Ramblings: Reinhart Signs, Line Combinations, Defence Rankings – September 20

by Michael Clifford on September 20, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Reinhart Signs, Line Combinations, Defence Rankings – September 20

 

The 2018-19 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide has everything fantasy owners need to get an edge on their competition. There are: line projections; player projections; articles for scheduling, advanced stats, specific categories, and more; a draft list for different leagues; notes from each team. Be sure to head to the Dobber Shop and get yours today!

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Sam Reinhart signed a bridge deal with Buffalo for two years with an AAV of $3.65-million. He was one of the handful of remaining RFAs left.

Reinhart has been quietly productive on a very bad Buffalo team in his young career. Riding shotgun with Jack Eichel both at five-on-five and on the power play, as both start to enter their primes, should be a huge boon for the team. Right now, I have him as a starting RW in 12-team leagues that start three right wingers, coming in as RW33. If the Sabres can start producing more at even strength, he has 60-point upside. Just be wary of over-drafting him; I would not take him in the first 10 rounds of a 12-team league and he might climb there in some leagues now that he’s signed.

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Wednesday afternoon I started a best ball draft over at Fantrax.com. It’s officially a Beat Dobber league where the goal is to beat the man himself.

For those unfamiliar with best ball (I guess best puck) drafts, they’re essentially no-moves leagues. You draft your team and that’s it. There are no trades or waiver wire moves. Whomever accumulates the most points through the season wins. 

These types of leagues gained prevalence in fantasy football so it’s nice to see FanTrax step up and provide something similar for hockey fans. For those that don’t have the time (or inclination) to set your lineup, assess your team, stay current on information, or negotiate trades on a daily basis, this is the league for you.

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Calgary and Boston played their second and final preseason game in China yesterday. Jake DeBrusk had a nice goal in the first period, driving wide and going under Mike Smith’s arm. That’s where the good news ends for fantasy enthusiasts like myself who are high on DeBrusk this year. It was Ryan Donato, and not DeBrusk, skating on the top PP unit along with Marchand and Pastrnak.

That’s the problem here. DeBrusk has a lot of upside if he can get those minutes but will be hindered if he doesn’t. On the flipside, this is a huge boon to Ryan Donato’s value. The team rain winger pairs of Marchand/Pastrnak and DeBrusk/Donato which means the latter two could flank David Krejci to start the year. If Donato is on that line at five-on-five and on the top PP unit, there could be a big year coming. He should be highlighted on draft lists right now.

Matthew Tkachuk didn’t dress for the game but it’s said to be a precautionary move and not a serious injury of any sort.

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All summer I’ve been railing against drafting Rasmus Dahlin where he’s being taken – often inside the top-100 players – mainly based on the fact that he wouldn’t get top PP minutes for the Sabres. Without those top PP minutes, there just wasn’t much upside, especially considering the quality of the team.

Well, Tuesday night it was Dahlin, not Rasmus Ristolainen, on the top PP unit. It was a mostly-full roster, too, with Skinner, Eichel, Okposo, and Mittelstadt all playing. Assuming Sam Reinhart is the fourth forward, Dahlin may be in line to at least start the year on the top PP unit. He’s still overvalued but it’s a good sign for Dahlin backers.

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A quick update on Zach Werenski from Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. He’s set for a checkup on his shoulder today and if all goes well he’ll be able to sustain some “controlled contact.” The hope is still for him to get in a preseason game or two and be ready for the start of the season. Things can change quickly with injuries but for now it looks like Werenski may be fine for opening night.

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Speaking offensive defencemen:

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Arizona played a pair of split-squad games a couple nights ago against the Kings, but they had a lot of their top guys on one team. Notably, Alex Galchenyuk and Clayton Keller skated together at both five-on-five and on the power play, contrary to where they were slotted when camp opened. (Shout out to HockeyViz.com for the line combinations). Richard Panik was skating with Derek Stepan at five-on-five and those two were also on the PP unit with Galchenyuk and Keller.

My hope had been that the duo of Galchenyuk-Keller would skate together this year and we may get that opportunity yet.

As a small aside: Stepan’s line was largely matched against the trio of Carter-Toffoli-Pearson, leaving Galchenyuk’s line take softer matchups.

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Carolina ran these PP units in practice a couple days ago:

I’ve stated I’ve been hesitant to downgrade Justin Faulk, even after the acquisition of Dougie Hamilton, just because we didn’t know if they were going to run a 4F/1D PP with a new coach in town. Well, they aren’t. At least not right now. The only person missing from the groups at that practice was Svechnikov.

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Let’s talk about Nashville for a second.

We’re only a week into preseason. We have nearly two more weeks to go. Things can change quickly and they often do when coaches are trying to figure out what they want their lineup to look like for the first regular season game in October.

With that said, the Preds ran these lines a couple days ago:

That is great news for Kevin Fiala owners, or potential owners. It’s bad new for Craig Smith backers as he’s pushed to the third line. Smith had a rebound year in 2017-18 and the line of he, Fiala, and Kyle Turris were very good together.

Further on the Smith front, Vingan also said recently in a fantasy hockey piece on The Athletic that Eeli Tolvanen “should receive ample power-play time.” All of Smith, Forsberg, Johansen, and Arvidsson, their top PP unit last year, but they’re all right-handed shots. Tolvanen is a lefty. Getting a forward with a left-handed shot on that PP quintet makes sense. Keep an eye out as preseason continues.

For what it’s worth, Tolvanen was on the second PP unit in practice yesterday with Smith still on the top unit.

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The Dallas/St. Louis game a couple days ago was interesting from a roster perspective. Dallas went with this top-6: Benn/Seguin/Radulov and Janmark/Spezza/Nichushkin while St. Louis had a top line of Maroon-O’Reilly-Kyrou.

Dallas also used Spezza as the fourth forward on their top PP unit instead of Nichushkin. If Nichushkin doesn’t get those minutes, it’ll be hard for him to have much fantasy relevance in most leagues this year.

It also seems likely that Maroon starts the year somewhere in the top-6 for St. Louis. He’s been practicing with both O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn with Robby Fabbri practicing often on the third line. That should bring relevance to Maroon in 12-team leagues even without those top PP minutes.

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Something important to note from last night's Florida/Montreal game. 

The Panthers had pretty much their NHL lineup for this game, including their full top-6, Ekblad, Yandle, and Luongo. The top PP unit did not have Jonathan Huberdeau with the trio of Trocheck/Barkov/Hoffman, rather it was Evgeni Dadonov. That is a significant adjustment in fantasy value for both Huberdeau and Dadonov should that persist. 

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Last week when I released my rankings I said there would be some tweaking to come. The Tweakening has come.

Mostly, the changes had to deal with power play time and usage. There are some players whose usage was undervalued because of limited prior experience – names like Mikhail Sergachev and Colin Miller – as well as some players who’ve just changed teams, which could lead to different usage.

Below are my rankings for my top-61 defencemen this year and the rankings are for standard Yahoo! leagues, which include goals, assists, PPPs, SOG, hits, and +/-. More names will be added by the weekend to try and help those in leagues deeper than 12-teamers.

As with the rest of my rankings, these try to account for positional scarcity. This is something I’ve come around to more over the last year or so, especially with regards to defencemen. I’ve come to see the light that Steve Laidlaw has been shining. I’ll explain why.

The way I account for positional scarcity is by finding what a replacement-level player at a given position produces – it’s an average of the output in all categories by a handful of players that are deemed to be at the top of the value list on the waiver wire. Then it’s figuring out how much value does a given player provide above (or below) this amalgamation of a replacement-level player in each category, with the value total summed. The results are a bit startling:

  • Brent Burns is my number-1 defenceman. Kris Letang is my number-12 defenceman. The excess in value I have Burns providing over Letang is about 39 percent. Conversely, Alex Ovechkin is my number-2 forward and Brock Boeser is my number-24 forward. The excess in value I have Ovechkin providing over Boeser is about 40 percent. Relative value is a real thing that matters a lot.
  • The top of my rankings won’t differ much from others. The top-10 will have a bit of shuffling around but they’re mostly heavily-used defencemen with a grasp on the top PP unit from likely high-scoring teams.
  • Once you get past the top-20 defencemen, there isn’t much of a difference between the next dozen or so. That means once you get past guys like Matt Dumba and Alex Pietrangelo in drafts, there isn’t a huge difference between grabbing Ivan Provorov or Jeff Petry, or Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Kevin Shattenkirk, for example. If you’re targeting someone in that range, you may be better served waiting a few rounds to grab someone similar and keep drafting forwards or adding to your goalie pool instead. I’ve added tiers to my ranking to reflect this reality.
  • I don’t directly address plus/minus here, but guys who will likely be killed by it (Ristolainen, Shattenkirk, and Leddy, to name a few) have had their rankings adjusted to reflect this. For most players, it is ignored. (We, as a community, need to eradicate the scourge that is plus/minus in fantasy leagues).

Here are my updated defence rankings.

 

Notes on players that are ranked higher or lower than rankings from others on Fantasy Pros:

  • I am much higher on Oscar Klefbom than most. I get that recency bias is a thing and Klefbom’s 2017-18 was miserable. He was also battling a shoulder injury that flared up before the season even started and nagged him most of the year. He looks to be healthy now, though, and is locked on the team’s top PP unit. If that Oilers PP can right itself, Klefbom is in line for 40 points with 200-plus shots. He’s a steal right now by his ADP.
  • The only thing Jacob Trouba needs to be a top-30 defenceman is to stay on the ice. Health has been an issue for him in his young career, but if he can manage even 75 games, he can easily be a 30-point guy with strong peripherals even without top PP minutes. That type of player – and we can add guys like Parayko, Provorov, and Ekblad to the list – is valuable.
  • I like Keith Yandle a lot and don’t have any real particular issue with where he’s being drafted. That said, his ADP right now – and generally where he’s being ranked – is about where he finished last year in a 56-point season. He’s a safe pick, but where he’s being drafted, I don’t think there’s a lot of upside/profit to be had.
  • I guess I won’t be drafting Jake Gardiner much this year.

These rankings will continue to be tinkered with until the season starts. Any questions or projections requested? Hit the comments.

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