We’re getting close! Prospect tournaments are firing up next weekend. Rookie camps will follow that week. We're a mere two weeks until main camps open, and then we’ve got preseason action beginning about 30 seconds after that.
The long summer is just about over. That means fantasy drafts are heating up all over the place. I’ve been offering personalized rankings for managers, and business has been picking up. (If you’re interested, send me a message on Twitter). The next four weekends will be host to many a chicken wing and lottery pick.
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JT Miller begins his first full season in Tampa Bay as a real threat to increase his across-the-board totals. After the deadline deal from New York, the 25-year-old concluded his regular season by splitting time next to Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on L1 and with Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point in the middle of the lineup.
Those 19 games bore out 10 goals, 18 points, and 45 shots on goal. Just six of those points came on the man-advantage, despite seeing 2:23 of power play time on the top unit. This appeared to be a match made in heaven for the Bolts and for fantasy owners. Until the playoffs came, of course.
In 17 postseason contests, his production dipped considerably. Two goals, eight points and just 32 shots on goal. Four of those points came on the man-advantage where his deployment shot up to 3:33 per night. As the team tried to get things rolling, he ended up on the third line with Gourde and rookie, Anthony Cirelli.
Coming into 2018-19, the questions are plentiful for the former 15th overall selection from 2011. First and foremost, is his position in the lineup and positional eligibility. Fantrax has him as a RW/C. Yahoo has him as a RW. Only ESPN has him as a C/LW option. Drafting him with the expectation that he meshes with Stamkos and Kucherov would mean you’re locking him down as a left-winger on your roster with no assurance that he’ll be given that eligibility. Not straight away at least.
The other option that the Bolts need to look at is if Cirelli isn’t ready to take on the 3C duties, how easy would it be to simply slide Killorn up to 1LW and move Miller to 3C? That would be an even-strength killer to his fantasy value. It would also put his spot as the net-front on PP1 in jeopardy if Killorn found a little magic at evens.
The potential is there for a career-year for Miller. But the moving parts that need to come together are considerable. He'll be a big swing in the top 60 and I'd caution against reaching before 80 on draft day. In all likelihood, he ends up living in the 55-point range that's he seen the previous two campaigns.
Word came down on Friday that Patrice Bergeron is on track to start the season with the Bruins after offseason groin surgery in June. This is the second consecutive summer that the 33-year-old has gone under the knife as he needed a sports hernia repaired last year. Bergeron will skip the team’s trip to China in mid-September but plans to appear in at least a couple of the domestic preseason contests.
Patrice Bergeron said he will not go with the Bruins to China. He will stay back to continue rehabbing from his offseason surgery.— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) August 31, 2018
The veteran centre posted some incredible numbers in his 14th NHL season. 30 goals and 63 points in 64 games. His 0.98 points-per-game represented a career-high. As was his 13.4 conversion rate.
The boost in production can be explained by a few causes. His centring arguably the most lethal line in the NHL with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is at the forefront. His high conversion rate and a career-high offensive zone start time come next. Last season, Bergeron started 59.4 percent of his even-strength shifts in the fun end of the rink. A far cry from the typical 40 percent he was used to for the majority of his career.
So, what can we expect next season from the reigning Selke winner? Well, his projected point totals are right around the 63 he posted a year ago. Only most have him achieving so in 75-plus contests. That would fall back in line with his production over the majority of the previous six seasons. However, those were the days of all the heavy defensive lifting. The Bruins will be placing all the weight on that top line to drive offense.
I’ll put the over/under on his point-per-game output at 0.85, or a 70-point pace over a full season. I’d also been keen to take the over.
Starting 2018-19 KHL season teams will be awarded 2 points for ANY win. pic.twitter.com/s1Cq3ZO9T4— KHL (@khl_eng) August 31, 2018
The KHL has changed their scoring system to mimic what the NHL does. I don’t know about you, but I was hoping the NHL would follow the K on this one. Rewarding teams for a regulation win just makes too much sense.
Noah Hanifin put pen to paper on Thursday. The restricted free-agent and new Calgary Flame signed a five-year pact worth 4.95 million per. Let’s remember that five million is the new four million – especially when it comes to blueliners. That makes this pretty good value for both sides. Hanifin will be 27 when the contract expires and will be set to join unrestricted free agency right in the midst of his prime. The team gets a young, top four defender at under five million.
Hanifin has witnessed slight offensive improvements in each of his three NHL seasons. That culminated with 10 goals and 32 points in 79 contests last season. He was sheltered in Carolina, playing third pairing minutes at even-strength and skating on the team’s second power-play unit. A similar deployment is expected in Calgary as he’s immediately reunited with his former Hurricanes’ bench boss, Bill Peters.
It’s always a bit of a challenge to project a 21-year-old, especially one with nearly 300 NHL games under his belt. However, the 21-year-old has never projected as a premier point producer. He’s likely destined to living in the 35-point range for his primes years and be able to supplement the peripheral categories with a few blocks and maybe sniff 100 hits if he ramps it up.
I wonder what Darnell Nurse's camp thinks of the Hanifin extension? The 23-year-old Oilers' defender produced 26 even-strength points compared to Hanifin's 25. He also played close to four minutes more per game while getting nary a sniff of power play deployment. The Oilers will have a difficult time fitting Nurse under the cap until they can put Sekera on LTIR. But even then, they'll need to move some parts around when everyone is healthy.
I expect Nurse is looking for 4-4.5 million himself.
The Winnipeg Jets signed their top prospect, Kristian Vesalainen earlier this week. The power winger was selected 24th overall in 2017 after seeing time in SHL. He made the transfer to the Finnish Liiga in 2017-18 and was a force. 22 goals and 43 points in 49 games were good to lead all U22 players in goals and points. His six points in five World Junior Championship games was a nice icing on the cake.
Vesalainen is trapped behind incredibly youthful depth on the wings in Winnipeg. That means he should begin his North American career in the AHL. But watch out for this player in dynasty leagues. He owns high-end offensive skills and the size to impact the game in different ways than an Ehlers or Connor can at their statures.
Vincent Trocheck is going to be a top 10 skater this season in multi-cat leagues that count faceoffs. Being a centre will drop his value, but his across-the-board ability is wildly underrated. He’s one of my favourite fantasy assets in these type of leagues.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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