Ramblings: Hot Fantasy Takes for 2017-18 – September 25

by Michael Clifford on September 24, 2017

Time to get out the blowtorch.

With just over a week until the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, the fantasy hockey draft season is starting to wind down as well. Hopefully between the Ramblings, the articles, and the draft guide, all the Dobber heads out there should be fully prepared for whatever drafts remain.

I figure it’s a good time to get some bold predictions down on paper (er, pixels). These will be rooted in fact, and won’t be outrageous – mostly. While most of these statements are not going to come true, it’s a helpful exercise to look at things from a different angle. People – present company included – can get entrenched in their views after reading the same thing for months on end, so a different perspective is not a bad thing.

Keep in mind that these are all made under the assumption of standard Yahoo roto scoring, and all barring significant injury.

Let’s get to it.


Zach Werenski will be a top-5 defenceman

Last year, as a 19-year old, Werenski had a higher shot rate at five-on-five than PK Subban, Duncan Keith, Mark Giordano, Victor Hedman, Dustin Byfuglien, and Shea Weber. He had as many five-on-five points as Torey Krug and Oscar Klefbom, despite playing about 80 minutes and 140 minutes less than those two, respectively. He is a supremely gifted offensive defenceman that will be adding Artemi Panarin to the team’s top power-play unit as another weapon. Even if his point production rate at five-on-five is stagnant, an increase in ice time should give him a boost to crack the 50-point mark. With that power play unit and his shot rate, he could have a season similar to what Dougie Hamilton had last year with more power-play points but fewer penalty minutes. It would be enough to make him a top-5 blue liner.


Alexander Radulov will finish ahead of Leon Draisaitl at right wing

With the Oilers seemingly committed to Draisaitl as the team’s second line centre, he no longer gets to play with Connor McDavid at five-on-five. He will still be on that PP unit, but his five-on-five totals will take a hit dropping down from McDavid to Milan Lucic and [insert right winger here].

Last year, Draisaitl managed 56 shots and 25 points at five-on-five while skating with McDavid in 674:01 minutes; 47 and 15 without in 500:03 minutes. That works out to 4.99 shots and 2.23 points per 60 minutes with McDavid and 5.63 and 1.80 points per 60 minutes without. His play-driving rates dropped by six percent away from McDavid as well. He has a lot to prove, and this will be a big year in proving himself as not dependent on the best player in the world.

Meanwhile, Radulov is going from a situation where his centre was Phillip Danault to a situation where his centre is Tyler Seguin. He should be better both at five-on-five and on the power play. He should provide solid, but not exceptional, across-the-board peripherals.

Radulov is skating both at five-on-five and on the power play with a line that could be the top offensive line in the league; Draisaitl is lining up in the preseason with Milan Lucic and Drake Caggiula. Even if Jesse Puljujarvi moves up – and I think he does – it’s still nothing close in comparison to what Dallas can offer.


Patrick Kane does not finish as a top-3 right winger

A common trope is that Kane helped Artemi Panarin become a prolific point producer in the NHL. This isn’t necessarily wrong – playing with Patrick Kane is going to have its advantages offensively, both at five-on-five and on the power play. That is not in dispute.

Kane has played nine 82-game seasons. His two highest point-per-game seasons in those nine years came with Panarin on his wing. His two highest shot-per-game seasons also came in the last two years. While it’s fair to say Kane helped Panarin, the reverse also seems true to a degree.

The line of Panarin, Artem Anisimov, and Kane was by far the most-used line over those two seasons as well. Sure, at times Kane moved up with Toews or guys like Tanner Kero got a bit of ice time on the second line as well. For the most part, though, that was the trio. As of now, Anisimov has moved to the third line and Kane will skate with either Alex DeBrincat or Patrick Sharp on the left side. DeBrincat has a bright future and Sharp still has something left in the tank, but are either of them, at this moment, better offensively than Panarin?

All this isn’t to say that Kane falls off the map. Right wing, however, is much deeper than the left side, and Kane will have younger guys like Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Laine, David Pastrnak, and William Nylander all in great situations this year with lots of upside, as well as veterans like Blake Wheeler, Wayne Simmonds, and Joe Pavelski producing consistently excellent fantasy campaigns year after year.

Just some food for thought.


Tyler Toffoli will have a better fantasy season than TJ Oshie

Hey, remember Tyler Toffoli? The guy a year removed from a 30-goal season? The guy who scored 1.04 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five in the three years from 2013-16, which was the same rate as Brad Marchand in 2016-17?  Remember him? Well, he’s routinely being drafted outside the top-10 rounds in 12-team leagues. Just FYI.

Anyway, there’s a new regime in Los Angeles, and hopefully that means more ice time for Toffoli:

That is pure insanity for a team that had so much trouble scoring they would have lost games 2-1 to a shooter tutor.

This extends to the power play as well. Tanner Pearson often received favourable treatment to the top power-play unit, and hopefully that changes this year.

At least early in preseason, it appears the line of Pearson, Jeff Carter, and Toffoli is reunited. Without significant offseason offensive additions, the team isn’t too different up front from last year. Hopefully a more creative offensive structure with more ice time for Toffoli – along with a full, healthy season – can see him regain his 30-goal glory. Keep in mind that he has just 23 power-play points over the last three seasons. If that area can improve, a big rebound season is incoming.


Justin Faulk finishes as a top-12 defenceman

So we’re clear here, these are Faulk’s 82-game pace numbers over the last three years: 18 goals, 28 assists, 240 shots on goal, and 33 penalty minutes. Over the last three years, this is the entire list of defencemen to have achieved each of those marks in a single season: Brent Burns (twice), Erik Karlsson and Dustin Byfuglien. 

There are three issues for Faulk in the past:

  1. He’s averaged eight missed games per season over the last three years.
  2. His plus/minus has been horrific because the team failed to address their goaltending issue for the last half-decade.
  3. The team finished in the bottom-5 in scoring in two of the last three seasons.

To that last point, the team has been improving offensively; starting in 2014-15, they have gone from 2.20 goals per 60 minutes, to 2.35 in 2015-16, and finishing with 2.55 last year. Not only have they gone out and added solid veteran scoring wingers like Justin Williams and Lee Stempniak over the last couple seasons, the younger guys like Victor Rask and Sebastian Aho are starting to cement themselves as solid offensive players. This team is a lot better offensively now than it was three years ago, and Faulk should reap the rewards.

On a team that should be at least league-average in scoring while playing top power-play minutes, and the recent track record Faulk has had on much worse offensive teams, this is lining up to be a big year for him. If Scott Darling can perform in net as they expect him to, Faulk can crack the top-12 roto defencemen this season.  


Brian Elliott finishes as a top-15 goalie

Despite missing the playoffs last year, this is a team on the rise, particularly on the blue line. Not only do they have Shayne Gostisbehere who will always garner a lot of fantasy recognition, but Ivan Provorov looked to be a future Norris-worthy defenceman last year, they have a bevy of up-and-comers like Travis Sanheim, and Sean Couturier is developing into a top-tier two-way centre.

The Flyers finished in the top-10 last year for fewest adjusted shots and scoring chances allowed at five-on-five. Their horrific goals against was due to the goaltending, not the team in front of the goaltending. Steve Mason had a bad year, undoubtedly, but most goalies do at some point. Elliott also had a bad year last year but again, most goalies do at some point.

The question as far as wins go is if Elliott can stay healthy enough to make at least 55 starts, which he’s never done. Even if he doesn’t though, if he can regain the form he showed in St. Louis, he could produce very good ratios, and 45 games of very good ratios can be enough to sneak into the top-15 (think of guys like Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj, and Antti Raanta last year). At his ADP, he’s worth the risk given his new situation.