With the season winding down, aside from the amazing Cup Final we have on our hands obviously, the focus shifts to prospects and the draft. Lucky for everyone reading this, we have an incredible team of writers covering prospects from all over the globe. To that end, today is the day the Prospect Report is released! Be sure to head to the Dobber Shop to grab your copy.
In his Ramblings a couple days ago, Ian took a question from fellow Dobber writer/editor Steve Laidlaw (hi, Steve!) about save percentages. They have been declining league-wide for a couple years now. I concur with Ian on both of his points that equipment changes are part of it, as well as the increased focus by teams on speed and skill. No longer are rosters weighed down by a fourth line of face-punchers; the top teams have guys who can score all over the lineup.
One thing I will add: power plays are more efficient than ever. Power-play efficiency is a quick way to just absolutely tank a goalie’s save percentage and I think that’s part of the decline league-wide. Is it something that changes as teams adapt on the penalty kill or is this the new status quo? We’ll see next year.
A little confession here: I’ve never participated in an auction fantasy hockey league. I’ve done them in baseball (home-league fantasy baseball auction day is one of my favourite days of the year) and even a football one a few years back. But never hockey.
I throw this out to the people who participate regularly in auction leagues: what are your favourite formats? Total budget, roster size, categories, what have you. Let me know in the comments.
Something I wonder sometimes: does Alex DeBrincat get overlooked in drafts next year? As far as rookies go, he’s never discussed among the elite of this year’s crop, which isn’t necessarily a huge fault of the hockey community. This was an absolutely loaded year for rookies. All the same, DeBrincat had 28 goals, over 50 points, over two shots per game, and did all that playing under 15 minutes a night. He did garner more ice time as the season wore on, though, and this team needs scoring from its wingers beyond just Patrick Kane and hopefully a rebounding Brandon Saad. Maybe he flies under the radar and gives us a reasonable ADP for 2018-19? Maybe.
My Ramblings for the last month or so have been pretty heavy on math (however basic the math is) and I understand that can get a bit boring at times. It’s important to understand and (try to) quantify how the game is changing in the NHL and how that affects us as fantasy owners and players. It is, after all, a game where the best numbers win.
But seeing as it’s the end of the week and the start of a new month, now seems ideal for some discussion topics. We have fewer than two weeks left in the postseason, with the draft and free agency to follow. Now would be the perfect time for some wild fantasy hockey predictions. Here are precisely 10 of them.
#1 – Ben Bishop is a top-10 goalie
We saw this year that when they’re coached to, the Stars can play pretty good defence; they allowed the third-fewest adjusted shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five and had the second-lowest expected goals against. Offence was sacrificed at the altar of defence, though, so it’ll be up to Jim Montgomery to find the right balance. Miro Heiskanen should be in the lineup next year and both Esa Lindell and Julius Honka have another year of experience under them. Though I’m not a fan of his personally, if Bishop stays healthy enough to start 60 games, he can be a very good fantasy goalie.
#2 – Bo Horvat reaches 70 points
Though time together was somewhat limited due to injuries, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser gave us glimpses of the magic in the future for the two of them on the ice. Horvat’s 82-game pace was 57 points and he did that while not even being on pace for 20 power-play points. With both Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired, this is Horvat’s and Boeser’s team now. They should both be near or past the 20-minute mark per game and both with an added year of chemistry together. There is a lot of upside for this duo in 2018-19.
#3 – Brandon Saad puts up a 30-30-60 line
It was a poor fantasy season by Saad’s standards but even in a poor season he managed 18 goals. That’s in a season where he shot four (!) percent on the power play and 7.8 percent at five-on-five. If he shoots even his four-year average last season he scores 28 goals. It was a bad season all around by the Blackhawks but the top half of the roster still has loads of talent. Do not write Saad off after one bad year that was preceded by three very good years.
#4 – Alex Galchenyuk gets back to 30 goals
At some point, the Montreal coaching staff realized Galchenyuk could be a pretty good offensive option on the power play when he’s put in a spot to succeed i.e. his weak side in a one-time spot off seam passes rather than in the slot like TJ Oshie. And lo! He tied a career-high with nine power-play goals. The issue was at five-on-five where he shot 6.5 percent, by far a career-worst, having never shot below 9.6 percent before, and possessing three seasons of at least 12 percent. If the team keeps him as a focal point of the power play (fingers crossed), and that five-on-five conversion rate regresses, there is a big rebound season coming in the goal-scoring department.
#5 – Mikhail Sergachev is a top-25 fantasy defenceman
Usage here will matter. If the team doesn’t allow him more minutes – the 19-20 range rather than 15-16 – it’ll be hard to be a more significant fantasy contributor. All the tools necessary are there, though. He has the passing, the patience, the ability to generate offence starting in his own zone. He shoots with volume and is playing on a team that should be high-scoring again. Everything Sergachev needs to build on a 40-point rookie season is there if the team gives him some more ice time. Maybe they don’t trust him yet defensively but offensively he’s showing he’ll be great for a long time.
#6 – Jack Eichel finish top-5 in the Art Ross race
Maybe this one isn’t as wild as the others but his performance to this point of his career has put him in the same company as some of the greats to play this game in the past and the elite currently in the NHL. Two things hampered him last year: injury and team underperformance. That underperformance mainly came on the power play where their relative shooting percentage went down about 18 percent with him on the ice, leading to Eichel having fewer power-play points (20) in 2017-18 than in 2016-17 (24) despite six more games played. In a full, healthy season with that power play returning to form, he should be over a point-per-game player.
#7 – Jesse Puljujarvi finished second on the Oilers in goals
Sometimes I wonder where the disconnect is. I watched a lot of Oilers games last year – maybe to my mental detriment – and Puljujarvi seemed… fine? Maybe he didn’t flash as an offensive dynamo like fellow 2016 draft pick Patrik Laine, but he seemed to be able to get the scoring areas. Was he inconsistent defensively? Maybe. Then again, the entire roster was, so that seems like the ultimate nitpicking. The Oilers were pretty good at generating offence with him on the ice, as this viz from HockeyViz.com shows (darker red means areas of high shot rates compared to the league average):
Again, there may be defensive issues to clean up, but he led the team in shot rate at five-on-five (and it wasn’t really close) and was second in individual expected goals behind only McDavid. Some people in the fantasy hockey community may have given up on him by now but he’s still a supreme talent. Believe in him this year.
#8 – Derek Stepan reaches 60 points for the first time
Quietly, Stepan has been one of the most consistent fantasy performers for a while now. He’s managed between 44-56 points every season of his career, with the 44 coming in the lockout-shortened season. He had 56 points last year and probably would have reached 60 had his shooting percentage (6.7%) not been a career-low. He was a 10.7 percent shooter for his career before that. He and Clayton Keller developed chemistry almost instantly to start the season even if there was some line juggling later in the year. Arizona, for all its strong points like their blue line and goaltending, still don’t have a lot of depth up front. Stepan will be relied upon for 19-20 minutes a game again, and if Keller is by his side for even half the year, 60 points is well within reach.
#9 – John Gibson is the top fantasy goalie
I know. Believe me, I know.
Since Gibson stepped into the league, he’s been a star. Over his (parts of) five seasons, his .923 overall save percentage is tied for first in the league among goalies with 150 starts. For all their flaws, the Ducks were still fine defensively last year and boast a top-4 defence corps to be proud of. Ryan Kesler’s uncertain future is an issue because he ate so many defensive assignments but they have Adam Henrique as a safety valve, hopefully Ryan Getzlaf can stay health all year, and Sam Steel looks like the real deal.
But it’s all about Gibson’s health, isn’t it? Despite a couple hiccups last year, he still managed 60 starts. With a healthy roster and a healthy season himself, Gibson has the upside to be the top fantasy goalie. It’s a matter of whether fantasy owners are willing to risk a high pick to take him.
#10 – Kevin Shattenkirk gets back to 50 points
Injuries derailed his season but Shattenkirk was settling in nicely for the Rangers with 23 points in 46 games. Maybe it was injuries, maybe it was Alain Vigneault, but he was playing just over 20 minutes a game until he left the lineup for good. There are some talented young defencemen like Skjei and Pionk but he should be their go-to guy on the blue line, for better or worse. He should be able to add a couple minutes per game with heavy top power-play usage included. If there’s one thing the Rangers don’t lack, it’s speed and skill up front. Their defensive woes likely continue but they’ll be fun to watch in the offensive zone, and Shattenkirk should be a big beneficiary here.
Those are just some of the predictions I have at this moment. What are some of yours? Hit up the comments and let’s get through this off-day together by yelling at each other.
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