Ramblings: Kostin promoted; Kotkaniemi practicing; Fox’s season; MacKinnon – November 14

by Michael Clifford on November 14, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Kostin promoted; Kotkaniemi practicing; Fox’s season; MacKinnon – November 14

 

The Blues called up prospect Klim Kostin in advanced of their back-to-back games this weekend. The injury bug has been hitting so this, on top of the tryout offers extended to Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn, are all results of this.

They won’t commit to even playing Kostin, which seems odd given he’s one of their top prospects, but that seems to be the way the wind is blowing. I would very much like to see him in the top-6, however.

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A couple days ago, it appeared that Ilya Kovalchuk’s maligned tenure with the Los Angeles Kings was coming to an end. Yesterday, coach Todd McLellan seemed to intimate that he may get back in the lineup sometime soon. Kovalchuk himself, meanwhile, has declined to speak with the media about this subject. I think the ship has long sailed on Kovy having any real fantasy value, but it appears the saga may not be wrapped up just yet.

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The Habs had Jesperi Kotkaniemi return to practice, rotating in on the third line where he had been. It’s not an indication that he’ll be returning in their next game, which comes Friday in Washington.

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Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his sixth, seventh, and eighth goals of the month (yes, seriously), almost single-handedly giving Ottawa a 4-2 win over New Jersey. That gives Pageau 11 goals on the season, and he’s now a point-per-game player. Yes, seriously.

We should note that Sami Vatanen missed this game with an injury and Will Butcher took the top power-play role as he’s often done in the past (Butcher scored in this one, too). Just keep an eye on Butcher’s usage and Vatanen’s health.

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It was a tale of two games between the Islanders and Leafs. It was largely boring until the final 10 minutes of the third period and then a lack of whistles just felt like the game never stopped. Casey Cizikas scored an empty-net goal to get the Islanders to 5-2 with under two minutes left, but then two goals from Toronto got it within 5-4 with 40 seconds left. Quite the turnaround.

Anthony Beauvillier had a pair of goals, his first two-goal game of the year, while Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists. Mat Barzal had one of each.

I know it sometimes seems like Barzal isn’t living up to expectations but he now has 16 points in 17 games on the season, doing so on a team that puts everything it has into its defensive structure, sacrificing goals for at the altar of goals against. If he can put up 70-75 points in that type of environment, imagine what he’d do almost anywhere else.

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It was another huge night for the line of DeBrincat-Strome-Kane as those three guys managed two assists, one goal and two assists, and one goal and two assists respectively in Chicago’s 5-3 win over Vegas. I don’t see that line being broken up anytime soon.

Erik Gustafsson scored his first goal of the season but he’s still not getting prime power-play minutes so it may be a little slog yet before he can get back to real fantasy usefulness.

Vegas put their lines in a blender for this game but they actually played well; they just couldn’t outscore Kane’s line. It’s worth noting that Shea Theodore started the game playing with Nicolas Hague but ended up playing nearly 10 full minutes more than Hague. It doesn’t appear that Vegas has a plan when it comes to their lines and pairs now that their usual lines and pairs are broken up.

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Looking back on some things I’ve so far this season, my Ramblings a couple weeks ago touched on how Marc Staal, at the time, was earning more ice time per game than Adam Fox. It seems silly, given that Staal is a regular healthy scratch now, but that’s where we were as recently as 17 days ago. I thought it would be worth going through Fox’s season, then.

First, let’s look at how Fox and Staal have done when playing with each other, and apart (from Natural Stat Trick):

 

 

When Staal is on the ice without Fox, the Rangers control about 28 percent of the shot share. If that level of play were to persist for another four and a half months, Staal would have close to the worst season by a defenceman in over a decade, at least by Goals Above Replacement. 

It should probably be noted that those are raw totals, so while being below 50 percent even without Staal doesn’t look great, when you consider that the team itself is under 43 percent, it’s a superlative number.

I tried digging through some zone entry data, but the samples tracked so far are still so small that they don’t provide us with anything. But when we look at how he’s performing relative to others on his team, he’s doing a better job at limiting offence from the opposition than anyone on his team. Now, part of that is a function of being down the depth chart and not taking all the tough matchups, but very few defencemen step into the NHL as a top-pair shutdown guy. The vast, vast majority of defencemen start on the second or third pair, and they have to show well there before moving up. Not only is Fox showing well, he’s crushing it.

I’m interested to see what his zone entry/exit numbers look like once we get further into the year. Just by watching him, he seems like a player who can not only help immensely in transition, but who can stop the opposition from doing the same. That’s an exciting prospect for Rangers fans and fantasy owners alike.

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While looking at a bunch of stuff on the Ducks yesterday, I ran across something that should be worth noting: Ryan Getzlaf’s line, and Nick Ritchie specifically, are going to explode here soon.

In just under 50 minutes together this year, the line of Getzlaf-Ritchie-Kase has an on-ice shot rate of 79.1 per 60 minutes at five on five, which is an absolutely monster number. Their expected goal total isn’t entirely reflective of that level of shot rate, but 2.79 expected goals per 60 minutes is still high. There hasn’t been any sort of sustained hot streak and their on-ice goal rate is under 2.5.

Then we look at Nick Ritchie, who currently has an individual expected goal total of 4.12 at five on five. That means we should have expected him to score 4-5 goals at five on five by now. As of Wednesday, he sits at one.

More than that for Ritchie, but his individual points percentage, or the rate at which he garners points on goals his team scores while he’s on the ice, is the lowest of his career. It’s probably not a surprise given that playing with talented guys like Getzlaf and Kase probably means fewer touches on the puck than playing in the bottom-6 where he may be the most talented player on his line.

Regardless, this is a line that is just on the cusp of going off, and Ritchie may be the biggest beneficiary here. The power-play production may not be something to write home about, but Ritchie has shown the ability to manage well over a hit per game, as well as a couple shots per game. There’s more than enough balance to his roto profile to make up for a lack of PPPs. For those in deeper leagues, it may be time to start scouring the waiver wire.

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I was going to write about Jakub Vrana’s season so far – he was one of my favourite prospects for years – but Gus Katsaros at Rotoworld beat me to the punch by about 10 hours. Anyway, read his piece and just know that I’m sitting here wondering why life isn’t fair.

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It’s Wednesday night and I just felt like talking about how great Nathan MacKinnon is.

The year Taylor Hall won the MVP, a good argument could have been made for MacKinnon. Remember, the Avalanche were coming off possibly the worst season by any team since the 2005 lockout and his line with Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog took the league by… avalanche.

MacKinnon followed up that near-MVP season by improving his goal total (39 to 41), his shot total (284 to 365), and led Colorado to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

This year, as of Wednesday night, MacKinnon is on pace for: 50 goals, 68 assists, and 419 shots. Since Landeskog was injured on October 26th (Mikko Rantanen was already out of the lineup), MacKinnon has 11 points and 50 shots in seven games, with Colorado posting a 3-3-1 record in the meantime. If that team can float at 500 without either of their top wingers, that should be considered a job well done.

It almost feels like this is being underappreciated. When we talk about great players in the East, we start with Tampa Bay and Boston. When we look to the West, the Edmonton duo of McDavid and Draisaitl dominate the conversation. Yet, outside of McDavid, MacKinnon is the only player with 90 goals and 130 assists since the start of the 2017 season. And now, even with the team’s two top wingers out of the lineup for going on three weeks now, the team is second in their division and tied for third in the Western Conference.

What I’m saying is that Nathan MacKinnon’s Hart Trophy case has already begun. A couple years ago, it went to Taylor Hall in a race that I think could have gone either way. MacKinnon is already out to a head start on the rest of the field right now.