Don’t forget, next week will be Bubble Keeper Week on DobberHockey. A whole week dedicated to players who are fighting for a continued spot on your rosters as we gear up for draft season.
I’m so excited that I’ll even talk about a bubbler this week too!
A few more signings have occurred recently. Derek Grant landed in Pittsburgh for the league minimum. He’ll likely get the fourth line centre gig. The 28-year-old managed 12 goals and 24 points in 66 games with Anaheim last season.
Madison Bowey re-signed as an RFA with the Stanley Cup Champions. The two-year, one-way deal pays him a million per season and should solidify his spot on the club. The 23-year-old was a healthy scratch for the final quarter and entirety of the Caps’ playoff run.
The right-side on the third pair should be his in 2018-19.
Troy Stecher avoided arbitration with Vancouver by signing a two-year deal worth 2.325 million per season. The 24-year-old saw his production drop by 55 percent last season after a 24-point rookie campaign in 2016-17. The difference? He saw nearly three minutes of power play time per game as a freshman. He was essentially banished from it last year. He's a valuable piece to the Canucks as the only right-side defender who can motor and create offense.
If he's going to be productive though, the team will need to find a way to get him into more offensive situations.
For all of you who are excited about Elias Pettersson, I'll preach patience at the start. I was on Sportsnet650 on Friday afternoon (I come in around the 50-minute mark) and discussed the likely line combinations to begin the season. In my humble opinion, the most likely second line features:
Loui Eriksson – Brandon Sutter – Elias Pettersson
Not exactly ideal.
The Canucks were clear when the signed Jay Beagle that it was to provide Sutter with an opportunity to no longer be buried in the defensive end – he started a ridiculous 22.65 percent of his draws in the offensive zone. The hope for the team is that they’re paying him like a second line centre (4.35MM), hopefully, he can produce like one if freed up.
Having him play with an elite talent like Pettersson and a bounce-back candidate in Eriksson won’t hurt. However, I question his ability to drive offence on a consistent basis.
As for Pettersson, he should be able to carve out a role on the team’s top power-play unit in Henrik Sedin’s old spot on the right half wall or patrolling the right point. Having Pettersson and Boeser on opposite sides will be chaos for opposing defenders, but it’ll take the rookie some time to adjust.
His ceiling remains sky-high
Who do you like?
Points Only Keeper League Pickum!— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) July 19, 2018
This time of year, much is written and spoken about how a player’s circumstances have changed as a result of Free Agency. Did you just gain a number one centre? Did you lose one? Has your position in the lineup been positively affected or negatively?
These are the questions that roll around in my skull on a near-constant basis.
I’ll spend the rest of the summer sprinkling in a few examples of players and how their stock in the fantasy world was altered when GMs were out there burning their owner’s money before kicking off to the cottages for a few weeks.
The first up, Anders Lee.
Wait, clearly, he intends to state the obvious and say that Lee is in line to falter. He just lost a top 10 pivot in John Tavares. He plays for an organization that went out and gave money and term to players who likely didn’t deserve so much in their primes let alone their twilights. Not to mention all the career-high marks he just set at 27.
Get ready to have your minds blown.
True, the now 28-year-old recorded a whole bunch of career-highs in 2017-18. Goals (40), points (61), shots-on-goal (207), power-play goals (14), power-play points (22), shooting percentage (19.3), blocks (37), and time-on-ice (17:16).
He’s been a goal-scoring machine since locking onto Tavares’ hip a couple seasons ago. During that time, he sits fifth in total goals (74) and 10th in power-play tallies (23).
He’s also clicked on the fifth highest all-situations shooting percentage since the start of 2016-17 at 18.5 percent. He trails only Brett Connolly (20.3), Paul Byron (19.9), Mark Scheifele (19.3), and TJ Oshie (18.9) for NHL regulars.
Interestingly enough, despite all of those career-highs, Lee witnessed his offensive zone start times, IPP and CF% take substantial hits.
Lee isn’t what you would consider a volume shooter. He’s a sniper. Last season’s 2.56 shots per game were the most the former Notre Dame star had mustered. That sat just barely among the top 100 league-wide.
He played virtually every minute next to Tavares, a player who nearly scored as many goals (37) and shot the puck more frequently (3.15 per game). But of course, now Tavares is gone.
However, of all the Islanders, I believe Lee is the player who will be least affected by the loss of Tavares. His spot on the top line and top power play unit will be unaffected. And he will be given an elite centre to work with who may just provide a better compliment of skills to his own.
Mat Barzal may have been a rookie last season, but he impacted things all over the ice. He and his linemates were consistently controlling the play; providing positive CF% despite being deployed in the defensive end as much or more than the fun end of the rink.
Don’t let the 22 goals fool you, Barzal is as pure a passer as there is in the league. He averaged just 2.08 shots-per-game as a freshman. His 34 primary assists sat tied for eighth most in the league with Johnny Gaudreau, Leon Draisaitl and Jonathan Marchessault. His 0.77 assists-per-game sat seventh.
Not bad company to keep.
Now a pure distributor gets to dish to one of the league’s most deadly finishers. Sure, Barzal will have a hill to climb. He is no longer insulated by Tavares and will earn the opposition’s top defensive pairing and shutdown line. He will be game-planned against and tested on a nightly basis. However, he’s already an elite talent and the safe money is to bet that he finds a way to be successful as the top offensive option.
Lee may not hit new career-highs in a myriad of categories again in 2018-19, but he’s ripe to slip on draft day due to the perceived loss of Tavares. You can take advantage of that by sneaking him in as category filler with a solid floor and legitimate ceiling.
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Some youngsters snuck their entry-level deals in under the radar recently. Perhaps it’s just my foggy summer brain, but it seemed like an awful lot of the 2018 draftees had already put pen to paper in the month since they heard their names called. There have been 18 to be exact. This time last year, 12 recently-drafted players had signed. In July 2016, just nine.
It's definitely becoming a younger league with each passing season.
The most recent two were Evan Bouchard (EDM) and Ryan Merkley (SJ). The two defenders arguably have the highest fantasy potential for 2018 blueliners outside of Rasmus Dahlin, but both carry varying degrees of risk.
As a 1999 birthdate, Bouchard is physically ready to play in the NHL. He’s accomplished a great deal in his three years with the London Knights, including a monstrous 26-goal, 87-point draft-eligible campaign. His shot is large and in charge and he has very strong vision. He would instantly become a threat on Edmonton’s top power-play unit.
That said, his skating and pace of play need to improve. Not to mention the sheer difficulty in teenagers playing defense against the very best forwards in the world.
Bouchard should be targeted high in keeper leagues and is one to watch in one-year leagues if he’s still hanging around camp when the pre-season is coming to a close.
Meanwhile, Merkley is one of the most divisive prospects we’ve seen in several years. The late-2000 birthday means he’s one the youngest from the crop and also the most under-developed physically and mentally. Questions surrounding his commitment to all facets of the game, and attitude issues have followed the wildly talented blueliner for a few years.
There’s one thing that is not in doubt: when he has the puck on his stick, magic can happen. His ability to create offence is unmatched by nearly everyone in the 2018 group.
The Sharks clearly aren’t too concerned with potential attitude concerns. They traded for and then committed major money to Evander Kane. You can’t have a soft stomach to make those moves.
Here’s a fun a story. A former NHL’er told me about his experience at the combine nearly 20 years ago. He walked into the San Jose room, sat down and after about 30 seconds of silent staring from the Sharks Director of Scouting, Tim Burke, all that was said was, “What the **** are you even doing here? You think you belong? Do you honestly think we'll draft you?”
Evidently, they don’t mind throwing some grenades at these youngsters to see what they’re made of. The former player felt that Burke’s tough and abrasive interview tactics were to get some honesty and cut through the BS with players. Clearly, they liked what Merkley said back in June and liked what he did on the ice at development camp even more.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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