20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on August 19, 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. I’ve been a fan of Pierre-Luc Dubois since his massive leap forward with Cape Breton during his draft-eligible campaign. He’s a front-line pivot and just turned 20 years old. The 2018-19 season should see him enter the near-elite category. Thirty (30) goals and 60 points seem very doable and I wouldn’t blink an eye if he went off for 70-plus. Long term, he’s a threat to be a point-per-game player. Especially if CBJ can convince Artemi Panarin to hang around. Either that or have the guts to dish him for a big haul. (aug18)

 

2. Is Jesse Puljujarvi a victim of being drafted too high? Had he been drafted 12th overall in 2016 most fantasy owners would consider him a top prospect to own. Before his 20th birthday, he played his 93rd NHL game and scored his 13th career goal. What were you looking for, exactly? As I outlined in the Fantasy Guide, Puljujarvi took on much tougher minutes last season, possibly the toughest among forwards in terms of not seeing strict offensive zone starts and facing stronger competition. And he came away smelling like roses. What’s more, his 5on5 S% indicated that he was the victim of tough puck luck in terms of putting points on the board.

So, as a 19-year-old, he was one of the rare defensively responsible Oilers, and even though his teammates shot just 6.6 percent when he was on the ice, he still got 20 points in 68 games. I think he is a safe bet for 35 points this year and has an outside shot at 55. My long-term projections for him remain exactly where they always were and consider him a serious buy-low in keeper leagues. (aug13)

 

3. Jake DeBrusk has 60-point upside if he can get those top power-play minutes. If not, he could slide into the 45-50 range. More than anything, the point is I believe he’ll return a profit on his ADP, especially if he keeps improving those hit totals (he averaged one per game last year playing under 15 minutes a night). I can say with certainty that DeBrusk will be one of my most-drafted players this year. (aug16)

 

4. Mitch Marner versus Brayden Point? Wow…this one caught me completely off guard on Twitter last week when someone asked that, and I found the question very odd because the answer was so obvious. But when, I published my response it turns out that the answer really wasn’t obvious at all. There are people there who worship at the altar of Point! Recency bias at its best right there. Sometimes fantasy owners can get completely blinded by it. Thankfully, there is me here to educate!

Before I begin, I want to make one thing absolutely clear (before all the Point lovers start piling it on me). I like Point. I’ve always liked Point, I even had him ranked sixth in the Fantasy Prospects Report (the rankings for that month you can find here – June of 2016). I got emails saying I overrated him in the FPR but I explained that he was a sure-fire NHLer, strong likelihood of scoring line, will make the NHL sooner than you think, and just a very safe keeper pick all around. (As an aside, you can see Marner at No.3 on that same list, but not my point)

Point made a big splash that season with 40 points in 68 games and he jumped to the next level last year with 66 points. Marner made similar strides, debuting at 61 and then 69 points. A lot of poolies who don’t follow careers and trends from the age of 17 onward but instead just see the NHL data, can fall victim to this. Point had an upside in the FPR that year of 80-plus points. So, there is still room for more out of him still. But right now, he is perfectly on track for what I envisioned him to be – a guy who seems to have a 60-point floor, an 80-point ceiling (maybe a tad higher) on a great team. Until he hits his prime, he’s probably going to hover around 65 to 70 points. Everything he’s doing and has done so far is pointing to this. I love it when prospects follow nice trajectories like that. It leaves little doubt. At least in my OCD logical mind. And he can reach his upside with a little help from great linemates. (aug13)

 

5. Marner is also following his trajectory perfectly. Everything is hitting the right notes at the exact time I would want to see it. I had him in that 2016 FPR at a 90-point ceiling and 76-point 3YP. That’s extremely high for a 3YP on a prospect, I almost never do that with a player and this is because I was extremely bullish about him. This was his upside before John Tavares was even being dreamed about by Toronto fans. With Tavares there, oh my goodness this guy could shoot past 95 points. Normally I call Marner the driver – and I still might. He doesn’t need the help of great linemates because he is the great linemate. But with Tavares there, you have two drivers.

So, to me, when I was asked that question, I felt the answer was as obvious as the nose on Brad Marchand’s face. Marner is on track to regularly reach levels that maybe 10 other players hit. Point is on track to regularly reach levels that maybe 50 other players hit. So, you have your answer. And then you factor in Tavares on top of the obvious answer that you should already have reached and it’s just a no-brainer. (aug13)

 

6. I personally think Cale Makar and the Avs made the right decision in sending him back to UMass Amherst. Despite his tremendous offensive abilities and his being 19 years old for the entirety of his freshman season, Makar didn’t dominate. Granted, he was on a mediocre squad, but still.

Going back for a sophomore year with the ‘C’ on his chest and an opportunity to gain strength, experience and produce big-time numbers will be good for him. He won’t be fast-tracked to the top power play in Colorado, either. Tyson Barrie won’t be going anywhere until at least the 2019-20 deadline. (aug18)

 

7. Reader Chretien Samuel asks: "Points only, Quinn Hugues or Evan Bouchard or Adam Boqvist in two years? Who has superior offensive upside?"

I’ll rank them as:
Quinn Hughes
Evan Bouchard
Adam Boqvist

If Boqvist went to Edmonton and Bouchard to Chicago, I’d swap them. I think Boqvist has a wee touch of the bust-factor but also a higher pure upside. Meanwhile, Bouchard has a clear-cut path to the top power-play unit that features the Messiah (Connor McDavid). Hughes is the most gifted of the bunch by a sizable margin, though. He won’t be left wanting for talent on his future power-play unit either with Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson dancing around the ice in Vancouver. (aug18)

 

8. Tomas Tatar will be the forgotten Golden Knight even though he’s one of just 25 forwards with four consecutive seasons of 20-plus goals. He should line up on the second line with Paul Stastny, a true playmaker. Do not be shocked to see Tatar return to the 25-goal plateau. (aug17)

 

9. The top power-play minutes won’t exist for Daniel Sprong but he will get a spot on the roster. It could be a frustrating own week-to-week for those in H2H leagues because the Penguins always have their lineup combinations in flux but if Sprong can show out, he could earn himself a spot alongside Evgeni Malkin. We’ve often seen Phil Kessel on the third line to spread the scoring. It could happen again and I’ll bet a late-round pick on it. (aug17)

 

10. Given he’s coming off a 12-goal season and has never cracked 20, Artturi Lehkonen should be pretty cheap in fantasy drafts. All the same, he might be the team’s third-best goal scorer behind Max Pacioretty and Gallagher and I’ve written recently that he could even slide onto the top PP unit. He’ll be much cheaper than Brendan Gallagher and has similar upside. I’m banking on 20 goals and 40 points and will take whatever else he can provide above that. (aug17)

 

11. It’s not often that I target 18-year old rookies in re-draft leagues but Andrei Svechnikov oozes all the talent necessary to succeed in his first year. He’ll be properly sheltered behind Sebastian Aho and Justin Williams, which should allow him to just play his game. All the hype is around Rasmus Dahlin but Svechnikov should have more success in the fantasy game this year. We’ll see where his average draft position (ADP) lands, but this is a guy I will probably want on as many rosters as possible. (aug17)

 

12. I am a true believer that before this season is out, Ondrej Kase is the regular top-line right winger next to Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf. Corey Perry is cooked and Jakob Silfverberg is locked into the second-line shutdown role. Kase won’t get the top PP minutes but he’ll be able to return a profit on his ADP without them. (aug17)

 

13. The Andrej Sekera injury turns up the heat on the Oilers in terms of getting a deal done with restricted free agent  Darnell Nurse, another critical top-four defensemen. Don’t be surprised if the Oilers add an inexpensive veteran defenseman, as well, for depth purposes. However, the name that immediately comes to mind for fantasy keeper owners is Evan Bouchard, who now seems even more likely to at least start the season on a nine-game trial.

Ethan Bear’s name might not jump out at you as much as Bouchard’s (although Ethan Bear is one of the better hockey names out there), yet Bear is also a player to watch here. A point-per-game scorer during his final two seasons in the WHL, Bear was called up by the Oilers in March and impressed, logging an average of nearly two minutes per game on the power play. Bear’s chances of starting the season in Edmonton also improve because of the Sekera injury. (aug15)

 

14. In spite of missing the first half of the season due to a knee injury, Ryan Ellis finished the season with 32 points. This worked out to 0.73 points per game, which was 11th in the NHL among d-men and slightly ahead of teammates P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. We can’t really rank Ellis ahead of Subban and Josi in fantasy hockey, however, simply because of the lack of power-play time (unless the Preds decide to move Ellis to the first unit). Only five of Ellis’ 32 points came on the man advantage in 2017-18. That move to the first unit or a Subban/Josi injury would cause Ellis’ fantasy value to go through the roof.

This depth on defense all but assures that the Preds will take their time with 2016 first-round pick Dante Fabbro. He will be eased into the Preds’ lineup once he leaves college, which could happen as early as March. There was some crazy talk in these parts (Vancouver) about the Preds not being able to sign Fabbro (a la Jimmy Vesey) and watching him choose his hometown team. But with the way that the Preds develop NHL-level defensemen, Fabbro would be silly to turn his back on the team that drafted him. (aug15)

 

15. We can start to piece together Tyson Jost’s fantasy value. In a full(ish) season on the top PP unit, we can probably double his PP production from last year. That gets him to 30 points in 65 games. Even just playing a full season with top PP minutes would see him close to 40 points. That doesn’t even factor age-related improvement. Sprinkle in a couple more minutes per game and this seems like a 45-point season incoming, with solid peripherals aside from hits and blocked shots.

Jost will fly under the radar in drafts and he’s probably not worth targeting in anything shallower than 12 teams. Just keep him in mind: Any player that seems locked into a top PP role with the talent he’ll be skating with is worthy of at least taking a second look in drafts. (aug14)

 

16. Someone asked for my opinion on Nikita Scherbak and Carter Hart. Scherbak is a skilled player with second-line upside and perhaps he could even be a first liner on a weak team such as Montreal. But, he gets hurt too often. He’s been hurt more often than healthy ever since he turned pro and I don’t have very high hopes for him. But, he’s on the team that needs his skill set the most. If he could just string together 80 games, then he could surprise this year. But there’s no way I would bet even $10 bucks on that. (aug13)

 

17. As for Carter Hart, I guess what’s really being asked here is: “Hey, next summer Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both become free agents, so will Carter Hart be the No.1 guy?” I certainly think that’s possible, even though it’s rare these days to see a 21-year-old grab the reins like that. Carey Price is the last one I can think of – and that goes for 22 and 23-year-olds as well. I think the Flyers will have a good year and if Elliott can play 50 games (he hasn’t done that in seven years though), then the team may re-sign him for two years. In which case, Hart would become the backup goalie in the middle of 2019-20 and then by the middle of 2020-21, he’ll take over as the starter. That puts his wait time at 1.5 years until the NHL, and 2.5 years until he helps you in fantasy. That being said, both Elliott and Neuvirth are injury prone and Alex Lyon has to clear waivers to be sent down – so I’m curious to see what he does as the likely No.3 goalie for this season. (aug13)

 

18. How should you treat restricted free agents when it comes to drafting them? I would treat them as if they’ve signed, because they will. A player holding out is so rare these days, you may see one this year at the most. RFA of note: William Nylander, Noah Hanifin, Ondrej Kase, Sam Reinhart, Nick Ritchie, Shea Theodore, Josh Morrissey, and Darnell Nurse.

Jordan Schmaltz is another interesting one because you just know he’s going to be pushing for not only a one-way deal, but one with a big enough cap hit that it helps his chances of getting into the lineup regularly. His qualifying offer was for $1 million and I’m assuming was a two-way Q.O.  He’s probably hoping to get just that in a one-way deal, whereas the team is probably okay with giving him a one-way deal but would probably want him to take less to do it – maybe $750,000. If he signs for a number like that, then he may as well be on a two-way deal because teams have no problem with burying a contract like that in the minors. At $1 million, the team hesitates a little longer and gives the player more leash. (aug13)

 

19. I really like what the Sabres did this offseason and honestly, doesn’t everyone? Most fans were disappointed by what Buffalo produced last season because they had been expected to take a step forward in their rebuilding and instead they somehow went backwards. This time they add Rasmus Dahlin, Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt, Carter Hutton and Patrik Berglund among others, losing only Ryan O’Reilly.

So, is this enough to make them a winning team? I think this makes them an 80- or even an 85-point team, which makes Hutton a potential 30-win goalie. Will Phil Housley ride him like a true No.1? That’s the main question. The secondary question – will he be another Scott Darling? Hutton has had a 40-game season before but that was in 2014.

I think there will be some growing pains here, and the situation reminds me a lot of Edmonton’s back when Cam Talbot arrived. He had a horrible start and Anders Nilsson seized the starting role for a month or so. But Talbot took it back and a big reason is because he was paid to do so. He had the contract and was crowned starting goalie, and when a team does that – then he’s getting all the possible starts. And as you saw with Carolina (and St. Louis) last season, they will keep giving the goalie starts even at the cost of making the playoffs. If you’re deemed to be the starter, amid much fanfare (and dollars) – then you’re getting the starts. Long story short, although Linus Ullmark is a good goaltender and perhaps he is even better than Hutton – he’s not going to take the starting job. Not this year, and probably not ever. Long term there might be something with Ullmark as a future starter somewhere, but for this year and likely next, his odds are slim. (aug13)

 

20. There is going to be some change with Buffalo’s top PP unit. Rasmus Ristolainen, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart are going to be holdovers. Skinner is almost certainly going to be featured with them. The question is of the fourth man.

This fourth man will have one of two positions: bumper (in the middle of the 1-3-1), or the right-wing wall. It depends how they want to use Skinner. The lattere had frequently been used in some sort of net-front role, which is where Reinhart would be playing. My best guess is that those two guys occupy the net-front and bumper roles, leaving the right-wing wall the spot to fill. To me, that screams of Kyle Okposo. He was often used there last year when Evander Kane wasn’t on the top PP unit and he should be again.

Injuries have slowed Okposo of late and the concussions/illnesses have been very serious at times. With that said, earlier this month, GM Jason Botterill stated that Okposo was having a very good offseason as far as training goes so hopefully those injuries are behind him.

It’s worth noting that despite missing 17 games two years ago and six games last year, Okposo has managed at least 20 power-play points in both seasons, 45 total. What his overall fantasy value looks like will depend on five-on-five production, which has been an issue with the Sabres for years now. As long as Okposo stays on that top unit, though, there’s a floor for his overall production and a rebound season could bring solid late value. (aug14)

 

Have a good week, folks!!