It’s happening. A Ramblings day without a hockey game to ramble about. The surest sign that the offseason is just a whisper away. This allows some more freedom on topics but nights without hockey are like meals without meat for a carnivore – it’s doable, and even a healthy, but something is definitely missing. Fortunately, my wife has been training me for this for years with her tofu and bean dinners.
At the very least it opens up some space for shameless self-promotion. Have you checked out Prospect Central on Sportsnet650 yet? It’s the new show/podcast that I’m co-hosting with Ryan Biech (The Athletic, CanucksArmy, EP Rinkside) and Satiar Shah (The Playbook, Canucks Central). We’re four episodes deep and the reception has been tremendous.
Be sure to tune in for expanded draft coverage leading up to the big weekend in June. We won't stop there though. We have all sorts of plans to keep you up to date on the world of youngsters. As we see more and more each season, the game is trending towards the young. If you want your fantasy team to compete long term, you need to know who is coming up the ranks.
There wasn’t even any World Championship action to tune into on Wednesday, but I did want to take a look at a player who has witnessed some success at the tournament, Anthony Mantha.
The Red Wings’ winger has yet to live up to the lofty expectations that were bestowed upon him following a ridiculous goal-per-game output that he ran with through 81 games during his final QMJHL campaign. You read that right. The kid went off and scored 81 in 81. Nutty. Now, even though he hasn’t produced big time metrics at this stage of his career, there is some writing on the wall that illustrates the good times are on the way.
In each of his first three full campaigns, the 6’5 power winger has improved his goals-per-game from 0.28 to 0.3 to the 0.37 he clicked at in 2018-19. His point-per-game pace hung at 0.60 for two campaigns before elevating to 0.72 last season. His time on ice, PPTOI, and shot volume has all steadily climbed as well. All this while maintaining a very sustainable 12.6 shooting percentage in all situations.
2018-19 was also the first season that he and Dylan Larkin became joined at the hip. They lined up together for over 60 percent of Mantha’s even-strength ice and 70 percent of his five-on-four deployment. The result saw Larkin on the ice for the lion’s share of Mantha’s points.
Now here’s the real fun part. The deployment is only going to keep rising for the 24-year-old. We can expect him to maintain his spot on the top line and top unit, and for his PPTOI to slide closer to the three-minute mark. Additionally, his 25 goals in 67 games paced out to 31 tallies in a full season. I like that number to trend up, just as I expect his shot metrics to increase. He demonstrated a micro view of these potential increases as each quarter passed by last season. He produced 33 of his 48 total points in the final 38 regular season contests – 11 of which came on the man-advantage. A great sign.
At the Worlds, Mantha has helped lead the way for the Canadian squad. He heads into the medal round sitting fifth in tournament scoring with seven goals and 12 points in seven contests. He’s put 3.43 shots on goal per contest and done the majority of his damage at even-strength. On paper, this appears to be a very impressive output thus far and a glimpse into the impact he could end up providing fantasy teams in the near future.
Now for the negative. I have mentioned in previous Ramblings that it’s difficult to put too much weight into standout World Championship performances, and I stand by that. You can hope to glean some additional information from it. However, the sheer volume of squads and the discrepancy in talent makes for some misrepresentation. I feel that’s what happening with Mantha right now, but it’s not all smoke and mirrors.
Of his 12 points, 11 have come against Slovakia (2), France (2), Great Britain (5), and Italy (2). He’s posted a single primary assist against the Americans while coming up empty against Finland, Denmark, and Germany. I don’t knock a guy for toasting lower competition, but I certainly take it with a grain of salt. All-in-all, it's been a positive tournament but perhaps not a direct sign that the breakout is just around the bend.
One of our newest writers and long-time reader, Mat Porter aka Striker has a theory that goes beyond the magical fourth-season theory – which Mantha is about to embark on. For power forwards, Mat looks at the 400-game mark. I like this route because we’ve seen it time and time again – the big boys need more time to hit their ceiling. Now, I'm not sure if I'm willing to wait an additional two full seasons for Mantha's breakout (he currently sits at 217 career games), but it lends credence to the breakout yet to come. I feel we can expect another step forward for Mantha in 2019-20 – hopefully to a 30/30 level, but that his true breakout is still at least a season away.
*Speaking of Mat, his first piece on his development model is coming very soon. Keep an eye out for that.
Its always better to be a bit early on a player than to be too late. I’ll be targeting Mantha in drafts next fall – especially keepers, a bit earlier than some of the consensus boards out there. Detroit has been flailing for some time, but their stable of prospects is juicy and their time to begin the slow climb out of the cellar is happening. Stevie Y back at the helm won’t hurt this prognostication one bit.
Have you pre-ordered your copy of the 2019 Fantasy Prospect Report yet? This pupped just keeps getting better. I’ve just put the finishing touches on 100 draft-eligible profiles to go along with expanded charts, increased in-depth analysis, and all the juicy nuggets you can ask for.
It drops June 1.
It turns out you don't necessarily need to sell the farm in order to advance deep into the playoffs. Also, god damn is Colorado going to be good for a long time.
Picks held by teams that made the conference finals:— Sara Civ (@SaraCivian) May 22, 2019
Teams that lost in round 2:
CBJ 3-7 🥴
COL 1-1-2-3-3-5-6-7 (RIP OTT)
How much is Jordan Binnington going to receive as an RFA this summer?— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) May 23, 2019
Former Managing Editor, Steve Laidlaw went and dig the legwork to illustrate the incredible talent that is coming from the USNTDP program this year. Here are their metrics against NCAA opponents – opponents that are up to seven years the senior of some of these draft-eligible kids.
Was curious so I compiled the production of USNTDP players vs. college opponents this season. pic.twitter.com/To42DjfXcB
— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) May 22, 2019
The standout here for me is Cole Caufield dropping 14 goals and 77 shots in 17 games against Division I opponents. Even finding a way to post 4.5 shots per game against a massive level jump is impressive, not considering the high-end finishing ability. For reference, the most impactful scorer in college hockey this season, 22-year-old, Johnny Walker, scored 0.72 goals-per-game over the course of the season. Caufield clicked at 0.82 in his 17 contests against the same competition. At 17 years old.
Caufield is off to Wisconsin in the fall where I very much expect him to score 30 goals – something we haven't seen from a freshman since Kyle Connor dropped 35 in 2015-16, and consider coming out of school after just one NCAA campaign. I say consider because I feel he's two seasons away from truly pushing for an NHL job, but I refuse to put a glass ceiling on this kid.
He may stand just 5 feet 6 3/4 inches tall, but this kid has the goods to be a devastating finisher in the NHL for a long time. Many people compare him to Alex DeBrincat – which is fair. They're both sub-5-8 sniping wingers, but DeBrincat went early in the second round. Caufield will go early on day one. There is a lot more risk associated at that spot, and the teams selecting will need to weight that out. But if you're looking for a glimpse into my final board for June, Caufield will be firmly entrenched in the top-10. He's earned every inch.
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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