Bubble week continues here at Dobber Hockey. All week, our writers have been discussing players that may or may not be keepers. You don’t need help figuring out that Jamie Benn or Victor Hedman are keepers, it’s the guys further down the list that can make or break a fantasy season.
I enjoyed the cage match piece from Rick yesterday, particularly his discussion of Bryan Little. I agree with Rick that 2017-18 was an aberration from Little and with no help coming in the off season down the middle, he’s back to his second-line role, likely between Nikolaj Ehlers (whom I’ll discuss later) and Patrik Laine. His PP production may not improve much, but if he can play 82 games again, he’ll improve on those 43 points. He should come a big discount in season-long leagues.
I have a keeper league with some other fantasy hockey writers, one which is a cap league. We haven’t yet had to submit keepers but I have a couple key players due for raises in Ondrej Kase and Josh Morrissey. I really wish the teams would figure out their contracts soon. I don’t think either will be significant enough to price them off my roster, but I will have to wait and see what Morrissey’s number is. He can help a lot for peripheral stats like hits and blocked shots but I’m unsure the point production will be enough if he gets a substantial raise.
We have a little under a week left until the release of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide! It has both articles and projections, which will be updated as the preseason progresses. There is a lot of information to get through so be sure to grab your copy from the Dobber Shop early!
Mattias Janmark signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars for $2.3-million. There are probably a couple reasons for the one-year deal. First, Janmark missed all of 2016-17 due to injury, meaning he’s going into his age-26 season with just 154 career NHL games. Not really a lot to give a guy a long-term deal at that age. Also, Dallas has significant cap hits coming off after this season as the team will clear $12.4-million between Jason Spezza and Marc Methot. They will still have to deal with Tyler Seguin’s need for a new contract but once that is taken care of, they’ll have a much better idea of what their long-term cap situation will look like.
Dallas rotated different fourth wheels on the top PP unit last year including Spezza, Brett Ritchie, and Devin Shore. Janmark also saw some time up there. If Janmark is to have fantasy value in excess of what he did last year, those top PP minutes are going to be a necessity. He can be a 40-point player even without those power-play minutes but he’s capable of being a 50- or 55-point guy if they give him that consistent slotting. Whether they actually give it to him is another matter.
The Nashville Predators signed defenceman Dan Hamhuis for two years with an AAV of $1.25-million. Given that he’s likely to be slotted on the third pair behind Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm, and the abundance of offensive options on the blue line meaning no power-play minutes, there isn’t much for fantasy relevance here. It should tangentially help the goaltending by giving them more (good) defensive depth, but there’s not much here for Hamhuis specifically.
Jason Zucker signed a five-year deal with Minnesota, carrying a $5.5-million AAV. I've written extensively on him since the season ended: contract expectation here, his PPTOI allocation here, and reviewing his line mates here, There's not much need to dig more into him right now other than to say it seems like a good deal for the Wild. I'll write on him a bit more for tomorrow's Ramblings.
Last year was his first full season and he didn’t disappoint with 32 points in 80 games. The moves Anaheim made on the blue line, namely trading Sami Vatanen and letting Shea Theodore go in the expansion draft, opened some ice time for Montour and he responded with a productive season.
It’s hard to see a lot of progression here fantasy-wise, though. It looks like he’ll be playing behind Josh Manson for the foreseeable future at even strength and will be the second option after Cam Fowler for the top PP unit. Expecting more than 19-20 minutes combined between EV and PP time is a bridge too far barring an injury (which did happen to Fowler last year).
For most leagues, Montour is a guy who is at best a bench option or more likely a waiver option.
The Calgary Flames announced Wednesday morning that Jarome Iginla would be having a retirement press conference in Calgary at the end of the month. Following a season where no team would sign him, it seemed inevitable.
I’m going to write more on Iginla in the coming days but for now, it’ll suffice to post my favourite hockey moment in my lifetime:
As a Canadian hockey fan, Crosby yelling, “IGGY IGGY,” is a memory I’ll never forget.
I personally had hopes that Jankowski and Sam Bennett could form two-thirds of a solid third line in 2018-19 – they performed well with Garnet Hathaway last year – but the addition of Elias Lindholm could throw a wrench in these plans. If James Neal slides on the top line, and the second line is left as it has been for a couple years, Lindholm seems the logical choice for the third-line centre position, pushing Jankowski to the fourth line. It’s good news for Calgary’s depth but bad news for Jankowski’s flickering fantasy value.
There has been talk from the team that Lindholm will go to the top line, Neal to the second line, and that would possibly put Michael Frolik on the third line with Jankowski and Bennett. With the addition of Derek Ryan, this might make some sense. We’ll have to see what Calgary decides to do. For now, Jankowski is still waiver fodder in most leagues.
For those who don’t follow him, Cam Robinson’s Twitter account can be followed here. Not only is he consistent with tweeting his thoughts on whichever prospect(s) he happens to be watching at the time, but he sends out polls from time to time to gauge the opinions of his Twitter followers. One such poll caught my eye the other day:
O/U on Rasmus Dahlin’s point total next season: 39.5
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) July 23, 2018
A little over 4/10 people (sample of over 750 votes) believe that Rasmus Dahlin will be a 40-point defenceman in 2018-19. Let’s talk about that.
In the history of the NHL (or at least in the extensive records of Hockey Reference’s Play Index), two defencemen have managed at least 40 points at the age of 18: Bobby Orr and Phil Housley. Bobby Orr is the greatest defenceman to ever lace a pair of skates and Phil Housley played on a Sabres team that scored four goals per game (3.98, to be exact) in 1982-83. The 2017-18 Sabres scored 2.41 goals per game, which was one of the worst marks in the league. Even if Buffalo, as a team, had led the league in goals per game last year, they would have still nearly been a half-goal per game behind that 1982-83 Buffalo team. Even if this year’s Sabres team increases their team scoring by 25 percent, which would be a massive leap in goal production, they still wouldn’t have a top-10 mark compared to teams in 2017-18 and would still fall nearly a goal per game short of that 1982-83 Buffalo team.
There is also the question of his role. What I’m not saying is that Dahlin is not a future Norris Trophy contender. What I am saying is that he’s not going to start his NHL career playing 24 minutes a night. Besides that, Rasmus Ristolainen still has a firm grip on the top PP unit. I’m optimistic enough to believe that if the Sabres power play has a slow start through the first couple months that Dahlin can eventually take it over, but he won’t have that position to start the year.
Some people may point to Aaron Ekblad’s rookie season where he managed 39 points and say, “well that’s close enough.” Maybe Dahlin has a similar season. More accurately is that type of season is a huge outlier and, judging by Ekblad’s individual points percentage that year compared to every season since, he got a bit lucky.
Can Dahlin get to, or close to, 40 points? Sure. It would take a lot of luck to get there, though. And going off the chatter I’m seeing aside from that poll Cam had a couple days ago, Dahlin is going to be drafted as a player with the expectation of 40 points, not as a player with the upside of 40 points. There is a difference. We’ll see when ADP data comes available, but he’s probably going to be an easy pass for me when draft season hits.
A couple days ago in the comments of my Ramblings, someone asked about the point production differences for this year only between Brayden Schenn and Nikolaj Ehlers. I want to talk about Ehlers for a second.
Just in general, I think Ehlers is one of the most skilled wingers in the NHL. There aren’t a lot of players who can get a hold of the puck in the defensive zone and cut through the entire opposing team to gain entry into the offensive zone with control consistently, and Ehlers is one of them. Here’s how he compares to one of the best wingers in the league in terms of some playmaking metrics and zone entries/exits over the last two years (from CJ Turtoro’s viz library):
He really is that good.
The problem, for fantasy purposes, is his power play usage.
Over his three seasons, Ehlers has maxed out at 13 PPPs and averaged 12 per year. That’s because he’s largely been left off the top unit, one which the Jets use heavily. Even when they were using different combinations from Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler-Laine last year, Ehlers was infrequently moved up to the top unit. They favoured Paul Stastny (after the trade), Mathieu Perreault, and Jack Roslovic. Ehlers did see some minutes on the top unit, but he wasn’t at the top of the pecking order for replacements.
Last year, Ehlers had a little over 166 minutes on five-on-four (data from Corsica). There were 58 forwards league-wide in the range of 150-180 minutes at 5v4. Of those 58 players, the highest PP total was Mitch Marner at 25. Only three additional forwards cracked 20 PPPs and only 10 forwards total had more than 15. That means over 80 percent of the forwards in that TOI range finished with 15 PPPs or fewer.
(side note: 3/10 forwards with over 15 PPPs in that TOI range all played on the same Toronto PP unit)
The elite producers at five-on-five last year managed somewhere between 45-55 points at 5v5. Only two players had more than 55 and they were Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov. Even if we assume Ehlers is among the elite 5v5 producers and he can manage 50 points (which would be an exceptional season), add 15 more 5v4 points and you get to roughly 65 points. Add a handful more for different game states like 4v4, 3v3, and 5v3, and he probably tops out at 70 points.
Keep in mind that 70 points would be in a season where everything goes right given his current situation. It’s not to say that 70 points is his floor, it’s to say that 70 points is the best we can expect from him assuming his power-play usage doesn’t change. This is also back-of-the-napkin math, not an actual projection.
By some of the available metrics, Ehlers is one of the top offensive wingers in the league. I hate to sound like a broken record, but PP production has a gigantic impact on overall production. All these metrics can say he’s one of the top offensive wingers in the league, but if he stays on the second PP unit for 1:50 per game, he won’t reach his fantasy potential. For that reason, to the commenter in the Ramblings, I said to take Schenn. I think Ehlers has the higher upside as a player for his career but I don’t think he’ll reach it in 2018-19.
Don’t yell at me. Yell at Paul Maurice.
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