what a great asset to have there – 40 or 45 points from a player on that line is fantastic.
Just spitballin here, but what if Sam Poulin makes the team in the top six? That would push Rust to the third line with McCann and Hornqvist. Now that's depth – something the Penguins haven't been able to brag about in a long time.
The re-release of the Fantasy Prospects Report is set for two days (possibly one day) after the Stanley Cup is won. I will update any of the profiles that need an update (though not much happened during a hockey pause, but we'll fix what needs fixing), I will add a few new profiles, and Cam Robinson's Mock Draft will be in.
A couple of things going on in the Forum right now. First off, I'm asking you for help on which prospects to add for the Fantasy Prospects Report. Please make your suggestions/requests for new prospect profiles that you feel should be in there via this link. Joining the forum takes two seconds, and as a bonus you can float bounce fantasy hockey trade offers and player value off members of the community. Secondly, I post polls in there for you to vote on which player to dig deep on in the Fantasy Guide (I call them my "Lowdowns"). Right now the Nashville poll is up.
See you next Monday.
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