Ramblings: Looking at Rankings and more … (Aug. 30)

by Neil Parker on August 30, 2016
Ben Bishop - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Looking at some early rankings from Yahoo, and more fantasy hockey talk …

Yahoo updated its positions and Pete Jensen summarized the changes here. The most significant fantasy impact is when a center-eligible player loses winger eligibility. Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Johansen are the most significant skaters to have their winger eligibility stripped.

It isn't a deal breaker overall, but it certainly is a slight value hit. Being eligible at multiple positions is better viewed as a bonus, though. It allows you to manipulate your lineups more freely on heavy-scheduled nights, and it increases your ability to utilize the waiver wire.

When you need to replace an injured or under-performing right winger, if you have Nathan MacKinnon eligible at both right wing and center, you can search for a replacement at both RW and C. It's pretty basic stuff, sure, but even the savvy players make hasty decisions and overlook things.

 

After digging into Yahoo's rankings closer, here is another grab bag of players who stood out as underrated and overrated based on their default categories (goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots).

Steven Stamkos: Pegged as the third-ranked center, Stamkos is overrated. He might not even be the best fantasy center on his team when it's all said and done, and he's declined offensively in three consecutive seasons. 40 goals are within reach, certainly, and his injuries have been fluky, but he's not worth a first-round pick, let alone the seventh overall selection.

Jonathan Toews: No longer viewed as a go-to fantasy commodity (23rd-ranked center), Toews checks out as one of the safer and more reliable options to grab as your No. 2 pivot. He's being asked to do more with less in a shallower Chicago lineup, and he's no longer a point-per-game threat. But that's just fine, because this fall, he's being evaluated properly. He's a lock for 55 points with a run at 30 goals, and he remains a mainstay on the potent No. 1 power-play unit.

Jack Eichel: There is no sophomore discount here. Sitting as the 14th-ranked center, Eichel's breakout is already baked in, and while there is certainly no doubt he's going to have a solid season, how many are willing to reach for him at that price tag? Someone in every draft room will, and it could be justified. Just note, there are all kinds of established pivots ranked lower with similar fantasy floors and ceilings.

Alexander Steen: Entering his age-32 season with 37 games missed over the past three seasons and rehabbing from shoulder surgery leading into the season, Steen's a risky grab as the 12th-ranked left winger. There is no guarantee he is ready at the start of the season, and historically, many players who missed training camp have started slowly once healthy and back in the lineup.

Jakub Voracek: Far too low in the rankings (21st at LW and 15th at RW), Voracek is a ripe bounce-back candidate for obvious reasons. He scored just one power-play goal and posted an unsustainably low 5.2 shooting percentage last year. Additionally, he doesn't even need to rebound to his 2014-15 career year, as just returning to his numbers from his 2013-14 campaign (23 goals and 62 points) would exceed value at his current cost.

Jonathan Huberdeau: With boring veterans (Daniel Sedin, Alexander Steen and Andrew Ladd) directly in front of him, savvy players will reach for Huberdeau. The 23-year-old winger has improved offensively the past two seasons and finished 2015-16 with 41 points through his final 44 games. Perhaps this is the year he kicks the slow start and hits the 70-point mark.

Corey Perry: As the fourth-ranked right winger and 14th skater overall, Perry is set to disappoint. The penalty minutes aren't where they once were (below 70 in each of the past three years), and his plus/minus rating has dropped each of the past two seasons. Perry is also 31. Yes, he's one of the safest bets for 30 goals going, but 65 points might be his ceiling. That's not a fringe first-round number.

Justin Williams: Here is a list of the players ranked below Williams (25th right winger) I'd prefer: Brendan Gallagher, Patrik Laine, Mats Zuccarello, Gustav Nyquist, Sam Reinhart and William Nylander. Williams is absolutely fine, but he also offers absolutely no upside. It isn't out of the question to view his 52-point showing as his ceiling entering 2016-17. Playing on a stacked team and likely alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov certainly helps Williams' floor, though.

Mark Stone: What a value. He has consecutive 60-point seasons with elite production at five-on-five last year. He's in the heart of his prime and has no challenges for playing time. Additionally, with a full season of health from Kyle Turris, Stone's actually got some upside to produce more offense. Landing alongside Derick Brassard is a nice consolation prize. Stone is a fringe No. 1 right winger currently ranked 18th at the position.

P.K. Subban: It's time to pump the breaks on Subban's ascend up the fantasy ranks. The No. 3 defenseman is too lofty a billing. Sure the upside is there, but it means you're passing on Dustin Byfuglien, who's a much better defenseman for these settings. Subban certainly has the upside, but players often have adjustment periods to their new teams and don't explode out of the gate. Acclimatizing to the Central Division might not be seamless, either.

Victor Hedman: As a cross-category beast who has scored at an 82-game pace of 54 points over the past three seasons, it's surprising to see Hedman outside the top-12 defensemen. He's ranked 16th. His power-play role is a touch murky, and he only posted 11 PP points last year, which highlights his excellent play at even strength but also the need for more work with the man advantage to take the next step. Knowing there is upside for more production and with a modest asking price, Hedman's an excellent target.

Kevin Shattenkirk: Perhaps it is Shattenkirk's minus-14 rating from last season sending him down the rankings, but he remains a high-end offensive rearguard who has averaged 25.6 power-play points per year over the past three seasons. He has also topped 50 penalty minutes and two shots per game in each of the past two years. Shattenkirk is a little less valuable in leagues using real-time stats, but he should see improvement in his plus/minus rating and will remain the quarterback of the top power-play unit. He's a solid No. 2 defenseman for your roster.

Brian Elliott: The tides are turning in the Pacific Division, and with competent goaltending, Calgary should return to the playoff picture. Elliott will have every opportunity to out produce his ranking (15th ranked goalie) on volume alone with little to no competition in the Calgary crease. He isn't going to challenge for a top-five finish, but Elliott could post solid cross-category numbers in line with a low-end No. 1 goalie.

 

***

 

A player using the KHL as leverage in contract negotiations is becoming a real annoyance. I understand there is another league, and if you're without a contract you have every right to play in that league. But, it clearly isn't what these players want to do. If playing in the KHL was what Dmitry Orlov, Valeri Nichushkin and Tobias Rieder wanted, they'd be under contract with a team in the KHL.

Instead, they're seesawing and playing hardball. Obviously, the NHL teams aren't in the clear here, but at the same time, they've got players ready and willing to man up and play. This isn't a situation where there aren't replacements. There might even be better replacements within the organization currently.

Rieder is a nice player with some upside, and Orlov and Nichushkin are both talented with potentially even more potential to be game-breaking players. But none of these three are going to be organizational building blocks within the timeframe of the contract they're currently negotiating. Potentially down the road that could change, but right now, absolutely not.

Go play in the KHL. Radek Faksa, Brett Ritchie, Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak and Nate Schmidt are looking for bigger roles, and all five could potentially be better than the player dangling the Russia card.

I'm all for aiming to obtain the best contract possible, but if threatening to sign in another league is an avenue to improving your side of the case, let them walk. Sure, you lose an asset for that season, but maybe you unearth a better talent in the process. These teams all have options and Reider, Orlov and Nichushkin aren't irreplaceable. Far from it.

Plus, once you give in to one of these stunts, it'll be a negotiation tactic for other players. Let them hang out in Russia for the year, it isn't going to crush anyone's career trajectory, it's just going to remind them of how cushy they have it in the NHL.

 

***

 

Dobber and I have a disagreement about the Tampa Bay goaltending situation, albeit not a significant one. Typically, I've noticed we see things generally pretty similarly. We're both conservative with projections and side with talent winning out in most situations.

I'm envisioning a larger timeshare in the Tampa crease than he is. I'm not down on Ben Bishop by any means, I just see his workload being lightened in order to keep him fully healthy. I believe we were five wins apart in our initial projections.

Bishop has dealt with lower-body injuries in each of the past three seasons, and while it hasn't hindered his fantasy returns, Tampa Bay also hasn't had the luxury of a capable backup with NHL experience. Don't forget, Andrei Vasilevskiy has seven playoff starts the past two years, and Bishop has missed time when he's been needed most.

In addition to keeping Bishop healthy, the Lightning also have motive to see how Vasilevskiy stands with a heftier workload. Bishop is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and Tampa Bay isn't in the cushiest cap situation.

I peg it at 58 starts for Bishop and 24 for Vasilevskiy, and Bishop has averaged 60.6 starts per season the past three years, so it's hardly a hit to his workload. Where I was wrong, though, was my win distribution. I should have had Bishop at 34 wins, which is winning just shy of 60 percent of his starts. He's won just over 60 percent of his starts the past three years, but his 40-win season in 2014-15 really boosts the number.  

 

That said, toeing the company line isn't a thing here. In fact, Dobber encourages us to provide a differing angle or disagree. In this case, I don't see Bishop receiving enough starts to approach 40 wins again. But, because he called me out, I realized I cranked my numbers incorrectly. Bishop winning 60 percent of his starts — very likely — puts him at 34 or 35 wins, which is a conservative projection, but given the year-to-year volatility in the league, siding closer to floor numbers is my approach.

 

Cheers, Dobberheads.