Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Vegas Golden Knights
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Incoming – Garret Sparks, Nicolas Roy
Impact of changes – These were cost-cutting moves designed to keep the team cap compliant. Moving Haula and Gusev allowed the Golden Knights to sign a star like Mark Stone long term. While they never got to see Gusev play in a Knights’ uniform, his loss could come back to bite them. His potential is tremendous, but his price tag (over $4 million) would have made things too tight, cap-wise. And since Haula was injured 15 games into last season, technically Vegas merely traded two pieces of their lineup that they never got to see last year anyway.
The loss of centers Haula and Bellemare certainly opens up roster spots for prospects, and moving Miller – the one piece they traded that actually played a significant role – opens up a spot on the blue line. The arrival of Sparks gives some competition to Malcolm Subban for the backup job. Neither goaltender came out of 2018-19 exactly brimming with confidence, so the battle will be an interesting one (hopefully it doesn’t devolve into a competition to see who is the least shaky).
Ready for full-time – Cody Glass, in an ideal world, would get in a season of AHL action first. On most teams, that would happen. But the offseason moves have Vegas hoping he puts in a good camp and makes the team outright. Glass missed a big chunk of last season in the WHL due to injury. But he did return in time to get in a few AHL games and was very impressive. He also impressed for Team Canada at the WJC and he did lead the WHL in points-per-game average (69 points – although just 38 games). If he can make the squad right away (better than even chance – I have him at 60% odds in the Fantasy Guide), he can easily exceed 30 points coming off the third line.
Brandon Pirri is not really a prospect, but he’s also not a surefire NHL player either so he’s worth noting here. The 28-year-old has 72 goals in 259 career NHL games but has had trouble sticking in the NHL the last two seasons. Last year he was known as the guy who was called up, scored six goals and nine points in seven games – and then was sent back down. Huh? Pirri also had 42 points in 29 games in the minors, so he has nothing left to prove at that level. But he needs to fight his way into the top six here because his game doesn’t translate to the third line.
Valentin Zykov was another victim waiver-wire CBA hell last season, as teams didn’t want to send him to the minors because he’d have to clear waivers…and yet they also didn’t want to play him. In the end he was put on waivers on November 29th by Carolina and then claimed by Edmonton, who then waived him on December 29 and he was claimed by Vegas. He got into 13 games with Carolina as a PP specialist, but managed just three points. He got into five games with Edmonton before they’d seen enough (a total of 33 minutes of ice time there). And then Vegas, well…they must have just liked him for his popcorn-serving skills because in three months with the team he got into 10 games – with four of them crammed into meaningless late-season games when the playoffs were already locked. Let’s not forget that Zykov led the AHL in goals scored in 2017-18 and he’s still only 24 years old. But this kind of treatment is killing his development. He needs to make a big statement in camp.
Nicolas Hague is long shot to make the team, but he should get in a couple of recalls at different points in the season. He’s a hulking 6-6 defenseman who had 32 points for Chicago (AHL) as a rookie-pro. He’s only just starting to assert himself physically and he’s already very strong at both ends of the ice. He’s close.
Jimmy Schuldt is the player who will take the spot that Hague is after. He took a long time signing his contract, which was strange because he was never drafted and had just one NHL game under his belt, and in the end it was just for a one-way contract ($850k). A strong puck-mover who will get some PP time, Schuldt is a sleeper pick if you need a 30-point defenseman at the end of your draft.
Vegas Golden Knights prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – Vegas boasts two incredible scoring lines with William Karlsson/Jonathan Marchessault /Reilly Smith and Paul Stastny/Mark Stone/Max Pacioretty and a promising potential third line with Pirri, Glass and Alex Tuch. How much better would that line look with Haula and Gusev there? On defense Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore have good fantasy value, with Schuldt showing a lot of promise. In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury is a top goalie own, but the bottom really drops out after that. If Fleury gets hurt, the team will persevere the way they did the last time he was hurt and they trotted fifth- and sixth-string goaltenders out there to continue picking up wins. But fantasy-wise in terms of upside, the outlook is bleak when it comes to goaltending depth.
As an expansion team, the prospect pipeline is still being filled. If Glass, Hague and Schuldt all make the team by end of the season, the farm system will only have newly-drafted Peyton Krebs and Nicolas Roy (acquired in the Haula deal) with any fantasy significance. Still, if one of my players were traded to Vegas or if I owned a Vegas player, chances are his production will go up and possibly by a lot. And if a prospect of mine was traded there then his odds of making it increase due to less competition.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B)
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