Ramblings: World Cup of Hockey Thoughts, Orlov Contract, Lupul Injury (September 23)

by Michael Clifford on September 22, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: World Cup of Hockey Thoughts, Orlov Contract, Lupul Injury (September 23)

Ramblings: Some World Cup fantasy thoughts, Orlov’s signing, and Lupul’s Injury

****

The semi-finals are set, and granted this is a small tournament, but it’s nonetheless important to take at least some things away for fantasy. I managed to watch every game save for the Czech Republic/USA, and here are some things that stood out to me for 10 different players.

Connor McDavid

In a one-year season-long league, this tournament made me a full believer that Connor McDavid can be a top-3 pick. In general, I would still put Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby as first and second, but, especially with Tyler Seguin’s injury, it is far from a stretch to put McDavid third.

Anyone who watch the Team North America games saw his dominance. There was no one that could slow him down. NHL defencemen don’t often get beat one-on-one, and he was blowing by NHL defencemen with regularity. I think at the end of the year we will have an earnest discussion as to whether or not he’s the best player in the world.

Auston Matthews

I was interested to see how Matthews would do against some of the best players in the world. Needless to say, he looked good.

My concerns about him still stand. Will Mike Babcock give him 17-18 minutes a game? Will he give him top-end wingers? Those questions concern me more with regards to his fantasy value than his talent.

One last concern: will his World Cup performance steam his ADP? Over the last two-ish weeks on ESPN, his draft position was risen about three rounds (36 picks), and he’s currently inside the top-90. I assume that by next weekend, he’ll be around a top-75 pick. For those that want to draft him, he may go in the same range (plus or minus a round) as guys like Mark Scheifele and Sean Monahan.

Colton Parayko

It’s anecdotal, but the impressive part for me so far in the World Cup is Parayko’s decision-making. Not just making the right decisions, but making them quickly. Speed at the NHL level just isn’t about how fast a player can skate, but whether or not they can make a decision with the puck before the opposition can figure out what they’re doing. Parayko does that with outlet passes, blue line shots (or non-shots), and his pinching. It’s been fun to watch.

This tournament has given me less trepidation about taking Parayko. He’s due for a plus/minus regression, but there’s no reason to think he can’t improve his fantasy numbers across the board elsewhere. He’s fine to go off the board as a third defenceman in a 12-team league.

Brent Burns

There are always issues when it comes to drafting a player that is coming off a career year, namely the price paid at the draft table. Here’s the thing: he played over 25 minutes a game last year – which should continue – he leads all NHL d-men in shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five over the last two years, and is third in points per 60 minutes. Being at the top of rate stats and playing over 25 minutes a game is a great thing.

There was no change to Burns’s game in the World Cup compared to the NHL last year. Given what he’s done over the last two years, and his performance at the WCoH, my hesitations for him as a first round defenceman are gone. He is it.

Loui Eriksson

The Sedins have looked so good playing with Loui Eriksson. Or Eriksson’s looked so good playing with the Sedins. Either way, they all look good playing together, and that’s what matters. This is especially true for the power play.

Depending on the league, it appears Eriksson will be drafted around the top-100 pick. I think that’s one of those picks where there won’t be much downside. It’s just rather safe. I stand firm that he can be a 25-goal, 50-point guy this year, and his peripherals will ultimately determine his roto value.

Patrik Laine

One guy whose ADP is not being steamed is Patrik Laine. Rather, he’s pretty consistently going around a 12th round pick, as he has been since the start of draft season. He’s unranked on ESPN, and I’m not sure why.

This is the upside pick over Matthews. If Laine can be drafted at half the cost of Matthews, all he needs to return value is about 20 goals and 45 points with solid peripherals (and the shots and power play points should be there). On the other hand, Matthews will have to be close to a 25-goal, 60-point player with solid peripherals to return value. That’s a lot to ask.

Laine hasn’t looked outstanding in the tournament, but he certainly hasn’t looked bad. There’s no reason to avoid him at his draft cost.

John Gibson

Sure it was against Sweden, but John Gibson looked like a shake-weight in net against the (arguably) second-best team in the tournament. He was darting all over the place, constantly leaving rebounds out, and generally losing track of the puck. It wasn’t pretty.

I have stated in prior Ramblings why Gibson can be avoided this year. Not only is he due for regression in some areas, but the coaching staff being brought in concerns me greatly, and Jonathan Bernier could bounce back nicely himself. With the news that Roberto Luongo is fully cleared for practice and games, there isn’t much reason to take Gibson anywhere near his ADP.

Nathan MacKinnon

Being on a supremely talented team, it appears that Nathan MacKinnon has been overlooked a little bit in this tournament. In watching all the Team North America games, no other player not named McDavid looked as dangerous almost every shift as MacKinnon did. In their game against Sweden, he had a few top-shelf chances, and eventually put one away for the overtime winner.

MacKinnon’s ADP is actually falling on ESPN, which is curious to me. He has done nothing at the WCoH to warrant this, which means he was either A) over-priced so start with, or B) the public is down on him. Like Vincent Gambini, I’m going with option B. This presents a great buying opportunity for believers.

Frans Nielsen

Besides the outstanding play of Jaroslav Halak – and he’s a big reason Team Europe was able to get to the semi-finals – Frans Nielsen was the other player that stood out for Team Europe. Sure, Anze Kopitar was a monster, but he’s always a monster. Marian Gaborik looked good, though a bit slower, as can be expected. Nielsen, though, was looking great.

Nielsen was relentless in attacking in all three games, and was pretty much the only dangerous player against Canada. If he’s put in a sheltered offensive role in Detroit (he should), with either Tatar, Nyquist, or both (he should), this could be another good year for him.

Artemi Panarin

While Russia, as a whole, has looked dangerous all tournament, Artemi Panarin has been a standout. The way he holds the puck and waits for the play to develop, rather than forcing something that isn’t there, is something that can’t really be taught. He has it in spades, and it’s showed in their three games.

I have fewer concerns with Panarin now than I did a month ago. I still think he’s due for some regression, so expecting 70 points rather than 80 is prudent, but he shouldn’t bust at his ADP.

****

Another restricted free agent was given a contract this week as Washington defenceman Dmitry Orlov was given a one-year deal worth $2.57-million. This follows a two-year deal coming out of his entry-level contract.

I wish I could remember who said it – maybe one of the hockey guys from ESPN – but the basic idea is that it seems as though Orlov has all the skill in the world to reach that next level of defenceman, but the decision-making isn’t there yet. Watching him, this is basically the essence of it; Orlov can look like a top-tier puck mover, and then the brain cramps kick in.

By no means does that make him a bad NHL defenceman. Rather, looking at his numbers, everything from points per minute to driving possession, he looks good. He has never had to play a feature role, but has done well in the role that’s given to him. Doing well in the minutes given, somehow, is an underrated aspect of player analysis.

The problem for fantasy owners lies in that role. Should Orlov play just 16-18 minutes a game again – and he’s never played 20 minutes a game in a full season to date – there’s no reason to really consider him as a fantasy defenceman. John Carlson and Matt Niskanen are clearly the top-two options, Brooks Orpik will still garner minutes, and Nate Schmidt looks to be a nice emerging talent. So whether or not Orlov is the “third-best” defenceman on the Caps is irrelevant; until he’s used as the third-best defenceman on the Caps, he’s not a fantasy target.

Things change quickly in the NHL. Players go from fantasy-irrelevant to fantasy-relevant with one key injury or suspension. For now, though, as well as Orlov might perform in his minutes, without enough minutes, it doesn’t matter to us. Hopefully he gets a bigger role this year, and at that point, this can be revisited. For now, don’t bother in drafts outside the deepest of leagues.

****

Not necessarily a bombshell like Valeri Nichushkin leaving for Russia, but this was important nonetheless:

It has been a long, long time since Joffrey Lupul has been a reliably healthy option. Over the last seven seasons, he’s played just 61-percent of regular season games, which works out to about 50 games out of every 82. That’s just way too unreliable for fantasy owners.

Regardless of the injury history, though, fantasy owners remember. They remember his playoff run coming out of the lockout where he had nine goals which included, if I’m remembering correctly, a four-goal game. They remember his first full year in Toronto, 2011-2012, when he was over a point-per-game player. They remember him coming back after the lockout-shortened season when he posted 22 goals in 69 games for an abominable team. It was these performances that kept us coming back.

Now, at the age of 33 (seriously, he turns 33 years old today), it seems like those days are a distant memory. At this point, I just hope he can get back on the ice and be healthy enough to contribute. Though I’m a Habs fan, I’m a hockey fan first, and watching Lupul at his peak was a lot of fun. Let’s hope this is just a minor setback and he can come back to help the Leafs. Heck, he may even find his way to a fantasy roster at some point.

Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Cap information from Cap Friendly