Ramblings: Sami Vatanen, Elias Lindholm, Mikko Koivu, Adrian Kempe and more (Aug. 9)

by Neil Parker on August 9, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Sami Vatanen, Elias Lindholm, Mikko Koivu, Adrian Kempe and more (Aug. 9)
Sami Vatanen - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Taking another look at the fantasy value of Sami Vatanen, Elias Lindholm, Shea Weber, Mikko Koivu, and many more …

 

Easily, the best part of these ramblings is the freedom to go where stats and news take you. We're lucky not to be pinned into a word count and a specific subject. 

With that said, here are some player notes to chew on.

 

Sami Vatanen

Among defenders with 200 power-play minutes last year, Vatanen posted the seventh-best 5.61 points per 60 minutes. Yet he had a 50th-best 0.79 P/60 at five-on-five among rearguards with 1000 minutes. This follows up his 5.04 and 1.05 marks during the 2014-15 campaign.

All said, we have no doubt about Vatanen's ability with the man advantage, and entering his fourth season, it won't take much of a jump in even-strength production to climb into the 45-point range. He's best viewed as No. 3 defenseman because of his modest contributions in the peripheral statistics. Still, this is a high-floor point producer with upside.

 

Shea Weber

Look for some negative regression from Weber after posting a 15.8 shooting percentage on the power play last season. He had a 13.5 mark over three years from 2012-15. Additionally, Weber took fewer shots per game with the man advantage than the previous three-season span (0.71 vs. 0.79).

There's an unknown in Montreal with just how he'll fit in with their power-play attack, but it's worth highlighting Weber's 2014-15 season where he scored just 15 power-play points. Counting on 20 goals and 50 points from Weber is likely too lofty an expectation.

 

Mikko Koivu

The veteran logged 268:08 power-play minutes last season, which ranked 12th in the league. Koivu returned 20 PP points, which accounted for 35.7 percent of his points last year. It was also his highest PP point total since the 2010-11 season.

With a new bench boss, Koivu could not only see fewer minutes, he might not be as efficient with the opportunities he receives. Plus, entering his age-33 season, expectations should already be in check. At this point, he's a filler in the endgame and not a target, especially with a number of unknowns surrounding the Wild.

 

Elias Lindholm

Among forwards with 200 power-play minutes last season, Lindholm ranked seventh with 2.57 first assists per 60 minutes — impressive. But he also ranked 72nd out of 84 forwards in shots per 60 minutes with just 7.42. Add his measly 11 goals in 2015-16, and there isn't a lot to love, especially in Carolina.

While there are plenty of encouraging youngsters piling up in Raleigh, Lindholm's skillset appears to be best suited for points-only settings. He'll improve on his 6.3 shooting percentage from last year, no doubt, but 50 points seems like a tough benchmark to surpass for a pass-first forward on a losing club. Count on another 40 tallies and view anything over 45 as a huge bonus.

 

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Adrian Kempe is likely an injury away from a permanent gig with the Kings. He has a lackluster group blocking him (Tanner Pearson, Dwight King, Kyle Clifford, etc. etc.) and likely very little to prove in the American Hockey League.

Los Angeles has shown a willingness to graduate some of their players quickly when ready — Tyler Toffoli may be the exception. However, with the supporting cast falling to pieces around their elite core (Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick), players capable of contributing now are needed.

Kempe could even push the envolople in training camp. For our fantasy purposes, he's likely not worth selecting in the majority of settings, but he very easily could have an impact for stretches or down the fantasy stretch.

Also, those in keeper/dynasty leagues might want to target a guy like Kempe who has a clearer path to a full-time gig over a player who may be a touch more talented but have a more crowded road. Talent usually wins out, but talent and opportunity is what we're after.

 

Similarly, Artturi Lehkonen is a player to watch in Montreal. He's expected to either crack the roster or return to Sweden, but after a monster playoff showing this spring (19 points in 16 games), the 21-year-old winger is close.

With the Habs lack of high-end talent blocking Lehkonen, he could easily make the case for sticking. His coach compared Lehkonen's situations to that of Mattias Janmark last year and noted Lahkonen is physically ready for the NHL. You can read more here.

Again, like Kempe, you might be passing up on some upside by targeting Lehkonen in cavernous leagues or keeper/dynasty settings, but you're also grabbing a player close. Some guys with more talent never make it because they're stuck behind others on a deep roster.

 

Before moving on, Zach Werenski shouldn't have much trouble catching on and sticking with the Blue Jackets. He's not going to breakout in his freshman campaign and return numbers like he did during the AHL playoffs (14 points through 17 games), but he should see sheltered minutes and provide decent fantasy results in deep leagues.

He's a well-rounded defenseman on the fast track to being a 15-year pro and mid-tier fantasy asset annually. Werenski only has Dalton Prout and Cody Goloubef to compete with to be the fifth defenseman behind Seth Jones, Jack Johnson, David Savard and Ryan Murray.

 

***

 

I didn't get to a few questions from comments of past ramblings.

One was about offenses improving and jumping up the rankings and being higher-scoring clubs. Here are a few candidates for improvement.

Winnipeg: Last year, the Jets posted the 15th-best shooting percentage (7.6%) at five-on-five despite sporting the fourth-highest scoring chances per 60 minutes. Add a full season of prime Mark Schiefele to an emerging Nikolaj Ehlers and the addition of Patrik Laine, and there is a lot to like about the Jets scoring more in 2016-17.

Edmonton: With a 19th-ranked shooting percentage (7.2%) at five-on-five and 18th-ranked Sh% (12.2%) on the power play, there is room for improvement. Losing Taylor Hall will hurt some, but a full season of Connor McDavid in front of an improved group across the board will aid the Oilers in flirting with being a top-10 club offensively.

 

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Another question was specifically about Philadelphia. The Flyers had the best five-on-five save percentage in the league last season (.935) and did nothing to improve their inadequate blue line. Relying on elite goaltending from middling talents will sink a team over the course of a season.

Offensively, a full season of Sean Couturier should enable Philly to roll out two offensively capable lines and boast some scoring depth. Unless they return to being a dominate force on the power play, though, the Flyers are going to remain a fringe playoff team.

Perhaps, Scott Laughton and/or Travis Konecny can help light a spark and provide more offensive punch, but that blue line is a going concern. Expect Ivan Provorov to also have plenty of growing pains in Year 1.

 

***

 

Back to the Jack Eichel vs. Auston Matthews discussion, in 2016-17, it is very difficult to envision Matthews outscoring Eichel. A fair prop bet would be Matthews +8.5. Eichel is set for a sneaky run at a top-10 finish in points with 30-plus goals.

 

***

 

Here's a fun read about the hockey hotbeds around the globe. There is no doubt, the United States National Team Development Program is producing high-end talent as quickly as any of late.

 

Catch you next week, and thanks for checking in, Dobberheads.