It’s that time of year where guys who are property of a franchise, be it in college or overseas, start making their way to the NHL to get some games in. We already saw Quinn Hughes, Vancouver’s first rounder from last year, sign with the team. One guy dynasty owners were hoping for was Vitali Kravtsov, the 19-year old Rangers first rounder from the same draft. It appears that his KHL team will not terminate his contract, allowing him to join New York this season. Rangers fans and fantasy owners are going to have to wait until next season to possibly see him in the lineup.
I know people like to make fun of Rasmus Ristolainen in the real world (and for good reason), but in fantasy, almost no player has been more consistent. Sitting at 39 points on Tuesday afternoon, Risto needs one more to make it four consecutive seasons with 40 points, 2+ shots per game, 100 hits, and 100 blocks. It would also be two consecutive years with 40 points, 2+ shots per game, 200 hits, and 100 blocks. The plus/minus, as it always has been, is a huge concern, but there’s enough everywhere else to more than make up for it. It’s just another solid fantasy campaign for the 24-year old blue liner.
Yesterday in these Ramblings I said I was disappointed with the play of the Stars this year, or at least the way the coach has them playing. All the same, I’m happy to see Roope Hintz get an extended look on the top line. He’s been there for about a month now and considering how often this lineup has changed over the course of the season, that’s a borderline miracle. He only has 6 points in his last 16 games but that they’re giving him such a leash means they’re seeing something beyond just production. This could be good news for him in 2019-20.
On the topic of the Stars:
Posts/Crossbars leaders, all situations this year:
12 Eichel, Saad, Zibanejad
11 Gaudreau, Kucherov
10 Kadri, Ovechkin
9 Laine, Pacioretty
8 Just a ton of dudes
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 12, 2019
Seguin needs three goals to crack the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in six seasons with the Stars, and there’s a good argument that he should be there already. He’s also on pace for 70-plus points for the sixth consecutive season. He’s just a flat-out stud.
Another name of interest on that list is Brandon Saad. I was a big believer in his rebound from last year and he’s currently sitting with 22 goals and should probably have more. Assists are a problem and the lack of PP production, as it has been for most of his career, is an ongoing issue. He’s still a very good five-on-five player, though even I’ll admit that at this point he’s a better real-world player than fantasy option.
David Perron didn’t suit up for the Blues on Tuesday night as he’s still recovering from a concussion. It appears he’s on the mend, but we know how fickle concussions are, and someone with Perron’s history has to be extra careful. It’ll be nice to see him back in the lineup at some point but his long-term health is paramount right now.
The Bruins say defenceman Matt Grzelcyk is undergoing an MRI to determine the extent of his injury. He had been having a very solid year here in his second full season, helping the Bruins drive the play forward, being a good starting point for their attack. As long as this isn’t too severe, I hope he gets back in time for playoffs. Not that he’s a key cog because they do have guys like Krug, McAvoy, and Moore, but having more good puck-moving defencemen is never a bad thing.
There was a good Ramblings over at Dobber Prospects a couple days ago from Jokke Nevalainen discussing, among many other things, Kaapo Kakko and Aleksi Heponiemi. That second name seems to be a forgotten prospect to some people as Henrik Borgstrom solidifies himself with the Panthers, but as Jokke points, out, Heponiemi is among the Liiga scoring leaders and just turned 20 in January. This has been a spectacular season for him and if he can crack the roster in October, could go a long way in lengthening the lineup and making Florida even more dangerous offensively. There are a lot of bridges to cross between now and then but it’s still a very solid effort from the young Finn.
While I was researching some stuff on Robert Thomas (that’s below), I came across this little nugget: among 295 forwards with at least 600 minutes at five-on-five, Ryan Kesler is last in points/60 minutes. Not last on the Ducks, last in the league.
After falling behind 2-0, Pittsburgh reeled off four straight goals to beat Washington 4-3. Two of those Penguins goals were assisted by Evgeni Malkin, giving him 1000 points for his career. Since entering the league, Malkin trails only Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in points, and Crosby in points per game. With one MVP, two scoring titles, and three Stanley Cups (so far), Malkin will be… walkin… to the Hall of Fame when his career is over. I remember a time he wasn’t listed as a top-100 player in the history of the NHL.
Pittsburgh’s top line did a lot of the damage as Jake Guentzel potted one goal, as did Jared McCann, while Crosby scored two. Those two goals gave Pittsburgh’s captain 90 points on the year, the first time he’s managed 90 points since 2013-14. Scoring is up across the league but getting to 100 points is well within reach. He should be in the conversation for MVP.
Columbus let Boston back in the game but eventually took a 7-4 win from the Bruins. The newly-formed line of Ryan Dzingel, Matt Duchene, and Josh Anderson as they had one goal and two assists, one goal, and one goal and three assists, respectively. I imagine we see that trio get some run over the last four weeks of the season.
Boone Jenner had a hat trick, finishing the deed with under a minute left and an empty net. He also had three blocks, two penalty minutes, and a hit to complete a very good fantasy evening. Jenner also needs just one more point to reach the 40-point bar for the first time in three years.
It was, quite literally, an historic night in more places than one on Tuesday night.
The Habs beat the Red Wings 3-1, Carey Price’s 315th regular season win in a Montreal uniform. That moves him into sole possession of first place on the all-time wins list for Canadiens goaltenders. When you think of the litany of all-time goalies who’ve worn the CH for several seasons, from Ken Dryden to Jacques Plante to Patrick Roy, it’s quite the accomplishment. Congratulations to Price on this incredible milestone.
In Calgary, the Flames absolutely beat down the Devils by a 9-4 score, tallying six goals in the third period. Johnny Gaudreau had six points, three goals and three assists, giving us the first six-point game in five and a half years. Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm each had a goal and three assists, giving the top line a whopping 14 points. I’ve been playing DFS for years and have never seen a line perform like that on a given night. It was something else.
The six points for Gaudreau pushed him to 90 points for the year, his first time reaching that mark. He needs three more assists this season to reach 60 for the campaign, tying his career-high mark that he set in 2017-18.
There have been injuries to the top line all year in St. Louis, be it Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, or more recently Vladimir Tarasenko. The most recent injury has pushed rookie Robert Thomas to the top line and that is a very cushy assignment, obviously. It’s one that if everything goes well, could tip the balance of some head-to-head playoff matchups this week. I thought it would be worth diving into his rookie season.
You can click on Thomas’s name above to read his Dobber Prospects profile to see what our writers have been saying about him since he was drafted nearly two years ago.
From the outset of the season, we had good reason to believe Thomas would be a featured player on this roster this season. Remember that there was talk at the start of the year of leaving Schwartz-Schenn-Tarasenko together and then having Thomas centre the second line with Ryan O’Reilly on his wing. The Blues flopped out of the gate and lines were a mess basically until Craig Berube was hired as the head coach.
At time of writing, Thomas has amassed 25 points in 56 games this year. That may not seem spectacular, but he’s averaged just 12:38 per contest in those 56 games. His points per 60 minutes at five-on-five sits at 1.77, just ahead of Schwartz on the Blues. League-wide, he’s tied for 143rd out of 295 forwards with at least 600 minutes. He’s tied, by the way, with Josh Anderson and James van Riemsdyk, the former a surging young star, the latter an established one. Not bad company.
The worrying point is the shooting. I say that because as I mentioned yesterday in my Ramblings, guys who don’t shoot tend to not have a lot of fantasy value in multi-cat leagues. Out of those same 295 forwards with 600 minutes at five-on-five, Thomas is 290th in shot attempts per 60 minutes. That’s lower than notorious non-shooters Travis Zajac and Valtteri Filppula. He’s not very far ahead of Joe Thornton, either. Thomas’s player profile has always been that of a two-way playmaking centre, so goal scoring was not something we should really expect from him in droves. All the same, unless he turns into an elite playmaker like Thornton or Nicklas Backstrom, it’ll be hard for Thomas to be a coveted fantasy option down the road. He’s still a teenage rookie, of course, but shooting so little – and that’s important to keep in mind: it’s not a low shot rate, it’s an abysmal one – is a concern.
There are also his line mates to consider. By far his most common line (per Dobber Tools) was with Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak, and the next-most common is with MacKenzie McEachern and Ivan Barbashev. That Thomas has produced as well as he has with the line mates he has is impressive. None of the guys listed are big goal scorers, Maroon being the closest and he’s had a good year if he can manage 20 goals, which doesn’t mesh well with Thomas’s skills. He doesn’t need a playmaker as his centre, he needs a guy who can finish. Playing him with Barbashev, a guy who shoots less often than Thomas does, seems like a waste.
Finally, just watching Thomas, he never stands out. That’s not really a bad thing, either. His new centre, Ryan O’Reilly, is one of the best centres in the league and often doesn’t do anything that stands out to the eye. Thomas seems sound positionally, is always aware of his assignments, and seems to be able to be one or two steps ahead with the puck in the offensive zone. That combination will serve him very well moving forward.
As far as his fantasy ceiling goes, unless Thomas drastically changes his game, it won’t be high outside of points-only leagues. Again, guys who shoot with such infrequency rarely have significant fantasy value in multi-cat leagues. It may be one of those situations where three years from now, Thomas is a much better real-world player than a fantasy one (think of Mikael Backlund). I’m sure the Blues and their fans would be happy with that, but fantasy owners likely will not be.
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