Yesterday’s big news item was Shea Theodore finally getting called up to Vegas. He didn’t play last night but likely because it took time for him to join the team on the road. Theodore is ready to be an impact player immediately and I advocate picking him up in every league that you can. It’s not that Theodore is guaranteed to be an impact player. We still have to see how he is used and if the Knights can even sustain the scoring to make Theodore a relevant asset if used in a #1 role.
It stinks that Theodore missed the first month of the season where Vegas received a creampuff schedule with seven of nine games at home and games against Buffalo, Detroit, Arizona (twice!) and Colorado. Last night was the first of six straight on the road. 11 of their next 15 come on the road. Now’s where we’ll see the bubble burst if it ever does.
Theodore is a dynamic talent. I ranked him 32nd among defensemen, projecting seven goals, 36 points, 180 SOG, 50 PIM and 15 PPP. That’s borderline relevant production. A guy like that is going to have value but only during hot streaks. If Theodore is that guy only with nine games missed then you’ll ultimately dump him to the waiver wire at some point. Hotter options will emerge. Of course, he has upside for more. Maybe he can drive his shot volume closer to 3.0 SOG per game. Or perhaps he can score at a 45-point pace rather than the mid-30’s total I had him for. There is upside in grabbing him. At this point, most of the hot starters have been clipped off the waiver wire. This is a shot at a new impact player. He’s worth the swing.
Who to drop to grab Theodore? The list is long so perhaps it would be better to just list the players to hold. It should be noted that Theodore would make a great scoop for someone who missed out on Brandon Montour as a Cam Fowler replacement or perhaps if you recently lost Shayne Gostisbehere to injury.
The no-brainer keepers:
The slow-starters but still worth keeping:
I won’t touch on any of these guy’s specifically because all of their situations are similar. They are top options on their respective teams producing little in a small sample. If these guys went through their slumps mid-season you wouldn’t even blink. Instead it’s happening early so the per-game numbers aren’t there yet. But the opportunity is there for all of them to produce 40-plus points with great shot volume. All that’s happened is a coin has flipped heads seven times out of 10 instead of the five you’d have expected. This is the nature of the defense position, where a top-20 guy won’t even reach 50 points.
Where things get muddy:
TJ Brodie – Calgary splits their PP time evenly but so far the “top” unit with Johnny Gaudreau featuring Brodie as the lone defenseman has gotten the greater chunk of minutes and has been productive enough to keep Brodie looking good.
Brandon Montour – Crushing it in relief of Fowler but probably not a long-term play. You don’t dump a great short-term option for another guy in a similar spot even if Theodore’s long-term upside is higher.
Nick Leddy – A bonafide #1 with a proven track record of scoring 40+ points. Off to a bit of a slow start with the Islanders boasting a junk power play. But Leddy’s Achilles heel has been shot volume and he has cracked 27 SOG in 11 games, a 201-shot pace. You can’t turn that down.
Will Butcher – I fully acknowledge that Butcher will go cold at some point and does not boast the shot volume to be worth keeping if he goes quiet but he’s hot now so you cannot drop him. The move is to try and use Butcher in a 2-for-1 trade and then snap up the next option like a Theodore.
Charlie McAvoy – Stuck behind Krug but producing enough to linger.
Mike Green – Pointless in three straight after a hot start but I’d keep him because Detroit has a nice off-night schedule this week playing tonight (a rare quiet Tuesday in the NHL), Thursday and Sunday. He is still seeing huge minutes and hasn’t gotten hurt (yet).
Jake Gardiner – Rielly is producing as I expected Gardiner to this season but it isn’t like Gardiner has been bad. More importantly, on a loaded Leaf team there is potential for more. Hang in there.
Seth Jones – Proving his second half to last season was no fluke AND that the Blue Jackets can carry a couple of productive defensemen even as he sees middling PP time.
Ryan Suter – Still has name value and enough productivity but he’s not a guy I want to carry for 82 games.
Keith Yandle – The Panthers are now leaning towards Ekblad as their full-time #1 and are rolling with four forwards on the top PP unit. He still has enough name value but is headed towards the same neighbourhood as Suter.
Jacob Trouba – Off to a poor start but continues to produce great shot volume, which is enough to keep him on the roster while we wait for talent to take over.
Where I start dropping guys:
Brent Seabrook – Dump him, unless we are talking hits/blocked shots leagues. He ranked high in my standard rankings because I thought he might grab Artemi Panarin’s spot on the top power play unit. His PP minutes are up but he is firmly on the second unit seeing his lowest percentage of PP minutes in four years. His shot volume is up over last season but not enough to keep him a nightly play. While his PIM might be strong enough to be a nightly play, you can typically stream PIM.
Alec Martinez – Another guy I keep in multi-cat formats but drop otherwise.
Ryan McDonagh – Completely surpassed by Shattenkirk on a team that has room for only one fantasy relevant defenseman. Sell! Sell!
Brady Skjei – See above.
Colton Parayko – An absolute stud but buried enough behind Pietrangelo that Theodore boasts a better chance of reaching his upside.
Ivan Provorov – A good short-term play with Gostisbehere hurt but Theodore also offers a better chance at hitting his upside.
Zdeno Chara – Pass.
Mattias Ekholm – Has he ever been fantasy relevant?
Nate Schmidt – The bet is that Theodore passes him on the depth chart.
Matt Dumba – Currently buried behind Suter and Spurgeon.
Jaccob Slavin – Great in real life, not in fantasy.
I just named off 42 defensemen you’d keep above Theodore. Even in a 10-team league that should leave you enough room for Theodore to be relevant. If you already have five guys from the above list and you only start four nightly, dump a middling forward, carry six defensemen and try to sell high on one of them. Surely, not all five are guys you’ll ultimately want to keep for 82 games.
By the way, don’t you love cryptic coaches?
When asked if Shea Theodore is going to play tomorrow, Gallant says:— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 31, 2017
“There’s a good chance he’s probably going to play.”
The next biggest piece of news:
Vadim Shipachyov has decided he’s going back to Russia. Contract termination will follow after unconditional waiver process #Sportsnet— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) October 30, 2017
I would love to read a 10,000-word expose on what went down between Shipachyov and the Knights because we don’t actually know that they completely bungled this situation. It sure seems that way but we’ll never know what Shipachyov would have done if given the shot he was presumably promised. It is possible that he really just wasn’t good enough but I doubt that. At least he got paid a good signing bonus but Vegas owed him a fair shake he didn’t seem to get. Hell, they owed it to themselves to give Shipachyov a real shot. Now they’ve lost an asset for nothing. They probably also hurt their rep with future free agents, especially KHL players looking to come over. It is worth mentioning that they acquired the rights to top prospect Nikita Gusev, a former teammate of Shipachyov in the KHL. This likely hurts their chances of bringing Gusev over.
Last Golden Knights thought. They played a game and got thrashed by the Islanders, losing Oscar Dansk to injury in the process. They are now down to Maxime Lagace in goal. They have also called up a goalie from the WHL, which might be the first time I have ever heard of that one.
Provorov, as mentioned above, makes a great short-term pickup. He skated 28:11 in an overtime affair, including 28 seconds on the Flyers’ lone power play. He assisted on all three Flyer goals, including a great play in the dying seconds to hold the line and help to force overtime:
Ivan Provorov's keep at the blue line saves the day! pic.twitter.com/2Hi8ULuyKk— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) October 31, 2017
Sean Couturier continued his absurd run with two goals. I talked about him last week and how his lack of PP production holds back his upside. Lo and behold he skated on the top PP unit last night and scored a goal. History suggests he hasn’t performed well on the PP but that Flyer top unit is a rising tide that lifts all boats. I don’t want to overreact to 28 seconds, so let’s see how this looks going forward.
The Panthers and Lightning combined to score 13 goals last night. They have combined for 30 in three meetings thus far. They don’t play again until March 6. I don’t know what I’m going to do until then – maybe mainline heroin.
All the usual suspects got involved in this one for the Lightning the Stamkov line (not a typo) remains unstoppable. Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Hedman all had multi-point efforts as well. At this point, you know who is good on that team.
We need to put a little more spotlight on the Panthers, however. As Aleksander Barkov (4 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (3) and Evgeni Dadonov (3) erupted to match the Stamkov line. The Panthers’ top trio has been as good as any other top three in the league.
Barkov and Huberdeau are household names but Dadonov remains overlooked. For all the same reasons that Vladislav Namestnikov was (and remains) a good pickup, Dadonov is equally a great option. He’s skating on the top line and top power play unit with elite talent. He is also owned in just 37% of Yahoo! leagues. Do not ask who to drop to get Dadonov, just figure out a way to get him on your roster. You won’t regret it.
The Montreal Canadiens put up eight goals of their own. You never expect regression to hit in one fell swoop but the Canadiens went full-on dragon attack on poor Craig Anderson. Somehow, Erik Karlsson went minus-six!
It really was only a matter of time for the Canadiens. Max Pacioretty scores 30 goals and 60 points like clockwork. We all knew he would get his.
More encouragingly, Artturi Lehkonen scored a pair of goals, his first two of the season. If the Canadiens are going to continue to use him in a feature role, he’ll need to produce at that level. He’s currently skating 16 minutes a night alongside Jonathan Drouin, including some top PP unit usage. He has 36 SOG in 12 games, which is great shot volume.
I’m not ready to move on Lehkonen, nor would I take him over Brendan Gallagher (2 points) or Alex Galchenyuk (1 goal) but the music won’t stop until something clicks for Montreal. There is potential for it to stop with Lehkonen in a big spot and he’s good enough to take advantage.
Torey Krug scored his second goal of the season in a late comeback by the Bruins. That should help to quell some early concerns. As outlined above, he remains their #1 PP option and is skating 20 minutes a night. Charlie McAvoy is the Bruins’ best defenseman but Krug remains their PP guy, which makes him the best fantasy option. My only reservation is that Krug is not shooting the puck. He has just nine SOG in nine games.
Normally, Krug is good for 200+ SOG. Either he’s turning into Tobias Enstrom, or this is just a great opportunity to buy low on one of fantasy hockey’s more consistent defensemen. I lean to the latter.
The Blue Jacket power play continues to be AWFUL. They sit dead last at 8.6%. This is a continuation of the second half of last season. Once the clock struck midnight on 2016, their PP turned into a pumpkin and it’s going nowhere. Last night, they didn’t even roll out Alexander Wennberg on their top unit, opting for this quartet of forwards instead:
Boone Jenner led the team in PP time. That seems suboptimal.
Many wondered why I was so sour on the Blue Jackets’ top players for this season. That PP is why. They should find better success with the man-advantage going forward but I doubt they’ll be good. That lowers the ceiling for a roster boasting what could be a bunch of great options.
Alexander Wennberg is my best example. Last season, he scored 59 points with 23 on the PP. He scored 33 in 35 with 16 PPP through the first three months and then just 26 in 45 with seven PPP. That second half production is grim. He shouldn’t be that bad but more of the latter turns Wennberg into a centerman I don’t want on my team, especially since he so rarely shoots the puck.
The Coyotes won their first game of the season but they needed overtime after pissing away a three-goal third period lead. On the plus side, it allowed Clayton Keller the opportunity to extend his scoring streak to six games.
Scott Wedgewood got the start and win for Arizona. I don’t think he’ll be particularly fantasy relevant but in a deep enough setup every goalie getting minutes is worth a spin.
The Sharks’ power play has been in shambles but they have turned to a two-defenseman look on their top unit with Brent Burns operating in the Ovechkin slot and Tim Heed manning the point. Heed sure looks like a good player and a potential fantasy asset, especially in deeper settings.
Heed’s minutes overall are minimal. He is skating only 15 minutes per game but was over 21 last night. Even though the Sharks’ PP has been bad, shuffling Burns to the Ovechkin slot moves him closer to the net, a better spot for him to blast from. Meanwhile, Heed also boasts a good point shot though not the #1 option from the top. It’s a better dynamic, which makes it a decent shot that he sticks in this spot.
Heed’s definitely worth a crack in fantasy leagues. Perhaps look for him if you missed out on the Theodore option.
Alexander Radulov, he’s good:
I recommended Josh Bailey as a pickup in my Fantasy Five segment and in my Sportsnet column this week. If you aren’t on the lookout for those, you are definitely missing out on some good tips. Bailey picked up three assists last night, extending his scoring streak to seven games, in which he has 12 points. He has been reunited with the scorching hot John Tavares.
Tavares, along with Anders Lee and Bailey made for one of the league’s highest producing lines in the second half of last season. Bumping Jordan Eberle for Bailey is big news. Bailey produced at a 60-point rate on this line last season.
By the way, regarding my Fantasy Five segments – they are now clipping them into their own individual sound bites, so if you don’t want to tune in to the whole Hockey Unfiltered show you can find the 10-minute clips with just my chatter. Just follow that Fantasy Five link above.
Lastly, I’ve been doing weekly Periscopes, taking some fantasy hockey questions and discussing general strategy. That’s another avenue for fantasy hockey info.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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