Ramblings: Caps/Pens, Selke Finalists, Early Look at Rankings (April 29)

by Michael Clifford on April 29, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Caps/Pens, Selke Finalists, Early Look at Rankings (April 29)

Game 1 of Caps/Pens, Selke Finalists Announced, and Some Thoughts on Early Rankings

****

This game did not disappoint. The Caps jump out to a 1-0 series lead thanks to a monster game from T.J. Oshie, as he managed a hat trick, including the overtime winner. 

Andre Burakovsky got the scoring going in the first on an odd-man rush. There were three goals scored in about a 90 second span in the second period, one from Ben Lovejoy (yes, The Reverend), one from Evgeni Malkin (on a wicked backhander), and one from T.J. Oshie (a snipe over Matt Murray’s shoulder). There was only one goal in the first half of the game, but it was just a matter of time before the gates opened. Both teams were flying, and both were getting their chances. It was because of Holtby and Murray that the teams were held to one goal for 30 minutes, not because of superb team defence from both sides.

Here is Malkin’s backhand goal:

Also, after T.J. Oshie scored his second goal to make it 3-2 early in the third, here is Tom Wilson changing his skate path to purposely knee Conor Sheary, with no penalty on the play. I have no clue how the referees missed this.  

Bonino would score on a double-deflection about five minutes after Oshie, and that would send us to overtime. This got a lot more, let’s say, intense in the third period.

T.J. Oshie wrapped the game up, pun intended, when he swept the puck around the net and the puck just crept across the line. They went to review for the confirmation, and it was across by centimetres. It was a magnificent performance from Oshie, tallying three of Washington's four goals, 

This game was, on the whole, thoroughly enjoyable, and regardless of the winner, let’s hope for six more games.

****

The Selke Trophy finalists were announced last night, with Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, and Ryan Kesler garnering the top-3 vote total. This one is voted on by the PHWA, and the media.

The first two, ok, that was pretty much expected. Ryan Kesler, though? Granted, I think he had a better season than could have been reasonably expected, and I know that he was used frequently in that checking line role by the Ducks, but it doesn’t really mean that he was a top three two-way forward.

With all that said, there were loads of players who faced top competition and excelled. Filip Forsberg was on the ice for the fewest high-danger scoring chances against per minute of any NHL forward, and among his top-15 most-common opponents were the top two lines for Chicago, Jamie Benn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Matt Duchene, and Blake Wheeler. Joe Thornton was outstanding at both ends of the ice all year, Nicklas Backstrom bore the brunt from the Eastern Conference, and the list goes on.

Kesler being chosen is a bit confounding. In the end, it won’t matter because either of Kopitar or Bergeron will win it (again), and Kesler was given tough assignments. There were many others, though, that were given similar tough assignments, and excelled (David Backes was given similar assignments to Kesler, and actually had a positive five-on-five goal differential, which Kesler did not, for what it’s worth).

****

It was curious looking at the top power play teams by percentage this year. Among the top six or seven teams, there are two things that stand out: team talent (duh), and they largely used top-heavy power plays.

Conventional wisdom has usually been to use two power play units somewhat evenly. Sure, there were elite players that would garner more minutes, but a minute or so for one unit, and a minute or so for the other was usually the way to go.

Most of the top power play teams from the past year, though, were ones that stacked the first quintet: Chicago gave way more ice time to Keith/Seabrook/Kane than others at their position; Dallas, Washington, and San Jose stacked the top unit; Pittsburgh did the same until injuries started playing a huge factor down the stretch; Boston went with Bergeron-Krejci-Eriksson-Krug with a fifth forward almost all year.

This is just something to keep in mind early next season. Up-and-coming teams like Toronto and Buffalo are situations to keep an eye on. Does Edmonton use Hall-Eberle-McDavid-Draisaitl all on one unit early on? If so, who is their defenceman? There can be guys found on the waiver wire that make their way to these top-heavy units like Ryan Spooner and Marcus Johansson last year (depending on league size, of course).   

****

Everyone loves rankings. Dobber has lots of them right here on the site, from prospects to keeper leagues, broken down by position. I encourage the readers to check them out, as next year’s planning can never start too early.

Sean Allen over at ESPN has posted his rankings for next year, what he dubs an “All Too Early” rankings. Of course, it is early for these. With the draft, injuries, trades, and free agency all ahead of us, the landscape will look significantly different in four months than it does now.

All the same, as I mentioned, preparation can never start soon enough. Looking through his rankings, I thought I’d pick out a few players that I’m keeping an eye on for next year.

*Note: Sean’s rankings are set for standard ESPN roto leagues. These are not criticizing his rankings at all, either, rather using them as a point of reference for looking ahead to next year.

Evgeni Malkin (Rank: 10)

Malkin is an intriguing player in the sense that I really do think what type of league an owner is in dictates whether he can be drafted or not. He has one (1) season with at least 70 games played out of the last six 82-game seasons. He has played 73.8-percent of his team’s games over the last four seasons, which works out to about 60 games played out of every 82.  

If I’m in a roto league, I could stomach Malkin at the end of the first round or early in the second. Get the 60-65 games from him, and go grab someone like Jori Lehtera or Cody Eakin off the wire for the other 20-ish games. If I’m in a head-to-head league, though, he’s someone else’s problem. There is too much risk of injury to potentially lose a first round pick for fantasy playoffs.  

Nikita Kucherov (Rank: 38)

As mentioned in yesterday’s Ramblings, this is a player on the cusp of stardom. Over the last two years, he is top-10 in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five, top-15 in points, his shot volume has increased every year in the NHL, and seems to be a lock (barring injury/insanely bad luck) for 30 goals and 60 points moving forward. If he’s still available in the third round of a 12-team league, he will be on my roster.

John Tavares (Rank: 30)

For as “bad” as Tavares’s season was, he finished with over 30 goals, 70 points, and 250 shots on target. There were four other players who hit at least all those targets last year: Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Ovechkin, and Tyler Seguin. Those other four players are probably all first round picks.

There might be a nice profit opportunity here on Tavares. It is a very real possibility that he slips into the second round, at which point he’s a great value. He is one of six players, per Hockey Reference, to be a point-per-game player over the last four years – don’t let him fall too far.

Brendan Gallagher (Rank: 112)

This year was Gallagher’s third 82-game season of his career (cut short by injury, though). It was the third straight season of increasing goals per game, assists per game, and shots on goal per game. If (*if*) he had played all 82 last year – he had missed five games in the previous three seasons – he would have been close to 30 goals and 60 points. This is a guy who can stuff the stats across-the-board in roto leagues, and will probably come at a nice discount because of the injury-shortened season. If he’s a fifth or sixth forward on a roster, I can’t imagine his fantasy owner will be disappointed.

Leon Draisaitl (Rank: 174)

This is a situation where the offseason will have a big effect on where a player gets drafted. Should the Oilers do something like, say, trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, then Draisaitl is locked into that loaded top-six, and things are looking up. If they stand pat, well, things are a bit murky.

The rate at which the Oilers have scored at five-on-five over Draisaitl’s 109 games is 7.19-percent, which is completely normal. His points per 60 minutes over those 109 games is 1.88, or tied with Zach Parise, and higher than Nathan MacKinnon. Some may think he’s just been a product of one hot stretch, when if you take his entire body of work to date, he’s been very solid. I’m buying.

Ryan Suter (Rank: 36)

Remember, part of the ranking is that ATOI is included in the value of the player.

Last year was Suter’s 11th season, his 10th 82-game season. It was the first time he cracked either two shots per game or 40 total assists. He also tied a career-high in total goals, and power play goals.

Will Suter put up a 40-point season? That is absolutely reasonable. Will he put up another 50-point season? It is very, very unlikely. It seems like Suter will be drafted among the top-15 defencemen next year in roto leagues, and that is too high for me. This past season screams “career year” to me.

Morgan Rielly (Rank: 219)

Ever go into a draft season, and you have a guy targeted in your mind, saying, “This player is going to be on every single one of my rosters”? For me, next year, I can already see this being the case for Rielly and my rosters.

The Leafs roster, by design, was pretty much devoid of any offensive talent, and Rielly still managed to put up 36 points as a 21-year old defenceman. Racking up that many points at that age as a d-man doesn’t happen very often: below are the instances of when they have happened over the last five 82-game seasons. Save for one name, it’s a who’s-who of young point-producing defencemen.

Yes, Rielly will be my fifth defenceman on every team I draft (hopefully my league mates don’t read this).

Semyon Varlamov (Rank: 91)

Not sure Varlamov is a goalie to target anymore. He could be a top-10 goalie in the NHL but his team’s defence is so bad that it’s pretty much irrelevant. He faces so many shots that he could post a .920 save percentage and still have a GAA hovering around 2.50 (this is exactly what happened in 2014-2015).

For those in points leagues or something where there are no ratios, rather points awarded for saves, Varlamov could be a valuable goalie. For those in roto leagues, or standard head-to-head leagues, drafting him is not much better than drafting Craig Anderson. I’d rather draft Steve Mason.

*Some stats from Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, and War On Ice