Ramblings: Opening Night; injuries and notes from around the league; a final draft – October 3

by Michael Clifford on October 3, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Opening Night; injuries and notes from around the league; a final draft – October 3

 

It was the first day of the 2019-20 NHL season so there are games to talk about, but there is still news to discuss.

I’ve been pretty vocal in saying I don’t believe that Pavel Buchnevich lasts the year, or anywhere close to it, on the top line, but he is skating with Zibanejad/Panarin and is expected to also skate with them on the power play. If that can persist, he’ll be one of the best draft values of the year.

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Even with Brayden Point on the shelf, Steven Stamkos is staying on his wing position for now. This bodes well for Anthony Cirelli remaining the second-line centre once Point does return.

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Brandon Montour may miss the entire month of October with a hand injury. Not good news for those who drafted him looking for solid peripheral production.

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In case anyone had hopes that the Columbus power play wouldn’t be an absolute embarrassment this year, they’re using Gustav Nyquist in a shooting role on one unit, Alex Wennberg in a net-front position on that same unit, and Pierre-Luc Dubois on neither PP unit. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting out of the power play, but this certainly is not it.

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The Coyotes look to be loading the top line with Keller-Stepan-Kessel. Not sure why they are using Stepan over Schmaltz but my guess is that they want Schmaltz to help generate offence down the lineup. Either way, it’s exciting to see Keller with a true top-line winger playing his opposite.

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Vancouver ran with Quinn Hughes and Bo Horvat on PP2 with Alex Edler and Josh Leivo on PP1. I’m sure that won’t tilt fantasy owners whatsoever.

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Washington started Braden Holtby in the season opener on Wednesday night but the team said the plan is to go with Ilya Samsonov as the starter on Friday night.

Fantasy owners might want to check the waiver wire now that Pheonix Copley was put on waivers, making Samsonov the backup. Holtby has had down years in back-to-back seasons and hasn’t started more than 58 games in either season. It seems that as long as Samsonov doesn’t fall on his face, we can pencil him in for 25 starts. It seems like there could be more starts beyond that if Holtby goes on a cold stretch like he’s done often of late.

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It was a successful season opener for Toronto as they rolled over Ottawa by a 5-3 score. Auston Matthews had a pair of goals for Toronto while Ilya Mikheyev had a goal and an assist.

What is worth noting most from that Toronto game was the split of the PP minutes on the side of the Leafs. They are stacking the top power-play unit but of their regular PP options, everyone had between 3:41 and 4:29 of PPTOI. That works out to basically a 55-45 split of PPTOI. Obviously, it’s just a one-game sample but it’s something to monitor as Mike Babcock did this often last year. If the top unit is basically in a split-minute situation, it doesn’t give them any advantage at all fantasy-wise over heavily-used units like in Boston or Colorado. Just something to monitor for the next few games.

Ottawa rookie defenceman Erik Brannstrom took a skate to the face on an awkward play in front of the net but it appears he’ll just need some stiches and will be fine. (Link to a gif of the injury here. I won’t post it for everyone to see.)

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A favourite sleeper pick for some, Jakub Vrana, scored his first of the season, his goal coming in overtime in a 3-2 comeback win against St. Louis. Lars Eller had a pair of assists filling in for Evgeny Kuznetsov.

My two takeaways fantasy-wise in this game is that the Blues are going to stick with Vince Dunn on the top power play for now while Robby Fabbri played under nine minutes. It doesn’t bode well for his long-term value this season.

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Not going to dig too deep into the Edmonton/Vancouver game except to say this: it took about 26 minutes for Leon Draisaitl to end up back on Connor McDavid’s wing. As always, don’t bother with any of the fringe-AHL wingers the team brings in year after year in hopes of having them work with McDavid. All roads lead back to Draisaitl.

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It was a successful first game for the new-ish new-look top-6 for Vegas. Cody Glass was slotted as the second-line centre for Vegas and promptly scored his first career NHL goal. The trio of he, Max Pacioretty, and Mark Stone combined for a pair of goals and a pair of assists on Wednesday night in a 4-1 win. Glass was also on the same power-play unit as his line mates, so he could have relevance in most fantasy formats as soon as, well, right now.

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On Tuesday night, I took part in my two final drafts. (Well, one was technically a rookie draft in a dynasty league, but I digress.) I want to discuss one of the teams I drafted, and it’s the one over at the Fantasy Hockey World Championship website.

I discussed the FHWC during the off-season but it’s worth revisiting. There are things like the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) and National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) that are very popular sites for season-long leagues. In particular, they’re for players looking to play higher stakes than their $20 or $50 home leagues. There are football and baseball leagues they host that run $10 000 per entry, with many leagues in the $150-$1000 range. The hockey side of things isn’t nearly as big so their limits are smaller, but it’s a good spot to cut your teeth against very serious fantasy hockey players from around the world.

There are different levels on entries, starting with $25 so I recommend fantasy owners looking to add one more league check out the site. Just be aware of potentially high management fees. 

Let’s break down the league settings, because they’re important:

  • This league was a 12-team league where I was drafting second overall.
  • Points league with goals (2), assists (1), shots (0.25), hits (0.25), blocks (0.25), and one bonus point for a goal scored short handed or on the power play.
  • Bonus points for goals (0.5) and assists (0.25) by defencemen, which brings the rearguards extra value.
  • We start seven forwards, three defencemen, and two goalies every week. Lineup spots lock at the team’s first game of the week.
  • The rosters are 30 players deep but there are no waivers or trades. Whatever you draft on draft day is what you have for the entire season, no more and no less.

Readers can go check out the full draft board here. These are the first 12 rounds, or our starters, or deep enough to draft your starting roster (not everyone filled out their starting roster in the first 12 rounds):

 

 

I want to talk through my draft and thought process a bit.

Taking Brent Burns second overall was a no-brainer for me. I would have taken him first overall if that’s where I was drafting. The bonus points for scoring by defencemen makes them more valuable and makes the point producers on the blueline even more so. On a per-game basis, in this format, my projections have Burns as 15 percent more valuable than the next-closest defenceman. If this is the year age catches up, then so be it. I’m betting on no.

After Burns, I didn’t draft a defenceman for seven rounds. I felt that not only did he give me such a leg up at the position that it wasn’t necessary to keep investing, but that I had defencemen identified that I could grab later. With Burns, Trouba, and Gostisbehere, my three starting defencemen were all ranked in my top-24 blue liners (1st, 15th, 23rd). As long as my projections aren’t trash, I’m very happy with this.

This being a points league, goalie points are aware for saves, rather than just having a save percentage. Last year, Toronto allowed the third-most shots against per game, nestled between Pittsburgh and Chicago. I don’t think that team improved defensively in the off season, so I’m looking for more of the same, which means lots of saves (and with the scoring the team has, lots of wins) for Frederik Andersen.

I ended up with a lot of players I’ve been discussing all off season because I don’t just make this stuff up out of nowhere. There is Kyle Palmieri in the 10th round (maybe a bit high but I had him and Brady Tkachuk in my queue and I figured Palmieri had more upside because of his team), my 14/15 turn of Andreas Johnsson and Nino Niederreiter, and my 22/23 turn of Anthony Cirelli and Kevin Fiala.

Once I had Andersen and Gibson drafted, I knew I was pretty much secure in net (or as secure as someone can be). The rest of the time was spent either drafting backups on elite teams – guys an injury away from being a top-10 goaltender – or guys with tenuous starting situations. That explains grabbing Jaroslav Halak and then going with a turn of Blackwood/McElhinney a couple rounds later. I probably should have grabbed another goalie later on but truth be told, if I get to a point where I have to consistently start my fourth and fifth goalies, my season is toast anyway.

One final time, I’m going to explain just how important hits are.

Some people might see Artemi Panarin in the eighth round and think that’s phenomenal value. And it might be. However, he doesn’t hit, and that’s a problem. Let’s work through this.

Last year, Panarin set a career-high with 87 points, containing 28 goals and 59 assists. To go with it, he had 191 shots, six PP goals, 17 blocked shots, and 14 hits. In this scoring system, that gives us a grand total of 176.5 points. Compare that to Dustin Brown, who had 22 goals and 29 assists last year, a full 37 points fewer than Panarin. 37! Points! That’s a lot, right? That would make Panarin a far superior option, right?

I wouldn’t be writing this if that were the case.

To go with his 22 goals and 29 assists, Brown had nine PP goals, one SH goal, 180 shots, 29 blocked shots, and 150 hits. Those numbers, in this scoring system, give Brown 172.75 points. The difference between Panarin and Brown last year, despite 37 actual points difference in the real world, was about one power-play goal in this fantasy league setup. Yes, paying attention to your league settings is very, very important.

My Fox/Byfuglien turn was basically this: if something happens to Trouba, Fox is my insurance, and if Byfuglien ever comes back, he goes right into my lineup alongside Burns. I’ll take that risk in the 20th round of the draft.

That’s how I ended up. Thoughts/criticisms/questions? Hit the comments.