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. Will people still consider Nicklas Backstrom a premier asset heading into drafts this season? Last year, he was the 20th player off the board in Yahoo leagues. This was after he produced an 86-point campaign in 2016-17. That season, he played around 60 percent of his even-strength minutes next to Alexander Ovechkin. He produced 36 power-play points and hadn’t yet turned 30.
Heading into 2018-19, things aren’t so rosy. His production dipped to 71 points in 81 games. His power play production was the lowest per-game since 2010-11 and he’ll be 31 by the time puck drops this fall. His five-on-five time with Ovechkin was around 580 minutes – roughly the same percentage as the year prior.
The big playoff run will help ease some GMs concerns about taking the Swedish pivot early. However, the emergence of Evgeni Kuznetsov cannot be overlooked. The younger Russian played roughly 475 even-strength minutes with Ovechkin last season. But the two were connected at the hip down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. The results were fruitful.
Backstrom has proven to be a reliable performer. His ability to generate offense away from Ovechkin is admirable. However, it’s not at the same level it could be if he was consistently dishing the puck to this generation’s greatest goal scorer. With the extreme depth at the centre position, there’s no need to jump up and grab Backstrom in the first two rounds. Hell, I may even wait until closer to the 35-spot to take a swing on him. (aug11)
2. One of the most underrated players of this generation, Blake Wheeler has been lethal on the power play for the Jets (having Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele helps). Can he replicate the 40 power-play points (!) he had last year? That’s a pretty tall task. Seems likely he comes down to the 75-80-point range he had been the previous couple seasons. Then again, there is a lot of talent on that top power-play unit. He has one year left on his deal and will be 33 years old for the 2019-2020 season. (aug7)
3. Is anyone else a little concerned that Dallas Stars’ new bench boss, Jim Montgomery, will be inclined to split his top line to spread out the offense? We can assume at least one of Jamie Benn or Alex Radulov will get to live next to soon-to-be potential upcoming unrestricted free agent, Tyler Seguin, next season. But, will the other end up driving offense from the second line to help get Jason Spezza and company going?
The Stars top line produced 103 of the team’s 231 total goals. Seventy-three (73) of those goals came at even-strength, where the team scored 187 total goals. That’s 40 percent of the team’s offense during five-on-five play. Meanwhile, no other forward cusped the 20-goal or 35-point mark. The secondary scoring is non-existent in Big D.
It’s certainly a situation to watch carefully. Seguin will reap the best of everything as he’s the focal point of the attack down the middle. The team will also be looking to give him every reason to sign a massive extension before testing the market next July. Benn and/or Radulov could be seeing their even-strength production take a dip next season if they end up away from the top line. (aug11)
4. How much does Shayne Gostisbehere’s value depend on Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek's ridiculous power play production? Giroux has a history of racking up massive production on the power play. Over the past five seasons, he’s averaged 34 points on the man-advantage. And his 168 total PPPs over that time are tied for most in the league with Nicklas Backstrom. Voracek has been a little more inconsistent, producing 23 power play points in three of the last five seasons. But, he's sprinkled in 33 in 2014-15 and 35 last season.
Gostisbehere saw his average powerplay deployment dip by 15 seconds per night last season. Yet, his power play production shot up from a previous career-high of 23 to the 33 he experienced last season. That result led all blueliners and has propelled him to being one of the best fantasy hockey blueliners out there.
For those who concern themselves with Ivan Provorov breathing down Gostisbehere's neck, don’t. Let's say the Flyers decided to promote Provorov to the top unit. The increase in his level of production would pale in comparison to the deficit that moving Gostisbehere off of it would cause. This is a Kevin Shattenkirk–Alex Pietrangelo situation all over again. The club will play their players to their strengths. That means Gostisbehere gets all the fun minutes and Provorov remains an all-around stud who is limited offensively due to his deployment. Until the Philly power play begins to show signs of slowing, Gostisbehere will remain an elite producer. (aug11)
5. In case you’re wondering where Brady Tkachuk might fit in now, the Sens have a number of established NHL-level players at the left wing position. But, with the departure of Mike Hoffman, the Sens also lack a true top-liner at that position. So, Tkachuk could receive an opportunity to latch on to a scoring line right away.
It's anyone’s guess whether Tkachuk would stay in Ottawa for the full season or not. But it’s worth mentioning that brother Matthew went straight to the Flames right after being drafted and stayed the entire season. So, it’s possible that Brady is trying to follow the same path. But ultimately it will be the Senators’ decision. If the Sens are a Canadian tire fire again, then playing in London would be a better option for the 2018-19 season. (aug12)
6. One left wing that Tkachuk will be battling for minutes with will be Ryan Dzingel. With all the turmoil in Ottawa last season (and stretching into the offseason), it’s easy to overlook the fact that Dzingel tied for the team lead in goals with 23. There’s lots to like with Dzingel as a potential deep sleeper. Not only is he playing for a contract, but he is also entering his fourth season (if you count his 30-game 2015-16 season). His production climbed as the season went on, which was at least partially due to his deployment with Matt Duchene later in the season.
At this point Dzingel might be the preferred choice on the top line while Tkachuk becomes accustomed to the NHL either this season or next. But long term, he’s probably keeping the seat warm for Tkachuk. In the meantime, you can have fun saying the name "Dzingel!" Doesn't it just roll off the tongue? (aug12)
7. Dylan Larkin inked a five-year contract extension worth 6.1 million per season. That's a nice chunk of change coming to the 22-year-old. Larkin epitomized the dreaded sophomore slump in 2016-17. After taking the NHL by storm in the first half of his rookie campaign, things turned a little sour for the former University of Michigan standout. He witnessed a dip in goals, assists, points, shots, and time-on-ice. A great deal of that can be explained by his transition to the middle of the ice and the responsibility that comes with it.
The 2017-18 campaign was the re-emergence. He posted more than double his previous season point totals (31 to 63) and was a force at even-strength. His 53 points at five-on-five were good for 23rd in the league. Wedged between Steven Stamkos and Evgeni Kuznetsov. (aug11)
8. I’ll be very interested to see what the Arizona Coyotes do with their top power-play unit this year. If we look at their PP line combinations from Frozen Tools, their three most-common PP lineups had three forwards and two defensemen. However, with the addition of Alex Galchenyuk and the hopeful emergence of Dylan Strome, as well as the lack of scoring talent down the lineup, it would make sense for the team to run a heavily-used four-forward top PP unit.
They could go with Galchenyuk-Clayton Keller–Derek Stepan-Strome-Oliver Ekman-Larsson and just play them 70 percent of the time. It would give them four lefties but that’s not really a huge issue. You can have Galchenyuk on his off-hand wall, Strome or Keller on their strong-side wall, the remaining forward and Stepan playing low/high in the slot with OEL on the point.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but it seems to me they finally have the offensive pieces necessary to run a very threatening top PP unit. Arizona was bottom-10 in five-on-four goals last year and if this team wants to earnestly push for a playoff spot, a boost on the PP would go a long way in helping. It’ll be curious to see what they run in exhibition games. (aug10)
9. Eric Staal has been lights out for the Wild since they signed him, culminating with 42 goals last year, 11 of them on the power play. For reference, he had 12 power-play goal totals from 2014-2017 combined. He hadn’t cracked the double-digit goal mark on the PP since 2010-11.
Minnesota is a team that splits their power-play units to a degree which, as written above, is a concern. He shot 28.12 percent at five-on-four last year. If that comes down to 10 percent, or so, in 175 five-on-four minutes, that’s a huge crash in production. Just that loss in PP goal production alone would knock him down to 35-ish goals. I don’t think anyone expects him to repeat 42 goals again but just be aware of where the goal drop will come from. In leagues that count PP goals (or even PP points), it could be a double-whammy as the loss in production will likely come from the man-advantage side. (aug10)
10. With the Sedin twins gone, there is presumably two open spots on Vancouver’s top power-play unit. Sven Baertschi signed a three-year deal with the Canucks and though they have some young guys coming up among their proven, top-end forwards, they have two. And one of them is a sophomore. Does Baertschi crack that top unit? There is Adam Gaudette, Elias Pettersson, and Jonathan Dahlen, but how many rookies do they want to put on PP1? Surely, Baertschi won’t shoot 30 percent at five-on-four again,but if he can manage to skate with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat at 5v4 for most of the year, that extra ice time could mitigate some of the percentage drop. We’ll see. There are a lot of moving parts in Vancouver this year. (aug10)
11. Ryan Johansen has a 33-goal season to his name, which was followed up with a 26-goal season. His last three seasons, though, have seen totals of 14, 14, and 15. His last two years have seen fewer total power-play goals (five) than either of his seasons with the Blue Jackets from 2013-2015. Now, when you skate with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, there really aren’t many shots left to go around and Johansen doesn’t need to be a scorer. That doesn’t mean he can’t pop a handful of power-play goals this year, though, especially if his five-on-four shooting percentage rebounds from a six-year low of 3.7 percent.
Again, Johansen isn’t a scorer now, and he doesn’t need to be. With a bit of good fortune at five-on-four, though, he could push for 20 total goals. That’s not overly impressive, but it’s better than what he’s done lately. (aug9)
12. Once a prolific goal scorer on the power play, Bobby Ryan had just one PP goal last year and two the year before. When you look at just five-on-four power plays, he had zero goals in 2017-18 and two in 2016-17. That’s two goals at 5v4 over a span of 124 games and 302 power-play minutes. This is from a guy who once posted back-to-back double-digit 5v4 goal seasons.
Ryan’s hand injuries over the last few years are lengthy and well-documented. It’s a wonder if he’ll ever get over them again. With the exodus of talent in Ottawa of late, there should be a lot of PPTOI available for Ryan if he can stay healthy. And that is a big, big if. (aug9)
13. Helen St. James covers the Red Wings and states that the team wants to be competitive this year, which reads as playoff aspirations to me. In that vein, she thinks Jimmy Howard’s starts could be reined in with the signing of Jonathan Bernier. Howard’s 57 starts in 2017-18 were the most for him since 2011-12 and largely due to the underperformance of anyone else they tried to use. If Bernier can perform at the level he did the last couple years, this could be a split-start situation rather than Howard starting 50-plus again. Even if Howard performs well, he could be a trade deadline casualty.
Though there’s nothing from management or coaching staff, she would like to see Filip Zadina play alongside Henrik Zetterberg if – IF – Zetterberg is healthy enough to play this year and Zadina makes the roster out of camp. Given that Zetterberg still possesses good playmaking abilities, this makes sense. There is a lot of time between now and the start of the season, though, so this is obviously just speculation for now. (aug9)
14. Though there’s no official update on Ryan Suter’s status, Minnesota Wild beat reporter Michael Russo said he talked to Suter and recent scans on his ankle/foot came back clean and he’s been doing very light on-ice work. Suter’s expectation is that he will be ready for training camp. Now, what an athlete believes and what actually happens are often two very different things but that’s what we have for now.
Russo also believes we could see Nino Niederreiter on the third line this year. He says Bruce Boudreau wants to be able to throw three scoring lines at the opposition and that means there’s going to be a very skilled player on the third line. That might be Niederreiter. In which case, it’s a downgrade. No offense to Joel Eriksson Ek but he’s not Eric Staal. If Nino has third-line minutes and split power play time, returning to his 57-point performance in 2016-17 will be tough to accomplish. He also had Charlie Coyle on that third line as well, which kind of makes sense if you want to balance things out. (aug9)
15. For anyone concerned about Vladimir Tarasenko’s off-season surgery, there was some news that came out late Monday night in that regard. Long story short, there shouldn’t be much to worry about from one of the league’s elite snipers.
Months ago, I wrote in these Ramblings about how he could be a bounce-back candidate. That was before the shoulder injury, but I still stand by it. His average draft position (ADP), as it does with all players, will ultimately determine how much value he can return, but the revamped lineup with some natural progression from last year makes me a believer.
As with all returning injured players, though, there’s always risk attached. It’s up to the individual fantasy player how much, or how little, risk you want to assume in the draft. Every player has injury potential but one of the better indicators of future injury is prior injury. Tarasenko coming off long-term shoulder injury obviously fits that bill. If you’re really concerned about a second- or third-round pick only playing 65 games then he can be avoided. Again, each fantasy owner is unique so the decision is ultimately up to the individual owner. (aug8)
16. I remember a week ago (or so) that fellow writer Cam Robinson was on Twitter discussing Jake Guentzel and his hopes that he would see top PP minutes this year. As a Guentzel owner in multiple keeper leagues, nothing would delight me more. Patric Hornqvist’s proficiency on the power play, however, is going to be a big stumbling block. He does a very good job at playing that Wayne Simmonds-type role around the net and Guentzel is more of a slot shooter like T.J. Oshie. Guentzel isn’t going to replace any of the other forwards, so it’s hard to see him getting consistent top PP minutes without someone suffering an injury. (aug7)
17. Sam Reinhart is going into his fourth season (something we love around here at DobberHockey), will almost certainly play on Jack Eichel’s wing (good spot to be), and is going to be on the top PP unit again. How the team fares without Ryan O’Reilly or Evander Kane in the fold is another story but the ice time and quality linemates should be there for Reinhart. Will a true breakout follow? (aug7)
18. The John Gibson signing – already discussed at length (by Ian Gooding here) but I’ll chime in – was a good cap hit for the Ducks, of course, given his consistent top save percentage. But, eight years is a risk given his injury history. He had always been a little under-ranked as a prospect goaltender on my list because he was injury prone. And this was before he stepped a skate onto NHL ice!
– 2014-15: He missed the middle of the season with a groin injury – 21 games;
– 2015 playoffs: Missed seven games with a UBI;
– 2015-16: Missed two games with a UBI;
– 2016-17: Thirteen (13) games with a LBI (two injuries, or the same one twice, I don’t know);
– 2017 playoffs: He missed the last game with an LBI and then had all summer to heal, so who knows how much time he would have missed;
– 2017-18: Missed one game (concussion), four games (LBI), three more games (LBI), three more games (UBI).
In four seasons in the NHL, Gibson has sustained nine injuries after having a reputation as being injury-prone well before he even turned pro. And now he’s locked in for eight years. Good luck, Anaheim! Hope it pans out for you and he stays healthy. If so, it’s a steal. (aug6)
19. While looking at the Ducks, Jakob Silfverberg popped out at me because he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. Here’s a guy in his mid-20s who possesses more offensive talent then he’s shown and is under-used offensively because he’s so good defensively. Players like him always surprise in a UFA contract year – Josh Bailey and Evander Kane sure did it last year. The latter two had expected production of 50 points and they certainly exceeded that. Silfverberg is in that ballpark, too. Kevin Hayes another one. In fact, I’m just going to list the guys I think best fit this mold as I go through Cap Friendly. In no particular order: Silfverberg, Hayes, Derick Brassard, Gustav Nyquist, Marcus Johansson, Richard Panik, Joonas Donskoi.
The latter two names would be pushing the term ‘breakout’ but if they get into the high-50s, I’d call that a contract year. Jeff Skinner isn’t on this list because he’s already had huge seasons. But, I’m willing to bet two or three of the above players really surprise us in a good way. (aug6)
20. Did William Karlsson just sign the same contract that Kevin Hayes signed? That’s pretty nuts. Yeah, I know, it’s the ‘only one year’ thing…but okay, take two years then. Karlsson had 103 points in two years to Hayes at 93 and he’s a year younger and scored 49 goals to 42 (game winners he’s up 9-8, too). I think Vegas got a bit of a deal there but at the expense of possibly getting taken to the cleaners next summer. But the Rangers? They overpaid Hayes just a little and they let him become unrestricted at the end of it, too. You’d think they’d get a discount from his agent for helping him do that. (aug6)
Have a good week, folks!!
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