Rambling about Mitch Marner, PK Subban, Connor Carrick, Tomas Nosek and more…
No NHL action Sunday but some interesting hockey games nonetheless. And in both cases they turned out be very much high-quality games.
As you may (or may not) know, the Toronto Marlies were the best team in the AHL. And save your “well, obviously not” comment because I’ll just insert my token “ha-ha, touché” response to that now so we can move on. The Marlies were the best: 54-16-6 is a ridiculous record. But unlike most AHL teams, they were loaded with inexperienced kids. I think Rich Clune is the oldest at 29, Andrew Campbell next at 28 and then TJ Brennan is 27. That’s just scanning quickly over the roster, I didn’t fact check every player’s age – but the point remains the same. A group of kids. And that was exposed in the playoffs as they lost 3-2 to Hershey (Washington’s team) and are now eliminated. The Marlies also had a hard time last series, barely getting by Albany.
You can get the full lowdown on the AHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup by going to DobberProspects, where they have been posting four Ramblings per week for four months now. Settlign into a schedule! Two DobberProspects writers have been at the Marlies’ playoff games and two other writers have been at the Memorial Cup. The site has finally ascended to “awesome” status (yes, that’s an official status). Four (count’em – four) writer/scouts will be at next month’s NHL Entry Draft.
FYI, in case you didn’t notice – a link to the latest Prospects Ramblings is on the ticker at the top of the page (PC only, not mobile).
The Marlies leading scorer of the playoffs was Connor Carrick. This 22-year-old was a little overrated two years ago…but the pendulum has swung and today he is very much underrated in both real and fantasy hockey. He looked good during 16 games with the Leafs and he was phenomenal for the Marlies. And when you look back at his career numbers you’ll notice that he was 0.65 points-per-game for Plymouth in the OHL in 2012-13 and then surged to 18 points in 15 games come playoff time. The same thing happened again this year in the AHL – significantly under a point-per-game in the regular season, and above a point-per-game in the playoffs. Clutch. I hope the team can find room to properly use him next year when Nikita Zaitsev, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are all around. And if they sign Keith Yandle or another top free agent, things could get hairy. Because Matt Hunwick is signed for big bucks and Martin Marincin is a very underrated (according to the advanced stats) blueliner. But sometimes, if a promising prospect is to become a star, he has to step up big despite the odds.
As for Hershey, they will move on and face the Lake Erie Monsters. Hershey has been winning their games through defense. After Carter Camper, Jakub Vrana and Chris Bourque (15, 13 and 10 points in 17 games respectively), nobody on the team has double digit point totals. Justin Peters has been the backstop – remember him? He’s got 1.95 and 0.929 numbers in these playoffs over 16 games.
Lake Erie is the farm team for Columbus and an unlikely hero has been leading the charge. Lukas Sedlak, who was a “so-so” scorer in the QMJHL but has posted 14, 16 and 18 points in his three AHL seasons, is suddenly Johnny Playoff. He was a sixth-round pick back in 2011 (158th overall). He now has 13 points in 13 games and plus-11. Six points in the final round and he’d top his career high in about a third of the games! We’d need to see that over a full season (next year) before sticking him on our fantasy radar, but it was enough to raise one of my eyebrows.
The players we care about, us keeper leaguers, are Zach Werenski (11 points in 13 games, plus-5), Oliver Bjorkstrand (10 in 13, plus-4) and Sonny Milano (eight in 13, plus-5). And of course the goaltenders, but I got into those two last week (remember – Joonas Korpisalo got blown out of the water in three straight games and lost the net to Anton Forsberg who has been on fire). Read our scouting report on Werenski here, Bjorkstrand here and Milano here
The London Knights won the Memorial Cup in what was a tight one. After bulldozing through everyone in the tournament, they really met their match against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The game went to overtime. I’ll just have a few comments on it, leaving the bulk to my DobberProspects counterparts. But Matt Tkachuk is really clutch. Not that he’ll get superstar point totals like Patrick Laine or Auston Matthews. Maybe Tkachuk only tops out at 60 points. Maybe 70. But I think there is a lot of value in clutch players like him. I think you value that over a player with higher upside. So you take him over Alex Nylander. And over Jesse Puljujarvi? You have to consider it, I think.
But the big story of course is Mitch Marner. He made the competition his playthings all tournament long. The Knights won 17 consecutive games to take that Cup and much of that was due to Marner. He had 14 points in four games. He won the OHL MVP, the OHL playoffs MVP and now he can add the Memorial Cup MVP to the pile. Only one other person in history has won all three like that. And that person’s name is Corey Perry.
So what do the Leafs do with Marner? If he goes back to the OHL next season (he’s not eligible for the AHL) then he’ll just go out and score 200 points. It would be an embarrassment and it wouldn’t help him one iota. He’s very much NHL ready and deserves to be on the Leafs. However, adding Marner to the roster would mean hurting another promising prospect. Hurting him badly. As in – career changing. As in – eventually off to Europe.
Decisions like this one that change the course of a player’s success (and often kills or elevates fantasy value). That player you drafted in 2002 and thought the world of? Yes, he turned out to be a bust and is currently playing in Europe…but what if instead of X happening, Y happened? Right now, the Leafs have several prospects ready to make the jump: William Nylander, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner and possibly Brendan Leipsic and Josh Leivo. And Connor Brown could be ready by midseason. If Marner doesn’t make the team, will that ruin him? Hell no. Sure, he’d waste his time in the OHL but his stature will remain elite. Will Soshnikov be ruined if he doesn’t make the team? No, he’s only 22 and can wait a year. Hyman?
Ahhh! Now here is where it gets sticky. Hyman will be 24 in the fall. He can be sent down without clearing waivers, but if he’s in the AHL all season do you really think he’ll get a look a year from now when he’s 25? Usually by 25 the team stops looking at you because they’re focused on their 19- and 20-year-olds. So in 2017 when the team may have some room…Hyman’s odds of making the team are much smaller.
So if Marner is on the team and Nylander is on the team, how many more rookies will there be room for? One? So then it would be between Hyman and the other rookies. Without Marner, Hyman is a shoe-in. He proved that he belongs, fitting in well on both a checking line and a scoring line, as needed. With Marner…well, it’s tough for Hyman. One tiny little groin pull during an exhibition game and we may not see him in the NHL again, other than for a useless recall in December for a couple of eight-minutes-of-ice-time games. And then next year he’s 25.
So my argument isn’t against Marner’s readiness. It’s just a worry about the domino effect. You know that there are dozens of quality NHL players who never became NHL players because of weirder twists of fate than the one I painted for you above.
What I see happening with Mitch Marner: Think Anthony Duclair. He made the Rangers two years ago, hung around until the WJC and then he went to play for Team Canada. After that he remained in junior. So he got his ice time, and he also got some
Of course, if Marner makes a big splash then he’s not going anywhere – not the WJC or junior, he’s staying put. But worst-case scenario I think he makes the team and gets in 35 games or so.
Okay next rant. PK Subban.
To me, a Top 5 defenseman in all of hockey. Not just speaking about fantasy. The guy brings excitement into the dressing room. Camaraderie. He plays physical and he is responsible defensively. He plays against the toughest competition other than Andrei Markov (among Montreal blueliners) and he still drives possession. Oh, and offensively he’s great. So why isn’t he on Team Canada? Why did Jake Muzzin make it over him?
Well, most of you know that the answer to that is: Muzzin shoots left. Team Canada brass likes to over-analyze things. X amount of left-shooting and X amount of right-shooting defensemen. What a crock. All so that Muzzin’s two shots per game are taken from the proper side of the point rather than Subban’s shot coming from his wrong side. Two shots per game bring that much importance? Really? Well let me say this – if you put a left-handed stick into Subban’s hands and told him he has to play with his wrong hand, I’d still take him over Muzzin! Over-analyzing and micro-managing.
Team USA did the same thing – loaded up on players that would best help them beat Canada (David Backes, TJ Oshie, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Justin Abdelkader all over Phil Kessel). Meanwhile, Russia, Sweden, Europe and the Young Stars will skate circles around them! Over-analyzing. Worrying about Team Canada when this isn’t the Olympics. Don’t worry about Team Canada – when you combine all the best from Europe you have a pretty awesome team. And those young North American stars are nothing to sneeze at either. There are seven teams you need to worry about – not just one. The playing field is much more level in this tourney than in the Olympics.
Notes from around the league:
– Max Talbot has indeed signed to play in the KHL next year. Lokotiv Yaroslavl
– The Avalanche signed prospect defenseman Sergei Boikov to an ELC. You don’t often see prospects who were drafted so late (161st overall) signed within a year of getting drafted. He’s really been progressing well. He’s a potential second-pairing defenseman who can tally up some decent PIM. Our observations on him are here.
– The Devils signed undrafted free agent defenseman Yohann Auvitu. He’s 26 years old so I doubt he’s crossing the pond to play in the AHL. I had never heard of him, but a quick look around the Internet tells me he’s two-way guy with a bit of offensive upside. He’s not big, just 5-11, 191 and he doesn’t play big either (six PIM in 48 games for HIFK Helsinki of SM-liiga). So he’ll be in training camp in hopes of winning a spot as a power-play specialist. I guess John Hynes felt that John Moore and David Schlemko weren’t cutting it. Here’s an idea – try Adam Larsson! Or Damon Severson! Crazy, I know.
– The Red Wings signed Tomas Nosek to a two-year contract extension, with the second year being one-way. Here is what he have for Nosek in the Fantasy Prospects Report:
Tomas Nosek is heading into his third professional season in North America and he boasts a mixed bag of skill. Plenty of experience with a couple years in the AHL to go with two-and-a-half years in his hometown Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga. Nosek has continued to put up modest offensive totals with a half a point-per-game average throughout his AHL career to date. With the frame of a power forward (6-3, 210), he’s willing to crash and bang and go to the dirty areas to get the job done with the ability to take command and control at both ends of the ice. You won’t see a lot of wow in his game, but he will do the small things right to help the team win. Look for Nosek to transition to full-time NHL duty in the near future as a depth player.
Upside – Troy Brouwer (20-25-45+, 40 PIM)
3YP – (15-20-35, 40 PIM)
Certainty (NHL, Upside) – 65%, 30%
Expected arrival – 2017-18
DobberHockey Draft Advice – Do Not Draft
The 10th annual DobberHockey Fantasy Prospects Report is out this Wednesday at around 3pm.
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