Don’t forget to grab your copy of the 2019 Dobber Midseason Fantasy Guide! It’s available right now in the Dobber Shop. There is something for everyone: projections and tips to push for a league title this year as well as prospects and call-ups to watch for those that might be at the bottom of their league and looking to 2019-20 and beyond. Everything the smart fantasy owner needs is contained in those digital pages.
Elias Pettersson was skating before the optional game-day skate for the Canucks on Wednesday, and even skated with a few players during the optional. He did not play on Wednesday night, however. All the same, it appears he’s on the cusp of returning, which I’m sure is music to the ears of many a fantasy owner.
Peter Cehlarik was called up by the Bruins and skated on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk in the team’s game Wednesday night. This is important because it resulted in the healthy scratch of David Backes. I had hopes that Backes could flourish with a play-making centre and talented, young scoring winger but he’s simply floundered. Some of his play-driving metrics were strong as recently as last year so I don’t think he’s fallen off the map as a player. With that said, the 20-goal, 50-point seasons are long gone. If he can be a solid two-way, bottom-6 winger for the balance of his contract, I think that’s the best Boston can ask for.
It was announced last night that there would be no World Cup of Hockey in 2020. You hear that? That’s the sound of our next work stoppage stampeding through the gates.
The Ducks traded forward Pontus Aberg to the Minnesota Wild for forward Justin Kloos. Kloos has 80 points in his last 110 AHL games going back to the start of the 2017-18 season. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
Here’s the thing with Aberg: Minnesota has a lot of talented wingers. There are the veterans in Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, and Mikael Granlund. Luke Kunin has looked good since returning from injury and they’re really trying to make Jordan Greenway work. In other words, there is a lot of competition for Aberg. He also shot 14.3 percent at five-on-five with Anaheim, which is absurdly high, especially for a player of his calibre.
This is my best guess as to what happens. Aberg comes in and gets a middle-six role out of the gate. That lasts about two weeks, and then he’s pushed to the fourth line. After that, he becomes part of the rotation with guys like J.T. Brown and Marcus Foligno. If deep-league owners want to chase him, go ahead, but that’s the only instance I’d have interest.
Speaking of Anaheim, among other moves, they recalled prospect forward Troy Terry. That is a guy to keep an eye on, on the other hand. He’s been tearing up the AHL and has a lot of offensive tools the Ducks could use. Let’s see where they slot him, though, before getting too excited.
William Nylander was back on a line with Auston Matthews in practice on Wednesday, along with Zach Hyman, while Andreas Johnsson moved up to skate with John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Does that last? Only Mike Babcock knows, but this is where Nylander should have been all along. Let’s see what he can do with it.
Montreal forward Paul Byron was suspended three games for his charge on Florida defenceman MacKenzie Weeger. Byron had recently been skating on the third line for Montreal though their lines have been a bit in flux of late.
Matt Duchene scored a pair of goals in his first game back in the lineup following the birth of his son, a 5-2 win, and against Colorado no less. That gives his 20 goals and 45 points in 38 games this year. That also tied him with Aleksander Barkov in points over the last calendar year at 82 (though Duchene did it in three fewer games). Whether in Ottawa or elsewhere, he’s going to get a hefty contract.
Sean Couturier scored a natural hat trick en route to the Flyers overcoming a 2-0 deficit to take a 4-3 win from the Bruins. Carter Hart shined, making 38 saves in the victory. Boston looked very good most of the night but sometimes one team cashes their chances and gets some saves, and the other doesn’t. Hockey.
Ivan Provorov had a pair of assists in the game, his first multi-point game since November 27th and just his third such contest of the campaign. I’m sure the Flyers, their fans, fantasy owners, and the defenceman himself were hoping for a better season this year. Let’s see what he does over the final 11 weeks of the season.
Peter Cehlarik scored two of Boston’s three goals in the loss. He skated the entire game on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk, got secondary power play minutes, and even scored a six-on-five goal with Halak pulled, skating with their top line. You can read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
Jack Eichel scored his first goal and registered his first point in five games, that goal being the overtime winner over Calgary to lead the Sabres to a 4-3 win. He added an assist as well, giving him his first multi-point game since Christmas. He needs five more assists to set a career high.
Rasmus Dahlin had a very good overall night with a goal, two blocks, two PIMs, and one hit. Even for an 18-year old defenceman, he’s having a solid fantasy hockey campaign thus far.
Arizona laid the wood to San Jose in a 6-3 win on Wednesday night. It was a true team effort as the team had six different goal scorers and only two players (Lawson Crouse and Christian Fischer) had more than one point (each had a goal and an assist). Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a goal, five shots, and two hits in the victory. He’s on his way to another season of double-digit goals and 40-plus points, which would be the fifth time in six years he’s done so, falling short by one point in 2016-17.
Kevin Labanc had a goal and two assists for the Sharks in their loss.
I was looking over the points per 60 minutes leaders since the start of the 2017 season yesterday for something unrelated to these Ramblings but came across some interesting names. All the names you’d expect are inside the top-25 but after that there are some guys we might not expect. Here are a few (minimum 1500 minutes).
Though Hischier’s production hasn’t been eye-popping with 84 points in 124 games, that is still a very solid total, especially for a player his age. The thing is, out of those 84 points, only 12 have come on the power play. It’s not a bunch of secondary assists boosting his scoring, either, as he’s 26th in the league in that span in primary points/60 minutes (goals and first assists), sandwiched between Jack Eichel and Sean Monahan. Playing with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri obviously helps, but almost no centre in the NHL can produce without talented wingers.
Speaking of guys who produce good-but-not-great numbers because of a lack of power play production (and minutes)…
I understand that 24 points in 46 games isn’t a great fantasy campaign for Konecny owners, but he’s second among the team’s forwards in points/60 minutes this year, trailing only Claude Giroux. He’s also first among their forwards in shot attempts/60 minutes. And he does everything we look for in a player’s underlying metrics: drives the play, shoots, looks for exits/entries with possession, and knows how to find his teammates (from CJ Turtoro’s tableau):
He’s a burgeoning star. This is a guy fantasy owners who are currently way out of the league race should be targeting. You can probably get away with a very good roster player and a draft pick to get him. I would be at least inquiring. This kid is going to be a very, very good fantasy asset for the next decade.
Vegas is a team I really struggle with. Their top two lines, one of which Tuch is a part of, are incredible. I know the top line has struggled to score this year but that’s more luck than anything. The second line has been great, particularly when Brandon Pirri was there. But it’s not a situation where they’re given huge opportunities for success. For example, no forwards this year is averaging 19:30 of ice time per game, only two are over 19 minutes at all (William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault), and Reilly Smith is the only other guy over 18 minutes. They also spread out the power-play minutes, having 8 forwards within 2:06-3:00 in PPTOI/game. Without loads of ice time and heavy PP usage, can Tuch be a 70-point player? Well, the top line did it last year. Why not the second line this year (or in future seasons)?
Tuch is a very, very good real-life player and a very, very good fantasy option, particularly in leagues that count hits. He’s only 22 years old and has seemingly locked himself into top-6 minutes plus one of the power-play units. Maybe he doesn’t hit his true ceiling, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be very valuable in the fantasy game.
They didn’t play on Wednesday night but I wanted to take some time to discuss the Red Wings. In particular the current top line of Gustav Nyquist, Dylan Larkin, and Tyler Bertuzzi. I’m aware that they shuffled lines a bit in their Tuesday night game but it’s those three I want to review.
Larkin was one of my off-season favourites but then my actual projection had me rank him much lower than I had anticipated. Such is life. Anyway, he currently has 45 points in 48 games and he’s doing so with Detroit shooting under 6 percent with him on the ice at five-on-five. A high individual points percentage (over 85 percent) is keeping him afloat, but if that shooting percentage climbs over the final 30-plus games, he has more room for production growth. Imagine that.
Nyquist is up to 40 points in 48 games, tying his production for 2017-18 in 34 fewer contests. His 29 assists are the second-most of his career and he needs just eight more down the stretch to set a career high. He needs 15 total points to set a career high in that regard. He’s doing this while shooting 8.7 percent despite being a career 11.4 percent shooter heading into the year. His on-ice shooting percentage is more normal than Larkin’s at 9.1 percent and he’s currently sporting a career-high in secondary assists at five-on-five. Maybe he has some positive regression coming but don’t forget he’s a likely trade deadline candidate. He may not be in Detroit another month.
He’s bounced all around the lineup but Bertuzzi has apparently found a home on the top line with Larkin. He managed a hat trick over the weekend and currently has a career-high 25 points in 46 games. He’s getting about 30 seconds more ice time post-Christmas than he was prior and he’s shooting more, too, though he’s not at two shots per game just yet.
All told, all three players are having very good seasons individually. Together, they’ve been an excellent line for the Red Wings. That’s not hyperbole, either: in about 87 minutes together at five-on-five, adjusted for score, that trio is enjoying a 62.7 percent shot share. They aren’t wasting shots, either, as their high-danger shot share is over 58 percent. For the record, the only line over the last 1 ½ seasons with 400-plus minutes together sporting a shot share exceeding 60 percent was the old top line for Montreal of Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, and Tomas Tatar. In other words, this Detroit trio has been absolutely sublime, though whether they could keep it up for hundreds of minutes is up for debate.
As I mentioned, this will, at best, only last another month or so until Nyquist is traded. All the same, if they’re skating together, they all deserve some consideration in most fantasy leagues. Maybe someone like Anthony Mantha can take up Nyquist’s mantle when he’s gone? Just some food for thought in your fantasy leagues.
Also, we need more league-wide hype for Larkin. This kid is blossoming into a superstar.
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