21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on June 30, 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: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, Cam Robinson, and Dobber

Ed. note: Be sure to be with us tomorrow, July 1, as things go absolutely bananas here at DobberHockey with free agent signings, possibly trades, and more. Learn about the potential fantasy impacts shortly after they happen.

 

1. One team we’re not hearing a lot from heading into free agency is Colorado. That’s despite the fact that they have over $35M in cap space right now. They do have a lot of players to sign, but outside of Mikko Rantanen, there are a lot of players that will probably command under $2M in AAV each.

With the influx of young players coming, there should continue to be cap space on this team. Going after a mid-level free agent winger makes some sense, a player like Mats Zuccarello or Gustav Nyquist. Or, maybe they want to keep as much cap flexibility as possible with Sam Girard, Cale Makar, and Gabriel Landeskog all needing contracts in the next two years.

It seems quiet on the Colorado front but they have the ability to change that if they choose. I hope they do. (june25)

 

2. If you remember back to October, Torey Krug missed nearly the entire first month, returning from injury on October 30. Up until that point, it was Matt Grzelcyk, and not Charlie McAvoy, who ran the Bruins’ top PP unit, both before and after McAvoy was injured mid-October. In fact, Grzelcyk had 32 minutes of 5v4 PPTOI in those four weeks Krug missed, more than every other Bruins defenseman combined.

In fact, Grzelcyk finished with the second-highest rate of possession exits among all NHL defensemen, just behind Sam Girard. This is very much in line with what he saw from him in his rookie season – 95th percentile of possession exit percentage in both years – so, we should feel comfortable saying this is who he is. There is still some work in the passing game but it’s certainly not a weakness of his.

The reason this is important is that we’ve seen the Krug trade rumours for about a year now. Krug has one year left on his deal and then he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. He is going to get a significant raise on his current $5.25M AAV and with the incoming contracts of guys like McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen in the next year or so, Boston will probably have, at most, about $20M to fill out 10 or so roster spots for 2020-21. Not that it can’t be done, but they’ll likely need to move out money like David Krejci or David Backes to do it.

If Krug returns to Boston somehow for 2020-21, this is all moot. But if he doesn’t, it seems a very real possibility that Grzelcyk is the PP quarterback of the future, and he has the skills to do it. That would be a monstrous change in fantasy value. The more adventurous dynasty owners should be sending out feeler messages to try and trade for him. (june28)

 

3. The Leafs signed both Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen on Friday – Johnsson to a four-year contract with a $3.4 million AAV, and Kapanen to a three-year contract with a $3.2 million AAV.

It’s interesting that Johnsson was signed to the slightly bigger contract in terms of cap hit and term, although the two players seem to be very similar in terms of point production and upside. I believe it can be explained by the fact that this is Johnsson’s third contract and Kapanen’s second, and also because Johnsson is a UFA at the end of his contract, while Kapanen will be an RFA at the end of his. Lots to learn about the salary cap.

Of course, there are the obvious Mitch Marner implications. The good news for the Leafs is that Kyle Dubas can now focus on Marner and how to handle any offer sheets because they now have a much better idea of what they can afford.

The obvious bad news, though, is that looming offer sheet threat while trying to squeeze his likely double-digit AAV under very limited cap room. July 1 will be worth watching just so we can find out whether any team out there values Marner enough to cough up four first-round picks. On the other hand, will the GM guild still avoid the offer sheet route because they don’t want to step on the toes of their fellow GMs? Personally, I think the real reason is that they don’t want to give up the first-round picks.

 

4. It seemed for a few years, there was talk in certain corners of hockey fandom that Hampus Lindholm was one of the best defensemen in the NHL and no one else was realizing it. Lately, now that the Ducks are rebuilding, those talks have gone away but Lindholm is still very, very good.

Anaheim is in a state of turnover right now. Corey Perry has been bought out, Ryan Kesler’s career is in jeopardy, there is a new coach in town, and there is a plethora of young talent on its way, the latest big addition being Trevor Zegras at the draft. Add him to Troy Terry, Sam Steel, Isac Lundestrom, and Max Comtois, and there is a good group coming.

Does the new coaching staff start using Lindholm on the PP or do they stick with Cam Fowler? New coach Dallas Eakins would be aware of these numbers, unlike his predecessor. This is something we won’t know until later in exhibition games but for those with late drafts, a name to keep in mind. (june28)

 

5. Andre Burakovsky was the odd man out in Washington in spite of being qualified earlier in the week. Even though the Avalanche appear to be a team on the rise, they are still perceived as a one-line team, which is why this is a worthwhile acquisition.

Burakovsky averaged just 11 minutes of ice time last season with only a sniff of power-play time per game (and only one power-play point). If Burakovsky can find his way onto the Avs’ second line along with some second-unit power-play time, an improvement on his 12 goals and 25 points in 2018-19 seems inevitable. If you’ve been thinking about ditching Burakovsky from your keeper team after being patient with him all this time, you may want to wait one more year. 

 

6. We’ve been under the impression that Rasmus Ristolainen would be traded this summer. However, according to Darren Dreger, the Sabres are unlikely to deal him. This news changes the perceived fantasy value of Colin Miller moving to Buffalo, perhaps even hurting his value.

As Mike pointed out in his Fantasy Take, Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Zach Bogosian, and now Miller are all on the right side. It’s possible that the Sabres could trade Bogosian or move one of these defensemen to the left side, but I’ll leave it to someone who follows the Sabres more closely to determine which one that would be and the defensive implications.

It seems that the Sabres are simply trying to address what has been a sore spot for years as opposed to moving away from Ristolainen. More defensemen now in the fold allows Ristolainen to not have to take on such a heavy workload. Over the last four seasons, Ristolainen’s ice time has averaged around 25 minutes per game, which is by far the most on the Sabres.

Reduced ice time could help his plus-minus, which was a league-worst minus-41 last season. However, it may have a negative impact on his other fantasy ‘counting’ categories, which will include both the scoring and non-scoring stats. Ristolainen failed to crack the 20 power-play-point mark last season, a number he had reached the previous three seasons. I don’t expect that number (17 PPP in 2018-19) to improve in 2019-20, as Rasmus Dahlin seems likely to take over the first-unit power play, and now with Montour and Miller also in the fold. In fact, the Sabres could be targeting Ristolainen for a more defensive role with the Montour/Miller acquisitions. (june30)

 

7. Brandon Guhle appears like he’s fine following an oblique injury that followed him down the stretch. Guhle was acquired by the Ducks in the Brandon Montour trade and turns 22 years old in July.

This is a guy I still think will be an NHL regular. He’s apparently made big strides over the last couple years in the AHL and there are a lot of spots to fill on the Ducks blue line. I don’t imagine much fantasy value in 2019-20 but it’ll be interesting to see if he can make and stick with the team. (june28)

 

8. Something that appears minor but could be important: defenseman Taylor Fedun signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Stars. Fedun turned 31 earlier this month and has 26 points in 100 career regular season games. I say this could be important because Fedun is a guy who has been putting up excellent underlying numbers.

If Julius Honka doesn’t turn into an NHL defenseman, the Stars could have themselves a very cheap, capable third-pair guy who can play with the skill of a second-pair guy. That can mean a lot in terms of generating offense on shifts where they aren’t expected to. (june28)

 

9. Good news on the injury front: Colorado prospect defenseman Conor Timmins was skating at the Avalanche development camp and met with the media after. Timmins missed all of 2018-19 with issues related to a concussion suffered over a year ago. That he’s on the ice with other players in a normal (i.e. not a non-contact) jersey is all very good news. Let’s hope he’s ready to go come September, fully healthy and ready to contribute to the organization.

Speaking of Avs defensemen, Ian Cole isn’t expected back until Christmas following the hip surgeries. The team just acquired Kevin Connauton, who figures to be the replacement for Cole until he returns.

This should mean a boatload of ice time, at least through the first two months, for Sam Girard. The left side of the Avalanche blue line isn’t very deep; we’re talking guys like Nikita Zadorov, Ryan Graves, Mark Barberio, and of course Connauton. Do not be the least bit surprised if Girard is at 21-22 minutes a night early in the season, barring an impact signing or trade. (june27)

 

10. For those who missed it on Tuesday, I wrote a bit on the Carl Soderberg trade. The more I think about it, the more I like the trade for the Coyotes. It might limit them a bit in free agency but maybe they weren’t going to be major players anyway. (june27)

 


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11. Mike Reilly was extended by the Habs for two years with a $1.5M AAV. It seems like a fine contract. The team doesn’t have a glut of young/prospect defensemen like the Flyers, for example, that Reilly will need to fend off, so it gives them a bit of security on the third pair. Regardless, he won’t have much fantasy value outside the deepest of leagues barring catastrophic injuries to multiple blue liners. (june27)

 

12. What the hell are we going to do with Mark Giordano? The reigning, and well-deserved Norris Trophy winner is causing more than a few owners some sleepless nights. The Flames captain will turn 36 before the puck drops on 2019-20 and history indicates that replication of anywhere near his 74 points from last season is not likely.

In the last 30 years, there have been 15 examples of 36-year-old or older defenders who have crested the 50-point mark. Nicklas Lidstrom did it four times. Ray Bourque accomplished the feat three times. Larry Murphy and Al MacInnis did it twice. That leaves Mathieu Schnieder and Sergei Zubov as the remaining players.

I'm not going to pencil Giordano in for 70-plus points again but there are a lot of reasons to like him to push his way into that elite list above.

The top thing being is that Gio’s metrics weren’t way out of whack last season. The left-shot skater put his usual three shots on net per game. His 7.7 percent conversion rate was right in line with his career average. He saw a few seconds extra on the power play, but nothing major. His IPP of 51.7 percent was significantly higher than the previous two seasons, but just the third highest of his career. His deployment is very likely to remain stable. The surrounding talent should be consistent.

Additionally, most 36-year-olds have a TON of games under their belt and the incredible wear-and-tear that comes with them. Giordano has suited up for 833 NHL games thus far. Not an insignificant number, but compared to most guys his age, it’s decent.  Zdeno Chara had over 1150 NHL games at age 36. Chris Chelios had nearly 1100 games to his resume at the same age. That's the equivalent of 2-3 seasons of extra wear.

In a keeper league – especially a limited one, it'll be difficult to use a spot on a 36-year-old. That said, if you're looking to legitimately compete for a championship next season, it seems equally difficult to let him go to hold onto a younger – but likely less valuable, asset. Be sure you know what you're doing because I fully expect Gio to click at over a 50-point-pace next season. That would look pretty darn good on your back end, Tim. (june26)

 

13. Ryan Hartman was dealt from Philly to Dallas on Monday and then failed to receive a QF from the Stars on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old is another multicategory type. After scoring 19 goals and 31 points as a rookie with the Blackhawks in 2016-17, he has failed to meet or improve on either category the last two seasons. He does bring 100+ hits, a couple of shots per game, and 70 penalty minutes. And he was doing that with just 13 minutes of ice.

Where he lands could play a substantial role in his fantasy relevancy. If he can become a complementary piece on a top-six line, or a regularly used energy line player who sees an increase in ice, those numbers could rise. (june26)

 

14. Ryan Spooner has fallen fast. Just four seasons ago he nearly reached 50 points with first-unit power-play time for the Bruins. Last season he was split between three teams, scoring just nine points in 52 games. The Canucks already have a million forwards and for all I know could be shopping for more starting July 1, so Spooner never seemed to fit into their plans. As someone who watches the Canucks a fair bit, I can honestly say I hardly noticed Spooner out there during his 11 games there. Expect a team to invite him to camp on a PTO at the very least. (june30)

 

15. I can remember a Stars fan I know being glad that the Canucks chose Bo Horvat ninth overall in the 2013 Draft so that the Stars could grab Valeri Nichushkin with the next pick. Remember, it takes years before we know the real winners and losers of a draft.

I can’t help but wonder if the two-year trip to the KHL set Nichushkin’s development back, but Alexander Radulov spent even more time there and was just fine when he returned to the NHL.

Even though Nichushkin failed to score a goal in 57 games with the Stars last season, I could still see an NHL team taking a flier on him at the league minimum based on his original upside. (june30)

 

16. The Flyers are kicking the can down the road by signing defenseman Travis Sanheim to a two-year deal with a $3.25M AAV. Sanheim had a breakout season in 2018-19, amassing 35 points in 82 games, while playing fewer than 20 minutes a night. It’ll be a great deal for the Flyers for the next couple of years but if Sanheim continues on his current trajectory, they’re going to end up paying a lot more down the road. (june25)

17. Blues rookie Robert Thomas underwent left wrist surgery, the team announced. There is no timeline given right now other than he will rehab over the summer and be re-evaluated ahead of training camp. He really showed well over the final couple months of the season and into the playoffs. Hopefully this doesn’t derail his development. (june25)

 

18. My favorite first-round picks during the NHL Draft other than the obvious were Cole Caufield to the Habs and Vasili Podkolzin to the Canucks. Those who bought the Fantasy Prospects Report know that I have Caufield as third on my list in terms of upside for keeper league forwards.

You’ve heard this a hundred times by now I’m sure, but Caufield really is remarkably similar to the Hawks’ Alex DeBrincat and you could see his career trajectory going along the same lines in terms of wait time and production at other levels.

And I like Podkolzin because I honestly think he’s a Top-5 talent in the Draft and was only ranked lower due to his birth certificate. Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Podkolzin and Quinn Hughes on the same power play? Yes, please. When it comes to the first round in terms of talent, being from Russia means nothing. Those players always come over. It’s the later picks, the ‘maybes’, who are a risk for staying. (june24)

 

19. Since we already knew the Draft’s No.1 and No.2, the big question was whether or not Chicago would take Kirby Dach, Alex Turcotte or Bowen Byram at the third spot. I believe if two of their best players weren’t 5-7 (Alex DeBrincat) and 5-10 (Patrick Kane, if he wears heels) the Blackhawks would have gone with Turcotte. But Dach is a 6-4 centerman who will eventually fill out at 215 or more, and he’s going to embarrass the WHL this year with some pretty gaudy numbers. Once Dach was gone, we knew Byram would go to the Avs, which left Turcotte for the Kings. (june24)

 

20. Dobber says: Unlike all the online scouts (of varying degrees of experience), I don’t look at Detroit’s selection of defenseman Moritz Seider at No.6 as a bad pick. Instead, I ask myself “why did they do that?” It’s Steve Yzerman. He doesn’t make bad picks. I’ll take his judgment over pretty much any scout or online prognosticator in the world. Put together.

Could Yzerman have traded down and got him, while adding an extra pick? Yes, it’s possible. But I think by around Pick 10 he would have been pretty nervous about losing this guy. So, what could he gain by trading down three spots? Well, those teams were Buffalo, Edmonton and Anaheim. And everybody and their mother knows that Edmonton is hot for defensemen. So really, Yzerman could have traded down one spot. Worthwhile? Apparently not.

So, why was Seider so high on Detroit’s list? Well, he has some upside, but this was mostly about his being a huge defensively-responsible blueliner who already has NHL strength. And if you look at Detroit’s top defensemen in the system, they are mostly skill guys. I wouldn’t look to Seider as a star fantasy asset but instead look to him as another Brady Skjei type. (june24)

Cam Robinson's take: Seider has all the raw tools to be a very intriguing fantasy asset. Landing in Detroit – a club that is quickly building an impressive stable of high-end prospects will do wonders in him fulfilling that potential. The right side of the blueline in Detroit is light. They have the ghost of Mike Green and a collection of misfit toys up there on a full-time basis. They recently signed Oliwer Kaski –the top offensive defender in the Liiga last season, and have Filip Hronek banging the door down. Now they have the top right-shot prospect from the 2019 class.

Seider is in a unique situation to play almost anywhere in the world next season. He can return to the DEL, or head over to a different Euro top league like the SHL or Liiga. He can try his luck in the CHL via the Import Draft, or go take the AHL for a spin. The only league that he can’t go to is the NCAA. I feel like the best spot for him is to slide over to the SHL or Liiga and play big minutes against quality competition. Follow that up with a touch of AHL seasoning and he could be ready to go.

I speak more about Seider and some other draft day fantasy nuggets on Ep. 56 of DobberProspect Radio

I’m not going to be shy here, I like Seider a lot. I had him as the second-best D on my list and see him being a big upside guy. Clearly, Stevie Y agrees. He’s a player that may slide down draft boards this year because he’s a perceived reach. But if you’re willing to take a little bit of a risk on a somewhat raw player, the payoff could be big. (june26)

 

21. Just as I’ve seen in fantasy keeper leagues, a team seriously took advantage of a star missing a huge chunk of time with an injury by making the most of it. Had Taylor Hall been healthy, the Devils miss out on that lottery pick and end up with an Alex Newhook or someone along those lines. Instead, they add Jack Hughes and continue the momentum by turning Steve Santini into PK Subban. Just a slight upgrade.

Now the Devils have a Triple-H line of Hall – Hughes – Nico Hischier. They have a 30-goal scorer in Kyle Palmieri on the second line, and they boast a fivesome of Will Butcher (shoots left) and Subban (shoots right), Ty Smith (left) and Damon Severson (right), and Sami Vatanen (right) with left-shooting veteran Andy Greene filling out the final slot. It’s funny how much a killer group of defensemen will help aid the rebound season that’s in store for Cory Schneider.

By the way, Schneider was 6-8-3, 0.921 SV% and nine QS in 17 games from February 7 onward. (june24)

 

Have a good week, folks!!