Ramblings: Comparing Left Wingers, Factoring Injuries for McDavid and Letang (Sept 1)

by Ian Gooding on September 1, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Comparing Left Wingers, Factoring Injuries for McDavid and Letang (Sept 1)


Hard to believe summer is over, with the calendar turning to September. School’s about to start, and the puck drops on meaningful games in a month!

The French Fantasy Guide is now available (Le Guide des Poolers 2019-20, which you can order here). If you were unable to download it, the guide became available at around 8 pm on Friday night. And of course, you can order the English version here. Dobber Hockey is dominating the fantasy hockey landscape in two different languages now!

As well, Dobber’s Offseason Fantasy Grades are back! As usual, they start with the Anaheim Ducks.

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I’ll answer a question than I saw on Facebook today:

I had to choose between Alex DeBrincat and Jake Guentzel in my keeper. I kept DeBrincat. You think it’s a good move?

The more I examine this, the more I can’t believe how even these two players are. Here are last season’s stats:

DeBrincat: 82 GP, 41 G, 35 A, 76 PTS, 24 PPP, 220 SOG, even plus/minus

Guentzel: 82 GP, 40 G, 36 A, 76 PTS, 11 PPP, 227 SOG, +13

Last season’s ranking would have been practically identical given the games played, points, and shots on goal. You can then cancel out the power-play points and plus-minus and it’s a dead heat.

I’ve mentioned that I would see Guentzel improving in the power-play department, since Phil Kessel has departed. Guentzel ranked sixth in power-play time among Penguins’ regulars who played in at least half the team’s games, but he did spend some time on the first unit last season. It seems unwise for the Penguins to save him for the second-unit power play, since the first unit tends to stay on the ice longer than that of many teams.

DeBrincat is already on the Blackhawks’ first unit and should continue to be there. Once Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews decline significantly, he should be the centerpiece of the Blackhawks’ offense. There’s upward mobility for his point totals as well.

Both are relatively young players on teams that have older cores, although Guentzel (24) is a little older than DeBrincat (21). This is a very difficult choice, so honestly I wouldn’t blame you for picking one player over the other. If I have to make a call, I would have to say that in a single-season format, I’d give a slight edge to Guentzel. But because of age and long-term upside, DeBrincat would have the slight upper hand in keepers.

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It must be left wing day in the Ramblings, because I’m going to compare another pair of left wingers that I recently had to decide between. These two are slightly lower in single-season fantasy value, and the fact that they are a little older makes the gap between this pair and the previous pair even greater in keeper leagues. The pair I’m comparing next are Jeff Skinner and Mike Hoffman.

The same comparison for Skinner and Hoffman:

Hoffman: 82 GP, 36 G, 34 A, 70 PTS, 35 PPP, 253 SOG, -24

Skinner: 82 GP, 40 G, 23 A, 63 PTS, 16 PPP, 268 SOG, zero plus/minus

It’s funny how a year ago, we were talking about Hoffman as potential damaged goods after the public feud between him and Erik Karlsson that forced him out of Ottawa. There was also worry about a lack of power-play time in Florida, yet Hoffman ended up leading all Panthers’ forwards in power-play points last season. And with the first 30-goal of his career, Hoffman’s value actually improved with a move to the Panthers. Thank heaven I didn’t flinch at the league members who were trying to play up Hoffman’s personal situation in an attempt to acquire him at pennies on the dollar. Moral of story: Don’t sell low.

Skinner, meanwhile, scored 36 of his 40 goals by February 15. After that, shooting percentage regression caught up to him, as he scored just four goals over his last 25 games. He had been shooting nearly 20 percent over that span, so regression had finally hit. Should Skinner shoot at his three-year average of 12.2 percent and take around 270 shots, he would score about 33 goals. That’s a slight but not huge dropoff. Overall, Skinner’s value improved with the move to Buffalo, and he should continue to thrive on Jack Eichel’s wing.

Comparing this duo to the last one, Hoffman is to Guentzel as Skinner is to DeBrincat. In terms of single-season value, Hoffman should have the edge. Florida’s power play is more potent at the moment, which should put Hoffman over the top. Even though Skinner has been in the league longer, he still has the age advantage (27) over Hoffman (29), as you may remember that Skinner entered the NHL straight out of his draft year. In terms of age and upside, give Skinner the slight edge. Yet this is another example of two very-closely ranked players at the same position.

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I prefer to have my fantasy drafts later in September rather than earlier, but to some of you may prefer to get the draft out of the way earlier or may simply have no choice. If that’s the case, you may find out which pick that you have about a half hour before your draft starts. Not a lot of time, but maybe the Roto Rankings can help, as can the Fantasy Guide Draft List spreadsheet.

This decision might be particularly difficult this season because we don’t know the exact injury status of one Connor McDavid. His absence from on- and off-ice activities at the BioSteel camp that he usually participates in is a bit concerning, although it may have been part of the recovery plan following his knee injury from the final game of the regular season in April.

If you have the first overall pick, though, would you risk it on McDavid? What about the second or the third overall pick? Even if McDavid is ready for the regular season, he may be a candidate for a slow start because he is still a step or two behind, depending on how much he participates in training camp. A theory that extends beyond fantasy hockey and throughout other fantasy sports is that you won’t win your league because of your first-round pick, but you could very well lose your league with a failed first-round pick. That’s because you’ll have nowhere to go but down with your first-round pick. No pressure, eh?

To me, the other real choices for that first overall pick seem to be Nikita Kucherov and Alex Ovechkin (more in multicategory than pure scoring). I’ve even heard arguments that Nathan MacKinnon should be ranked ahead of at least one of these players. Right now, I’d say these four are in the discussion as possible first overall picks, if you are fortunate enough to receive it.

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Yay, I just won Kris Letang in auction bidding! Should I be excited? After having to account for missed games in most of the seasons I’ve owned him (which, hard to believe, has been nearly a decade) with the fact that he’s now 32, I’m coming back for more abuse. In this league format, Letang is a license to print money when healthy, as he earns additional points in this scoring format from goals and assists because he is a defenseman. If you're going to ask me why I've gambled on Letang for so long, I'd be happy to show you the room where I keep my four championship trophies. Risk also has its reward. 

We can probably pencil Letang for about ten games missed (if not more), which will limit his upside compared to what it could be. But what if he played an entire season? Among d-men who played in at least 40 games, only four defensemen (Brent Burns, Mark Giordano, Morgan Rielly, John Carlson) scored more points per game than Letang (0.86). The encouraging sign is that in spite of his age (32 at season’s end), Letang actually improved by five points – in spite of playing 14 fewer games! Although the scoring inflation that aided many other players may have also helped Letang.  

I’m obviously not going to tell you not to draft Letang. Just draft him in the right spot, which is probably in a second tier of defensemen that is larger than the first tier (which I’ll tentatively list as Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, John Carlson, and maybe even Erik Karlsson, if you’re willing to overlook his own injury risk). If Letang can play more games than expected, that’s a bonus. Maybe that even pushes you over the top. However, you may also want to draft a complementary bench piece for your defense with less of an injury track record and that can help fill the void should Letang end up on the shelf again.

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