Ramblings: Flames’ First Line, Panthers’ Power Play, Results of my Autopick Experiment (Sept 30)

by Ian Gooding on September 30, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Flames’ First Line, Panthers’ Power Play, Results of my Autopick Experiment (Sept 30)


Flames’ First Line, Panthers’ Power Play, Results of my Autopick Experiment

One popular offseason debate has been which new Flames’ acquisition – Elias Lindholm or James Neal – will see top-line minutes with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The answer, according to the Calgary Sun, is both. What do you mean the Flames should make up their minds? Don’t you know by following the Frozen Pool line combinations that teams line juggle all the time? The article describes in which situations Lindholm and Neal will likely be deployed.

Personally, I think it would be better for the Flames to put Lindholm there, as he has more to offer overall (at least that’s what I concluded from reading the article). Hopefully I’m not just saying that because I drafted Lindholm (see below). In fairness, Neal is more of the pure, proven goal scorer. However, Lindholm seems to be better in matchups and faceoffs, and he’s the only right-handed shot of the four forwards mentioned here. But at just 18 percent ownership compared to the 56 percent ownership of Neal, Lindholm needs to be owned in more fantasy leagues.  

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Some news to keep an eye on, for more than one reason: Keith Yandle left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury. Panthers coach Bob Boughner said he “hopes” to have him for the season opener, for what that’s worth. The Panthers’ season opener isn’t until Saturday, so Yandle will potentially have a week to rest whatever it is, assuming it’s not serious.

While I was looking up the Yandle information, I found this little tidbit on the Panthers’ power play after Yandle left:
 


Yes, a five-forward power play. That would eliminate some of the worry that Mike Hoffman owners would have that he would lose value with his trade to the Panthers because there would be no room on the first-unit power play. But just to confirm, here is the list of forwards that were used on the power play:
 


This is worth keeping an eye on, particularly if it works for the Panthers. Yandle owners might not be so fond of this though. It might even push someone like Dobber favorite Mike Matheson out of the power play completely. But if I’m a Yandle owner I wouldn’t panic either, as the preseason should be the time for teams to experiment. Not the time for fantasy owners to overreact.  

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Some other injury news: Torey Krug left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury and could be seen in a walking boot after the game. This is concerning because Krug suffered a fractured ankle during the playoffs and had missed most of the preseason while finishing recovery. It goes without saying that Charlie McAvoy would be the biggest beneficiary should Krug land back on IR.

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In training camp news, 2018 third overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi has made the opening-night roster of the Montreal Canadiens. Between reaching for Kotkaniemi third overall and him making the squad as an 18 year old, it’s clear that the Habs are very high on this kid. At one point Nick Suzuki seemed like a stronger bet to make the Habs out of camp given that he is a year older, but thanks to a strong camp Kotkaniemi will receive at the very least a nine-game audition. There is the debate as to whether it’s worth using a year of Kotkaniemi’s entry-level contract now, but the fact that the Habs are so thin at forward has helped Kotkaniemi’s cause.

View Kotkaniemi’s Dobber Prospects profile here.

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As I first brought up in a recent Ramblings, here are my draft results from a team that I autopicked on Thursday night:
 


You can view the full draft results here, as this league has been published to view publicly. As mentioned in my tweet above, the first four rounds were preselected keepers, so they appear in no set order (in other words, please don’t comment about how you don’t think Sidney Crosby should have been picked first overall). Also note that fellow Dobber writer Eric Daoust is also a league member, which is why you’ll see two results for Dobber Hockey.

I knew that my fifth-round pick would be a goalie. How so, you ask? Well, I had the fifth overall pick, which I had known for a few days. So I set my first five picks to all be goalies. I actually ended up with my third-ranked goalie (Devan Dubnyk), as Sergei Bobrovsky and John Gibson were my first two choices in net and were already picked. My choice for the top pick of that round has to go to Scott Cullen of TSN, who chose Victor Hedman at number 7. Had I not autopicked, Hedman would have been in my top five for sure. But I knew that if I did not rank goalies at the top, I could be left high and dry for a G2.

But I was hardly upset about not drafting Hedman. As you may have noticed by now, after picking Jonathan Marchessault in the sixth round, the autopicker went on a little run on defensemen. Five defensemen in a row! How that happened is that I ranked d-men fairly high, but I had no idea that this would happen. I know that autopickers tend to fill roster spots without regard to balancing a roster, so you could end up filled up at one position before it even begins to pick another.

I had enlisted the services of Fantasy Hockey Geek to create customized rankings according to this league. Of course, I tweaked them to my liking afterward. The Geek tends to rank d-men very high given the scarcity of high-scoring blueliners relative to the average. That’s why Brent Burns has been worth a first-round pick for the past few seasons.

Needless to say, I was very happy with my defense corps. I know that finding d-men who can score in this league is considerably more difficult than finding forwards who can score, particularly at center. But if you need to fill D slots late in your draft, you’ll probably want to search for hits/blocked shots specialists (if your league counts those categories). My Dion Phaneuf pick late in the draft is a good example of this.

I know that I lack “big gun” scorers, but I believe that the forwards I drafted are a dependable lot with some good upside. Artturi Lehkonen, Nolan Patrick, Dylan Strome, Elias Lindholm, and Bo Horvat are all sleepers right from the Fantasy Guide. In fact, I like what I’ve seen from Horvat this preseason and would even be willing to suggest that he could be the Canucks’ leading scorer this season should he stay healthy. I know I’m going to have to lean heavily on Brad Marchand, Jakub Voracek, and Marchessault for scoring, though. I might be in big trouble should one of them get injured for an extended period. Fortunately, none of these three are Band-Aid Boys.

I’m sure most of you reading this would much prefer the control of picking a team in a live draft over trusting a computer. Yet do we not trust computers nowadays for many important tasks? Even in hockey, where player and team analysis is shifting away from observation and simple stats toward a reliance on numbers to make decisions. I’m not saying this will work, nor will this be my final roster. It will be important for me to manage this roster through savvy waiver-wire pickups and even a solid trade or two. But I’d at least like to find out whether autopick can be better than expected, if it is managed properly.

I have another live draft later today. I will at least try to be present for it.

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Fun fact that I learned today about one of the d-men that I drafted: Only Brent Burns has more goals over the past four seasons (85) than Oliver Ekman-Larsson (70). The ADP of 107.9 in Yahoo leagues might turn out to be a real bargain for OEL, particularly if the Coyotes take a step forward this season and his plus-minus recovers. Unfortunately, OEL has been a minus-77 over that same four-year span. That number is trending toward improvement, though. With the Coyotes being a much better team in the second half than the first half, OEL was a plus-13 over the final two months of the season.

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For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.