This week's Capped looks into some rookies burning a year off of their entry deals, and what fantasy managers should expect moving forward.
Every year the NHL seems to be getting younger. Maybe it’s true, or maybe it’s just that they stay the same age while we keep getting older. Either way, there always seems to be a few youngsters making the jump, forcing their NHL teams to decide whether keeping them in the majors and burning a year off of their entry level deal is more beneficial, or if in the long run it makes more sense to have the cheap entry level contract for a later year.
These decisions send large ripples through the world of salary cap hockey leagues, as some of the most important players in these leagues are the rookies such as these, that can massively outproduce their salaries. The problem with them, is the uncertainty of knowing if they will stick past the nine-game mark. Now that we have passed that point in the season, we have a little more certainty with which to analyze the following players.
Pierre-Luc Dubois (C) – Columbus Blue Jackets
Cap Hit: $894,166
After being drafted third overall in 2016, Columbus fans and fantasy owners alike were a little disappointed with the showing in training camp, that saw him get sent back to Junior without even playing a game. This season, Dubois hasn’t exactly posted eye-popping numbers, but his play has been solid, and he doesn’t have anything left to prove in junior.
Dubois looks like he will take a slower development path in the NHL, especially with his focus on his all-around game. He may very well turn out to be a better real-life player than in the fantasy game. Currently Dubois is not being sheltered all that much, only starting 51% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and averaging about a minute per game with the second power play unit. Based on the depth of Columbus’ forward group, it doesn’t appear that this will change much in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, at least Dubois is producing a few hits (averaging almost two per game), but unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that he will be hugely valuable in fantasy until after his entry level deal runs out, by which point his contract may be weighing him down more so than his production.
Mikhail Sergachev (D) – Tampa Bay Lightning
Cap Hit: $894,166
Sergachev was drafted ninth overall in 2016, six spots after Dubois, but the rookie rearguard has unarguably started off his career with the more impressive showing. Playing with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov certainly helps! (They sit first and second in league scoring.) Sergachev has actually started off on a torrid pace himself, with 11 points in 13 games; four of those points being goals.
Unlike Dubois, Sergachev has been sheltered, starting over 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone (leading the league), and over the last three games, has played more than 10 minutes on the powerplay. Now would be the time to sell high if possible, because as good as he may be, there’s no way that he keeps up the 70 point pace. So if you can get someone a little more proven than Sergachev on a team friendly deal (such as buying low on Klefbom), then it would be well worth your while.
To add another wrinkle to Sergachev’s value, Tampa Bay also received a conditional pick in the deal where they acquired Sergachev. Tampa Bay would receive the conditional second round pick if Sergachev does not play 40 games for the Lightning this season. If Sergachev keeps this play up, then there’s no way he will be sent down, but if he cools off at all and shows some holes in his defensive game, he may be back to Junior to finish off the season – just a fair warning.
Victor Mete (D) – Montreal Canadiens
Cap Hit: $748,333
Victor Mete is quickly helping Montreal fans forget about Mikail Sergachev. Sergachev was of course drafted by the Canadiens, before being traded as part of the Jonathan Drouin deal. Montreal also parted ways with a few other defensemen this past offseason, and that opened up a spot for the surprising youngster to make the team. Mete was told last week that he would be up to stay, and has not looked out of place. He has been paired with Shea Weber for a majority of his time, and has been sheltered away from any short handed minutes.
His stats to this point don’t exactly jump off the page, with only two points and 13 shots. However, averaging just under 19 minutes per game is a very good sign that he will be in line to play enough to see him accumulate some stats. For leagues where secondary categories like blocks are counted, Mete could be a filler, but for the moment that seems to be all we can expect. Since the rest of Montreal’s defence core isn’t getting any younger, we may see Mete take steps forward over the next two seasons (especially on the powerplay), so banking on progression in the later two years of Mete’s entry level deal should pay dividends.
Alex Debrincat (RW) – Chicago Blackhawks
Cap Hit: $778,333
After trading Artemi Panarin and bringing back Brandon Saad, the Chicago forward lines have been mixed and matched every few games. Debrincat has most recently found himself playing with Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma, but he has also seen time alongside both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in different games. With his sweet shot, and with all-star line mates like Toews and Kane, Debrincat will have a lot of opportunity to outscore the 35-point pace that he has put up so far.
Debrincat has seen his ice time hover around the 14-minute mark, while being put out on the power play for two and a half minutes per game. With that kind of deployment, it won’t be long before his numbers are far out-producing his contract, even past the entry level deal. Add in the fact that Debrincat has also racked up 11 hits and 17 shots in just 12 games, and there is a lot of cross category value to be found here.
Thanks for reading! As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean where I post some of my other smaller musings that don’t make it into the articles.
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