Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week; Saad, Nyquist, Zetterberg, and More – July 24

by Michael Clifford on July 24, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bubble Keeper Week; Saad, Nyquist, Zetterberg, and More – July 24

 

It’s Keeper Bubble Week here at Dobber Hockey.

Last week I posited the question of which guy to keep as a final keeper in my home league: Viktor Arvidsson or Kevin Fiala. I wanted to address some of the comments from the community below.

Most people said Arvidsson. For the 2018-19 season, Arvidsson does hold more value. He’s likely not to be moved off the top line or the top PP unit and that slotting with his proven goal-scoring ability makes him the better overall value this year.

Like I mentioned in those Ramblings, I’m not convinced that Fiala isn’t the better player right now. If we work under the assumption that Fiala is as good as I think he is, how long does it take before he forces the hand of the coach to play him 17-plus minutes a night?

I wanted to see which players had comparable seasons to Fiala’s 2017-18. I went to Hockey Reference and these are the players since the 2005 lockout to post 20+ goals, 25+ assists in their age-21 season, while playing three-quarters of the year with fewer than 1250 total minutes. The list is short and mostly distinguished:

 

The best comparable season for Fiala’s season is probably Jamie Benn’s 2010-11, though that season saw Benn play just 69 games.

I do think Fiala is the better option in the long-term but Arvidsson is likely the better option for at least another year. Striking that balance is the key to remaining competitive in keeper leagues year after year.

One commenter also suggested Dadonov. His production is good but the peripherals are not. He’s a much better option in points-only leagues than multi-cat leagues. Also, the addition of Mike Hoffman could push Dadonov off the top PP unit.

Anthony Mantha’s name was mentioned a couple times and I’ll say this: I like Mantha a lot as a player but I have little faith in Jeff Blashill as a coach and even less that the Wings will be a competent offensive team for the next couple years. Good player in a bad situation.

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If you have questions about keepers or dynasty option, hit up the comments and we’ll get to your queries.

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We are just a little over a week away until the release of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide! Be sure to grab your copy from the Dobber Shop.

Don’t worry about the release being so early as it’s constantly updated with new information. There is a lot of information all through the fantasy guide so give yourself the time you need to prepare!

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Last week I mentioned that I would be starting my projections. I also mentioned that I would be writing about certain things I find as I compile my projections for the 2018-19 season.

Let’s delve into a few findings. These won’t be projections just yet, more just pointing out certain raw totals from the last two years. All data for these Ramblings is at five on five and extracted from Corsica.

 

Goals

Only eight players have managed at least 20 goals in each of the last two seasons. Some of those names make sense like Vladimir Tarasenko, Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Patrik Laine, and Auston Matthews. Wingers Anders Lee and Rickard Rakell are also on the list. The final name? James van Riemsdyk.

Van Riemsdyk has been known more for his power-play prowess over the last couple years as everyone marvels over his hands around the net. That is prolific five-on-five scoring, however. Now that he’s back in Philadelphia, maybe he’ll be made a focal point of the offence where he can average somewhere in the 17- or 18-minute range per game rather than the 15:24 he has the last two years.

 

Speaking of Rakell, these are the top-3 players in five-on-five goals over the last two years: Auston Matthews (55), Connor McDavid (51), Rickard Rakell (48). That’s not a typo, only McDavid and Matthews have more five-on-five goals over the last two years than Rickard Rakell.

There is probably some quibbling to be done whether he’s just a good player skating with a Hall-Of-Fame centre or a great player skating with a Hall-Of-Fame centre, but for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter. He doesn’t seem destined to split from Ryan Getzlaf anytime soon and is locked into that top PP unit. I’m curious to see where his ADP lands because there isn’t a reason to suspect a decline coming from Rakell this year barring injury or a terrible streak of unluckiness.

 

Last bit on the subject of five-on-five goals, Jeff Skinner has 46 of them over the last two years, just behind Rakell. He seemed destined to be traded from Carolina but here we sit at the end of July and he’s still a Hurricane. Maybe he returns after all? Regardless, coming off a down year largely due to a shooting percentage crash, he’ll be a good value come draft day. Even if he stays with Carolina, he should be a target in fantasy drafts.

 

Primary Assists

I wanted to discuss primary assists instead of all assists to start with. The reason being that secondary assists can be pretty random and the rate that second assists are handed out can vary wildly depending on the hometown scorer. The repeatability of primary assists helps us identify the elite playmakers.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Connor McDavid has the most five-on-five primary assists over the last two seasons with 50. To the surprise of some of us, look who finished second with 45 primary assists at five-on-five:

 

 

Henrik Zetterberg turns 38 in October, hasn’t scored more than 17 goals in any season since 2011-12, and doesn’t really contribute much across the board in stats like penalty minutes, hits, or blocked shots. With the depth of the centre position, there are many leagues where Zetterberg isn’t a must-draft. Leagues that count points only, or include face-off wins, are basically the only leagues where Zetterberg can still carry good value. All the same, it shows how Zetterberg has kept himself not only relevant, but a top playmaker, in a league where youth and speed are the focus.

There have been talks and rumours whether he may or may not play next year. There’s always the question of his health even if he does play. Regardless, it’s been an impressive two years of playmaking from the future Hall of Famer.

 

Johnny Gaudreau leads all wingers in primary assists over the last two seasons but note that Alex Radulov isn’t very far behind. On a team with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg, I think the fact that Radulov had 72 points last year gets a little overlooked. The additional ice time he received in Dallas compared to his season in Montreal helped boost his numbers across the board, even though his actual shot attempt rate per 60 minutes declined slightly.

Unless there’s some sort of trade for Erik Karlsson, it looks like the Dallas lineup last year will largely be the same this year. They brought back Valeri Nichushkin but he won’t be a big threat to Radulov’s ice time. It does seem possible that Nichushkin grabs the top-line slotting with Seguin and Benn but unless he shows more consistency than his last season with the Stars, it won’t be a long-term solution. I like Nichushkin’s skills a lot but he’s probably better suited to play more sheltered minutes on the second or third line.

 

Another surprise on the primary assist leaderboard is Max Domi. He’s just below the cut-off from the top-10 listed above, but his total of 33 over the last two years is one fewer than David Pastrnak and Filip Forsberg, and one more than Josh Bailey and Jakub Voracek. Each of those wingers played on teams with high offensive talent while Domi was in a poor offensive environment in Arizona.

That should give Canadiens fans some hope. Domi’s goal scoring, or lack thereof, has been covered at length both here at Dobber Hockey and elsewhere. A jump in shooting percentage from a career-worst six percent will help but expecting him to be a perennial 20-goal guy is about the most we can ask from him. If he can settle into the production levels that we’ve seen from Zetterberg the last few years, that would be a win for the Habs.

Of course, he needs someone who can finish the play to in order to improve his raw totals and the Habs are lacking proven goal scorers. The same could have been said in Arizona, though, so his 2017-18 season is likely his floor.

 

We’ve covered goals and primary assists so the next logical step is to combine the two and see the leaders in primary points over the last two years. This is the top 20:

 

 

Again, McDavid is at the top, by a significant margin, and it’s not a huge surprise. Auston Matthews sitting third is an incredible feat considering he missed 20 games last year.

At this point I still haven’t done projections but it’s going to be tough to peg Matthews. He is undoubtedly one of the top players in the league even though he won’t be 21 years old until September. The questions are how much more ice time can he earn in excess of the 18:08 he played last year with John Tavares in town, and do the Leafs stack the top PP unit? To truly reach that next step of fantasy greatness, Matthews needs a big jump in PP production. That will ultimately determine whether he ends up in the tier of fantasy players just outside Connor McDavid, or in the tier around the top-25.

 

I’ve written about him perhaps more than any other player this summer, so I won’t dig further into Jason Zucker right now. All I will say is look at his primary points total over the last two years and look at the names around him.

 

There is another very interesting grouping further down the 5v5 primary points leaderboard. They are players who find themselves just inside the top-50 and all managed somewhere from 54 to 56 5v5 primary points:

 

 

The name that jumped out immediately to me is Brandon Saad. Anyone who has read my Ramblings for the last few years knows that he’s a big favourite of mine. Last in week in a Ramblings I wrote that everyone should be drafting him this year. I also wrote about his season at the end of March and much of those thoughts hold up here. One commenter noted how bad a season he had. The article I just linked as well as some thoughts below outline why he should be targeted.

Just think of how impressive it is to put up one fewer five-on-five point over the last two seasons than names like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and John Tavares even though he had just 17 total assists and 35 total points in 2017-18. It was a brutal season for him production-wise and he’s still been as productive at five-on-five as first- and second-round fantasy picks over the last two years.

His problem is the power play. We know his career-worst 7.6 percent shooting should rebound, but whether he returns to the 50-point plateau or takes that next step in fantasy value depends on his PP production. Very few players can put up fewer than five PP points and have significant fantasy relevance. If he can get that PP time and PP production, Saad could be one of the best value picks in drafts this year.

 

Also wanted to give a special shout out to Gustav Nyquist. I know he hasn’t really lived up to expectations since bursting on the scene with 28 goals in 57 games way back in the 2013-14 season. Like Saad, though, the PP production has been what’s holding him back, having averaged just shy of 10 PP points per season over the last three years. The 2018-19 season is the last one left on his current contract, so he could find himself with a new team once head-to-head playoffs hit in March (though he does have a no-trade, so he has control of where he goes). Unless the team moves to a heavily-used top PP unit, it’s hard to see Nyquist as more than a 20-goal, 50-point guy. Not bad for fantasy, but certainly capable of more.