Ramblings: Preseason Action, Marchand, Marleau (Oct 2)

by Ian Gooding on October 2, 2016

Preseason action, Marchand, Marleau, plus more…

I thought I was going to write about the deciding game of the World Cup of Hockey in this space, especially with Team Europe leading Canada 1-0 late in the third period of Game 2 on Thursday. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be with the late goals from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. But I’ll still use this space to share a thought or two about the WCH.

In spite of the high-level hockey being played at this tournament, this tweet sums it up:
 


Well, that is Dobber Prospects managing editor Peter Harling. But this is not the first time I’ve heard this debate. I get the feeling that many hockey fans would rather talk about preseason games about either their team or top prospects on their fantasy team, rather than the World Cup of Hockey. With empty seats in Toronto for a championship game, it seems obvious that this current model doesn’t work.

Now that we’ve had a taste of several Olympics with NHL players, we can’t go back to the Canada Cup, I mean World Cup. So hopefully the lukewarm reception to the WCH puts pressure on Gary Bettman to return the NHL to the Olympics. But if there isn’t, then we could be looking at another World Cup of Hockey in four years. There will no doubt be many suggestions as to how to make it better.

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So let’s talk about the preseason. With the lack of coverage and focus on these games, it’s easiest for me to start from home and work my way out. Canucks fans have been gushing over the preseason play of defenseman Troy Stecher (more on him here), who posted three points against Edmonton on Wednesday.

But Canucks’ fans: I’m going to give you a dose of reality: Stecher likely won’t make the Canucks, even if he continues his fine play. According to Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province, the Canucks would risk losing any of Nikita Tryamkin, Andrey Pedan, or Alex Biega if Stecher were to make the team.

Another Canuck to watch: Anton Rodin (more on him here), who should play somewhere in the top-9 for the Canucks. Turning 26 later this year, Rodin is not really considered a prospect anymore. But he won the Golden Helmet award as the Swedish Elite League’s most valuable player last season with 37 points in 33 games, although his season ended early with a knee injury.   

In the same game, Stecher’s more heralded North Dakota teammate Drake Caggiula (more on him here) also impressed me with his speed. I think he would be more likely to be a regular NHLer on another team than the Oilers, who are stockpiled with young talent up front. But we’ll see how training camp plays out. If Caggiula makes the Oilers, he could be someone to target in deeper leagues, particularly if he finds the right linemates.

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Here’s some current preseason action of interest as well. I’m focusing on a few players in potential training camp battles below, as opposed to mentioning that fantasy studs like P.K. Subban and Taylor Hall scored for their new teams (which they did).

David Pastrnak scored two goals and added an assist, playing on a line with new Bruin David Backes, who recorded three helpers. Also worth mentioning: Danton Heinen (more on him here), who is battling for a roster spot with the Bruins, scored again, which is his third goal of the preseason.

In New Jersey, Beau Bennett (remember him?) scored twice, while Pavel Zacha scored a goal and added an assist. I’ll say that Zacha makes the Devils this season (at least I’m hoping he will, because he’s on my keeper team).

Also for the Devils, Yohann Auvitu (more on him here) recorded three assists from the blueline. Damon Severson still has the inside track to be the Devils’ power-play QB, but strong skater Auvitu (listed as both a defenseman and a left wing by Cap Friendly) is making things interesting. Keep in mind that Auvitu was the top defenseman in the Finnish Elite League last season.

Tyler Motte scored two goals for the Blackhawks. He is a strong bet to make the Blackhawks’ roster, and he could even crack the top-6 if he does, since the Hawks are thin at left wing after Artemi Panarin. That wouldn’t be a bad place for a rookie to be.

Marcus Johansson left Saturday’s game against the Islanders with a lower-body injury (NHL.com).

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Next let’s pick up some of the recent news. Since I don’t think this has been covered in earlier Ramblings, I’ll mention the Christian Ehrhoff PTO with the Bruins. Ehrhoff has sure fallen a long way from five seasons ago, when he signed that 10-year contract with the Sabres following his 50-point season with the Canucks.

But if there’s opportunity anywhere for a puck-moving defenseman, it’s Boston. You have offensive minded but defensively overmatched Torey Krug along with an aging Zdeno Chara, and then the offense from the blueline plummets after that. Los Angeles and Chicago (his last two stops) are both deeper on defense than the Bruins, which minimized his icetime. Don’t forget that Ehrhoff had a solid World Cup of Hockey for Team Europe, so I’ll say yes to him making the Bruins, although he’s past his “best before” date as someone to target for fantasy purposes.

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Peter Laviolette has signed a two-year extension to remain as coach of the Nashville Predators. So that’s still two coaches for the Predators in 18 years of existence.

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Earlier this week I posted to Twitter the results to my Experts League draft. To put it out to a larger audience, you can view my team here and the league draft results here. If you play in a similar league (G, A, +/-, PPP, SOG, HIT, BLK, W, GAA, SV%), you may want to view it to compare to your team. The first four picks are keepers, which is why Phil Kessel is showing as the first overall pick (by me!)

I mentioned this league in last week’s Ramblings, where I discussed who I would pick with the first overall pick (in the fifth round). I stuck to my word and picked Ben Bishop, targeting scoring afterward. You will see that I managed to start a mini-goalie run then, with four of the first six picks as goalies (Jonathan Quick, Jake Allen, Matt Murray). The other two in the first six picks were defensemen in John Klingberg and Dustin Byfuglien.

One pick that at least one other person would agree is a solid one: Derek Stepan in Round 14. That made him the 168th pick overall. I drafted him as my fourth-line center, behind Ryan Johansen (my second pick at the end of Round 6 at 72nd overall), Jeff Carter, and Derick Brassard. Who is the individual who probably agrees with me? Why it’s none other than the new Fantasy Hockey Geek author himself, Scott Maran. Find out more about why Stepan can provide much better value than what Yahoo and Fantrax give him credit for, as Stepan is this week’s Geek of the Week.

Speaking of the Geek, I took his advice in my selection of Dougie Hamilton as my third defenseman (121st overall). I’m banking on post All-Star break Hamilton, who scored 24 points in 34 games in his first season with the Flames (19 points in 48 games pre-All Star). I don’t have any stats to back up this theory, but I believe that many players need at least half a season to adjust to a new team with its different coach and different system and perhaps even different role. Kris Russell being dealt opened up more icetime for Hamilton, whose icetime was higher in March (21:12) than in any other month.

My best pick?

If you believe in the recency effect, it would be Brad Marchand (73rd overall). The little agitator impressed on Canada’s top line with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron. He should provide dominant numbers again in goals, plus/minus, and shots on goal. I mention plus/minus because there seems to be somewhat of an inverse effect between power-play points and plus/minus. Remember, your plus/minus is not affected when your player scores a power-play goal.

Since Marchand’s power-play time is somewhat limited (eighth on Bruins with 1:28 per game last season), only six of his 37 goals scored last season were with the man advantage. Two stats you can pull out of that:

  1. Only five players scored more even-strength goals than Marchand (25) last season. (Three other players also scored 25 even-strength goals.)
  2. Marchand led all Bruins’ skaters with a +21 last season. He has been at least a +20 in five of the last six seasons. Many scoff at the plus/minus stat, but your league may count it. If it does, then Marchand is an asset here for the reason listed above.

But of course, if Marchand is bumped up to the first unit, he gains more power-play points. But he could also be looking at a decreased plus/minus. What you wish for depends on your league settings.

My worst pick?

I don’t know if this is my worst pick, but it was the only pick the computer made for me without me at least queuing a player. (I was in the middle of family dinner and had to get ready for an evening strata council meeting during the draft, so life kind of got in the way.) That player is Patrick Marleau at 193rd overall.

Unlike his fellow aging long-time teammate Joe Thornton, Marleau’s stats have declined for two consecutive seasons. He rebounded somewhat with 25 goals last season, but Marleau is a combined minus-39 over the last two seasons. (Okay, I’ll stop talking about plus/minus.)

But other than that, I don’t think that Marleau is such a bad pick in this spot. In spite of his advanced age, he has the NHL’s third-longest ironman streak (542 games, dating back to 2008-09). Since the season after that one, Marleau has scored at least 20 power-play points in each of the six full seasons. He’s more of a second-unit power-play option for the Sharks, who boast one of the deepest top 9 forward groups in the league. So there’s no reason to expose him to major minutes, which should continue to keep him fresh.

So if I’m in the 17th round, should I get away from the damn computer and let it autopick? Maybe it’s not my worst pick, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.