Ramblings: What Can Couturier Do For You? (October 27)

by steve laidlaw on October 27, 2017

Sean Couturier is off to a ludicrous start. A three-point night gives him 12 points in 10 games. He has re-invigorated the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, both of whom drown at 5-on-5 last season. We know Giroux and Voracek are established fantasy assets but what to make of Couturier?

Well, Couturier is probably that line’s best player but also, its weakest fantasy asset. All of Couturier’s points have come at even strength, which is both impressive and damning. Couturier does not skate on the top power play unit and has been a non-factor in that phase of the game throughout his career. His career high is eight PPP and I don’t feel comfortable pegging him for more than five. While he is an excellent penalty killer, we can’t reliably expect any shorthanded scoring – it is just too random. So what can Couturier reasonably be as a fantasy asset almost entirely comprised of 5-on-5 scoring?

We know he won’t maintain his current pace. Couturier has scored on 22.5% of his shots. Check out the rest of his profile:

 

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

IPP

CF%

2017-18

1089

13.33

45.65

3.1

66.7

52.16

 

 

 

The highest end a player can sustainably drive for 5-on-5 shooting percentage is roughly 10%. Let’s say the Flyers continue to gather 11 shots on-goal per game with Couturier on the ice, that they only convert 10% of those shots and that Couturier continues to be involved in two thirds of those conversions. That would give Couturier 53 points in the remaining 72 games. Add in five PPP for good measure and Couturier maxes out at 70 points. And that would assume it all goes right.

Couturier almost certainly is headed for a career season but I feel comfortable betting against him hitting that 70-point maximum. It also needs to be pointed out that Couturier has missed 16 and 19 games in the past two seasons respectively.

I never want to say that you have to sell a player because value is relative and you may not get better value in return but I would make a push to move Couturier now that he has banked so many point for you. It always seems like the good times will never end, until they inevitably do. I am reminded of the hot start by Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner last season.

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In a similar vein, Mikhail Sergachev is off to the races with nine points in 10 games. I am all for jumping on board, just don’t expect Sergachev to be a full-season solution. His minutes should climb but he’s currently averaging 12:47 per game. It’s going to be damn near impossible to remain relevant as a defenseman averaging even 16 minutes of ice time, let alone less.

Consider Brady Skjei, who scored 39 points in 80 games averaging 17:28 as a rookie for the Rangers. He was probably the best low-minute producer among defensemen and he was borderline fantasy relevant. Now, he was tied for 24th in scoring among defensemen but he also didn’t do enough for your fantasy team to be on your roster nightly. Skjei had more games where he did nothing for you than he had productive nights. I’d rather that guy sit on another roster in head-to-head or rotisserie settings.

I smell a similar outcome for Sergachev. He already has a pile of points banked so it would be hard for him to completely disappear from the scoring ranks but if he finishes with 40 points, that leaves him with only 31 the rest of the way. That drops him below the 0.5-points-per-game level so Sergachev would be ineffective in over half of the remaining games. Again, that’s not a guy you want on your roster every night.

Absolutely scoop Sergachev up if you have lots of moves and nightly lineup settings. You can ride this hot streak, especially as everything that Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov touches turns to gold. Just don’t marry yourself to Sergachev. There will be other options who can serve you better later on.

One last thing on Sergachev. I am as intrigued that he has 21 SOG in 10 games as I am that he has nine points. If he can sustain two SOG per game (and I don’t think he can with current usage) that would go a long way to keeping him relevant even in games where he isn’t scoring. That’s something to monitor alongside how he fits into your upcoming schedule.

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Of my three main goalie targets for this season, Andrei Vasilevskiy is easily fairing the best (Scott Darling and Frederik Andersen are the other two.) He now leads the league with nine wins. And as if you needed any other reasons to tune in for Lightning games, Vasilevskiy also puts on a great show:

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I know that the numbers aren’t there for Darling (yet) but he has faced a murderer’s row of offenses with five of his seven starts coming against top-10 offenses. Plus, he’s skating for a new squad and it can take some time to adapt to a new team. My biggest comparable for Darling is Cam Talbot and you’ll recall that Talbot was dog shit through his first two months with the Oilers, temporarily losing his job to Anders Nilsson. Talbot has been otherworldly since.

More importantly, it’s too early in the season to drastically change an opinion without significant reason. So you can bet that I think Darling is a good guy to try and buy low on.

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Connor Hellebuyck took the loss but put together another good outing, stopping 30 of 32, forcing overtime against the Penguins. That ends a four-game winning streak but gives him four quality starts out of five of the season. He has the early leg up in the Jets’ crease and that is absolutely enough reason for you to scoop him off waivers, whether or not that’s at the expense of Steve Mason or not.

Unlike with Darling above, the crease situation in Winnipeg is murky enough to be swayed by early results, especially because things have been so dire that the Jets will absolutely ride the hot hand. I definitely see Mason being heard from at some point this season and Hellebuyck could certainly crash back to earth but as a third goalie I am into the Hellebuyck option.

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Derrick Brassard has skated over 21 minutes in the past couple of outings. It makes sense, with Kyle Turris out sick. Brassard skated on both power play units last night accounting for 91% of the available minutes. Great short-term opportunity, unfortunately it has been feast or famine for Brassard as he has points in only half of the games this season, yet has 10 points in 10 games.

Monitor Brassard’s power play time closely. He tanked last season and saw his power play minutes evaporate, which only results in continued poor results. There is enough talent on the Sens roster to keep Brassard off the top PP unit so I consider his hold tenuous.

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The early returns for Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello have not been good but they combined for a beauty last night:

I still have time for Zuccarello. He’s proven effective enough with 59 and 61 points in the past two respective seasons and that was on a team with a tire fire for a power play. So far, the Rangers’ power play has been productive with Kevin Shattenkirk manning the point. That could provide a boost for Zuccarello even if his 5-on-5 scoring falls off. However, Zuccarello wasn’t used on the top unit last night, as he was replaced by JT Miller. Rick Nash also received top unit power play time. Nash can still produce shot volume but he is cooked as a point-producer.

Pavel Buchnevich is going to be a volatile option. He scored a pair of goals and sees top unit PP time but was skating on the fourth line. Since the Rangers have the look of a bad team you can bet Buchnevich will be bouncing all over as they pursue effective combinations. He’ll make for an excellent waiver grab more than a few times this season.

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Clayton Keller’s on-ice shooting percentage is 11.6% but his PDO is 951. That doesn’t even compute. It’s as if a puck is going into a net every time he stops on the ice. He’s like dynamite, all you know is that it will explode. If you can stomach the plus/minus he has 11 points in 10 games and looks every bit like a legitimate offensive talent.

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The Panthers have finally moved into the 21st century and are using four forwards on their top PP unit with Vincent Trocheck joining the Barkov-Huberdeau-Dadonov line. This makes all four of those guys better fantasy assets. Aaron Ekblad also benefits. And sure, that means guys like Nick Bjugstad, Radim Vrbata and Keith Yandle are less effective options on a nightly basis, you can bank hard on the five being deployed on the top unit. That’s excellent news, especially for Trocheck owners.

Trocheck is effectively Kesler-lite. He plays such a dynamic, high event game. After two seasons in the mid-50s with middling PP usage, he looks like a lock for a 60+ breakout season. Consider him one of the few I am “buying high” on.

For what it’s worth Vrbata did score a hat-trick, his first three goals of the season. That’s not enough to get me excited however. If Vrbata isn’t a top PP guy, I don’t have much time for him, even as Trocheck’s linemate.

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Number one reason I didn’t want John Gibson on my team; the Ducks’ banged up roster. Gibson is probably a top-10 goalie but cannot be relied upon skating behind what amounts to half an AHL team. The Ducks got lit up for eight goals, with Gibson on the hook for six of them. Wait this situation out a little longer, as I don’t think this is quite rock bottom for Gibson owners. Another couple of weeks of poor play and you could steal him away with a predatory offer.

Hampus Lindholm is back but does not look quite ready to do the heavy-lifting required of him. Once he gets his stride things will improve. In the mean time, Brandon Montour and Francois Beauchemin are carrying the load!

I have time for Montour as a waiver claim. He is seeing top unit PP time and is a high-event player skating 25 minutes a night with Cam Fowler out.

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Adrian Kempe is on a crazy surge of production and is filling in for Jeff Carter alongside Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. Seems great but he has still only skated more than 12:30 once this season. Being able to produce in limited action is a great trait but also isn’t sustainable if the limited action continues.

Hell, even Pearson and Toffoli don’t seem like GREAT fantasy options right now seeing only 16:23 and 15:51 per game respectively – neither one of them skating on the top PP unit.

I also think that it’s worth asking whether the Kings have truly figured out shot quality or if they are simply riding a PDO surge. I’m buying the early returns for Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty but no one else on the roster is more than a short-term waiver option to me.

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Do not sweat the ups and downs with Mitch Marner. He’s awesome and is worth being patient with.

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Leon Draisaitl made his return to the Oilers lineup and had a big impact with three assists. He was put right back onto McDavid’s wing and given the result (a win) you can bet that he won’t be shuffling down the lineup.

Draisaitl’s return also meant that Kailer Yamamoto was scratched. And with that, I suspect Yamamoto will be demoted soon. I am sure the Oilers will keep him around until game nine and may even use a few more scratches to buy some time before committing for certain but it seems inevitable that he is headed down. Yamamoto has only looked good in his shifts with McDavid. Unless they are willing to commit to using Draisaitl as #2C, which they do not appear to be, there is no reason to have Yamamoto languish on the third line, especially when it would burn a year off his entry-level deal.

That extra year may not be a big deal and you could argue the Oilers need as many ELCs on their roster to take advantage of the window they have with McDavid and Draisaitl as one of the league’s best duos but they’ll need those ELCs even more when McDavid’s new deal kicks in.

So in summation, this is great news for Draisaitl owners. He’s healthy, back with McDavid and that is trending towards a permanent spot once again.

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I was going to give Jason Spezza this back-to-back in Alberta to get his act together or be sent to the waiver wire but now I’m committed to dumping him after tonight’s visit to Calgary regardless of production. He’s skating 13 minutes a night and isn’t on the top power play unit. He did notch an assist last night but that’s almost fool’s gold. It would take an injury and a promotion to convince me to keep Spezza beyond tonight.

Alexander Radulov, on the other hand, remains an excellent option, as his three-point effort can certainly attest. He’s a beast and skates with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in all situations. What’s not to love?

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That’s it for a pinch-hit appearance this week. I’ll be back full time next week. Please be sure to check out my Fantasy Five segments every Sunday on Hockey Unfiltered and my Sportsnet columns each Monday. Also, I’ve started doing weekly Periscopes each Monday evening where you can pitch me your fantasy hockey questions. Look for links to all that content on my Twitter feed @SteveLaidlaw.