November 6, 2015

by steve laidlaw on November 6, 2015

Parise hurt, Forsberg's regression, Kucherov heating up, Carlson a top-10 defenseman, and more.

Zach Parise went down with a lower-body injury and did not return. It looked like his knee. He did try to grit through and play a few more shifts but ultimately had to leave the game. Mike Yeo has ruled him out for Saturday’s game, though we don’t know the full extent of the injury just yet.

While less important, the Wild also lost Nate Prosser in this one. Any extended amount of time lost here will really test the Wild’s depth as they already have Justin Fontaine and Tyler Graovac on the shelf. With the Central Division as competitive as it is, the Wild cannot afford to slip into a funk for any amount of time, especially not as Devan Dubnyk continues to struggle.

Mind you, Dubnyk’s win/loss record is pristine but his save percentage has slipped below .900. He has also allowed three goals or more in seven of his 10 starts. Life won’t get any easier if Parise misses a bunch of time.

Parise’s injury opens up a spot on the top line, alongside Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, for Thomas Vanek, who is off to a pretty good start to the season with 10 points in 12 contests.

The Wild elected to use Marco Scandella on the top power-play unit in lieu of the four-forward setup they normally use with Parise in the lineup. Scandella used the opportunity to score a power-play goal so he may make for an intriguing add in the short term.

Jason Zucker extended his scoring streak to seven games. What I really like about Zucker is how much he shoots. He’s averaging 3.33 SOG per game, a 273-SOG pace. That’s just a great way to generate offense. Zucker is a career 12.9% shooter. It’s unlikely that he’ll keep that up with this kind of shot volume. That said, if he can shoot even 10%, some simple math tells you that a 27-goal season is in order. That’s not a fancy round number but it would have tied him for 27th in goals last season with some big names like Logan Couture, Patrick Kane, James van Riemsdyk, Gustav Nyquist, Mike Hoffman, Mike Cammalleri and Marian Gaborik. Point being, Zucker is showing some serious fantasy value.

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Interesting look at how Filip Forsberg has continued to produce in the face of regression.  

He is undoubtedly a high-end NHL talent, but there were concerns of some regression coming into his Sophomore campaign, given some percentages in his rookie season that didn’t appear sustainable. Some of those percentages have begin to regress. But due to many factors, including an increase in 5v5 ice time and an abundance of skill, Forsberg is going to continue to be a productive player for years.

One thing I’ll disagree with is the notion that an increase in five-on-five time will help Forsberg. While it is true that such an increase would help that increase simply isn’t likely to occur. Forsberg is already seeing the fourth most even-strength ice time of any Predator forward at 15:07 per game. There isn’t much room for more unless the team stops playing their fourth line entirely and that just isn’t the trend in today’s NHL.

Instead, Forsberg has seen a spike in ice time that is the result of some usage on the penalty kill, which could maybe lead to an extra point or two in a lucky season.

What I’m wondering is where Forsberg’s shooting prowess went. Last season he averaged 2.89 SOG per game. This season he’s at 2.25, a mere 184-SOG pace. The decrease in overall shooting hasn’t resulted in an increase in shooting efficiency, with Forsberg shooting a worse percentage than last season. If that keeps up, even 15 goals is going to be a challenge. I’m betting he splits the difference between last year’s 26 and this year’s 14-goal pace. Call it an even 20.

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It was only a matter of time but Nikita Kucherov is really rolling with three goals and six points in the last four games. What’s funny is that the Triplets aren’t even skating together right now. Instead it’s Ondrej Palat up on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula, while Alex Killorn has grabbed Palat’s spot alongside Kucherov and Tyler Johnson.

Johnson, by the way, has two goals and three points in the last three games, since getting the monkey off his back to kick off this little streak. Patience is a virtue.

I imagine the Triplets will be back together soon enough. Once Jonathan Drouin is ready to go, you have to figure they will want to get him back on a line with Stamkos. He has been skating in practice so he is close to a return.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has moved to 2-0. Pump the brakes a little on the Vasilevskiy takeover watch, however. While Ben Bishop has a losing record, his underlying numbers are just fine. In fact, Bishop’s goals-against average and save percentage are virtually identical to what they were last year. The Lightning just haven’t been scoring for him. Also, Vasilevskiy might be 2-0 but he’s beaten the Sabres and Hurricanes. Not exactly a murderer’s row.

I like Vasilevskiy, he’s one of the best goalie prospects in the game. We are just too quick to give these young guys the crown when there are perfectly capable starters already in tow. I’ll be monitoring the situation closely, however.

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John Carlson just ended a four-game slide with a goal and an assist to push him to 12 points in 12 games. If he isn’t in your top 10 fantasy defensemen, I need to see that list and make some edits.

Carlson will slow eventually. A full half of his dozen points have come on the power play. It’s safe to say Carlson won’t score 40 PPP (which is his current pace) even considering how lethal the Capitals’ power play is. 30 PPP is a real possibility, which makes a 60-point season also possible. My pre-season projection was 50 points so a climb to 60 wouldn’t be that outlandish. I don’t think he gets there but you have to consider it in the realm of possible outcomes.

Matt Niskanen, meanwhile is slowly chugging along with five points in 12 games. Not overly impressive but right on schedule. This while on a five-game scoreless streak. But he’ll have plenty of those on his way to repeating something around last season’s 31-point output.

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Alex Khokhlachev has been getting some decent ice time since getting called up having skated over 14 minutes in each of his games thus far. He’s done that all without any power play time either, which is both impressive and a bad sign for his short-term fantasy value.

Colin Miller is on a five-game scoring streak for the Bruins but it’s one that I’m not particularly buying. The rookie defenseman is skating only 15:26 per game, with just 1:19 on the power play, yet he already has six points on the season, three of which have come on the power play. Safe to say that as the Bruins’ offense regresses, Miller will see some donuts on his game log.

David Krejci is already experiencing a little bit of that regression as he hasn’t scored in three straight contests. I was hoping he’d keep up the production a while longer to really maximize his sell high status. Nine games of elite production isn’t enough to trick most people these days.

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Goodness gracious Dale Weise! Am I going to have to eat my words from last week? Weise has grabbed Alex Semin’s spot on the second power-play unit, while the Russian forward has been a healthy scratch for the past five games. The result has been this torrid run of scoring.

Weise has already set a new career high with two PPP this season. I think I’m safe for now.

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I’m hearing lots of grumbling about the state of the Islanders right now and how some of their youngsters just aren’t breaking out as quickly as some hoped. I’m not quite there yet, mostly because my projections for these guys were fairly modest.

Admittedly, I was high on Ryan Strome, projecting him for 57 points. That’s still in the realm of possibility even as his early struggles have led to benchings and getting pushed down the depth chart. I’ve seen enough struggling to push Strome’s projection down to 50. He’s too talented to fall off entirely. I just wish he’d shoot the puck more. During his time with John Tavares he was passing up open looks to try and force-feed Tavares. He has to be willing to shoot, even if it isn’t necessarily his instinct.

Anders Lee is another one folks are concerned with but with seven points in 14 games, Lee is just about on-schedule for my projection of 47 points. He’s going to bounce up and down the lineup. That’s just how Jack Capuano does it. And when Lee is on the top line with Tavares he’s going to go buck wild. And when he’s on the third line, his production will wane. He’s the net-front guy on the top power-play unit so you know he’s going to keep up the PPP.

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Just when I was getting super stoked about Michael Stone, the Coyotes go back to running four forwards on their top power-play unit. Mikkel Boedker was out there for almost eight minutes alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson. If there’s any saving grace it’s that the Coyote power play went 0/6, despite the Avalanche constantly handing them chances.

Stone went minus-one with two SOG in just 18:34 of action. I want to see if the ‘Yotes stick with the four-forward approach for one more game before relegating Stone back to waivers.

Martin Hanzal made his return for Arizona and picked up where he left off with a pair of assists. Regression is coming for Hanzal but what’s scary is that he hasn’t scored a goal yet. Given his status as net-front presence on the top power-play unit, you have to figure he’ll bang in a few with the man-advantage, let alone what he might do at even strength.

Meanwhile, Antoine Vermette was right back out of the Arizona lineup as he continues to nurse his lower-body injury.

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I didn’t watch the game but was the five-some of Jaromir Jagr, Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Alex Petrovic and Dmitri Kulikov as big of a tire fire as the game log shows? They combined for a horrific minus-19.

I was optimistic that Bjugstad would take off with Aleksander Barkov out for an extended period. Four points in six games is about par for the course. He could’ve done that even with Barkov still around.

Instead, the Panthers’ top line seems to be struggling. Jagr has two points in four games since Barkov went down, but that’s also with a couple of games missed due to injury.

Huberdeau has three points in six games over that same span, which is actually a bump in production as the winger has just five points in 13 games on the season. Quite the slump for a guy I had projected for 60 points. There’s still time to turn it around but much like with Strome, Huberdeau really needs to start shooting more or else teams are just going to always play him for the pass.

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Good read on James Reimer feeling the pressure to turn his game around or risk washing out of the league.

The tactics have done wonders already for goalies such as Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, who essentially saved his career last season and wound up with a six-year, $26-million (U.S.) deal as a result.

Dubnyk has since turned Reimer onto the technique, which is being used by about 10 goalies league-wide this season.

If Reimer is on the Dubnyk plan that is definitely encouraging. Of course, as mentioned earlier, Dubnyk has regressed this season, which lends some credence to the notion that last year was a fluke.

Reimer’s numbers this season aren’t exactly sparkling with a .908 save percentage. Half of his six starts have been of the quality variety (a save percentage above .910), which makes him a largely undependable asset. We are dealing with small samples here, though.

Ultimately, Jonathan Bernier is still the number one goalie in Toronto. Reimer is going to have to kill it while Bernier is hurt if he wants to make this a conversation.

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Check out Dobber’s latest for Puck Daddy.

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Darren Dreger reports that the NHL may experiment with a three-on-three tournament for its All-Star Game this season. I can’t endorse this idea strongly enough. The All-Star Game, in its current format, stinks. Anything to spruce it up. Hell, this might even be enough to get me to go attend.

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Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.