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. It's been an incredible year for the 2001-born Americans. Sixteen (16) of the 109 invitees to this week’s Draft Combine are hailing from the USNTDP. An unheard of and record-setting total from one squad.
The top-20 picks on NHL Draft Day will likely feature five of those Americans – Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy, and Cam York. Additionally, the consensus No.1 goaltender on the board, Spencer Knight, is a very likely first-round selection and could even sneak into that top-20 zone.
All six should be squarely on your radar for fantasy hockey drafts. The first four all high first-line upside. And speaking with an NHL scout recently, he believes Knight will be the top recruit for Boston College next season – a team welcoming Boldy and another top forward in Alex Newhook. That's high praise for a soon-to-be freshman netminder. (may29)
2. Speaking of the Combine in Buffalo: Several key players decided not to attend; Kaapo Kakko, for example. He just wrapped up a tremendous draft-eligible campaign with a World Championship gold medal. He wouldn't need to test physically and apparently feels like he doesn't need to interview either. As the Canucks' scout at DobberProspects, I hope this turns off about nine teams and he slips to pick 10. I joke because I care. (may29)
3. Apparently, the Canucks and RFA Brock Boeser aren’t close on a contract. Many are predicting that at least one of the bumper crop of pending RFAs will sign the first offer sheet in ages, with Leafs’ Mitch Marner the odds-on favorite. However, I wonder if a team or two is looking into Boeser if he and the Canucks are far apart. I think with past mistakes like Loui Eriksson’s contract on the books, GM Jim Benning is taking a harder-line approach to negotiating contracts with the likes of Boeser and Alex Edler this offseason. (may31)
4. An under-the-radar signing: Blueliner Juuso Riikola signed a one-year extension with the Penguins worth $850,000. Riikola scored just five points in 37 games but he received some second-unit power-play time for the Pens in averaging just over a minute of power-play time per game. A potential Jack Johnson trade (remember, he was almost traded to Minnesota with Phil Kessel) could help Riikola’s value. (may31)
5. Insider Pierre LeBrun has published a piece on goalie pitch count (or load management, if you prefer), which can be found over at The Athletic. Since Stanley Cup champions over the past four seasons (including whoever this year’s champion is) have started goalies that played in fewer than 55 games, look for more teams to copy this model.
In fact, this trend has already begun and there are definitely fantasy implications. For example: Both starting goalies playing in the Stanley Cup Final have played in 50 games. As I mentioned in my Sunday Ramblings, Tuukka Rask played in 46 regular-season games, just six more than Jaroslav Halak. Jordan Binnington, meanwhile, played in a combined 48 games (16 AHL games and 32 NHL games). (June1)
6. Frederik Andersen played in 60 games, down from the 66 he played over the previous two seasons. According to LeBrun, the belief is that the organization’s sport science people would prefer that number to be somewhere in the 50s. Garret Sparks is signed for one more season, but would Mike Babcock trust him enough to play around 25-30 games? Or, do the Leafs look elsewhere? There will be a ton of pressure for the Leafs to make it past the first round next season, which is a feat that they haven’t accomplished with Andersen between the pipes. (June1)
7. Carey Price played in 66 games, which was only one less than league-leader Devan Dubnyk. Much of that had to do with the Canadiens’ playoff push later in the season, when starting Antti Niemi was simply not a viable option (Niemi started only three games after February 1 and did not play at all after March 7).
The Habs would also like Price to play around 55 games next season, which is why they should be in the market for a dependable free agent backup goalie this offseason. (June1)
8. Minnesota’s offseason will be telling as to how to value Devan Dubnyk. Given how the Wild fell in the standings, it’s a wonder that Dubnyk’s goals-against average didn’t change much from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
If you owned Dubnyk this past season, you may remember that he went through a couple of stretches in which it wasn’t safe to start him. From November 17 to December 27, Dubnyk earned just three wins in 14 games while posting an unsightly 3.08 GAA and .889 SV%.
Then from February 1 to 19, he earned just one win in eight starts with a 3.24 GAA and .882 SV%. Goalies go through rough stretches, but during those stretches the Wild looked like they needed to sell assets and begin the rebuild right away. Dubnyk ended the season with four fewer wins but had to play seven more games than the previous season to reach that number.
Wins might be somewhat difficult to predict but barring injury Dubnyk should play in at least 60 games again in 2019-20. Alex Stalock is under contract for three more seasons and most likely won’t push Dubnyk out of the starter’s chair, given the size of their two contracts.
If Minnesota can hang around the .500 mark, then Dubnyk should get to 30 wins for the sixth consecutive season. Only Braden Holtby and Pekka Rinne have earned more wins than Dubnyk over those past five seasons. After the past two seasons in which goalie values have been all over the map, Dubnyk’s season numbers have remained relatively consistent, even with the rough patches. (may31)
9. Weird goalie year we just endured:
We had Matt Murray with a fantasy-damaging first half and a strong second half.
We had John Gibson with a fantasy-damaging second half and a strong first half.
We had Darcy Kuemper as one of the best goalies to own.
We had a minor-league goalie (Jordan Binnington) in December, suddenly appear in January and take run at the Calder Trophy (and Stanley Cup?).
We had a sub-.900 SV% goaltender get 36 wins – (Martin Jones).
And speaking of mediocre backups – suddenly Curtis McElhinney is a stud?
Goaltending is a huge mess to sort through this offseason, and with the free agent market flush with them this year it’s not going to get any easier. (may27)
10. Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm had the lowest percentage of his team’s 5v4 PPTOI at 27.1 percent. Only Colton Parayko and Duncan Keith were under 30 percent league-wide and only five of the 58 blue liners in our sample were under 33 percent. In other words, Ekholm’s PPTOI was extremely low, even among the lesser-used players.
I bring him up for two reasons.
First, he had a great year with eight goals and 44 points. Good for him and his fantasy owners. Looking ahead, however, it should give people pause that a 28-year old defenceman on a team with Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, and Roman Josi surpassed 35 points for the first time in his career. He set career-highs in things like IPP and both primary and secondary assists. We’re not here to talk about Ekholm’s point regression, though – at least not directly.
The second point that needs to be brought up here is that Subban’s name has been tied to a lot of trade rumours and it does seem Nashville is ready for major shake-ups after their first-round exit. Should Subban be traded, there are about 200 minutes/82 of PPTOI that need replacing.
Ekholm is the clear fourth guy on the Nashville blue line as far as skating with the man advantage is concerned, and rookie Dante Fabbro is lurking in the shadows. Whether or not Ekholm can sustain close to his 44 points moving forward will depend on what happens with Subban and whether coach Peter Laviolette decides that Fabbro should be higher in the pecking order. (I doubt it, but the chance is there.) There are a lot of obstacles here but some of them will be cleared up before draft season hits. (may30)
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11. Dion Phaneuf is mentioned as a potential buyout candidate if the Kings decide to make room for Marleau. Phaneuf is also at the top of the popular buyout list over at Cap Friendly. He has two more years at a cap hit of $5.25 million per season. Phaneuf scored just six points in 67 games with a minus-21 ranking, so he’s simply not helping the Kings in enough ways to justify his contract. (June2)
12. After being traded from Minnesota, Charlie Coyle scored just two goals and six points in 21 games, so he was probably an afterthought in many playoff pools. However, during these playoffs Coyle has provided superb secondary scoring with 15 points in 20 games. This is the kind of acquisition that teams hope for when they swing deals at the deadline. (June2)
13. Philly’s Ivan Provorov is stuck behind an established, offensively-talented defenseman in Shayne Gostisbehere, and there are at least three other factors to remember with regard to his fantasy hockey ouytlook:
There’s another young blue liner challenging for PPTOI in Travis Sanheim.
Provorov had a great rookie year that teased the potential upside (and, to be fair, he followed it up with a 41-point season) .
He didn’t get much of the share of PPTOI in 2018-19, coming in with the fourth-lowest mark in our sample at just over 31 percent.
Despite having his own rough patches in 2018-19, Gostisbehere skated over 69 percent of the available 5v4 ice time. In our sample of 58 defensemen, that was the fourth-highest mark. At times, we saw five forwards on the top Flyers unit or other blueliners but, by and large, it was Gostisbehere’s role and looks as if it will continue to be Gostisbehere’s role.
To make matters worse, Sanheim nearly caught up with Provorov in PPTOI per game after Christmas (separated by 15 seconds) than before the holiday break (Provorov exceeded Sanheim by 55 seconds per contest). So, not only was Gostisbehere nearly locked into his role, but Sanheim, at the very least, caught up to Provorov on the PP depth chart.
This is a concern for Provorov owners. He’ll always have enough peripherals-wise that his value will never disappear. But it’s a question of whether he can be more than a 30- to 40-point defenceman. If Sanheim can really surpass Provo next year in the pecking order – and I think he can – that wouldn’t leave much room for upside from the 22-year old Russian. (may30)
14. Dominik Kubalik signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 23-year old winger has been playing in Europe since his time in the OHL from 2012-2014 but had a great World Championships for the Czech Republic, totalling 12 points in 10 games.
I’m not quite sure where he fits because Chicago wingers are likely to move just about anywhere on the roster, but there is more than enough talent on the roster to support a decent fantasy campaign if Kubalik adapts quickly. (may30)
15. Not an overly interesting discussion from a fantasy perspective, but Jason Gregor was on TSN1040 on Tuesday and revealed that he has a source who confirmed that the Canucks had strongly considered moving Loui Eriksson to Edmonton for Milan Lucic.
I'm not exactly sure why this would be the case as Lucic has an additional year on his terrible contract. Additionally, after a July 1st bonus is paid out, Eriksson's real money owed will be substantially lower than his cap hit – something floor-reaching teams are often interested in.
Lucic is a player who desperately needs to find his footing. I suppose the theory is he may be able to do so in his hometown. But I would not approve as I indicated on Twitter after the report broke. Vancouver wants to make a splash as draft hosts this June. If this is it, I'm not sure they'll get the reaction they're hoping for. (may29)
16. The Mitch Marner contract negotiations jumped to the forefront on Tuesday when Darren Dreger was on TSN1050 and said he expects Marner’s camp to take the negotiations beyond July 1st. He also expects Marner to visit teams starting June 26 in the RFA offer sheet interview period.
Dreger posts that the Leafs will need to be very aggressive with their offer – starting with a double-digit cap hit (10-11+ million per) if they want to avoid other teams getting a chance to woo their young superstar. This led to all sorts of debates surrounding the value of the 22-year-old versus the potential influx of assets if he signs an offer sheet. (may29)
17. Not that it’s much of a surprise, but Alex Ovechkin was way out in front for percentage of 5v4 PPTOI this past season, skating 89.2 percent of his team’s ice time. No other forward was above 80 percent, and only four others were above 75 percent.
I don’t see any reason why this would change as he gets older; it’s where he brings the most value. There are concerns around Ovechkin as the years pass – he turns 34 in September – but his power-play ice time is as sure as it gets. (may28)
18. I’ve written about Clayton Keller already this offseason and will do so again later so I won’t spend too much time here. Just know that he was on the ice for about 63.8 percent of Arizona’s available 5v4 PPTOI, which was just a little less than Brad Marchand’s 64.3 percent, and yet Keller scored zero goals at 5v4. That will undoubtedly rebound next year, building in positive regression to go along with natural player and team development. Get excited about the incoming draft value, kids. (may28)
19. This frustrates me to no end. Look at the Detroit roster. LOOK AT IT. And yet, Dylan Larkin spent a lower percentage of the time on the ice for Detroit’s 5v4 PP time than Dustin Brown did with Los Angeles.
WHY. WHY WHY WHY DEAR GOD WHY.
Anyway, now that I’ve vented a bit, we can move forward a bit more rationally.
Last summer, I wrote quite extensively about Larkin, namely that he was a guy to target for a big breakout. Specifically, from July 31, 2018: “… if… he can boost his PP production overall, there could be a huge year coming… if Larkin pushes to be nearly a point-per-game player, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.” Larkin’s PPP total went from eight in 2017-18 to 15 in 2019-20. He had a commensurate rise in total production, finishing with 73 points in 76 games. I had my misses this past season, but Larkin was a hit.
With that said…we still have Jeff Blashill. For whatever unholy reason, he refuses to treat guys like Larkin and Anthony Mantha as top-tier offensive options. It’s not as if this is a situation like San Jose where they’re so deep they can have guys like Timo Meier and Evander Kane on the second unit.
Detroit had Larkin, Mantha, Athanasiou, and Vanek. After those four, it’s guys like Tyler Bertuzzi, Frans Nielsen, and Justin Abdelkader. Is there really a good reason to have Larkin on the ice for less than 55 percent (!!!) of your PPTOI when that’s the case? No, there isn’t. It’s Blashill being stubborn.
I’ll give Blashill some credit: Larkin saw a higher share of PPTOI in 2018-19 than 2017-18 (about 46 percent), so the team-relative increase is there.
Does he suddenly have a change of heart and go with a heavily-used PP1 unit? I have my doubts. This is the Blashill we’ve known for years and the team is ostensibly going to get deeper with guys like Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno on their way. I do think Larkin is an 80-point threat in 2019-20, but I don’t think it’ll be because he’s suddenly enduring an avalanche of PPTOI. (may28)
20. Interesting reveals in Saturday Headlines on Hockey Night in Canada. One of them had Patrick Marleau moving his family back to San Jose, and that he has told the Leafs that he would like to move to a team closer to his family. Arizona, Colorado, and Los Angeles are rumored to be potential destinations for Marleau.
It would be beneficial for the Leafs to move Marleau’s contract, but it will likely cost them a player that can help their team now. Beyond the core pieces signed long-term, there could be a ton of changes to the Leafs’ roster next season. (June2)
Regarding the Kings: They might be a fit because of Marleau’s experience with Todd McLellan, though I don’t know why they would bring in a near-40-year-old in the twilight of his career if a rebuild is in order. Regardless, it appears that the two sides aren’t close to making a deal.
Marleau has one year left at $6.25 million with a full no-move clause, so this would be a great contract for Kyle Dubas to get off the books. Marleau’s production dipped from 27 goals in 2017-18 (his first season with the Leafs) to just 16 goals in 2018-19. He will also turn 40 on September 14. (June1)
21. Congrats to Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for winning their first Memorial Cup on Sunday. Joel Teasdale, an undrafted left winger who was signed by Montreal last summer, was the MVP of the tournament. He had 34 points in 20 QMJHL playoff games and then five points in five Memorial Cup games.
He didn’t lead the Tourney in scoring, though – teammate Jakub Lauko did with eight points. Nor did he lead in goals, that went to teammate Felix Bibeau.
Have a good week, folks!!
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