Ramblings: The Lowdown on Provorov, Parayko, Nylander, Virtanen, six other players of fantasy interest, plus the Kuznetsov fallout (Aug 24)

by Dobber on August 24, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: The Lowdown on Provorov, Parayko, Nylander, Virtanen, six other players of fantasy interest, plus the Kuznetsov fallout (Aug 24)

 

Ramblings: The Lowdown on Provorov, Parayko, Nylander, Virtanen, six other players of fantasy interest, plus the Kuznetsov fallout (Aug 24)

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The Fantasy Guide update from yesterday includes Derick Brassard on the Islanders – and how that shifted the roster around. Earlier this week: Valeri Nichushkin on the Avalanche, 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). Also in the update – I added AAV to the Draft List. That’s what you get when you buy the Guide! Information that the newsstands do not have – including updated line combos.

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Speaking of 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… and earlier this week was the second part here). Final 10 teams:

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The Lowdown on Ivan Provorov: A supreme talent with very high upside, easily capable of what Drew Doughty has done, or even John Carlson in terms of offense. However, unlike those two Provorov has a very one-dimensional and proven offensive rearguard ahead of him in Shayne Gostisbehere. You also have another highly-talented offensive player – who also showing good defensive acumen early on – in Travis Sanheim. Whether or not Provorov is a better offensive player than those two is certainly debatable. He makes a strong case and I wouldn’t argue too hard against him on that point. However, his problem is that he is the best of the three defensively. In fact, two or three years from now he could be top three in the entire league on that point. He faced the toughest opposition and saw mostly defensive zone starts. If the Flyers were to treat him the way they treat ‘Ghost’ and give him offensive zone starts and top PP minutes, then I think he can get 65 points. The problem is, what then would they do with Ghost? If Ghost gets the defensive-zone minutes, then the team is going to give up six goals a game. If Ghost stops getting top PP time, then they are paying $6 million for a player who gets 35 points per season. Can’t do it. And trading Ghost would still leave Sanheim – another supremely talented offensive player, so a trade still wouldn’t free up Provorov. As Alex Pietrangelo has shown us, being a defense-first second-fiddle PP guy (back when St. Louis had Kevin Shattenkirk), he could still get 50 points. And so could Provorov. He’ll work his way up to that even with the limited opportunities. Until then, we’re looking at 40-point seasons out of him.

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The Lowdown on Dominik Kahun: This is a real nice boom-or-bust pick because everybody and their mother knows that this guy is getting a shot on Evgeni Malkin’s line. Not just a regular shot either, but a real lengthy one. I’ve seen these fail over the years. Michael Raffl comes to mind with the Flyers and Claude Giroux, but also Cory Conacher on the John Tavares line with the Islanders and Colby Armstrong on Sidney Crosby’s line with the Penguins. So of course there is risk. But as with those examples, you have to take a chance on it anyway. Anytime you’re told that a player will get at least 10 games on the wing of a superstar, and that’s almost a guarantee, then you have to go for it. It won’t be your fault if there is no chemistry or the player craps out. You do it because you’re playing the odds. And the odds in this case are greater that Kahun becomes a good fantasy own if he plays with Malkin for 10 games versus him not playing with Malkin for 10 games. I do like Kahun better than Raffl (a lot – I never liked Raffl), and little better than Armstrong (he was a defensive player who showed offensive spark with Crosby early on). I like Kahun about equally to Conacher, or maybe slightly better because he has a full season under his belt whereas Conacher at the time had been huge in the AHL and had only bounced around the NHL seeing moderate success with Tampa (24 points in 35 games). Kahun stuck for a full 82-game season and had 37 points last year and before that he was middling setup man in the German League. The Penguins paid Olli Maatta to get him, whereas the Isles just took a flier on Conacher and signed him as a free agent. That year Conacher had 12 or 13 games on the Tavares line before they gave up on him. Kahun’s leash will be even longer. Kahun looking good makes management look good, so they’re really going to push hard to make this work. If it does, the 24-year-old could be a steady 60-point guy (or more).

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The Lowdown on Lukas Radil: An intriguing player although with limited upside (mid-60s, if the stars align perfectly, more likely mid-30s). Radil is intriguing because he’s 29 years old and so he has zero wait time, and he impressed enough last season to quickly earn a second one-year contract with the Sharks. A decent secondary scorer in the KHL, Radil transitioned to North America nicely, posting 11 points in 15 AHL games. In a depth role with San Jose he also had 11 points, but in 36 games. He played about half of his NHL shifts with Logan Couture and Timo Meier, but the other half was with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson. The red flag here is – he produced better with Goodrow and Karlsson. To his advantage is that the Sharks are not very deep at forward. After their six key power-play guys (I’m assuming Joe Thornton signs), it’s wide open. So any injury in that top six could see Radil get a real big push. But he’s not draftable and I would save a situation like that for the waiver wire.

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The Lowdown on Colton Parayko: Fantasy owners really want to know about this guy because he has a tremendous skill set and has yet to pull through with more than 35 points after four full seasons. He has a very good reputation in terms of real hockey and that perhaps inflates his fantasy hockey worth a little. He is a big man (6-6, 230) who is a top shot blocker and very good for Hits. He offers a booming shot that you’d think would get him more than 10 goals – his career high – in a season. But he’s only getting second unit PP time and that’s not going to change until Alex Pietrangelo leaves. The good news for Parayko owners is – that could be a year from now, as he is set to become a UFA. So while Parayko will probably give you his usual 30 or 35 points this season, he may be a sneaky-good acquisition for future seasons as he steps into a bigger, more offensive role that could see him reach 50 points. That plan goes to hell if the Blues re-up Pietrangelo or they acquire a different puck-moving blueliner. But for now, Parayko is a long-term investment.

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The Lowdown on Anthony Cirelli: Cirelli has never been a supreme points producer at any level, but he’s been pretty damn consistent at every level. He has a very strong two-way game and has been used primarily in a defensive capacity for the Lightning. He wins draws, takes mostly defensive zone starts, and is an afterthought for the power play. Despite this, the Lightning had a 39-point player coming off the third line. He developed a strong overall game in junior hockey, ahead of his time in a lot of ways, and stepping into the AHL was an easy transition. Stepping into the NHL was also easy for him – and not a lot of players can say that. Because the team had to move JT Miller, there will be a little more PP time for Cirelli and he should be able to build on his 39 points despite still being used in a defensive capacity. And because the team is tight against the cap and will be for the next several years, other players could be shed. That would move him up the depth chart quickly, assuming he’s not a player who the team is forced to trade (his contract is up after this season).

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The Lowdown on William Nylander: If I see a points-per-game average of 0.75 and then 0.74 over a player’s first two full seasons, and then a see him post 0.50 during a partial season, I ignore the partial season. His pattern has been established and because he’s still a young player there is obviously room to grow. If he plays the full season on Auston Matthews’ wing (or John Tavares, for that matter), he can and should hit 70 points. But I think he will see some time as the third-line center which will hold him down to the low-60s. A long Mitch Marner holdout would almost certainly mean a rather substantial boost in what Nylander produces during those games. In the long term, Nylander has the talent to get pretty good points no matter who he plays with, but he offers supplemental help to superstars when playing on their line. This means that in the future, a spot on the Matthews line could mean he becomes an 80-point player. But if he is the key guy on a line, then he’ll get held to 60. So in that sense he is very linemate driven.

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The Lowdown on Jake Virtanen: This is another example of a power forward that fantasy owners expected more from too soon. This was only exasperated by his making the team when he was 19 years old. Once that happened, poolies expected the world. But instead, he saw minimal minutes and managed just 13 points in 55 games. He was really only kept around because the Canucks figured he would dominate the WHL and learn nothing, and he wasn’t yet eligible for the AHL. The next year, finally eligible, that’s exactly where he went. After one season there, the Canucks brought him back up, gave him checking-line minutes and made him a regular. Last season his ice time jumped to 14:49 per game and he got second-unit PP time. I think this is all going by the playbook. I don’t believe Virtanen’s upside is fabulous – maybe 60 points – but I do think he stands a good chance of getting there because he’s being brought along properly. Lots of players get sent down after a 19-year-old NHL season (Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, Nino Niederreiter off the top of my head without even giving it any thought, and I think Michael Rasmussen (Detroit) will have that happen to him this year). It’s not a knock against the player, it just means they were too good for junior hockey. The 23-year-old (birthday was last week) has 210 career games under his belt and we figure his Breakout Threshold is at 400. I think he might be a little earlier than that. I look at this season as a nice step forward (I have him for 35 points in the Guide), and then one to two seasons after that for his breakout, which I figure will be somewhere in the low-50s.

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The Lowdown on Shea Theodore: There was a lot of hype on Theodore a year ago and I’ll shoulder the blame for the DobberHockey-reader portion of that. I overreached on my expectations for him. I really like his upside and I think that with the team not messing around with him anymore (he started the prior season in the minors because the roster jam the team put themselves in), and the strong year the forwards had, he was going to make big strides. That didn’t happen. There is reason to believe that a big step forward is going to happen this year. Between Colin Miller’s PP time going away, and the improved forward corps (i.e. Mark Stone), Theodore stands to seriously build on last year’s nine measly power-play points. Doubling that to 18 gets him to 46 points (using last year’s 37). A real good indicator of what he can do and how he’ll be used is looking at the seven playoff games. He had eight points in those games with half on the PP, while getting 3:18 of PPTOI. There is nobody in the system who will compete with him for this job and he has six more years left on his contract. That makes him a great own and it should start paying off now.

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The Lowdown on Tom Wilson: Wilson’s modest jump to 35 points in 2017-18 coupled with his 15 points in 21 playoff games grabbed my attention. I had already made the mistake of writing him off, even though he hadn’t yet played 400 games. Well last year I bought in, projecting 35 points in 59 games and knowing that he would be suspended for 20 (thanks to my updating the Guide – you all had this updated projection too). He ended up getting his suspension reduced and he played 63, tallying 40 points. He had 20 in his first 22 and that’s the number I’m excited about. He just needs to tone it down. I like how the Caps are working on this. By bringing in Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas, they essentially put in a buffer between Wilson and suspensions. He has less of a need to retaliate because others will do it for him. He has less of a need to go overboard with a game-changing hit because others can now do that. In the Guide I have him for 47 points in 72 games, with 142 PIM. But I also have him in there as a very strong sleeper pick (20% confidence) for the high-50s. And if he does manage to do the latter, it would be because he cleans up his game. So those 55 points or so would mean 110 PIM instead of 142.

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The Lowdown on Nikolaj Ehlers: Ehlers’ declining numbers are a concern for many, and with good reason. His points, points-per-game, PPTOI and TOI have slipped in each of the last two seasons. And he couldn’t buy a point in the second half of 2018-19. Don’t sweat this one. He returned a little early from a shoulder injury and was ineffective. Give him a Mulligan for last season and consider him a ‘buy low’ option for the year ahead. Last year was supposed to be his BT campaign (Breakout Threshold). The injury delayed it, so it’s entirely possible that he has it in the year ahead. I have him as a very strong sleeper possibility at 15% confidence. One tiny concern I do have is the injuries. He didn’t have any in 2016-17 nor 2017-18, but last year besides the shoulder injury he suffered a leg fracture in the playoffs. Hopefully those were just coincidences (but with the next one I’ll feel differently).

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So Evgeni Kuznetsov was found to have tested positive for cocaine in his drug test. This, after his denying ever using cocaine but only hanging around with friends who do. The IIHF has suspended him for four years from international hockey. The NHL doesn’t consider this a performance enhancing drug, and instead considers it a substance abuse problem (rightfully so). They are discussing what to do about this, but for now he will enter the substance abuse program. Will this lead to a suspension? It could. Or the program could last 20 or 40 games into the season. If he goes in now and it’s a one-month program, then he won’t miss any time at all. So…in fantasy hockey (of course, because that’s why we’re here) – how do we play this? For now, I will dock him five games my projection. I do this because it’s halfway between one month in the program and missing zero games, and two months in the program and missing about 10 games. Until we hear more, that’s what we’re stuck with. That’s the advantage of having a draft later in September instead of now.

This also impacts TJ Oshie and Jakub Vrana. Because if Kuznetsov misses time, Nicklas Backstrom moves up to play with Tom Wilson and Alex Ovechkin…leaving Oshie and Vrana with Lars Eller. But until we get an official word on time missed, I won’t be adjusting any other player.

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ICYMI Earlier: 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’.

I can lead a horse to water but I can’t make it drink. I’m telling you that Frozen Tools has everything you need for researching players and it’s now fast, easy, in-depth, exportable and so many things in there that you haven’t discovered. I’m waving you towards this goldmine, but it’s up to you if you go there. I don’t know why it’s not the most visited hockey site on the Internet to be honest. This should be beating TSN, Sportsnet, Yahoo, everything. Player pages give line combo info, or advanced info, or cap info, or links to the DobberProspects scouting page (if applicable) or info on whether he gets the start tonight (via Goalie Post, if it’s a goalie), or links to all the articles on DobberHockey that they have been mentioned in, etc. Everything Eric and I think up or have suggested to us, we put it in there. It’s missing nothing! Anyway, I’ll leave you alone about that now…

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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 “50” entries, which means the odds of winning are one in…50! Thank you to the 50 people who have entered.

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See you Monday