Perhaps the biggest story of training camp to date was Dustin Byfuglien taking some time away from the team. While there had been lots of speculation, neither the player nor team would confirm what this was about. Whenever something like this comes about in sports, the speculation is destined to be rampant and wild, but most of the time it’s not worth the effort.
Anyway, we got a bit of clarification on Byfuglien yesterday:
Dustin Byfuglien, currently on personal leave from WPG, is believed to be using the time to ponder his NHL future. I’m not saying Byfuglien is retiring; I’m not saying he’s coming back to play. Only that he’s contemplating his options and there’s no timetable for a decision.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 18, 2019
We’ve seen it happen in other sports recently, particularly football: athletes still currently under contract determining that some extra money in the bank account isn’t worth the risk of injury. Not saying that would be Byfuglien’s motivation, but it would certainly be understandable. Either way, it’s not an easy decision for the big guy to make so I’m sure he’ll take all the time he needs.
In the fantasy hockey world, this is pretty big news for Josh Morrissey and the potential for PP1 minutes. I know there may be some clamouring for Neal Pionk, and the Jets may even go in that direction, but it’s hard for me exclude the incumbent from the PP1 discussion. Were Byfuglien to retire, it would hurt the Jets a lot as a whole but would help Morrissey’s fantasy value individually. So, uh, small win?
One last thing: the Jets are up against the cap so how this will work out with Byfuglien will have a cascading effect on the rest of the lineup, particularly the contracts of Laine/Connor and the signing of/trade for whomever Byfuglien’s replacement would be. I can’t imagine they just lose him and try to replace him internally.
Some notes from training camp and exhibition games.
Staying with Detroit, Moritz Seider was paired with Trevor Daley yesterday. The sixth overall pick from this year’s draft is clearly thought of very highly by the organization. There’s always a chance this turns into a Jakob Chychrun situation where he makes the team out of camp when he’s not expected to, but the Wings have a bunch of bad contracts on the blueline running out this year. It would make sense to give Seider another year to develop and come back in 2020 when the defence corps is pretty wide open.
The line of Brady Tkachuk-Colin White–Connor Brown has been pretty consistent all camp long (well, a week, anyway). It seems like a good bet that that is the top line for Ottawa on opening night. Remember: there’s a good chance those guys have their plus/minus slaughtered, but it also leads to a lot of minutes.
Dmitry Orlov and Radko Gudas were paired together for Washington’s game. I know, not everyone was playing and yada yada yada but Gudas is a guy who relies on peripherals for fantasy value and playing on the second pair with Orlov is considerably better for his value than the third pair with Christian Djoos.
In practice, the Penguins continue to have Dominik Kahun on the top line with the second line being Galchenyuk-Malkin-Tanev. I’ve been consistent all summer saying I think Galchenyuk eventually gets moved away from Malkin to either alongside Crosby or to the third line. I just don’t think that line will be good enough in their own end for Sullivan to leave them together. We’ll see.
Still with the Penguins: Patric Hornqvist wasn’t on the top PP unit they were practicing, though they ran a few different looks.
Alex Nylander was skating on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the team’s preseason game on Wednesday night. With that kind of deployment, there are no excuses for him not making the team other than he’s not good enough. We shall see.
Also with the ‘Hawks, Adam Boqvist was paired with Duncan Keith. Hmmm.
Stephen Johns skated with Dallas’s skating coach after practice yesterday. He’s been out for a year with concussion-related issues and at this point, I’m just hoping that his long-term health hasn’t been too negatively impacted, let alone hope to see him back on the NHL ice. Best wishes to the blueliner.
Often times, people can get focused on just goals and assists. Now, there’s good reason for that, but in the fantasy game, it can get people in a lot of trouble. It can lead fantasy owners over-valuing players who are effectively empty calories – points but no peripherals – but under-valuing players who actually can put up the peripherals, the combo-meal guys. And as I wrote in a recent Ramblings, being a complete zero in a fantasy category makes it hard for a player to make up for it elsewhere.
Think of it this way: defence is under-valued by the NHL, right? What I mean is that points, and not defensive ability, drive the value of contracts. It’s the same thing in fantasy hockey: points, and not peripherals, get the ADP and ranking love.
I thought it would be worth taking the time to discuss some of these combo-meal forwards. They’re guys who can not only stuff the peripherals like shots and hits but can put up a healthy amount of points. I’m going to exclude the obvious guys like Matthew Tkachuk and Gabriel Landeskog, as well as guys I’ve often discussed this summer like Dylan Larkin, Brady Tkachuk, Kyle Palmieri, and Max Comtois.
I know Getzlaf is known for being a playmaker, and a big body who can move people out of the way. I wonder how many people realize that he’s averaged exactly two hits per game over the last two seasons? Injury-shortened seasons, sure, but it was still 246 hits in 123 games. That’s a big jump from preceding seasons as from 2013-2017 he didn’t surpass 110 hits in any campaign; he had 150 in 67 games last year. Part of that is the team being bad that they never had the puck so of course they had to hit, but even if he pulls back to 1.5 hits per game that’s good value. He’s far from a shot volume guy but he can put up two shots per game as well so that’s solid peripheral value for a centre going well outside the top-100 picks.
Blake Goalman was a guy I had pegged as a potential 20-goal breakout in 2018-19 and he ended up with 22, so I’ll call that a success. What’s more important than the 22 goals for our purposes is that the Goalman put up over 200 shots and over 200 hits. Those are titanic totals. A lot of it was due to an increase to 17 minutes a game, which was partly due to the injury to Taylor Hall. However, Goalman has been skating with Nico Hischier at times in training camp when they’re giving Hall some time off, so they clearly are still high on him. I foresee a small TOI hit – my projection for his EV TOI is about 45 seconds per game lower than last year – but the impact to his peripherals of 45 seconds lost per game isn’t a death knell by any stretch of the imagination. Both 200 shots and 200 hits are well within reach again, making him valuable in almost any roto format.
I talked about it earlier in the offseason but I’m kind of leery on Reilly Smith’s season. I know he’s been skating with different lines – including with Max Pacioretty – in training camp, but for some reason I can’t shake this feeling that eventually we get to a place where Tuch is skating with Karlsson/Marchessault and Smith is on the third line. I have Smith pegged to skate with his usual line mates for most of the season, but there’s just this nagging voice in my brain telling me that it won’t take long for Tuch to move up, completely altering his fantasy value. Anyway, I have Tuch for a shade over 90 hits and 200 shots, and if he hits those marks while simply repeating last year’s point production, he’s a top-150 player in roto leagues. I feel like he’s a good value at his current ADP in most places and there is upside beyond 52 points.
Not sure a lot of people realize Vatrano had 24 goals, over 200 shots, and 139 hits last year? That’s pretty good!
There are certain segments of the fantasy community who’ve been waiting years for Vatrano not only to get a shot with a team’s top-6, but to stick there. Now, it doesn’t look like Vatrano will be a lock for Florida’s top-6 mix this year, but he’s a guy who can play both wings and there is one open spot in the on the top two lines aside from the trio of Hoffman/Dadonov/Huberdeau. At worst, he should stick around the third line and he showed last year what he can do in multi-cat leagues even with third-line minutes. He won’t get to the top PP unit without a few injuries, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be valuable, even in shallower formats. Consider that he was the 151st-ranked player in standard Yahoo! leagues last year and did so while falling short of 40 points and was a minus-10. Seeing both those marks improve doesn’t take a vivid imagination.
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