The Montreal Canadiens were dealt a significant blow on Thursday as the team announced Shea Weber would be undergoing knee surgery which would keep him off the ice for 5-6 months. Best guess right now is to not expect him in the lineup until Christmas.
While the Subban-Weber trade has been debated since it occurred, the fact is Weber was still a good defenceman aside from that. However, after missing four months of games last year and three months this year, the Habs are now looking at Weber not playing a full year again until his age-34 season. At which point they’ll have seven more years with an AAV over $7.8-million. Not great.
Good news for Jeff Petry’s dynasty owners, though. He was really good for fantasy purposes once Weber left the lineup in mid-December, posting 31 points in 49 games (17 of those points on the power play), averaging over 24 minutes a night and over 2.5 shots per game. He also had 82 hits and 88 blocked shots in that span. I suppose of the Habs want to be bold they can hand those PP minutes to Victor Mete but given how good Petry was, I don’t see that happening.
Petry’s ADP will be interesting. Assuming Weber can return sometime around Christmas, he will probably be slotted back on the top PP unit, relegating Petry back to the second unit. Fantasy owners might only get a half-year from Petry in that cushy slotting, and even then, it’s not guaranteed he replicates his success down the stretch in 2017-18.
The Blue Jackets locked up one of their core forwards but not the one maybe fantasy owners (and Jackets fans) were hoping. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic broke Jenner being extended by Columbus for four years with an average annual value of $3.75-million.
There is still the question of the Artemi Panarin contract situation but once Zach Werenski and Oliver Bjorkstrand are extended (the former has one year left on his ELC), the young core of this team will be around for another few years at least.
Jenner has been a fan favourite for fantasy hockey owners for those stout hits totals alone. Four of his five seasons have seen totals of over 200 hits and the fifth season was 102 hits in an injury-shortened 31-game campaign. Add in 15 or so goals with very good shot rates and Jenner has all the tools necessary to be a very valuable multi-category performer.
The question is whether Jenner can get back to the 30-goal plateau, or something close, as he did in 2015-16.
As far as individual expected goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five, Jenner’s been consistent over the last three years: 0.95, 0.94, and 0.90 since 2015. The actual goals have varied greatly, from 1.01 in 2015-16 to 0.64 last year. Shooting percentage is obviously a reason for that.
Expected goals take shot distance into account (it’s why teammate Cam Atkinson always has a high expected goals rate) and Jenner is very good at getting to the net; Jenner was second on the Jackets, behind Atkinson, in shots from inside 15 feet, according to Dobber’s Frozen Tools, with 68. In his 30-goal season, Atkinson had 106 shots from inside 15 feet. For reference on how good that is, in that same season, Patric Hornqvist had 102.
Part of that is the power play. Jenner had a career-high 170-plus minutes with the man advantage in 2015-16 but failed to crack 100 minutes in either of the next two years. If you’re looking for 30-35 shots missing from in tight, the power play is where to start. This is his shot map at five-on-four in 2015-16 (from HockeyViz):
That’s where all the shots went.
Unless Jenner gets those top PP minutes again, the 30-goal days are behind him. In order to get 30 goals, he’d probably have to get 25 or so at five-on-five, a mark only five players reached in 2017-18. With everyone else he brings to the fantasy game, even a 20-goal year would be more than enough to bring a lot of value to fantasy owners. Until he gets his top PP minutes back, though, repeating his 30-goal 2015-16 season is a longshot.
Detroit avoided another contract headache with Andreas Athanasiou by signing him to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $3-million.
Athanasiou is kind of a special case. He’s great at generating offence, whether it be getting in or out of the zone with control or using his flat-out breakaway speed to elude defenders. He’s not a particularly strong playmaker but given Detroit’s inability to score in recent years, having a guy who can break open a game single-handedly is nice to have.
It’s a matter of how he’s used. Jeff Blashill, as fantasy owners know, isn’t very kind to young players not named Dylan Larkin so Athanasiou could be anywhere from the first line to the fourth line on any given night.
All the same, Athanasiou saw his shot rate jump into the top-20 across the league last year, just behind names like Kevin Fiala and Evander Kane. Shooting as much as he does with his skill set should bode well for him crossing 20 goals next year. How much further he goes beyond that is up to Blashill.
Throughout my Ramblings I use a variety of sources. One such source is the All Three Zones comparison visuals from CJ Turtoro using data based off Corey Sznajder’s work. Mr. Sznajder tracks zone entries, zone exits, shots, shot assists (passes that lead to shots), among other things. We know that zone entries with control lead to more shots. The utility of knowing who is good and who is bad at such things for fantasy hockey is obvious.
I thought I would go through some players on the radar of fantasy owners but not among the elite in the game. Players whose numbers show promise of either emerging offensively, improving, or in one case, re-establishing prior elite production.
Alex Galchenyuk has a new home and he may even get a shot at playing centre. One might not think that getting traded to Arizona would be a huge boost for fantasy value but this is a special case.
If Galchenyuk is moved to centre, it seems likely that he would line up with Clayton Keller. It would allow the team to put two of their top offensive players (if not their flat-out top offensive players) in advantageous situations when possible while allowing Derek Stepan to soak up the tougher minutes. Galchenyuk has never played more than 16:26 per game in any season, and Keller played over 18 minutes a game last year as a rookie. If Galchenyuk indeed moves to Keller’s pivot, there’s your barometer for his minutes.
In prior Ramblings – last year – I compared Galchenyuk to Matt Duchene. People laughed. That’s fine. Here’s how they match up over the last two years in shots, shot assists, and both zone entries and exits:
How excited would the fantasy community be were it Matt Duchene going to Arizona to potentially play with Keller as opposed to Galchenyuk? Narrative and name value are driving the bus here.
Maybe Galchenyuk doesn’t line up as Keller’s centre. Maybe he doesn’t line up as a centre long-term. Regardless, Galchenyuk is a good offensive player who can help Arizona score. In fantasy, we don’t really care about defence. If he can find his way to the top line, you’ll want him on your roster.
Anyone who reads my Ramblings knows I’m a fan of Ondrej Kase. He put up solid underlying numbers in limited minutes as a rookie in 2016-17. His 2017-18 season saw him pop 20 goals in just 66 games, playing fewer than 14 minutes a game. In fact, he was the only player to score at least 20 goals with fewer than 1000 total minutes of ice time in 2017-18. And he didn’t do it with a sky-high shooting percentage either, coming in at 13.7 percent.
Just how good has Kase been over the last two years in doing the little things to help generate offence? He’s been, uh, all-world good:
Now, it’s a limited 20-game sample for Kase and I’m not saying he’ll be the next Kucherov. What I am saying is he was a player identified a year ago for doing good things to help his team, had a really good year after that, and the numbers indicate it wasn’t luck, that it wasn’t a mirage.
The issue here is Kase’s role. He was ninth among Ducks forwards in five-on-five ice time, fifth among wingers, and had sparse power-play time. With Adam Henrique presumably just taking over Ryan Kesler’s role on the power play, that PP time will continue to be sparse. Middle-six minutes with limited man-advantage minutes limits upside. Expecting more than 20 goals and 40 points is expecting too much.
There’s a very real chance he plays himself to the top line this year. Jakob Silfverberg is tied to the second line and Corey Perry is far from the player he was five years ago. Keep an eye on your waiver wires. Kase is a very, very good player who just needs a real opportunity to shine.
The last guy I want to cover is Nick Schmaltz. He seems to get overlooked often in Chicago after names like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, Alex DeBrincat, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford. Schmaltz, however, has been beyond excellent for the Blackhawks when it comes to helping generate offence:
That’s over 800 minutes for Schmaltz, too. I’ve lauded his playmaking before, but other than being a shooter, he’s brought everything necessary for Chicago’s second line to flourish. Kane being there doesn’t hurt, obviously.
After Christmas, Schmaltz was a fixture of the top PP unit. Though Artem Anisimov is still around, Schmaltz was third in 5v5 TOI in calendar 2018 among ‘Hawks forwards. I know Joel Quenneville scares some people with how he handles young players, but it’s pretty clear he found his guy to play behind Toews in the second half last year.
Like I said, Schmaltz isn’t a shooter. If he can get 20 goals again, that’s a big win for fantasy owners. He’s more of a points-only league option, but this is a 60-point centre in the making in such setups. Once the elite guys are off the draft board, fantasy owners will likely be able to grab Schmaltz late. Believe in him.
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