Ramblings: Keller and Kempe sign extensions; Dubois; Montour; Athanasiou – September 5

by Michael Clifford on September 5, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Keller and Kempe sign extensions; Dubois; Montour; Athanasiou – September 5

 

The Arizona Coyotes have extended one of the core pieces of their future, as Clayton Keller was signed to an eight-year extension with an average annual value north of $7.1 million. Keller was set to be a restricted free agent following the 2019-20 season.

This is a gamble from Arizona, as Keller looked great in his first year but more pedestrian in his second. If his third year would have been like his first, they probably pay more per year. If his third year would have been more like his second, they might pay less. It’s a gamble for now but if Keller lives up to what we (well, I) think he can be, this could be a steal in a couple years. If he can’t, this could look bad. We’ll see.

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We had another signing, but not one of the marquee RFAs, as Adrian Kempe was locked up by the Kings for another three years with a $2-million AAV. If this team is going to transition into its next form, Kempe needs to be part of it.

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Be sure to get your copy of the 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide! Training camps start very soon, which means the opportunities to prepare before new information starts rolling are running out. It’s available now in the Dobber Shop, as well as a copy in French.

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An interesting tweet from Tuesday night from Flames beat writer Kristen Anderson:

 

 

Now, this wouldn’t decimate his value as long as he maintains his PP1 role, but it would definitely hurt his value moving away from the top line. We’ll see where things land when training camp rolls around but it’s one situation that deserves close attention over the next four weeks.

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On Tuesday, my Ramblings covered some players I believe are undervalued in fantasy drafts right now. With a desire to keep in that same line of thinking, I thought it would be worth going through some projections. More specifically, I’m going to point out certain players and certain categories where my current projection would be a career high.

Now, obviously, projecting career highs can be a bit precarious. At the same time, a lot of players on this list will be younger guys who should just be coming into their prime. There won’t be sophomores or rookies, but there will be some players with only 2-4 years of experience under their belt. It won’t be the case for all players; it could be a change of locale or an expected new role. They’ll range from players going in the first few rounds to players going outside the top-200.

These are some of the players I have projected setting career highs, with the category of note in parentheses.

 

Jack Eichel (PPP)

My projection – 26.6

He’s never had fewer than 20 PPPs in any one season – including the year he missed 21 games – and he finished with 26 last year. In that context, projecting him for a career mark of 26.6 isn’t really going out on a limb. This will be Eichel’s fifth season and he has more pieces this campaign, especially on the blue line, to help both move the puck and keep it out of their net. With the monster shot volume and growing hits totals, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is the last season for several seasons that Eichel is available outside the first round.

 

Sebastian Aho (PPP)

My projection – 26.3

I don’t think I’m alone in expecting many of the Hurricanes skaters to not only maintain what they did last year – in part or in whole – but to build off it. Aho keeping that power-play point total growing would be one way to really help build off his great 2018-19 campaign. The concern, obviously, would be if the Hurricanes power play doesn’t improve but with all that young talent coming up together, it’s hard to imagine that. The biggest reason for Aho having a higher PPP projection was that he shot just six percent with the man advantage last year. That will improve, and hopefully his PPP total with it.

 

Timo Meier (Shots)

My projection – 277.6

It wasn’t very long ago that I was extolling the virtues of drafting Meier this season and this projection only kind of confirms it. Now, projections don’t have him setting a career-high in goals only because of a drop in shooting percentage, but if Meier were to maintain his 12 percent from last year, then he surpass his total from 2018-19. Considering he scored 30 last year, it should give an indication of what the upside is for Meier. Last season, only 10 forwards cracked 277 shots, so we’re expecting a lot of volume here. Volume is good.

 

Andreas Athanasiou (Shots)

My projection – 237.3

Since entering the league in 2015, AA’s shots per game have gone nowhere but up and this should finally be the year where he’s a staple of the top-6 forward mix. While he may not necessarily get much ice time with Dylan Larkin, he didn’t need those minutes to crack 30 goals last year. The team lost Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek doesn’t look to be returning, so AA should get a boost in minutes all over the place. The small boost in ice time alone makes up most of the reason for the shots increase, so if he doesn’t get that boost, then the shots might not pile up as expected. Just FYI.

 

Brandon Montour (Shots)

My projection – 193.1

The assumption I made in my projections was that Rasmus Ristolainen would be traded by now. Looking at the Sabres blue line, there are just way too many right shots. With Risto traded, Montour would have been more assured of top-4 minutes. I’m going to leave that in my projections for now because I still do think Risto gets moved, but if he doesn’t, that would affect Montour’s projections across the board, his shots included. He’s going to be a favourite target of mine in multi-cat leagues as depth, but unless Ristolainen is unloaded, my plan may not come to fruition. We’ll see what the next month brings.  

 

Ryan Ellis (Assists)

My projection – 40.9

This is one that is wildly different from most of the others because it’s about 20 percent higher than Ellis’s previous career high, and that’s a lot. As I’ve said often throughout the summer, though, I think Ellis spends a lot more time on the top PP unit than most people expect. For that reason, I have him for a career-high in PPTOI, which leads to a career-high in PPA, which leads to… well, you get the idea. Now, if Roman Josi asserts a stranglehold on the PP1 role for all six months of the season, then this projection is likely going to be wildly incorrect. Buyer beware.

 

Travis Sanheim (Goals)

My Projection – 10.4

The addition of Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen muddles things a bit here. Sanheim is capable of playing both sides, but both Braun and Niskanen shoot right, which gives them a lot more depth than there was expected to be. This is a case where maybe the team has improved but the situation of the individual player has not. All the same, I think there’s a decent chance that Sanheim is the best defenceman the Flyers have and that is basically what keeps his projection afloat. At some point, Sanheim should be a go-to guy for Philly, I’m just not sure it’s this year. His 10.4 goal projection may be a career-high, but it could be higher if he were assured a larger role on the team.  

 

Tomas Hertl (Assists)

My projection – 43.8

I could have just said that Hertl would have a career-high in power-play assists, because that’s where the extra points come from in my projection. With Joe Pavelski and Gustav Nyquist gone, and Joe Thornton’s future still not set, there’s no reason to think his PPTOI goes anywhere but up this year considering Hertl was one of their leaders last year. That he only posted four PP assists in 2018-19 should give an indication of how much improvement can be made in this area. Now, there are serious concerns about his shooting percentage so, “he may set a career-high in assists” does not mean, “he will be more valuable than last year.” Just something to remember.

 

Pierre-Luc Dubois (Assists)

My projection – 40.5

Yes, there was a lot of talent that left Columbus, but there’s still a perennial 30-goal scorer on Dubois’s wing and there’s still both Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on the blue line. Not only that, but the lack of depth should mean a lot of ice time for Dubois – I have him adding about 1:10 per game compared to last year, which would put him near 19 minutes a night. If the Columbus power play can fix itself, then the added ice time for Dubois should help keep him near his production level from 2018-19.

 

Bo Horvat (Goals)

My projection – 28.1

This is another one where it doesn’t take much imagination to see Horvat going over his previous career-high of 27. He’s averaged 27.5 goals per 82 games over the last two years and is going to get some help on the wing in the form of (hopefully) J.T. Miller. Having Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the PP unit with him should help Horvat maintain his solid PP goal totals from the last two years as well. He’s going to be a favourite target of mine as a third centre.

 

Jakub Vrana (Goals)

My projection – 25.3      

Cam Robinson discussed this with more depth yesterday.

In one way, it’s really nice seeing Vrana come into his own over the last couple of years. In another way, it’s frustrating because the Washington power play being what it is, he won’t get extended run unless there are one or more injuries, which means he won’t come close to reaching his fantasy ceiling. In fact, I have Vrana for roughly as many even strength goals (23.5) as names like Mark Scheifele (23.6) and Aleksander Barkov (23.8), but I have Vrana for just 1.8 PP goals, so his overall total isn’t huge. It does give us an idea of what the upside is here, though, but it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be given the opportunity to reach it before most of that core is too old.