Ramblings: Dobber’s early-season notes (Oct 08)

by Dobber on October 8, 2018

 

Late draft? Pick up the Fantasy Guide! Last update was October 3 and since nothing major has happened since that date, that is where I’m calling it this year. Shortly, in Frozen Tools, we will have an “on pace” row for each player so you can review what each of their stats are on pace for over 82 games. We had that in the old version, we’ll be bringing that back.

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I was bullish on Thomas Chabot in the Guide, bumping him up to 42 points after the Erik Karlsson trade. But from what I saw on Saturday I wonder if he shoots past that mark by the middle of March. Very composed and mature, and six moves ahead of everyone else. Then again, it was the Leafs’ defense he was up against so I’ll reserve judgment for a few more games. But man, so far so good.

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The debate of Elias Lindholm vs. James Neal was never really a debate in my mind, but I’ve seen too many hockey writers assume that Neal would be Johnny Gaudreau’s linemate that it created this imaginary debate. Long-time hockey fans and writers have a lot respect for James Neal. That’s the ticket that gets punched when you tally 80 points in a season – once you do that, you’re considered “can’t miss” for years, even though you’re frequently missing. Neal had 81 points playing with Evgeni Malkin back in 2011-12. Since then, he hasn’t topped 62 points and is usually around 45 points thanks to injuries holding him to 70 or 75 games. This is over five seasons with three different teams, and this is clearly a well-established second-line number. Meanwhile, Lindholm is seven years younger, on the rise, he shoots right (which is what the Gaudreau line needs) and can play center as a backup to Sean Monahan. Two games into the season, Neal is still finding his way on one of the other lines (third line with Derek Ryan on Saturday), he has one point and is averaging 16:43 of ice time. Lindholm is on the top line, has three points and is averaging 21 minutes per game. In my Keep 12, back in September I traded Ryan Johansen for a draft pick so that I could make Lindholm my keeper over him.  Any lingering doubts you have over Lindholm and what he will do this season, you can probably start letting them go.

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I grabbed Austin Czarnik in two of my leagues, late (almost the last pick in one) because I felt that the Flames pursued him hard, signed him early and promised him certain things for signing him such as ice time and PP time. To me, that says that they have scouted him, done their homework and brought him in to succeed. So he will be given every chance to do so. So far his ice time has been middling, he has seen secondary PP time, and has two points in two games with very solid linemates (Matt Tkachuk, for one). I’m not counting my chickens before they have hatched here, but I like the promising signs so far.

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Scoring was up last year by 7.4% and I projected another 2.2% increase for this year. As I explained in the Fantasy Guide, I attributed some of this to the addition of Vegas, but most of it was due to the clampdown and reduction of the size of goalie equipment. Give a shooter even 5% more net to shoot at, and more pucks are going in. This year the league has added specific rules regarding elbow pad size, clavicle and shoulder pad size, and goalie pants/thigh guards. I don’t know what percentage of net the changes last season exposed, but you can bet that percentage has increased this year and so will the goals. I’m now thinking 2.2% is conservative. It won’t continue at the ridiculous pace we’re at so far just a few days in, but it will still increase over last year mark my words.

What does an increase in scoring mean for fantasy hockey? Well, I think it means that more forwards will give you fantasy-worthy production. Defensemen, too, but since the amount of forwards double the amount of defensemen, a percentage increase in the number of forwards has more of an impact on your league. In a nutshell, I think this means that more forwards available on the waiver wire will help you. The domino effect of that being that a focus on goalies and defensemen in the draft would be very helpful, since forwards are easier to replace (after the upper tiers of forwards, that is). If you drafted six solid forwards, six solid defensemen and two or three solid goalies, you have an advantage over someone who drafted 10 solid forwards, three solid defensemen and two solid goalies. Thankfully, I employ this strategy anyway, so I don’t regret my drafting.

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An observation I made late last week (follow me on twitter here)

On one hand, this is great in the sense that Warren Foegele is likely in the NHL for good thanks to everything he brings. On the other hand, he’s not being pigeonholed offensively – so the early PP opportunities go to the highly-touted troika. This will probably put a cap on what Foegele will do, at least for the short-term. If he wants to change that for the long term, he’ll need to start putting pucks in the net and make his mark.

Disclosure: the above spiel was written Sunday afternoon before I went to Thanksgiving dinner (and I got to watch the game during dessert) – and then Foegele goes out and gets three points. Rather than edit my words, I’ll leave them in and reflect further. Sunday against the Rangers he still had no PP time, saw his ice time cut a bit to 13:27 (Svechnikov, two points and up to 13:17 TOI, Necas one point and up to 10:06). Zykov was scratched – and that’s where I think Foegele is safest among the Carolina rookies. He’ll get to play, he’s getting a longer leash, and if he keeps producing early the PP time will come. He’s clearly the most NHL-ready of the group. His zone starts are merely 40% and yet he’s driving possession despite pretty much zero sheltering. A diamond in the rough.

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Here were Carolina’s line combinations:

#1

32%

FOEGELE,WARREN – STAAL,JORDAN – WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

#2

17%

MARTINOOK,JORDAN – SVECHNIKOV,ANDREI – WALLMARK,LUCAS

#3

15.8%

AHO,SEBASTIAN – FERLAND,MICHEAL – TERAVAINEN,TEUVO

#4

14.6%

DI GIUSEPPE,PHILLIP – MCGINN,BROCK – NECAS,MARTIN

Martinook in for Zykov paid dividends offensively. Rather – Martinook has been in the lineup all along, but he was promoted to Zykov’s line. And because those three clicked it may be tough for Zykov to get back into the lineup now. I love Zykov’s upside, but he was always a bit of a wildcard and we all knew that.

Ferland didn’t get the sweet linemates through much of training camp when I last checked, so I tempered expectations. But if he can stick there – and back-to-back two-point games says he can – then you have to think he can mimic what he was doing in Calgary on that big line. As always with him though, beware of injuries.

I remember when Jeff Skinner was traded a few big hockey analysts asked “where will the goals come from?” I shook my head at the time, thinking that wouldn’t be a problem. And now we’re seeing it. What is the problem is goaltending. Petr Mrazek won that by the skin of his teeth (it was 8-6) and has allowed seven goals on 44 shots so far (ouch). Could Curtis McElhinney actually take the backup job, as Don Cherry alluded to on Saturday? I think he’s worth the stash. I looked into doing it myself, but due to the idiot Tom Wilson suspension I’m stuck with one less reserve spot.

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Speaking of bad goaltending, I could go on and on about the goalies who played Sunday. Not just Mrazek, but I’m not impressed with Garrett Sparks nor Cam Ward either. And that was before the Sunday games! Out of those three and Alexandar Georgiev, I was most looking forward to seeing what Georgiev could do. Woops. Yes, he was hung out to dry on a couple of them, but some of those were pretty ugly.

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Vladislav Namestnikov was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch. After his big two points in his last 18 games to end last season with his new team, I don’t have very high hopes for him although he did pick up an assist. Just 9:30 of ice time for him, which speaks to the faith his coach has in him. Good on Steve Yzerman for trading him with a classic “sell high”. I wonder if more teams will mimic that: take a one-dimensional fringe offensive player like a Namestnikov or a Ty Rattie – have him play with a couple of superstars for two months and put up gaudy numbers, and then trade him for a “real” player such as a J.T. Miller. Do that three or four times before other GMs eventually catch on, but by then you’ve added a great core to your squad. Dobber for GM!

I know Filip Chytil picked up an assist Sunday, but I don’t like how his ice time dropped from 17 minutes Saturday to just 10 minutes. He has two points in three games, but the production won’t continue if the trend in ice time does.

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One more note on Carolina – not only is the team having no trouble scoring, but the farm team is doing the same thing. Prospects Nicolas Roy has six points in two games for Charlotte while Janne Kuokkanen has four.

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I looked into a forward on the waiver wire worth grabbing for a four-game week starting tonight and settled on Max Comtois. A goal in each of his first two games, reasonable ice time, and a pedigree of production.

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Jonathan Quick is out again. Another lower-body injury. This is the time to obviously jump on Jack Campbell. As some of you know, I am a big fan of Cal Petersen. I believe the Kings are bringing him along to take over in two or three years. But Campbell really proved himself last season and I think can do well as the starter for a week or two. Anything longer than that? I have my doubts. Is Petersen any better? Well, he didn’t have a great game in the AHL on Saturday. But long term I do like him better, yes, in keeper leagues. He's just not ready yet.

Here and now – Campbell gets first dibs. We saw this already on Sunday when he stopped 36 of 38 shots. Campbell had a great game and paid immediate dividends to the savvy poolie who managed to catch the news in time and claim him off the wire. But let’s see how well he does against Winnipeg on Tuesday, against a team that can score. That would sell me a lot more. For all we know, Quick will be back within a week in which case the question is moot.

Peter Budaj was recalled to be the backup, this way Petersen can continue getting AHL work.

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With Dustin Brown sidelined, there was not much question that Alex Iafallo would play with Ilya Kovalchuk and Anze Kopitar at some point. After trying Adrian Kempe there with little results, Iafallo was put on the line Sunday and he picked up two points (so did Kovalchuk). So that line will stick for a few more games methinks.

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Contract year alert! Gustav Nyquist. Three points in two games so far. I smell a career year, just in time to cash in next July.

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San Jose recalled Dylan Gambrell from the AHL as Joe Thornton has been placed on IR. Thornton has swelling in his surgically-repaired knee and it sounds like this could be a problem on and off throughout the season. His ice time was cut by three or four shifts last game. With him off the top line, the line no longer is the top one in my opinion. Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier? To me it is now Logan Couture with Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc. The Pavelski line will likely try Gambrell there or possibly Barclay Goodrow, who had a fabulous preseason but carries little fantasy value.  Gambrell has second-line upside and is coming off a three-point game in the AHL.

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Regardless of what happens with, or what we think will happen with, William Karlsson this year in terms of repeating last year’s numbers, one thing I know for sure is that Jonathan Marchessault is as safe as it gets in fantasy hockey. He’s the driver, Karlsson is the passenger. I just think hockey sense wins out here, Marchy has it in spades. While I have questions of Karlsson getting 55 points or 75, I think Marchy gets to 70 safely.

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In another move Sunday – the Ducks waived Pontus Aberg, so he’s about run through his gauntlet of chances.

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Back to the bad goaltending and the Toronto/Chicago score-fest.

First of all, I’m disappointed that it didn’t work out with Tyler Ennis. I think we all knew that it wouldn’t, but we all hoped in our hearts that this oft-injured former stud prospect would find his mojo. And how better to do that than by playing with Auston Matthews? But he was taken off the line and Kasperi Kapanen was inserted there – and along with Patrick Marleau the threesome promptly picked up a combined eight points.

So yeah – Kapanen. Your next waiver-wire target (I literally paused midsentence here to grab him, and it’s a deep league so I suspect he’s available for you). I don’t believe he’s a long-term solution for this year, but he’s streaky as hell so I fully expect at least a week of greatness.

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I still have my eye on undrafted prospect Dominik Kahun, who has settled in on the Jonathan Toews line (with Alex DeBrincat). He picked up a pair of nice assists Sunday.

Before my draft I traded to acquire Ty Rattie, a player I had actually drafted seven years ago and he’s somehow stayed in our league all along (the team that owned him last year ran out of draft picks before he could replace him, so he was kept one more year – and good thing). It required a good prospect on my part (Vitaly Abramov) plus a couple of pick upgrades, including one for this year that gave him the 24th overall pick. At the time, I had been hoping that Henri Jokiharju would slide to me at that spot. Turns out – that very pick was flipped to another team mid-draft and that team actually took Jokiharju with it! Just to rub salt in the wounds, I guess. So Rattie better pay off for me.

Anyway, I obviously bring that story up because Jokiharju put up three assists Sunday and already has five points this year in three games. To me, he’s the reason why Duncan Keith might have a bit of a resurgence. He is a master at moving the puck.  Thankfully, I drafted Jokiharju in my other league, so all is not lost!

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William Nylander is holding firm on his (speculated) $8 million demands and Leon Draisaitl comparable. The Nylander camp feels that the hardline approach is the negotiating tactic that will work. The problem is – there isn't a negotiation. Kyle Dubas has moved on and is running the organization without Nylander. When he signs the offer given to him, he is welcome to join them. The more I read Dubas' favorite book (and I'm almost done) 'The Score Will Take Care of Itself', the more I see this. He's not even paying attention to what the Nylander camp is doing or saying. The paper that Dubas pushed to the corner of his desk towards Nylander's agent is still sitting in the same spot three weeks later, probably with a paperweight on it so it doesn't blow away. In a few weeks Nylander will return to sign it, possibly after firing his agent.

And the Draisaitl comparison is garbage. I like the Nikolaj Ehlers comparable better. /rant

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One more note. Before you go dumping any of your Arizona players (i.e. Vinnie Hinostroza), hold up. They have only played two games and were shut out in both of them. No players have points yet, so don’t be discouraged that your (my?) Hinostroza sleeper pick hasn’t panned out yet. Don’t (Richard) panic. Let it play out. In the early-season crazy scoring rate, they could make up for lost time in about ten minutes.

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Man, I had lots to say. And I could keep going, but it's 2am. Hey, if you want more Ramblings – check out the Goalie Post Monday Ramblings here!

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See you next Monday.