20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on June 24, 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. If Buffalo were to make a huge turnaround, a lot of things have to go right: both Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt have to be Calder-worthy, Ryan O’Reilly probably can’t get traded, Kyle Okposo has to be the player they signed in free agency two years ago and not the player he’s been since, Sam Reinhart’s production progression needs to continue, and they need to make a splash in free agency to reinforce their defense corps. They should probably add a couple good bottom-six forwards, as well. I get that the East is tough but if a few things go right, they can pass teams like Ottawa, Montreal, the Rangers, and Detroit. Depending on what happens with trades and free agency, they can pass teams like the Islanders and Hurricanes as well. It doesn’t leave them that far from playoff contention.

Of course, if Buffalo were to even make a playoff push rather than be out of contention by Christmas, Jack Eichel must be one of the top producers in the league. He’s coming into his fourth season (we love our Year-4 guys here at DobberHockey) and hopefully he’s healthy all year long. It might be a longshot that the Sabres can turn their fortunes around in one season but we saw two stark examples of this in 2017-18, and if they can pull off the miracle, a monster season from Eichel will be a big reason why. (june21)

 

2. The big winner of the first round at the NHL Draft was the New York Islanders. They landed Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson at 11 and 12, respectively. Those two could have easily gone in the top six and no one would’ve blinked an eye. Just imagine for a moment: Mat Barzal feeding Wahlstrom for the next decade? Drool. (june23)

 

3. Despite rumors of trying to move the pick for immediate help on the blue line, Edmonton kept the 10th overall selection and grabbed Evan Bouchard. The volume-shooting, right-shot defender feasts on the power play and will add a dangerous weapon to the Oilers man-advantage unit in the near future. As a late-1999 birthdate, who is already physically mature, he may be ready to step into the NHL lineup next season. (june23)

 

4. A puck-moving defenseman like Quinn Hughes is something that the Canucks have been missing since, well, ever. I think the one takeaway from this draft – at least the first round – is the type of defensemen that were drafted. After years of teams drafting bigger and bigger, the smaller defensemen were all the rage as teams move toward a faster style that stresses the importance of moving the puck out of your zone and keeping up with the play. Here’s the height and weight of the first seven defensemen drafted in the first round:

Rasmus Dahlin (Buf): 6-2, 181 pounds
Hughes (Van): 5-10, 173
Adam Boqvist (Chi): 5-11, 165
Evan Bouchard (Edm): 6-2, 195
Noah Dobson (NYI): 6-3, 176
Ty Smith (NJ): 5-11, 176
Ryan Merkley (SJ): 5-11, 167

Not one of these defensemen is over 200 pounds, and there are more that are under six feet tall than over. Of course, these are still kids who could continue to grow and should also fill out a bit more. But, the trend of blueliners scoring more should continue, while fewer enormous-bodied stay-at-home defensemen will be able to survive in the NHL. (june24)

 

5. Dobber provided the Fantasy Take on the Ilya Kovalchuk signing, which includes how top-six forwards in LA might be impacted. I’d expect Kovalchuk to be a decently productive fantasy option next season but at age 35 he’s already seen most of his peers his age drop off from their prime (or drop out of the league by now).

As productive as Kovalchuk was in the KHL (over a point per game over his last two seasons), I can’t help but think that someone like now-34-year-old Rick Nash is a comparable at this point in his career. And Nash isn’t someone you should be reaching for in next season’s drafts. But, don’t get me wrong, I’d still rate Kovalchuk over Nash. (june24)

 

6. Dobber also gave you the Fantasy Take on the Calgary/Carolina blockbuster. Fantasy-wise, this trade has a major impact on the Flames’ top line, with the forwards swapping places on it. As far as the trade goes, I’m going to concentrate on the forwards in the deal.

I really like this move for Elias Lindholm – more so than anyone else involved in the deal. The previous relationship with coach Bill Peters should result in Lindholm receiving at least a long look with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. There was no real continuity when it came to Lindholm’s linemates last season but both Gaudreau (1.05 Pts/G) and Monahan (0.86 Pts/G) scored at a higher pace than any Carolina forward. This is a significant upgrade for Lindholm. If Micheal Ferland can score 21 goals while (mostly) playing on that line, then the more talented Lindholm should score at least that many. Lindholm has never scored more than 17 goals in a season.

Conversely, the main reason I decided to take a flier on Ferland last season was his place on the Flames’ top line. Of his 41 points, 35 were even strength. And, of those 35 even-strength points, only three were without either Gaudreau or Monahan. There could be more turnover with the Canes’ forward group, particularly if Jeff Skinner is traded. But, for now, Ferland is buried among a large pile of wingers, which means that he should probably only be targeted in leagues that count hits. (june24)

 

7. The Avs grabbed themselves the most sought-after backup goaltender on the market in Philipp Grubauer. The Cup winner was dealt alongside Brooks Orpik and his $5.5 million in salary for next season. The Caps cleared cap space in order to try and re-sign John Carlson and also grabbed the 47th overall selection in the draft.  This was a nice piece of work by Joe Sakic. The recent history of teams purchasing Grubauer-level assets has been higher than a mid-second, so taking on the salary clearly decreased the cost.

The Avalanche have been toiling away with sub-par goaltending for far too long. This move doesn't assure them anything but Semyon Varlamov now has a true competitor for his crease. The oft-injured and inconsistent Russian netminder's value in fantasy leagues hasn't been high but the Avs are clearly a team on the rise.

Grubauer should get a good amount of attention on fantasy draft day as a potential sneaky pick that could pay massive dividends. He'll need to be signed as a restricted free agent and that dollar amount will provide further insight into how much value the Avs will be placing on him. (june23)

 

8. This probably goes without saying, but the Grubauer trade all but assures that Jonathan Bernier will be headed to unrestricted free agency. The UFA goalie market is thin but Bernier should be considered a top-five option in that group. That probably should net him a goalie timeshare situation of his own at best, with the more likely scenario of him being signed as a team’s backup.

As for the vacant Washington backup goalie job, recently-signed goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov is expected to play a lot in the AHL next season. That would make Pheonix Copley the little-used backup behind Braden Holtby. The native of North Pole, Alaska has played in just two NHL games – both with the Blues. (june24)

 

9. Florida’s Vincent Trocheck in 2017-18: 287 shots on goal, 54 PIMs, 145 hits, 55 blocked shots. The evolution of Trocheck’s fantasy value is really something. He was a third-round pick (2011) who spent four years in the OHL and parts of two seasons in the AHL. None of his numbers at any level screamed 30 goals and 70 points in the NHL. And yet, here we are in June of 2018 with Trocheck having reached both of those marks.

I remember a few years ago after his 50-game season that he split with the AHL some people in the DobberHockey forums glowing about his potential real-time stat value. I did not see it and boy was I wrong. He now has three straight seasons of at least 125 hits, 40 blocked shots, and 40 PIMs. Those numbers will play in multi-cat leagues.

It’s the shots that are really something to behold. He’s nearly doubled his shots per game from ’14-15 (1.78) to ’17-18 (3.50). His TOI per game going up 50 percent is certainly a part of that but he’s increased his shots/60 at five-on-five every season as well. It’s just been a natural progression of a player who was unheralded just getting better and better every year.

If I have one concern it’s the TOI. I would assume that the coaching staff prefer not to have to play their top two centers 22 minutes a night. The addition of Mike Hoffman could allow them to lengthen the lineup as Jared McCann turns into a viable third-line center. Trocheck should still be a big minutes guy but maybe it’s 20 a night instead of 21:30? It would hurt his numbers across the board but not enough to avoid him. Even if the production falls off a bit to, say, 25 goals and 40 assists, there is more than enough production in other categories for Trocheck to remain one of the elite forwards in multi-cat leagues. (june22)

 

10. The potential loss of Ryan Kesler undoubtedly hurts the Ducks if he indeed misses the 2018-19 season, but he was injured and largely ineffective last year as it was. A full season from Ryan Getzlaf and Sam Steel making his way to the team should go a long way in shoring them up down the middle. Don’t forget that Hampus Lindholm started the season injured, as well. Just this team being healthy, Kesler aside, should mean improvement from the Ducks. Despite the injuries last year, John Gibson was still one of the best goaltenders in the league. He just needs to stay healthy himself.

Anaheim still boasts a pretty good top-four defense corps with Lindholm, Josh Manson, Brandon Montour, and Cam Fowler. They can still ice a pretty good top-three lines, so it’s just really tinkering with depth that they need. A healthy year from this roster, and Gibson playing like he can, should have the latter in the Vezina Trophy conversation. As always, though, goaltending is very uncertain. (june21)

 

11. Pekka Rinne and his Vezina Trophy win: It’s truly a remarkable turnaround from just a few years ago. Remember that from 2012-2016, he posted three seasons with a save percentage of .910 or less, averaging .913. He’s posted a .923 over the last two years and then that wonderful playoff run in 2017. He has one year left on his deal, though, and we’re all waiting for the reigns to be turned over to Juuse Saros. It'll be interesting to see what the Preds do in 2018-19. (june21)

 

12. Rumors are that the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds is available in a trade. Per Cap Friendly, Simmonds has a limited NTC which has him able to submit a 12-team no-trade list. That kind of cuts things down a bit. But, for the teams not on the list, he has one year left on a very cheap cap hit and is one of the elite power forwards in the game. As a net-front presence on the power play, there probably aren’t any better in the game. (june21)

 

13.Connor McDavid lapped the field in five-on-five points last season – he had more 5v5 points than Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine combined – and was held back by an abysmal team. This is where the semantics between ‘most outstanding’ and ‘most valuable’ separate the Ted Lindsay Trophy from the Hart. Just imagine what his point totals might look like next year if the power play isn’t awful. (june21)

 

14. Regarding Shea Weber: I’m wondering where his average draft position (ADP) is going to be next season. Injuries limited him to 26 games in 2017-18 but if you worked out his ‘on-pace’ numbers, this is what we get for 78 games, a number he reached in eight straight 82-game seasons: 18 goals, 30 assists, 42 PIMs, 225 shots, 198 hits, 177 blocks.

That number of goals would have led the NHL among defensemen. The 30 assists would have been one off a four-year high. The 225 assists would have been the highest mark in three years. Those PIMs would have also been a three-year high. The blocks would have been a career high. The hits would have been his highest mark since 2010-11. In all, *if* he could have kept up those marks for a full year, he would have been an excellent fantasy commodity.

Back to my question: what’s his ADP going to be? He was probably drafted in the top-10 defensemen in your fantasy drafts for 2017-18. Does he fall out of the top-10? Where does he have to go for you to feel comfortable drafting him?

I won’t start my projections until free agency settles down but assuming Weber doesn’t lose his power play slotting – which I cannot imagine he does – is there a reason, other than health, that Weber takes a step back next season? He’s getting older, but he didn’t really seem to take a step back last year, at least for fantasy production. If he plays 25 minutes a night with top PP time, maybe he can be the guy we have seen for the last few years. If I can grab him as a second defenseman in 12-team leagues, I’ll be hard-pressed to pass that up. (june19)

 

15. I said it months ago in a Ramblings and I stand by it: I would love to see John Tavares go to Vegas. This is a team with a young core that is only going to improve but we saw them run into problems with scoring depth at times. With the uncertainty of David Perron and James Neal, it’s 40-some goals that they may need to replace. It would provide a buffer and some safety for youngsters Nick Suzuki and Cody Glass while providing the team with a true, bona fide superstar.

The most likely conclusion here is just Tavares re-signing with the Islanders. We all know that. It doesn’t mean we can’t speculate. That’s the point of fantasy hockey! (june19)

 

16. If a new team signs Carter Hutton and anoints him their savior … they’ll be as disappointed as Carolina was with Scott Darling. Worse, because I still think Darling can be a starter under a better coaching system and upgraded defense. I’m not as sure about Hutton. (june18)

 

17. You may have caught this the other day, the Blackhawks re-signed a couple of under-the-radar players, the main one being Vinnie Hinostroza ($1.5 million per season, two years). He of a career-best 25 points, who did most of that between December and February because initially he didn’t even make the team … and then finished the year off very slow. But, there was a stretch there where he posted 23 points in 36 games. He’s a sleeper for 50 points next season and an upside for 60, depending on linemates.

John Hayden was the other guy signed but his contract was for $750,000 per season, which is not a deterrent from the team sending him to the minors. He’ll stick with the big club but just saying that it won’t be because the contract keeps him there. Hayden’s a potential 55-point, 100-PIM player but as a big power forward, he’s several years away from that. In the meantime, enjoy your 30/90 out of him. (june18)

 

18. Innocent or guilty, girlfriend’s fault or his fault, I think Mike Hoffman could be done. Sure, maybe he posts another huge season of 65 or 70 points just to immediately prove everyone wrong. But, being under a microscope, with so many people looking for the slightest misstep, is going to catch up with him. An injury or slump will get compounded and maybe Year 2 sees him get just 55 points. And then 40. And then lots of healthy scratches. And then done.

I’m not condemning Hoffman. What I think about that situation is irrelevant. I’m just looking at it from a fantasy hockey standpoint – and in my keeper league I want nothing to do with him. Actually, check that. There is one scenario where I would have liked to own Hoffman: a trade to Edmonton (Ed. note: after two trades, Hoffman finally landed in Florida this past week). But, aside from that, today I’m placing pretty strong odds that he has two more fantasy-relevant seasons left. Not a certainty, just strong enough odds that I’m going to steer clear.

That’s what fantasy hockey is, it’s about playing the odds. If there’s a 30 percent chance that X happens, a 25 percent chance that Y happens, a 20 percent chance that Z happens, and a 25 percent chance of ‘other’, then you run your team based on X while still allowing for Y, Z or ‘other’ to possibly take place. Well, Hoffman gradually failing over the next several seasons is (for today) my X. (june18)

 

19. Arizona is really wheeling and dealing. Hudson Fasching (from Buffalo for Brandon Hickey) has been a disappointment but could turn out to be a depth winger in a year or two. The change of scenery will help. It has only been about one year since we were kind of high on him as a power forward. (june18)

 

20. Here’s my take on the Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi trade: I think Galchenyuk is on the cusp of a breakout. Yes, he’s played six full seasons in the NHL but with injuries (twice) and a terrible team (last year), he’s been held back. Not that Arizona is this amazing Cup contender, but we can all agree they have a lot of good young pieces in place that offer the skill and depth Galchenyuk needs to hit his potential. It was the absolute worse time to trade him – and I mean that for both fantasy hockey and real hockey.

Not that Max Domi is a pushover. I think he’s got plenty more to give and he’s entering his fourth NHL season. However, breaking out on a Habs team with very little talent is different from breaking out on an Arizona team with plenty of potential. If Domi gets 50 points this year, even though he’s done better (as a rookie – 52 points), to me that would be a breakout because of the team around him.

Once again, general manager Marc Bergevin loses a deal even though what he gets isn’t ‘that bad’. Every deal he does, his return is ‘not bad’. The problem is, it’s never ‘good’. You can’t succeed as a GM if nothing you do is good. A ‘not bad’ move is fine, mixed in among good ones. You can even get away with a terrible move. But, you need to have good moves with some regularity. And Bergevin hasn’t done that. (june18)

 

Have a good week, folks!!