Lining Up: Bubble Keeper Week and Potential Linemates

by Flip Livingstone on July 23, 2019
  • Lining Up
  • Lining Up: Bubble Keeper Week and Potential Linemates

Bubble Keeper Week is back at Dobber Hockey, and given the fact that holding onto the right keeper can be all the difference in winning and losing a league, picking the right bubble players can make or break your season from the jump.

With the exciting amount of transactions this summer that have already changed the landscape of both the NHL’s conferences, there are quite a few enticing opportunities for bubble players to step into roles this season as legitimate fantasy threats. More specifically, we’re going to take a look at a few stellar offensive line duos that a bubble keeper could benefit greatly from joining.

Obviously, predicting a coach’s line combinations in July is far from an exact science. But there are a few enticing situations across the league that would quickly catapult a player’s status from a potential drop to a surefire keeper if they were to come to fruition. So we can’t help ourselves from projecting what might be.

Let’s take a look at four fantasy assets that could be big time producers in the very near future:

Edmonton Oilers: Leon Draisaitl (LW) – Connor McDavid (C) – James Neal (RW)

Bubble Keeper: James Neal (RW)

Here we go again, kids. Let’s spin the wheel of “Who the hell is going to play with McDavid this season?” and see where it lands! How is it that after four seasons in the NHL the Edmonton Oilers have still not found someone to play on the wing with the best player on the planet? It’s seriously head-scratching stuff.

The 2019-20 campaign is shaping up to be no different, except with the recent addition of sharpshooter James Neal from the Milan Lucic deal, Edmonton might finally have the gunslinger it needs to play alongside McJesus.

Look, we get it, Neal is coming off a tough season with the Calgary Flames last year when he posted a career-low in goals, assists and points. But he’s a pure shooter who owns a legit shooting percentage of 12.1% in his previous 10 seasons in the NHL while putting up 263 goals.

There’s no telling whether he’ll slot in with Leon Draisaitl and McDavid on the top line or on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and his foot speed doesn’t exactly have fans jumping out of their seats each night. But Neal can shoot. And with McDavid and Draisaitl feeding him the puck, he could be a serious fantasy steal should you have the cojones to make him a keeper.

Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell (LW) – Ryan Getzlaf (C) – Jakob Silfverberg (RW)

Bubble Keeper: Jakob Silfverberg (RW)

Before we get into this one, yes, the Anaheim Ducks aren’t exactly the offensive fantasy threat they used to be, as the club managed only 196 total tallies last season. And while that number put the club in dead-last in overall scoring, the Ducks’ top line combo of Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell still provides some solid fantasy value – especially if they could find a talented right winger.

Enter Jakob Silfverberg. The winger put up a career-high last campaign with 24 goals in 73 contests and with the right opportunity, could be a solid sleeper candidate. Not to mention, Silfverberg’s size and strong two-way game compliments nicely to a line already boasting two players north of 6-foot-1 and 200-plus pounds.

If Silfverberg can crack the top line out of camp (Troy Terry and Ondrej Kase are his biggest competition at the moment), Silfverberg could easily go from a fringe keeper in deep formats to must-own top-line piece that could hit goal and point totals of 30 and 60, respectively.

Keep an eye on the 28-year-old Swede during camp and the preseason. This could be his chance for a breakout year.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Gustav Nyquist (LW)Pierre-Luc Dubois (C) – Cam Atkinson (RW)

Bubble Keeper: Gustav Nyquist (LW)

Now, given the season Nyquist had only a year ago sharing time between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks, Nyquist could arguably already be a keeper in some deeper leagues. Regardless, his offseason move to the Columbus Blue Jackets should prove to be huge in terms of opportunity and production.

With Artemi Panarin’s future now firmly sealed in the Big Apple (we’ll talk more about the speedy Russian in a bit), the door is wide open for Nyquist to hold down the left wing on the top line with two underrated, offensive-minded forwards in Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson.

The increase in overall playing time, power-play chances and top-line minutes should make you consider Nyquist as a keeper, but beware. Given the relative mess this summer has been in Columbus, predicting next season’s output at this point is foolish. Either way, Nyquist is a very sneaky pick to once again crack the 60-point (or higher) plateau.

New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin (LW) – Mika Zibanejad (C) – Pavel Buchnevich (RW)

Bubble Keeper: Pavel Buchnevich (RW)

Despite missing time last season with injury, this dynamic winger has all the potential to be an NHL star. Size, speed, silky hands and a bullet for a shot, Buchnevich now might get the chance to play with his talented countryman in Artemi Panarin on the Rangers’ top line next season.

New York also now employs another intriguing young winger in Finnish young gun Kaapo Kakko, so that top-line right-wing spot might be a tough one to old down for Buchnevich should Kakko come out of the gates hot to kick-off of the season. However, Kakko is only 18 years old, so expecting him to step in right away and play alongside Mika Zibanejad and Panarin is probably a bold call at this point.

If Buchnevich can impress early on and produce, his combination of NHL experience (101 points in 179 games) hands and shooting ability could fit perfectly on a line that already touts two legitimate 70-point players.

Flip Livingstone is a former NHL writer for theScore with past experience at such outlets as Postmedia and Hockey Night in Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @FlipLivingstone.