Inside you’ll find the usual projections for each player by team, plus sleeper picks, draft review and Calder nominees, advanced stats, breakdown of the 2019-20 schedule, and more! As well, I should mention that the Fantasy Guide is updated as more signings, trades, injuries, and other events affect player projections. You just have to log back in, go to your Downloads folder, download the latest version, and view the updates in blue.
You might have your nose in the Fantasy Guide at the moment (as I have for as long as I could as well), so I’m not going to make this the longest Ramblings ever. However, I’ll tie this into the guide by explaining my thought process for the two pieces that I chipped in with: Goalies to Watch, and PIM Producers. Of course, you’ll have to purchase your copy of the guide to read these articles; however, I’ll also take the opportunity to revisit what I wrote one year ago.
Goalies to Watch
This piece is a combination of current goalies that could be the next surprise, along with prospect goalies that could make an impact with an injury to the starter. It’s not about goalies that are sure-fire studs, because you already know who those are (if you don’t, you can visit the Rankings). In other words, who will be the next Jordan Binnington?
Having said that, not every one of the goalies I listed will be a hit, although it’s not meant to be that way. Since I also took on this task last year, I’ll give you my two best picks followed by my two worst picks from last summer’s guide, why I chose them, and what we can learn from their results.
My reasons: A Barry Trotz defensive system coming to Long Island, Lehner’s respectable .916 SV% over three seasons in Buffalo, and the 2018-19 Islanders will be a better team than the 2017-18 Sabres.
What we learned: It’s safe to say this pick far surpassed my expectations as well as everyone else’s. Coaching and defensive systems matter when choosing a goalie, which is why I like Semyon Varlamov as an Islander. There are going to be surprises like Binnington and Lehner who go from the waiver wire pile to fantasy gold again. It’s just a matter of trying to find who they are. A little bit of luck doesn’t hurt, either.
My reasons: A make-or-break season for Scott Darling (which didn’t end well for him), something to prove after declining results, and the Hurricanes’ strength at preventing shots.
What we learned: A new goalie paired with a struggling goalie represents opportunity (if you drafted Darling, hopefully you jumped ship quickly). Over the past two seasons, no team has allowed fewer shots per game than the Hurricanes (28.7 SA/GP). They may not have been as strong as the Islanders in terms of goal prevention, but the Canes still have a system that makes life easier for goalies. Both Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney benefitted from this system.
My reasons: Low default rankings means that he should exceed expectations, should play in at least 60 games, which will result in plenty of wins and saves.
What we learned: The fantasy value actually went from bad to even worse! Mikko Koskinen was another surprise goalie in terms of the number of games he played (55) and the three-year extension he received partway through the season. The Oilers’ system is not goalie friendly, but Talbot did not do himself any favors with his own play. Sometimes bounce-back predictions don’t work, although many fantasy owners will likely give Talbot another chance now that he is a Flame.
My reasons: Signed to be the new starter in Buffalo over the next season or two, strong numbers in St. Louis (2.09 GAA, .931 SV%).
What we learned: Do you see a parallel here by now? System matters when it comes to goalies. The Blues have a strong defensive system. The Sabres don’t (or at least haven’t until this point). Hutton was the starter all right (played 50 games), but he allowed nearly a full goal per game more in a Buffalo uniform. His quality start percentage only dipped from 59.4% in 2017-18 to 54.0% in 2018-19, so he could be in line for some improved numbers now that the Sabres are stockpiling NHL defensemen.
I listed 20 players, who I grouped into four different categories:
- Points/penalty minutes studs
- Second-tier points/penalty minutes options
- On the verge (coincidentally, all of these players have the “bloodlines” to produce PIM)
- Short-term/long-term prospects
There’s everything from your obvious guys (who also have to be able to score) to a few names that may surprise you all the way down to prospects who could dominate this category in a few years.
I called the first category “Points/penalty minute studs” because I noticed quite a few penalty minutes leaders that could also score. The top 15 PIM leaders in 2018-19 averaged 35 points. Compare that to 2007-08, when the top 15 PIM leaders averaged just 20 points. The top 15 PIM leaders in 2007-08 also took way more penalties (average 193 PIM) than the 2018-19 top 15 PIM leaders (average 104 PIM). Nowadays, you shouldn’t have to seek out penalty minutes options that will be a liability to your scoring categories.
The Rangers made the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout official on Friday, buying out the final two seasons of his four-year contract. The Rangers obviously had to make salary cap room for their shiny new toys in Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba and still have Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux to sign as RFAs, so I’m not at all surprised that this buyout has happened. Even though Shattenkirk has been bothered by a surgically repaired knee, I’d expect another team to buy low on him in the hopes that he can regain his scoring touch.
I wrote about DeAngelo during Bubble Keeper Week, when I mentioned a possible Shattenkirk buyout. Now that it has happened, DeAngelo has a better chance of getting first-unit power-play time. I still think Trouba is on PP1 because of the Rangers’ investment in him, but DeAngelo could also sneak onto the first unit if David Quinn elects to go with a 3F-2D PP1. This assumes that someone like Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich or even Kaapo Kakko slides onto the second unit. Don’t forget about newly acquired Adam Fox in this mix as well.
The Flames have waived defenseman Michael Stone for buyout purposes. Stone has one year left on a three-year, $10.5 million contract. Stone played in just 14 games in 2018-19, recording just five assists. Moving on from Stone likely ensures that youngsters Rasmus Andersson and Juuso Valimaki are full-time Flames in 2018-19, while Oliver Kylington should be in the mix as well. The Flames still have Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane to sign as RFAs, so they may need to make a trade before the start of the season. One option is Michael Frolik, as mentioned in The Athletic.
The Minnesota Wild have reportedly begun their GM search, interviewing both Ron Hextall and Peter Chiarelli. It will be interesting to see whether the new GM immediately tries to undo the moves that Paul Fenton made, or whether like many new bosses simply decides to observe for a while before making any important decisions.
Had Fenton stayed on, it sounded like he was going to find a way to trade Jason Zucker, but the new GM could instead decide that Zucker is an important piece for whatever it is the Wild are doing. The new GM will also inherit all of the Mats Zuccarello contract, which may not have been one that he would have signed. If this new GM decides to go the rebuild route, he will be in for a tall order given the 5+ years left for over-30 players such as Zuccarello, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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