20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on September 16, 2018

Every Sunday, 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. It was just a year ago I was saying that Joe Pavelski was overvalued. Now, I think he’s undervalued. Crazy the difference a year can make. If Joe Thornton can be anywhere near as healthy and productive as he was a couple years ago before the knee injuries cropped up, Pavelski has 25 goals and 35 assists locked up. He probably does even if Thornton isn’t healthy thanks to the additions of Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson. Pavelski adds loads of hits and shots, which is why he’s valuable for me. (sep14)

 

2. Check out Mike Clifford’s piece on the fantasy impact of the Erik Karlsson deal for both teams. From the Ottawa side, I’ll agree with Mike that I don’t think this deal itself helps anyone outside of Thomas Chabot, although another injury will help another player heading to Ottawa. More on that below.

Chabot might end up with a plus-minus of about minus-100 playing for a dreadful Ottawa team (yes, I’m exaggerating on that number but you get the idea). The Senators lack veteran d-men that can take on the tough minutes. But I believe the Karlsson trade adds about 5-10 points to his projected point total and 3-4 minutes of ice time per game while vaulting him onto the first power-play unit. Whether he’s ready or not, he’ll be jumping head first into the water this season. He should already be owned in keeper leagues, while he’s worth drafting in the later rounds in single-season leagues.

Meanwhile, the Jean-Gabriel Pageau injury (out six months with a torn Achilles) likely moves Chris Tierney up to the second line. Tierney was a bottom-six forward for the Sharks but he’ll be leaned on heavily and seems a good bet that he’ll start the season on the second line, although Colin White could work his way up into that role. Drake Batherson’s changes of making the Senators should also improve because of this injury. All three forwards’ fantasy values improve with the injury news, as Pageau could be out all season. (sep16)

 

3. So, who gets the lion share of the goalie starts in Colorado this season? It’s a question every poolie with a pulse has been muttering to themselves this summer. After trading for long-time Caps’ backup, Philipp Grubauer, the Avalanche have put another question mark next to Semyon Varlamov’s name. The Russian netminder has refused to stay healthy and/or consistent. He’s a volatile fantasy asset that few chase.

At this point, they’ll probably give Varly the opening night gig if both play reasonably well in preseason. Then it’ll be all about the hot hand. If one goes on a long enough roll, they’ll build up some goodwill with the coaching staff and likely gain a longer leash. Grubauer is my pick to finish with more starts but nothing is certain in the world of goaltenders – especially ones who haven’t ever been given the ball on a long-term basis. (sep15)

 

4. Mitch Marner is on the precipice of being an elite playmaker and a superstar in this league. The issue is that he doesn’t provide much in hits and isn’t a huge shot volume guy. He does shoot a fair amount but not to the level of guys like David Pastrnak or Rickard Rakell. I have him projected for 75 points but without huge shot volume or hits, he’ll be hard-pressed to return third-round value. (sep14)

 

5. Let’s get this out of the way: Nikolaj Ehlers is truly one of my favourite players to watch in the league. If he picks up the puck in his zone and gets up to full speed, there’s almost no one more fun. That said, like Marner, he doesn’t hit much. He also doesn’t get top power play minutes, which caps his upside significantly. In order for a player who doesn’t post big hit totals to return near a top-75 pick, he needs either A) a healthy amount of PPPs, or B) a healthy plus/minus. I’m not relying on plus-minus to return value on an early-round pick. (sep14)

 

6. All summer I’ve been saying that Vladimir Tarasenko will be undervalued going into 2018-19 and it appears this is the case. The underlying issue, of course, is whether his shoulder is completely healthy following surgery in April. Think of it this way: last year was a down year for Tarasenko, I think most people would agree on that. In standard Yahoo! setups, he was still a top-30 player. If you can draft him in the late second or early third round, do it. (sep14)

 

7. I want to discuss this year’s rookie crop. I’m not going to discuss every rookie, or even most rookies; you should grab the Dobber Prospects Report if you want a more detailed look at hundreds of players. Instead, I want to look at a handful of players who will be considered in drafts.

Back in July, I wrote about why I won’t be drafting Rasmus Dahlin this year. Let’s get into that. The first question is, will Dahlin get top PP minutes? We can assume that Buffalo will be running a four-forward again this year, so the question is if he will push Rasmus Ristolainen out of the way. Ristolainen is fifth among all defensemen in power play points over the last three seasons, ahead of names like Torey Krug, PK Subban, Drew Doughty, John Klingberg, and John Carlson. Say what you will of Ristolainen as a player in every other facet, he’s been the go-to for years on the PP blue line for the Sabres, and he’s been effective at doing so – Buffalo is eighth in PP goals over those three seasons, two goals fewer than San Jose and three goals more than Dallas, and seventh in PP percentage. Does that suddenly change this year? Why would it?

I’m working with the assumption that Dahlin, barring injury, will not supplant Ristolainen on the power play this year. So, if he’s not on the top PP unit, maybe he’ll have a season like Mikhail Sergachev, right? Well, Tampa Bay scored 3.15 goals per 60 minutes at even strength last year. Buffalo scored 2.03. That’s 75 fewer goals. Sergachev registered a point on 11.1 percent of all of Tampa’s even-strength goals. If Buffalo’s scoring doesn’t improve, to get to 24 even-strength points like Sergachev, Dahlin would have to register a point on 17.1 percent of Buffalo’s even-strength goals. For reference, Victor Hedman registered a point on 16.3 percent of Tampa Bay’s even-strength goals. You see how silly this is getting.

So, what if Buffalo’s scoring does improve? If the team scored 25 percent more goals at even strength, which is a huge leap, they’d still be bottom-10 in scoring if the league’s scoring remains constant. *If* the scoring jumps 25 percent at even strength, do you really want to draft an 18-year old defenseman with limited PP minutes from a bottom-10 scoring team?

I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. He may be the next Erik Karlsson, but to pay off his average draft position (ADP) right now (106) in standard Yahoo! leagues, assuming he doesn’t put up triple-digit hits, he’ll need a season like Alex Pietrangelo had last year. If he does put up triple-digit hits, he’ll need a season like Kris Letang had last year. This is all absurd. More rookies here … (sep13)

 

8. Elsewhere, a popular pick to be in the Calder contention as Rookie of the Year this season is Eeli Tolvanen. We’ve all heard about his exploits last season in the KHL. Hell, I dedicated a weekly space at the end of my DobberProspects’ Ramblings to shine a light on the bushel of goals he’d racked up over that stretch. However, his place in the Predators’ roster remains unclear.

No one is going to be pushing Filip Forsberg out of the top left-wing spot. He, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson are a package until something fundamentally stops working. That leaves Tolvanen to battle it out with Kevin Fiala for the right to slide in beside Kyle Turris on the second line. Turris and Fiala formed a nice secondary wave of offense in Nashville last season. They both provide the strong two-way ability that Tolvanen still lacks. Fiala has been building the long way and his 23-goals a year ago could be just the tip of the iceberg.

If Tolvanen is unable to secure a spot in the top-six, his outlook from the third line and second power-play unit should be muted. As mentioned earlier, the Preds have enough talent to spread between two man-advantage units. The 2017 first rounder's release will be the focal point on the left circle, while Ryan Ellis’ blast will work the right side. That should be able to bump his numbers up but expecting much more than 40 points may be asking for trouble. (sep15)

 

9. Connor Murphy’s injury (out eight weeks with a back injury) improves the chances that 2017 first-round pick Henri Jokiharju makes the Blackhawks defense corps out of training camp. Keep in mind that Gustav Forsling is also expected to miss the start of the season with a wrist injury. Jokiharju scored 71 points in 63 games last season for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. (sep16)

 

10. We finally know more about Corey Crawford’s injury, and the news isn’t good. Crawford has been sidelined with a concussion and it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready for the start of the season. This isn’t good news for fantasy hockey owners who drafted him at a discount hoping that his ability would outperform his draft ranking, which had already fallen with the speculation that he still hadn’t recovered from a concussion. Crawford was having an impressive season (16-9-2, 2.27 GAA, .929 SV%), so this also isn’t good news for the Blackhawks’ playoff chances.

Cam Ward is worth taking a flier on in the later rounds of your draft but how effective will he be? Ward hasn’t had a save percentage above .910 over his past six seasons, so your expectations shouldn’t be high. This included a .906 save percentage in 43 games last season, which came in spite of the Canes allowing the fewest number of shots per game (28.9) of any team. The Hawks were a top-10 team in terms of shots allowed in 2017-18. With a defense that is led by the aging Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Ward will be in tough for improved numbers with his new team. (sep16)

 

11. The ‘Adam McQuaid to the Rangers for defenseman Steven Kampfer’ trade hurts Anthony DeAngelo’s fantasy value. I had traded DeAngelo away from my keeper team last season and that owner has since dropped him. It might still be too early to give up on him, since he’s only 23 as of next month and still possesses considerable upside from the blueline, but the former first-round pick is running the risk of disappearing down the same path as Derrick Pouliot. There’s considerable fantasy upside, but I can stand behind you replacing him if you can’t hold your breath much longer.

The Bruins are already used to life without McQuaid, as he missed half of last season. Considering that McQuaid didn’t play any kind of offensive role and neither should Kampfer, the move will probably only affect bottom-pairing defensemen. Jakub Zboril’s and Jeremy Lauzon’s chances of making the Bruins could improve slightly here, but without McQuaid the Bruins still have seven NHL-level defensemen on the roster (eight if you include depth defenseman Kampfer).

 

12. Mathew Barzal finished 2017-18 as the 60th overall player. He did that with 85 points. He’s currently being drafted in Yahoo! pools inside the top-50. I think Barzal is a great player but banking on a 90-point season with at least a break-even plus-minus just to return value is a lot. (sep11)

 

13. That Max Pacioretty would be traded was only a matter of if, not when, so the return was all that mattered. Pacioretty was shipped to Vegas for Tomas Tatar, a second-round pick, and prospect Nick Suzuki. Dobber had a pretty accurate take on the trade’s fantasy impact and most of his thoughts mirror my own.

I don’t have too much to add on top of what Dobber wrote other than this: Pacioretty was due to rebound regardless. For the last several years, Pacioretty was a top-end scorer and one of the most consistent ones at that; from 2011-17, Pacioretty and Alex Ovechkin were the only two players to score at least 30 goals in every 82-game season. The Habs’ captain had one bad season and now he’s gone. With the trade and subsequent extension (four years, $28-million), Pacioretty gets essentially a fresh start and a good situation in which to re-establish himself as one of the elite goal scorers in the league. (sep11)

 

14. I think the Pacioretty trade helps Tatar. Vegas might have accomplished something in dumping his $4.8 million contract but he’s scored at least 20 goals in each of his last four seasons. He might have been a healthy scratch for a good portion of the playoffs but he easily fits on the second line in Montreal and could even move onto the first line. On a better team, Tatar won’t ever see the first line. But ,the Habs had the league’s 29th-ranked offense last season (2.52 goals per game) and just traded a consistent (until last season) 30-goal scorer. Simply put, they don’t have a whole ton of options. (sep12)

 

15. Still with the Pacioretty trade, this does give the Habs the potential to run Jesperi Kotkaniemi-Suzuki-Ryan Poehling down the middle in the not-too-distant future, and that’s if Jonathan Drouin doesn’t work out as a center. This team went from desperately needing help down the middle to having three prospects that could all project as middle-six centers, plus Drouin (who should be on the wing anyway).

The issue here is that none of Kotkaniemi, Suzuki and Poehling are what we would deem as a generational center. A sure thing. A lock like Jack Eichel or Auston Matthews. Sure, Kotkaniemi could be the next Pierre-Luc Dubois, or he could be the next Tyson Jost. Suzuki could be the next Clayton Keller, or he could be the next Luke Kunin. Each of those four pivots mentioned were taken in the top half of the 2016 draft. Kunin was injured last year but the fact remains the same: the future is still uncertain for each of the next generation of Montreal centers. They’re lottery tickets, and for this team to be good in 2-3 years, they need at least 2-3 of them to pay off in a big way.

The trade should also lock Artturi Lehkonen to the top PP unit for Montreal. With the former captain around, Lehkonen looked to be on the outside looking in. But now, they can run the top unit with Brendan Gallagher in front, Max Domi in the bumper, Drouin on one half-wall and Lehkonen on the other, or something along those lines. The PP unit needs a trigger-man now and Lehkonen is best-suited for that role. They could also just replace Pacioretty with Tatar, in which case I will be one sad panda. (sep11)

 

16. Reader Rocky asks: “What is justin faulks value going forward. Getting hamilton, still have slavin, fleury/pesce getting better, jake beans coming?”

I have never been a fan of Justin Faulk and was really turned off from him last year. Getting Dougie Hamilton makes it even worse. I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole right now. If he gets traded then, he may have a resurgence for a couple of years. But I don’t trust him long-term and I don’t trust him with Carolina.

As for Jake Bean, he concerns me. Not only because his production went backwards last year despite being a man playing against teens, but also because of what analyst Jeff Marek said a few months back on his podcast about a certain recent first-round pick in junior hockey who was so addicted to video games that his GM didn’t think he would ever be an NHLer. When you look at all the prospects and the given criteria, you come up with four names that fit that mysterious description and Bean is one of them. I am not saying he is the prospect who loves his video games, I am just stating that he is one of four or perhaps five candidates who fit the described player speculated by Marek. That alone isn't enough to sway me but his production going backwards a bit in conjunction with that risk and frankly I just won't bother. (sep10)

 

17. Jack Eichel can be a 100-point player. He’s in that small club. And yes, the Sabres will get better, but he won’t even need them to as he can do it on his own. But what seem to potentially hold him down are all the injuries. If he can’t shake those he may never hit it. Not this year, though, let’s wait until he’s 24 or 25 and has a couple of 75- to 80-game seasons under his belt. (sep10)

 

18. Reader Tyler Bryant asks: “Best goalie call-ups for coming season are?”

Goalies who won’t make the team as the backup but would get called up if the starter or possibly both NHL goalies get hurt. The best one – Ville Husso. He won't be the backup but if Jake Allen gets hurt or crashes and burns, I can see Husso saving the day. He's the guy I'm targeting in the minors over anyone I listed above. He's in a promising spot right now.

Also: Carter Hart, Ilya Samsonov and Tristan Jarry. Further down the line are Eric Comrie and Thatcher Demko. Dark horse is Callum Booth, who would of course require both Petr Mrazek and Scott Darling to get injured – don’t be swayed by Booth’s weak numbers last year. The goalies who need injuries to both the starter and backup in order to get a real shot though are Husso, Hart, Demko and Booth. The others I listed will get that opportunity with just the one injury to the main guy. (sep10)

 

19. I have my Calder picks in the Fantasy Guide – the top 50. And if you look past the obvious ones in Rasmus Dahlin, Henrik Borgstrom, Casey Mittelstadt, Dylan Sikura, Andrei Svechnikov and Elias Pettersson, you have to rely on opportunity. If Player A gets hurt for 30 games, then Rookie B gets a shot and suddenly is in the Calder mix. I don’t think there will be any Yanni Gourdes this time around. I could list talented 19- and 20-year-olds all day long who ‘could’ make a splash, from Kailer Yamamoto to Eeli Tolvanen to Martin Necas. But, I think what you’re after are the older prospects. So for that I am eyeballing Valentin Zykov, Andreas Johnsson, Antti Suomela, Dominik Kahun (Chicago, a team desperate for wingers), and even Zach Aston-Reese. (sep10)

 

20. Reader Jeff Libonati asks: “do you think ekblad will put together a season worthy of his pedigree? is he going to turn into the next Pietrangelo?”

Yes, Aaron Ekblad will eventually put together a monster two-way season. No, I don’t think he has Alex Pietrangelo potential. Ekblad is a lesser Pietrangelo. From a points standpoint, I would say subtract 10 from AP to get AE. In fact, in terms of pure offensive talent for points, I think Mike Matheson is the future in Florida. I say this even though Matheson is getting minimal PP time and is being held back. He’ll break through that, give him two or three years, the talent will win out. (sep10)
 

Have a good week, folks!!

 

 

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