We are seven weeks away from the beginning of the season and that time will pass quickly. Before we know it, parts of the fantasy hockey community will be scrambling to prepare for drafts.
Don’t be one of those people scrambling for drafts by grabbing your copy of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey fantasy guide! It has projections, articles, and a whole lot more. Head to the Dobber Shop and procure yours now.
In my Ramblings a couple days ago, I implored readers to keep Jake DeBrusk high on the draft lists, drafting him as often as possible. I went back through the archives and thought I had written on DeBrusk’s 2017-18 season but apparently that is not the case. Let’s rectify that.
I don’t want to keep looking back on last year but it gives us good insight into 2018-19.
At first blush, DeBrusk’s time in the AHL wasn’t overly impressive. While 49 points in 74 games in his age-20 season is nothing to dismiss out of hand, it was nowhere near the best in the league. The thing is, that Providence Bruins team wasn’t a high-scoring one, or at least they spread the scoring around; DeBrusk finished second on the team in points while Jordan Szwarz led with 54. Not bad.
Fast forward to 2017-18 and DeBrusk had 43 points in 70 games in the NHL. How did he get there?
The first thing that stuck out to me early in the season was DeBrusk’s ability to get to the net. I even wrote about that after their first game! While getting to the net isn’t in and of itself a guarantee of production, we’ve seen how it can help players like Patric Hornqvist and Brendan Gallagher have very successful seasons.
To better visualize DeBrusk’s shot locations, here is his 2017-18 shot density compared to Gallagher’s, with the viz pulled from Hockeyviz.com:
Beyond shot location is shot rate. DeBrusk launched 14.45 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five last year. That was slightly below David Pastrnak and slightly above Brad Marchand. League-wide, that rate compares to Artemi Panarin (14.57) and Sebastian Aho (14.44). Those are all very impressive names to be around.
If you want to compare shot rates to players close to his age, the only players with higher shot rates last year who were also in their age-21 season or younger were Kevin Fiala (17.92), Alex DeBrincat (16.47), Sam Bennett (16.02), Brock Boeser (15.22), Pastrnak, Jack Eichel (14.71), and Mitch Marner (14.56). Depending on your view of Bennett, those are all exceptional young talents with whom DeBrusk finds himself in company.
DeBrusk was eighth in 5v5 TOI per game last year, eighth among Bruins forwards. He was below David Krejci, David Backes, Riley Nash, and Danton Heinen, on top of the Big Three. That third line, which was so good last year, won’t look the same this year. With natural progression, we could see about another minute added to DeBrusk’s TOI totals, which should add a few points alone.
Finally, there’s the question of the power play. That was brought up in my Ramblings yesterday and the immediate threat is Ryan Donato. It was Donato given top PP minutes when he was called up whereas DeBrusk almost exclusively stayed on the second PP unit. It is a fair concern, but my thinking is that DeBrusk is more of a net-front player (as evidenced by his shot locations) than Donato, and that’s the role they need to fill with the departure of Rick Nash. I will fully admit that it may be Donato, in which case DeBrusk’s upside takes a big ding, but this is a case where I think one player fits the role better than the other.
I won't dig into all the other stats like expected goals and on-ice shooting percentage but they will be factored into my projections.
There are a large range of outcomes for DeBrusk depending on his PP usage. He has 60-point upside if he can get those top minutes. If not, he could slide into the 45-50 range. More than anything, the point is I believe he’ll return a profit on his ADP, especially if he keeps improving those hit totals (he averaged one per game last year playing under 15 minutes a night). I’ve mentioned before my projections won’t be ready for a few weeks yet, but I can say with certainty that DeBrusk will be one of my most-drafted players this year.
Feel free to disagree in the comments.
The Ducks signed winger Ondrej Kase to a three-year deal carrying at $2.6-million AAV.
I wrote about Kase back in early July and the same thoughts hold up. I will be writing about him more over the coming month or so.
While I’m thinking of it, it’ll be interesting to see the ADPs of both Donato and DeBrusk. Donato was only around in limited minutes and it’s easy to overlook DeBrusk on a team with names like Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, McAvoy, and Krug. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait much longer to see where some ADPs fall:
First day for live draft – August 20, 2018
— Fantasy Hockey Geek (@FantasyHockeyGk) August 15, 2018
Andrej Sekera has undergone surgery to repair a torn Achilles. While some initial speculation puts the timeframe at around six months, I will say I’ll be stunned if he’s back anytime around the All-Star Game. If he can make it back at any point in the 2018-19 season, that should be seen as a win.
No, I’m not a doctor.
Ian covered the injury from his perspective in his Ramblings yesterday.
On top of Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard, I want to just say this: it was better for an injury for the Oilers to come from the left side than the right. They still have Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse (once he’s signed), and they can run (or will have to run) Kris Russell on the third pair. It’s the right side where they’re shallow so at least it’s from a position of relative strength.
What this injury does is a few things. It locks Klefbom into the top pair role, it locks Nurse into the second pair, and it eliminates competition for the top PP unit. Remember that a couple years ago, Sekera had taken some top PP minutes from Klefbom. There is still Nurse lurking around, but it’s one fewer guy for Klefbom owners to worry about. Whether those top PP minutes bring substantial production is uncertain given how they performed last year, but at the least, the minutes will be there.
It’s very unfortunate for this injury to hit, though. Even if they’re strong on the left side, the Oilers can ill afford to lose any impact defenceman and he’s just a fun defenceman to watch anyway. Let’s hope he can return faster than I think he can.
For those wanting to read more on Bouchard, visit his Dobber Prospects profile here. One thing working in his favour is they desperately need right-shooting defencemen; right now, it’s Adam Larsson and Matt Benning. If they don’t sign anyone else, it’s plausible he makes the roster. Though I assume they’ll give him at least another year before making the roster full time. We’ll see.
Ryan Ellis signed a new contract and this is probably one of those situations where he’s going to be a much better real-world asset than fantasy asset.
A lot of people will be excited with his 32 points in 44 games. That’s all well and good. There are red flags, though.
First is the injuries. He’s played 332 games since the 2012-13 lockout year out of a possible 410. That’s an average of 66.4 games played per 82. Now, that’s an average dragged down by two significant injuries because he’s played at least 70 games in three of the last five years. But he’s also missed at least 10 games in three of the last five years. That’s always something with which to be concerned.
There’s also the assist rate. He had 23 assists last year (remember, in 44 games), and that was a career high. His secondary assist rate at five-on-five was 0.7 per 60 minutes, a career-high. He had never cracked the 0.5 mark before, and his previous three seasons were 0.19, 0.32, and 0.4. If he had that secondary assist rate last year, it would have more than tripled his total of secondary assists at five-on-five. We know that second assists are usually random and expecting him to replicate anything close to the rate he had in 2017-18 is misguided.
His shot rate did jump which is a big reason to think he’ll have a solid goal-scoring floor. The problem is that it’s just a 44-game sample. He had a shot attempt/60 minutes rate at five-on-five of 12.3 last year. He had never cracked double-digits before, so it was a significant deviation from his norm. Shot rates across the league increased, but if I recall correctly, it was around 4-5% on average. Ellis’s rate jumped over 24 percent. It could be a new norm, or it could be a blip due to a half-season sample.
Remember that Ellis has never broken the 40-point mark. If he played a full 82-game season, maybe he can get there. But he’s also third on the depth chart for PP minutes and won’t come close to that top PP unit as long as both Roman Josi and PK Subban are in the lineup. I think extrapolating Ellis’s 2017-18 year to 2018-19 will lead a lot of people astray. I’ll be drafting him with the expectation of 40 points, not 50 or more. That likely means he won’t be on any of my teams this year.
I’m aware this is a significant deviation from what Dobber has in the guide. There will be many instances where he and I do not agree (DeBrusk’s PP role was another). That’s fine! Good-faith debate among reasonable people is important to learning in fantasy, or just in life in general. If we all agreed all the time, it would render fantasy sports rather boring.
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