20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on September 9, 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. Now, widespread fantasy hockey chatter is really only going to start kicking up now but it does seem like Johnny Gaudreau is kind of going under the radar. It depends on the type of league because his peripheral stats won’t be strong but in points-only leagues, he can easily sneak into the top-5 producers.

Gaudreau managed 84 points in 80 games last year and did so without a Calgary power play firing on all cylinders, a rotating cast at right wing, and Sean Monahan being cobbled together with band-aids and chicken wire. If that power play can be consistent all year, and someone like James Neal or Elias Lindholm providing a legitimate threat on the right side for the first time since Jiri Hudler, the sky's the limit points-wise for Johnny Hockey. (sep4)

 

2. Remember that Ryan Getzlaf was well over a point per game (61 points in 56 games) last year and did so without scoring a power play goal. (I discussed this last month here.) Should Ryan Kesler not be ready to start the year, or play at all for that matter, Getzlaf is going to probably be over 21 minutes a game again. There are reasons to be low on the Ducks but in a points-only format, taking a gamble on getting 75 games from Getzlaf seems like a good one to take. (sep4)

 

3. A Vancouver/Winnipeg NHL matchup during the 2018-19 season will no doubt favor Winnipeg. But for the prospects? How about an 8-2 win for the Canucks’ prospects this past week. Swedish duo Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen combined to score three goals and three assists. Pettersson and Dahlen are familiar with each other from the Timra system in Sweden.

I’ll expand on a question that I had on Twitter as to whether Dahlen will make the Canucks as Pettersson’s linemate. It probably won’t happen this season, considering that the Canucks already have enough forwards for six forward lines. Dahlen’s chances would have been much better had the Canucks not signed Jay Beagle AND Antoine Roussel AND Tim Schaller. But, based on his chemistry with Pettersson, Dahlen has real potential to be a top-six forward in Van City as early as 2019-20. (sep9)

 

4. Two-time AHL All-Star, Jack Roslovic, is a 21-year-old with 42 NHL games to his name. Historically, he’d be chiseled into a bottom-six role to ‘pay his dues’. However, that’s likely not the most effective way to utilize the supremely gifted distributor. It’s been evident for some time that Bryan Little has little chemistry with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. It shouldn’t take long for the coaching staff to conclude that the hard shutdown minutes should fall to Little and Mathieu Perreault on L3, while Roslovic is allowed to run free with the two dynamic scoring wingers. It’s a bet I’d be willing to take in the mid-late rounds this draft season. Give this kid some room and let the points flow. (sep8)

 

5. Anyone that follows me knows it’s no secret I think John Tavares will be over-drafted this year and this is another point on this side of the ledger. Before assuming I have any ‘bias’ or I’m a ‘hater’, these are projections based on historical performance. These aren’t made by hand. I let Excel do the work.

People must realize that last year, Tavares had one winger score 40 goals, another winger have a 50-assist season, a rookie who put up the first 80-point season in a decade as the fourth forward on his power play unit, and Tavares didn’t even manage a career-high in points. Factor in greatly reduced power play minutes moving from a heavily-used top unit in Brooklyn to a split PPTOI setup in Toronto, and how much can we expect from him? Even repeating last year will be a good 2018-19. (sep7)

 

6. Is this the season that Josh Ho-Sang finally sticks around full time? The Isles will need some young players to pick up the slack in scoring with John Tavares gone, and Ho-Sang is one option. Over the past two seasons in which he has played roughly 20 games each, Ho-Sang has recorded 0.51 P/GP, which is seventh on the team. That’s a better pace than all of Brock Nelson, Ryan Pulock, Anthony Beauvillier, and Andrew Ladd over the same stretch.

Ho-Sang might be the kind of player that Lamoriello doesn’t want any part of but he’s still the kind of player that the Islanders need to give a long look. Hopefully, he doesn’t do anything to hurt his cause. (sep9)

 

7. There was considerable angst amongst Montreal fans (again) when general manager Marc Bergevin traded Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi. One reason that Habs fans might be down on Domi is the fact that he has now gone back-to-back seasons without reaching the 10-goal mark. Granted, he missed 23 games in one of those seasons. But he played a full 82 in 2017-18, so there shouldn’t have been any excuses.

If Domi is going to have that magical breakout fourth season right on time, he’s going to need to shoot the puck more. Domi has never taken more than 156 shots in a season. With just 150 taken last season, Domi was 197th in that category. Montreal had more than its share of deficiencies but shot-taking wasn’t necessarily one of them (10th with 32.8 SOG/GP). So, it’s possible that Domi could bring a playmaking element that was missing for an offense than finished 29th overall in goals scored. That could help his assist totals more than his goals, though.

It’s possible that Domi and Jonathan Drouin could be exactly what each other needs. But, unless Domi can’t find a way to take more shots, there won’t be a whole lot of room to grow. He was much more of a playmaker than goal scorer in junior, so we could be looking at another assist-heavy 50-point season. (sep9)

 

8. Anyone who’s played fantasy hockey long enough knows that in leagues where forwards are split between the three forward positions, elite wingers generally carry more value than elite centers. The reason for this is that someone like Mikael Granlund could be a 70-point center this year and be the 20th-ranked center. If you looked for the 20th-ranked left winger, you could be looking at someone like Ondrej Palat and his 50-ish points.

Peripheral stats will make a difference but the point remains the same: the floor for relevant centers in a fantasy league is higher than the floor for wingers. So, if all is equal, elite wingers have more value over replacement fantasy options than elite centers. (sep7)

 

9. I’m going to take some heat for this one and that’s fine. Believe me, I know that Gabriel Landeskog is a huge hits contributor and if he can replicate close to last year, he could be a top-50 player. That would make his current Yahoo! ranking of 89th a steal. I’m banking that he won’t repeat close to that.

Here’s something to keep in mind: the 2017-18 season saw everything go right for Colorado. It was a season where Nathan MacKinnon established himself as an MVP-caliber player; Mikko Rantanen silenced his doubters (present company included); they led the league in PP opportunities one year after finishing 19th in this regard; they were top-3 in the league in team five-on-five save percentage, leading to the 10th-fewest goals against per minute despite allowing the fifth-most shots per minute. Despite all this, Landeskog just barely cracked the 60-point plateau (62) and couldn’t manage 20 PPPs (17). Though I’m not considering plus/minus in these Ramblings, he finished at plus-16.

What happens to Landeskog’s production if everything doesn’t go right? What if the team loses 30 PP opportunities off their league-best totals? What if Landeskog doesn’t shoot a career-high 13.7 percent again? What if either MacKinnon or Rantanen misses 15 games? What if the team save percentage is league-average instead of among the league’s best?

What I’m trying to say is this: if everything doesn’t break right again for the Avs, what happens to Landeskog’s 62 points? Banking on things like career-high shooting percentages, elite team save percentages, and league-high PP opportunities all to repeat is a dangerous game to play. (sep6)

 

10. I’m significantly lower on Anze Kopitar’s production in 2018-19 than most. Many spots I’ve seen have Kopitar for at least 80 points. (If I’m not mistaken, Steve Laidlaw has him under 80 as well, so, we’re in this together, Laidlaw.) But here’s the thing: Kopitar shot 17.5 percent last year, a career high. His three-year average was 11.5 percent, averaging 18 goals a season. If you knock off, say, 16 goals from his total last year, that drops his points down to 76, not far off from where my projection has him.

What’s the effect of Ilya Kovalchuk? There’s not much certainty there but even at his advanced age he should be better than Alex Iafallo.

My bet here is that even with Kovalchuk in town, Kopitar won’t repeat anywhere close to his shooting percentage. Also, Kopitar played over 22 minutes a game last year as the team tried to squeak into the playoffs with Jeff Carter injured most of the year. You could see up to 100 minutes at even strength disappear. The drop in ice time alone would knock off 3-4 points. Factor in the shooting percentage regression and a 75-point season from Kopitar instead of an 85-point campaign is easy to envision. (sep6)

 

11. Last season we finally witnessed what Aleksander Barkov is capable of when healthy for a full season. After a previous career high of 59 points in 66 games, Barkov was able to produce at a point-per-game pace (78 points) while missing just three games out of the 82-game schedule. He was also a Lady Byng finalist thanks to just 14 minutes in penalties.

Barkov was able to stay healthy, and he also started to accomplish more per game in several roto categories. After taking more than 150 shots just once over his first four seasons, Barkov fired a career-high 256 shots. This helped Barkov jump from 21 goals to 27 goals, one shy of his career high of 28 goals in 2015-16. There’s potential for even more goals here, as Barkov’s 10.5 percent accuracy is three points lower than his career high. So, he could add another 6-7 goals to last season’s total if he takes the same number of shots and shoots at his career average.

Interestingly enough, Barkov’s jump in points was mainly due to an increase in assists from 31 to 51. This is a sign that Barkov clicked with Evgenii Dadonov, who hadn’t been there in previous seasons. So, if you’re thinking Dadonov’s season was a fluke, he might not be coming off the top line soon. That is, unless newly acquired Mike Hoffman bumps him off the first-unit power play.

Also helping matters for Barkov is that his ice time also jumped a full three minutes to 22 minutes per game. Only Anze Kopitar averaged more ice time than Barkov in 2017-18, and that was only by one second per game. The Panthers lean heavily on their top two centers, as both Barkov and Vincent Trocheck were two of the six forwards (all centers) who averaged at least 21 minutes of ice time. (sep5)

 

12. Jordan Greenway has recorded points in both of his prospects games this past weekend. If you want size, he’s got plenty of it (6-6, 226 pounds). He’s a strong bet to make the Wild this season after entering the lineup late in the season. He played in all five of the Wild’s playoff games as well, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Keeper owners might require a bit of patience with him, though. Not only might he have a tough time cracking the top-six, power forwards also tend to take a while to blossom. (sep9)

 

13. Anyone who reads my work knows that I’ve really come around on Josh Anderson over the past year and he grades out very highly for goals scored at even strength. His issue is two-fold: will he get top PP minutes, and will his linemates score enough to boost his assist totals? As it is, I currently have him as one of 10 players to score 20 even strength goals but very little in the way of PP production or assists. But, if his circumstances in these issues were to change, there is a lot of upside here. For now, though, I have him at 20.8 even-strength goals and at just 37.4 total points. (sep4)

 

14. Kailer Yamamoto’s shot rates were enormous in his brief nine-game showcase last year. He was snake-bit but his expected goal rates are very high. Add that to the potential of skating alongside Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at five-on-five, and no, 60 points is not unrealistic. I wouldn’t draft him at a spot expecting 60 points but he should be a target outside the top-150 picks. (sep4)

 

15. John Klingberg’s 82-game average for his career is 58 points and that includes a poor (for him) 2016-17 season where he failed to crack 50 points. There’s a new coach in town who, hopefully, won’t stifle this team offensively like Ken Hitchcock did. There is enough talent to have an elite power-play unit. Klingberg repeating something close to his 2017-18 season doesn’t seem impossible. (sep4)

 

16. Mark Stone is a wild player to try and project this year. We all expect the Senators to be bad and they very likely will be. However, if he skates on the top line with Matt Duchene, has Erik Karlsson behind him, and gets heavy usage on the top PP unit, he can still have a good year fantasy-wise. The problem is all three guys mentioned are pending UFA and there’s a possibility all three are in different uniforms by March. There are a wide range of outcomes here. If he finished with 70 points, I would not be surprised. If he finished with 50 points, I would also not be surprised. (sep4)

 

17. I’m not sure how many people realize this but Mathew Barzal had one more point than John Tavares did last year, and Barzal accomplished this without about 40 fewer minutes at even strength and no time on the penalty kill. (Tavares had a few SHPs last year.) There’s a whole argument to be had about Barzal now having to play top competition but with that will come a lot more ice time as well. Tavares’s ice time will likely decline given his new team has two other legitimate first-line centers. There’s also the power-play issue; the Leafs split across two units whereas the Islanders had a heavily-used top unit last year. James van Riemsdyk led the Leafs in PP minutes last year with 185, and Tavares had 259 with the Islanders. Assuming a constant point rate on the PP, the loss in PP ice time alone would knock nearly 10 PPPs off Tavares’s 2017-18 total.

Anyway, I’m not saying I would draft Barzal over Tavares. At least, I’m not saying that yet. But don’t discount the possibility that Barzal out-points Tavares this year. Key word: possibility.

Yes, I do think Barzal is that good. (sep4)

 

18. An under-the-radar signing this past week was the Caps signing undrafted Russian Sergei Shumakov. This guy was 19th in KHL scoring last season with 40 points in 47 games, which is good but not phenomenal. There are several reasons why this seriously caught my attention. First, he’s right in the wheelhouse for fantasy owners as he is 25 years old. That’s too old to sit in the minors for very long if at all, so the wait time for an answer on him – fantasy asset or bust – is short. I love that. Short wait times mean quick replacement if it goes sour, rather than hogging a bench spot forever.

Second, he was 12th in points-per-game average. That kind of gets hidden when you scan down to 19th on the overall points list. He’s also improved in each year he’s played in the KHL and I love seeing steady progression.

But, third, and maybe the most important, is that the Capitals have little forward depth on the wing. I mean…they have four lines that are decent, plus Travis Boyd and Riley Barber need to clear waivers to be sent down. Plus, Shane Gersich and Juuso Ikonen are reasonably close. But, it’s not ridiculous depth as it is with some teams and even the third-line winger Brett Connolly could get bumped if he gets outplayed. So, I kind of like this situation. I also like the fact that Alex Ovechkin is on this team as well as Evgeny Kuznetsov. (sep3)

 

19. Tom Wilson has that first-line spot wrapped up in my opinion but if an injury hits one of Wilson, Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jakub Vrana or Andre Burakovsky – Shumakov could get called up from Hershey and step right in. And how tempting would it be to then put together an all-Russian line? Anyway, if the league is deep, he is someone I would consider with my last pick, or as an early waiver grab just in the ‘long shot, dark horse’ category for perhaps a half-season of fantasy help. Don’t forget the name: Sergei Shumakov. (sep3)

 

20. Shea Theodore – and I am not an insider, so this is just Psychic Dobber talking here – is playing hardball with Vegas, wanting to be paid based on what he knows he can do. And I don’t blame him, I have full faith in him being a superstar defenseman. But, it was looking as though he would miss training camp and possibly season games. But now he’s holding the hammer. Nate Schmidt missing the first 20 games means the Golden Knights really need Theodore for those games. (sep3)

 

Have a good week, folks!!

 

 

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