Ramblings: Chabot and Kapanen Injured; Update on Lehner; Sprong; Mrazek; Gallagher; Werenski – March 14

by Michael Clifford on March 14, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Chabot and Kapanen Injured; Update on Lehner; Sprong; Mrazek; Gallagher; Werenski – March 14

 

One big injury update from Wednesday was that Ottawa star defenceman Thomas Chabot has been diagnosed with a broken toe and is week-to-week. The team has 12 games left and were this any other organization, I would say that rushing back the franchise cornerstone player from a broken bone in a completely lost season so he can suit up with an AHL roster isn’t possible. But this is Ottawa, so whatever the worst possible option is, it’s definitely on the table.

Meanwhile, Cody Ceci and Dylan Demelo are going to get as much ice time as they can handle. Just be wary in leagues counting plus/minus.

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Kasperi Kapanen missed Toronto’s last game, being scratched late in the day. Word came from the team today that Kapanen has been diagnosed with a concussion and, as with all concussions, there is no timeline for return.

Kapanen had been enjoying a breakout season with 19 goals and 42 points in 68 games.

This would be the time to run to the waiver wire and grab William Nylander if he’s available. He’s widely owned on ESPN but is still available in over half of Yahoo! leagues. We’d like him to have those top PP minutes but getting secondary time while skating on a line with Auston Matthews is too good to pass up.

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Good news for the Minnesota Wild and their fans (and fantasy owners) as Matt Dumba was skating on his own before practice on Wednesday. He’s recovering from surgery on a pectoral muscle and we still don’t know when, or if, he’ll be back this season.

For more good news, Luke Kunin was also skating for the Wild. He should return to the team in short order.

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The Islanders are expecting Robin Lehner to return to the crease very soon for the team. Word is he could even start Thursday night, though Barry Trotz wouldn’t full commit to that. It seems he should return on Saturday night on the road.

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Gary Bettman upheld the two-game suspension of Flyers forward Jakub Voracek. The winger had appealed his suspension, hoping to get it reduced to just a single contest. He will be out for Thursday night’s game against Washington but will be available for Friday night’s matchup in Toronto. In the meantime, expect the Flyers lines to stay the same, which means Nolan Patrick centering the second line.

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St. Louis starts a three-game Eastern swing on Thursday night in Ottawa and will be joined on the trip by David Perron. Whether he plays or not is another matter entirely as he continues to recover from his latest concussion. That he’s on the trip at all is a good sign, though. Let’s just hope these issues don’t linger for him.

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Just want to say that I’m really, really excited for the potential second round matchups in the West. Two of Calgary/San Jose/Vegas in one matchup and potentially a Nashville/Winnipeg redux in the other? Oh yeah, sign me up.

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It’s probably worth noting that Daniel Sprong is on a three-game goal scoring streak for the Ducks. In 37 games with Anaheim, the 21-year old winger has 12 goals while playing just 13:31 per game. He’s also shooting a very reasonable 14.3 percent in the meantime. He has a very healthy 15.9 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five and while his five-on-five shooting percentage is a bit high, it’s nothing some additional ice time next year can’t help offset. It’s still just 37 games but considering the awful scoring environment of the Ducks, it’s impressive. It at least gives hope that he can be the 25-goal scorer a lot of people expected him to be. He’s a name to keep in mind for deeper leagues next year.

One player heating up for the Ducks? Jakob Silfverberg. You can look at hot/cold trends on Dobber Tools here.

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Speaking of hot streaks, Petr Mrazek has been one of the most valuable goalies in fantasy over the last month. It’s helped boost his overall save percentage to .908, just behind names like Pekka Rinne, Braden Holtby, and Connor Hellebuyck. He doesn’t need to be a .940 goalie for the Hurricanes to win games, but even if he can just be league average it’ll be a huge boost to the team. His recent play has likely earned him a contract next year.

With Scott Darling buried, Curtis McElhinney also on a one-year deal, and Alex Nedeljkovic not earning the trust of the franchise yet, there’s a pretty clear path for Mrazek to be at least the 1A or 1B goalie for the Hurricanes in 2019-20. They’re one of the best young teams in the NHL and only getting better. Mrazek’s fantasy outlook is a lot brighter than it was before the All-Star break.

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I shut off the Blackhawks-Leafs game off when Chicago made it 5-0 midway through the second period. At that point, Brendan Perlini had three points (1-2), Alex DeBrincat had a goal, Dylan Strome had two assists, and Brandon Saad had one of each. I had to turn it back on when it got to 5-3 but Chicago managed to skate away with the 5-4 victory.The win brings Chicago within four points of the final wildcard in the West.

Corey Crawford left after the second period with an illness, and Collin Delia faced 30 shots in the final frame alone.

Not for nothing, but the Blackhawks have been much better of late. The team is mid-pack in shot share since the All-Star break where they had been toiling at the bottom of the league through the first half of the season. They’re not a great team, but they’re much better than they were three months ago.

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Damon Severson had a goal and an assist in New Jersey’s 6-3 win over Edmonton on Wednesday night. An Oilers win would have put the team four points back of the final playoff spot and two teams to jump with 12 games to go. Instead, they’re six points back with three teams to jump. They can still do it, but their next three games are all on the road against teams currently in a playoff spot. Whatever little chance they had left probably went out the window with this loss.

It's been a poor year for most Devils, though injuries are certainly a factor. With that said, it’s been a sublime season for Severson. His 11 goals are a career-high, as are his 37 points (he had 31 in 2016-17). He’s been hard to roster in league counting plus/minus but has been very solid otherwise. With him and Will Butcher, there are nice pieces on that blue line.

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You know who doesn’t get the respect he deserves? Brendan Gallagher. Here are his ranks league-wide among 262 forwards with 2000+ minutes at five-on-five since the start of the 2016-17 season:

No matter what way this is cut or sliced, Gallagher is a top line winger. He now has back-to-back 30-goal seasons and he’s done so while earning less ice time per game this year (16:27) than he did four years ago (16:35 in 2014-15). Imagine the level of fantasy performance he could give in everything from points to shots to hits if he were playing 18-19 minutes a night. There’s the question of optimizing ice time levels for performance but I have to imagine he can handle an extra minute or two per night.

I really do hope that Gallagher earns that extra ice time at some point. He is very much capable of achieving the level of production of, say, Matthew Tkachuk were he earning a minute or two extra per night and (hopefully) a very good young centre in Jesperi Kotkaniemi. There are a lot of bridges to cross before we get there so maybe we never do. All the same, even with just 16:30 per night, Gallagher is one of the most valuable skaters in multi-cat leagues.

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Lost in that 11-goal game between Boston and Columbus a couple nights ago was Zach Werenski’s four-point game. Those four points pushed Werenski past the 120-point mark for his career. Why is that important? Well:

 

 

Let’s look at this from another angle:

 

 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Werenski is still just 21 years old. At this point he feels like a veteran player and yet he’s still younger than Thomas Chabot (yes, really). Werenski is the youngest defenceman in the NHL with 40 points this season, and it’s the second time in his career he’s cracked 40 points, the first time being two years ago. It doesn’t matter how it’s cut or sliced, what Werenski is accomplishing is quite literally historic.

Let’s run a quick comparison, shall we?

Below is how Werenski compares to Karlsson over the last three years in things like zone entries, zone exits, shot assists (passes leading to shots), and individual shots. We can see that Werenski lags behind Karlsson a little in most categories, but they’re close:

 

It’s important to keep in mind that these are Karlsson’s prime years while Werenski is still a few years away from his. If this is how the Blue Jackets blue liner performs before he hits his prime, what will he look like in, say, 2021-22?

He’s just starting to scratch the surface. Werenski has lost power play time to Seth Jones over the last couple seasons despite the fact that the Jackets have typically scored much more with Werenski on the ice for power plays than Jones. That includes when splitting their time on the top unit; the Jackets score much more with Cam Atkinson and Werenski on the ice than Cam Atkinson and Jones. For a team that’s struggled so mightily with the power play over the last three years, you’d think they would favour the defenceman who’s been on the ice for more PP goals per minute, but I digress.

What makes Werenski so fascinating from a fantasy perspective is, as mentioned above, really just starting to find his footing in the NHL. He’s also producing at these elite levels despite not getting massive amount of ice time; unlike, say, Rasmus Ristolainen, the Columbus rearguard is not a product of simply being stuffed with 26 minutes a night. He’s doing everything we want to see at a micro level to produce like a top fantasy option at the macro level.

It’s only fair to wonder what his production will look like once he A) hits his prime and, B) gets a boatload of minutes including top PP time. He’s firmly in the group of elite young defencemen in the NHL like Chabot, Heiskanen, and Dahlin, and that group will dominate the Norris conversation from 2021 and beyond.

Now would be the time to inquire on Werenski’s price in a trade. If he can be acquired as a 40-point defenceman, I think there is a lot of profit to be had in the years to come.