21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on June 9, 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. Jason Zucker is a highly interesting player heading into next season. After pumping 33 goals in 2017-18, he dipped to 21 last season while watching his shooting percentage fall by five points. This is another player begging for a regression to the mean – and that means back in the 12-13 percent range. Where he ends up playing in 2019-20 is anyone's guess, but I'd wager wherever that is, will put him in a position to shoot the puck a lot.

He's another one who will have sneaky upside in drafts next fall. (june5)

 

2. A list of players with at least 1:30 of five-on-four PP ice time per game in 2018-19 that didn’t score a goal:

Ryan Johansen
Clayton Keller
Frans Nielsen
Richard Panik
Andrei Svechnikov

Let’s talk about Ryan Johansen.

He’s being brought up specifically because it’s not just him. The team was bottom-5 in the league in goals scored per 60 minutes at 5v4, which is weird because they were a top-10 team in 2017-18.  Johansen hasn’t been a big PP goal guy in a few years now but he did have four in 2016-17. He is capable of producing something.

Filip Forsberg also had a poor season at five-on-four, scoring just four goals in 63 games. For reference, he had 11 the year before in a similar number of contests. Even Viktor Arvidsson, with his 34 total goals in 58 games, saw a career-low goal rate at five-on-four.

This is all brought up because of the offseason the Predators have ahead of them. Their Stanley Cup window is still firmly open, with the core of their team all age-30 or younger, but there are changes coming. They may be minor, but it certainly looks as though it will involve bigger names like P.K. Subban and possibly Kyle Turris. More than anything, from a fantasy perspective, we need them to figure out the power play. Forsberg is capable of a point-per-game pace, Arvidsson can score 40 goals, and Johansen can reach 60 assists. Can they bring it all together in 2019-20? (june4)

 

3. With over a point and a half per game (1.56 PTS/GP), Nikita Kucherov led the NHL in scoring by a full 12 points last season. He didn’t lead in goals (Alex Ovechkin did with 51) but his 87 assists were 12 ahead of the next-highest total. His 128-point total was the highest of any player of the salary cap era and the highest total since the mid-1990s.

Maybe Kucherov lets off the gas a little in 2019-20, as he and the Lightning try to save something for the playoffs. And don’t forget about the linemates at his disposal in T-Bay during your next fantasy hockey draft. In pure points leagues, Kucherov is arguably your first overall pick. (june9)

 

4. Connor McDavid has posted three consecutive 100-point seasons compared to Kucherov’s two. Should the Oilers stack their top unit and place Leon Draisaitl on McDavid’s line all of next season, McDavid could be your scoring leader by the end of the season.

In 2018-19, Draisaitl was on the ice for 52 percent of McDavid’s even-strength minutes, but he was on the ice for 86 percent of McDavid’s even-strength points.

Don’t worry about the Dave Tippett coaching hire having a negative impact on McDavid’s scoring, either. After all, he went through nearly a full season of Ken Hitchcock and came out fine. For what it’s worth, McDavid is also entering his fourth ‘full’ season — he missed about half of his rookie season due to injury. (june9)

 

5. Colleague Mike Clifford made a good argument in a Ramblings about a month ago about Nathan MacKinnon being the second overall pick in fantasy leagues behind Kucherov.

He mentioned that over the past two seasons (and you should be looking beyond last season when you make projections) that MacKinnon has averaged 40 goals, 58 assists, and 325 shots while exceeding over 30 power-play points over the past two seasons. That places MacKinnon third in points (behind Kucherov and McDavid), third in shots and fifth in power-play points.

With Colorado primed to climb up the standings next season, MacKinnon could easily be hanging around with McDavid and Kucherov by the end of the season. (june9)

 

6. Congratulations to the Charlotte Checkers, who won the AHL’s Calder Cup with a five-game final series victory over the Chicago Wolves. Andrew Poturalski was named as the AHL playoff MVP with 23 points in 18 games, while top goalie prospect Alex Nedeljkovic backstopped the Hurricanes’ farm team to their league victory. (june9)

 

7. I’ll mention that the Top 100 Roto Rankings will be back soon. Throughout the periods of the summer where hockey news is few and far between, I’ll discuss the rationale behind a few of my choices while they’re fresh in my mind.

Deciding where to rank the Leafs’ top three forwards isn’t easy, and I might be setting myself up for criticism from Leafs’ fans who watch their team more closely than I do. In the end, it looks like I’ll be able to squeeze all of John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews into the top 25 of my roto rankings. I currently have Matthews as the lowest of the three, but I could easily envision a scenario in which he is the top-ranked of the three by the end of the season. In case you think he should be the highest-ranked of the three, I’ll explain my perspective.

Past injuries aren’t necessarily a reflection of future injuries, but certain players receive an injury discount because of a usual number of games missed per season (Evgeni Malkin is an example). As it stands, Matthews has averaged 65 games missed over the past two seasons, which might be enough for him to land on the Band-Aid Boy Trainee list. In comparison, neither Tavares nor Marner have missed a game over the past two seasons.

Durability matters, and sometimes it can be the difference if everything else remains equal. Notice that Matthews’ (0.54 / 1.07) and Tavares’ (0.57 / 1.07) goals-per-game and points-per-game numbers, respectively, were nearly identical in 2018-19.

In a pure points league, I might go with Marner over the other two next season. I’ve watched more Leafs’ games than I’d care to admit (yes, I sound like a true Western boy), and I’ve often left thinking that Marner was the Leafs’ best player in that game.

Having said that about Marner, Tavares’ goal total far surpassed that of Marner, which matters in leagues that separate goals and assists because goals are harder to come by than assists. So, I would prefer Tavares over Marner in multicategory and I have to discount Matthews slightly because of the recent injury history. Again, that could change as the season starts. Also, these aren’t major difference between the three Leafs.

Of course, all of this assumes that Marner re-signs in Toronto. It’ll be a lot of money, and it’s fun to imagine the drama that an offer sheet would create, but I think he’ll be back in TO. (june8)

 

8. A couple of under-the-radar signings by the Stars on Thursday:

Mattias Janmark has signed a one-year, $2.3 million contract extension. Janmark regressed in 2018-19, scoring just six goals and 25 points after scoring 19 goals and 34 points the season before. Much of that had to do with a 5.7 SH% compared to a 14 SH% his two seasons before. On a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal, Janmark should be in for some sort of rebound. It might not be enough to warrant consideration for your fantasy team, unless he’s able to squeeze in considerable icetime with Dallas’ big shooters (which he didn’t in 2018-19).

Roman Polak also signed a one-year contract worth $1.75 million. He isn’t going to move the needle fantasy-wise, but he did finish second on the Stars in both hits (191) and blocked shots (152) last season. (june7)

 

9. I’m not sure how many people would guess this, but over the last two seasons, Richard Panik leads the Coyotes in goals per 60 minutes at 5v5, points per 60 minutes at 5v5, and individual shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5v5. Leading the Coyotes forwards in those categories has led to Panik posting 52 points in 110 games, or about a 39-point pace per 82 games. Not good, but not horrific.

What should first be noted is that Panik has 201 hits in those 110 games. If Panik can even push close towards 50 points, that’s a lot of value in leagues that count hits. The second note to make is that Panik is an unrestricted free agent, meaning he may not even be back with Arizona for 2019-20.

It’s that last note that is really important. Arizona has one of the worst scoring environments in the NHL and Panik’s power play production has taken a dive since entering the franchise; over his final 119 games with Chicago, Panik had 12 PPPs, compared to just five in his 110 games with Arizona. Just three or four additional PPPs can mean a lot for a guy who can provide solid peripheral production from the wing. It’s easy to see a clear path for Panik getting over 40 points on a new team that can surround him with more offensive talent.

Where he ends up is a bigger question. He could just re-sign with Arizona, in which case I’d be a bit nervous if they don’t add significant talent through free agency. Or, because he hasn’t had huge production seasons, he signs for cheap on a contender. Normally, I wouldn’t have much interest in a player like this but his ability to post big hit totals should put him on a lot of radars. The team that signs him in July will have a big impact on his outlook for next season. (june6)

 

10. Last week I discussed Detroit’s power play situation with a bit of depth from the perspective of Dylan Larkin’s usage. Frans Nielsen was mentioned in that little discussion. Let’s look a bit further.

I’m expecting a mostly quiet summer from the Wings. They might try to move out some contracts or sign some smaller deals, but barring some unforeseen blockbuster trade, most of the playmakers/producers they had in 2018-19 will be the core of the team’s production again in 2019-20 with a couple younger guys added to the mix. That means Nielsen, who was fourth among the team’s forwards in five-on-four TOI per game last year, should still firmly be on one of the two PP units for next year. With the Wings balancing their power play units, that should mean relatively consistent minutes.

I won’t spend a lot of time on this one because I think Nielsen’s fantasy impact, outside of leagues counting face-offs, isn’t as high as Panik’s. And if a league counts both hits and FOW’s, I’d rather have the winger who hits and gives 40 points than the centre who doesn’t hit and gives 40 points.

The last thing that should be pointed out is that Nielsen’s shot rates absolutely cratered last year. For his career before 2018-19, Nielsen had never shot lower than 10.5 shot attempts per 60 at 5v4 (2011-12) and that was his only season below 13. His first two seasons in Detroit produced shot attempt rates were 16.4 and 18.9; that bottomed-out to 9.7 in 2018-19.

If that’s the future of Nielsen, then there won’t be much of a rebound coming in 2019-20 for PP goals. If he can turn it around, maybe he pops 4 or 5. Regardless, about 40 points is the most we can hope from him and if he doesn’t turn around the shot rate, he’s waiver-wire fodder. (june6)

 

11. When the Bruins dealt Ryan Donato and a 2019 fifth round pick for Charlie Coyle  in late February, many questioned the long-term focus of the deal. Donato had previously played at a Hobey Baker level, before coming into the NHL and scoring five goals and nine points in 12 games to close out 2017-18.

A slow start and a dip down the lineup fostered the trade for Coyle, but the question remained: What were the Bruins really acquiring? Coyle was on his lowest point-pace since his sophomore season in 2013-14. He was losing far more faceoffs than he won. Hitting less, blocking fewer shots. He wasn’t contributing substantially in any single area.

His 21 regular season games with the Bruins weren’t any better. Two goals, six points, and even fewer hits and blocks. But as it does every year, the calendar turns to spring, the postseason begins and an unheralded player or three turn it up a notch. After 12 goals in 81 regular season games, Coyle had nine goals in 22 playoff games entering Game 6 of the Final.

The 27-year-old has a year remaining on his contract and has been seeing nearly all of his even-strength ice next to Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson. It’s been an effective third line and the trio has come together to chip in with the odd power-play goal as well.

Heading into 2019-20, Coyle may get a small boost in fantasy drafts due to his positive postseason. But he’s a horse I won’t be betting on. The career 9.5 percent shooter usually averages around two shots per game. During the playoffs, he’s put 1.7 shots on goal per game while converting on 25 percent of them. That will not last.

Granted, we’ve seen a 56-point season from the 6-3 forward back in 2016-17, so we know he has the goods to produce at fantasy-relevant levels. But with MoJo likely on his way out via free agency, Coyle’s potential linemates dip in interest. If he can break 40 points with some medium peripherals, I’d call that a win for deep leagues. (june5)

 

12. I was reviewing some power play data from the last few years and noticed something kind of odd about Jonathan Marchessault. Over the course of two seasons from 2015-17, which spanned about 313 minutes at five-on-four, Marchessault landed 12.6 shots per 60 minutes with a 16.7 percent shooting percentage. That led to him scoring 11 goals on 66 shots in those 313 minutes, or a rate of about 2.1 goals per 60 minutes. That rate, over those two years, was nearly in the top-30 league-wide, and just lower than names like T.J. Oshie and Cam Atkinson.

Over his last two years in Vegas, Marchessault’s 5v4 shot rate has exploded to 18.4 per 60 minutes. On the flip side, however, his shooting percentage has declined to 8.3 percent. That means despite roughly 80 more minutes of 5v4 ice time, and nearly doubling his shot total from the previous two seasons, Marchessault scored fewer goals over his most recent two years (10) than the two years prior (11).

The thing is, Marchessault has been moved all over the power play over his four seasons in the NHL.

It’s why I have a tough time grasping Marchessault’s goal scoring on the power play. This isn’t a guy who’s had a consistent role so it’s tough to compare. That especially rings true when considering he’s been on three teams in four years, having to learn how to play within different systems, how to play with different players, getting used to defensive structures you see most often, and so on.

There isn’t a whole lot to complain about. Marchessault has had 16 PPPs each of the last two years and considering Vegas is another team who splits their PP time almost equally, that’s not bad. We can’t really expect more than 20 or so. But I just wonder if Marchessault has more to give as far as production in the minutes is given is concerned. With his shooting percentage, I have to think yes, and any sort of percentage binge, combined with those high shot rates, could mean a lot of PP goals.

Key word: could. (june4)

 

13. We got a trade during the first period of Game 4 as Philadelphia acquired the rights to unrestricted free agent centre Kevin Hayes from Winnipeg for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. The Flyers are now the only team that can sign Hayes until July 1, assuming they don’t trade his rights again.

First, it should be noted that the Flyers have loads of cap space. Assuming an $83-million upper limit next year, they have about $33.4-million to use. They do have to sign Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, among others, but they would still have room to sign Hayes assuming a reasonable cap hit. For a reference on what cap leaguers can expect for Hayes, Brock Nelson signed for six years with a $6-million cap hit a couple weeks ago. I assume Hayes gets a bit more than that.

Second, as it was often pointed out on social media, is whether or not Kevin Hayes wants to play under new coach Alain Vigneault. I’ll leave that for other people to decide. (june4)

 

14. Every year, there are two players who really pop out to me when I review, analyze, write and edit the DobberHockey Fantasy Hockey Prospects Report . One year it was Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes. One year it was Kevin Labanc and Rourke Chartier. It’s a pretty good track record when you consider that, at the time, they were ignored in all but the deepest fantasy leagues at the time. This year, my two are Victor Olofsson, Buffalo, and Sasha Chmelevski, San Jose. The latter was actually on this list last year, too, but I knew the wait would be long. One year later, and he’s still looking like a great prospect. Better, in fact.

So, those two are this year’s non-obvious favorites of mine. Pay close attention to what is written about those two in the Fantasy Prospects Report and decide for yourself. (june3)

 

15. Still with the FPR, three players who weren’t on anyone’s Top 50 prospects list but were on my list were of the ‘older’ variety. The writers, and most fantasy owners for that matter, migrate towards the 18-year-olds who are being drafted.

This Top 50 list is a list geared towards leagues in that are 27 to 37 players deep on each roster. I don’t like sitting on a guy for five years. I like two years max. Because I know that the player on my roster ‘ready in two years’ is probably going to take three. And then he’s going to get 35 or 40 points, which still doesn’t help. And then in year four or five he actually helps. Drafting a player four years out is going to be six or even seven before he helps. No thanks.

Also at the bottom of my list, the very bottom, I stuck in another flier in Edmonton defenseman Joel Persson. The 25-year-old is a puck-moving right-handed shot. I don’t mind taking a chance on him because I will know in one year if it will work and he becomes an asset. No waiting five years, I’ll just know. Sure, the answer could (odds are likely) be a bust. But I would rather draft a Persson-type of flier every year for five years (dropping that particular prospect one year later each time), then draft a player drafted 30th overall this summer. By the time that draft pick comes around, I’d have five cracks at a Persson or Dominik Kubalik type of winner and I almost guarantee that one of those five years it will be a success. Meanwhile, that pick hogs a roster spot for five years…and will he even be a success? (june3)

 

16. Reports have the Blackhawks on the verge of signing KHL goaltender Ivan Nalimov. I’ve spoken about Nalimov in this space on several occasions. He is also profiled in the FPR.

I’m high on the 6-4 netminder but this past season was a rough one between his early injury and his terminating his contract with his first team before signing as a backup with Avangard. If he signs, I get the sense that he wants to be in the NHL. So, they would have to convince him in advance that he’s AHL-bound to start. (june3)

 

17. Cal Clutterbuck underwent ‘successful’ surgery on his back last week. If he underwent surgery and that was all they announced, I would wonder all day long whether or not it was a success. But know this – it was. Anyway, he played through ‘two slipped discs, two rotated vertebrae and a stress fracture’. He will apparently be ready for camp. Andrew Ladd had surgery (also successful) on a torn ACL and is out until November.

 

18. Other Islanders’ notes:

Noah Dobson will have a good chance to make the team in the fall because he would otherwise have to go back to junior where he has nothing left to learn. I suspect they will keep him up through October, but that he will be sent down.

Bode Wilde can be sent to the AHL because he was drafted out of the US system and not Canadian junior hockey.

– Lou Lamoriello has no plans to ‘get rid’ of Josh Ho-Sang. I take that means he is not trying to trade him. Of course, all GMs say that. I actually think he’s in play, but we’ll see.

– Lamoriello spoke to Ilya Sorokin’s agent, hoping to get him to North America this year. But he still has another season left on his KHL contract. But it appears Sorokin will cross the pond next year. Sorokin, who is profiled in the FPR, of course (and highly regarded), is probably the Islanders’ goaltender of the future. (june3)

 

19. Potential top-10 NHL Draft pick Peyton Krebs will be sidelined indefinitely after suffering a sliced Achilles tendon earlier this week. Krebs isn’t projected to start the season in the NHL anyway, so it may not push his ranking down all that much.

However, the injury could mean that he falls outside of the top 10. The recovery time is expected to spill into the season, which would push his development back a bit. As a result, a team could use that as a reason to choose another similarly-ranked player over him.

The mock drafts that I’ve looked at have averaged Krebs at about the 9th-10th pick, so we’ll have to see what happens from here. Jokke Nevalainen from DobberProspects.com has Krebs at No.11 in his mock draft posted May 24. (june9)

 

20. The Anaheim Ducks are apparently considering either trading or buying out Corey Perry. Getting something back for Perry would be the most ideal scenario for the Ducks but he’s currently earning over $8 million for two more seasons. That’s considerable cap space for a player who scored just 10 points (6g-4a) with a minus-16 in 31 games last year, a season that didn’t get going until February because of knee surgery.

Perry’s point totals have been on the decline for the past three seasons: from 34 goals and 62 points in 2015-16, to 53 points to 49 points, to 10 points in 2018-19. From where he is now, he’s not a player to target in fantasy leagues, and he is even one to flat-out avoid in salary cap leagues.

The Ducks need to go in a younger direction and have the options at right wing to do so (Jakob Silfverberg, Ondrej Kase, Troy Terry, Daniel Sprong). So, finding a way to part with Perry isn’t a bad idea, even if it means the Ducks retain part of his salary in a trade. Moving to a new team may even spark some kind of rebirth, although that might depend on how well his surgically repaired knee can handle a now faster NHL. (june9)

 

21. The Leafs’ PR machine is working in hyper-drive right now and fans and media are falling right into line. It’s no secret that the Leafs are in a really tight jam with the salary cap this summer. So let me ask you this – what is the best way out of this? Which player names and contracts do you need to remove from the salary cap in order to ease the pain?

The number one name mentioned, even going back months, is Patrick Marleau. The number two name? Nikita Zaitsev. Man, if the Leafs could somehow get rid of those big contracts, things would be much easier. In fact, it’s not just a need, it’s a desperate need.

Wh… What a wonderful coincidence! That’s amazing because that’s just what the Leafs needed and it’s the only way out of their cap jam and oh my gawd!

If you believe these players actually did this, then I have a bridge I want to sell you. This is a carefully crafted media play in which someone in Leafs’ management – whether it’s Brendan Shanahan or Kyle Dubas or someone else it doesn’t matter, but someone persuasive – sat down with the player and explained that they will need to be moved, and that the best way to do that was to help the team take the focus off of the cap situation and instead make it about a player request. They would get more suitors and thereby can offer the player a choice of destinations this way, plus the fans would cheer them off because they served the team well both when they were here as well as the way they left. Then this manger contacts some key media people with influence, call in a couple of favors, and help shape the narrative. Other media picks up on it and voila – this is the player requesting the trade and not some desperate need to shave cap space. Pretty elaborate, I believe it will help, and it is totally worth doing. And I’m not buying it. You? (june3)

 

Have a good week, folks!!