The expansion Vegas team had a pretty good start to their season with back-to-back wins on the road. There’s a bit of a pall hanging over the team though, as Vadim Shipachyov and Shea Theodore still aren’t on the roster. Vegas has their reasons for doing so, namely having nine defencemen. This piece from Nick Cotsonika explains the thought process of the franchise.
As one could imagine, Shipachyov is probably not too thrilled about this:
Appears as Vadim Shipachyov and his camp are looking to find a way to get back to the KHL. https://t.co/3UlBnC8QP3
— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) October 9, 2017
A single report does not mean Shipachyov – who is under contract for two years – is on his way back to Russia, but this is exceptionally poor asset management. Every defenceman on the Vegas roster has played in parts of at least two NHL seasons, most in three or more; it’s not like they’re evaluating a group of rookies or international free agents.
Fantasy owners are probably going to continue to be frustrated. Management seems to be waiting to make a trade for picks or prospects, which may be hard to do at the beginning of the season considering these are cast-off players from the bottom of other rosters. Until the situation changes, there’s nothing fantasy owners can do except bench Shipachyov or Theodore, or in shallower leagues, outright drop them.
Michael Matheson signed an eight-year contract extension with the Florida Panthers on Monday. His new deal kicks in for 2018-19 and carries an AAV of $4.875M.
I think Matheson is a genuinely underrated player, mostly because he plays on a team with other very good young talents like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. He’s a second-pair defenceman, and this AAV is about the going rate for young second-pair defencemen these days. That’s fine.
There were a couple of interesting quotes to come from general manager Dale Tallon, though, and this one might be my favourite:
Tallon on Matheson contract: "We started at 2 years and went to 4, and went to 6, and he said 'what about 8, I wanna be a Panther.'"
— Cats On The Prowl (@Cats0ntheprowl) October 9, 2017
Florida was probably pretty keen on signing him, but it wasn’t necessary to give him eight years. Though I suppose if you think he can be a second-pair guy for the next decade, then it’s fine. The quote just made me laugh.
Dylan Strome was demoted by Arizona on Monday after averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time through the team’s first two games. The third overall pick from 2015 has just nine NHL games to his credit so far.
I watched both Arizona games and Strome never really stood out to me. That’s both good and bad: there weren’t any glaring mistakes but he also didn’t stand out on a roster that is kind of thin for forward depth.
Thought I’m sure Strome’s dynasty owners would like to see him play in the NHL, he’s not going to do much fantasy-wise if all he can manage is 12 minutes a game. Going down to the AHL to get more ice time and more hone his craft a bit further isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, a top-3 pick from three drafts ago still not being able to consistently crack this roster is getting worrisome.
Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen were all expected to miss extended periods of varying lengths this season. Then Patrick Eaves got hurt. Then Ryan Getzlaf (though he returned Monday night). Then Ryan Miller. Then Nick Ritchie. That’s three top-six forwards, two top-four defencemen, and the backup goalie all injured for the Ducks. Mercy.
Aside from those first three names, it’s a matter of when the rest of the lineup returns. Until then, it’s going to be tough to start John Gibson in net with confidence. I have him in a couple leagues and I’ve been regularly benching him. I know it’s hard to sit a goalie who was drafted to be the top goalie on a fantasy roster, but this team is so decimated at the moment that it’s hard to justify starting him.
How are other Gibson owners treating him so far this year? Are the readers still sending him out every start or are people making other plans? Let me know in the comments.
Speaking of the Ducks, Ondrej Kase started yesterday's game on the top line with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. He stayed with Getzlaf until he left the game after the mid-point of the first period taking a hit (stick?) to the head.
In his rookie season of 2016-17, his shot rate at five-on-five was just a bit lower than Perry’s, and he’s showed well early in the season here. I’m not sure how long he’ll last with that duo, but they’ve been looking for someone to consistently play on that left wing for a while, and Kase has been impressive in the limited minutes he’s been given. Something to keep an eye on.
On the bright side of injury news, Torey Krug returned for Boston in Monday’s loss to Colorado. He played nearly 22 minutes in the game with 5:35 in power-play time. He was immediately slotted back on the top power-play unit where he’s likely to stay.
Despite Charlie McAvoy’s start to the season with two points in his first two games, he was always destined to be pushed to the second unit once Krug returned. I’m sure his fantasy owners were hoping Krug may miss a few more games, but this was the inevitable call.
The rookie Bruins blue liner has a bright future, undoubtedly, but I’m dubious as to his fantasy value this year. Boston uses their top PP unit very heavily, so even cracking double-digit PP points is a longshot. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong.
Well, Vladimir Tarasenko absolutely torched the Islanders on Monday afternoon. He scored both goals for the Blues in regulation and chipped in a shootout goal as well. His second goal, which was a PP goal by the way, was an absolute snipe, shooting around the defender and going shelf on the short side:
— Nate Tope (@natetope) October 9, 2017
With this game going to overtime, Tarasenko played over 22 minutes, and he’s now played over 60 minutes through three games this year. His career-high for ATOI is 18:38 so he’s well above that mark at the moment.
One concern I always had with Tarasenko and taking the next step in fantasy production was his ice time. Now, complaining about a player with three straight seasons of 35-plus goals and 70-plus points is picking nits, but when you look at the point leaderboard for the last couple seasons, the players at the top are typically playing at least 19 and often more than 20 minutes a game. Playing around 18:30 usually doesn’t lead to point-per-game status (there are always exceptions).
Three games aren’t a real indicator for how the rest of the season is going to go, and he had a similar TOI start last year. I just hope that this is the season he can keep up this pace. There is no question he has the skill to put up 80-90 points, but line mates and usage are always a concern. If he can manage to keep playing 19-20 minutes a game has he has early this year, perhaps this is the year he does it. Or maybe this is just another tease.
Speaking of snipes, this Auston Matthews OT winner was… hoo boy:
Matthews OT winner pic.twitter.com/xJTrcW36Mu— steph (@myregularface) October 10, 2017
Dustin Byfuglien missed last night’s game after not practicing the past couple of days. Who knows how severe the injury is, but this is an immediate boost for Josh Morrissey, who ran the top power-play unit with Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Patrik Laine.
Nikolaj Ehlers had a hat trick to lead the Jets to a 5-2 win. After going pointless in the first two games of the season, the young Dane broke out in a big way against the Oilers. Playing with Scheifele and Wheeler obviously helps, but this isn't a situation where a player is being carried by his line mates. Every time he touches the puck, he looks like a legitimate threat to go end to end. He's a special talent.
There has been a trend… well, maybe not a trend… a blip?… so far through the first five days of the season (not including Monday night). Shots per minute at the team level are up. Way up. Here are the score-and-venue-adjusted shot attempt rates per 60 minutes at five-on-five through the first five days of the season in each of the last five seasons:
- 2013-14: There were eight teams with at least 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes.
- 2014-15: There were 12 teams with at least 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes.
- 2015-16: There were six teams with at least 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes.
- 2016-17: There were five teams with at least 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes.
- 2017-18: There are 17 teams with at least 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes.
What could be the cause? Crackdown on slashing? Teams generally transitioning to faster and more skilled rosters? Randomness? The fact that it’s such an aberration from the previous two seasons makes me think this isn’t just a blip. We’ll have to wait and see if this settles down as the season progresses.
What exactly would this mean for fantasy? Well, more shots would inflate goals against averages for goalies around the league. Going into Monday night, the increase in power-play opportunities and shots against per game compared to last year jacked up GAA’s to an average of 3.05 (2016-17 was 2.59). Having a goalie on a team that can limit the shots and/or penalties will be more important than it has been in a decade. Also, we’ll have to wait and see how individual shot rates are affected, but if more players post more elite-level shots per game, it makes the high-shot volume guys like Alex Ovechkin and Max Pacioretty a bit less valuable (though if Ovi scores 50 again that won’t matter much).
Given what we saw in the pre-season, fantasy owners should have been prepared for more penalties being called. How long that lasts is another issue. The shot rate at five-on-five being so high was not something I (nor anyone I read, though if someone did read that prediction please post it in the comments) had anticipated. At the least, it’s making the product a lot more fun to watch, but it does change the fantasy game.
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