21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles

by Mario Prata on March 10, 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. Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a guy I’m keeping in my back pocket for 2019-20. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that the youngest player in the league is at least the team’s No.2 center next season. (mar7)

Kotkaniemi was a healthy scratch on two occasions this past week. It was the first time the 18-year-old has sat in the press box this season, as coach Claude Julien expressed some concern that fatigue was creeping into his game.

It should be noted that the youngster suited up in 84 total games last season – split between the Finnish Liiga and international tournaments. Prior to that, his career-high had been 41 contests. Despite averaging just 14 minutes a night with Montreal this season, the wear of 66 NHL games for a rookie is real.

There shouldn’t be any concerns about Kotkaniemi moving forward. He’s a spectacular playmaker with a bright future. (mar6)

 

2. I don’t know how I didn’t know this, or maybe I did and forgot, but a big need for the Oilers is a top puck-moving defenseman and they actually drafted Erik Gustafsson (fourth round, 2012). They couldn’t come to terms with him (or didn’t want to) in 2014 and lost him. A year later, Chicago signed him. Four years later, he has 48 points in 65 games. (mar4)

 

3. At this time last month, we were worried that an Artemi Panarin trade would hurt Cam Atkinson’s value. That scenario looks like it will still play out – just not until after the season.

For the moment, Atkinson continues to roll and shows a career high of 38 goals. As the Blue Jackets attempt to deliver on their all-in playoff push, expect them to ride their leading goal scorer. Atkinson has logged at least 20 minutes in each of his last four games. (mar10)

 

4. It’s a combination of the new coach and the fact that all the star players are gone, well…more of the latter, but Chris Tierney is finally getting big power-play time.

I almost really like his outlook for next year. First, he’s one of the best players on the team now (who are they going to sign that is better? Will anyone even want to go there this summer?).

Second, he’ll be 25 next season. I love the age of 26 the most in fantasy, but that’s close enough.

Third, his trend is astonishingly steady. It goes upward at a nice pace, even going up a little during the supposed sophomore slump: 0.25, 0.29, 0.49 points-per-game average the last three years and is 0.61 this year. The only problem is – and it’s a big one – to whom will he give the puck? If he leads all Ottawa forwards in scoring next year will that be with 49 points? (mar4)

 

5. After a strong first half, Sharks’ Timo Meier had cooled off in the new year with just three goals in 23 games in January and February. The switch has turned on in March with five goals over his last four games, to bring his current season total to 26. Just in time for your fantasy playoffs. (mar10)

 

6. I thought I’d been seeing Vladislav Namestnikov’s name in the boxscore more often lately and his recent numbers prove it. Over his last 12 games, Namestnikov has 11 points (6g-5a), including his three-point game on Saturday.

I mentioned him last month when he began his run with another three-point game (2g-1a) after being held without a point in his previous 10 games. A commenter who must have watched the game replied that “nothing has changed because both goals were gifts” – one an empty-netter, the other a giveaway by the goalie.

Something has changed, though: his ice time. Namestnikov averaged just 13 minutes over the first quarter, while over the last half-dozen games he has averaged 18 minutes. The trades of Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes have likely had that effect. (mar10)

 

7. Before adding a goal and two helpers, Alex Tuch, had entered Saturday’s matchup with just four points in his last 16 games. With the addition of Stone, Tuch has been bumped down from the Paul Stastny Max Pacioretty line to the Cody Eakin line. That’s a significant drop in value. (mar10)

 

8. I might be cherry-picking stats here, but Ryan Strome has 12 points (6g-6a) over his last 14 games, including two goals and an assist on Saturday. Over his last six games he’s also been averaging 18 minutes per game. Looks like a midseason trade has helped not one, but two Strome brothers. (mar10)

 

9. When colleague Cam Robinson discussed ‘stacking mates’ in a recent Ramblings, it felt like he was talking directly to me! You see, I own three Florida Panthers on one of my teams: Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Hoffman. (On this same roster, I also owned three Ottawa Senators until Matt Duchene and Mark Stone were traded.)

Yes, I can attest to the fact that this can be a risky strategy, particularly in head-to-head fantasy setups, where the number of games played and the team’s overall output can have a significant impact on the week’s results. It kind of happened to me by accident after Duchene was traded last season and Hoffman was traded during the offseason. Yet, I won my league last season, and I’m in contention again this season. So, if you decide to stack your roster, at least pick the team’s best players, which will at least minimize the risk. Otherwise, the mutual fund strategy of diversification works best for your fantasy portfolio.

If you own multiple Panthers players and this is a critical week for you, then stacking has paid back in spades for you. Barkov picked up not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE assists on Friday, while Huberdeau added a goal and three assists. In fact, the Barkov-Huberdeau-Evgenii Dadonov line was a combined plus-14, with the latter chipping in three helpers of his own.

Over consecutive nights, Barkov and Huberdeau have been scorching hot, accruing seven points each. Huby has now hit 70 points for the first time in his career, while Barkov is just three points shy of his 78-point career high set last season. Start these Panthers with confidence as their team attempts a last-ditch playoff push. (mar9)

 

10. After Mike Babcock said that Frederik Andersen would be held to 56 appearances, he clarified that he miscalculated that number and that Andersen would actually be held to 60 games (Chris Johnston). The 56-appearance projection would basically have Andersen split starts with Garret Sparks for the rest of the season, but an extra four starts means that Andersen will receive close to one more start per week than that. That’s an arrangement that Andersen owners should be able to live with.

As an Andersen owner, I figured that he could be looking at a workload reduction anyway, since the Leafs have been on a collision course with the Bruins all season anyway to face each other in the first round. What’s an extra home playoff game if the team is worn out by the playoffs? (mar9)

 

11. Some ill-timed news for fantasy owners of Gabriel Landeskog. The Colorado captain is expected to be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury. This timeline effectively ends Landeskog’s regular season and makes him droppable in non-keeper formats that do not use separate IR slots, which will only be useful in the event that he returns significantly earlier than expected.

In just 68 games, Landeskog had already set career highs in goals, points, and power-play points. His shot total is the highest since his rookie season (270 SOG), while his 114 hits at the time of injury ranked him second on the Avalanche. Of course, playing on arguably the league’s best line with two of the league’s top-10 scorers in Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon doesn’t hurt. Regardless, it’s been a career season for Landeskog, even if it has been cut short.

Alexander Kerfoot seems like a possibility to be bumped up to the top line, which would be a huge boost to his fantasy value. Kerfoot has just one goal over his past six games, so his value could use a jumpstart anyway. (mar9)

 

12. The Bruins are now 15-0-4 since January 29. That’s great news for Tuukka Rask owners, as he has won 10 of his last 11 games. Since the beginning of February, Rask has a 1.97 GAA and a .923 SV%. (mar10)

 

13. Our Report Generator on DobberHockey continues to be improved. The most recent addition has been in the power play (PP) Data area, where Eric Daoust has included PPPt/60 – which is essentially how many power-play points a player gets for every 60 minutes of power-play deployment. It’s a mouthful, but it provides tangible evidence to support how effective a player is on a man-advantage unit.

To me, this is a potential gold mine. Teams are constantly looking to improve their special teams’ production and finding players who are thriving in a limited role would likely be a good starting point in attempting to unearth assets that will see their value increase with further opportunities.

At the top of this list, we see the elites: Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, David Pastrnak, Phil Kessel, Brent Burns, etc. But what I’m looking for are those undervalued players, for example:  Jack Roslovic and Kevin Labanc. (mar8)

 

14. Roslovic: Pegged by many as a prime candidate to steal the second-line center gig in Winnipeg this season, Roslovic has found himself locked in the bottom-six skating fewer than 10 minutes a contest and very few power-play opportunities. However, in his 45 minutes of man-advantage action, the 22-year-old has produced 7.9 PPPt/60. As of Friday, that number put him a shade ahead of Patrice Bergeron.

The Jets are going to run into cap issues soon, and when they do, Roslovic will be there to eat up offensive minutes for a reasonable price. He'll be another good bet to garner more interest next season assuming Winnipeg doesn't find a way to add a center this offseason. (mar8)

 

15. Labanc: The Sharks have a bevy of forward talent to choose from when an opponent heads to the sin bin. But it's Labanc who leads them in PPPt/60. His 7.1 PPPt/60 is amongst the league-leaders and not due to small sample size. His 145 minutes of man-advantage action (also as of Friday) is less than the big dogs, but still averaging out to over two-minutes per contest.

He'll need to continue to fight off Timo Meier for that top unit spot, but Labanc has shown capable of improving production year-over-year. A few more minutes per night and we could be talking about a 65-point forward next season. (mar8)

 

16. Another neat tool has been added to our Dobber Prospects profiles projecting a prospect based on production at different levels in different leagues (PNHLe), as calculated by Mason Black. The one linked above is of Jordan Kyrou but you can check in on any of your favourite prospects to see what could be expected of them. (mar7)

 

17. In order to take the next step in fantasy relevance, Travis Sanheim needs to do two things: shoot more and earn meaningful power play minutes. One of those things is in his control and one is not. He’s currently third on the team depth chart for power play minutes behind Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. In that sense, it’ll be very hard for Sanheim to have significant fantasy relevance.

Consider that in 2017-18, Provorov was the only defenseman with 10 or fewer PPPs to crack 40 points. This year, going into Thursday action, Mattias Ekholm had already cracked 40 points with just seven PPPs, while Jared Spurgeon (39) and Ryan Ellis (36) were the only other two within striking distance with eight or fewer PPPs. In other words, for Sanheim to get to that magical 40-point mark with his current level of PP production (which is related to his PP minutes allotment), he’ll need a lot to go right. It’s not something to rely upon.

Now, he can control how much he shoots, and I’m not overly concerned about the dip this year. It’s really his first full season and there is a laundry list of guys who are high volume shooters now who weren’t earlier in their career. Names like Roman Josi, Dougie Hamilton, and Tyson Barrie all shot less earlier in their careers, even if Barrie’s career numbers are a bit wonky because of those awful Avs teams from a few years ago. It could take two or three more years before Sanheim really finds whatever his normal shot level will be.

Until he takes over PP duties for one of Gostisbehere or Provorov, Ekholm’s 2018-19 season should be seen as some sort of ceiling for what Sanheim can achieve. With a bit of luck, he can be a 10-goal, 45-point defenseman. However, it’s most likely he settles in somewhere around 7-8 goals and 35 points for now. (mar7)

 

18. Just spit-balling but I’m not sure what to make of Luke Kunin’s season so far. The underlying numbers aren’t great but how much of that is due to injuries on his part and upheaval of the roster by management? It can’t be an easy situation to overcome.

By the eye, he’s looked fine whenever I’ve watched him if unspectacular. He should have a big role on this team in 2019-20 (he’s played 17:40 per game over the last month) so he’ll be a guy to follow over the final month. It could tell us a lot about what to expect from him next year. (mar5)

 

19. Just wanted to chime in briefly on Jesse Puljujarvi’s injury. It’s clear that three years of development from the Oilers has done nothing, and now he’s on the shelf for most of the summer with double hip surgery. To me, that means 2019-20 will be mostly getting back up to speed as he’s behind the eight ball again. Not that this effectively ends his career, but if next year is basically just trying to get his legs under him following surgery, he’ll be four years into his career with little to show for it, even with this year and next mostly being a wash due to injury. I wonder how much longer we wait before the Oilers move on. (mar5)

 

20. A year and a half ago I was high on Nathan Beaulieu, touting him as a strong dark horse. I did this because the Sabres went after him hard, acquiring him and immediately putting him on their power play. They desperately wanted him to succeed as a PP QB.

A dark horse is all about opportunity. You’re betting purely on opportunity and not on results (because none are there yet). In this case, it flopped. I had him in two of my leagues and dropped him as soon as I could after the failure became clear. Now he’s been cast off to the Jets.

I wonder if he could be a depth producer next year in the way that Tyler Myers has been this year. Beaulieu is 26 years old, so the timing is right. As a former first-round pick, the talent is there. Somewhere. And this is a high-scoring team so he could get 20 points almost by accident. He is an RFA this summer. (mar4)

 

21. With another two goals on Saturday, Nino Niederreiter has 11 goals and 21 points in 22 games as a Hurricane. He’s fitting right in. Not that Wild fans need to be reminded, but Victor Rask has a goal and an assist in 10 games as a member of the Wild. Rask is currently on IR as well. (mar10)

 

Have a good week, folks!!