21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on May 5, 2019

Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles 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. Jaden Schwartz is benefitting from being back on the Blues’ top line with Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly. After his lowest points-per-game total (0.52) since his 2012-13 rookie season, Schwartz could be a rebound candidate back to the 50-point mark if he build off his strong playoff run and find his way back onto the top line next season.

Schwartz leads the Blues in goals with seven as he enters Game 6. He is also tied for the team lead with Alex Pietrangelo in points (nine) in 11 games. (mar4)

 

2. Funny thing is, the Capitals were a better team this year than they were when they won the Cup. Last year they won purely on heart and very good goaltending. This year, the goaltending wasn’t as good. And Alex Ovechkin aside (he still brought it big time), the heart wasn’t quite there as much.

But Brett Connolly has emerged and Jakub Vrana has emerged. I feel like Connolly could be a regular 50-point player. This wasn’t a fluke the way Lars Eller’s was a fluke in 2017-18. And Vrana is just getting started. But both Connolly (two points) and Vrana (zero points) didn’t step up in the postseason and that lack of secondary scoring is what killed the Caps. (apr29)

 

3. Jack Hughes will join Team USA at the upcoming Men’s World Championships, joining brother Quinn. I know this is sort of an all-star tournament played on international ice but this will be a good look at what the younger Hughes, especially, can do against not only NHL players, but high-level NHLers.

I don’t think anyone’s expecting failure from him, but it’ll help give fantasy owners a feel as to whether Hughes can step in next year and be a 70-point rookie or a 50-point rookie. I know I’ll be watching intently. (may2)

 

4. The Rangers will welcome Vitali Kravtsov to the fold in 2019-20. The 19-year old (just turned in December) had 21 points in 50 games with Chelyabinsk this past season. This news came a day after the Rangers acquired defenseman Adam Fox in a trade with Carolina while we’re only a few weeks removed from the team moving up in the draft to the Kaapo Kakko draft slot. It has been a really good month for the Rangers’ rebuild. (may2)

 

5. Moreover, the Blueshirts seem to be that destination team for unsigned college free agents with Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and now Fox inked over the last five years.

New York is a big city, and there's opportunity for a young player to play for a team in a rebuild. Fox's addition could cut into the fantasy value of Kevin Shattenkirk, Tony DeAngelo, and Neal Pionk, assuming he can contribute at the NHL level. (may1)

 

6. Game 5 of the Boston-Columbus series was defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov’s first NHL game. Gavrikov, a 2015 sixth-round pick of the Jackets, was signed in April to a two-year entry-level contract after spending the past six seasons in the KHL. He’s described as a shutdown defenseman who could be NHL-ready next season, although his scoring totals don’t suggest that he’s a must-own in fantasy leagues. Gavrikov played 14 minutes and saw minutes with David Savard. (mar5)

 

7. Even though nothing went right for the Islanders in this second-round series, they have to be happy to far surpass preseason expectations. If you would have proclaimed that the John Tavares-less Islanders would not only make the playoffs, but also sweep the Penguins in the first round, your prediction would have looked like an even bigger reach than any of these 15 Fearless Forecasts.

Okay, I’m probably going to start another awards debate here, but this is an example of coaching changes really mattering. Barry Trotz should win the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. Under Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn, the Isles improved their goals-against average by over a goal per game (1.24, to be exact), going from worst to first (yes, 31st to 1st) in that category in the span of one season. The positive effect of bringing in a new coach and management (Lou Lamoriello) surpassed the negative effect of losing the franchise player, though we were led to believe that the opposite would be true. (mar4)

 

8. In the end, a lack of scoring did the Islanders in (just five goals in four games). They clearly need an upgrade in scoring before they can be considered one of the NHL’s elite teams. Their scoring performed about as expected this past season (2.72 GF/GP, 22nd in NHL) without Tavares.

They will have some decisions to make this offseason, with all of Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee headed for unrestricted free agency. They’ll have the cap space but will they have the financial means to fill it? If so, how exactly will they allocate that money? Lee is due for a raise, while they might be able to sign Eberle at a slight discount. Could they take the money they had set aside for Tavares and take a run at another top-6 forward to upgrade the offense? Lots of questions here. (mar4)

 

9. The Canes won’t start the Eastern Conference Final until the middle of next week at the earliest, which could be enough time for the injured Petr Mrazek to heal and be a possibility for Game 1 against Columbus or Boston. Curtis McElhinney has proven that he isn’t a significant dropoff from Mrazek, so the veteran Curtis Mac potentially starting Game 1 shouldn’t hurt the Canes’ chances that much. (mar4)

 

10. Warren Foegele is now up to nine points (5g-4a) in 11 playoff games. That ties the Hurricanes/Whalers rookie record for postseason points by a rookie, set by Erik Cole in 2002 (Cole played 23 playoff games that season).

Foegele must be breathing some of that magic playoff dust from Justin Williams, who has now scored goals in back-to-back games himself. Based on his playoff performance, Foegele looks primed to take a significant leap from his 15-point (10g-5a) rookie season. (mar4)

 


ICYMI: Dobber has some Guides for pre-order …


 

11. As much as I said after Game 3 that Logan Couture has been carrying the Sharks during the playoffs, Tomas Hertl’s contributions cannot go ignored. Hertl’s pair of goals in Game 5 were his seventh and eighth of the playoffs, which puts him just one goal behind Couture in these playoffs. So, let’s adjust my previous statement to say that it’s Couture and Hertl who have combined to carry the Sharks offensively. With 17 goals between them, they have combined for nearly half (46 percent) of the Sharks’ goal scoring during the playoffs. (mar5)

 

12. Tyson Jost, the Avs’ first-round pick in 2016, has just one assist during the playoffs and has often been held to under 10 minutes per game during the postseason. The regular-season ice time wasn’t quite as low (averaged 13:00), so this has more to do with the top line consistently being given well over 20 minutes per game. If you’re an Avalanche fan, at least you can’t complain that your coach isn’t playing your best players often enough. (mar5)

 

13. Cale Makar has reached the 20-minute mark in ice time only once, which is expected for a rookie defenseman getting his start in the playoffs. Yet, he is already seeing regular power-play time on the second unit with fellow 20-year-old Samuel Girard. If these two youngsters develop as hoped, the Tyson Barrie trade rumors are really going to heat up. Particularly since Barrie will be on the final year of his contract next season and the Avs will need to sign Mikko Rantanen (among several other RFAs) this offseason. (mar3)  

 

14. The Leafs signed 2016 second-round pick Egor Korshkov (can we get a definitive ruling on Egor or Yegor?) to a two-year entry-level contract. The 22-year old has played five years in the KHL, his latest season cut short because of a shoulder injury. He has 24 goals in over 170 career KHL games, including 11 goals in his most recent 71 contests.

I won’t delve into Korshkov’s ability because our DobberProspects profile does a good job at doing just that. What I will speak to is the opportunity here. Korshkov typically plays on the right but he is a left shot. With Zach Hyman’s injury and the uncertainty around Toronto’s cap situation, there may be a clear path to the NHL if Korshkov is willing to play the left side. I would assume that he at least starts the season in the AHL but if he can impress, he may not be there long.

I am definitely not saying that he’s so good that he’ll be fast-tracked to the NHL. All I’m saying is he has that opportunity if he performs very well in training camp and exhibition. There are a lot of bridges to cross between now and October. (may2)

 

15. Mike Clifford’s Calder Trophy take – The finalists were announced last week: Rasmus Dahlin, Elias Pettersson, and Jordan Binnington.

And people weren’t happy.

The prevailing thought was that Miro Heiskanen deserved the nod over Jordan Binnington, given Binngton’s age (25) and the fact he only started 30 games, appearing in 32. There were also a few people I saw thinking that Heiskanen over Dahlin made sense.

There appeared to be a consensus that Pettersson absolutely deserved to be a finalist, and I agree with that.

Let’s look at the Calder case for each of Heiskanen, Dahlin, and Binnington, then…but you’ll need to follow the link for the detailed analysis: (apr30)

 

16. Ian Gooding’s Calder Trophy take – I’m following up with my Calder Trophy argument, specifically with the Jordan Binnington debate. I knew that not everyone would agree with my take in last Sunday’s Ramblings, and that’s fine. I can certainly acknowledge the mountains of data that proves that Binnington’s season is historical when compared to other rookie goalies who have played the same number of games.

As well, the timing of his callup and the hiring of new coach Craig Berube seemed to be the two driving forces behind the Blues’ turnaround from potential draft lottery winner to competing for a Stanley Cup. No other 2018-19 rookie can claim that feat.

Look, I don’t mean to keep raining on Binnington. He’s had an impressive run. He might even arguably be the league’s most valuable player from January onward. Even the age thing (25) doesn’t matter to me that much. However, do we know that he could have sustained those numbers over a full season? We don’t know that, even with as much predictive data as we have at our disposal. It wouldn’t be fair to the likes of Elias Pettersson, Rasmus Dahlin, Miro Heiskanen, and other rookies who have experienced the grind of a full NHL season and teams acquiring better scouting reports over time to match up against these players. (may1)

 

17. Another league award debate – this one for the Hart Trophy. As you're likely aware, Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, and Sidney Crosby are the three finalists for the Hart Trophy. With zero playoff wins between them this season, it's a good thing for their sake that this is a regular-season award.

For some reason, the "McDavid shouldn't be nominated for the Hart because his team isn't in the playoffs" argument hasn't been as loud this season. I could easily see McDavid piling up another 100-point season while the Oilers miss the playoffs again next season (really, who do you think would fall out of the playoffs in the West for the Oilers to make it?) I know that the Oilers couldn't have fallen much farther in the standings without McDavid given where they were, but do we not reward truly outstanding seasons anymore? It's not McDavid's fault that Oilers' management is incapable of building a contender around him. One player can only do so much.

The funny thing is that there's now the opposite argument for Kucherov in that the Lightning had such a huge lead in the overall standings that they still could have finished first overall without him. Again, the situation that the player is in is not the player's fault. Maybe it's the presence of advanced stats, but sometimes we get to the point where we're overthinking (some of you who have asked me for fantasy advice will know I use this word from time to time). With the kind of season that Kucherov had, I don't know how you don't hand him the Hart. (may1)

 

18. I didn’t catch this until last Sunday, but Jannik Hansen announced his retirement from hockey at the age of 33. His best season was in 2012-13 at 27 years old when he tallied 28 points in 47 games, a 49-point pace. His career high was 39 points. I know a few poolies who hung onto him for several years, hoping for even a 50-point player that never arrived. (apr29)

 

19. The Mike Babcock issue – I’ve heard from a lot of Leafs fans (I live in a small city outside of Toronto called Pickering, so I have a lot of exposure and full disclosure: Leafs and Penguins are my favorite teams, and I’m also very partial to the Oilers and Jets). In my effort to avoid over-talking about the Leafs I probably have the opposite result and don’t discuss them enough here.

Leafs fans are pissed off and many – not all, but many – want to see Babcock go. What a pantload that notion is. Toronto was a team that was dead last, and four years later they hit 100 points three times. Fire the coach? Really? This is a team that Babcock could have coached past Columbus, NY Islanders, Carolina and Washington. I would have dropped a lot of money on them once they got past the Bruins.

To me, that Game 7 was for the Stanley Cup. They lost. Did Babcock screw a few things up? Of course – most coaches would have screwed a few things up, though each would have made different types of mistakes. Babcock’s was to play Patrick Marleau in too many key situations, not shake up his lines, not put Auston Matthews out there enough, and not rein in Nazem Kadri. But the reality is this is a young team and they just gained valuable experience. They completely understand that there is no taking the foot off the gas at all. Ever.

Next year you will see how this experience helped them. Babcock easily deserves another year, don’t be silly. This should not have even been a topic of discussion, shame on you if you even floated the idea. (apr29)

 

20. The Jake Gardiner issue – In terms of postseason hopes, this could actually be addition by subtraction. I actually really like his puck-moving talent and I think this summer he will go to a new team and become a 50-point player there. But he panics under pressure. Nothing against him, a lot of people are like this. Hell, I’m like this.

I have a buddy who, no matter what the game – tennis, cards, chess, road hockey, pool, darts, whatever – if I beat him I have to beat him by a mile. Because if it’s close, he’s winning. Period. I panic. I make mistakes. Happens 10 times out of 10. Tennis is especially frustrating because I think I’m as good or even a little better than him. But because those games are always close, I will always lose. Many of us are like that. Gardiner is like that.

The mistakes are glaring and they seem to happen the most when it’s an elimination game and it’s close. If he didn’t drop pass to Marcus Johansson, Boston doesn’t score the second goal and to me the Leafs are still very much in that game. The clutch players are the ones who do it when it matters most. Carolina’s Warren Foegele is a great example of this – he gets the points when everything depends on it. (apr29)

 

21. The Salary Cap – Mitch Marner could get more than Auston Matthews, or at the very least gets close to the $11.634 million. So, the Leafs will need to shed a ton of salary.

Right now, if the cap goes up a bit they will be at $7 million for space for Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Igor Ozhiganov and to replace Gardiner and Ron Hainsey. Ideally the Leafs will trade William Nylander and gain $3.5 million in cap space there. Even more ideally they would trade Nikita Zaitsev and take minimum salary back to free up another $3.5 million.

To me, even after the above two moves, they still need another $5-$6 million in cap space and frankly I don’t know how they get there. This is going to take a lot of imagination on Kyle Dubas’ part. The Leafs may be the most active team of the summer. (apr29)

 

Have a good week, folks!!