The Fantasy Guide has been updated each of the last five consecutive days, with Sunday seeing two updates (I’m not marking inter-day updates in the date box, FYI).
Sunday I scrambled a morning Guide update because Ottawa cut Drake Batherson and Logan Brown. Just like that, it changes the way I see the year unfolding for the Sens roster. I still believe Batherson will be an NHLer by the end of the season, but obviously I needed to roll back the projected games (I had him for 62 and dropped him to 52 for now…perhaps lower as I see more from Chlapik). The big thing is the status of Filip Chlapik still being there. I wrestled with having a projection for him back in July and decided to give the nod to Batherson. But Chlapik is now in the Guide, and he has a pedigree of producing points. With the lack of depth at center, he could be one to watch although this team won’t be scoring a lot of goals so his short-term ceiling is limited.
I’m starting to develop an Atkinson-like man crush on St. Louis prospect Sammy Blais. I first took him seriously back in May when analyzing his situation, his numbers, what the organization says about him, for the Fantasy Prospects Report. I thought he had excellent sleeper potential, between scoring 26 goals as an AHL rookie in 2016-17 and then nearly a point-per-game there in 2017-18. I call him “Mike Hoffman” in terms of upside. But then the Blues went out and added a pile of proven NHL players and I shifted Blais off my radar for this year. But man, the guy keeps showing up on the score sheet and while I know it’s only preseason, it has to be making an impression on Coach Mike Yeo. Two more goals on Sunday for Blais, who keeps exceeding expectations and on a faster timeline. Just like Hoffman.
Blais played with Robert Thomas on Sunday and the two had chemistry – Thomas had three assists. I already have him penciled in for the nine-game trial and if he impresses and knocks a regular out of the lineup with his play, he’s in for the duration. With Robby Fabbri struggling with injuries again, Blais is starting to look even better.
As for Fabbri – his injury is not related to his knee, but rather conditioning. His back injury cropped up because he hasn’t played in over a year. Looks like easing him back into game action will take a while, and his already risky fantasy draft status is becoming even riskier.
Chicago is down to 16 forwards, so likely looking at three more camp cuts. Still battling: Alexandre Fortin, Andreas Martinsen and Victor Ejdsell – my picks for the final cuts – as well as Dylan Sikura, Matt Highmore, Dominik Kahun and David Kampf, who I think will make the team. One player who is turning heads in camp is Dominik Kahun, a Czech/German late-bloomer who was never drafted but was signed by Chicago after posting nearly a point-per-game in the German League and tallying five points in seven games for Team Germany in the Olympics. He probably won’t have a big, lasting fantasy impact this year, but he could be a Joonas Donskoi type who gets 35 points in his rookie season (I have him for 26). His linemates were Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews in Sunday’s practice, so you know that Coach John Quenneville is taking his bid for a roster spot seriously.
Since I am on the topic of Chicago, fantasy owners are keeping a close eye on the defensemen situation. With both Connor Murphy and Gustav Forsling out with injuries, the team is looking at nine defensemen left in camp for the seven spots. You can count Erik Gustafsson as a shoe-in and frankly I think he is a nice little dark horse in deeper fantasy leagues. But what keeper owners are watching for is what happens to Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist. With regards to Boqvist, I have been saying since May that this year’s draft class was heavy in talented defensemen and lighter in terms of forwards. And I was surprised when NHL teams picked forwards over defensemen anyway, reaching for forwards higher in the draft and letting good defensemen slip. So my attitude when it comes to blueliners from the 2018 class has been to boost their value-rating, but drop the forwards down a bit. Boqvist was drafted eighth overall, but in terms of future fantasy upside he’s probably Top 5. He’s been turning heads and in terms of pure talent he is an NHL player. But he’s so small that I still struggle to see him on Chicago this year. He can wait a year.
While Boqvist was drafted eighth overall this summer, Jokiharju was selected a year ago at 29th overall. He proceeded to embarrass the WHL with ridiculous numbers for a defenseman (71 points in 63 games, fifth among WHL rearguards). Jokiharju is making things difficult for Chicago to send him back there, and the fact that he has nothing more to learn at the junior level also plays in his favor. I’m thinking Joki makes the squad for at least the nine-game trial.
Mike Green is suffering from exhaustion caused by a virus, but is apparently over the worst of it. He’ll spend a few days battling the rest of it off and then another few days regaining his strength and conditioning. Still, it’s a better prognosis than what it looked like on Friday, so I am guessing he misses just the first two or three games of the season. That still means that Detroit will start with two rookie defensemen this year and then send one back after Green returns. The candidates – Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts, Libor Sulak and Vili Saarijarvi. The player who turned heads last season in the AHL is Hronek. The player turning heads in training camp right now is Cholowski. So those are my two picks, with the two of them battling it out in the first few games of the season for the right to stay with the team upon Green’s return. I tend to think that, based on his pro season last year, Hronek ends up winning out. But Cholowski was taken 20th overall in 2016, 33 spots before Hronek, and has a higher ceiling.
In the game last night, Cholowski saw 21:45 to Hronek at 19:45 for ice time. More importantly, Cholowski saw 5:00 of PP time and Hronek 2:46. So you can see where Coach Jeff Blashill is leaning. I’m starting to want to slide Cholowski into the sneaky dark horse category, so Sammy Blais better move over and make room.
The Red Wings had the following line combinations in yesterday’s preseason tilt:
Michael Rasmussen – Andreas Athanasiou – Filip Zadina
You can get all the preseason stats and preseason line combos in the Frozen Tools section. If you haven’t seen the new-look Frozen Tools, go there now and get lost in the rabbit hole. The player profiles are getting ridiculous with how helpful they are for fantasy – now that they have Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts in the ‘advanced’ tab.
Filip Zadina had an assist and is starting to win me over in terms of sticking with the team. Joe Veleno had an assist as well and while he is impressing, I think he gets sent back down for one more year. Rasmussen I’m 50-50 on, still.
So far, no good. Mikko Koskinen gave up three goals on just 19 shots in his preseason debut – big deal it’s only preseason. But Sunday’s five-goal dud (21 shots) has me raising an eyebrow. Let’s give it one more game, but as a Cam Talbot owner I’m satisfied that his job is safe.
A good article here in the Athletic. It tells of the Columbus PP woes last year and how they were dead last with the man advantage in mid-December. After that, they were 11th. The reason was just from moving Alexander Wennberg to net-front, and taking Cam Atkinson from net-front to half-wall. With the team not trading Artemi Panarin (only my opinion), they could surprise this year in terms of the offense.
Don’t forget to put in your team/register at Dobbernomics.
The back story: I really loved the Small World game in 1999, for hockey/baseball/football where I would add players under a salary cap and their value would go up or down based on overall ownership in the game. Your team value would go up (or down) accordingly. I tried to beat my friends in both total team salary value, as well as total fantasy points. I looked around for it a few years ago and discovered that it had been sold to Roto Hog early last decade, and Roto Hog had tried to charge money for it…and so it fizzled and died. I wanted to bring this game back. Michael Hiridjee built the site from the ground up and we ran it the last two years. Each year, however, we barely got it ready in time for the season so we haven’t been able to properly market it. Two years ago, this was because it simply wasn’t ready until the last minute. Last year, it was because of my health and all the things that had to be delayed or pushed to the side as a result. This year? We’re rolling and we’re rolling early. I am eager to get 2000+ teams in there so that player values fluctuate nicely (the more who play and add/drop, the better). It’s a free game and it will always be free. I won’t make the same mistake that Roto Hog/Small World made. What do I get out of it? Besides getting this great game back online, you mean? I guess in the end I grow the Dobber brand and eventually that should help me sell a few more Guides. So if you’re looking for strings that are attached…that’s about it!
I’m doing my first draft of the season as I write this and it’s an interesting one that I would probably enjoy more if the draft moved quicker. Sorry for the plug, but it’s worth mentioning – this is Fantrax “best ball” and they opened up a “Beat Dobber” challenge. So 11 people have challenged me and we choose 20 players. At the end of the season, Fantrax takes the five best forwards, three best D and two best G and counts only those. It was $10 to play (I was comped), with the winner getting $100 and second getting $10. Each pick is on a two-hour clock, so there is no pressure, plus there is a “sleep” timer that runs from midnight to 9am. Problem is, a couple of people don’t check often enough nor put in the auto-draft, so the full two hours ticks by. Fifteen rounds in, it’s been three days. Hits, SHG, SOG and PPPts are categories along with the usual, and I used the Geek Draft Kit to rank the players. I picked third in the snake draft and nabbed Ovechkin. It swung back around to me and goalies were already taken (Vasilevskiy, Hellebuyck and Andersen). So I didn’t have a choice. My strategy is to get Tier 1 goalies if I fear that I won’t get one the next time it comes around to me. So my next two picks I took Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby. Geek told me that goalies are highly rated commodities so I made sure I got two of the better ones, later grabbing Varlamov as insurance.
With this type of league setup, it is best to take homerun swings in the later rounds and avoid the Band-Aid Boys. My later picks (14 and 15 so far) were Elias Pettersson and Alex DeBrincat. These guys need to crack my Top 5 forwards, so it’s a boom or bust kind of idea. Go for the high upside, forget about just being decent and putting up solid numbers. If they don’t have a shot at beating the best on my team, then I won’t bother. It means taking a Pettersson over a Dadonov, for example.
Announcement: Fantasy Hockey Geek, after over a year of work from three different programmers (good ones, too), can now finally sync with Yahoo. As of Saturday. This was so big that I rushed it to ‘live’ status rather than test it because I thought it would help users. Naturally, there are bugs and we are working on them. But I think more than half the leagues are syncing okay. I have heard about all the bugs, but I would love to hear from you if you synced it with Yahoo and it worked really well. Just trying to gauge the success rate so far. Thanks!
See you next Monday.
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- Frozen Tools Forensics: Impending Contract Years – Part 1