21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on May 26, 2019

Every Sunday, we'll share 21 Fantasy Rambles – formerly 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. What are cap league owners doing with Alex Pietrangelo? He has one year left on his current contract but next year is his age-30 season. That means his new deal kicks in for his age-31 season, and his new deal is going to be an expensive one.

I don’t think he gets Drew Doughty-type money but it seems entirely possible he gets something close to John Carlson’s. Do cap league owners want a defenseman making $8M+ when that contract kicks in at 31 years old? This summer might be the time to move him. (may22)

 

2. One more thing on the Blues: don’t forget about Jordan Kyrou. This is a guy I’m very high on. He had a wonderful first pro season in the AHL with 43 points in 47 games and showed his flashes of brilliance in his stints in the NHL.

He’ll probably be on the third line in 2019-20 but I do wonder if they at least start him in the AHL to start the year and have him be a November call-up or something along those lines. I think once he gets back to the NHL, he’s there to stay, and he’ll show his offensive brilliance. (may22)

 

3. In spite of that continued elite-level production from his position, I’m probably going to let someone else draft Erik Karlsson in single-season formats next season.

He’s averaged 20 games missed over the past two seasons with possible groin surgery on the horizon. Someone like Kris Letang has a longer track record when it comes to injuries, yet I’m wondering if I’m going to be ranking these two in the same tier considering that Letang produced at a similar point-per-game pace last season. (may25)

I’d still take Karlsson over Letang at the moment, yet I can’t shake the thought that Karlsson is turning into what Peter Forsberg was just over a decade ago – an elite player that has worn down to becoming a perpetual game-time decision. Or, if he is healthy, the next injury is just around the corner, as is the case with Letang. Even with a high level of production, that kind of player is as frustrating to own as anyone.

 

4. This is anecdotal but one thing that stuck out to me about Kevin Labanc this year is that he seemed to always take a second to look for an extra play(er).

I know that the general thought is that you want your skaters making plays almost automatically; that everyone should know where everyone is, where they’re supposed to be, and get the puck off their stick as quickly as possible. In many cases, that’s the ideal option. Your opponent, however, is also aware of where the immediate play is and if they’re in the right position or can make the right read, it can lead to a turnover.

Rather, what I look for from players, especially once they get in the offensive zone, is whether they can look for the second, third, or even fourth option. It’s like a quarterback getting the snap, dropping back, and going through their progressions. The first option is ideal if it can be completed, but often the QB has to go to the second, third, or fourth read before making a play.

A lot of players can consistently make the initial play – it’s why they’re in the NHL in the first place – but next-level offensive players can take an extra second, or make an extra move, to get through their progressions down the list in search of a better option.

I saw that from Labanc this year, and that’s exciting. Those extra moves lead to seam passes, backdoor passes, or better shooting angles. Yes, they also lead to turnovers, but as long as he’s not losing ice time because of it, it really doesn’t matter for fantasy hockey purposes.  (may24)

 

5. It seems like it will be sooner rather than later that Timo Meier will be a superstar in this league.

I hope those who read my Ramblings paid attention to what was written about him last year:

April 6, 2018: “Heading into this September’s drafts, keeps guys like Andreas Athanasiou, Josh Anderson, and Timo Meier in the back of your mind. They’re young guys among the shooting leaders this year.”

May 25, 2018: General concern about role, but discussing his great playoff shot rates.

September 29, 2018: “… Meier is a guy to get late in drafts. He quietly had 20 goals last year and has the profile of a guy who can push 30 goals even without the top PP minutes.”

After all that, Meier scored 30 goals and tallied 66 points last year, adding 250 shots, 55 penalty minutes, and 99 hits. He was top-20 league-wide in goals/60 minutes at five-on-five (minimum of 750 minutes played) and was fifth in shots/60. The guy who could probably be had around the 200th pick overall in standard Yahoo! leagues (depending on the league) finished the season just outside the top-50 players (56th, actually).

The playoffs did absolutely nothing to slow down Meier’s ability. Believe it or not, his shot attempt rate at five-on-five actually went up compared to his regular season even if his shots per game at all strengths went down. He only managed five goals but did have 15 points in 20 games. He showed flashes of his brilliance in all three series and generally looked outstanding even when the team did not.

 

6. It’s a fair question to ask what kind of impact Erik Karlsson had on Meier’s performance, and the performance of others. As for Timo himself, Karlsson undoubtedly was good to the young Swiss forward: without EK65 on the ice with him, the team’s shot rates with Meier on the ice went down about 10.7 percent and goals by about 9 percent.

But it’s all relative: the overall shot rates for the team with Meier on the ice without EK65 (65.93 shot attempts/60) was in the top 10 percent of the league while the team’s goal rates in the same situation was in the top 15 percent of the league. So yes, undoubtedly, Karlsson helped Meier look a bit better than he otherwise would have. But he was still great even when he was skating without Karlsson.

I won’t keep going on but it’s pretty obvious that Meier is an absolute stud and some people just don’t know it yet. There are changes coming to the Sharks, but at the least, they’ll have Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, Kevin Labanc, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic returning. That’s enough to support Meier’s continued ascent to fantasy stardom. He should be a top-100 pick in the fall and I’ll be buying him almost regardless of his ADP. (may24)

 

7. Jason Zucker is believed to be another player that is on the trade block. Zucker’s production took a step backward in 2018-19, as he fell by 12 goals and 10 assists. In fact, most of that decline was in the form of even-strength points (20 points).

Overall decline in goal production in Minny (a drop of 40 goals from 2017-18 to 2018-19) affected many players, including frequent linemates Eric Staal (24-point drop) and Mikko Koivu (16-point drop, mainly due to injury). Better-producing linemates in either Minnesota or elsewhere could clearly help Zucker rebound. That’s why Zucker would be a more desirable fantasy own if he moved to Pittsburgh, for example. (may25)

 

8. The rumour mill around the Penguins has been going strong since they were ousted in four games in the first round of the playoffs and reports had a deal more or less in place between Pittsburgh and Minnesota involving Phil Kessel and Zucker. That Kessel has a partial no-trade appeared to be one of the final hurdles to clear.

Both Zucker and Kessel have been part of trade rumours for a month now, so this isn’t unexpected. But Zucker is on a very team-friendly deal and is coming off a bad year driven by percentages and not poor play. Minnesota better be sure about what they’re doing, and the Nino NiederreiterVictor Rask trade gives me cause for concern about the Wild making more big moves. (may24)

 

9. In hindsight, allowing Jaroslav Halak to play nearly as many games (40) as Tuukka Rask (46) turned out to be a great move to ensure that Rask wasn’t overworked for this playoff run. Assuming that the Bruins don’t have to make a late-season push to earn a playoff spot next season, then it would make sense that they would use the same strategy again next season. (may26)

 

10. This is something I’ll have to think about over the summer, as I decide whether to keep one of Rask, Devan Dubnyk, or Robin Lehner. Rask’s playoff run could certainly add to his value but we might need to temper our expectations if Rask has averaged just 50 GP over the past two seasons.

Someone like Martin Jones would be projected to start at least 10 more games and would probably earn more wins as a result, yet it wouldn’t be worth it to draft Jones ahead of Rask because Jones’ ratios will be significantly worse than Rask’s. However, if your goalie scoring only counts wins and shutouts, then you might have to do the unthinkable and draft Jones ahead of Rask, even if it’s clear by watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs which goalie is better. (may26)

 

11. In spite of numbers that make it clear that the Sharks have been winning in spite of Jones, I can’t see them making a change in net this offseason. Jones is under contract for five more years at $5.75 million, with the term at least as much as the cap hit making that contract difficult to move. Doug Wilson is likely already preoccupied on making a number of other decisions to be thinking about the goaltending anyway. Yet with the Sharks' window starting to close, I wonder how many more seasons that Wilson decides that he's okay with Jones, assuming that what you see from Jones is what you're going to get. The Stanley Cup Final run of 2016 certainly bought some time (and helped buy the current contract) in that regard. (may26)

 

12. So, uh, remember Dylan Larkin taking a slap shot to the testicles in the World Championship? He didn’t return to that game and he was taken out of the tournament altogether. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Larkin will be fine, which is a big relief. (may24)

 

13. Brock Nelson signed a six-year, $36-million contract extension with the Islanders. In a nutshell, I don’t have a huge problem with this contract in the real world but it’s hard to see him being worth it in cap leagues. Fifty-point centers are pretty easy to find and you can find them for less than a $6M AAV. (may24)

 

14. The only real responsibility that new Sens’ coach D.J. Smith will have for the next two seasons is to develop all their young players. That includes Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Colin White, and many others currently in the organization or on their way after the upcoming draft.

This team could post 50-point seasons the next two years and it would not matter whatsoever as long as the young kids come along, and he can instill whatever systems he sees fit for his team. We’ll see if the owner has that kind of patience. (may24)

You can read Cam Robinson’s take on the hiring here.

 

15. A standout for me the from USNTDP program this year is Cole Caufield, dropping 14 goals and 77 shots in 17 games against Division I opponents. Even finding a way to post 4.5 shots per game against a massive level jump is impressive, not considering the high-end finishing ability. For reference, the most impactful scorer in college hockey this season, 22-year-old, Johnny Walker, scored 0.72 goals-per-game over the course of the season. Caufield clicked at 0.82 in his 17 contests against the same competition. At 17 years old.

Caufield is off to Wisconsin in the fall where I very much expect him to score 30 goals – something we haven't seen from a freshman since Kyle Connor dropped 35 in 2015-16, and consider coming out of school after just one NCAA campaign. I say consider because I feel he's two seasons away from truly pushing for an NHL job, but I refuse to put a glass ceiling on this kid.

He may stand just 5-6 and 3/4 inches tall, but this kid has the goods to be a devastating finisher in the NHL for a long time. Many people compare him to Alex DeBrincat – which is fair. They're both sub-5-8 sniping wingers, but DeBrincat went early in the second round. Caufield will go early on day one. There is a lot more risk associated at that spot, and the teams selecting will need to weight that out. But if you're looking for a glimpse into my final board for June, Caufield will be firmly entrenched in the top-10. He's earned every inch. (may23)

 

16. I will say this much: in dynasty rookie drafts this summer, I’d have a very hard time not taking Cole Caufield at third overall behind Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko. His goal scoring skill and sense are off the charts. I don’t care one iota how tall he is.

Of course, don’t just take my word for it. The 2019 Dobber Fantasy Prospects Guide comes out next Saturday, June 1. It has everything you need to know about not only the top-end prospects but the lesser-known players who can make an impact on dynasty rosters. Readers can pre-order here. (may24)

 

17. The Jets have signed backup goalie Laurent Brossoit to a one-year contract worth $1.225 million. Brossoit posted solid numbers as a backup last season (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV%).

If Brossoit can be one of the league’s better backups for a second consecutive season, then he could earn himself both a better contract and more playing time a year from now. In spite of better GAA and SV% numbers than starter Connor Hellebuyck, I don’t see Hellebuyck losing much playing time next season. Why? Look at the contracts. Hellebuyck will earn over $6 million for five more seasons. (may26)

 

18. One of our newest writers and long-time reader, Mat Porter aka Striker has a theory that goes beyond the magical fourth-season theory – which Anthony Mantha is about to embark on. For power forwards, Mat looks at the 400-game mark. I like this route because we’ve seen it time and time again – the big boys need more time to hit their ceiling.

Now, I'm not sure if I'm willing to wait an additional two full seasons for Mantha's breakout (he currently sits at 217 career games), but it lends credence to the breakout yet to come. I feel we can expect another step forward for Mantha in 2019-20 – hopefully to a 30/30 level, but that his true breakout is still at least a season away.

* Speaking of Mat, his first piece on his development model was published this week – see it here.

It's always better to be a bit early on a player than to be too late. I’ll be targeting Mantha in drafts next fall – especially keepers – a bit earlier than some of the consensus boards out there. Detroit has been flailing for some time, but their stable of prospects is juicy and their time to begin the slow climb out of the cellar is happening. Stevie Y back at the helm won’t hurt this prognostication one bit. (may23)

 

19. A little bit of an update on the injured Carolina players: Jordan Martinook will be out 4-6 weeks with a core muscle surgery while Calvin de Haan will be out 4-6 months with shoulder surgery.

The Hurricanes are more than deep enough on the blue line to sustain de Haan missing a month or two of the regular season, especially when considering Jake Bean could be on the roster next year. Martinook should be fine by July so I’m not worried about him next year, either. Obviously, it’s not great news for de Haan, but all told, things could be a lot worse for Carolina.

I shouldn’t just gloss over Bean here; de Haan’s injury opens a spot on the left side of the blue line and Bean looks ready to at least try to establish himself in the NHL. I think he’s far enough down the depth chart that there isn’t much fantasy value in 2019-20 but it’s an opportunity for the young defenseman to make his mark. (may22)

 

20. Micheal Ferland said he wants to return to the Hurricanes. He’s coming off another 40-point season, which should be enough to earn him a lengthy-ish deal. The team certainly has the cap space to get the deal done but it’s a question as to whether they want to sign Ferland to a $4-million or so AAV. (may21)

Still with the Canes – being a perennial contender would involve having a somewhat secure goaltending situation, which the Hurricanes definitely do not have. Curtis McElhinney doesn’t know what Carolina management is going to do and quite frankly, I don’t think Carolina management knows what they’re going to do, either. There are a handful of prospects in the system and there are effectively 1A and 1B starting roles to be filled on the team. Do both McElhinney and Petr Mrazek return? Just one? Neither? I’d say any of those outcomes is as likely as the others. (may21)

 

21. A reader on Twitter (you can follow me here, you can always ask questions) asked for a list of league types that would be best to draft Jack Hughes versus a list of league types that would be best to draft Kaapo Kakko. I’m here for you.

In real world hockey, I still think teams will go with Hughes. Franchise centermen are just too valuable. And rare. But Kakko is making it interesting. In pure fantasy hockey points-only leagues (no positions), I take Hughes. I think his upside is about a dozen points higher than Kakko’s – even though Kakko may actually out-produce him in the first season or two. He’s certainly showing that he’s better prepared against NHL competition at the worlds.

In fantasy leagues, where the positions are separated – either C, W or C, RW, LW – I think I go with Kakko. It is my stance that wingers are harder to get in fantasy hockey than centermen. In goal-heavy leagues you take Kakko. He could be the Patrik Laine to Jack Hughes’ Auston Matthews (though he’ll get more assists than Laine).

And with regards to Hits or PIM leagues, I feel that won’t make a difference in the above. I take Kakko in goal-heavy leagues, and leagues that require winger designation. I take Hughes otherwise. (may20)
 

Have a good week, folks!!