It’s time for another edition of “Forum Buzz,” a column where I weigh in on some of the most active or heavily debated threads from the past month on the DobberHockey Forums. Pretty much anything within the forums might be covered, other than trades and signings, which usually will get their own separate write-ups on the main site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings, or questions relating specifically to salary cap issues, which tend to be dissected in Alex McClean’s weekly Capped column). Let’s jump right in!
Topic #1 – In a multi-cat dynasty league that counts G, A, Hits, +/-, and SOG, in what order would the following players be ranked, taking into consideration both present and likely future production: Sean Monahan, Vincent Trocheck, Kyle Connor, Nico Hischier, Andrei Svechnikov, Brock Boeser?
I’ll give my best answer, despite not being aware as to whether positions matter. I also don’t know the number of teams or roster sizes, which would give me a sense of whether you could compensate for a player’s weakness in a category (say, Hits, for example) with some more one-dimensional players.
Ignore his injury-plagued last season – Vincent Trocheck is the class of this field. Looking at his prior three seasons, Trocheck was one of just four forwards (Alex Ovechkin, Patric Hornqvist, and Evander Kane being the other three) to cumulatively average 1.75+ Hits and 2.75+ SOG per game; and Trocheck’s 79 goals put him second among the four. His +/- is shaky; however, the excellence he gives you in nearly all these categories, and the likelihood of a bounce back in scoring, makes him tops among this group.
For me, Sean Monahan comes in second, as he’s seen his goals, assists, SOG and +/- all increase in each of the last two seasons. He’s also still just 24 and, at 19:03 per game last season, could realistically see more ice time in the normal course. Plus he plays for a Calgary team that looks to be poised to be an offensive powerhouse for a number of seasons to come. His goals, in particular, are impressive, especially if indeed position matter, as he’s one of only seven players (the others being Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Ovechkin, Vladimir Tarasenko, and John Tavares) with 27+ goals in each of the past five seasons. Yes, his +/- isn’t superb and his Hits are a bit weak; but he’s a top scorer who might only get better and at worst should continue to produce point per game numbers.
After those two is where it gets complicated. Truth be told, I could make a case for putting the rest of the four in nearly any of the remaining spots depending on whether you want to emphasize production for next season versus three years from now, and you’ll see there’s a logjam three years from now. But here’s what my rankings would be in each case:
Three Seasons from Now – Svechnikov…..Connor/Hischier/Boeser (the last three are basically even)
In terms of Connor, Winnipeg seems committed to keeping him on the top line and giving him loads of PP Time. And why shouldn’t they – it’s resulted in great production from Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, while Connor chipped in quite nicely (123 points in 158 games in the past two seasons). Plus, if we look at players since 2010-11 who are now at least 25 years old and, like Connor, had 31+ goals and 7+ PPGs in at least two seasons by age 22, we get P. Kane, Steven Stamkos and Logan Couture. The issue with Connor, however, is his +/- is just okay and his Hits woeful. Even still, with his top line spot on a high-octane team like Winnipeg seemingly secure, he gets the nod over the other youngsters for now and still should have similar value in three seasons.
Boeser gives a great balance between goals and assists, and his 0.83 points per game on an offensively challenged Vancouver team speaks volumes to his talent level. Looking at players since 2010-11 who had at least as high of a point per game average in their first three seasons and are now 25 or older, we get Taylor Hall and Johnny Gaudreau, which is nice company to be in and bodes well for him three years from now. Boeser too is not a Hits guy though, and won’t win you your +/- category either, which keeps him from separating from the other two in three years time.
With Svechnikov, although he only tallied 37 points as a rookie the key is he did so while amassing 20 goals and averaging 2.3 SOG per game. Since 2000-01, the list of players who also had 20+ goals and 2+ SOG per game as 18 year-olds and who are now at least 23 years old consists of Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nathan MacKinnon, Stamkos, and Jeff Skinner. In other words, four megastars and one player who’s now coming into his own. Add to that Svechnikov’s Hits total of 123 in his first season and an even plus-minus, and he probably has the best chance to be the class of this group three seasons from now. Expect a leap next season too – just not quite enough to outpace the others. The major jump into superstar territory should occur in 2020-21 or 2021-22.
Hischier put up decent numbers before getting hurt last season, and much of that was without Taylor Hall. Now he projects to play not only alongside a healthy Hall but also Jack Hughes. The concern is although Hischier should have decent peripherals, just because he ends up on a super line doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily score as much as Hall or Hughes. When the dust settles, it could be them who “hog” the points, since Hischier’s average IPP over his first two seasons was just 61.9%, suggesting he doesn’t have a great nose for scoring. Still though – on that superstar line lots of points will come to Hischier.
Lastly, partway through the thread the poster also asked where Bo Horvat would rank. I see Horvat as a pre-2018-19 Jonathan Toews type of player, one at risk of perhaps prioritizing aspects of the game that might not lead to him being a top scorer. Also, Horvat’s ice time and SOG might be close to maxed out already. As such, I put Horvat second to last on the list for next season and last in three years.
Topic #2 – At this point, what should we expect from Kevin Shattenkirk and Mike Green? Which one of them is the better risk/reward grab?
Looking at Green, yes, he’s missed 10+ games in six of the last seven seasons, but his cumulative points per game average over that same time is 0.55, which is comparable to Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dougie Hamilton. And above Ryan McDonough, Justin Faulk, Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Ellis. What’s more – when he does score, it’s usually on the PP, with 92 of his 238 points scored from 2012-13 onward coming on the man advantage. To put this into perspective, those 92 PPPts ranked him 24th among rearguards over that time period despite him taking the ice for only the 32nd most PP minutes. Green also has enjoyed the luxury of not having to worry about losing his “spot” when injured, as the Detroit blueline is not loaded with top tier talent, and top prospect Filip Hronek likely is at least a season away from being looked at as the go-to guy for Red Wings offense from the blueline. Long story short, although Green is an injury/ailment waiting to happen, for the upcoming season he should still perform well enough to give a fantasy team more than a point per every other game when he plays, with more than a third of those points coming on the PP. With Green only signed through this season though, it’s not clear if the Red Wings would re-up him and, should they choose not to do so, whether Green would find a spot on another team that both gives him a chance to still produce yet also doesn’t force him to take a back seat to other defensemen options.
Regarding Shattenkirk, there’s no question he’s struggled mightily over the past two seasons. That would be concerning in and of itself; however, with him having signed a four year $26M contract right before he started to falter, one has to wonder if his effort level is where it was prior to when he inked the deal. Speaking of that earlier period, let’s pause to realize just how rock solid he was back in the day. For the three seasons immediately prior to inking his new contract he posted 144 points in 208 games, for 0.69 points per game output, which outpaced the likes of John Klingberg, John Carlson, Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Giordano, and Tyson Barrie over the same period. And Shattenkirk truly excelled on the PP, with 25+ PPPts each season from 2013-14 through 2016-17, a feat that only Erik Karlsson managed to accomplish more than even twice in those same four campaigns. Of course, that seems like a distant memory now – even more so with the Rangers landing Jacob Trouba via trade last month, calling into question whether Shattenkirk will have a prominent role with the team.
For this coming season, Green is the less risky pick, as his “spot” is safe for the time being and he should have added motivation to play well and stay healthy to secure one last UFA deal. That having been said, Shattenkirk, if he sticks with the Rangers, might not do as poorly as some fear, as chances are he’d be deployed in situations most favorable to scoring so as to play to his strengths. And if Shattenkirk does end up getting traded, that might ignite a fire under him that will see the return of his productive days. So if you want to roll the dice and hope to hit a home run – but also risk striking out – Shattenkirk would be the one to go with. If this is a keeper and you’re looking beyond the 2019-20 campaign, Shattenkirk is three years younger and come 2020-21 will once again be playing for a new deal, and thus my sense is he’s the better keeper pick.
Topic #3 – In a very deep multi-cat, keeper league with a cap, which one of the following forwards should be targeted for a final keeper spot: Brandon Pirri ($0.775M for this season), Nick Bjugstad ($4.1M through 2020-21), Lars Eller ($3.5M through 2022-23), Anthony Duclair ($1.65M for this season), Tyler Ennis ($0.8M for this season), or Sam Gagner ($3.15M for this season)?
First off, you can remove Ennis from the equation. Although Ottawa was likely among the better landing spots for him, chances are we won’t see anything out of Ennis beyond what he’s brought to the table over the past four seasons, which is inconsistent play when he’s not either injured or sitting as a healthy scratch. It’s too farfetched that Ennis could make any sort of fantasy-worthy impact at this stage of what can only be labelled a hugely disappointing career for the former first rounder.
Pirri also probably should be omitted. Yes, when he gets chances he has shown he can produce; but with him having been on five NHL rosters over the past five seasons you’d think if he was capable of sticking in a line-up for good that he’d have done so already, especially since some of those teams could have used some offensive firepower. While Vegas re-signing him does show they “want” him, barring a spate of injuries there’s little reason to hope for anything more from him than the same as last season.
Gagner also should not make the shortlist. After finding a niche in Columbus as a bottom-six forward who received PP1 time, and rising all the way to 50 points in 2016-17, it’s been downhill from there. Even the Canucks – a team which last season was as starved for offense as nearly any in the NHL – opted to waive him before ultimately trading him to Edmonton (his sixth team in as many seasons) for fellow disappointment Ryan Spooner. As an Oiler, Gagner played sparingly and made little to no impact. In truth, name recognition and still recent enough memories of 2016-17 are the only things elevating Gagner over the likes of Ennis and Pirri. That leaves Eller, Duclair and Bjugstad as possible choices.
Duclair could be on his way to a Pirri type of career, or just might be a late bloomer. With 14 points in his last 20 games with Ottawa for 2018-19, the team opted to sign him to a “prove yourself” one-year deal for a figure that likely will ensure Duclair gets at least middle six if not top-six time, especially on a team that figures to be hungry for all the scoring it can find. That should help Duclair, who’ll still only be 24 at the start of 2019-20, try to take the next step, as those 14 points came despite him only seeing the ice for 13:12 per game but still managing 39 SOG and three PPPts. He’s the risk/reward pick among the three, but especially intriguing given his much lower cap hit as compared to the other two.
In terms of Bjugstad, I covered him in an April Mailbag, where I noted he’s a multi-cat beast, as back in 2014-15 he had – in 72 games – 209 SOG, 38 PIM, 148 Hits, 12 PPPts, and 24 goals. He also stepped up when given the chance to play with talented teammates, posting 17 points in 23 contests on the top line for Florida at the end of 2017-18. On the Pens, Bjugstad probably is earmarked for the third line; but with guys like Bryan Rust, Alex Galchenyuk and Hornqvist likely to miss games due to injuries, Bjugstad should see time in the top six at some point. And even if he stays on the third line with the Pens, he should do no worse than last season, when he was firing 3+ SOG per game and chipping in with roughly two Hits per contest, all while hovering just below a point per every other game scoring rate.
Eller now has two straight seasons of 36+ point scoring. But unlike Duclair or Bjugstad, Eller will be 100% anchored to the third line, since the top two lines will be centered by Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeni Kuznetsov. Eller has pretty decent SOG and Hits. But one has to worry what will happen now that Connolly is gone, as it was only after the Caps put those two, plus the now traded Andre Burakovsky (or recently re-signed Carl Hagelin), together that Eller’s scoring upticked. Given Eller’s lack of upside and risk his scoring will now drop back to previous levels with Connolly (and, to some extent, Burakovsky) no longer helping to anchor the line, he probably should not be the pick.
So it comes down to Duclair or Bjugstad. The safer pick is Bjugstad; however, he also comes at a price tag well more than double Duclair’s cap hit. I think rolling the dice with Duclair probably is the way to go, as you can cobble together the added SOG and Hits that Bjugstad provides from other sources; and when the dust settles. Duclair should outscore Bjugstad, perhaps by 10+ points if Duclair’s late-season audition with the Sens was indeed a preview of what’s to come.
Topic #4 – In a multi-cat (with G/A/Pts/SOG/HIT/BLOCK/FOW as offensive categories) keeper where each team rosters 3C, 3LW, 3RW, 6D, 2G, and 7BN, which duo is better – Aleksander Barkov and Shea Theodore or Mark Scheifele and Matt Dumba?
The answer here largely depends on the extent to which Aleksander Barkov’s 2018-19 numbers are sustainable (if not capable of further improvement) and how much stock to put in Shea Theodore’s strong finish. But what of Scheifele? At 26 and on the high-octane Jets, couldn’t he have a breakout like Barkov? Although the thought has always been Scheifele could become one of the NHL’s true elite, after three seasons in which he was essentially right at a point per game for each, it’s looking less likely that he’ll even taste the 90 point mark. Why not? His SOG and PPPts are simply too low, as he’s never fired 200 SOG nor had more than 23 PPPts. And of the 34 instances of 90+ point scoring since 2010-11, only five were by players who didn’t have 220+ SOG per game, with each of them having 27+ PPPts and the average among the five is 33. And of the only three instances of the 34 with PPPts of 25 or lower, each had at least 233 SOG, with the average among the three is 270. Given this, plus the fact that the Jets are already a high-powered offensive team, Scheifele is a longshot at best to ever hit 90+ points and we should consider 80-85 his likely output.
As for Barkov, somehow he shed 50 SOG but gained 18 points, most of which were on the PP. He also did this despite an IPP of only 66.7%, meaning he tallied a point on just two-thirds of the goals scored while he was on the ice. Of the nine players with more points than Barkov’s 98 last season, the lowest other IPP was 70.7%, with all but two being above 74%. But Barkov also managed an impressive 10.48% team shooting percentage at 5×5 despite the fact that he started only 42.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone while averaging 22:21 per game (fourth most among all forwards). The takeaway is when Barkov is on the ice, good things happen; and even if he might shed a few PPPts (he had 31 last season after 14-17 in the prior three seasons) his IPP has realistic room to improve such that 90+ points yet again is a virtual lock, and a shot at 100 is within reason. Thus, he holds a decent edge over Scheifele.
As for the d-men, there’s little question Dumba is the better of the two fantasy-wise, as prior to getting hurt last season he had 51 points (19 of which were goals and 20 of which were on the PP) and 197 SOG in his last 72 games. Couple that with an average of 1.5 Hits and a little over one Block per game, and Dumba was – and still is – emerging as a top ten fantasy blueliner. As for Theodore, he did indeed finish well, with ten points (and 51 SOG) in his last 17 regular season games, and then upped the ante with eight points in seven playoff contests, albeit on only ten SOG. The concern, as is the case with all Vegas players, is Gerard Gallant being a firm believer in spreading around ice time such that not even top players are given the kind of deployment usually seen by stars. Take Theodore, as even during his fourth quarter breakout he was seeing just 2:16 of PP time per game and 20:02 overall. That might be good enough for him to see production of 40 or perhaps 45 points; however, looking at the 87 instances of 50+ point defensemen scorers since 2010-11, all but two averaged 20:24 of ice time per game, with all but four being above 21:00 per contest. Theodore might have the talent to do more; however, the ice time philosophy in Vegas will all but assuredly keep him well below the 50 point mark. Theodore also is not a big Hits or Blocks guy, and his PPPts will be hurt too by his deployment.
In the end, it looks like the decision will be based on whether the advantage Barkov has over Scheifele compensates for the advantage Dumba enjoys over Theodore. If somehow either Barkov or Scheifele has winger eligibility in your league, then that would tilt the scales. But I highly doubt that would be the case, so since apparently, the cap doesn’t matter in your league this truly boils down to which side will give you the most value. After going back and forth on this for a while, I’m choosing the Scheifele and Dumba side, simply because Scheifele is a lock for point per game scoring and Dumba is on his way to becoming a truly elite d-man, whereas Theodore may have the talent to do more but is stuck in a Vegas system that will lead to him producing far less than Dumba, not to mention having multi-cat stats that are pretty weak. Plus, there is always the chance that Scheifele could still find a way to increase his production, and that Barkov comes back to earth somewhat as compared to last season. A very tough choice in the end, and a really great question.
Topic #5 – After his impressive showing in the playoffs, what should expectations be for Colton Parayko going forward?
Just as poolies were lamenting that Colton Parayko not only didn’t have a magical fourth year but actually took a step back in terms of his production, lo and behold he awakened for 12 points in 26 playoff games and in doing so made poolies wonder who is the real Parayko? For 2019-20 and beyond, should we expect a version of him similar to what we saw in the 2018-19 regular season, or the Parayko who stepped up in the playoffs, or something in between? Or could Parayko capitalize on his playoff success to take a big step forward in 2019-20?
One potential clue goes back to when Berube was named coach in November, right as the first quarter of the season was ending. In Q1, Parayko logged an average of 21:04 of ice time, whereas in each of the other three quarters he was at or above 22:03. Moreover, his PP time went from non-existent to more than a minute per game, and a third of the team’s man-advantage time overall. This was a direct effect of Berube not being of the same mindset as prior coach Mike Yeo, who we know from his time not only in St. Louis but also Minnesota likes to lean on one defenseman as “the guy,” with everyone else left to fend over scraps of ice time. With Yeo gone, Alex Pietrangelo did remain Berube’s key defensemen; but Parayko was no longer relegated to less ice time and a total lack of man advantage minutes.
Before poolies who own Parayko get too excited though, for all the fanfare over his playoff performance he didn’t even manage a point per every other game. What’s more – Parayko’s offensive zone starting percentage, which has gone down in each of his seasons, was an even lower 42.8% during the playoffs. What looks to be happening is Parayko is caught in a suboptimal situation where Alex Pietrangelo is still the top guy under Berube, and yet Parayko is skilled enough to play tough minutes so as to allow Berube to deploy the more one-dimensional Vince Dunn in situations lending themselves to point production, which explains how Dunn was one of four rearguards last season to tally 35+ points despite not even averaging 20:00 of ice time per game.
Parayko is kind of a victim of his own success, allowing the team to use him in tough situations that do not lend themselves to scoring even 40 points. With the Blues winning a Stanley Cup using this formula, I’d look for it to continue and, with that, for Parayko to have a difficult time even hitting 40 points. As such, don’t fall into the trap of overvaluing him come draft day based on his high-profile playoffs.
Questions for Mailbag column
As it turns out, I’m already set for questions for my next monthly mailbag column, where I answer your fantasy hockey questions. But if you don’t mind waiting a bit longer for an answer, you can still go ahead and send me questions either by private messaging them to me (rizzeedizzee) via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.
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