Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Vegas Golden Knights
For the last 14 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
This year, due to Dobber’s battle with cancer, he recruited Cam Robinson (of Frozen Pool Forensics fame) to pinch hit. The 15th 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 – *Deep Breath* James Neal, Marc-Andre Fleury, Vadim Shipachyov, Shea Theodore, Jonathan Marchessault, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Alex Tuch, Oscar Dansk, Maxime Legace, Chris Casto, Brad Hunt, Paul Thompson, Stefan Matteau, T.J. Tynan, Dylan Ferguson, Keegan Kolesar, Jason Garrison, Nikita Gusev, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Deryk Engelland, Mikhail Grabovski, Jake Bishoff, Connor Brickley, Reilly Smith, William Carrier, Teemu Pulkkinen, Luca Sbisa, Calvin Pickard, Jon Merrill, Tomas Nosek, Cody Eakin, Brendan Leipsic, David Clarkson, William Karlsson, Erik Haula, Nate Schmidt, Clayton Stoner, David Perron, Oscar Lindberg, Griffin Reinhart, Tomas Hyka, Gerard Gallant (Head Coach)
Impact of changes – Where to begin? The 31st NHL franchise will officially kick off its tenure in a few short weeks and with it comes many question marks. Currently, the team owns 11 defenders on one-way contracts, and obviously, we can all do the math that many things must happen before they submit their final roster. The expansion draft process was designed to set Vegas up to be a reasonably competitive team right from the get go, but the players they chose to target make you think they don’t want that concession. With an eye towards building their prospect pipeline from scratch, the team placed great value in future draft selections instead of poaching opposing team’s best unprotected talent. They also put huge stock into the back-end with the hopes of parlaying those assets into further future pieces. So far, the league has been wise enough to not overpay due to a simple number’s game that dictates the Golden Knights will be forced to make changes soon enough. We’ll get into the more specific assets that apply to fantasy leagues further down the page.
Ready for full-time – Shea Theodore had been biding his time in Anaheim behind a deep and capable defense core. Somewhere along the way, it appeared that Brandon Montour had pushed up next to him or even ahead on their depth chart and that paved the way for the Ducks to package the young defender up with Clayton Stoner to protect other assets. Now in Vegas, the 22-year-old appears set to enjoy some quality deployment and showcase the skills that earned him a first-round selection in 2013 and garnered him 68 points in 89 AHL contests. Theodore will bring his strong puck-moving abilities and power play acumen to Vegas this fall and should be a strong contender to see tangible, fantasy-relevant ice time. Read more on Theodore here.
Vadim Shipachyov isn’t your typical rookie. He won’t qualify for the Calder Trophy nor will he be getting ID’d at any pubs on the strip, but the 30-year-old KHL veteran is certainly ready for full-time. Vegas signed Shipachyov after he tore through the competition with SKA to the tune of 26 goals and 76 points in 50 contests last season – good for third most league wide. The two-way pivot immediately steps in as the Golden Knights top line centre and should be afforded all the prime ice that accompanies such a lofty position. It’s not often that a player in such a role will not break into the 50-point range, so even though Vegas isn’t expected to score a ton of goals this season, he should still be a worthy addition to your fantasy team. Read more on Shipachyov here.
Teemu Pulkkinen has accomplished pretty much all you can at the American League level. The Finnish sniper has racked up 83 goals and 157 points in 166 career AHL contests but has yet to see his skills translate to the NHL-level. The 25-year-old found himself plucked off waivers by the Wild and then traded for future considerations to the Coyotes a couple of months later. Blessed with a terrific shot that is deceptive in its release point and speed in which it comes off the blade, Pulkkinen will fight in camp for a chance to unleash his weapon from the team’s bottom six and second power play unit. He if can’t stick with the club, he’ll be exposed to waivers once again and it could be the long journey back to Europe for him. His skating has always been his question mark, so we’ll see if he’s been able to improve that vital area over the summer. Read more on Pulkkinen here.
Brendan Leipsic needed a fresh start. Like Pulkkinen, the agitating and skilled winger had done all he could in the AHL. He paced above a point-per-game with the Marlies last year in his third professional campaign and brings with him a hardnosed style to compliment his skill game. The 5’9 Leipsic was forever stuck behind a deep and youthful forward corps in Toronto so his move to Vegas is a boon for the 23-year-old. He’ll come to camp and fight for a full-time roster spot and the team will have incentives to keep him up as he’ll be waiver eligible for the first time this fall. Read more on Leipsic here.
Fantasy Outlook – As mentioned earlier, the Golden Knights were set up to witness at least a modicum of success this season and with it, means some fantasy worthy assets. Shipachyov, Marchessault, Smith, Perron and Neal represent the potential point producers up front, but none can be expected to push for 60 points. On the backend, we really don’t have a clear picture of who will even start the season with the club, but Theodore appears to be the best bet to see quality power play minutes. Nate Schmidt will make a strong case as well. Fleury comes over as the new face of the franchise and will be given every opportunity to be the undisputed started, but if he stumbles early and often, don’t discount Calvin Pickard from eating into his games played. The former-Avalanche net minder has shown an ability to produce strong save percentage figures even on a poor team. The prospect pipeline is the most promising aspect of this franchise as they were the undisputed winners of the first round this past June. Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom are all A-level prospects with bright fantasy futures and they are supplemented by Alex Tuch, current KHL-scoring leader, Nikita Gusev and Leipsic. Owning Golden Knights’ players for 2017-18 may not be a tantalizing proposition, but they could be building something worthwhile down the line.
Fantasy Grade: C- (Last Year: NR)
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