Ramblings: Rookie Demotions, Defenseman Value (Nov. 1)

by steve laidlaw on October 31, 2016

Quiet night in the NHL? No matter, we talk rookie demotions, defenseman value and more.

No games last night. A strange lull in the schedule given the lack of holiday. Oh sure, there were children running around in strange outfits asking for candy, but tell me how that’s different from any other night. The next full day without NHL action isn’t until Christmas weekend, where there will be three straight days off.

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It never ends for Ales Hemsky. He was only relevant in deeper leagues anyhow but he had potential for some extended runs of relevance. That’s out the door at this point. On the other hand, Hemsky’s injury, along with Patrick Sharp’s creates a void for someone to grab some valuable minutes alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Patrick Eaves is always a factor but he’s injury prone as well.

You guys see where I am going with this. I am trying to find a way to get Jiri Hudler onto the Stars’ top line. So far, it doesn’t appear like it will happen. Here were their lines from their last game:

#1           30.9%    BENN,JAMIE – EAVES,PATRICK – SEGUIN,TYLER

#2           16.2%    CRACKNELL,ADAM – MCKENZIE,CURTIS – RITCHIE,BRETT

#3           15.7%    FAKSA,RADEK – ROUSSEL,ANTOINE – SPEZZA,JASON

#4           15.2%    HUDLER,JIRI – KORPIKOSKI,LAURI – SHORE,DEVIN

Don’t make too much out of the line number listed. That lines usage was just fourth for that game. Devin Shore is very good and I like the potential he and Hudler have to provide some depth scoring. Still, it would be wonderful to see what Hudler could do with the big guns up top.

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No real surprise here. The transition from junior to the NHL is a tough one for even the best prospects. Sergachev was never going to skate big minutes for the Habs this season or even be a lineup regular. Best to take the experience he did gain and work on his game down in junior. The only interesting part for me is that Sergachev only got into three games. The Canadiens elected not to use him for the full nine-game trial.

Expect to start seeing more of these demotions in the coming days. At the top of my list is Mathew Barzal, whom I cannot believe has been scratched as many times as he has while still sticking around. His experience is not so indifferent from Sergachev’s as the blueliner’s last game was October 20. Barzal last played on October 26 but has been in the lineup just twice.

I also think Dylan Strome is a candidate for demotion. He has skated in just three games so far, the last of which on October 21. He could stick a while longer and perhaps get into the lineup if an injury happens.

The Coyotes did opt to send Christian Dvorak to the AHL, which is the ideal option for prospects who aren’t quite cutting it. Unfortunately, many prospects, including Strome must go back to junior if they don’t stay in the NHL. Mind you, going to the AHL means a year on the entry-level deal gets burned so there is some advantage to a player heading back to junior.

I feel that the Coyotes should avoid burning a year on Strome’s entry-level deal and send him back before he passes the nine-game limit but Dvorak’s demotion opens some space for Strome in the lineup. Perhaps, Dvorak is going to play in the AHL until Strome hits nine games, and then they’ll make their move. Or perhaps they’ll keep stringing the Strome decision out. At this rate, he may be off to the World Junior camp before they make a decision.

Lawson Crouse is also on the chopping block for the Coyotes. He has already appeared in five games, so he doesn’t have much opportunity left to prove he belongs.

Thomas Chabot is barely playing for the Senators so expect him to head back.

Matthew Tkachuk will probably stick, although I do not have high expectations for his fantasy production this season.

I also wonder if we might see guys like Jesse Puljujarvi or Kyle Connor sent to the AHL. The Oilers and Jets are fairly thin up front, despite all the young talent they boast, so nothing is imminent. I just see two younger players skating limited minutes in the NHL when they have AHL options.

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Pavel Zacha will reportedly not be sent back to junior. Good deal, he definitely belongs. I’ve been kicking around the idea that he could have a breakout similar to Leon Draisaitl if paired with Taylor Hall on a permanent basis. They have looked really good together in limited opportunities. I know Adam Henrique is coming off a 30-goal season, but Zacha is already the Devils’ top offensive centerman. He has an upside that Henrique and Travis Zajac cannot sniff. Zacha is more of a “Watch List” type of guy for one-year leagues but is “Must Own” material for keepers.

Both Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov have hit the 10-game mark so will be sticking around with the Flyers. I expect Anthony Beauvillier will also stick.

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Despite the smoke surrounding the Islanders’ goaltending situation, it does not appear that any of their goalies have asked for a trade. Nor have the Islanders received any offers for Jaroslav Halak, whom the team had reportedly “made available” over the weekend.

It’s hard to see where the market for Halak would be. Does any team have room or need for a goalie signed for $4.5M with a couple of years left on the deal? Also, what are the Islanders’ long term plans in goal with Thomas Greiss and JF Berube hitting free agency this summer? It doesn’t add up.

The most intriguing option I have heard is Carolina but that would involve giving up on the Cam Ward/Eddie Lack duo that they have signed for another year after this one. It seems to me they are committed to their goaltending, no matter how mediocre it appears.

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This isn’t directly fantasy relevant news. Joonas Korpisalo only has value in the event of a Sergei Bobrovsky injury. But we also know injuries are a looming factor for Bobrovsky. Anton Forsberg is another strong goalie prospect in the Columbus pipeline but it was Korpisalo who stepped up with Bobrovsky out last season, expect him to reclaim his spot at the front of the line.

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With no games to react to, let’s do another round of Q+A:

This one is dependent on a lot of league factors. Is this a points-only league? Or are there other categories? How big is this league? How many defensemen do you start relative to forward slots? There’s an interesting give and take that goes on with positional value depending on what your scoring system is.

I have been preaching the 50-point bar for defensemen quite a bit, but I’ll outline it once again. In a pool with daily starts, I don’t want to keep a defenseman on my roster who isn’t going to score at least 50 points because if he hits less than that there is a good chance he is giving me more unproductive nights than he is productive ones. I’d be better off cycling through a bunch of 30-point defensemen off the waiver wire who are on a hot streak and playing a bunch of games in a short stretch than I would be keeping a 40-point defenseman all year. Cobbling together hot streaks and game volume, I can easily get 40+ points (along with an increase in other counting stats like SOG, Hits, PIM, etc.) in 95-100 games played vs. the 40 points in 82 games I am locked into with a single player.

Curious about the math on this? Each week there are a few teams that max out at four games played. Last week, the Flyers even got to five games. By playing the waiver wire and grabbing a new defenseman each week, one playing a dense four-game schedule, I can guarantee at least four man-games out of my roster spot. In a 24-week regular season that adds up to 96 games. A few more savvy moves and you can get 100+ games out of a roster spot. Your league must allow enough moves to put this strategy into action but, in most leagues, it is feasible.

It should also be noted that 40-point defensemen are rare. Last season, only 26 defensemen hit the mark, with another 14 coming within five points. The season before, it was 27 defensemen reaching 40 points. The year before that it was a mere 25 defensemen. The point is, 40-point defensemen are scarce. People are going to jump on a 40-point defenseman and feel like they are losing something if they drop them, in most leagues. But that also means settling for at least 42 games of non-productivity. My attitude is that you should allow them to do so. If other folks are willing to settle for a 40-point defenseman when you can cobble one together off the waiver wire, so be it.

This raises an important question: if 40-point defensemen are bad, and 50-point defensemen are good, what about the ones in between? These guys require judgment calls to be made. Generally speaking, I’ll call a guy who scores 45+ points a 50-point defenseman because in reality only 12 defensemen actually got there last season. I am especially willing to round up if a player puts forth huge shot volume. I also recognize that missing a season-long projection by five points isn’t a huge deal. Random chance can mess things up. I am also willing to make exceptions for defensemen who produce at a 50-point pace but don’t actually hit the mark because of injuries. I would rather have a defenseman who scores 35 points in 50 games and forces me to cobble something together during the 32 games he misses than a defenseman who scores 40 points in 82 games. This allows me to include Band-Aid Boys like Kevin Shattenkirk. All told, my list of defensemen I’d be willing to own in Standard leagues was 24 players long but I’d have to bump that up to 26 with Zach Werenski and Ryan McDonagh pushing expectations. Cam Fowler might be sneaking in there as well.

Under the scenario outlined above I would trade a 40-point defenseman for any forward who amounts to an upgrade on my roster. How to value a 50-point defenseman is trickier. Again, there were only 12 of these last season, though you can make a case for 26 being at that level.

The equivalency is probably a 70-point forward. There were 15 of those last season, with another five within five points and probably another dozen who’d have gotten there if not for injuries. So you can probably make the case for 30 or so forwards being at the 70-point level. The scarcity level is similar. But again, league specific rules will shift how exactly you weight these things. This is where I suggest using the FantasyHockeyGeek tools.

There’s nothing better than the Geek tools for breaking down league specific value and positional equivalencies. I don’t do a fantasy trade without consulting FantasyHockeyGeek. Many of the tools are free and customizable based on your league settings, and even your league provider.

 

As long as they hit my high standards of 50 points or mid-40’s with high shot volume I am good it. You’ll also want to do some sort of schedule analysis to make sure you can actually get that defenseman into your lineup more often than you would a 50-point forward off the waiver wire.

Ultimately, the real value in keeping an extra defenseman who meets the standards is in allowing you to shop around for a trade. You may encounter some difficulty in shopping that extra defenseman around since most folks are happy to settle for a 40-point option.

 

Citing my list of defensemen above, Werenski is on it, Rielly isn’t. I wish Rielly was as I believe he’s the most talented defenseman on the Leafs’ roster but he is skating just 44 seconds of power play time per game. That’s no way to achieve fantasy relevance.

 

I don’t think that time is coming soon. I know the goose eggs are frustrating but he still has 22 SOG in eight games. That continues the 240-shot pace he had last season when he scored 44 points. Krug is still the #1 defenseman on that Bruins team and is skating big minutes on the power play. I can accept the hiccups that come with a mid-40’s season when 240-shot potential is attached. So enjoy the shots knowing that the points will come soon enough.

 

I like all three of those prospects but I like Matheson the least.

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.