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. Micheal Ferland has been a wrecking ball in Carolina. For example, last Sunday, he scored, added eight hits, and even had four faceoff wins, to help out those leagues that count that. Boy was I wrong about this guy. I had him trending the opposite way in the Guide. I should have read it better – the Hurricanes wanted sandpaper, they have a hard-working coach. So, of course they would give Ferland top billing. I miffed this one, just a poor read. Seems so obvious now. (oct15)
2. After years of being a source of many dominant fantasy hockey teams, the Red Wings don’t have much for fantasy owners to get excited about anymore. But one early sleeper from the Wings is rookie blueliner Dennis Cholowski, who leads the team in both power-play minutes and total minutes (21:48/GP). Cholowski scored a goal and added an assist while taking five shots on Saturday to give him five points in six games, including four power-play points. He could easily hit a rookie wall at some point, but he’s owned in just seven percent of Yahoo leagues. That’s surprisingly low ownership for a player earning first-unit power-play minutes, even if it is for a likely lottery-bound team. (oct20)
3. In case you hadn’t noticed, Anders Nilsson just recently enjoyed a three-game run, all wins, where he posted a 1.67 GAA and .943 SV%. Yes, I was as surprised as you are. Do remember, though, that after last season, he backstopped Sweden to a World Hockey Championship.
A long-term question is whether Nilsson will unseat Jacob Markstrom as the de facto number one in Van City. I’d say that Nilsson would need more consistency than we’re used to with him before I would proclaim that he will be the guy two months from now. He could also easily force a timeshare with Markstrom, which might be the more likely scenario here. The Canucks are playing well right now, but their defense is the envy of no team. So, over an entire season, I still wouldn’t consider either Nilsson or Markstrom to be a must-own. (oct17)
4. It’s finally happened, folks. Evgeni Kuznetsov is a superstar. We’ve been as patient as any sane human could ever hope for. Four years of KHL action that had Caps fans and fantasy junkies salivating at the prospect of him tearing it up in the Nation’s Capitol. It took nearly 100 games to push near the point-per-game mark, then a quick backslide and now, now it is here!
Sure, it’s only been six weeks, but all the magical ingredients are coming together. He’s 26-years-old and still in his statistical prime. He’s clicking on a heeeealthy 16.7 percent of his shots, all the while eating up the entirety of all-situations deployment next to the best finisher of all-time (Alex Ovechkin).
Speaking of time-on-ice, he’s getting a lot of it. Through seven games, he’s played 20:57. That’s more than three minutes above the mark he set last season – which represented a career-high at the time. His time-on-ice total places him firmly in the top 10 for forwards to begin the season. With over four minutes of that coming on the man-advantage, you can’t ask for better deployment. The scary thing is, he hasn’t even begun filling his apple basket by feeding Ovi for the patented one-timer. Of Kuzya’s six power-play points, four of them have been goals. That rate will dip, but the PPA’s should more than make up for it. He’s also shooting more than ever before, averaging 3.43 per game. His previous career-high was 2.35.
Last year, we had an unseasonable number of high-end scorers. Nine players cusped the 90-point threshold. Will anyone be surprised if Kuznetsov breaks that milestone this season? I don’t know about you, but I snuck a little preseason coin on him grabbing the Hart Trophy. At 82-1 odds I would’ve been stupid not to, right? Right? Right. (oct19)
5. Jeff Skinner entered Saturday afternoon’s game against LA with just one goal in his first seven games as a Sabre, mainly playing on a line with rookie Casey Mittelstadt and veteran Kyle Okposo. But on Saturday, Skinner found himself on a line with Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville and produced exactly what the Sabres hoped he would when they acquired him from Carolina, scoring three goals in a 5-1 win. In fact, his entire line combined for nine points in this game. Eichel recorded three assists, while Pominville scored a goal and added two assists.
Eichel’s previous linemates, Sam Reinhart and Conor Sheary, found themselves centered by Vladimir Sobotka, which is obviously a significant downgrade from Eichel. Reinhart has yet to score a goal in eight games, while both Reinhart and Sheary have been held without points in their last three games. Obviously, lines are constantly in a state of flux, but as an owner of both Reinhart and Sheary in separate leagues, I’m not thrilled about the deployment at least in the short term. (oct20)
6. Here's some more good news for Sabres' fans, they're not in the basement! It might not sound like much but for a team with such a storied history in the cellar, their 4-4 start must be considered a step forward. What's even more heartening is the play of their prospects in AHL Rochester. Victor Olofsson and his ridiculous release crossed over from the SHL this fall and has been terrorizing goaltenders in the AHL early and often. The 23-year-old led the SHL in goals last season and is leading the AHL in points (14) and sits tied for third in goals (5).
Fellow Swede and SHL import, Lawrence Pilut is second among AHL blueliners in points with 10 in six games. The most relieving start has to be from former eighth overall pick, Alex Nylander. The Sabres top pick from 2016 has struggled in two teenaged seasons in the American League. But, so far in 2018-19, he has produced eight points in eight games and looks ready to really knock the door down for a NHL gig. He hasn't been a passenger either. Of his eight total points, seven have been primary and five have come at even-strength. It's just him and Olli Juolevi who haven't cracked the NHL from the top 10 in 2016. The race is on to see who gets the call first. (oct19)
7. Ryan Suter has seven points in eight games. He looks none the worse after that nasty ankle break last spring. He’s playing over 25 minutes a contest, which is likely a better place for the 33-year-old than 27-29 range he’s lived in in the past. He may not be flashy, but Suter is as consistent as they come. He's played at or above a 40-point pace in eight consecutive years and nine of his 13 career seasons. (oct19)
8. Roope Hintz got a turn on the Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin line Friday. Hintz always been an interesting talent. He found good success in the Finnish Liiga but none more than his playoff run in 2016-17 with HIFK. He led the league in scoring that spring and that helped catapult him to a 20-goal rookie season in the American League last year. He's a young player to watch. The change-up was the result of an Alexander Radulov lower-body injury. Something to keep an eye on. (oct19)
9. Elias Lindholm sure looks like he's found his forever home. The talented Swedish forward has toyed with fantasy owners for years. He had the lofty draft slot, the silky skills and the promise of more production to come. However, over the course of his five NHL seasons, he'd never broke the 50-point barrier. That mark is certainly in danger this season.
A goal and an assist in Calgary's 5-3 loss Nashville on Friday brings him up to five goals eight points in seven games. That's all well and good, but what I like to see is the insanely juicy deployment. Lindholm is locked onto to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan at even-strength and on the top power-play unit. He's skating over 19 minutes a night with 4:41 coming on the man-advantage. You can't ask for much better than that. The shooting percent is ridiculous (35%) and due for a fistful of a market correction, but this a player who has always appeared to have 60-plus point upside and he's trending nicely towards that this season.
Things haven't been as rosy for the other major forward addition in Calgary. James Neal has just two points in seven contests. With the Flames putting the Mikael Backlund-led 3M line back together, Neal is struggling to find much offense next to Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski/Derek Ryan. The second unit power-play deployment isn't helping much either. To make matters worse, he has just 11 shots in seven games, five of which came in game two of the season. It's time to cut ties if you haven't already. (oct19)
10. The Predators have placed Pekka Rinne on injured reserve, which makes Juuse Saros a must-add if he’s still available in your league (47 percent owned in Yahoo leagues at the time of this writing). Saros has played in four games this season, and all have resulted in wins.
If Saros is still unowned in your league, I can’t stress enough how you need to go add him now. Go directly to the waiver wire. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. And even when Rinne returns, you should try to find a way to retain Saros given the Preds’ status as one of the league’s top teams. Remember that Rinne is on the final year of his contract, so a phase-in could be in the works. Even if Saros is pushed to the bench when Rinne returns, owning a strong backup is in many ways better for your fantasy team than owning a weak starter. (oct20)
11. How quickly things can change. In a recent Ramblings, I mentioned the solid play of Semyon Varlamov. Since then, coach Jared Bednar has decided to turn to Philipp Grubauer not once, but twice. Grubauer made Bednar’s decision look smart on Saturday, making 42 saves in a 3-1 win. This is shaping up to be an all-out competition in the Colorado net, with both goalies playing extremely well. Despite facing an average of 35 shots per game (one of the highest in the league), the Avalanche hold one of the league’s highest team save percentages. (oct20)
12. Has Keith Kinkaid earned the starting job for good? Even though Cory Schneider has the larger paycheque with the longer term, this job could be Kinkaid’s to lose. Either way, Kinkaid is the perfect third goalie to own right now. (oct17)
13. I mentioned that you should probably hold Kevin Shattenkirk in spite of his healthy scratch last week because of his 50-plus point upside on the blueline, but I’m not going to tell you to do the same with Brandon Saad. Unless you play in a very deep league, Saad is most likely replaceable given the number of available forward scoring options. Saad could very well become fantasy relevant again at some point, but it’s been a calendar year since he’s been able to produce at a 50-point pace. (oct17)
14. If you own Pavel Buchnevich and are wondering whether to drop him, it appears that his scratch this past week isn’t due to a lack of scoring. Buchnevich has scored two goals and added an assist in his six games, which isn’t drop-worthy on its own. In fact, Buchnevich could rebound from this and become a more complete player who competes harder, assuming the coach’s message gets through. If you’re in a league where every game played matters and there’s an equal or better option, then make the move. Otherwise, I’d be fine with holding here.
On a side note, if you’re a Shattenkirk and/or Buchnevich owner, you’ll know by now that coach David Quinn doesn’t care about your fantasy team. I say that facetiously, though. Sarcasm doesn’t translate well over the internet sometimes. (oct17)
15. When the Erik Karlsson trade was announced, the first thing that popped in my head was how this was going to affect the power play. For years, Brent Burns had been the focal point, ripping shots at will. That helped push him over 300 shots per season for three years. My assumption had been that Karlsson would be a facilitator on the PP with Burns retaining his shot-ripping role.
It hasn’t quite worked that way. And there is cause for concern here. Burns’s shot rate on the PP is his lowest in a decade, about 25 percent lower than last year, and he’s lost about three minutes per game at five-on-five (which I did not anticipate). The latter could lead to a loss of six or seven points alone. Unless that production is made up on the power play, this could be a very down year from what we had been expecting from him. (oct16)
16. In an effort to maximize the odds that Jake Allen will pan out, the Blues put all their eggs into that basket. To give him confidence and remove any competition for his job. But now, we’re seeing the downside to that. Chad Johnson has been decent but is not going to bail this team out the way Carter Hutton did last year. It’s Allen or bust. Mike Yeo could be the first coach fired this year. (oct15)
17. I have this ‘breakout’ vibe on Jakob Silfverberg, a la Josh Bailey (last year) or Brad Marchand (three years ago). That’s how good he’s been looking. That’s why it’s such a shame that he left last Sunday’s contest with an upper-body injury in the third. Back in August, I mused that Silfverberg was the perfect Bailey/Marchand situation template: Has more offensive talent than he’s shown, has solidified his production window in around that 50-point range, and it’s now at the point where we don’t expect more (just as it was with Marchand and Bailey). And then ‘whoa’, he gets 65 points out of the blue. So far Silf has seven points in six games so let’s hope he returns soon. (oct15)
18. I talked about Silfverberg and the Bailey breakouts but Kyle Palmieri is also a suitable candidate. He’s 27 and we have very firm expectations for him and what he can do, as it’s been very stable and reliable in that range. He also plays with Taylor Hall, which can’t hurt. The big Devils’ line (Palmieri, Hall, Nico Hischier) is also the first PP unit. (oct15)
19. It was a real shame seeing Elias Pettersson go down like that last week. As far as players go, and my early impressions at that point in the season, it’s Pettersson and Auston Matthews. Pettersson is an elite player and I had no idea just how elite until watching two of his games in the NHL. I feel like he’s gonna do what Mathew Barzal did last season, production-wise. It would be a shame if this injury has any long-term implications on his health (i.e. susceptibility to concussion). (oct15)
20. Matthews has been on another planet. You don’t need me to tell you that. But it’s as if adding John Tavares on another line has freed things up for Matthews to the point where he’s just toying with the poor suckers that the opposition trots out there to try to stop him. I had always considered him a Patrick Kane-type of talent, but now I wonder if he’s a Sidney Crosby-type of generational talent. I don’t use that label very easily. (oct15)
Have a good week, folks!!
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- Capped: On the Comeback Trail from Injury-plagued 2018-19
- Fantasy Take - Ottawa Hires D.J. Smith as Head Coach
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Pending Restricted Free Agents - Part 1
- DobberHockey Experts Panel – NHL Playoffs 2019 – Stanley Cup Final