20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on June 10, 2018

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. There’s always a concern about a team suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover. The wear and tear on the body from an extended season. The adrenal fatigue that comes with the insane high of winning a championship. And, of course, the brutality that the liver is faced with in the days and weeks that follow the Cup ceremony. But, in all seriousness, after spending 13 years together climbing to the top of the mountain, there’s a legitimate chance that the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom step off the gas a bit to start next season. Especially Backstrom, as he’ll have some healing to do this offseason that will take away from training. Watch for that lull and take advantage if you can. If they start icy, it’ll be a prime opportunity to get one or both at a discounted price. (june9)

 

2. Is there another NHL team that benefits more from the increasing salary cap than Washington? With a reported $5-7 million dollars being tacked onto the roof this offseason, that will likely facilitate them retaining John Carlson.

The powerful right-shot blueliner re-established himself as a cornerstone fantasy asset this past season. Leading all blueliners in points is fantastic but replicating it is always the hard part. However, he attained his lofty numbers on the back of some sustainable metrics. Carlson shot the puck a great deal more this season – surpassing his previous career-high by 29 shots. Yet, his conversion rate remained consistent with his career norms. The other main factor to his 68-point season was the 33 power play points – another slam dunk career-high. He saw over a minute more per night on the man-advantage than 2016-17 and clearly made effective use of the additional time.

While 2017-18 very well could end up as his peak season, there's little reason to believe the 28-year-old won't be flirting with the top of the pile for defenseman scoring in immediate future. There is no one sniffing around his spot on the top power play unit, and his surrounding talent will remain quite high. (june9)

 

3. It appears that Brady Tkachuk’s 2018-19 season is very much an unknown.

According to @OHLinsiders: Top NHLDraft Prospect Brady Tkachuk to OHL London rumour certainly has legs. I'm told that former Boston U Coach David Quinn's departure for the NHL is making Brady think twice. Will come down to whether or not he's NHL ready or not if not, look for him to be in London.

This comes on the heels of his announcement to return to Boston University for a sophomore campaign a few weeks ago. However, it appears David Quinn grabbing the Rangers’ gig has changed some things.  

Many had assumed that Tkachuk would be one of the more NHL-ready prospects and thus hold some more clout in fantasy drafts this fall. Being drafted out of the NCAA will facilitate a multitude of options. Tkachuk will be eligible to play in the NCAA, OHL, AHL, or NHL. If he ends up in London, let’s hope he just takes No.7 to save fans from going out and getting a new jersey, as brother Matthew (Tkachuk) rocked that uni during his monster 2015-16 season with the Knights. However, this new revelation re-opens the door for an NHL debut next fall. That should play a role in his fantasy draft slot. (june9)

 

4. The fact that Noah Hanifin is reportedly being dangled on the trade block shouldn’t raise huge red flags on his offensive upside. He scored 23 points in 37 games during his draft season, his only season at Boston College. His power-play time and production dipped slightly over the past two seasons but his role stands to increase if Justin Faulk is traded. Plus, if Hanifin continues his current pace, he could easily push for 40 points in 2018-19. Also keep in mind that he has been more durable than Faulk, missing just four games over his first three NHL seasons.

It’s clear that the Hurricanes want to make some drastic changes, having missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. If they choose to stand pat with both Faulk and Hanifin, it’s possible that Hanifin could start to earn a greater share of ice time and power-play time. Hanifin is also entering that potential breakout fourth NHL season and was the Canes’ top-scoring defenseman last season (one point more than Faulk), so there is some sleeper potential here. (june10)

 

5. The Stars are expected to bring back Valeri Nichushkin on a two-year deal, although the signing can’t be announced until July 1 (according to TSN). Although he failed to reach 35 points during his two seasons in Dallas, Nichushkin should give the Stars some much-needed scoring depth. Now, we’ll see if he can fulfill that promise that made him the 10th overall pick in 2013. (june10)

 

6. Last week, I spoke about Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s pending free agency in 2019. At the time, it was reported that the Coyotes have an eight-year deal on the table for $8.25 million. John Chayka does not appear to be a man who minces words or actions. There’s a reason the organization is putting that worthy of an offer on the table 13 months before their star blueliner is eligible to test the waters. And, that’s to know what his intentions are.

OEL can take the offer under advisement for the summer and not allow the team to glean much information from it. Or, he can thank them and politely decline saying he wishes to focus on next season and leave the contractual part of the game for next summer. If that’s the case, I have a sinking suspicion that Arizona will dangle OEL at the draft in Dallas. Imagine the draft floor chatter that will be flying about if both OEL and Erik Karlsson are being legitimately shopped. (june9)

 

7. That the Sabres might want to trade someone with a high cap hit isn’t overly surprising. It would essentially be the start of their second (third?) rebuild, but with Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt, and eventually Rasmus Dahlin in place, along with two first-round picks next year, the chance to further stock the cupboard with prospects/picks makes sense. Ryan O’Reilly has fantastic for the Sabres but maximizing the return now in hopes to build a contender three to four years down the road seems like the right move. I’m sure the Canadiens are inquiring.

 

8. Troy Stecher’s power play (PP) time on ice (TOI) in Vancouver all but disappeared this past season. He went from 2:42 per game in 2016-17 (nearly 193 minutes total) to … 15 seconds per game (17:22 total). Alex Edler saw an increase in PP time and that meant someone had to lose their minutes and that guy was Stecher. And he lost almost all of them.

It’s not really a huge surprise. Out of 50 defensemen with 150-plus  power play minutes in 2016-17, Stecher was 49th in points per 60 minutes. The team scored 5.29 goals per 60 minutes on the power play with him on the ice, 48th out of those 50 defensemen. With Edler patrolling the blue line on the PP, that goals/60 rate increase to 8.98 in 2017-18. Sure, there are mitigating circumstances (Brock Boeser) but that same mitigating circumstance means that Stecher isn’t likely to reclaim that PP time in 2018-19.

There still isn’t much depth on the Canucks roster as far as scoring is concerned, so without those power play minutes, Stecher might not carry much fantasy value next year. Edler is a UFA after the season, though, so Stecher dynasty owners may need to exercise patience. (june7)

 

9. It’s hard to see Tim Heed having much fantasy value unless his coaches start trusting him. He was consistently a healthy scratch down the stretch for the Sharks and ended up only playing a little less than a third of the season for the team. He was a tweener for them; not really a NHL regular but too good for the AHL (he has 61 points in 65 career AHL games).

Heed is under contract for 2018-19, so he’ll have another year to prove himself. It seems unlikely the Sharks move Heed’s role from inconsistently in the lineup to 20 minutes a game in his age-28 season. Whether by adjusted shot share, actual goal share, or expected goal share, he was at or near the top in every regard for San Jose. We can quibble about his usage or sheltering but he crushed the opportunity given to him. It’s just a matter of whether it will lead to a bigger role. (june7)

 

10. It appears Sean Monahan’s recovery from multiple surgeries is going as planned. It’s nice to hear there haven’t been any setbacks for the Calgary center and that he should be ready to go when the team hits the ice for training camp in a few months.

In general, I’m wary of drafting players coming off significant offseason surgery. If Monahan is all ready to go for the start of training camp, though, I’m not sure how much we should be concerned as fantasy owners. The concern would be if we get close to training camp and the team says he’ll need another couple of weeks. Until then, it seems there’s nothing to worry about.

 

11. There is cause for concern that the Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien’s style of play is already leading to a statistical decline. Although Byfuglien’s points-per-game average has remained steady over the last four seasons (0.65 PTS/GP), he is now 33 years old and was held to just 69 games last season due to injuries. His hit total has also dropped from 222 in 2015-16 to 183 in 2016-17, and to just 147 in 2017-18. The Jets appeared to be a tired bunch after their hard-fought seven-game series win over Nashville. Although Byfuglien played three minutes less per game in 2017-18 compared to 2016-17, logging nearly 25 minutes per game is still heavy mileage. Understand all that Big Buff provides in a multicategory league but be careful not to overpay. (june6)

 

12. Nikita Zadorov finished second among blueliners (to Byfuglien) with 103 penalty minutes and first among all players with 278 hits. This was the first season in which Zadorov reached triple-digits in penalty minutes and the first season in which he has recorded 200 hits. For what it’s worth, Zadorov also reached a scoring career high with 20 points (7g-13a), so he was one of many Colorado players to improve over a dismal 2016-17 season. Zadorov finished the season owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues.

If you believe that today’s game has less hitting than even last season’s game, then one stat supports your belief. In 2016-17, two players finished with over 300 hits (Mark Borowiecki led with 364), while in 2015-16 three players finished with over 300 hits (Matt Martin led with 365). We know that penalty minute totals have dropped through the years with far fewer fighting majors, but the number of hits could be declining as well. (june6)

 

13. Brayden McNabb isn’t a player that you’re going to read about in a whole lot of fantasy articles. Yet, in the right type of league he could be extremely valuable – a true hidden gem on a team that unearthed plenty of hidden gems.

McNabb didn’t earn a particularly high point total (15 points) in 76 games and he won’t often be mentioned as a reason that the Golden Knights were so successful, but McNabb finished sixth among defensemen with 226 hits and sixth among all players with 176 blocked shots. That represented the highest combined hits/blocked shots total (401) among all players.

Interestingly enough, those weren’t the only categories where McNabb shined in 2017-18. He also finished tied for 13th with a plus-26 ranking (and fourth on the Golden Knights). McNabb is also a decent option in penalty minutes, having nearly reached 100 penalty minutes two seasons ago with the Kings and amassing at least 50 penalty minutes in each of his last four seasons. Although McNabb was owned in only 14 percent of Yahoo leagues, he turned out to be extremely valuable in leagues that count all of plus/minus, hits, and blocked shots. (june6)

 

14. Reader Loutzenheiser asked: “What do you make about all the noise regarding the Habs drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi at the third spot? Opinions seem scattered but some scouts him as a challenger to Filip Zadina on the third pick.”

Honestly, from what I understand of the draft, after the first two picks it becomes too close to call. Yes, there seems to be a consensus about numbers three and four, but the number nine guy could easily move up because the gap between three and 10 isn’t huge. Kotkaniemi, we have ranked 13, but he’s also considered by many to be the top center available and it wouldn’t shock me if he moves higher to a team that needs a center. Would I do it if I’m Montreal? No. However, if I really liked him or Joe Veleno, then I would trade down. I’d see if I can swap with sixth or seventh and get a second-round pick thrown in. Then I’d still get my guy plus the pick. (june5)

 

15. Matt Norman: “Where does Victor Mete fit in this year? Are they going to run him next to Shea Weber full time? It feels like last year was a bit of a crap shoot at the beginning. He cooled off after game 10.”

No, and I don’t think you can expect a lot offensively from Mete this year. Give him time. He’s a good one but Weber has the top role right now. Mete and his career trajectory reminds me of Olli Maatta (so far … even include the injuries). (june5)

 

16. Todd MacKay asked: “Will Elias Lindholm ever take the next step? What about Tomas Hertl? Who's going to have the next Sean Couturier-esque breakout?”

Yes, I believe Lindholm will. I know it’s been five seasons now, so my expectations have dropped to 70 points at best. But, there’s another gear … As for Hertl, I don’t like his chances as much. I think he gets hurt too much and I never thought he’d top 70 points to begin with … Couturier-esque breakout: Lindholm is a good candidate; Tyler Johnson … I’m just looking at guys who have been around for a few years and have established a production window. I’m not looking at young players on the rise such as Jake Guentzel and Pierre-Luc Dubois because I think those are obvious candidates. (june5)

 

17. Jonny Miazyk: “How much do you like Alex Tuch going forward?”

I think Tuch will be Chris Kreider fantasy-wise and – knock on wood – doesn’t have the injury baggage to slow his development or reduce his production. (june5)

 

18. The breakout we’ve been waiting for from Jason Zucker finally came and the power play had a lot to do with it. Zucker amassed 16 power-play points, which doesn’t sound like a lot, until you realize he had six (!) power-play points in his first 248 games with the Wild. He’s an RFA and is deserving of a healthy raise over the two-year, $2M AAV contract he just finished.

One issue is just whether there’s growth to be had or not. Minnesota is one of the teams that still splits its two PP units evenly – first through sixth in PP TOI per game among Wild forwards was separated by 18 seconds – so, unless something changes with the coaching staff, it’s hard to see Zucker racking up more PP points. If he’s back with the Wild, though, in this same role, I wouldn’t anticipate much of a decline in production. (june4)

 

19. Back in late February, I wrote about how good of a season Nick Schmaltz was having, all things considered. It is recommended to go back and read that.

Going forward, Schmaltz certainly seemed to have earned the Blackhawks’ second-line center role behind Jonathan Toews. Skating with Patrick Kane boosted his five-on-five ice time from his rookie year but a huge chunk of the jump also came from the power play; he finished fourth among their forwards in PP TOI per game.

To my eyes and by the numbers, Schmaltz looks like a good playmaker right now and that should only improve for the 22-year old. The lack of shots means the across-the-board production may not be there but he seems in line to have a season like Mikko Koivu has had recently – expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 goals and 35 assists. (june4)

 

20. Micheal Ferland saw a career year with 21 goals and 20 assists, career highs in both stats. Part of the jump in goals came from his power-play usage in that he tripled his career output to that point in PPGs with six (he had three for his career before 2017-18).

Maybe he stays on the top line under the new coaching regime, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the power play. It was a sore spot for the Flames most of the season and needs to be better next year. Do they just eschew the second unit completely? Does Ferland finish in the top-6 mix for forwards PP TOI again? Open-ended questions with a new head coach in town. (june4)

 

Have a good week, folks!!