21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on August 18, 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. Just so you all know, Leon Draisaitl isn’t scoring 50 goals again. Not unless he starts shooting the puck a great deal more than the 2.8 shots-per-game he put on net last season. No one clicks at 21.6 percent for a full season and keeps it rolling. The regression is coming. The only question is, will it be the to 40-goal or 30-goal level? (aug14)

 

2. With a full season, Shea Weber could be an undervalued commodity in fantasy drafts. However, the recent injury history is the reason I haven’t included him in my Top 100 Roto Rankings. Although Weber was the picture of health during his Nashville days and his first season in Montreal, he has basically averaged half a season over his last two seasons.

There’s always the possibility that Weber could rebound and play a full season, but the reality is that he has just turned 34 and has significant mileage on his body (only 75 games short of 1000 games). Weber can certainly be in the discussion for top 100 inclusion. Yahoo has him ranked at 80, which is a bit high for my liking. If you plan to draft him there, just know the risks.

After making his season debut in late November following offseason knee surgery last season, Weber scored 14 goals and 33 points in 58 games. His 0.57 PTS/GP grouped him among d-men such as Alex Pietrangelo, Ryan Suter, and fellow Habs’ blueliner Jeff Petry, whose production declined upon Weber’s return. (aug17)

 

3. It feels like a dog’s age since the hype on him was boiling over but Eeli Tolvanen only turned 20 years old last April. As a 19-year old in the AHL last year, he put up 35 points in 58 games, averaging 2.7 shots per game. Doing that on a team that was near the bottom-third of the league in goal scoring is quite an achievement. All Tolvanen needed was a bit of time.

I’ve been enamoured with the guy since watching him in some showcase tournament a couple years ago. The way he works with the puck when he shoots, it’s almost symbiotic. He has every look of a guy that’s going to be a perennial 30-goal scorer.

Mikael Granlund is going to be UFA in a year. With Roman Josi needing a contract, and the team having committed over $60M to next year already, I don’t think he’s going to be re-signed. In that way, it would make sense to have Tolvanen spend another year in the AHL, while having Granlund keep his spot warm for him on the second line. On the other hand, I’m a believer that talent wins out, and Tolvanen has it in spades. He won’t be worth a draft pick outside of deeper leagues, but he’s a guy to put on watch lists in shallower leagues, being ready to jump on the waiver wire at a moment’s notice. (aug13)

 

4. John Gibson probably deserved Vezina consideration last year and the only reason he didn’t was how bad Anaheim is. Consider that among the 175 goalies with 2500 minutes played in a single given season since 2007, Gibson’s 2018-19 season is 12th in goals saved above average (GSAA) – a metric to determine how many goals a netminder saved his team based on shot volume faced relative to the league average – and seventh since the 2013 lockout. The guy with the seventh-best single-season by GSAA over the last six years finished 10th in Vezina voting. El oh el.

Anaheim was really bad last year and is in the midst of turning over the team to their youngsters. I genuinely do not think they’ll be anywhere near as bad as they were under former coach Randy Carlyle, though, and if Gibson is going anywhere outside the top-15 goalies (and I presume he will), he’ll be a favourite target of mine because even though I loathe goaltender evaluations, I do think Gibson is one of the best goalies in the league. (aug15)

 

5. It’s probably too early for single-season fantasy drafts; after all, some of us still have summer holidays to use up. But it’s not too early to check out the rankings of various fantasy providers. I’m going to start with CBS, the home of my main keeper league. Keep in mind that the fantasy providers do have time to update their rankings, so these observations may no longer apply by the time your draft rolls around. So, are some players that I find undervalued in CBS league setups:

Sergei Bobrovsky (CBS ranking 85): Some might disagree, but Bob would easily be one of my top-5 ranked goalies. To give you an idea, Martin Jones, Petr Mrazek and Philipp Grubauer (among others) are all ranked higher than Bob on CBS.

Mathew Barzal (CBS ranking 125): Barzal hit the sophomore slump with a decline of over 20 points from his rookie season. He’s also an assist-heavy point producer, so he shouldn’t be in your top 50. Still, this seems like solid value for the Calder Trophy winner of a season ago.

Pierre-Luc Dubois (CBS ranking 157): His late-season slump had a lot to do with the Matt Duchene acquisition. Now that Duchene is gone, expect his numbers to bounce back as he is leaned on more heavily.

Joe Pavelski (CBS ranking 163): He may be in for a decreased role in Dallas, but he still scored 38 goals last season. That has to mean something … (Follow the link for more: aug17)

 

6. Here, I’ll continue on with the reverse in players that seem overvalued by CBS:

Mark Stone (CBS ranking 16): I’m a Stone owner in a keeper league, and even I think this ranking is too generous. His value may have improved with the move to Vegas, but you’re usually drafting forwards who should be good for 80 points minimum at this point. Stone has only reached 70 once in his career.

Alexander Radulov (CBS ranking 19): Same idea as Stone, except Radulov has back-to-back 70-plus point seasons. Still, I don’t have any compelling reason to draft him this high.

David Perron (CBS ranking 80): His points-per-game dropped with a move to St. Louis. Even with that, his shooting percentage was an unsustainable 20.5% in 2018-19. Perron is a serviceable player to fill out your roster, but not at this point. 

Pontus Aberg (CBS ranking 98): Aberg might have offensive upside, but he was a healthy scratch numerous times in 2018-19. That should tell you all you need to know … (Follow the link for more: aug18)

 

7. A silver lining for those Canucks’ fans who don’t like general manager Jim Benning’s contract extension is the fact that the latter won’t go into the season as a lame duck GM making desperate moves to try to save his job. In other words, he’s going to have more reason to take a long-term view.

Even though the track record for free agents has put the Canucks in a worse situation cap-wise than a rebuilding team should be, we have yet to see how the acquisitions of J.T. Miller, Micheal Ferland, and Tyler Myers will play out. We also have yet to see what kind of contract Brock Boeser will sign and if it will be in time for the season, as well as whether there is a plan regarding what to do with Loui Eriksson. So, Benning still has a lot of work to do.

Whether you think this is the right move, the Canucks’ ownership is obviously happy with the direction that the Canucks are heading. (aug17)

 

8. Will Patrik Laine really be playing somewhere other than Winnipeg next season? During an interview on Sportsnet this week, Laine said that he does not expect to have a contract before training camp and that he and the Jets have not begun negotiating a contract. Obviously, things can change between now and then, but this doesn’t sound like things are headed in the right direction.

The Jets also need to find a way to sign Kyle Connor, although it sounds like Connor might be the priority over Laine at the moment. If that’s the case, a key reason might be second-half production (see below).

– Connor: 41 GP, 20 G, 17 A, 37 PTS
– Laine: 41 GP, 6 G, 12 A, 18 PTS

If you’re one of those that has a way-too-early draft soon, you might already be moving Laine down your rankings, given his deep slumps last season (no goals between January 15 and February 20, one goal after March 1) and now this news.

Here’s Laine’s crazy shooting percentage deviation, if you remember that 18 of his 30 goals in 2018-19 were in November.

– October and November: 21 G in 24 GP, 21.4 SH%
– After that: 9 G in 58 GP, 6.1 SH%

What will Laine’s shooting percentage, and for that matter, goal total be in 2019-20? Your guess is as good as mine. (aug17)

 

9. The Top 100 Roto Rankings were posted on Thursday, in case you haven’t had a look yet. Constructive feedback welcome. Oh, and what the heck, maybe even some unconstructive criticism that is written in a well-constructed paragraph or two. I might completely disagree with you, but at least I’ll be impressed with your writing skills (I was once a business communications instructor, by the way.) I do recognize that you might spot a thing or two that I won’t, so the idea here is to have the best possible rankings list for you. The next update will be posted on September 15, which happens to be… three or four days after training camps start! (aug16)

 

10. The developing story of the summer seems to be the number of restricted free agents that have yet to sign. Players like Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser and Brayden Point could be waiting for Mitch Marner to sign, although the dominoes could start to fall once any of them sign.

In the meantime, there are some UFA that we are still waiting on, too. One UFA regular has been Joe Thornton, who has been on the list for three consecutive summers. Reportedly, Thornton will sign with the Sharks at some point this offseason. Patrick Marleau is believed to be interested in rejoining him, although his future is less certain. Should one or both return, it appears that they would take on more of a third-line supporting role. (aug16)

 

11. Let’s go over two reasons to draft Cory Schneider:

First, it’ll be the cost. Despite the hubbub around the Devils, it’ll likely be the youngster, Mackenzie Blackwood, who is drafted somewhere among the top-20 to top-25 goalies, and not Schneider. I wouldn’t be surprised, given his .907 save percentage over the last three years, to see Schneider outside the top-30 goalies and among the backups. If that is indeed the case, he can be drafted as a third, maybe fourth goalie, depending on the size of the league. If Blackwood is nails out of the gate and Schneider is stapled to the bench, it’s easy to head to the waiver wire and replace him with another backup, or just stream. If Blackwood flounders, then we got a starting goalie basically for free at the draft table.

Second, as alluded to with the hubbub, the Devils should be much improved from last year. Up until the Taylor Hall injury at Christmas, the Devils were near the middle of the league in expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five. That’s not great, obviously, but that roster has since added Nikita Gusev, Jack Hughes, and P.K. Subban. Throw in a healthy Hall, a pinch of Kyle Palmieri, and a dash of underrated-yet-good-and-still-improving Nico Hischier, and this roster is starting to round out. Maybe the team is about the same defensively they were before the Hall injury but there’s going to be a boost offensively, making wins a bit easier to come by.

 

I understand the hesitation to draft Schneider given the injury history and the split-start possibility. But those are only real concerns if we were drafting him as a No.1 or No.2 goalie. As a No.3 or No.4, we can get away with a failure if that’s his fate. (aug15)

 

12. In the five seasons between 2013-14 and 2017-18, Jaden Schwartz played at a 26 goal and 63 point pace for every 82 games. Those were his aged-21 to 25-year-old campaigns – right in the meaty part of a player’s prime statistical prime. During that stretch of games, the former Colorado College star converted on 13.3 percent of his attempts.

The 2018-19 season was nowhere near his normal levels. He scored at a 13 goal, 43-point pace while completing just six percent of his shots. This while putting the most shots on net on a per-game basis (2.65) in his career. His PDO was 991 also gives credence to some poor puck luck. Some other explanations for the regressed season are a full minute less on the power play and a fourth-quarter that was spent away from Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko.

If the screaming loud unsustainably low metrics haven’t convinced you, surely the 27-year-old’s playoff run will help. Twelve (12) goals and 20 points in 26 spring games – including 18 even-strength points was much more reflective of his abilities. It also marked the reunification with Tarasenko.

While Schwartz likely isn’t going to replicate his 32-goal, 78-point pace that he produced in 2017-18, he’s far better than the 43-point pace of last season. A conservative estimate sees him land back in the 25-goal, 60-point level for next season. (aug14)

 

13. For J.T. Miller, the trade to Vancouver should facilitate a return to the prime deployment and subsequent production that comes with it. It is unclear whether the 26-year-old will be given the plum assignment on the left flank of Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, or if he’ll make his home beside Bo Horvat. Regardless, he’ll have a very good opportunity to join those three on the team’s top power-play arrangement. 

Bigger players take a long time to ruminate, and Miller should be no different. He’s now sitting at 435 career NHL games – right on cue for a burst. The cost to acquire the former first-round selection will surely weigh in his long-term deployment. A return to the 20-goal level and his first 60-plus point campaign seem like good bets if he can remain healthy. (aug14)

 

14. Don’t forget about Antti Raanta in your fantasy drafts. In six NHL seasons, Raanta has never played 50 games. With his Band-Aid Boy status and the emergence of Darcy Kuemper after Raanta’s season ended, I’d probably bet the under on 50 games for Raanta. So if you’re in a league in which the emphasis is on wins, Raanta probably shouldn’t be high on your rankings. The Coyotes also figure to be a bubble playoff team, so his ability to pick up wins will likely be limited.

Even though Raanta shouldn’t lose the starting job outright to Kuemper, it sounds like the Coyotes plan to use the two as a tandem, according to Cat Silverman of The Athletic. Remember that if you follow the money, Raanta is earning $4.25 million for two more seasons, while Kuemper earns $1.85 million for one more season. That might work out to something like a 60/40 split, assuming both goalies can remain mostly healthy all season.

Raanta ranks very high in goals-against average and save percentage. Sure, his 2.88 GAA and .906 SV% in 2018-19 were less than impressive, but they were with a smaller sample size, and we could assume that he might not have been right with the knee injury. A year ago, I wrote that over the last four seasons, Raanta’s .927 SV% and 2.20 GAA were better than all of the 46 goalies that have played at least 100 games over that span. If we add in the 2018-19 season, Raanta is just a hair behind Ben Bishop as the goals-against average leader over the last five seasons (2.26 to 2.27), while he still has a higher save percentage over the last five seasons (.925) than any other goalie. (aug18)

 

15. I like Semyon Varlamov more than most do, mainly because of the potential Barry Trotz/Mitch Korn effect. And even though the Wild don’t appear to be entering the season on a high note, you could argue that Devan Dubnyk’s game hasn’t slipped too much – deciding whether to keep Dubnyk or Tuukka Rask on my keeper team is actually tougher than you might think, mainly because Dubnyk is projected to play more games and the two actually posted similar ratios last season  (see the Compare Goalies tool on Frozen Tools). Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick? I’ll probably be letting someone else draft them.

My Top 100 Roto Rankings are certainly food for thought, although they might not be how you should rank your goalies because of your league settings. This is where I go back to my point in which the Fantasy Hockey Geek will help immensely with those customized rankings. In other words, zeroing in on the stats that count in your league is critical to your success. (aug18)

 

16. Devon Toews’ rookie AHL season saw the defenseman post 45 points in 76 games as a 22-year old. Over parts of the next two AHL seasons, he posted 41 points in 54 games. Those are all very good offensive numbers.

It was a stellar rookie season in 2018-19 once he got the call in December, posting 18 points in 48 games while playing under 18 minutes a night. But he did earn the trust of the coaches eventually, at least offensively, as after the trade deadline, he led all Islanders blueliners in PPTOI (it was just a few seconds more than Nick Leddy, but still). That’s a good sign for his future value.

The problem is that it’s effectively a three-headed monster as far as PP minutes are concerned, and only one will (likely) play the top PP at a time. I imagine all three rotate through the season at some point which will make them frustrating to own. Ryan Pulock owners will reap the peripherals but the PP production will likely be inconsistent.

Drafting Toews comes down to his play – he was bordering on the 90th percentile in driving shot attempts for his team in that small sample last year – and the opportunity. Basically, I see him and Leddy as more or less equal players this year, making Toews the (likely) much better value at the draft table. If the coaches continue to trust him, there’s a 40-point season in the making here. He just may not provide a lot of peripherals. (aug13)

 

17. In the Fantasy Guide, I have a ‘Lowdown’ in each team section, giving my thoughts on a player and going a little deeper. For these players, I turned to the members of our Forum for help. They voted on the player for each team. Well, if there’s a winner, then there is also a runner-up, right? And that means that a lot of people voted for said runner-up. Which tells me that many of you want my thoughts on those players, too. So why not present them here? It’s the dog days of the offseason, topics are hard to come by – it only makes sense!

Okay, consider it done. Below are ‘Lowdowns’ for some of the players who finished second in the voting… (aug12)

 

18. The Lowdown on Erik Gustafsson: The only question with Gustafsson, from the typical fantasy owner, has to be: “Is he for real?” After all, he went from being a nobody…to a defenseman who posted 52 points in the last 57 games of the season. All we can do is look at the numbers. He was somewhat sheltered in terms of offensive-zone minutes and facing weaker competition. But he did well in terms of driving possession, he led the Blackhawks in ice time down the stretch, and he finished with seven points in the last six games. So he didn’t slow, and Coach Jeremy Colliton really leaned on him. Will he see tougher ice time and will other teams key in on him a little better? Yes and yes. But the club seriously mitigated that by acquiring Olli Maatta and Calvin De Haan. Those two will handle all the key defensive-zone minutes, with Connor Murphy and Carl Dahlstrom handling secondary tough minutes. Colliton will now shelter Gustafsson even more. He can help Gustafsson avoid those match-ups and seriously free him up to create. He’s for real, and at 27 years of age (a lot of fantasy owners may not have know this) he is in his prime. (aug12)

 

19. The Lowdown on Brandon Montour: Upon arriving in Buffalo, Montour was very strong possession-wise. He was originally partnered up with Rasmus Dahlin, but it wasn’t working – Montour took risks that Dahlin had to cover for, which cost Dahlin his offense. As a right-handed shot, Montour’s presence is a contributing factor to the Sabres’ likely future trade of Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres have 11 defensemen and something is going to give. Montour is steadily improving his offense year-over-year, and I wouldn’t expect more than another small step forward unless the Sabres trade Ristolainen. This would mean the difference between Montour getting 37 points… and 45 points (thanks to the added PP time). I am banking on the latter. As for long-term, he’s a top offensive defenseman with 60-point upside and I still don’t see any reason why he won’t get there in two to three years. Especially with the talented forwards that Buffalo has on the roster and in the pipeline. (aug12)

 

20. The Lowdown on Charlie Coyle: Usually a very steady producer in that 42- to 56-point range, Coyle fell off last season and ended up with 34 points. But he had 22 in the first half, which was right in that range, prior to being traded to the Bruins where his numbers fell off a cliff. However, his 16 points in 24 playoff games not only showed us that he can still get it done even on his new team – but it showed this to Coach Bruce Cassidy as well. This was with similar ice time and PP usage as in the regular season, he just found his comfort zone. He will rebound this year. The biggest drawback for him is the loss of his playoffs linemate Marcus Johansson. The two of them really clicked. But Coyle does still have Danton Heinen on his line, and Heinen is in that breakout threshold range (162 career games). As a bigger player, Coyle is expected to take longer to reach his BT. But he already passed the 400-game mark. However, he did that during an injury-marred season and followed that up with a trade the following year to a new team. So don’t completely write him off just yet. His ceiling is limited, so don’t expect miracles, but a breakout to 60 points is feasible (if it doesn’t happen this year, it will never happen though). The smart play is to treat him like a player who will post in the low-40s, with long-shot upside. In the Guide I had projected him for 38 points, but this deeper analysis had me tweak it to 43 (in 76 games) for the next update later this week. (aug12)

 

21. The Lowdown on Vinnie Hinostroza: This could end up being an unfortunate case of being too good in other areas, which may act as a drag on his eventual offensive production. Unless Vinnie can bring his offense up to the level of a Sean Couturier or a Patrice Bergeron – guys who put up big numbers despite being rolled out in defensive situations – we may not see him ever hit his potential. But it’s still early and I’m not yet ready to completely paint him with that brush. Quite the contrary. I haven’t ruled out that he can’t be like those two guys. Obviously lesser versions of those elite studs, but I’m talking about the ‘idea’ that Hinostroza can put up offense despite only defensive situations (just 39.61% Off. Zone Starts). He tallied 27 points in the second half last year, which is a 54-point pace on a team that didn’t have any 54-point players. His 5on5 S% (6.92%) indicates that he had some bad puck luck. As with Kase, Hinostroza will hit the BT of 200 games this season. He is at 177, meaning he hits the mark in November. How the dust settles in terms of Phil Kessel’s role and the resulting power-play time will determine how quickly Hinostroza comes into his own. (aug12)

 

Have a good week, folks!!