Ramblings: Two Russians sign, Sid stymied; Stone, Stastny stoked; Jackets, Jets jacked and more (Apr 15)
In early December I traded Vince Dunn for Nazem Kadri in my keeper league. At the time, I wanted the depth forward as it would keep me in the hunt. I also wanted a playoff guy and Kadri was a lock for the playoffs, whereas clearly Dunn and his St. Louis Blues were, uh…done. They were bottom dwellers at the time. And as a bonus, Kadri had a great second half last year and although that was due to playing with Mitch Marner (which wasn’t going to happen again this year), I figured there would still be an uptick. Well, that entire transaction has derailed and I feel like I gave up a good quality young defenseman for nothing. With Kadri’s track record of dirty hits, he’s going to miss time and likely lots of it. So as a playoff asset, he’s done. And he never had that second-half uptick so he really didn’t help the bottom of my roster very much, either.
Dante Fabbro’s ice time on Saturday dipped from 11:45 to 9:11. I wonder if that means Matt Irwin or Yannick Weber draw in for him next game. Fabbro still hasn’t seen a sniff of PP action in six games of professional hockey.
Well it’s done. A week ago I didn’t expect this to happen. Not even when I had my “interview” with Nikita Gusev’s agent a couple of weeks ago. I thought this would come in the form of a signing in late June, or an announcement in August. But things have moved quickly over the last week and Vegas has actually signed Gusev to a one-year entry-level contract. The 26-year-old has dominated the KHL – and the international stage – for a couple of years now, and he’s ready to step into the lineup right away. Not only that, but he is actually eligible to play, since he wasn’t signed as an unrestricted free agent. It would surprise me if this happened in the very next game, as teams tend to give players such as this some time to get to know the system. But I don’t think they’ll wait too long. He could have an Artemi Panarin-type of impact. Vegas already has their first two lines in stone (or “Stone”, if you will):
Out of curiosity I searched my files for the oldest thing I wrote on Gusev and I found a few interesting things:
1. I had him ranked 18th in my Top 20 Forwards from the 2012 Draft to own in a keeper league, from the 2012 Fantasy Prospects Report.
2. In the draft write-up for that year in the FPR (before the draft took place), we had the following words on Gusev:
Nikita Gusev – LW (CSKA, MHL)
Nikita Gusev was the diminutive offensive star of the 2012 U20 WJC who has been passed over in two drafts already. There are plenty of knocks against Gusev – mainly his size (5-9) and his nationality (Russian) but given his dominant performance for Team Russia where he tallied nine points in seven games there is certainly some upside here. He thrived on a line with Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov and given that Tampa Bay’s GM Steve Yzerman has shown no hesitation in selecting Russian talent, it would not be surprising to see Gusev end up with a lightning bolt on his chest. His puck control, creativity and vision are elite and even if he is not willing to transfer to North America right away, he is certainly worth a flyer in this year’s draft.
Upside: Top line playmaking winger (Marty St. Louis/Claude Giroux-esque), 25-40-65+
3. In 2012 for The Hockey News.com, I wrote the following:
If he were “Joe Smith” from out of the OHL, and was 6-0, 175, then this dynamic player would have been one of the five or six highest forwards drafted. Instead, he’s Nikita Gusev from out of the KHL and he’s 5-9, 163. He’s already been passed over in two drafts. But TB made a great pick using a seventh rounder on him. He’s a long-term project and “boom or bust”. He’ll either be a high-scoring star, or we’ll never see him in the NHL. Only the deepest leagues should consider him, as he is several years away.
I have since included Gusev in every FPR since, so seven editions and counting (because he will be in this one as well – out June 1st).
It was the Mark Stone – Paul Stastny – Max Pacioretty show as the 1B line has turned into the first line and the 1A line is now the clear-cut second line. What an add all three of these players turned out to be. This has been a battle of the big-name adds with Stone, Stastny and Pacioretty up against Erik Karlsson and Gustav Nyquist. Both teams spent big, but one team will be out first round.
Stastny and Stone each had five points, while Pacioretty was in on just two. Shea Theodore, unheralded, but he snuck three assists in as well.
Joe Thornton only got two minutes for this, but look for a suspension to be announced soon I’m sure:
Ryan Reaves and Evander Kane drop the gloves in Game 3 pic.twitter.com/Ypuy3QqAmI— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 15, 2019
Eberle has had a great postseason so far, with five points. A bit of a late surge to juice up that UFA contract this summer. He’s been playing with Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, but Sunday Mat Barzal was bumped up to that line in place of Nelson, in a move that piled all the hot players onto one line. The three of them have now combined for 12 points in the three games.
Can the Islanders shut Sidney Crosby down for four games? It doesn’t seem like it’s possible, but here we are. Crosby is still looking for point numero uno. Jake Guentzel, Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bjugstad are the other key offensive players with goose eggs after three games.
Jared McCann was back in the lineup for the Penguins, but he wasn’t put on the Crosby line. Trying to shake things up a bit, Coach Mike Sullivan went with:
Now with their backs against the wall, I would go with Crosby/McCann/Guentzel, Malkin/Kessel/ZAR, Bjugstad/Simon/Hornqvist, Cullen/Rust/Blueger. But I’m no coach.
Not only was Nikita Kucherov out of the lineup for the Lightning due to his suspension, but the team was also without star defenseman Victor Hedman. He’s out with a – gasp – unknown injury. Unknown to us, I mean. I’m pretty sure it’s known to him and the Lightning. The Blue Jackets were without Markus Nutivaara, who was injured by Kucherov in the hit for which he was suspended.
But whatever the reason, the Blue Jackets dominated the Lightning again and have seized a 3-0 series lead in what has easily been the shocker of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Columbus took five or six weeks to get the new roster to mesh and things have come together just in time. On paper, back at the end of February, the Jackets looked awesome. But they needed a two-time Vezina winning goalie backstopping them and they didn’t have that. Until mid-March. That was when Sergei Bobrovsky’s alarm went off and he arrived for the 2018-19 season.
I also think the arrival of Oliver Bjorkstrand as a top-six player has helped. It’s like adding one at the deadline. Bjorkstrand has 26 points in his last 40 regular season and playoff games – 18 of them are goals. That’s a 36-goal full season pace (pretty tough math there). So not only did this team add Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in February, but they also added an improved or more comfortable 36-goal man in Bjorkstrand. Will this be enough to win one of the next three games? And I say “three” instead of four because if Tampa claws back to a Game 7 they’re not losing it.
Another advantage – Torts is rolling four lines. The top line is getting 17 or 18 minutes, and the fourth line is getting 13 minutes. For Tampa this is more like 20 minutes and 10 minutes.
Erik Cernak, not really an offensive defenseman but more of a two-way guy, leads the Lightning with three points.
This is the first time Tampa Bay has lost three games in a row this season. Also the first time Columbus has one three playoff games in a series.
Nikita Gusev wasn’t the only Russian star to sign with an NHL playoff team. Columbus signed Vladislav Gavrikov, a defenseman who played with Gusev on SKA St. Petersburg. There were also questions as to whether or not Gavrikov would sign, too. Funny enough – the Jackets have two defensemen hurt and had to actually dress Adam Clendening Sunday. Gavrikov is 23 and he moves into the Top 100 on my Fantasy Prospects list for defensemen. His upside is minimal (mid-30s) but he’s close to a sure thing when it comes to making it into the NHL. At least, as much as one can be a sure thing. You can read our scouting report on him here.
Kevin Hayes was demoted to the fourth line and promptly scored a goal en route to a Jets win.
Jordan Binnington only faced 29 shots, but six of them were goals. But the Jets poured it on early, with 13 shots in the first and 12 in the second. However, despite just four shots in the third, Winnipeg scored three of them. The first indication that Winnington is indeed human.
I noted (above) the ice times of different lines for Columbus and Tampa. It’s worth noting that Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice had his fourth line play just 7:30, other than Hayes who played 11 minutes. Jack Roslovic and Mathieu Perreault just 7:30 each. I don’t believe the Jets can go deep if that’s what they think of their bottom forwards. I don’t think it’s Winnipeg’s year, but I think they’ll get there some day soon.
And I think Connor Hellebuyck will be the guy to take them there. A good “buy low” in my eyes. I think this was just an off year.
In one of my leagues I have a decent playoff team carrying over from the regular season, but I didn't think I could win because the goalies on my team that made the playoffs aren't great ones. I'd much rather own a Rask or a Vasilevskiy. But my goalies – Sergei Bobrovsky and Robin Lehner – aren't doing so bad after all.
Nikita Scherbak has signed to play with Omsk in the KHL next season. He may have had an NHL career and he may have even done well, but injury after injury struck at the worst possible time for him. Any shot that he had was pretty much destroyed, between the timing (opportunities) and the loss of development.
Playoff data is rolling for Frozen Tools, simply change the relevant drop-box from Regular Season to Playoffs. Eric Daoust has also added TOI charts, which look pretty awesome. You can check out TOI and Points charts here in the Chart Generator. But Eric is also putting these charts where relevant. For example if you were looking at Kevin Labanc and you wanted to compare him to Timo Meier, click the Info/Analysis tab and type Meier’s name in the box. Besides the comparable stats one over the other, there is also this TOI chart game by game:
See you next Monday.
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