Tonight begins the World Cup of Hockey, or the exhibition games anyway. While the tournament itself is relatively meaningless besides dollars for both sides dashed with a bit of player pride, it’s nice to have hockey back in some form (North American hockey, anyway).
While it’s largely irrelevant from a fantasy standpoint unless someone gets hurt, there are a handful of things for fantasy owners to watch for.
The NHL will be using its player/puck tracking technology for the WCoH. As mentioned in a Ramblings back in August, there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of this technology. However, if the NHL – more specifically, SAP – manages to not completely goof this, the new information could be useful for fantasy purposes. Such things have already been pointed out by the good people at NHLNumbers, but this could be the chance for the NHL to make meaningful stats easily accessible. Whether it’s these types of stats, or simply how hard a guy was back-checking, remains to be seen.
It’ll be fun to watch Auston Matthews at this tournament. Despite many players excusing themselves due to injury, most of the best players in the world are still here. While it’s kind of trial by fire, this will be a reasonable indicator of how Matthews may fare this year in a Leafs uniform this season. Does he look a step behind his opponents, or playing right with them? The same goes for Aaron Ekblad. Even with Keith Yandle brought in, the Florida blue line is Ekblad’s now. He has to prove he can play without Brian Campbell as a safety valve, and this tournament will give fantasy owners their first real chance at finding this out.
This is another best-on-best tournament for Joe Pavelski to shine for the Americans. He has one goal in 12 games across two Olympics so his production in these types of tournaments has not been great. It’ll be a chance for him to prove that he’s more than the trigger for a Hall of Fame centre. Keep in mind:
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) September 7, 2016
If the Americans want to make some noise, Pavelski will have to figure in strongly for them. Joe Thornton has one year left on his contract in San Jose, which means there’s no guarantee that Pavelski has him as his centre for the 2017-2018 season. This World Cup will give Pavelski keeper/dynasty owners a glimpse into the future for Pavelski’s potential fantasy value.
Two players I’m watching because I think a very good tournament will jack their fantasy ADP are Filip Forsberg and Jack Eichel. Forsberg is already around a third round pick, but after back-to-back 60-plus point seasons, and a 30-goal year last year, I think if he’s among the scoring leaders for the tournament, that could get pushed inside the top-25. Eichel is going either just inside the top-50 or just outside of it. He is a guy that at the end of the season, fantasy owners could be astounded at what he produces. There is legitimate 30-goal, 70-point upside with him this year, and if he blisters the World Cup, it may make fantasy owners buy into this notion even more.
The Florida Panthers continued their busy offseason by locking up yet another young core piece of their team. In addition to extending Aaron Ekblad, Reilly Smith, and Vincent Trocheck (I’m probably missing someone), the Panthers locked up Jonathan Huberdeau for six more years with an average annual value of $5.9-million. There is a no-move clause that kicks in after the first two seasons.
With the Huberdeau extension, on top of Smith, Ekblad, and Trocheck, the Panthers also have Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, Jason Demers, and Keith Yandle all locked up through the 2020-2021 season. That is a lot of faith in the core of the team.
Huberdeau turned 23 years old back in June, so he’s just coming into his prime now. The one thing that is curious to me about this extension is that it’s a lot of money in a player that hasn’t shown top-end scoring talent yet. His cap hit will put up around the top-40 forwards in the NHL, and his goal scoring at five-on-five for his career is more towards the middle of the NHL as a whole.
That isn’t to say he isn’t good offensively. Not even close. Huberdeau’s first assist rate at five-on-five is top-20 in the NHL over the last three years, and over the last two years, that first assist rate trails only Blake Wheeler, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Taylor Hall, and Sidney Crosby among forwards with 2000 minutes played. All that this is intended to do is point out what he’s being paid for, and how this relates to fantasy.
In roto leagues, Huberdeau still isn’t an elite fantasy forward. He is a solid option, absolutely. He needs to start stuffing the peripherals to take that next step. More likely, however, is Huberdeau needs to start contributing on the power play (I believe it was Matt Cane talking about this on Twitter on Tuesday).
Despite being elite over the last two years in that first assist category at five-on-five, Huberdeau is far from it on the power play. In fact, he has nine (9) first assists with the man advantage over the last two seasons. Other players with that same number? Justin Abdelkader, Adam Henrique, Ryan Kesler, and Mikko Koivu. Not exactly a who’s-who of production. On a rate basis, his first assist rate is around the top 45-percent of the league’s regular power play options.
With Barkov, Trocheck, Bjugstad, Huberdeau, Reilly, and Ekblad all aged 25 years or younger, there is still some growing to do with this team. To say that Huberdeau has not been a goal scorer, and thus cannot be a goal scorer, is not accurate. The same goes for saying he hasn’t been a top-end power play distributor, and thus cannot be a top-end power play distributor. Saying what has not been does not indicate what cannot be.
This does mean, though, that before keeper/dynasty owners start salivating over Huberdeau long-term with this Florida core, he has to show he can take that next step as a fantasy option. There is certainly nothing wrong with being a top-50 forward in roto leagues, as Huberdeau was last year. In order to take that next step, though, the power play production needs to improve significantly. With all the pieces in place, this year should be telling.
Does anyone have love for Alex Killorn for the upcoming season? He has played with Steven Stamkos more than any other Lightning player over the last three seasons. They also seem to mesh well together, as their CorsiFor%, CorsiFor/60 minutes, and GoalsFor/60 minutes are better when playing together than apart. Granted the sample of them playing together is a little more than one full season for a top line player, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.
More than that is that Killorn produces a little over 0.3 more points per 60 minutes at five-on-five (1.88) with Stamkos than without him (1.56). My hope is that Killorn is on the top line with Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin. If that is the case, this could be a solid year ahead for the newly-signed Killorn.
Keep in mind that Tampa Bay likes to spread the ice time out a bit. Some of it was due to injuries, but through last season, nine different Tampa Bay forwards managed at least two minutes a game of power play ice time, and Killorn was one of them. One player who had more PP ice time was Jonathan Marchessault, who is in Florida now, and Ryan Callahan, who will miss the first six weeks of the season. Killorn was also just one of three Tampa Bay forwards to manage at least 14 minutes a game at even strength.
I don’t think there is tremendous upside for KIllorn unless he has a career year just because getting much more than 17 minutes a game is unlikely because of the way Tampa structures their ice time. All the same, with a full season of a healthy Stamkos, and a very good secondary power play unit, there is 20-goal, 50-point upside. It’s not sexy, but solid for a next-to-nothing draft pick in fantasy leagues this year.
I find it curious that a guy who managed 30 goals and 63 points last year is being regularly drafted outside the top-100. Loui Eriksson surpassed what he had done previously in Boston by a significant amount, scoring just 32 goals in his first 142 games with the team. It’s easy to forget, though, that there was a time when Eriksson had four straight seasons with at least 25 goals. Sure, the NHL now isn’t what it was seven years ago, but the guy knows how to finish.
Granted, landing in Vancouver isn’t necessarily an ideal spot. It’s pretty clear that team is on a downswing, and that will continue. However, there are worse things that could happen from going to playing with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron to going to play with the Sedin twins.
Guaranteeing time with the Sedins is a leap of faith, I suppose. The last 30-goal scorer to find his was to the Canucks (Radim Vrbata) spent less than half of his five-on-five time playing on the top line during his two-year tenure. Compounding this issue is that Jannik Hansen looked just fine playing on the top line with the Sedins last season.
For the life of me, though, I can’t imagine Vancouver giving Eriksson $36-million to stick him on the second line. That can’t happen, right? RIGHT?!?!
That is the leap of faith that Eriksson drafters will need to take. They need to assume that Eriksson will play on the top line. At the very least, though, he should be on the top power play unit, so his man advantage production probably won’t take too big of a hit. Small victories.
The Sedin twins are not top-end five-on-five production talents anymore, but they don’t really need to be for Eriksson to have value. The sheer amount of ice time they garner, which includes top power play priority, is something that will benefit Eriksson. He probably takes a downturn in production from last year, but I don’t think it’s as severe as the discount at drafts suggest. Having a 25-goal, 50-point season is still well within reach, and a pick outside the top-100 is the perfect time to take that chance.
- Ramblings: Tkachuk Injured, Crawford Returns, Game Recaps, and Early Shot Rates - October 18
- Ramblings: Landeskog Hat Trick, Leafs Shut Out, Quick Returns, Too-Early Line Stats - October 19
- Injury Ward: Updates on Crawford, Galchenyuk, Pettersson, and more
- Looking Ahead: October 19 - 31
- Frozen Tools Forensics: Early Season Deployment
- Capped: Early Point-Per-Dollar Leaders
- Cage Match: Reilly Smith vs. Viktor Arvidsson
- Ramblings: Lindholm Has Found a Home, Tuch Extended, Kuznetsov, Parise, & The Sabres' Farm (Oct. 20)