Every Sunday until the start of the 2018-19 regular season, we'll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's "Daily Ramblings".
Writers: Michael Clifford, Ian Gooding, Cam Robinson, and Dobber
1. I find myself wondering if Ryan Ellis is going to be over-drafted next year. He definitely had an excellent season when he’s on the ice but I still think he’s third on the Nashville depth chart behind Roman Josi and PK Subban, at least as far as creating offense is concerned. One thing to consider: he’s a free agent after 2018-19 and he’s going to get a huge raise on his $2.5-million annually. Do they keep him around? They already have a lot of long-term money tied up. Just wondering out loud … (apr17)
2. The Tampa Bay Lightning are moving on as expected but that’s no fault of Cory Schneider. The Devils were kept in Game 5 by Schneider, who stopped 35 of 37 shots he faced. A strong playoff series (1.78 GAA, .950 SV%) should reaffirm Schneider’s status as the Devils’ starter and could even move his fantasy value up a little. Or, to put it another way, he could be one of the fall’s draft day bargains as he attempts to rebound from a rough 2017-18 season that was derailed by injuries and losing his starting job temporarily to Keith Kinkaid. That being said, we’ve also learned that Kinkaid is a better goalie than we’ve given him credit for. (apr22)
3. Long has it been foretold that Dylan Strome would be a franchise pivot. His size, skill, pedigree and production at every rung on the developmental ladder has indicated as much. However, he’s yet to establish himself as an everyday NHLer while those selected around him in the 2015 draft are thriving in the league. People lose patience on young players quickly, and at age 21, many folks are already writing Strome off.
Now, as a someone who fancies himself as having a keen eye for talent evaluation, the knocks on Strome are valid: He doesn’t play with enough pace at even-strength and can’t wheel back to make up for the odd mistake off the puck. However, what he can do is distribute the puck like few players. His vision, reach and touch are splendid. Many people were quick to give up on Mark Scheifele after being returned to junior for both his draft-plus one and draft-plus two campaigns and his skating was questioned at the time, as well. I’m not saying Strome is destined to end up as a Scheifele-level talent but that’s the ceiling.
After producing 53 points in 50 AHL contests this past season, Strome closed out the regular season with the Coyotes and put up eight points in the final 10 games while seeing just 13:30 of ice time – 1:39 of which came on the power play, while skating alongside Max Domi and Zach Rinaldo at even-strength. Looking deeper into his even-strength numbers, Strome was a positive possession player with an iCF rating of 53 and had 11 takeaways to only two giveaways.
Arizona has invested a great deal in his development and the promising final months for the Coyotes' season illustrates a team that is ready to take the next step towards pushing for a wild card spot. Strome becoming an impactful pivot for them and allowing Derek Stepan to handle the heavy defensive minutes allowing Strome and Clayton Keller can run a bit wild would be the perfect breeding ground for success. Strome’s draft stock will be low this year but he’s a breakout player to watch. (apr21)
4. Tough news out of Washington as Andre Burakovsky has been ruled out for the remainder of the first round. It was announced on Friday that he'll need surgery. You'd think this would mean more opportunity for Jakub Vrana but he skated only 7:16 TOI on Friday. It sure appears that coach Barry Trotz is completely uninterested in giving the talented Czech winger a real look amongst the team's top six forwards. (apr21)
5. Let’s just remind everyone how everything Canucks’ prospect Elias Pettersson touches this year turns into a point. The lanky Swedish forward has continued to abuse the SHL, as he was sitting as the playoff point leader with 14 points in 11 games going into Saturday – this after leading the regular season in points and breaking the regular season U20 points mark. Pettersson was also sitting in a tie for second all-time in U20 SHL playoff scoring with – surprise, surprise, Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Pettersson should be considered an elite asset to own in keeper leagues and will be a frontrunner for what’s shaping up to be a terrific 2019 Calder class featuring: Miro Heiskanen, Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Eeli Tolvanen, Casey Mittelstadt, and more. (apr21)
6. We’ll see if Capitals bring Michal Kempny back next year. They’ll lose John Carlson but they still have Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov, as well as a burgeoning Christian Djoos. This year, however, between his two teams, Kempny had the 13th-highest shots+blocked shots rate per 60 minutes this year, sandwiched between Dougie Hamilton and Seth Jones.
I’m not sure he earns more ice time next year but Kempny has had productive peripherals in the minutes he has been given. Should he earn more ice time, there is probably a decent fantasy asset here. He won’t be if he plays 16-17 minutes a night, however. (apr20)
7. I’m a bit excited for Stephen Johns next season in the fantasy hockey game. Now-departed coach Ken Hitchcock dragged the Dallas Stars from a wildly entertaining offensive team into a defensive slug. I don’t think there’s much debate about that. Hopefully the next coach takes the leash off all the offensive talent has, and will potentially have (hey Valeri Nichushkin), and this team can return to being as much fun to watch as they used to be.
With regards to Johns, among the 152 defensemen with 1,000-plus minutes last year at all strengths, he was fourth in blocked shots per 60 minutes. Of the top-15 defensemen in blocked shots, he was second in shot attempts per 60 minutes (just behind Alex Edler). Blocking shots is one thing, being able to chip in offensively is another, and very few do both. Johns is one of them.
He put up monster peripheral numbers with over 200 hits and over 150 blocked shots. He averaged over 1.6 shots per game. He scored eight goals despite not being very far off his career shooting percentage mark. He did all this while playing fewer than 18 minutes a night. Johns will never touch the top PP unit but if he can earn a couple more minutes in ice time under a new coaching regime, he has the makings of a very, very solid multi-cat roto performer. Keep an eye to see what the Stars do with their blue line in their offseason. Hopefully he’s earned top-four minutes. We shall see. (apr19)
8. Don’t forget about Craig Smith in your fantasy drafts next year. I’ve written about him before but he was a pretty consistent 20-goal scorer before a rough 2016-17 campaign. He’s bounced back on that Nashville second line this year with Kyle Turris and Kevin Fiala to go with top power-play minutes. All the big names will be popular in drafts (Forsberg, Arvidsson, Josi/Subban/Ellis, even Fiala) but don’t forget about Smith as a bench option. (apr19)
9. Damon Severson has been a healthy scratch for the team at times in the regular season and the playoffs. I’m still a believer in his talent but with the emergence of Will Butcher, there won’t be much in the way of meaningful power-play minutes for Severson next year. Without those power-play points, he’ll be hard pressed for 30-point seasons until the offensive depth on this roster greatly improves. I’m still bullish on him as a talent but bearish on his situation. I’m not sure he’ll have much fantasy relevance outside of deep leagues and dynasties for the 2018-19 season. (apr19)
10. Nolan Patrick took Sean Couturier spot on the top line in Game 4 during the latter’s recent injury. To his credit, Patrick played well enough. Regardless of linemates, matching up against Sidney Crosby is difficult for any center, let alone a rookie. If Patrick can hold on to his top power-play status next season, he could have himself a nice fantasy campaign. He’s been impressive over the last couple of months and showed a lot of progression. (apr19)
11. It’ll be interesting to see what the Ducks do this offseason. Their core is locked up for a lot of money, they don’t have a lot of cap space, and they have to sign restricted free agents Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. Even if they aren’t expensive, it won’t leave them much wriggle room. That necessarily excludes a splash in free agency so anything they do will have to come via trade. Is the core good enough to make another run? Getzlaf/Perry/Kesler will all be at least 33 years old next year. Maybe a lengthy offseason is just what the doctor ordered. (apr19)
12. I’d expect that a new coach in Calgary will help the fantasy value of Matthew Tkachuk, who managed to score 10 power-play goals even though Gulutzan didn’t use him on the first-unit power play until quite a few games into the season. Meanwhile, T.J. Brodie led the Flames in even-strength ice time with at least half a minute more per game than the likes of Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. So, I’d also expect more Giordano and Hamilton from the new coach, whoever that may be. (apr18)
13. Marc-Andre Fleury was a King killer in his short first-round series, allowing just three goals in the entire matchup. For years, the rule for Stanley Cup contenders was that you need great goaltending. Vegas has that covered. If he hadn’t missed two months of the regular season, he might have even been one of the Vezina nominees. (apr18)
14. Connor Hellebuyck, Pekka Rinne, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are your Vezina Trophy finalists. I’ll take credit for telling you (for your fantasy draft) that you should target Hellebuyck anyway in spite of the big contract that Steve Mason signed with the Jets over the summer. Just the same, I’ll take the blame for telling you that Rinne would regress and Juuse Saros would play a much more significant role in the Preds’ goaltending situation. In this strange unpredictable season of goalies, Rinne should be the favorite to win the Vezina. (apr18)
15. I’ll fully admit I had left Ryan Pulock for dead when it came to fantasy hockey value but he absolutely exploded for the Islanders this season. His power-play goal total (5) was as many as names like Brent Burns, Torey Krug, and PK Subban. He did so in considerably less ice time than those guys, too.
It must be said that his shooting percentage was high (top-10 in the league among those at his position with 100 minutes of power-play usage) but he absolutely unloaded with volume, ranking fourth in the league in shot attempts taken per minute, behind only Shayne Gostisbehere, Roman Josi, and Colin Miller. (apr17)
If other fantasy owners were like myself, they were running out of patience for him to develop into the player we’d hoped he’d be. Not only was he productive on the power play in limited time, he was the only Islanders defenseman with 900 minutes of five-on-five time to have an expected goal share over 50 percent. Sure, there’s nuance to that – his minutes were more sheltered than Leddy’s, for example – but even in sheltered minutes, it’s important to have good results. He did. I’m intrigued for next year as a bench defenseman in 12-team leagues. (apr17)
16. Impressive to see Carolina prospect Valentin Zykov lead the AHL in goals with 33. He’s a boom-or-bust prospect who I had figured was leaning towards ‘bust’. But this breakthrough combined with his impressive finish in the NHL (seven points in 10 games) leads me to believe that maybe there’s something there. (apr16)
17. With a year of pro experience under his belt and likely first dibs playing alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown next year, I think Alex Iafallo will build on the 25-point season and forego the sophomore jinx. But his upside is capped. He’s a responsible player and a hustler but he’s really just Los Angeles’ version of Toronto’s Zach Hyman. (apr16)
18. Wild rookie Jordan Greenway’s arrival reminds me of when Chris Kreider joined the Rangers several years ago. And I think you can expect his production ascension to be similar. Big men tend to take a little while longer to reach their peak. On a side note, I’ve said this before but watch for Kreider (if healthy) next season. That’ll be his big one. (apr16)
19. Matt Dumba has stepped up production significantly with Ryan Suter out of the lineup and it’s going to leave a lasting impression on coach Bruce Boudreau heading into next season even when Suter returns. Dumba was 19th among defensemen in scoring this season and I’m calling Top 10 next year – and that means 59 points or more. Lock it in! (apr16)
20. Ty Rattie was signed to a one-year contract worth a rumored $800,000. This is an interesting one from a fantasy hockey standpoint. From a ‘real hockey’ standpoint, I think the Edmonton Sun has it right – it’s a low-cost, low-risk signing and he deserves a chance, but he should only be an option not the option.
So, in fantasy hockey, we owners have a decision to make: swing for the fences and risk falling on our face, or let someone else do that? Off the cuff, I’d put this at a 20 percent chance that this works out for the season ahead. Like a Conor Sheary circa 2016-17. And, also like Sheary, Rattie could still fall flat in his second full year.
The Oilers need to take a page out of Pittsburgh’s book here and give a one-dimensional AHL player a shot on the superstar’s line – the only place where he can be effective – and save some cash. (apr16)
Have a good week, folks!!
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- Fantasy Take: Lucic and Neal Swapped One For One
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- Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week - Schneider, Labanc, Kase, Couturier and tons of ‘Player X or Player Y’ Questions (July 22)
- Top 10 Keepers on the Bubble, Summer of 2019