Ramblings: Clayton Keller’s History; Hat Tricks for Vanek and Tanev (really); Tarasenko Breaks 30 – March 28

by Michael Clifford on March 28, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Clayton Keller’s History; Hat Tricks for Vanek and Tanev (really); Tarasenko Breaks 30 – March 28

Though it was probably assumed by fantasy hockey owners at this point, we got confirmation on Tuesday afternoon that Kevin Shattenkirk wouldn’t be returning this season. Not that we should worry about a huge decline but next year will be Shatty’s age-30 season. On a rebuilding team, what can we expect from him? His ADP should be fascinating to see come September.

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The Eeli Tolvanen watch continues as his contract is being negotiated as we speak. Whether he’s ready to play for the weekend remains to be seen. Best guess right now is he’ll be in the lineup for the final week of the season, but that’s just a guess. Until we know, we wait.

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Jake Muzzin has been listed as “week-to-week” by the Los Angeles Kings. He was injured in their recent game against the Flames. After he left that game, it was Dion Phaneuf who moved to the top PP unit with Drew Doughty. I would suspect he’s the add to make for the balance of the season though things can change quickly.

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Christian Ehrhoff formally retired from professional hockey. In his prime, he posted three straight 40-point season with his best being 50 points in 2010-11. Aside from career earnings, it appears he won’t have to worry about income for a while:

Somewhere, Bobby Bonilla is smiling.

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The march to the playoffs for New Jersey continued with a late goal from Stefan Noesen lifting them 4-3 over Carolina. It was Kyle Palmieri who did most of the heavy lifting before that, though, with two power-play goals, adding an assist on Pavel Zacha’s seventh tally of the season. That gives Palmieri an even 40 points in 57 games this year.

Will Butcher had two power-play assists which leaves him one PP point shy of 20 on the year and one point shy of 40 total. That’s a pretty good rookie season for a guy playing 16 minutes a night.

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With a goal and two assists last night, Matt Duchene has 38 points in 39 games dating back to January 1st. It’s been a pretty good second half of the season for him. He also had six shots on goal, the most for him since his second game in an Ottawa uniform when they played Colorado in Sweden (doesn’t that feel like a lifetime ago).

Mike Hoffman has set a career-high for shots on goal with 243 after an eight-shot performance on Tuesday night. He’s also shooting a four-year low of 9.1 percent. Were he shooting his three-year average from 2014-2017 of 12.3 percent, he’d be at 30 goals. But he’s not, and he’s not. C’est la vie.

By the way, both Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk were late scratches for the Islanders. Boychuk didn’t even travel with the team. Adam Pelech took Leddy’s spot on the top power-play unit. Keep an eye out for more information, we’ll post it when we get it.
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A late third-period goal from Eric Staal gave him 40 markers on the season. It’s just been an unbelievable resurgence in Minnesota and one of the best free-agent signings in recent memory.

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Joe Hicketts was called up by Detroit and promptly replied with two assists and six blocked shots in his 17 minutes of action against Pittsburgh. Not a bad return to the NHL.  

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Two goals from Vladimir Tarasenko, including the overtime winner, not only pushed the St. Louis Blues into a playoff spot, but also pushed Tarasenko over the 30-goal mark for the fourth straight season. With four shots, he also tied is shot total from last year (286) and is well on his way to setting a career-high (292 in 2015-16). It doesn’t look like he’ll get to the 70-point plateau, however, as he sits with 61. He’s still as elite as ever, though:

That shot is absurd.

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Brandon Tanev had a hat trick for the Jets in their home game against Boston. No, seriously. He came into the game with six goals in 109 career games and increased his career total by 50 percent.

Along with an assist, Torey Krug scored a goal for Boston, his 14th of the season, which ties the most ever for him in a single campaign. His two points also came with the man advantage which pushes him to 21 for the year, giving him back-to-back seasons with at least 20.

A third-period power-play goal from David Pastrnak was the 90th tally of his career. It put him in some pretty elite company:

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Speaking of d-men with 14 goals, Ivan Provorov reached that mark in Philly’s 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas. He now has 35 points, only five of which have come on the power play. If you’re in a league with hits and blocked shots, it’s been a very good fantasy season for the 21-year old.

Alexander Radulov scored the OT winner, his 27th of the season, also a career-best for him. Sure, he’s only played four seasons, but it’s still a career-best.

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Edmonton scored three goals in the first 10:08 of their game against Columbus to give them an early 3-0 lead, and then gave up seven straight goals to lose. All three Oilers goals were either scored or assisted by Connor McDavid before they got their doors blown off. It’s a game that perfectly encapsulates their season.

Three of those Columbus goals, by the way, were scored by Thomas Vanek, who managed four total points. His 24 goals and 54 points are the most in a season since 2013-14.

A goal and two assists for Boone Jenner gives him 13 points in 14 games this month. Anyone that stuck by him this season – I’d imagine you’re in a hits league – is being rewarded in playoffs. If you stuck by him and you’re not in a hits league, I imagine your season is over.

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I don’t think we’re really appreciating what Clayton Keller is doing in his rookie season. Monday night, he became the second rookie to crack 60 points this year after Mathew Barzal did it long ago. Keller is sitting at 23 goals and 61 points as a 19-year old rookie.

We’ve been spoiled lately for rookies. Remember that after the Patrick Kane/Nicklas Backstrom rookie season a decade ago – in case you didn’t feel old enough already – there was just one rookie between 2008 and 2013 to crack 60 points (Jeff Skinner in 2010-11). We had eight rookies surpass the 60-point plateau between 2014-2017.

Beyond that, if we narrow it down to just teenagers, the list of rookies to crack 60 points since 2005 basically cuts in half; Keller joins eight other players since the 2005 lockout to crack 60 points. Here’s the rest of the list: Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar, Patrick Kane, Jeff Skinner, Nathan MacKinnon, Mitch Marner, Patrick Laine, and Auston Matthews. That list is a virtual who’s-who of top-end scoring talent currently in the league.

Let’s take it one step further. There are guys on that list like Matthews and Marner who played on high-scoring teams (the 2016-17 Leafs were fifth in goals per game at 3.05). Even in a higher-scoring 2017-18 season across the league, this year’s Arizona team is scoring over a half-goal less (2.47) than last year’s Toronto team. In fact, out of the eight players who cracked 60 points as rookie teenagers since 2005 listed above, the lowest-scoring team was Kopitar’s 2006-07 Kings, who managed 2.72 goals per game, good for 20th in the league. Both Kane and Skinner had teams over 2.80 goals per game, Crosby and MacKinnon’s teams were between 2.95 and 3.00, while Matthews, Marner, and Laine were all 3.00 or above. In short, the next-closest team scoring rate to Keller’s 2017-18 Coyotes was the 2006-07 Kings, and they still scored a quarter-goal more per game.

As far as I can tell (which is to say, with the records we have going back to the mid-70s), Keller is the first player to crack 60 points as a rookie teenager on a team scoring fewer than 2.5 goals per game. In fact, Kopitar’s season is the next-closest. Keller’s production this year, in the context of the quality of the team offensively, has no parallel.

Barzal wrapped up the Calder Trophy race months ago. Being a point-per-game rookie as a 20-year-old is something truly special. Let’s not let this overshadow Keller’s season, though. It is, quite literally, historic.

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It has been a dismal second-half for the Dallas Stars. This team looked so good through the first half of the season and everything fell apart in the second half. I mean, they are shooting just over 4.1 percent at five-on-five over the last month, so it’s a bad time to have the offence run cold, but it’s been brutal nonetheless.

One bright spot has been Tyler Pitlick.

Pitlick was drafted by Edmonton at the beginning of the decade and essentially bounced between the AHL and NHL for the next six years. He was let go by the team last offseason and subsequently signed by Dallas. He’s responded by scoring 14 goals for the Stars thus far, well above his career-high of eight last year for the Oilers.

In what might be one of the strangest outcomes this season, Pitlick leads the Stars in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five at 1.01. The next-closest is Jamie Benn at 0.91. Now, Pitlick is shooting 12.6 percent at five-on-five, and that’s a bit high, but it’s nothing extreme. Out of 211 forwards with 800 minutes played this year, that percentage puts him 47th. Again, it’s high, but it’s not William Karlsson-high.

Every season in the NHL, Pitlick has increased his attempted shot rate, culminating this season in a career-high 15.24 per 60 minutes. That number sandwiches him between Benn and Seguin on the Dallas roster, and between Jack Eichel and Nazem Kadri league-wide. Pretty good company!

I mention all this because there’s clearly a need for the top-line right wing spot in Dallas next year. Maybe they bring someone in – Valeri Nichushkin returning comes to mind – and they’ll have cap space to do it; they have a maybe a half-dozen RFAs to sign but no one will have a huge cap hit. But if they don’t bring in some outside help, Pitlick could very well end up there next year. They seem committed to leaving Alexander Radulov on the second line and in-house options are thin beyond him and Brett Ritchie. Just keep Pitlick in mind for deep leagues next draft season. 

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There was a really good read from Clint Malarchuk over at the Players’ Tribune a few days ago. It touches on his mental health issues that stemmed from his gruesome injury when he was a Buffalo goaltender. I very much recommend reading it.

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Call this some Ryan Getzlaf appreciation. It was just a couple years ago that it looked like he was on the true downside of his career like Corey Perry. After posting over a point-per-game pace in six of seven seasons from 2007-2014, he failed to reach that mark for three straight seasons from 2014-2017 (though he fell just a point shy last year). Injuries have caught up to him this year but he’s still managed 57 points in 50 games as of Tuesday afternoon.

Over his last 124 regular season games, Getzlaf has 130 points. Declining shot rates means 20 goals would be a stretch for him at this point of his career but 50-60 assists seems like a lock, especially with Rickard Rakell cementing himself as one of the top scoring wingers in the league.

I do wonder about Getzlaf’s actual roto value, though. Like I said, he’s not shooting much anymore (not that he ever did, but his meagre shot rates have taken a hit over the last few years). That will lead to little help in the goals department. When you have to cross out two roto categories right off the hop, it doesn’t speak well to value. Though he could rack up the assists, in a multi-category league, I’ll probably be passing on him next season.