Tyson Jost, Scott Darling, plus more…
We’re approaching the point in the summer in which player news is grinding to a halt. But there are still a couple of player signings to mention.
Ryan Murray has accepted a one-year qualifying offer from the Blue Jackets. Never a defenseman who has made a real fantasy impact, Murray has reached the 70-game mark just once in his career. Remember when the Oilers were criticized for passing on him in favor of Nail Yakupov? Murray would have been the better pick, but it’s not as if he has turned into a franchise defenseman himself. The 2012 draft wasn’t exactly a stout one, but it emphasizes how we really don’t know how players will turn out.
The Stars have signed Devin Shore to a two-year contract worth $4.6 million. Shore has quietly posted back-to-back 30-point seasons, although his minus-30 ranking (tied for sixth-worst in the league) would have kept him out of being owned in a lot of leagues. Shore also quietly received some first-unit power-play time with a decent 11 PPP total. I wouldn’t expect a big breakout unless new Stars’ coach Jim Montgomery decides to both spread out the Stars’ scoring and decides to use Shore on the first-unit power play over options such as Jason Spezza, Valeri Nichushkin, or Mattias Janmark.
On a side note, I always get confused as to which Shore plays for which team. Hopefully it’ll stick now that I’ve written this.
On the Dobber Sports Facebook page, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to vote on which player I’d like to read the Dobber Lowdown on for the upcoming Fantasy Guide. If you haven’t seen it, you’ll be able to choose between two players for each team. The current Facebook poll (as I write this) is the LA Kings with your choice of either Tyler Toffoli or Adrian Kempe.
You can even go back one step to the Forum to pick amongst a larger group of players that will be listed as the final two on Facebook. Here’s a sample for the New York Islanders, where the group includes the likes of Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Ryan Pulock, and even newcomer Jan Kovar.
So far the players that will be covered in the Dobber Lowdown are as follows:
In case you don’t know what the Dobber Lowdown is, it’s a one-paragraph analysis of one particular player of interest on each team. Here’s a sample from last year’s Fantasy Guide:
“Dobber’s lowdown on: Sam Gagner – Columbus coach John Tortorella saved Gagner’s NHL career. He was traded twice, the second time needing an incentive to go along with him, and then waived. He cleared waivers because of his anchor of a contract ($4.8 million) and played part of 2015-16 in the minors. Torts was masterful in his usage of Gagner, giving him some power-play time and utilizing him at even strength only when it was safe to. Contrary to widespread belief, Gagner didn’t anchor a ‘top’ PP unit for Columbus but was more of a cog on a 1A unit. He saw time on 56% of the available PP, which is on the low side for a top unit. He had 32 ES points and 17 PPPts. The Oilers, Flyers and Coyotes couldn’t make it work but the Blue Jackets could. Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of faith that this arrangement will continue to work out.”
We won’t all agree which players we would like to see Dobber write about. But I’ll cherry-pick one that didn’t win in his pair. I don’t blame the 54 percent that voted for Samuel Girard to be the Avalanche player for Dobber to write about, but selfishly (because I own him in a keeper league), I would have liked to have seen Tyson Jost in that spot. So I’ll provide my own lowdown. Ian’s Lowdown might not carry as much weight as Dobber’s Lowdown, but I’ll give it a shot.
Although he was not anywhere close to the super rookies such as Barzal, Boeser, or Keller in the scoring race, Jost’s first season was an encouraging one. But with Nathan MacKinnon’s ascension to fantasy stardom, will he be limited to a middle-6 role going forward?
Last season Jost was used on the power play in a similar manner as the aforementioned Shore, where he was sometimes used as the fourth forward on the first unit (Alexander Kerfoot and Sven Andrighetto were also used). That’s an encouraging sign, especially when you consider that five of Jost’s 12 goals were scored with the man advantage.
It might be a bit much to expect Jost to make an immediate impact in the NHL. After all, he is only two seasons removed from the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), a level that generally does not see many first-round picks (although that number has increased in recent seasons). I think the best way to put it is that Jost needs time to develop before we find out truly what kind of player he is. In fact, Jost might be the kind of player that won’t break out until his fourth season. But at least expect an increase from the 22 points (in 65 games) he posted in 65 games.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to evaluate a goalie identified in the Goalies to Watch article in last season’s fantasy guide. First I’ll compare what I said about the goalie to what actually happened, then discuss what fantasy owners can learn from the prediction. I’ll identify three goalies that ended up having strong seasons, and one that turned out to be a major bust (there were more than didn’t have successful seasons, but this particular goalie affected a lot more fantasy rosters than the others).
This week I’ll cut right to the chase and eat crow with last season’s biggest sleeper-turned-bust, Scott Darling … although I do know others who were more all-in on Darling than I was…
What I said:
“Darling was signed to a four-year contract worth more than $4 million to be the new starter in Carolina. All signs point to him as a top-notch sleeper candidate, more so since he’s in a great situation with an up-and-coming defense in front of him. In his time as backup in Chicago, Darling tied for the league’s second-best save percentage over the past three seasons (.923) for goalies starting at least 75 games.”
What really happened:
This couldn’t have gone any worse if you had reached for Darling as a sleeper. The Hurricanes were a strong puck possession team that allowed fewer shots per game (28.9) than any other team in 2017-18. But they were ultimately done in by mediocre goaltending. In 5-on-5 play, only three teams allowed more goals than the Hurricanes. Among the 42 goalies that played a minimum of 30 games, Darling’s 3.18 GAA was 38th and his .888 SV% was 42nd. Yes, dead last in save percentage. That sparkling save percentage from his Blackhawks’ days was a distant memory.
With an average draft position of 120 in Yahoo leagues, Darling was drafted in nearly all leagues, even if it was later than most starting goalies. By the end of the season, that ownership number was down to 32 percent. Obviously there were fantasy owners that probably bailed on their teams in leaving Darling on their rosters, but most prudent fantasy owners would have moved on by the end of the season.
What we learned:
A goalie’s fantasy value doesn’t always improve by jumping from a backup role with a strong team to a starting role with a weak team. Darling was a bit of a risk given his lack of experience as a starter, but he seemed like the right kind of risk to take – new starting goalie, team on the rise.
There could be a number of reasons for Darling’s failure to meet expectations. In this article from the Raleigh News & Observer, Luke DeCock mentions Darling has been more focused on conditioning this summer than he was last summer. Lack of conditioning last summer makes sense as a reason because as the season went on, Darling’s numbers got worse as he both became more tired and lost his confidence. The negative effect on a player’s short-term performance upon signing a lucrative contract should also be considered by fantasy owners.
Having said that, the improved focus on fitness could be a reason to consider Darling as a deep sleeper. No longer the trendy sleeper among goalies, Darling’s fantasy value will be peanuts entering the 2018-19 season. In fact, Petr Mrazek has been brought in to compete for the starting job with Darling. I’m not suggesting that you target Darling in your fantasy drafts – last season’s numbers should be enough to scare you off. But I’m just saying that you can expect his numbers to at least be a little better this coming season. If he can bounce back, he’s a possible in-season waiver-wire pickup.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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