20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on July 15, 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. Vegas extended Marc-Andre Fleury for three years at seven million per. The club just bought up his age 35-37 seasons as the new deal won’t kick in until 2019-20. This is a big paycheque for an ageing netminder with a career .913 save percentage in all situations. His .923 save percentage at even strength the last decade is fine but not otherworldly.

The Golden Knights success last season has placed them in a weird spot. They’re now forced to ride the wave and continue to go for a Cup in the immediate future. That's a risky spot for a team still trying to build its organizational depth chart (i.e. stock the prospect cupboard).

There’s little reason to expect MAF to post anywhere near his career-high .927 mark he had from last season. If he can play at a .920-level, he'll be worth the money from a stability and marketing standpoint. However, this deal is rife with potential pitfalls. (july14)

 

2. You could quibble about whether Patrick Maroon ends up on St. Louis’ second or the third line but Robby Fabbri’s health will probably have a say in the matter.

Despite his size as a potential net-front presence, Maroon hasn’t been a huge power-play guy throughout his career, recording no more than eight power-play points in a season. But, it’s worth mentioning that the Blues had a dismal 15.4 percent power-play success rate in 2017-18 (only Edmonton’s was worse). And even though Maroon was a part of that Edmonton team for most of the season, I don’t think it would be out of the question for coach Mike Yeo to try Maroon on the first-unit power play at some point if it continues to struggle.

 

3. Jakob Chychrun is a blueliner I’ve been following since before he was drafted. I’ve never been a prospects guy but when I see someone who was highly touted have their draft stock fall, which invariably leads to them being drafted much lower than where they were even six months earlier, I take notice. The Coyotes obviously thought the same, as they traded up (and acquired Pavel Datsyuk’s contract from Detroit) to get him when he fell. Injuries have limited his action but Chychrun has shown a lot of promise early in his career.

Chychrun has an all-world Swedish defenseman (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) ahead of him on the depth chart and will for a long time. He also has good supporting pieces that will push him for minutes. He still played over 20 minutes a game in 2017-18 and that should be his baseline for 2018-19. We’ll see how his offseason (knee) recovery goes but he’s looking like he’ll be ready for training camp. Keep him in mind as a bench defenseman or waiver option early in the year. (july13)

 

4. It’s really hard to peg goaltenders. Connor Hellebuyck had a good showing in limited action in his rookie season, had a poor sophomore season, and was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy in his third year. That’s basically the gamut of goaltenders: from having such a tenuous hold on the starting gig that the team signs a very expensive backup (Steve Mason) that eventually costs them Joel Armia to all-world goalie in the span of a year.

And that’s the risk here. If Hellebuyck can come close to repeating 2017-18 with any consistency over the next five or six years, the contract is a steal. If he reverts to 2016-17 for the next five or six years, this contract is a boat anchor. (july13)

 

5. There are some who worry that the 25-year-old is more 2016-17 Hellebuyck than the Vezina-finalist we saw in 2017-18. However, taking in his entire developmental arc, it’s plain to see that he’s been ticking away at elite metrics for years.

Winnipeg clearly believes he can operate at or above the 0.930 save percentage at even-strength. That level represents the upper echelon of the position. However, making big dollars doesn’t always assure those results. Hellebuyck is now the seventh highest-paid netminder in the league. Here are the players around him and their average save percentage at five-on-five over the past three seasons:

Carey Price (10 million) – 0.927
Henrik Lundqvist (8.5 million) – 0.925
Sergei Bobrovsky (7.425 million) – 0.933
Tuukka Rask (7 million) – 0.923
Marc-Andre Fleury (7 million) – 0.927
Pekka Rinne (7 million) – 0.929
Hellebuyck (6.167 million) – 0.927
Braden Holtby (6.1 million) – 0.928
Cory Schneider (6 million) – 0.923
Corey Crawford (6 million) – 0.932
Semyon Varlamov (5.9 million) – 0.923 

Amongst those with at least 4000 minutes played, any guesses on who leads the pack over that period? Antti Raanta and his 0.934 save percentage. The Coyotes’ starter makes 4.25 million for the next three seasons. (july14)

               

6. The worst outcomes came from:

Cam Ward (3 million) – 0.915
Chad Johnson (1.75 million) – 0.916
Scott Darling (4.15 million) – 0.917
Mike Condon (2.4 million) – 0.917
Martin Jones (5.75 million) – 0.919
Antti Niemi (950k) – 0.920
Craig Anderson (4.75 million) – 0.921
Jacob Markstrom (3.67 million) – 0.921

The moral of the story is that over a large period, there isn’t a great deal separating the truly elite goaltenders and those in the middle or bottom of the pack. You do get value from a player capable of making a difference in one game and a star crease-monkey can do that for you. Hellebuyck has that ability and poses a nice bet to produce a strong return on the investment for those in cap leagues and for the Jets. (july14)

 

7. Although he was not anywhere close to the super rookies such as Mat Barzal, Brock Boeser, or Clayton Keller in the scoring race, Tyson Jost’s first season was an encouraging one. But, with Nathan MacKinnon’s ascension to fantasy stardom, will he be limited to a middle-six role going forward?

Last season, Jost was sometimes used as the fourth forward on the first power play unit (Alexander Kerfoot and Sven Andrighetto were also used). That’s an encouraging sign, especially when you consider that five of Jost’s 12 goals were scored with the man advantage.

It might be a bit much to expect Jost to make an immediate impact in the NHL. After all, he is only two seasons removed from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), a level that generally does not see many first-round picks (although that number has increased in recent seasons). I think the best way to put it is that Jost needs time to develop before we find out truly what kind of player he is. In fact, Jost might be the kind of player that won’t break out until his fourth season. But, at least expect an increase from the 22 points he posted in 65 games. (july15)

 

8. The Stars’ Devin Shore has quietly posted back-to-back 30-point seasons, although his minus-30 ranking (tied for sixth-worst in the league) would have kept him out of being owned in a lot of leagues. Shore also quietly received some first-unit power-play time with a decent 11 power-play points (PPP) total. I wouldn’t expect a big breakout unless new Stars’ coach Jim Montgomery decides to both spread out the Stars’ scoring and decides to use Shore on the first-unit power play over options such as Jason Spezza, Valeri Nichushkin, or Mattias Janmark. (july15)

 

9. We’ve probably seen the best fantasy season we’re going to see from Micheal Ferland unless we see some dramatic changes to the Carolina roster. Last year saw a big jump in five-on-five ice time per game, garnering 1:45 more per game than his previous career-high. While the uncertainty around Jeff Skinner’s situation means there are likely more changes coming to this Carolina roster, as it stands right now, Teuvo Teravainen and Justin Williams are ahead of Ferland on the right side. They also just drafted a potential star in Andrei Svechnikov. If Svechnikov shows well early in the season, Ferland could find himself on the fourth line.

Now, Ferland is a left-handed shot even though he often played the right wing often in Calgary. But, even if they moved him to the left side, he’s still behind Sebastian Aho and Skinner (for now). Brock McGinn had a solid season last year, Valentin Zykov showed promise down the stretch, and they added Jordan Martinook. If Skinner is moved and they don’t add another left winger, maybe Ferland ends up as the second-line left winger. But, Skinner would have to be traded, the team would have to decide to move him to the left wing, and he’d have to outperform a few players to maintain that role. His best-case right now is that he’s moved around the middle-six for the Hurricanes, which is still a huge downgrade from spending nearly three-quarters of a season on a top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.

Without top power-play minutes, which he won’t get, and top-line slotting, which he also won’t get, it’s very, very hard to see Ferland repeating 20 goals and 40 points. He can still be fine with a 15-15 season in leagues that count hits but this is a serious downgrade for him. (july12)

 

10. Tyler Bozak signing is solid for the Blues in terms of getting them a true third-line center who can facilitate for their scoring wingers. In terms of fantasy hockey, owners need to realize that Bozak, going into his age-32 season, has one 50-point campaign (2016-17) and one 20-goal campaign (2014-15).

He’s going to a situation in St. Louis where his role at five-on-five won’t change much – third line in a sheltered role with talented wingers – but he will probably lose significant power-play minutes; Brayden SchennJaden SchwartzVladimir Tarasenko will eat a lot of minutes on a top unit while Ryan O’Reilly likely figures as the fourth. Losing just 30 seconds on the power play per game, which is a conservative estimate, will see him lose three-four points off his total from last year assuming constant goal rates. It’s that double-whammy where not only does his overall production decline but his PP production, as well, reducing his value in multiple roto categories.

He’s never been a multi-category performer, so Bozak is basically only to be drafted in deep leagues or leagues that count face-offs. Though he’s going to what appears to be a very good St. Louis team going into 2018-19, the loss of power-play time is going to be a hit to what was already his meagre fantasy value. (july12)

 

11. Something I noticed while trying to figure out San Jose’s line combinations for next year: Logan Couture has seen his individual shot-on-goal rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five decline every year since the lockout season. In 2017-18, he ranked 170th out of 367 forwards with at least 500 minutes in shots/60 minutes. Five years ago, at the end of the lockout year, he was 29th out of 339 forwards with at least 300 minutes. In total, his shots/60 has declined about 34 percent over the last five seasons. We expect decline as a player ages but he’s still in his twenties and that decline came largely from age 24 through age 27.

Linemates? Role? Being more selective (his two highest shooting percentage seasons are the last two years)? Regardless, it’s going to be hard for him to repeat 30 goals if his shot totals don’t grow.

 

12. Just to reiterate something about the Florida Panthers: one of Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov will not be on the top PP unit this year (for the most part). Now, Dadonov did not really need a bevy of PP points to perform well last year, so he can still be a 55- or 60-point guy without that slotting. If Hoffman is to top 30 goals for the first time in his career, though, he does need those minutes. Keep that in mind when draft season approaches. (july12)

 

13. Those who were confident enough to draft Andrei Vasilevskiy as a second goalie in 12-team leagues last year were instantly rewarded with a 2.18 GAA and .931 SV% prior to the All-Star break. However, he was a different goalie post All-Star break, posting a ghastly 3.37 GAA and .902 SV% – not what his fantasy owners had in mind.

A starting goalie on a Stanley Cup contender should hold considerable value, even if he lacks a proven track record. You might not be that enamored with the ratios but the fact is that Vasilevskiy’s fantasy value was propped up by his high win totals. Whether that artificially inflates his actual goaltending ability or not, the fact is that he plays for a legit Cup contender (even more so if they can trade for Erik Karlsson!) And if your league counts wins, you always want to target starting goalies playing for strong teams, even if the games can get a little high-scoring. Also keep in mind that Vasilevskiy will be 24 later this month, so there is still room to grow. And by grow, I mean for his ratios to improve.

Vasilevskiy’s value was at its absolute pinnacle at the All-Star break. It’s difficult to consider trading away the number one reason that your team is in first place but it could be worth leveraging him to address an area of weakness on your team. Especially if you won’t be left too shorthanded in net or you’ve accumulated a considerable lead in the wins category in your roto league. What fantasy owner doesn’t want to sell high? You must be honest with yourself as to whether you think a player’s incredible run of success will continue. (july11)

 

14. Salary cap league owners now have a year to plan for the nearly $5 million raise that Nikita Kucherov will receive. If you think about it, his current contract (less than $5 million per season) is a smokin’ deal for a 100-point player. And as long as he continues at close to that pace, you can probably make room for him in most salary cap league formats. You don’t give up elite players easily, no matter the cost. (july11)

 

15. What can get lost sometimes, from a fantasy perspective, is the effect on the team that loses the player. Dobber covered how the John Tavares trade will impact both Josh Bailey and Anders Lee when he wrote about the signing but one aspect I want to cover is the Islanders power play.

Coach Barry Trotz had a heavily-used, 4F-1D power-play unit in Washington and the Islanders had a successful top PP unit using this setup. I don’t suspect that will change. The two questions are: will Ryan Pulock supplant Nick Leddy? Who will replace John Tavares?

To answer the first question: not right away and maybe not at all. Even though Pulock showed well last year, Leddy maintained that top slotting and he should again to start the year. If the PP falters, maybe something changes, but don’t expect it out of the gate.

The second answer requires some more nuance. Things were muddied a bit with the signing of Czech center Jan Kovar on Monday (you can read about the impact of that signing here). I don’t think he gets a crack at the top PP unit to start the year but I also thought Vadim Shipachyov would be a 50-point player and he didn’t even play 50 minutes.

Who replaces Tavares is a matter of role and skill set. You don’t replace what Tavares can do internally, you just replace Tavares with a player who can fill his role on the power play. Tavares had a net-front position last year. It wasn’t truly net-front in the vein of someone like Wayne Simmonds or Tomas Holmstrom because Anders Lee filled that role, but he was more of a below-the-line guy who would roll to the slot when Leddy or either of the wingers were looking for a net-front pass or shot. (july10)

 

16. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that centers are still, by and large, the engines of offense up front. We had 18 pivots manage at least 30 goals in 2017-18, four more instances than both wings combined. The top centers aggregated more goals, assists, and shots than their wingers.

Being able to contribute across the board is really hard. Out of 60 centers sampled, just six had 26 goals, 40 assists, and 60 hits: Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Sean Couturier, Vincent Trocheck, Jonathan Marchessault, and Brayden Schenn. If we add another variable – minimum of 39 blocked shots – only Couturier and Trocheck qualify. To top it off, Trocheck is the only one to be average in all categories as Couturier fell just shy of the PIM cut-off.

Everyone who takes part in multi-cat leagues knows how much of a balancing act determining how much value a player can bring to a fantasy roster. Some guys bring goals and shots, some guys bring assists. Some guys bring real-time stats, some guys don’t. (july10)

 

17. Everyone loves the Tyler Ennis signing for Toronto. And what’s not to love? He has some upside and there’s virtually no risk. A very small contract that could be buried in the minors, plus a one-year deal that doesn’t handcuff them, and he cost them no assets. And I’ve always liked Ennis, as you probably know.

But, what’s the point? He’s not going to get a shot. Fourth line? Why? Ennis was a potential star who was derailed by injuries which stunted his development, as well as probably hurt his actual skill level. Any upside that he has left can only be seen on a scoring line. Put him on the fourth line and you may as well put him in the press box. And for him to be on a scoring line, two of: William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, Zach Hyman need to be hurt. And they need to be hurt for an extended period because even if Ennis clicked on one of the big lines he would just lose his spot as soon as the regular player returned from injury. This won’t happen, so I ask again: What’s the point?

In fact, this could even hurt the team more than help, as it will almost certainly mean that Josh Leivo spends another year in the press box and Andreas Johnsson’s ice time gets cut or downright eliminated. Does that help his development? Does it help the team win? I sincerely hope it works out for Ennis – as I said, I like him – but I just don’t see it. And besides all that, I think Minnesota gave him some good linemates and decent ice time last year, especially early on. Nothing came of it. (july9)

 

18. The San Jose Sharks signed Vladislav Kotkov to a three-year entry-level contract. Kotkov was ranked 75th in our Fantasy Prospects Report for the 2018 NHL Draft…and then he wasn’t drafted. The Sharks may have gotten a steal there. Here is what Peter Harling wrote about him in the FPR:

The big 6-3 Russian winger made his North American debut after being selected 32nd overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft. In his rookie season he produced 21 goals and 49 points but slowed down as the season wore on, which is a red flag for scouts. Kotkov is a versatile and well-rounded player, he has size, a good first step, skill, and can play in all situations. While he is a well-rounded player that is good all over, he does not really excel in any one area.

Harling also compared him a little to Alex Radulov in terms of upside. When players like Kotkov slip through the draft and can just be signed by NHL teams, I’d be trading my fifth/sixth/seventh round picks for assets all the time. What’s the point in keeping them? If I could swap my fifth and sixth rounder and get a fourth in return, I’d do that for sure! Especially if I could just turn around and sign a couple of Top 100 ranked prospects who fell through the draft (there were several of them this year).

The Sharks were always this team that lacked prospect depth but hit home runs with one of them every year or two. Doing the FPR for 12 years I have observed this. But, now they do have a handful of promising guys who could make a mark within three years. (july9)

 

19. In his weekly Geek of the Week, Scott Maran’s hard line on Ryan Strome (here) generated a ton of discussion. I’m still tempted to put Strome on my fantasy roster, acquiring him at a low price…but I haven’t put out feelers yet, so clearly, I’m not very confident in him. It’s that “what if he plays with Connor McDavid” intrigue that I (and many of you) often fall victim. It’s a lottery ticket. I think we all know who the favorites are and we all have hunches as to who will likely get first dibs there. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi are my two guesses, with Ty Rattie and Kailer Yamamoto as the runners up, but I wouldn’t discount Drake Caggiula, Pontus Aberg or Strome either. Likely scenario? Everyone gets a few games on the McDavid line, resulting in mediocre totals for everyone and lots of waiver-wire scrambling throughout the season as players get hot and cold. Just like always. Long shots: Cooper Marody and Tobias Rieder. (july9)

 

20. I always stress to fantasy owners – never hold onto a prospect you hope will be as good as Player X, if you can use him to get Player X. This applies to the real-world case of Erik Karlsson. Dallas should give up Miro Heiskanen, simple as that. If Karlsson signs an extension, then voila – you have your defenseman who could be as good as Erik Karlsson signed for the next eight years. And his name is Erik Karlsson. And don’t tell me how he’ll lose a step in four years or has lost a step now – this guy is the Crosby of defenseman and he has not lost a step now, and won’t in four years. Nicklas Lidstrom had 70 points when he was 36 and so could Karlsson. He’s that good. Generational. Hold onto Heiskanen and miss out on Karlsson? Don’t be stupid. (july9)

 

Have a good week, folks!!