Aside from the bevy of restricted free agents still left to sign, one of the few remaining off-season stories was the future of Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams. He is not under contract for 2019-20 and whether he would play another season or retire was on the minds of fantasy hockey owners and Hurricanes fans alike. We got a bit of clarity on his situation on Monday:
Justin Williams has announced that he is taking a break from the NHL
He will not join the team at the start of the 2019-20 season
— Carolina Hurricanes (@CanesNHL) September 2, 2019
I say a bit of clarity because the phrasing of that entire statement is important. He’s not out-and-out retiring right now, but he’s not joining the team for training camp, either. It seems he wants to leave the door open for a return once the season is already underway. That’s just speculation on my part, of course, but he explicitly states there’s some indecision here, so I don’t think this is the last we’ve heard about the situation.
The 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide is now available in French in the Dobber Shop!
With Labour Day behind us, we can really start to look ahead to the 2019-20 season. I know we’ve been doing that basically since the Blues won the Stanley Cup, but training camp is just around the corner and draft season will be in full swing in very short order.
I have a lot of Ramblings planned for this month and they’re mostly going to be about drafts and drafting – rankings, projections, under/overvalued players, longshots to target, and more.
For today, I’m going to start with guys I think are undervalued. They’re likely players I’ve already discussed this summer at some point or other, but I want to review them and have all my thoughts in a few posts. These won’t be rookies or second-year players, but rather guys with productive track records who, for one reason or another, aren’t getting the respect they deserve.
Today, we’re going to focus on the middle of drafts. Each player listed here is ranked somewhere between 100-250 in standard Yahoo! leagues for 2019-20, and each of them, I think, will exceed their draft spot by a few, if not several, rounds.
A few weeks ago, I discussed why I believe Johnsson is the guy who will be replacing Nazem Kadri in the bumper spot on the top PP unit. I fully admit that’s a leap of faith on my part, but I also believe that the thought process leading to that decision is sound. I urge readers to go through that post.
Johnsson is going to be drafted outside the top-150 players, and maybe even outside the top-200 in some drafts. Last year, he was around the 200th played in standard Yahoo! leagues and did so while often skating on the third line. With Patrick Marleau gone and Zach Hyman injured, Johnsson seems almost assured playing with one of John Tavares or Auston Matthews for most of this year. Add the PP1 minutes (hopefully) and there is a big fantasy season brewing here. He’s one of my favourite targets this season.
We did this last year. And the year before. Every year, Kyle Palmieri is undervalued heading into drafts, and every year, he proves us wrong. Even in 2017-18, when he missed 20 games, Palmieri finished just outside the top-100 players in standard Yahoo! leagues. This guy puts up very healthy shot and hit volumes and that’s something that gets wildly overlooked.
The consistency is important, too. He’s one of eight players with four straight seasons of at least 20 goals, 20 assists, two shots per game, and 30 penalty minutes. The rest will all be top-100 picks this year and six of the eight will probably go in the first three rounds. And I don’t think he’s come close to reaching his fantasy peak.
Honestly, getting traded away from the Leafs, where he had spent much of the last three years on the top PP unit, would normally be a bad thing for most players, but the top Colorado PP unit needs someone to play the bumper role and Kadri is probably the best in the league at it.
The concern for Kadri would be at even strength but Colorado added some scoring depth with Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi. Right now, Kadri’s ranking on Yahoo!, which relates to his ADP, assumes he’ll basically repeat last year. That means even if he doesn’t improve on his 2018-19 season, he’ll be close to paying off his draft position. I think he returns to being a top-100 player in hits leagues this year.
I talked about Miller last week but that was more of a bold prediction than anything.
From 2015 through 2018, Miller scored 22, 22, and 23 goals in each successive season. He posted over 55 points in two of them while averaging 133 hits across the three seasons. Last year, Miller scored 13 goals, finished nearly 20 hits under that 133 average, posted the lowest shot-per-game rate of his career, and was still a top-150 player in fantasy.
That ranking was largely on the back of his 20 PPPs but if he’s on Vancouver’s top PP unit – and I assume he will be – then it’s something that is very repeatable. With the multi-wing eligibility, this is a great value pick anytime after the first 10 rounds, and the later the better.
Fantasy hockey is a funny thing. You can make a good case for Ehlers being the best real-world player in this list of 10 undervalued fantasy players, and yet you can similarly make a good case that he’s the worst fantasy option to own of all the players on this list. The reason for that is two-fold: first, they refuse to use him on the top PP unit, and second, he doesn’t hit.
At a certain point, those problems are mitigated by ADP. Last year, I said I was worried about Ehlers’ fantasy value in relation to his ADP because of the lack of PP minutes. Now, his injury meant he was never going to reach value, but even if he had reached 27 goals, 25 assists, and 200 shots, it wouldn’t have come close to paying off his top-100 ADP. This year, he’s priced much more reasonably – outside the top-150 players – making the bet on his talent a lot easier to stomach.
The only reason to really worry about Gostisbehere this year would be if he loses his top PP role. I have no such concerns. Where he’s being ranked across the industry is borderline criminal. He’ll easily be able outside the top-25 defencemen drafted in most leagues (assuming your league mates don’t read my advice and take it to heart), and anytime after that point is phenomenal value. The later the better.
The concern for the blueliners in New York is that no one is really sure who will run the top PP unit, and whether that player will get some extended run. All of Pulock, Devon Toews, and Nick Leddy are in the running.
What separates Pulock from the rest is his peripherals. Over the last two seasons, his 82-game paces work out to 199 shots and 140 hits, both being huge totals. Without the top PP minutes, it’s easy to see Pulock capping out around 10 goals and 35 points, and he was a top-100 player last year even with just nine goals and 37 points because of those great peripherals. The plus/minus regression is a real concern but even if he drops to zero, he’ll pay off his ADP. And there’s a lot of profit to be had beyond that.
It’s probably worth pointing out that Reinhart had 65 points last year – by far a career high – and did so posting 15 PPPs, a three-year low. The Buffalo power play didn’t really look quite right all year even though it wasn’t outright bad but having Rasmus Dahlin back there all year should help stabilize things.
Reinhart has his own concerns. Like Ehlers, he doesn’t post hits. Being detrimental in a category really hurts players who don’t excel in any other single category. But it’s a pretty big chasm between, “he doesn’t do the things necessary to really be a top-25 player,” and, “his ADP is too low even with his issues in certain areas.” I believe Reinhart’s production improves again this year, pushing for 70 points, meaning he should be drafted inside the top-150 players. He won’t be, which is why he’s undervalued.
Remember when John Tavares left the Islanders and Anders Lee’s ranking heading into 2018-19 was hilariously low? Like, outside the top-125 players? I specifically wrote, “people seem to be drafting Anders Lee as if he’ll fall off the face of the planet.” Anyway, he finished as a top-75 player in standard Yahoo! leagues.
I bring that up because Josh Anderson is in the exact same situation this year, although he has less of a track record than Lee. His ADP is going to be in the tank because of the exodus of the likes of Matt Duchene and Artemi Panarin. Anyway, Anderson played less than 25 percent of his even strength minutes with one of Duchene or Panarin, and was still a top-50 player. His shot volume and hit totals make him the Pulock of forwards; even without top PP minutes, he’s still extremely valuable. Smash that draft button anytime after the first 10 rounds.
I understand the hesitation for drafting Zucker. He’s coming off a down year, the Wild are a middling team, and there is upheaval throughout the organization, starting with the general manager. At the same time, this is a guy one year removed from 33 goals and 64 points and has back-to-back seasons with at least 210 shots. As long as his ice time maintains, there will hopefully be a rebound in his shooting percentage, and that all leads back to him pushing for 30 goals again. He can help in the hit column – four straight seasons of at least 70 hits with at least 80 in three of the four – and all this leads to him being a very good value right now. He’ll probably be drafted somewhere between players 175-225 and I have him inside my top-150 at the moment.
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