21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on August 11, 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

 

1. There is some excitement around the Canucks and with good reason, having the likes of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko, among others, looking like the future of this team.

Bo Horvat often gets left behind in the conversation despite the fact that he played nearly 21 minutes per game last year, managing a career-high 27 goals and 61 points. He’s likely going to be adding at least one 20-goal winger at even strength and should remain on the top PP unit as well.

It feels like Horvat will be had outside the top-100 players, and considering he had over 220 shots and can chip in some hits, that will be a good value at the draft table. (aug8)

 

2. Mark Scheifele has been a point-per-game scorer over the past three seasons, even though that production has been just above the point-per-game mark in each of those three seasons (1.04, 1.00, 1.02 PTS/GP). That consistency makes it very easy to project another 80-point season for Scheifele.

However, 80-point seasons aren’t what they used to be. In 2018-19, 28 players reached the 80-point mark. Two seasons before when Scheifele broke through (2016-17), there were only seven. It doesn’t mean that Scheifele can’t increase those totals or benefit from this scoring inflation, but it has decreased his points-league value relative to other players over that span. 

There are additional reasons to drop Scheifele down the Roto Rankings from his spot at #14. His 12 power-play goals and 23 power-play points from 2018-19 were both career highs, but prior to that he had never reached the 20 PPP mark, a number that 61 players reached in 2018-19. Also, Schiefele has never taken 200 shots in a season. His career high in shots is 199, set in 2018-19, which helped him reach a career-high 38 goals. This is a result of having a shooting percentage that has averaged around 19 percent the past three seasons. In addition, he doesn’t take a huge number of penalty minutes, hits, or blocked shots. And he’s also a center, which is the easiest position to find replaceable scoring options.

Scheifele has been a top-20 scorer in his two previous full seasons, which is where he could theoretically be drafted in points leagues. However, he doesn’t stand out in many roto categories, so could be considered overvalued in multicategory rankings relative to what he actually brings to a fantasy team. (aug10)

 

3. One thing we need to remember about Florida: this wasn’t a good defensive team last year. Their expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5 (2.35) was in the same neighbourhood as teams like Pittsburgh (2.32), New Jersey (2.35), Philadelphia (2.36), and Edmonton (2.38). One reason for that is they allowed a lot more shots than average from the mid-slot area, or one of the most dangerous areas of the ice. That’s something they’ll want to tidy.

As long as Sergei Bobrovsky is healthy and not atrocious, he should pass 60 starts. Getting that level of starts from a team with a lot of offensive ability can lead to a lot of wins in the fantasy game.

There has obviously been a lot of chatter around Florida with the massive contract they signed Bobrovsky to, and the expectations that come with it. I have no issue saying that Bobrovsky is a top-10 goalie off the board this year. But will expectations for the team push him into the top-3? We’ll see when ADP data comes out. (aug9)

 

4. It’s probably hard to find a Toronto Maple Leafs player who will be undervalued, but between Mitch Marner’s contract negotiations and the acquisition of Tyson Barrie, it seems that Jake Muzzin is kind of getting overlooked. Getting caught in small-sample extrapolations in dangerous, but his 30 games as a Leaf last year would have worked out to over 40 points, over two shots per game, and over two hits per game. Those are very stout totals. His point production upside is capped because of where he is on the PP depth chart, but in leagues that count peripherals, he should firmly be targeted, and will probably be a better value at the draft table than either Morgan Rielly or Barrie. (aug8)

 

5. Many people are down on Tyson Barrie heading to Toronto. And while I agree that both Morgan Rielly and Barrie's output will be dampened by being on the same team, it was Barrie who produced a far more sustainable pace last season. Not only did Rielly triple his shooting percentage from 2017-18 (3.3) to last year (9.0), he also brought in 26 secondary assists – the fourth-most by any defender and a stat that is wildly difficult to replicate year-over-year.

Meanwhile, Barrie converted on roughly his career-average of 6.4 percent. His 28 primary helpers were the fourth most among defenders and nearly doubled his 15 secondary assists. That +12 margin is impressive and far more indicative of continued production.

I'm just sayin'. (aug7)

 

6. Max Domi was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners as well as Habs’ fans in 2018-19, easily reaching career highs in both goals (28) and points (72). His 0.88 PTS/GP was comparable to the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko and Logan Couture as well as top-5 scoring defensemen Morgan Rielly and John Carlson. Domi also took over 200 shots for the first time in his career when he had never reached 160 shots in his previous three seasons. Overall, Domi seems to be a great fit in Montreal.

The main concerns with Domi maintaining a 70-point pace again is a career-high 13.8 shooting percentage, as well as an IPP of 75.8%. Domi’s shooting percentage over the previous two seasons in Arizona was 6.0% and 8.3%, so some regression from his 28 goals might be expected. If Domi takes roughly the same amount of shots with an 8% success rate, he will be looking at only 16 goals. That’s still better than the nine he scored in each of his two previous seasons in Arizona. As for the IPP, it had swung between 57% to 70% over three seasons in Arizona.

I wouldn’t expect a huge regression from Domi, since part of that success in Montreal could be from getting out from an offensively stagnant team in Arizona. However, I think you’ll be more satisfied with Domi this coming season if you expect around 60 points as opposed to 70 points. (aug11)

 

7. Sometimes, players don’t get hyped anymore as we move on to the next crop. It almost feels like that’s what is happening with Jack Eichel. Just keep in mind that he’s one of eight players to average over a point per game and three shots per game over the last two seasons.

That Eichel hasn’t posted a 30-goal season yet (seriously, and that seems wild) along with Buffalo’s general under-performance, has kept his overall value probably lower than it should be. He’s coming into his age-23 season, which means he’s starting to hit his prime, and considering what he’s already done, that means a lot of fantasy goodness ahead. (aug8)

 

8. Johnny Gaudreau, and the Flames in general, were a favourite target of mine last year. I even took the entire top line plus Mark Giordano in a best-ball league. I didn’t do well in the league but it wasn’t because of the team stack as Gaudreau and Giordano both had career years. I’m not going to be drafting Giordano, assuming a sky-high ADP, but there doesn’t seem to be much Gaudreau chatter, which is a good thing.

Everyone is talking about Calgary’s goaltending, or Giordano, or Matthew Tkachuk’s pending contract status. No one is talking about Gaudreau having 183 points in his last 162 games. Hopefully he slides to the third round, but I’d really be fine taking him anywhere after the middle of the second round. (aug8)

 

9. Former Habs defenseman Andrei Markov said he’d be open to returning to the Habs but that it’s their decision. I don’t think there’s too much to read into this as the guy turns 41 years old in December and the team didn’t want him at 39. I do wonder if he’d be open to going elsewhere, though it’s hard to see many teams lining up to fit him on to their roster. (aug8)

 

10. Filip Hronek has been quickly rising the pipeline with his great skating and ability to generate offense all over the rink. Selected in the second round in 2016, the 21-year-old Czech-product made the transition to the American League full-time in 2017-18. There he recorded a very impressive 11 goals and 39 points in 67 games. He put roughly 1.8 shots on goal per night.

He followed that up with 31 games mixed through the season where he scored seven goals and 24 points for the Griffins. The other 46 contests of his 2018-19 season were spent in Detroit where he clicked at 41-point-pace. By the final quarter, he was skating more than 22 minutes a night – two of those coming on the power play.

We know the story, the ghost of Mike Green remains on the right side of the Detroit blue line. While he’s there and he’s healthy (which is few and far between), coach Jeff Blashill will likely give him opportunities on the top power-play unit. However, the efficiency that Hronek has displayed, coupled with his youthful potential should keep him seeing prime ice and pushing for that top job on a full-time basis.

He's a very real threat to break 40 points next season and his upside is higher. It won't be long before we see a top unit of Larkin, Mantha, Zadina, and Hronek. (aug7)

 


Reminder: our 2019-20 Fantasy Guide is updated as more signings, trades, injuries, and other events affect player projections. You just have to log back in, go to your Downloads folder, download the latest version, and view the updates in blue.


 

11. Finland has a population of around 5.5 million. That’s roughly the same size as Minnesota. And while the Gopher state has churned out many an NHLer, it pales in comparison to what Finland has been producing the last half-decade and appears to be growing for the future. 

2013 – Aleksander Barkov
2015 – Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho
2016 – Patrik Laine
2017 – Miro Heiskanen
2018 – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
2019 – Kaapo Kakko
2020 – Anton Lundell
2021 – Aatu Räty
2022 – Brad Lambert 

* Chef Kissing Fingers * (aug7)

 

12. It may be early August but there is a good amount of hockey going on. Last week, we had the World Junior Summer Showcase that pitted Canada, Finland, Sweden, and the Americans in a mini-tournament to get a glimpse as the potential rosters for the main event this Holiday season. Some standouts were Tampa Bay first-rounder, Nolan Foote, Habs’ sniper, Cole Caufield, Blackhawks top prospect, Kirby Dach, undrafted 19-year-old, Kristian Tanus, and Hurricane’s third-rounder, Anttoni Honka

This week, we’re treated to the annual Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. These are the top U18 players from around the globe – minus the USNTDP (and Antonio Stranges for some reason). Also missing are Swedish uber prospects, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz who were in Michigan with the U20 team participating in the WJSS.  

Through two days, the most exciting players have been on the Canadian squad. For one, Quinton Byfield has been wowing with his incredible combination of size and strength. This kid is destined for a top-five selection in the crazy 2020 draft. (aug7)

 

13. For as much depth as there is on the Tampa blueline, it’s all on the left side. The right side of their defense has the likes of Luke Schenn, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jan Rutta. There has been talk of moving one of their LHD to the right side but that would likely still leave Erik Cernak in the top-4. He plays like a defenseman in his late-20s but the kid turned 22 years old at the end of May. He had nearly 200 hits in just 58 games last year and a bit of additional ice time should see him get close to two shots per game. Like Jake Muzzin in Toronto, there are other teammates who will produce a lot more points but his peripherals will make up a lot in value. (aug8)

 

14. We had a minor trade this week that saw 23-year-old Kyle Wood head to Carolina in exchange for fellow defender Trevor Carrick. The latter is 25 and appears to be the prototypical tweener. Strong in the American League. Can provide deep depth for an NHL team but unlikely to ever be a regular in the show. 

Standing 6-7, Wood is a monster on the right side. He stepped in the AHL as a rookie in 2016-17 and dumped 14 goals and 43 points in 68 games with the Coyotes farm club. He has failed to match, let alone improve on those numbers in the two years since. This is now his fourth organization since being selected by Colorado in the third round back in 2014. 

Wood is a physical specimen but shouldn’t be regarded as a serious multicat option. He isn’t a punishing hitter nor does he provide penalty minutes in knuckle-dragging leagues. However, we know that large players take longer to develop, so in this sense, I much prefer the Carolina side. Wood could yet become an NHL player and if he does, he’ll be a unique one. Whereas Carrick is what we think he is – depth. (aug7)

 

15. In the 2019-20 Dobber Guide, I write briefly about why I won’t be drafting Dylan Strome this year. I also wrote briefly about that back in March, so this is something that has been obvious for a while. I figure it’s worth digging in to how much regression could actually be on the horizon.

Last year, Strome played over 768 minutes at five-on-five with the Blackhawks after he was traded. In those 768 minutes, the Blackhawks shot 12.98 percent as a team. All this helped push Strome to 2.73 points per 60 minutes at 5v5 with Chicago. That mark, over a full season, would have seen him finish between Brayden Point and Patrice Bergeron.

So, how rare is it for a forward to play at least 700 minutes in a full season and finish with an on-ice shooting percentage of at least 13 percent? Exceedingly rare. As in, only one last name has appeared over 13 percent on-ice shooting since 2007: Sedin. Both Daniel (13.8 percent) and Henrik (13.1 percent) cracked the 13 percent mark in 2009-10, the only forwards in our sample to do so. In fact, since the start of the 2007 season, only 20 forwards have finished over 12 percent in a season where they skated at least 700 minutes at five-on-five and no forward has done it twice. That means expecting Strome to repeat anything close to what he did in those 58 games with Chicago is a fool’s errand. (aug6)

 

16. I think Jaden Schwartz, in real hockey, has been one of the more underrated players of the last five years, largely due to the injuries. The problem in fantasy hockey is those injuries, in addition to not adding much for peripherals. Consider that he’s never cracked 200 shots, has one season with more than 55 hits, and has never had 30 penalty minutes. He could have the role, and he has the ability, to put up 70 points, but they’ll be a very empty 70 points, killing his roto value. (aug9)

 

17. Seeing Pavel Buchnevich’s name out there so much this summer has been a bit confounding to me. Remember that the coaching staff last year, on a team that was being stripped down to spare parts in order to rebuild, saw Buchnevich as a healthy scratch at times. Even after Mats Zuccarello was traded, Buchnevich only spent about half of Mika Zibanejad’s 5v5 time on the top line. Now that the team has added Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov, both direct competition for Buch’s ice time both at 5v5 and on the PP, Buchnevich is now suddenly going to get a featured role? Or something?

Listen, I am a big Buchnevich fan. I think he’s been mis-cast basically his entire tenure with the Rangers and think he’s earned a shot at the top line. The problem is that there’s now way too much internal competition to have any sort of confidence not only in Buchnevich, but in the coaching staff to have faith in Buchnevich. And don’t forget that if Kakko lines up with Zibanejad, and Buch the RW2, that means he’ll have… Ryan Strome? Brett Howden?… as his center. Not ideal.

This isn’t a bad gamble because Buchnevich shouldn’t be expensive at the draft table. I’d even be willing to take the chance on him at the right price. I don’t think the right price will be inside the top-150 players, though, and I fear that’s where he ends up. (aug9)

 

18. Disagreement isn’t a bad thing, or a hurtful thing. Fantasy hockey is a game where we’re projecting what hundreds of people, all operating in a network, are going to do in the future. We’re going to be wrong, and we’re going to be wrong a lot. Just because I disagree with something doesn’t mean I’m right and the other person is wrong. It could be very well that my assessment is incorrect.

Why disagreement is important is because it can get us looking at something we weren’t looking at, or get us to value/devalue something we under/overvalued. There are a number of times I’ve changed my mind about a player because of conversations I’ve had with people at this site or elsewhere. There was a time when I thought Jake Muzzin was purely a product of Drew Doughty, Seth Jones was wildly overrated, and Paul Byron was just a spare part. My opinion was changed because of disagreements others had with my assessment.  (aug6)

 

19. I thought it’d be worth going over a couple guys where I disagree with the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide a lot as far as point projections. A lot of projections will be similar so I’ve used an arbitrary cut-off of at least 10 points. Let’s dig in.

Jake Guentzel:
Dobber Guide – 26th in points, 80 points total
My projections – 41st in points, 70.0 points total

To make things clear: we both think Guentzel is an exceedingly valuable fantasy option. We both have him for at least 30 goals, we both have him for at least 70 points, and we both have him for over 100 hits. That is a superlative fantasy season no matter how we look at it. But when we look at the first few rounds of a draft, there’s a big difference between 38 goals and 80 points and 33 goals and 70 points.

I get Dobber’s projection. Guentzel is coming off a 76-point season and will now be getting those coveted top PP minutes. I have two issues.

The first is that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going into their age-32 and age-33 seasons respectively. There is a lot of decline assumed in their age and that factors into production both at 5v5 and on the PP.

The second is the uncertainty of the power play. Phil Kessel had the second-most points on the power play over the last three years, and tied for the second-most PP assists. Guentzel won’t replace him but will (likely) instead play the bumper role. That bumper role usually isn’t the focal point of a power play, but rather is often used as a decoy, or an additional threat in order to open lanes elsewhere. Consider that T.J. Oshie has played the bumper for his four seasons in Washington, and has never had more than 18 PPPs in a given season. Per 82 games for his Capitals career, Oshie has averaged 17.5 PPPs.

I have Guentzel at a shade under 15 PPPs in 2019-20, which is four more than last year, but probably far short of where other people will have him. Add four points to his 76 last year, knock a bit down for shooting regression and age-related regression of teammates, and that’s how we get to 70 points. I assume I’ll be lower on him than most. (aug6)

 

20. Anze Kopitar:
Dobber Guide – Tied 33rd in points, 75 points total
My projections – 79th in points, 56.2 points total

My model effectively has the Kings as dead. I mean, Kopitar will likely be flanked by Alex Iafallo (fantasy-wise, just a guy) and Dustin Brown (one 60-point season in 10 years). On the power play, he’ll add Jeff Carter – currently being held together by tape and glitter – whatever’s left of Ilya Kovalchuk, and Drew Doughty. It’s not pretty.

And there’s no help coming. There might be guys like Rasmus Kupari eventually, but not now. To make matters worse, it’s all but assured that Tyler Toffoli is traded at some point this year given that he’ll be a free agent after this season and they absolutely cannot afford to hand out more long-term contracts for guys in their late 20s. In other words, I don’t see why they’re not a bottom-5 offensive team again.

Don’t forget that Kopitar himself is going into his age-32 season. This isn’t a guy who was on his ELC during the glory years for the Kings. He was in his prime during their glory years, probably not a coincidence. But the Kopitar of 2019-20 is not the Kopitar of 2013-14.

I think people are going to look at his 92-point season and think to themselves “well he’s only one year removed from being an elite fantasy option.” That’s true, but it also overlooks that it was a career year for him at the age of 30. Now that he’s 32 years old, can we realistically expect anything close to that? There’s security with Kopitar because of the heavy minutes he’ll play but there’s almost no offensive supporting cast and he’s not good enough to do it all himself. (aug6)

 

21. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been a player of interest in multicategory leagues for many years. He’s reached 40 points in five of his past six seasons (the other season was ‘just’ 39 points) while contributing his share in shots on goal, power-play points, and hits. His only downside has been plus/minus, which has been negative for the past six seasons and double-digit negative for the past three seasons.

There are the arguments that Ekman-Larsson should be considered a bubble keeper, especially if your league counts plus-minus and 40 points is the line as far as owning a defenseman goes. Sometimes you need consistency, especially if you’re planning to draft another defenseman whose floor could be relatively low or is an unknown as far as receiving first-unit power-play time.

Over the past three seasons, OEL’s power-play production has remained in the 15-20 power-play-point range after the three previous seasons when it ranged between 20-30 power-play points. However, there are signs that the power-play production could increase above the 20 PPP mark. Over the past three seasons, the Coyotes have the lowest power-play conversion rate (16.4%) of all 31 teams.

However, this power play will be adding Phil Kessel, who has recorded at least 30 power-play points in each of the past three seasons (the question being does Kessel moving to Arizona hurt his power-play numbers more than Kessel helps Arizona’s power-play numbers). In addition, Nick Schmaltz has played just 17 games as a Coyote, with seven of his 14 points coming with the man advantage. The Coyotes’ power play has nowhere to go but up, and Ekman’s power-play numbers could benefit. (aug5)

 

Have a good week, folks!!