Ramblings: Sitting on your hands; Kovalchuk; Voynov; Fleury, a Sharks dark horse and more (June 11)
The NHL Draft is in just 11 short days. We have the 100 most fantasy-relevant players profiled in my 12th Annual Fantasy Prospects Report (buy it here), along with 350 prospects who are already in NHL organizations. You can see sample pages from this document right here if you’re at all hesitant.
I just updated this FPR today. It now has a completed Mock Draft that Peter Harling did, and he factored in a shocking trade that he’s predicting will happen to shake things up a bit. I’ve never had a Mock Draft in the FPR that did that before, so if it comes to pass he’ll look like a genius.
Among the player profiles I added – Patrik Rybar, Detroit’s newest goaltender in their system. That one was easily the most requested. I added six others, including a very intriguing prospect for San Jose that I’ll dig into below.
Ilya Kovalchuk was in Los Angeles to meet with the Kings and then he was reportedly set to meet with the San Jose Sharks. I really thought the Rangers had him unofficially signed already, but guess I was wrong. I like the Kings as a fit here but the Sharks? This is a team that I think has done a great job transitioning from a bunch of grandpas to bringing in new blood. Filtering out Patrick Marleau and rolling back the ice time of Paul Martin and Joel Ward, while at the same time bringing in Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, and adding Evander Kane (let’s not get into the contract – that’s another topic!). Adding Ilya Kovalchuk is a positive for any team…but maybe not this one. The Sharks should be focusing on defensemen, I really like the forward corps they’ve put together now and there are a couple of prospects I like who could slot in there a year or two from now.
My favorite team for Kovalchuk is the Islanders. I like this fit for both sides. As bad as this team was last season, we can all agree (?) that they were worse than expected. Worse than on paper – and that’s not even factoring in Mathew Barzal as a sudden superstar. If Tavares signs, it helps the decision. Imagine:
With Josh Ho-Sang ready to make the jump, and Ryan Pulock ready to seize the PP reins. Add in a new coach and this team is a dark horse. But it starts with Kovalchuk. I know you may have some reservations about Loophole Lou actually getting Kovalchuk back, but according to Lighthouse Hockey, Kovalchuk has a lot of respect for Lamoriello and is appreciative of how hard Lou worked in order to free him up to return to Russia.
I just won my two keeper league playoff pools. In both cases, I won the playoff pools last year as well. Prior to that, I had never won both pools at the same time – this is 28 and 18 years in the making!
In the 28-year league I had a pretty good midseason draft I’d say. My two picks? Eeli Tolvanen and Kovalchuk. So those two get added to a team that finished fourth in the regular season and first in the postseason. Tolvanen won’t help this year, but what a great asset to have.
In the 18-year league, the owner of Kovalchuk never dropped him.
Small sidebar – This Kovalchuk owner is one of those owners who tends to sit on his hands and not make any big moves. You know the type: afraid of failure, loyal to his guys. Can be frustrating to deal with because often hours of back-and-forth discussion turns into nothing. The GM is decent at the draft table, and he had very early success (winning in Year 4 I think). Doing things his way, he will often be in contention and at least win a bit of money. He’ll do little tweak deals – someone’s dropsy for a late-round pick, and maybe the dropsy pans out. Once per year he’ll do a mid-sized deal with his buddy to help one of them get third or fourth in the standings. But otherwise, he stands pat, even letting players erode on his team – Daniel Alfredsson, Jeff Skinner, Mike Cammalleri, etc. And for a while there – Claude Giroux, though he has a new lease on life with Giroux now. These are all players he could have moved for a nice package, but never did. I’m horrified at the thought of a player retiring on my team and I couldn’t trade him first! Wasted asset!
But what has really kept this GM afloat is that we have this rule where each year we can “sign” a 24-year-old player (or older) who is a free agent in our league. We can do it whenever, so it’s a balance of patience and timing as you don’t want to use it up in October and yet you don’t want to lose the guy to someone else. I’ve never gotten anyone great – over the years Matt Moulson, M-E Vlasic, Aaron Dell, that type. It’s a deep league of 15 teams and 36 players each so pickings are slim. But he grabbed the two best free agents in our history: Devan Dubnyk just before he was traded to Minnesota…and William Karlsson. Wow. It is luck like that that will do little to encourage him to trade. Why trade when you can grab a superstar for nothing? And now he has Kovalchuk and Valeri Nichushkin returning (yes, he kept Nichushkin too!). Why trade, indeed!
A good guy and intelligent hockey man (if he’s reading this!), don’t get me wrong. But I stand by what I say: if your keeper league is established, then you won’t win unless you make a couple of middling-to-big trades each year. Because if 10 other GMs are doing that, then of course some of their trades are bound to pay off and those are the GMs who win. The conservative method, in a deep league, will keep you in the middle of the standings. But we're supposed to be in it to win it.
Marc-Andre Fleury is entering the last season of his contract and starting July 1 he is eligible to sign an extension. Word is that he hopes to finish up his career with Vegas so perhaps a long-term deal is on the way? If I’m Vegas I’m looking at a six-year deal at most, with the understanding that the last two years could possibly be as a backup and mentor if his skills erode. But this is professional sports, complete with agents. So it will wind up being an eight-year albatross I’m sure.
A few days ago the San Jose Sharks signed the leading scorer of the Finnish Liiga Antti Suomela. The undrafted Suomela came from out of nowhere in 2016-17 when he scored 45 points in 58 games as a second-year player. Last season he proved it was no fluke when he picked up 60 points in 59 games to lead all players. The Sharks had signed another high-scoring 24-year-old late bloomer named Joonas Donskoi two years ago, and Suomela’s numbers exceed Donskoi’s. Donskoi stepped right into the lineup and posted 36 points as an NHL rookie, so could Suomela do the same but better? One drawback I noticed was that Suomela’s numbers seriously dropped off in the postseason, so if he stumbles under pressure he’s not going to make the team out of training camp. So therein lies the risk. Otherwise I really like him.
Slava Voynov, who was banned from entering the USA, can now get his visa and return. Or rather – on July 2nd, so I’m guessing NHL teams (if they reinstate him) have to wait until then before offering him a contract. There is a picture on Twitter of him with his wife – the same wife who he abused (though his wife repeatedly said she fell). So they’re still together, he’s rich, and teams are in on his services. I’m done with any commentary about the morals here. I’ll stick to fantasy hockey. He is a very talented defenseman with a lot of offensive upside. Wherever he signs he’s almost certain to top 40 points this year because at 28 he’s in his prime. Even 50 isn’t far-fetched. He had 60 points in 87 games over the last two years for the highly-talented SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
Toby Enstrom informed the Jets that he won’t be re-signing with them this offseason. But that just frees up ice time for talents like Josh Morrissey.
Interesting tidbit: NBC Sports reported that Jay Beagle is the first player in hockey history to win a championship with the ECHL, AHL, and NHL. So there you go.
See you next week
- Ramblings: An Underrated Star Returns With a Bang, Goalie Controversy Thoughts, Kubalik Kontinues (Jan 20)
- Ramblings: Updates on Schultz and Kahun; Buchnevich; Bjork; scoring rates - January 21
- 21 Fantasy Hockey Rambles
- Top 10 Grit Producers
- Wild West: Post Christmas Trends
- Lining Up - Top lines this season
- Eastern Edge: Unprecedented hot streaks
- Fantasy Hockey Podcast: If You Danault, Now You Know