September is right around the corner and that means training camps will be here in no time. Get a leg up on your fantasy league mates by grabbing your copy of the 2018-19 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide today! It has everything you need to get ahead of the curve for the 2018-19 fantasy season.
The big news from the weekend came out of Detroit with the news that Henrik Zetterberg hasn’t really been able to train this off season and this puts his season in doubt. He turns 38 years old early in October and his long-standing back issues are no secret.
Craig Custance of The Athletic tweeted this Monday morning:
Yes. At this point, I'd be surprised if he plays again.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) August 27, 2018
Dobber covered this a little bit in his Ramblings yesterday.
Aside from the understanding that Andreas Athanasiou will move to centre, one thing I would like to add is that this undoubtedly solidified Dylan Larkin’s role. Larkin played just under 20 minutes a game last year but with the lack of depth at centre now, it’s easy to see Larkin’s role expanding even more. We could see Larkin end up playing close to Aleksander Barkov minutes, which would be around 22 a night. It’s probably not what Jeff Blashill, or any coach, really wants to do but they don’t have a lot of options.
I am interested to see how Athanasiou fares. He has very solid underlying numbers like controlled zone entries and exits but he’s more of a shooter than a true playmaker. Does he continue his shot-heavy ways or does he expand his game to be a true all-around centre? It’ll be fascinating to watch. He could have relevance in 12-teamers now, but as a late-round flier and not someone necessarily to target.
We’re starting to get more updates on players and their injury recoveries going into training camp. One such note was on Robert Thomas:
Yeo said there are a couple guys they "aren't 100 percent sure on" regarding some of the injuries sustained last season/end of last season. Wants to wait until they get in/meet with doctors first, but Robert Thomas (ankle) sounds like is ready to go when camp opens. #stlblues— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) August 27, 2018
Thomas is a curious player this year. There were some quotes back in July that Thomas could legitimately be the number-2 centre for the Blues this year, or at least on a line with Ryan O’Reilly. I’m not bullish enough on him to believe he’ll do that but it sure did sound like he’ll have every opportunity to make the team out of camp.
Most people are thinking about the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season but our very own Cam Robinson is looking ahead to the 2019 Entry Draft. A few days ago he released his top-62 rankings for the draft, and you’ll never guess who was at the top of the list. (Jack Hughes. It’s Jack Hughes.) Anyway, for those in dynasty leagues it’s a good opportunity to get a head start. Even if you don’t agree with them, it’s a chance to see whose stock rises and falls over the next 10 months. Sometimes a player’s stock falls for performance, or off-ice issues, or a host of other reasons. If they’re ranked highly now, and not ranked highly in June, it could be a good buying opportunity. Someone like Jakob Chychrun comes to mind. If they’re a good player now, they’ll probably still be a good player for 2019 fantasy rookie drafts. It’s just a good idea to keep track of these things when trying to maximize value.
One thing I like to do when draft season approaches is look at different rankings and ADPs from different sites. This really depends on the competition of a given league but despite the proliferation of information available, there’s a good portion of the fantasy community that are underprepared when their actual draft comes around. Some people do rely on the rankings from a site when making their picks and that can lend itself for different players to be over- or under-drafted.
- Yahoo has five goalies in their top-25 and this is where they’re ranked: Andrei Vasilevskiy (14), Pekka Rinne (19), Connor Hellebuyck (22), Braden Holtby (24), and Sergei Bobrovsky (25). ESPN has just three goalies in their top-25: Vasilevskiy (15), Bobrovsky (19), Holtby (23). Now, leagues draft differently; sometimes players are really aggressive on goaltenders. All the same, for those drafting on ESPN (I know Dobber won’t be one of them), you could probably draft three skaters and still be able to snag a top-10 goalie from your draft board. On Yahoo, that would be a little more precarious.
- Carey Price is ranked a fair bit lower on ESPN (goalie number 14) than on Yahoo (goalie 10). Last week, I wrote that I’m probably not interested in Price being my team’s number-1 goalie but would consider him in the number-2 range. It looks like I may be able to do that in the one league I have on ESPN.
- One goalie ranked a bit higher on ESPN is Jonathan Quick, coming in as goalie 4. Over on Yahoo, he’s the seventh-ranked goaltender, between Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen. I understand that Quick can be a divisive goalie both in the real world and in the fantasy game but other than his injury-plagued 2016-17, he has at least 25 wins and a .915 save percentage in every season since the lockout year. I guess it’s a matter of how good (or bad) a person thinks the Kings might be this year. It might be fair to say they over-achieved a bit last year, but a healthy Jeff Carter and the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk should make a difference.
- John Gibson, meanwhile, is ranked way higher on ESPN (goalie number 6, 41st overall) than he is on Yahoo (goalie 17, 95th overall). I think there are valid concerns about the Anaheim Ducks, chief among them being their aging stars. All the same, goalie 17 seems awfully low for a 25-year old goalie with such a stellar track record. If he starts sliding in your Yahoo drafts and you can legitimately grab him anytime outside the top-10 goalies, it’s too good an opportunity to pass on.
- Antti Raanta is ranked kind of low on both sites, coming in as goalie 20 on ESPN and goalie 24 on Yahoo. It’s sort of understandable because repeating a .930 season is nearly impossible for any goalie and despite some changes and additions in the off season, they could still be in tough to be a team which scores enough to provide Raanta with wins. All the same, consider this: Martin Jones was just inside the top-20 goalies last year with 30 wins, a 2.55 GAA, and a save percentage of .915. If you think Raanta can exceed those marks, then he’s going at a value across the industry right now.
There are some others to dig into but I just wanted to cover some of the bigger names for today. It’ll be another couple weeks yet until we get reliable ADP data to see if the rankings will truly reflect where some of these goalie are drafted, but it does look like we could see some value options depending on which site is being used.
Any thoughts on the goalies named above, Dobber fans?
This is more of a general comment but as draft season is really starting to wind up (we’ll be full-bore once training camps start), an important comment on the randomness of hockey:
The 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres were one of the worst teams to skate in the NHL this century and they still won 23 of their 82 games, about 28 percent. You won’t see a winless season in the NHL like has happened in the NFL. With the salary cap, the randomness of the game, no more ties, and scouting progression across the world which has created a deeper talent pool, you won’t see single-digit wins like in the NBA. Even horrific NHL teams like that Sabres team a few years ago can still be expected to win one out of every four games.
We like to look for meaning in everything. Quite often, we can find a reason why a player excelled (or didn’t) or a goalie stood on his head (or didn’t). Sometimes though, things are just random. It could be for a single game or it could be for an entire season. Sometimes there just isn’t a meaning. Sometimes, stuff happens.
To kind of continue the theme of “stuff happens,” a good read from Dom Luszczyszyn over at the Athletic on predicting point totals for teams. Or, as the title of his piece says, measuring uncertainty.
He shows in his article the results of different simulations of the season. Because of the inherent randomness of the game itself, there’s one simulation where both the Islanders and Sabres make the playoffs and the Avalanche are in the Cup Final. There’s another where the Islanders win the Metro Division and the Lightning miss the playoffs by 10 points. There are simulations where the Coyotes make the playoffs, others where they’re last in the West.
You get the point.
Just remember that if Dobber, or Laidlaw, or myself, or whomever else’s projections you, the reader, look towards, we’re going to be wrong and we’re going to be wrong a lot. When you’re projecting how many goals, assists, shots, penalty minutes etc. that every skater in the NHL will have, there are going to be some players we are wildly wrong on. It’s just important to learn why something went wrong (maybe there’s a blind spot in a model or ensuing analysis) and try to improve in the future. There are guys I’ve missed on very recently like Victor Hedman, Kyle Connor, and Josh Anderson. There will be players I miss on this year. Such is the nature of the game we play.
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