Ramblings: Johansson Signs, Richards Retires, Colin Wilson, and More (July 21)

by Michael Clifford on July 20, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Johansson Signs, Richards Retires, Colin Wilson, and More (July 21)

Johansson Gets Three-Year Deal, Richards Retires, Thoughts on Wilson, Ehlers, Fabbri 

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This isn’t really related to fantasy anymore, but yesterday, long-time forward Brad Richards retired from the NHL. Though he played 15 seasons, Richards is likely best known for his performance for the Tampa Bay Lightning, particularly in the playoffs, way back in 2004. That year, Tampa won its only championship, partly in thanks to the Conn Smythe performance from Richards that saw him boast 26 points in 23 postseason contests.

Richards was never really a goal scorer, not cracking 30 goals in a season, but is one of the best playmakers of the millennium: the two-time Stanley Cup champion is third in assists since the start of the 2000-2001 season (634), trailing only Joe Thornton (898!), and Henrik Sedin (748). Those were taken from Hockey Reference’s Play Index.

Those that have played fantasy long enough know how good Richards was in his prime. This was a guy who put up 240 or more shots, and 70 or more points, in four straight seasons while he was in Tampa. He obviously lost a step towards the end of his career, which essentially relegated him to a depth player/power play specialist, but he had some truly elite campaigns.

Best wishes to Mr. Richards and his family. Enjoy those PEI summers.

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Looking at Nashville’s wing depth, the locks for a top-six wing position are James Neal and Filip Forsberg. I would wager that Craig Smith finds himself in there as well. For selfish fantasy purposes, my hope is that Colin Wilson can nab the fourth spot. He could be a great value at the draft table, considering there may be a good rebound ahead this season.

From 2009-2015, Wilson had a very high five-on-five shooting rate of 12.91-percent, according to Hockey Analysis. One season of that would be good for a reasonable conversion rate, but Wilson managed that over six seasons, and in over 4600 minutes of ice time. In that span, he only fell below 10-percent once, shooting 9.78-percent in 2013-2014. Last year, that number plummeted to 3.49-percent, leading to just three (3) five-on-five goals. In the four seasons where he played at least 500 minutes before that, he averaged 12 goals.

The scoring issues led to him being buried a bit in the depth chart, finding himself often in the bottom-six. The result was a five-year low in ice time per game, and a career-low in total goals (six).

There are a few things that make me optimistic of a turnaround:

  • Wilson has a lengthy track record of scoring at a reasonable rate. Before last season, he was in the top-third of the NHL among regular forwards in goals per minute over his six seasons, on par with names like Wayne Simmonds, Clarke MacArthur, and Kyle Turris.
  • Wilson’s shot rate per minute (6.46) was better than his career rate before 2015-2016, which was 5.90. That is important to understand, as sometimes a goal scoring dip can be a function of a low shooting rate. That was not the case here. Ice time was a factor, but shooting rate was not.
  • In the playoffs, Wilson played at least 15 minutes in 10 of Nashville’s 14 games, and at least 17 minutes in half of them. Yes, there was one huge overtime game involved in there, but as a whole, when it was crunch time, Wilson was generally relied upon.

With the hope of Wilson jumping back into the top-six, and likely a huge turnaround in shooting percentages coming off a down year, Wilson should be a value at the draft table. He won’t be a monster performer, but he can definitely be a 20-goal, 40 or 45-point player that can be had for cheap depth in 12-team leagues or deeper.

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Lazily watching baseball the other night, a tweet came across my timeline that piqued my interest:

For those that don’t necessarily follow all the beat writers from all the teams, Arthur Staple is generally considered a very good beat writer. Obviously there are no lineup combinations set in stone in the middle of July, but seeing P.A. Parenteau alongside John Tavares is notable.

After being bought out by Montreal – something that, to this day, drives me batty when I think about it – Parenteau had a 20-goal, 41-point season for a team that was actively trying to be the worst in the NHL. From 2010-2015, the meat of Parenteau’s career, he was inside the 80th percentile of NHL forwards in assist rate. He was even better in first assists. If there is a guy that can feed Tavares and Andrew Ladd, Parenteau is a decent bet.

All this is forgetting that Parenteau’s best two seasons points-wise were alongside Tavares from 2010-2012. He averaged 60 points over those two years, playing over 18 minutes a game in that time frame.

Parenteau has never been the fleetest of foot, and that will probably hinder is overall ice time. I do think there will be a healthy amount of power play time though, which will lead to 15 power play points on the top unit. If they’re going to get max value out of him, it will be with the man advantage, and that will translate to a lot of PP ice time. If he can stick with Tavares for the bulk of the season, this could be a 20-goal, 50-point year in the making. Nothing out-of-this-world, but likely a value in drafts come September.

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There will be RFA signings that trickle in throughout the summer – thanks for giving us something to talk about in July! – and one yesterday was that the Capitals signed Marcus Johansson to a three-year deal with an average annual value just under $4.6-million. Johansson will be 29, and a UFA, at the end of the deal.

Knowing that Johansson will indeed be back for the Capitals seemingly locks up the top-9 forward mix for Washington. I suppose there can be discussion about who will play third line right wing, but for our purposes, that’s probably not relevant. 

A discussion with fellow Dobber writer Cam Robinson made me realize something: this likely makes Jakub Vrana’s fantasy value go poof for 2016-2017. In a Ramblings a little over a month ago, I mused that Vrana would probably slot in as a third line left wing for Washington at the start of the year. Of course, that was before the draft day trade that saw Montreal ship Lars Eller to Washington. That gave Washington their third line centre, and now with Johansson signed, their third line left winger is locked up as well. Assuming Andre Burakovsky or Johansson are rotated between the second and third line, Vrana is back in the AHL for this season, as bringing him up and burning an ELC year on the fourth line seems pointless.

Personally, I think Vrana’s too good for the AHL. He’s been a point-per-game player as an 18- and 19-year old (in his brief tenure), and watching him in the playoffs, it was clear he was on another level. Having the skill to play in the NHL is one thing, having the skill and the opportunity to play in the NHL is another. Barring significant injuries, it’s probably 2017-2018 before Vrana is fantasy relevant.

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The latest Cage Match from Rick Roos discussed something every fantasy owner in every sport loves to talk about, and that’s breakouts. I encourage readers to head over there and insert their opinion.

Just briefly, and without a whole lot of research put into it yet, some thoughts on a few of the breakout players listed.

Nikolaj Ehlers

The 15 goals and 38 points Ehlers posted last year is far from eye-popping. However, here is a comprehensive list from Hockey Reference for all teenage rookies since the 2005 lockout to accomplish the following line: at least 15 goals, at least 20 assists, and at least 2.2 shots per game (which would be 180 shots in an 82-game season)

It is, quite literally, a who’s-who of rookies over the last decade.

This is a player I grew to love over the season. He has all the skills necessary to be a star in the league, and his rookie season stacks up very well against others. I’ll be buying on draft day.

Robby Fabbri

A lot of Fabbri’s value next year will be tied into his role. If he’s on the third line, he’s waiver wire fodder. If he’s in the top-six, he will be a must-roster player.

Last year, Fabbri was second on the Blues in points per minute at five-on-five, per Hockey Analysis. Now, a one-year sample isn’t a lot to go on, specifically one that had under 900 such minutes. The thing is, he was also second on the Blues in shots per minute at five-on-five, and that put him inside the top 25-percent of forwards in the NHL to do so. Reminder: it was his Age 20 season, as a rookie, and he shot at a comparable rate to names like Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle.

As mentioned, the problem here will be ice time. Fabbri typically plays left wing, and with Alex Steen and Jaden Schwartz both on the roster for next year, Even if he were to play centre, he would be behind Stastny and Lehtera, so it seems Fabbri will have to settle into a third line position. For this reason alone, I would probably let someone else draft him in shallower leagues. He will get dropped though, and if there’s an injury to either Steen or Schwartz, Fabbri is the first guy to benefit.

*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Cap information from Cap Friendly