Ramblings: The Lowdown on Nurse, Kotkaniemi, Arvidsson, Beauvillier, White and five other players of fantasy interest (Aug 19)
The Fantasy Guide update from yesterday included a new article on my projected team-by-team goals-for (and how many goals the league will be up/down in the year ahead). Last year I figured the NHL would be up by 2.3% and it ended up being 1.4%. Also in the update – I added AAV to the Draft List.
In the Fantasy Guide I have a “Lowdown” in each team section, giving my thoughts on a player and going a little deeper. For these players, I turned to the members of the Forum for help. They voted on the player for each team. Well. If there’s a winner, then there is also a runner-up, right? And that means that a lot of people voted for said runner-up. Which tells me that many of you want my thoughts on those players too. So why not present them here? It’s the dog days of the offseason, topics are hard to come by – it only makes sense!
Okay, consider it done. Here are “Lowdowns” for some of the players who finished second in the voting (last week’s 11 players are here)…
The Lowdown on Darnell Nurse: I am very confident in Nurse’s skills and his ability to post 50 points regularly as a puck-moving defenseman. With upside for more. What I’m not confident in is Edmonton coaching, and the way coach after coach seems to think Oscar Klefbom should be the quarterback. They keep forcing that square peg into the round hole and Nurse becomes the red-headed stepchild. We saw what Nurse can do. Nurse started getting PP time and he posted 22 points in 26 games between December 5 and February 7. Klefbom was injured from December 12 to February 5, which of course was the reason Nurse got the PP time. When Klefbom returned, Nurse saw his PP time drop. Maybe new coach Dave Tippett will take the blinders off? Because I can’t guarantee that, I’m reluctant to call Nurse a surefire stud. The one thing I will say in Klefbom’s defense is that when the Oilers score on the power play, he is in on 52.4% of those goals whereas Nurse is only in on 39.1%. This is a difference of just a few goals mind you, though I don’t have data that shows me the PP scored a lot more with Nurse running it – I only suspect that it did. Klefbom has the shot, and the PP strategy shifts to accommodate that…and the shift doesn’t work. It works better without that big shot and instead using Connor McDavid more (and that definitely happens when Nurse is out there instead of Klefbom). Long term, I have to think that the coach will see the light on this and that Nurse will eventually be that 50-point player.
The Lowdown on Michael Matheson: I’m a big fan of Matheson’s talent and have been from the start (you may notice that I have similar things to say in the Guide about Ryan Pulock). Matheson hooked me in a way that I haven’t been grabbed since John Carlson. And year after year I was asked about Carlson. When will he get going? When will he be given the opportunity? Carlson was 21 and he hadn’t done anything. When Carlson was 22 – nada. He was 23 and still nothing. At 24 he had a measly 38 points. The pressure was mounting from the readers but I didn’t budge. I knew what he could do. It felt good when he got 55 points in his fifth NHL season, but then injuries held him to 39 and 37 points. Carlson is a huge talent and a first-round pick and his ice time, Pts/60 and IPP continued to tell me that he was going to be big. This is how I feel about Matheson, who has just three seasons under his belt. Carlson took eight seasons to top 55 points for just the second time. This is the level of patience we need to have here. Carlson had Mike Green in his way, and Matheson has Keith Yandle. The main reason that Matheson hasn’t taken a bigger step forward by this point is the fact that he’s behind Iron Man Yandle. Carlson was behind Band-Aid Boy Green. That’s a big difference – obviously Carlson had small spurts of opportunities here and there whenever Green was sidelined. Anyway, look for Matheson to finally reach 30 points this year (I have him for 33 in the Guide) and probably another season after that in the mid-30s. He’s older than Carlson was when he started (now 25), so I don’t anticipate things taking longer than the two years. That would make it Year 6 when he breaks through. I have his upside in the high 50s.
The Lowdown on Adrian Kempe: Kempe has always been a bit of a conundrum because he played in the SHL at a very young age and thus has never really been given an opportunity to put up great numbers at any level. He was in the SHL at the age of 17 and 18 and then in the AHL at 19. All we have to go on is when he tallied eight points in six WJC games in 2015 – and then eight points in 10 games at the 2018 Worlds (plus another six in eight games earlier this year at the same tournament). I have never been high on Kempe (now 22) because I’ve had my fantasy blinders on. I look at the numbers over the years and I just don’t see it. But it would be folly for me to ignore those tournament numbers, not to mention the fact that he was in the SHL at the age of 17 playing against men. And there’s something else: his breakout threshold (BT) is 200 games, and he’ll hit that number in November. I don’t believe the Kings will be a high-scoring team this season, but if Jeff Carter sustains another injury and Kempe gets a shot on that second line as a center, then I can see him breaking out into the high-40s this year. It’s pretty big ‘if’. I’m not overly high on his upside (mid-60s), but I’m also not trashing him when I write or speak because I know my words could bite me in the ass if/when he ever starts fulfilling that hidden promise.
The Lowdown on Ryan Donato: The 23-year-old has twice teased us with the impression that he doesn’t need to go through the growing pains of most prospects and that instead he can help our fantasy squads immediately. Not so. His nine points in 12 games to start his career in Boston quickly fizzled out in training camp when he struggled to put up points early and was eventually sent down to the AHL. But then he was traded to the Wild and he proceeded to post 15 points in 15 games. But then he ended the season with one point in seven, to along with a minus-8 rating. I’m not longer buying the fast track to stardom here. As George W. Bush once said: “Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me…you can’t get fooled again.” Or something.
Anyway, Donato is going to be on the slow-and-steady track, with middling numbers for a couple of seasons. Helpful numbers, but not great ones (I have him for 42 points this year) and a terrible plus/minus risk. The signing of Mats Zuccarello should ensure that his growth as a productive player is slowed. Long-term, however, I’m certain that Donato will be a scoring-line player and he definitely has first-line upside.
The Lowdown on Jesperi Kotkaniemi: I think the 19-year-old will be a first-line center in the NHL and I think most of you agree with me on that point. So the question becomes – when? Reading through my lowdowns you probably have a good feel for the way I think. You know I’m a fan of commonality amongst prospect development even though every prospect develops on his own timeline. Kotkaniemi did fantastic when he made the NHL at the age of 18, and it’s even more impressive that he managed 34 points based on third-line ice time. He tailed off a little in the final quarter (four points in 17 games), probably due to his never having played more than 57 games in a hockey season before. But he’ll adapt to that. His upside is in the high-70s and I think he’ll progress up to that range relatively quickly. Look for something in the mid-40s in the year ahead (I have him at 44 in the Guide), and clearing 50 in Year 3 before having his breakout after that.
The Lowdown on Viktor Arvidsson: Buy low here. Arvidsson’s Breakout Threshold was due last year and he suffered a broken thumb that kind of ruined it. He did score 34 goals in just 58 games, but that was with a S% that was a ridiculous 17.4%. He’s not a power-play guy – or at least he hasn’t figured it out yet (like Brad Marchand a few years ago), because his goals are scored on the rush. If he can ever get that power-play instinct going he could be a star. If not, then he may get stuck in that low-60s range. One thing that I like about him is that his points-per-game average is still on the rise, moving from 0.29 as a rookie to 0.76, 0.78 and then 0.83 last year. Another thing to like is that his linemates are carved in stone. That line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen is awesome and we’re all just waiting for that one year where each member of the trio stays healthy for 80 games. A second line of Matt Duchene with Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund will make that first line even better too, mark my words.
The Lowdown on Nico Hischier: I have a strong ‘Sleeper’ confidence on Hischier in the Fantasy Guide, giving him a 20% confidence that he reaches 70 points this year. I also have New Jersey as the team that gains the most goals versus last season in 2019-20. While there is some concern about his being behind (eventually) Jack Hughes on the depth chart, I don’t think it will stifle his top-end career numbers and it may in fact help him (if he gets moved to the wing). I don’t think Patrick Marleau minded being behind Joe Thornton all those years, did he? The Devils now have a great team around this guy and there is a strong likelihood that he reaches his upside (into the 80s) within three seasons. One situation to watch – his contract is up after 2019-20. How things land with this year’s Marner/ Point/ Tkachuk/ Connor/ Laine/ Werenski/ Boeser/ McAvoy/ Konecny situations will be an indicator for what happens to Hischier next summer.
For what it’s worth, I think that if one GM caves and gives massive money to one of these players, they will all want it – and if their team can’t afford it then it will mean a lengthy holdout. If one GM can get his player signed to lower contract or bridge deal, it makes things so much easier on the other GMs. I harken back to Kyle Dubas caving into William Nylander, setting the bar for proven young 60-point players who have upside for 75.
The Lowdown on Anthony Beauvillier: Speaking of unsigned RFAs, Beauvillier’s name is actually on this list. As a 19-year-old he had 40 goals and 79 points in 47 QMJHL games. He’s a first-round draft pick (28th overall in 2015). So fantasy owners are wondering if this will ever translate. Three years into his NHL career he has shown very little in the way of a possible future star, with a career high of 21 goals and 36 points. However, there are several reasons for hope here, not the least of which is the fact that Coach Barry Trotz has been pretty stubborn about keeping him on Mathew Barzal’s line. Another reason is that Beauvillier recently surpassed the 200-game mark and is entering his fourth NHL season. He’s got things figured out now and I think he will set career highs this year in terms of points, with a strong sleeper (15% is considered strong) confidence of 55-plus.
The Lowdown on Lias Andersson: The growing pains have been tough to bear for owners of this guy, and I think it’s going to get worse. Some pretty great prospects are about to leapfrog Andersson when it comes to ice time and PP time, to the extent where an NHL job this season is not a certainty. When the dust finally settles and all of these great prospects have found their niche with the big club and Andersson has found his pro-hockey form, my fear is that all the spots in the top six will be spoken for. I never write off a great prospect when he’s 20 years old. But of all the great prospects who are currently 20 years of age, this one ranks on the lower end of the scale for me.
The Lowdown on Colin White: It’s hard to believe that last year was White’s first full NHL season. Officially, he was eligible for the Calder with only 23 games under his belt before then. So 41 points in 71 games is fantastic. Of course, he was given the best linemates possible and as soon as Mark Stone left, White’s numbers plummeted. He had just 16 points in the final 29 contests playing with Brady Tkachuk and Brian Gibbons. Gibbons being just a slight downgrade to Stone there. The loss of Stone means that the points will be harder to come by for White in the foreseeable future. Also holding White’s value down: neck, upper-body, shoulder, undisclosed, wrist…that’s his list of injuries over the last two season. It has added up to 22 games missed and 92 games played (plus another 47 in the AHL). On most other teams I would figure that these injuries will stifle his development and keep him from becoming a first-line player. But this is Ottawa and the only other option for top center is Logan Brown, who is a Band-Aid Boy himself. So his job is safe and as such, health permitting, he should track to eventually become a 60-point player with a shot at – years down the road – hitting his upside (low 70s).
Eric has added another feature to Frozen Tools. You can now download to Excel the full cap hit, salary and AAV information (thanks to our friends at CapFriendly for that). You can pull it easily and manipulate it when doing your player analysis as you see fit. You can find it in the drop menu under ‘Players’.
Inside the Fantasy Guide on page 28 are instructions on how you can win a FREE Google Home. Unfortunately, international readers, I’m only shipping this within North America. On page 28 I noted the odds of winning as one in 1000, but that was based on the number of entries. So far there are about 45 entries, which means the odds of winning are one in…45?
I will be covering for Ian this coming Saturday, so the third and final installment of my lowdowns will be on that day. See you then!
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