Injured Blue Jackets, Revisiting Players I Liked In Drafts
I hope you had a memorable December 25 and were able to check out some of the World Junior action that started on Boxing Day. If you’re diving into the WJC (as I know many of you are), you’ll want to check out the Prospect Mailbag over at Dobber Prospects. Cam loves to talk prospects and even took the time to answer my question.
Usually player news is sparse during the holiday break, but some news on one team broke late Christmas Day. The rough seasons continue for two Blue Jackets’ forwards, as both Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg are expected to be sidelined for the next four to six weeks. Both injuries occurred close to the Christmas break.
The Jackets are particularly thin at center at the moment now that both Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky are on the shelf. Steve mentioned Pierre-Luc Dubois as a solid second-half pickup in his Ramblings yesterday (some very interesting numbers in there if you haven’t had a chance to read, but stat #21 if you want to skip ahead to Dubois). With the injuries, now you have one more reason to add the 2016 third overall pick if you’re worried about a lack of icetime that first-year players often receive.
Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, and Oliver Bjorkstrand are Blue Jackets to keep an eye on with all the injuries. I don’t watch the Jackets enough to know for sure, but boxscores appear to show Jenner and Nick Foligno taking turns at center. One of those two could move up to the first power-play unit with Atkinson out (Bjorkstrand is already there). Bjorkstrand’s even-strength time could jump, as he has been averaging just 12-13 minutes total per game on a line with Matthew Calvert and Lukas Sedlak.
We’ve now experienced three days of the NHL standing still. Have you been craving more NHL during the break, or have you used the time to catch up on other interests? You can always use (some of) the time to review your roster. Which players have exceeded expectations? Which players have failed to meet expectations?
Using Dobber’s idea from his Christmas Ramblings, I’m going to revisit the status of players that I drafted in multiple leagues. I’ll use three grades here: hit, miss, or incomplete. There may be some gray area in these grades, so I’ll use preseason expectations as my bar. More importantly, I’ll look ahead to what to expect from the player for the rest of the season. My original comments from my October 1 Ramblings are in italics.
This pick has turned out even better than I expected. I mentioned in the Sportsnet piece that Schenn could push for 70 points. But never mind that – Schenn will reach 85 points if he continues at this rate. One minor downside is that after a scorching November (19 points in 12 games), Schenn has cooled off a little in December (10 points in 13 games), perhaps feeling the effect of linemate Jaden Schwartz being lost to injury. Another is that although Schenn is well on his way to a career year, some of his peripherals (power-play points, hits) are down from last season. But his plus-minus, penalty minutes, and shots on goal are up. So his high Yahoo ranking is justified by his multicategory contributions.
Dustin Byfuglien: An absolute must-own in multicategory leagues, and he holds his own in points leagues too. Plus I don’t have a problem drafting top-tier defensemen early. – Incomplete/Miss
Byfuglien, who has yet to score a goal in 2017-18, wouldn’t qualify for Rick’s latest Cage Match (vote here) because he is over 30. But can we stick a “never again” line of 15 goals, 50 points, and 200 hits on Big Buff? His numbers declined ever so slightly in 2016-17, yet he averaged out at pick 25.1 in Yahoo drafts. I’ll use “Incomplete” here along with “Miss” since he has been out of the lineup on two separate occasions this season because of injury, and he is currently on the shelf week-to-week. But I really wonder if the wear and tear of playing a physical brand of hockey is finally catching up. Needless to say, I won’t be drafting him that high again.
Doughty deserves his own Geek of the Week column (Scott, are you reading?) He is currently ranked #7 in one of my Yahoo leagues and #32 in another, so I’ll cherry-pick stats where he is standing out in the higher-ranked league. Among defensemen, Doughty is tied for 5th with 21 assists and 26 points, 2nd with a plus-18, and 8th with 102 shots on goal. He’s also a top-50 blueliner in hits and a top-100 blueliner in blocked shots, which matter in this particular league. So while the Kings are more offensively focused (at least moving from the bottom third to the middle third of the league), Doughty is filling your statsheet.
A side note on Jake Muzzin: A commenter suggested that because I already picked Doughty, Muzzin was a wasted pick. I understand that owning two defensemen from the same team isn’t ideal because of the “off days.” This is a strategy that I employ more in fantasy football because of bye weeks and the much shorter schedule. Either I didn’t notice I was drafting another defenseman from the same team (the more likely scenario), or I simply drafted Muzzin because I thought he was the best player available knowing that I also own a teammate at the same position (which I have done before anyway). Muzzin is still on my team, so I’m still okay with my pick. But while we’re discussing second guessing, Mathew Barzal was chosen one pick after.
Shayne Gostisbehere: Now that the sophomore slump is out of the way, watch for big things. – Hit
I know that some assumed that the 55 points that was projected for Gostisbehere in the Fantasy Guide was a bit high. But if you include the three games he missed due to injury, Ghost is currently on pace for 61 points. Sure, there’s the worry that Ivan Provorov will bump him out of the first-unit power play role at some point. But why would the Flyers mess with something that already works? A total of 16 of Ghost’s 27 points have come on the man advantage, a number that leads all defensemen. Meanwhile, Provorov is stuck at one power-play point all season. Say what you want about Ghost, but his game is made for fantasy leagues.
Ryan O’Reilly: A very cheap 55-60 points that I have been drafting in Round 15 (around the 170th pick) of a 12-team draft. – Miss
The nice thing is that your expectations aren’t super high at 170th. But that pick, along with early-season waiver wire grabs, are where leagues can be won and lost. O’Reilly’s scoring numbers are down slightly (0.76 P/GP last season to 0.66 P/GP this season). His minus-14, which matters in both leagues, drags his value down even further. I dropped O’Reilly in one league when Mitch Marner became available, while he is sitting on my bench in the other (deeper) league.
Elias Lindholm: His Carolina team is quietly getting better, and he was one of the hottest players in the second half last season (36 points in 45 games). – Miss
I’ll call this one a miss, although not to the extent of O’Reilly. Lindholm hasn’t quite been able to pick up where he left off last season with 20 points in 35 games so far. That’s not bad, but he was the first player to go from my shallower team. If Lindholm continues at his current pace, he will match his 45-point total from last season. But if he’s truly a second-half player, there could be better things to come. That could mean his 11 percent ownership in Yahoo will climb.
Gibson is off one of my teams, as I traded him for Taylor Hall and Jaroslav Halak. I received a much-needed boost in offense, but my goaltending has been weaker with the exception of wins, which have been identical. Gibson has been a solid goalie with an injury-riddled team in front of him. He’s currently tied for 20th in wins and 22nd in goals-against average, yet is 7th in save percentage (.922) among goalies that have played at least 15 games. As the Ducks get bodies back into their lineup, Gibson could be in for a strong second half. Maybe he’s someone worth buying low on?
Great news about Dobber, most importantly with his health but also that there will be a midseason guide. Preorder it here, and it will be ready for you to download on January 12. Speaking of which, I need to get to work on my contribution to it.
An all-time great who was easy to like, whether you are a Leafs fan or not.
You won’t hear from me again until the new year (at least on this site… but maybe through Twitter). So I’ll wish you a Happy New Year now. Have fun, and remember to keep it safe!
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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