20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on July 1, 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. First thing about Conor Sheary: he can finish. Across three seasons spanning 184 games and 300 shots on goal at five-on-five, he’s converted at a 12.6 percent clip. That’s a very, very good scoring rate. There’s also the cap hit. Sheary is only due $3 million over each of the next two seasons.

Adding Sheary gives the Sabres a winger who’s shown he’s capable of not only playing with an elite center (Sidney Crosby) but producing with an elite center. That’s exactly what Jack Eichel needs. I doubt Sheary sees significant power-play minutes so anything more than a 20-goal, 50-point campaign is too optimistic, but it does give them a guy to play with their franchise pivot while sheltering the younger guys in the lineup without significant cap implications. That’s a win for the Sabres. (june28)

 

2. As much as he deserves to be the top pick of the 2018 NHL Draft in both real life and fantasy, I wouldn’t draft Rasmus Dahlin until the later rounds in a standard single-season league. Fantasy-wise, I see his numbers projecting similarly to those of Victor Hedman. So, you might have to wait 4-5 years for him to blossom, as 18-year-old defensemen don’t take the league by storm. Or, to put it another way, I’m betting the under on him reaching 50 points in his first season. (june27)

 

3. I realize this could be a reach for him, and he might be a year or two away, but Oliver Wahlstrom’s game was made for fantasy. Lots of goals (22 goals in 26 games for US Under-18 team), so he could be similarly ranked to Filip Zadina when all is said and done. More proof: Wahlstrom went fifth and seventh in two recent fantasy drafts for draft-eligible players. (june27)

 

4. I broke down the Steve Mason trade from a fantasy hockey perspective here. Some additional thoughts:

With Mason now out of the picture, the Jets’ backup goalie situation will be one to watch. While Michael Hutchinson is an UFA, promoting Eric Comrie is a possibility, as he had a fairly strong AHL season (34 GP, 2.58 GAA, .916 SV%), but he has struggled in brief NHL duty (four GP, 4.00 GAA, .880 SV%). I’d probably put my money on the Jets bringing in an experienced backup one way or another. There should be plenty of those for the Jets to choose from. (july1)

 

5. A signing that might be of some interest to deeper league owners: Frank Vatrano has signed a one-year contract to remain with the Panthers. If he played baseball, Vatrano would be considered a ‘Quadruple-A’ player. He has dominated the AHL (36 goals in 36 games in 2015-16), yet his NHL career has never really gotten off the ground (10 points in 41 games last season). And with the Panthers adding another top-six forward in Mike Hoffman, it’s going to be even harder for Vatrano. He is 24, so there is still a bit of time. (june30)

 

6. Mike Clifford covered the Fantasy Take on the Capitals naming Todd Reirden as the new head coach. Very little surprise here, as Reirden was the only candidate interviewed and the only name mentioned to be taking over the Capitals. With Reirden previously in charge of the defense, I would expect the Capitals’ defense to continue to be strong. That will be good news for Braden Holtby owners, who should now have another reason to feel confident about a bounce-back regular season. Winning a Stanley Cup should already do wonders for that, though.

One signing that should make life easier for both Reirden and Holtby is that of Michal Kempny, who was signed to a four-year contract worth $10 million. Kempny shouldn’t move the needle in any fantasy leagues but he strengthened the Capitals’ defense after his acquisition near the trade deadline in forming an effective pairing with John Carlson. Sometimes it’s the small moves that pay off more than the big splashes, as the likes of Kempny and Devante Smith-Pelly were difference-makers in the Capitals’ playoff run. (june30)

 

7. Drew Doughty agrees to an eight-year extension with the Kings. The average annual value is expected to be worth just under $11 million per season. Fantasy implications? If you’re a Doughty owner in a salary cap league, you’ve had time to prepare to what should be around a $4 million per season raise. And if you’re an Erik Karlsson owner in a salary cap league, it gives you a better idea of what to expect. In spite of all the minutes he plays (league-high 26:50 ATOI in 2017-18), Doughty has not missed a game in four seasons. Over those four seasons, he is the only player to have skated over 9,000 minutes. (june30)

 

8. Wayne Simmonds is a finisher. A guy who digs pucks loose and gets to the net. And that’s perfectly fine. Every team can use the type of player Simmonds is. He is great at what he does, and if he does get traded, there should be a long line of suitors.

His numbers did fall off this year but it’s not something that I think is concerning. Through injury and demotion at times, Simmonds played just 975 minutes at five-on-five. Of those 975 minutes, he skated with Valtteri Filppula for 400 of them, roughly 41 percent of his five-on-five TOI. It’s no secret that Filppula is far from the player he was years ago. Simmonds played over 40 percent of his five-on-five ice time with a guy who is, at best, a fourth-line center at this point of his career. That is in contrast to his 44-plus percent of ice time with Claude Giroux in 2016-17. It’s no wonder Simmonds’ numbers took a tumble. There are also the injuries. Oh man, the injuries. He played through a broken ankle, torn pelvis, and a pulled groin. He also tore a ligament in his thumb. Despite all this, he missed just seven games and still managed 24 goals.

Whether Simmonds is back with the Flyers or somewhere else could have an impact on his value. His fantasy value, at least on the production side, largely comes from the power play, so if he is traded, it needs to be somewhere he’s going to be on a heavily-used top power play unit. Maybe a down year will provide good value at the draft table come September. In roto leagues, he’s generally been a lock for a top-50 player. If he’s healthy in the right situation, he can be that player again. (june29)

 

9. Zach Parise’s health will ultimately determine his fantasy value and considering he hasn’t played 75 games in a season since 2011-12, it’s clear how to value him. He’s a late-round pick at this point with hopes he can he play 70 games. (june29)

 

10. Rick Nash is still unsure about even playing in 2018-19 and won’t be signing immediately on July 1st. At the least, he seems to be very much considering retirement, if not just being very careful about where he signs next.

Just a thought in dynasty leagues: now might be the time to get him extremely cheap. You should be able to get him for a lower-level prospect or some sort of pick, given the news right now is that he might retire. In the right situation, 20-25 goals is again possible. (june29)

 

11. The Panthers’ Nick Bjugstad averaged just 39 points through his first four full seasons, maxing out at 43 in 2014-15, before posting last season’s 48-point campaign. He has three years left at $4.1-million per season, and if he can repeat 50 points for those three years, the team will get good value out of the back end of that contract.

While it had been tried out infrequently earlier in the year, the trio of Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov was united pretty much for good on January 25th. After that point, Bjugstad played about 75 percent of his minutes at five-on-five with exactly those two players, and about 82 percent of his time with at least one of those two, if not both. The bulk of Bjugstad’s production came in that second half when he was one the top line, scoring 27 points in 36 games. Up to that point, he had 22 points in 46 games.

How Florida decides to use Bjugstad next year will be crucial. He can still put up good peripheral numbers even without the points; he had 95 hits, 41 PIM, and 230 shots last year and has topped 100 hits, 200 shots, or 40 PIM twice each in his career. But, whether he can produce goals and assists at a rate necessary for value in leagues that don’t count all, or some, of those stats will depend on whether he returns to the top line or not. (june28)

 

12. Though he had just 30 total points, it was a breakout season of sorts for the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson last year. He managed 19 goals in just 63 games, outscoring his 2016-17 season in 15 fewer games. A big part of this is not only his increase in shot rate – his personal shot rate at five-on-five went up over 30 percent – but we saw the progression of a young player growing into a potential star.

Everything moved in the right direction for Anderson last year but he was slowed by three things: injury, linemates’ inability to score, and inconsistent lineup placement. Remember he was a fixture of the top line with Artemi Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois before he was replaced by Cam Atkinson.

The question of Anderson’s production next season will depend on his teammates rebounding from poor shooting percentages; he shot 9.43 percent at five-on-five, which is good, but the team shot 6.79 percent with him on the ice, which is bad. Just a full season at his 2017-18 level could see 25 goals next year. His assist rate will rely on guys like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, and Brandon Dubinsky turning things around personally. (june28)

 

13. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was the top center in a what was projected to be a weak year for centers. Guess what position is already the deepest in fantasy leagues? In one league, Kotkaniemi was picked eighth, whereas in another league he wasn’t even picked in the top 10. But given where the Canadiens drafted him and their lack of depth at center, they will give him every opportunity to succeed. (june27)

 

14. I’m sure you’ve read all the articles giving Detroit pats on the back for the players that landed in their lap much later than expected. Filip Zadina was ranked third on a lot of lists (including our own in the Fantasy Prospects Report), yet Detroit got him sixth. Joe Veleno was ranked 11th on our list and Detroit got him 30th. But, here is the Devil’s Advocate point of view: They got a couple of players who sank for a reason. I don’t question Zadina’s talent. I think that one was luck in that Montreal wanted a center and Ottawa wanted a sure-fire scoring-line player who can help very soon. But, now I question Veleno, who has seen his stock fall for almost an entire year now. Reminds me of us celebrating the Penguins for drafting Angelo Esposito back in the day. There was a reason Esposito fell; is there a reason Veleno fell? I’ll let someone else take a chance on Veleno for now in my league. (june25)

 

15. A day after being denied arbitration, Derrick Pouliot signed a one-year contract worth $1.1 million to remain with the Canucks. Remember when Pouliot was a must-own prospect in keeper leagues? He was still second among Canucks’ blueliners last season in averaging 1:35 in power-play ice time. (june27)

 

16. J.T. Miller has signed a five-year contract worth $5.25 million per season. That might seem expensive but Miller seemed to be good fit with the Bolts, scoring 18 points in 19 regular-season games with his new team. Although the playoff production dipped (eight points in 17 games), it appears that his fantasy value improved with the trade. (june27)

 

17. Why does Dougie Hamilton keep getting traded? Did Hamilton cause Calgary’s goalies to be poor, Mike Smith to get hurt, and the team to be abysmal at scoring at five-on-five? Did he cause them to shoot a full one percent less at five-on-five compared to 2016-17? Or, maybe all this is just nonsense and, under the pressure of a failed season largely driven by percentages, general manager Brad Treliving had to make a seismic move?

For years, Carolina had two problems: they couldn’t score and their goalies couldn’t make saves. In the game of hockey, being unable to tally or prevent goals is a, let’s say, problem. That started to change over the last couple years. Post-2013 lockout, 2016-17 and 2017-18 are the two seasons Carolina ranked highest in the league in goals/60 minutes at five-on-five. The power play wasn’t great but it was better than Calgary’s and there is a lot of room for improvement. Remember, we are going into Sebastian Aho’s third season, Teuvo Teravainen’s fourth full year, they have Martin Necas on his way, and just drafted Andrei Svechnikov. Veterans like Justin Williams and Jordan Staal, both capable scorers, are still around. There is still talk of Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner being traded, and while the latter being moved won’t help scoring, hopefully on aggregate the return will.

Regardless, at least in terms of skaters, this franchise is moving in the right direction, and Hamilton will be there to log big minutes at five-on-five and on the power play. A repeat of his 2017-18 season seems more likely than his 2016-17 season. (june26)

 

18. It sounds like Svechnikov will not only be in the Canes’ lineup this coming season but also in a top-six role. His stock could rise even further if the Hurricanes trade Jeff Skinner. Forty (40) goals and 72 points in just 44 OHL games in his draft season season. Svechnikov should score more points than Dahlin in their first season but Dahlin is ranked higher even in single-season leagues because he is a defenseman. (june27)

As much as Svechnikov seems ready to make the jump to the NHL, he’s not the only Canes’ prospect to keep an eye on this season. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, 2017 first-overall pick Martin Necas was “easily the most impressive player in (Hurricanes prospect development) camp.” Necas is listed at number 10 in the June edition of the Top 200 Fantasy Prospect Forward rankings. (july1)

 

19. Flames’ coach Bill Peters doesn’t seem convinced Elias Lindholm to the top line is a lock. Tweeted Flames’ beat reporter, Kristen Anderson: Bill Peters says he is going to play Tkachuk a bit on the right side this year. But if the season started tomorrow, he’d put Lindholm with Monahan and Gaudreau.

Process of elimination says there’s either a plan in place to: A) move Matthew Tkachuk to the top line right wing; B) just move Tkachuk to the right side of this own second line for some reason; C) move Tkachuk to the third line. Given the second two options are improbable, Tkachuk moving the top line is what Peters is inferring.

That would be incredible for Tkachuk, who is so proficient in multi-cat leagues that he doesn’t really need the production boost, but he’d be an elite asset if that were the case. It would also kill any hope for a Lindholm improvement. My assumption is it’ll be a fluid situation all year. (june26)

 

20. It’s going to be very hard for Anze Kopitar to improve on 92 points, Ilya Kovalchuk or not. It will help him maintain somewhere close to that level, though, so it’ll help him not fall off steeply in production, but not necessarily help him improve.

As far as Kovalchuk’s production goes, expecting anything more than 30 goals or 60 points is foolish. Guys his age just don’t produce at elite rates in today’s NHL, even fellow future Hall of Famers like Marian Hossa and Jarome Iginla. Start with those marks and work backwards when establishing your rankings. (june26)

 

Have a good week, folks!!