Ramblings: Bubble Keepers in Shallower Pools – Horvat, Kopitar, Voracek (July 21)

by Ian Gooding on July 21, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Bubble Keepers in Shallower Pools – Horvat, Kopitar, Voracek (July 21)


You may have seen the ads on the site already, but just in case you haven’t or you’ve simply forgotten… Bubble Keeper Week starts tomorrow!

Dobber’s going to kick things off… I mean throw out the first pitch… I mean drop the puck on Bubble Keeper Week in his usual Monday Ramblings, which are already must-read anyway. Throughout the week, our writers will be focusing on keepers that are generally outside of the top 150 of Dobber’s Top 300 Keeper League Skaters. You may even see an article or two that you haven’t seen in a while. I’ll have a few of my own bubble keepers lined up at the end of the week with the weekend Ramblings.

Next week should be an exciting week for fantasy owners with the mega-deep rosters. If your fantasy pool is more in the shallow end, Bubble Keeper Week is still worth checking out for players who may have fallen out of the top 150 (there’s still some solid names there) as well as players that could creep into the top 150 this coming season.

In the meantime, here’s a few players who won’t be featured during Bubble Keeper Week. One of my leagues has stricter keeper requirements (keep 4 only), so these are some players who are on the bubble in that type of format.  

Bo Horvat

It’s hard to believe that Horvat has now been in the NHL for five seasons (so it’s probably time for him to be named the Canucks’ captain). He reached career highs in both goals (27) and points (61) in that fifth season. Horvat also managed to fire the puck a lot more, taking 227 shots when he had not even reached 160 shots in any previous season. Even though center selection is deep, Horvat has now reached the point in which he should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.

With Elias Pettersson replacing the Sedins as the main attraction in Van City, Horvat remains in the 2 C slot for the Canucks. With leading winger Brock Boeser mainly attached to Pettersson, Bo has been forced to work with a revolving door of wingers. Name a Canucks’ winger (including Boeser) and chances are he lined up with Horvat for at least a few games in 2018-19. In spite of that lack of consistency with the linemates, Horvat’s production remained relatively consistent through each quarter of the season.

The Canucks have upgraded the wing position this offseason, adding both Micheal Ferland and J.T. Miller (who the Canucks could also potentially use as a third-line center, but that’s a discussion for another day). Don’t forget that the Canucks also added Tanner Pearson at the trade deadline, and he scored nine goals in 19 games before the season ended. Pearson was part of Horvat’s most-used line during the fourth quarter, so he at least could add some stability to Horvat’s line.

This upgrade in wingers (and perhaps a healthier Jay Beagle and Brandon Sutter) could result in more offensive zone starts for Horvat. His 39.9 OZ% was the lowest in his career, although it reflects his ability as a two-way center. A Selke Trophy nomination may be in the cards one day for Horvat, but that ability might limit his offensive upside going forward.

Anze Kopitar

Kopitar’s fantasy value fell down at least a few flights of stairs in 2018-19. Not only did his point production fall by 31 points, but he also went from a plus-21 to a minus-20 while losing nine power-play points. An astute fantasy owner would have known that his 17.5 percent shooting accuracy from 2017-18 was unsustainable, but when combining that with fewer shots, the drop was even more pronounced.

Can fantasy owners expect some sort of rebound from Kopitar? Throughout most of his career, you could reasonably expect a points-per-game total of between 0.8 and 1.0 from Kopitar. Over the past three seasons, Kopitar’s points-per-game ratios have been as follows: 0.68, 1.12, and 0.74. It’s difficult to know what to reasonably expect this coming season.

Kopitar seems to be a reasonable candidate to bounce back, but not to the 92 points of 2017-18, when he was a Hart Trophy finalist and the Selke Trophy winner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit 70 points, but I wouldn’t go much higher than that.

Speaking of the Kings, if you’re wondering about Alex Turcotte, the plan is for him to play at the University of Wisconsin for at least one season before he makes his Kings’ debut.

Jakub Voracek

Voracek was one of the players that I kept last summer in my keep 4 league. He had just come off a season in which he had recorded a career-high 85 points (20g-65a). This point total included 65 assists, which was fourth in the NHL and two behind teammate Claude Giroux.

However, Voracek is now on the bubble in the keep 4, since his overall production fell by 19 points. Strangely enough, that production was all in the form of assists, as Voracek has scored exactly 20 goals over each of the past three seasons.

Let’s assume Voracek hits 20 goals yet again. Just how many assists should we project him for? Voracek was on numerous line combinations in 2018-19, but his most consistent linemate appeared to be Sean Couturier. Another fun with numbers, this one with Couturier: his point total has been exactly the same (76 points) for each of the past two seasons. The only difference is that Couturier scored two more goals and recorded two fewer assists in 2018-19.

Over these past two seasons, Voracek has received more primary assists than secondary assists: 41 A1/24 A2 in 2017-18, and 29 A1/17 A2 in 2018-19. So aside from some turmoil in Philly surrounding the firing of both GM Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol, Voracek was actually fairly consistent, aside from a November stretch where he had just six points in 12 games.

Often when looking at why a player’s production has dropped off, the power play is the answer. Voracek’s power-play-point total dropped from 35 points in 2017-18 to just 18 in 2018-19. More was expected of the Flyers’ power play in 2018-19, when they finished 23rd in the league with a 17.1 percent success rate. Compare that to the previous season, when they finished 15th with a 20.7 percent conversion rate.

Since most of Voracek’s assist dropoff is power-play related, any rebound to 80+ points might depend on the Flyers’ power play as a whole. The track record of Alain Vigneault as Rangers’ coach (never a top-10 team in power-play percentage during his five seasons) won’t do wonders to satisfy Voracek owners hoping for a return to his career high, although AV had some successful power plays with the Canucks before that (the league’s top power play in 2010-11). An estimate of Voracek reaching 70 points seems reasonable, but 80 points might be a reach.

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Some news from a relatively slow Saturday (at least at the time of publishing this):

The Carolina Hurricanes avoided arbitration with forward Brock McGinn, signing him to a two-year, $4.2 million contract.

McGinn scored 26 points (10g-16a) in 82 games in 2018-19, four points short of his career high set the previous season. All of those 26 points were even strength, which resulted from very limited use on the power play. He was only 1 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, which makes him an option for only the deepest of leagues.

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.