Ramblings: Kings without Marian Gaborik, Jaden Schwartz, Robin Lehner and more (Sept. 27)

by Neil Parker on September 27, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Kings without Marian Gaborik, Jaden Schwartz, Robin Lehner and more (Sept. 27)

 

Rambling about the Los Angeles Kings following Gaborik's injury, Jaden Schwartz, Robin Lehner and some preseason action …

 

I only caught one shift of Mitch Marner at the end of the second period Monday, and he is going to stick with the team. His speed and opportunistic offensive vision were on full display. He might not be ready for full time, but returning to the OHL would be counterproductive. He should top 50 points and be a fringe fantasy asset in shallow formats.

 

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Marian Gaborik's injury curbs his fantasy value significantly. He might be a draft-and-stash option if your league uses an IR slot or you've got deep benches. His eight-week timeline has him on track for a return in late November, but for simplicity sake, Los Angeles plays 23 games before December.

Add the likelihood of another injury later in the year, and 50 games from Gaborik should be viewed as a near best-case scenario. After all, Gaborik has played under 55 games in two of the past three years with a high of 69 games in 2014-15 during the span.

For me, the league would have to be cavernous and price free to invest in Gaborik. I'm not keen on brittle players in their mid-30s, though.

 

This is a huge blow to the Kings, too. They needed a rebound showing from Gaborik because their top-six group is lackluster, at best. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli are solid forwards, and Tanner Pearson is a viable top-six winger. Maybe Teddy Purcell could suffice, too.

Los Angeles will have to force Dustin Brown and/or Dwight King up the depth chart now, as it could prove to be a tall task for someone else to breakthrough in camp and claim a spot. Adrian Kempe could receive an extended look, and he was the projected center between Pearson and Toffoli for the game Monday.

 

Briefly sticking with the Kings, their defense isn't exactly a who's who of stars, either. Alec Martinez is above serviceable level, but Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene are both in decline, and their style isn't in line with the modern game.

Overall, this team just isn't built to win, and beside Vancouver, the Pacific Division remains a gauntlet. The Central Division isn't a cakewalk, either.

 

In short, I'll be passing on the entire team unless players become extreme values. The Kings have averaged a middling 2.6 goals per game over the past three seasons, and that number could take a hit. And on the flip slide, Jonathan Quick is typically overvalued and still considered an elite fantasy goalie. I'll gladly be a year too early jumping off that ship because the team in front of him this season is weak. Los Angeles could easily sixth in the Pacific Division.

 

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I'm buying into Robin Lehner this season. The offseason drum of positivity has beat consistently, and I'm encouraged by his focused training and weight loss. Additionally, unlike the previously discussed Kings, Buffalo is trending in the right direction.

Lehner will be a workhorse, and he did post an impressive .924 save percentage last year through his 21 starts. Remember, too, Lehner is just 25.

When I'm looking for a player to make that jump in their career, I want the perfect storm of talent, career trajectory, opportunity and narrative. The drum is beating on all four. 

Lehner is currently being drafted as the 23rd goalie off the board around pick 130 at Yahoo, and he's being selected in a similar range at ESPN (137th, 20th goalie). His ceiling is likely in the range of 15th-best goalie, but his volume alone should provide a profit on investment.

I talked more about Lehner earlier this season, here.

 

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Another player with a solid floor and some upside going late in drafts thus far is Jaden Schwartz. His name is currently being called at around 145 overall in Yahoo and 164 in ESPN drafts.

Remember, he is just a year removed from a 28-goal, 63-point campaign and is just 24 years old. Plus, over the past three seasons, Schwartz boasts an 18th-ranked 2.14 points per 60 minutes at five on five among skaters with at least 2500 minutes played.

Additionally, his power-play work should be stable this season with David Backes out of the mix. Schwartz averaged a career-high 3:26 PP minutes per game last year.

Plus, returning to narrative street, Schwartz said he wasn't anywhere close to 100 percent healthy after returning last year. He finished the campaign with 32 points over 46 games, including the playoffs — an 82-game pace of 57 points.

He's an excellent target in the middle rounds of drafts.

 

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Here's some quick-hitting notes from a trip through the boxscores. Obviously you take everything with a grain of salt this early in the preseason, but ignoring the results wouldn't be advised, either.

 

Kings-Coyotes

Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Alec Martinez all found the scoresheet twice. Los Angeles needs a breakout showing from Pearson with another step forward from each of Toffoli and Martinez to keep Los Angeles competitive.

Dylan Strome scored a tally from Lawson Crouse and Anthony DeAngelo, and Jakob Chychrun also registered an assist. The Coyotes are headed in the right direction, and they're assembling oodles of young talent. But are they going to be competitive too quickly to be able to grab that franchise player most championship teams have now?

 

Senators-Maple Leafs

I didn't realize Mitch Marner had a pair of helpers when I wrote the previous blurb. However the real story from this game, and the player to watch over the coming weeks is Matt Puempel. He's got nothing left to prove at the AHL level, and the Senators have openings.

Dobber touched on Ottawa's misfortune yesterday, and there is a spot in the lineup for a scorer to have a strong camp and win a top-six gig. Puempel has as good a shot as anyone, and he's a former first-round pick. He notched a goal in this outing.

 

Hurricanes-Capitals

Justin Faulk scored a power-play goal and added four hits and three blocked shots. His snub from Team USA this summer could be a motivator. Faulk was scorching hot before injuries stole the better part of the second half of the season from him.

 

Blue Jackets-Bruins

Alexander Wennberg played 18:41 in the preseason opener and registered a power-play assist. He's going to eat ice time and likely flirt with 60 points. He's a favorite of John Tortorella and the best offensive center on the team.

Pierre Luc-Dubios did not play.

Jimmy Hayes registered four shots and scored a goal. He's an interesting late-round candidate for those in deep leagues because he has 20-goal potential and helps with hits and penalty minutes.

 

Wild-Sabres

Casey Nelson registered an assist, which is basically all he does. He notched four during his seven-game audition last year, and there's a chance he pushes for a roster spot out of camp.

 

Devils-Flyers

Damon Severson registered a plus-1 rating, with two penalty minutes, two shots and a blocked shot while logging 19:29 of ice time. Someone has to elevate to the top of the power-play depth chart for the Devils, and there is no reason it can't be Severson. He is an intriguing late-round flier with a potential ceiling of approximately 35 points.

Ivan Provorov played a whopping 28:48, but he turned it into a minus-1 rating and a single shot on net. He's not a player on my fantasy radar in redraft settings this year.

 

Devils-Islanders

Josh Ho-Sang sure knows how to stir up some buzz. Monday he posted a goal and an assist with a plus-2 rating and two shots on net, and he even blocked a pair of shots. Alan Quine, Mathew Barzal, Michael Dal Colle, Ryan Pulock and Shane Prince also all found the scoresheet. There are some nice young pieces to compliment the already nice pieces in Brooklyn, but the roster is pretty crowded right now. There still could be a few surprises once the regular season roster is finalized, though.

 

Devils-Canadiens

Notch Adam Henrique down with a pair of power-play goals already. After finishing with 30 tallies last year, he's been a heavily inked name set to decline following his 20.1 shooting percentage. But simply highlighting decline candidates doesn't cut it, what will he decline to? And Henrique could easily return another season with 25 goals and 50 points, which makes him a worthy commodity in most settings.

 

Stars-Blues

Jiri Hudler was a top-10 scorer just two years ago, and he posted a respectable 46 points last year. With a goal and an assist in the opener, he's off to a roaring start with Dallas. Valeri Nichushkin is gone, and Tyler Seguin, Radek Faksa, Ales Hemsky and Cody Eakin are all dealing with injuries. Hudler could quickly establish himself as a key offensive cog for the Stars.

 

Flames- Oilers

Edmonton beat an AHL version of the Flames in one split squad game with Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson both registering an assist and logging big minutes. Jesse Puljujarvi played 14:31 but failed to record a shot on net or find the scoresheet. Additionally, Kris Versteeg scored and played 16:52.

Tyler Pitlick was the star with a team-high six shots alongside his goal and assist to further pad his stat line.

In the other split-squad game, Edmonton also won, but there were minimal takeaways. Darnell Nurse registered an assist and played 28:01. Don't look now, but Edmonton's defense has a few promising pieces.

 

Kings-Coyotes

Another split-squad Part 2, Max Domi had a goal and assist in this bout, while Radim Vrbata and Christian Dvorak also picked up helpers.

For the Kings, Teddy Purcell also registered two power-play assists, which is something Los Angeles will need when the games count. And Tom Gilbert also notched two helpers over 26:59, perhaps he can carve out a role in the league again?

 

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We're in the home stretch now, Dobbberheads.