20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on September 17, 2017

Every Sunday this offseason, we'll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's "Daily Ramblings".

Contributors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, and Neil Parker

1. The mysterious ailment that limited Kyle Okposo to three games post-trade deadline ended up being concussion-related. That is always scary for a player and I hope that his issues are past and we get to just watch him play hockey again. Had he played a full year, he was on pace for 24 goals, 33 assists, and 197 shots on goal. Only 20 forwards in the NHL reached each of those marks last season.

On top of that, despite playing just 65 games, he had as many power-play points (23) as Patrick Kane, and more than Vladimir Tarasenko (22), Blake Wheeler (21), and Corey Perry (20). He should be on the top line and top power play unit again and, if he has a healthy year, can be very productive in all formats.


2. Rarely is a 31-year-old veteran on a bad team someone that I'm interested in but Mike Green's scoring track record and go-to offensive role provide a solid fantasy floor. Additionally, last season he logged a monster 23:33 of ice time with 2:45 of power-play time. It's unlikely Green is limited to just 10 points with the man advantage again this year, too.


3. Even in a year with just 21 games played and 19 starts, Juuse Saros was a top-25 goalie in standard Yahoo leagues and the same for standard ESPN leagues. He has been very solid so far in his very brief NHL career and has similarly been very solid both in the Finnish pro league and in the AHL.

Pekka Rinne was exceptional in the playoffs last year but he’s still a 35-year old goalie (well, in November he’ll be 35) with an injury history. Even a repeat of last year would have Saros as a more-than-sufficient third goalie in fantasy leagues and there’s more upside should he start stealing some starts. Considering he can probably be had as a fourth goalie, he should be at the top of the backup goalie list and even ahead of some regular starters.


4. There's untapped offensive update here and while it's difficult to project exactly where and how Nathan Beaulieu fits in with the Sabres, he's going to see a bigger role than he did with the Habs. He posted a rock-solid 1.17 points per 60 minutes last season and should take another step forward with Buffalo an improved team as a whole.


5. Ryan Spooner added approximately 10 pounds during the offseason in an attempt to be better in one-on-one battles. He's also confident he didn't lose any of his speed and agility in the process. There is a top-six job up for grabs in Boston, and if Spooner grabs it, he could have a solid showing – the offensive upside is unquestioned.


6. Bryan Little has posted 0.76 points per game and is locked into a top-six role with power-play time. He's going to center two excellent wingers and the Jets are a team on the rise. Center is a deep position, so targeting Little late enables gamers to load up elsewhere earlier in drafts without missing out on offensive numbers at the position.

It's worth noting that Little had been a pillar of good health through his first seven full seasons in the league, so a return to 75 games shouldn't shock anyone.


7. Ryan Kesler may miss the first few months of the season following offseason hip surgery. After missing only four games in his three seasons with the Ducks, the 33-year-old Kesler is experiencing from wear and tear resulting from his in-your-face style. Surprisingly, his point totals have actually increased over the past three seasons (43 to 47 to 53 to 58), so I was expecting a regression even if he played a full season.

Because of the Kesler injury, Rickard Rakell is mentioned as moving back to center during training camp and preseason games. This move could turn him into more of a playmaker, so a decrease in goals to go with a corresponding increase in assists seems inevitable if he stays at center to start the season. On the same token, Rakell could move into the first power-play unit in Kesler’s absence, which could provide an additional boost to his value.

If Rakell is back on the wing to start the season, Antoine Vermette could move up to the top 6. The Ducks could also give prospect Sam Steel than a nine-game audition, but his junior team (Regina Pats of the WHL) has named him their new captain, possibly foreshadowing a return to junior.


8. I think the fear of the unknown is at work here. General manager Dale Tallon already conceded that Evgeny Dadonov was signed with the idea of him playing on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Even the most skeptical of fantasy owners should be excited by this prospect. If Barkov and Huberdeau can stay healthy, Dadonov is set to be the recipient of a very productive top line and even more so if he can slot in on the top power-play unit, as well.

Dobber thinks that Dadonov has 30-goal upside if he can slot with a good playmaking centre, and I concur. Considering he can probably be had as a third or fourth right wing on fantasy rosters, this is an easy draft pick to make.


9. Zach Parise isn't healthy entering training camp, as his nagging back injury continues to hinder the winger. At 33, Parise is an extremely risky fantasy buy unless there is a huge discount. After all, he's coming off his worst point total (42) in a full season since posting 32 during his rookie year in 2005-06.


10. James Neal is expected to miss two to four weeks because of a hand injury, according to general manager George McPhee. Neal broke his hand during the Western Conference Final, and missing the majority of training camp could cause the veteran to start slow.


11. The talk around the Canucks is that because of the veteran acquisitions by the Canucks this offseason, there may be only one spot for one of Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen, and Nikolay Goldobin.

If you’re worried because you drafted Boeser, he should still have the inside track. Virtanen needs a stronger showing in the AHL than he had last season (19 points in 65 games), so my guess is he’ll be back there again (at least to start). At this point the Canucks might settle for Virtanen being a middle-six forward, even though he was drafted ahead of the likes of William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, and David Pastrnak.


12. The departure of Patrick Marleau has left things wide open at the left-wing position for the Sharks. With few internal options, my money is on Tomas Hertl not only slotting on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski but also taking Marleau’s position on the power play. I wrote as much recently.

Going back a few years, the Sharks have been as well off, if not better, with Hertl playing with Thornton than playing away from him. It shouldn’t be a shock that he plays well on that line given Thornton’s Hall of Fame credentials, but it’s just worth noting he isn’t a drag on play-driving as some others can be. By the way, Sharks beat writer Kevin Kurz thinks Hertl will be on the top PP unit as well.


13. The David Pastrnak contract saga is over, as the young star signed a six-year, $40 million contract on Thursday. He was in the Czech Republic at the time, so he obviously could not report to camp right away but it’s all systems go for the Boston winger.

Darren Dreger of TSN intimated that Filip Forsberg’s contract was used as a comparable, which always kind of made sense to me, even though using Leon Draisaitl’s would work as well. This is a phenomenal deal for the Bruins, however, as they get a player through his prime at a contract that is team-friendly.

I understand the thinking behind Pastrnak wanting to get the deal done. In the near-term, he wants to be in training camp and get ready for the season. Looking years down the road, he’ll be going into his age-27 season when the contract runs out. Should he continue to produce at least to the level of last year – or even improve – then he’ll be in for a huge payday in unrestricted free agency.

It’s obviously his prerogative what he chooses to settle for but this now sets the market in stone for elite wingers. Pastrnak, Filip Forsberg, and Johnny Gaudreau all signed contracts carrying an AAV under $7 million. Cap league owners for players like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Sebastian Aho now know what they’re in for a couple of years down the road. In that sense, there’s no need to worry about having to overpay for a player in salary cap fantasy leagues; the market is set at what it is now.


14. Over in Ottawa, Erik Karlsson was singing the praises of young Thomas Chabot at Senators’ training camp, suggesting the 20-year-old Chabot is ahead of Karlsson was at that age. Of course, we don’t know when Karlsson will return from his offseason foot surgery. So, just as the Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm injuries create space for Brandon Montour in Anaheim, you can put two and two together and determine that Chabot is more likely to start the season in Ottawa should Karlsson not be ready.

I’m not expecting Chabot to take the fantasy world by storm this year. After all, he is only 20, and it’s not as though he’s going to steal minutes away from Karlsson. Usually, young defensemen play sheltered minutes to start but it’s possible that Chabot could fill your October with a few points to go with some power-play time.

Getting into the lineup for the remainder of the season might turn out to be more of a challenge, though, and it should be considered a bonus if he fills your fantasy stats all season. In other words, he’s a bit more of a longshot to be a breakout d-man than Montour in my opinion. But at the very least he’s a d-man you want to secure in keeper leagues.


15. Here are a few of my personal fades on the blue line:

Duncan Keith, Chicago: Coming off a rebound, 53-point showing, Keith's fantasy value seems to be way up. There's no reason to suspect a significant drop in production and Keith offers a solid fantasy floor. However, his price suggests that he's a lock to repeat last season's numbers. Father Time will have a say sooner than later and I'm always willing to be off a year too early than a year too late.

Ryan McDonagh, NY Rangers: There's a lot to like about the cross-category production McDonagh offers and he's going to log big minutes and post another solid fantasy campaign. However, Kevin Shattenkirk was brought in to run the No. 1 power-play unit and play a top offensive role, which should cut 10 points from McDonagh's total.

Morgan Rielly, Toronto: Without a power-play role, Rielly will struggle to post anything better than serviceable fantasy numbers. He's currently ranked much higher than that in most spots and the Toronto buzz is getting out of control. Additionally, it's pretty clear that head coach Mike Babcock views Rielly as his go-to defenseman against the opposition's top players, which hurts his game-to-game consistency and offensive upside.


16. Damon Severson inked a six-year contract with an annual cap hit of $4,166,700. This is a reasonable salary and term, if Severson proves to be more than "Just another Guy." He has been a solid driver of possession (career 4.0 Relative Corsi For percentage) but how he adjusts to playing more significant minutes over the next few seasons will be telling. There's a 50-50 chance Severson's viewed as an overpriced bottom-pairing defenseman before his contract is up.

For our fantasy purposes, it'll be interesting to see how the power-play minutes and roles are split up. Will Butcher can't be ignored and the left-handed shooter could man the blue line on the same unit as the right-handed-shooting Severson. The more likely scenario is the two cut into each other's power-play time and virtual upside throughout the season.

Still, the salary and term of Severson's deal securely positions him ahead of Butcher as the No. 1 offensive defenseman on the Devils. Because Severson has the opportunity to lock himself into that role, Butcher is likely best slotted into wait-and-see territory outside of deep settings.

With that said, expectations for Severson should probably also remain in check, especially in settings including plus/minus.


17. This is your periodic reminder that, as of right now, the best bet to skate on the top line in Calgary is probably Micheal Ferland. Despite the egregious way he spells his first name, he fared well skating on the first unit for the Flames last year.

Let’s not forget this is also a slotting due to a lack of other real options. Troy Brouwer was, and will continue to be, nowhere near suited for top-six minutes. There is no way they should break up the 3M line unless they play poorly for a long stretch, and the only real threat is Kris Versteeg, who can play both wings.

Ferland’s upside is limited because he won’t see much in the way of power-play minutes. But especially for those in leagues that count hits, Ferland warrants deep-league consideration.


18. A month ago, I wrote about the offensive progression of Bo Horvat so far in his young career. There have been very good signs, and considering the quality of the team around him, 52 points last year is a very productive season. He should be a lock for at least 18 minutes a game again this year.

One area that hopefully improves is his allotment of power-play time. There is no good reason why Brandon Sutter should be on the top power-play unit while Horvat is not other than handedness. If the young center can get those top PP minutes, even with the Sedin twins in clear decline, it would help make 50 points his floor.


19. Does Denis Gurianov get a long look this training camp and exhibition season for the Dallas Stars? If (a big IF) Brett Ritchie doesn’t work on the second line, there aren’t many other immediate internal options (Tyler Pitlick, anyone?).

I don’t think Gurianov has immediate fantasy value in most leagues as of today. But I also think with a good camp, he can at least get a brief look to start the year in the NHL. It’s definitely a situation to monitor for now.


20. Last year, the Predators frequently used a 1-2 defence setup on the blue line for the power play. That often meant Roman Josi on the top quintet with Ryan Ellis and PK Subban on the second pair. Assuming they keep the same setup, there is no immediate right-shot replacement for the injured Ellis. It could be Yannick Weber but I don’t imagine they use him often on the PP. My guess is they’ll just use Mattias Ekholm instead, and he and Subban did see stretches of time together in 2016-17.

I don’t think this really helps anyone fantasy-wise at five-on-five – is Weber really going to produce much? – but this should lock Ekholm into the PP2 role. Though he’s not an offensive defenceman, it is a small boost in value.

Have a good week, folks!!




One response to “20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts”

  1. Invictus350 says:

    In the games Karlsson is out do you see Chabot grabbing PP time?