21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on September 8, 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. An interesting tweet from Flames beat writer Kristen Anderson:

– It's also become pretty clear (since the #Flames were bounced out of the 2019 playoffs and again today) that (coach Bill) Peters is interested in playing Lindholm at centre this season.

Now, this wouldn’t decimate Elias Lindholm’s value as long as he maintains his PP1 role, but it would definitely hurt his value moving away from the top line. We’ll see where things land when training camp rolls around but it’s one situation that deserves close attention over the next four weeks. (sep5)

 

2. We did this last year. And the year before. Every year, Kyle Palmieri is undervalued heading into drafts, and every year, he proves us wrong. Even in 2017-18, when he missed 20 games, Palmieri finished just outside the top-100 players in standard Yahoo! leagues. This guy puts up very healthy shot and hit volumes and that’s something that gets wildly overlooked.

The consistency is important, too. He’s one of eight players with four straight seasons of at least 20 goals, 20 assists, two shots per game, and 30 penalty minutes. The rest will all be top-100 picks this year and six of the eight will probably go in the first three rounds. And I don’t think he’s come close to reaching his fantasy peak. (sep3)

 

3. We continue on with mining the ESPN rankings, this time with players that might be valued too low by the Worldwide Leader.

 – Frederik Andersen (127) – The most significant criticism I have of the ESPN rankings is the massive undervaluing of certain key goalies, starting with Andersen. The Leafs’ starting netminder is considered a first-tier goalie in many fantasy rankings. For any league that happens to count saves, Andersen provides especially high totals because of his high number of games played. His GAA and SV% don’t particularly stand out, but he should once again be among the league leaders in wins while he doesn’t have to worry about challengers to his job. (sep7)

Tuukka Rask (157) – If Rask plays in fewer than 50 games for the second consecutive season, then his win total will be outside of the top 10 again. That could be the argument for pushing him down this low. However, many fantasy owners will probably take the reliability of Rask over more relatively unproven options that are usually drafted at this point. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to handcuff Jaroslav Halak, depending on your situation. Rask’s ADP is 118, which is better but still seems too low. (sep7)

Connor Hellebuyck (176) – Hellebuyck is in a similar situation to Andersen, as he provides high save and win totals because of a high number of minutes, yet his ratios are somewhat ordinary. However, there is the chance to pull even greater value from Hellebuyck than Andersen, given this low ranking. In fact, I find it hard to believe that fantasy owners would wait this long to draft a starting goalie from one of the league’s better teams. Usually these kinds of goalies are gone by pick 100. Because of lower goalie rankings, you should be able to wait on a goalie longer in ESPN than you can in Yahoo. (sep7)

 

4. The Chicago Blackhawks have signed RFA forward Brendan Perlini to a one year, $874,125 contract. Perlini will still be an RFA once this contract has expired. Perlini scored 14 goals and added seven assists in 68 games, although 12 of those goals were in a Hawks’ uniform (over 46 games) after he was traded from Arizona.

Perlini’s most frequent linemates last season were Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, who of course also came over in the trade with the Coyotes. If Perlini can see continued minutes with those two scorers, then he could be a potential deep sleeper. His lack of power-play time (by that, I mean almost none) remains an issue as far as has viability in standard fantasy leagues, though.

 

5. Did anyone expect Jake Gardiner to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, and believe that it would take over two months? Your guess was as good as mine as far as where the free agent blueliner would sign. In case you missed it, the contract is four years at $4.05 million per season. That’s a bargain for the Canes, who according to Cap Friendly are now above the cap limit (another surprise). Gardiner might not have been a fan favorite in Toronto because of his defensive miscues at inopportune times. Yet there shouldn’t be any doubt about his offensive upside, which should fit well on a team that already plays a strong puck possession game.

You can check out the Fantasy Take on the Gardiner signing. Since I just posted it, I don’t have too much else to say here. You’ll just have to click the link.

 

6. A few of you asked if I could scan the ESPN rankings, so I’ve listened. Just as I did with Yahoo and CBS in earlier Ramblings, I’ve mined the ESPN rankings looking for players who I believe are improperly valued, or perhaps at least valued much differently from other sites. Here are a couple:

Dylan Larkin (23) – The good news for Larkin owners is that he is the guy in Detroit. The bad news is that it’s going to be a long season in Detroit. Larkin had chemistry for much of the season with Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, but at the end of the season he held a 19-point lead on the Wings’ second-highest scorer (Andreas Athanasiou). Unlike Tkachuk, I’m not sure I would even draft Larkin in the top 50, as he is listed slightly lower in the Roto Rankings and even lower than that (85) on Yahoo. Having said that, he could legitimately be a top-50 fantasy player by season’s end.

Max Domi (35) – This ranking jumped out at me right away as being too high, as you might be able to pick Domi after the top 100 in other formats. Domi is a candidate for a possible goal drop with a higher-than-normal shooting percentage of 13.8% in 2018-19 compared to 10.4% in his career. Domi’s value improved with a move to Montreal from Arizona, yet I’d still bet the under on him reaching 70 points again if he maintains about the same number of assists. Remember that he’s not a high-volume shooter either, as he cracked 200 SOG for the first time in his career in 2018-19. (sep6)

 

7. Regarding the Riley Sheahan signing by the Oilers. If you’re kind of shrugging it off as no big deal, he actually projects to be the Oilers’ third-line center. This speaks to the lack of depth in the Oilers’ organization beyond the obvious names, but it also states that Sheahan should get into the lineup on a nightly basis. (sep6)

In an under-the-radar signing, Jimmy Schuldt signed a one-year, one-way $850,000 with Vegas. He was a two-time Hobey Baker finalist, scoring 118 points in 156 games with St. Cloud State University. Although he played in just one regular-season game and no playoff games following his late-season signing, he should be able to crack the Golden Knights’ roster this season. (sep6)

Elsewhere, the Canucks have signed RFA forward Nikolay Goldobin to a one-year, one-way contract worth $900,000. There was some doubt as to whether Goldobin would be back after scoring just seven goals and 27 points in 63 games, with some of those games missed as a healthy scratch with Travis Green questioning his work ethic.

Considering that Goldobin was given substantial minutes with Elias Pettersson and for the most part didn’t deliver, this will be an important season for his NHL future. Considering that the Canucks had added J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland during the offseason along with Tanner Pearson and Josh Leivo during the season, there will be less incentive for the Canucks to try the enigmatic Goldy in a top-6 role going forward. Because he will likely need those quality linemates to have any sustained success in the NHL, he should be ignored for fantasy purposes going forward. In other words, don’t expect a ton of scoring if either Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle is his center. (sep6)

 

8. In spite of the Kings’ woeful 2018-19 season, Jack Campbell posted some solid ratios (.928 SV% and 2.30 GAA) over 31 games as Jonathan Quick’s backup. Among goalies who appeared in at least 25 games, Campbell finished third in save percentage and fifth in goals-against average.

In case you’re wondering whether Campbell will cut further into Quick’s workload, remember that Quick still has four more years on his contract that pays $5.8 million per season. So, Quick should be given every opportunity to bounce back after a disastrous season (3.38 GAA, .888 SV%).

It is worth mentioning that among the 54 goalies who appeared in at least 25 games in 2018-19, only Aaron Dell had a worse save percentage (.886 SV%) than Quick. As well, only three goalies had a worse goals-against average than Quick. If this trend continues into the season, new coach Todd McLellan might have no choice but to give Campbell a run of starts and see what happens. McLellan might be more inclined to do that than previous coaches, who would have just given the nod to Quick out of habit.

The Kings have signed Campbell to a two-year extension worth $1.65 million per season over the weekend. The extension kicks in after this coming season, where the 27-year-old Campbell will earn $675,000. (sep8)

 

9. Here are four players I have projected setting career highs, with the category of note (for more, follow the link at the end of each excerpt):

Jack Eichel: PPP, my projection: 26.6

He’s never had fewer than 20 PPPs in any one season – including the year he missed 21 games – and he finished with 26 last year. In that context, projecting him for a career mark of 26.6 isn’t really going out on a limb. This will be Eichel’s fifth season and he has more pieces this campaign, especially on the blue line, to help both move the puck and keep it out of their net. With the monster shot volume and growing hits totals, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the last season for several seasons that Eichel is available outside the first round. (sep5)

 

10. Sebastian Aho: PPP, my projection: 26.3

I don’t think I’m alone in expecting many of the Hurricanes skaters to not only maintain what they did last year – in part or in whole – but to build off it. Aho keeping that power-play point total growing would be one way to really help build off his great 2018-19 campaign. The concern, obviously, would be if the Hurricanes power play doesn’t improve but with all that young talent coming up together, it’s hard to imagine that. The biggest reason for Aho having a higher PPP projection was that he shot just six percent with the man advantage last year. That will improve, and hopefully his PPP total with it. (sep5)

 

11. Travis Sanheim: goals, my projection: 10.4

The addition of Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen muddles things a bit here. Sanheim is capable of playing both sides, but both Braun and Niskanen shoot right, which gives them a lot more depth than there was expected to be. This is a case where maybe the team has improved but the situation of the individual player has not. All the same, I think there’s a decent chance that Sanheim is the best defenceman the Flyers have and that is basically what keeps his projection afloat. At some point, Sanheim should be a go-to guy for Philly, I’m just not sure it’s this year. His 10.4 goal projection may be a career-high, but it could be higher if he were assured a larger role on the team. (sep5)

 

12. Bo Horvat: goals, my projection: 28.1

This is another one where it doesn’t take much imagination to see Horvat going over his previous career-high of 27. He’s averaged 27.5 goals per 82 games over the last two years and is going to get some help on the wing in the form of (hopefully) J.T. Miller. Having Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the PP unit with him should help Horvat maintain his solid PP goal totals from the last two years as well. He’s going to be a favourite target of mine as a third centre. (sep5)

 

13. The Coyotes have extended one of the core pieces of their future, as Clayton Keller was signed to an eight-year extension with an average annual value north of $7.1 million. Keller was set to be a restricted free agent following the 2019-20 season.

This is a gamble from Arizona, as Keller looked great in his first year but more pedestrian in his second. If his third year would have been like his first, they probably pay more per year. If his third year would have been more like his second, they might pay less. It’s a gamble for now but if Keller lives up to what we (well, I) think he can be, this could be a steal in a couple years. If he can’t, this could look bad. We’ll see. (sep5)

 

14. We had another signing on Tuesday, but not one of the marquee RFAs, as Adrian Kempe was locked up by the Kings for another three years with a $2-million AAV. If this team is going to transition into its next form, Kempe needs to be part of it. (sep5)

 

15. Jakub Vrana is one injury away from jumping on that top unit and who knows, maybe he’s so good that the club has to find a way for him to stick long term. He's a highly talented player who has produced with sustainable metrics and appears to only be tracking upwards.

However, all the warning signs are that this player will hit his statistical prime and be trapped in the secondary-deployment box. The skill vs opportunity ratio needs to make sense in order for players to witness tangible steps forward and hit the next level.

I like Vrana to break the 50-point mark this season, perhaps even hit 55, but it’s difficult to expect much more until his role elevates and that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. (sep4)

 

16. Fantasy hockey is a funny thing. You can make a good case for Nikolaj Ehlers being the best real-world player in this list of 10 undervalued fantasy players, and yet you can similarly make a good case that he’s the worst fantasy option to own of all the players on this list. The reason for that is two-fold: first, they refuse to use him on the top PP unit, and second, he doesn’t hit.

At a certain point, those problems are mitigated by ADP. Last year, I said I was worried about Ehlers’ fantasy value in relation to his ADP because of the lack of PP minutes. Now, his injury meant he was never going to reach value, but even if he had reached 27 goals, 25 assists, and 200 shots, it wouldn’t have come close to paying off his top-100 ADP. This year, he’s priced much more reasonably – outside the top-150 players – making the bet on his talent a lot easier to stomach. (sep3)

 

17. It’s probably worth pointing out that Sam Reinhart had 65 points last year – by far a career high – and did so posting 15 PPPs, a three-year low. The Buffalo power play didn’t really look quite right all year even though it wasn’t outright bad but having Rasmus Dahlin back there all year should help stabilize things.

Reinhart has his own concerns. Like Ehlers, he doesn’t post hits. Being detrimental in a category really hurts players who don’t excel in any other single category. But it’s a pretty big chasm between, “he doesn’t do the things necessary to really be a top-25 player,” and, “his ADP is too low even with his issues in certain areas.” I believe Reinhart’s production improves again this year, pushing for 70 points, meaning he should be drafted inside the top-150 players. He won’t be, which is why he’s undervalued. (sep3)

 

18. I understand the hesitation for drafting Jason Zucker. He’s coming off a down year, the Wild are a middling team, and there is upheaval throughout the organization, starting with the general manager. At the same time, this is a guy one year removed from 33 goals and 64 points and has back-to-back seasons with at least 210 shots.

As long as his ice time maintains, there will hopefully be a rebound in his shooting percentage, and that all leads back to him pushing for 30 goals again. He can help in the hit column – four straight seasons of at least 70 hits with at least 80 in three of the four – and all this leads to him being a very good value right now. He’ll probably be drafted somewhere between players 175-225 and I have him inside my top-150 at the moment. (sep3)

 

19. Honestly, getting traded away from the Leafs, where he had spent much of the last three years on the top PP unit, would normally be a bad thing for most players, but the top Colorado PP unit needs someone to play the bumper role and Nazem Kadri is probably the best in the league at it.

The concern for Kadri would be at even strength but Colorado added some scoring depth with Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi. Right now, Kadri’s ranking on Yahoo!, which relates to his ADP, assumes he’ll basically repeat last year. That means even if he doesn’t improve on his 2018-19 season, he’ll be close to paying off his draft position. I think he returns to being a top-100 player in hits leagues this year. (sep3)

 

20. If Mitch Marner does not sign in time to start the season:

–  I don’t know if this would have a huge impact on Nylander as I think he will play with Matthews regardless and you can’t really upgrade from that.

–  This will impact John Tavares a little, but not too much as he could put up points regardless. If it goes the full season, then I’d knock off five or six points.

–  Cha-ching for Kasperi Kapanen, who likely gets the spot on the Tavares line.

– Things also open up for Pontus Aberg (a little) and Ilya Mikheyev (a lot). As noted above with Burakovsky and Nichushkin, a lengthy delay in Marner’s return could make or break a career. (sep2)

 

21. If Brayden Point does not sign in time to start the season:

 Tyler Johnson moves to center and Maroon moves into the top six. Both players would get a bump in PP time, as would Anthony Cirelli. The longer Point is out, the more points these three players will get in the early weeks.

– The Stamkos – Kucherov line will suffer a little. Point really took the heat off of those guys and his absence makes it obvious to opponents which line they should be focusing on, solely.

 Andrei Vasilevskiy gets fewer wins. For every nine he would have had, give him eight instead. (sep2)
 

Have a good week, folks!!