Every Sunday this off-season, we'll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at Dobber Hockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's "Daily Ramblings".
Contributors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, and Neil Parker
1. Regarding 2017-18 European newcomers Vadim Shipachyov and Evgeny Dadonov: The one advantage that Dadonov may have over Shipachyov is better linemates (or at least more linemates to choose from) in Florida. We saw the effect that Patrick Kane had on recent KHL graduate Artemi Panarin. It’s unlikely Panarin would have put up the same point totals had he played for a team with limited scoring options. That’s why some are doubting that he’ll be the same player in Columbus as he was in Chicago.
Could the lack of true scoring options be one disadvantage of drafting Shipachyov? If you’re in any way curious about how players on first-year expansion teams fare in the scoring department, I covered this topic in a Ramblings earlier this year (before the expansion draft, mind you, and Shipachyov was signed at that point).
2. The 2016-17 campiagn was a disappointing follow-up to Alex Galchenyuk's 30-goal showing the year before. However, his 0.72 points per game was a career-high mark and the 23-year-old forward is just entering his offensive prime. Unfortunately, it's difficult to properly value Galchenyuk because he's never been handed a long-standing opportunity in a top-line role. In fact, his both his overall minutes and power-play time actually dropped last year.
Montreal has some intriguing scorers but if Galchenyuk isn't playing with them consistently, then his fantasy upside is hindered. He did click with Max Pacioretty for 3.52 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five last season, but both players dropped dramatically when apart.
Hopefully, Galchenyuk spends most of the season playing with the Montreal captain or Jonathan Drouin. There is a clear avenue to fantasy success for Galchenyuk but he needs to be given the No. 1 center gig he deserves.
3. Jonathan Huberdeau has been in the league for five seasons, yet we haven’t yet seen him reach 60 points. Last season may have been the year but he missed the majority of it after his leg was sliced during a preseason game. Huberdeau was able to salvage 26 points from the 31 games he played, which would put him on pace for 68 points over a full 82-game season. This is the season that he finally breaks 60 points.
4. Jack Eichel scored 57 points in just 61 games, giving him 0.93 points per game (11th in the NHL last season). With a full season and another year under his belt, Eichel should make a push for 80 points this season, which is significant since he has yet to reach 60 points in a season.
5. Kevin Labanc is a solid sleeper pick this season, as he appeared to be right at home last season in his time with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. I recently acquired Labanc in my keeper league, one reason being his massive numbers in the OHL (127 points in his final season) and his point-per-game numbers in the AHL (19 points in 19 games). With Marleau gone and the Sharks possibly looking to get younger, look for Labanc to be solidified in the top 9 all season.
6. Anthony Beauvillier played 66 games last season with the Islanders, scoring 24 points. He projects as a third-line center for the Islanders, although he could turn out to be a sleeper if he can connect with another youngster like Josh Ho-Sang. He didn’t score 100 points in a season in the QMJHL but he finished with 94 points one season and 79 in another season that he played just 47 games.
7. Not much news on Saturday, other than Nate Schmidt being awarded through arbitration a two-year contract worth $2.225 million per season. This is noteworthy because Schmidt was the only player this offseason who needed an arbitrator’s ruling for his new contract. Schmidt was a valuable depth defenseman for the Capitals last season, although he is not particularly valuable in any fantasy category. He will have the chance to earn a more significant role with the Golden Knights this season.
8. After consecutive 40-point campaigns and a career year in 2015-16, Jake Muzzin underwhelmed last year with just 28 points. His minus-21 rating was a particular eyesore, and he also posted just 2.24 shots per game, which was his lowest mark since 2012-13. However, Muzzin still posted an elite 55.5 Corsi For percentage, and despite the dip in shot volume, he finished with 184 shots, 46 PIM, 162 hits and 122 blocked shots.
Those peripheral numbers are solid and it will only take a modest offensive rebound, as well as a bounce back in the plus-minus column, to skyrocket Muzzin back up the defensemen ranks.
9. With 47 points in 63 games last season in the AHL, Sonny Milano looks like he might be ready to make the jump to the NHL this season. Unfortunately, the space may not be there on a deep Columbus forward attack. (DobberHockey Draft Guide teaser: Dobber has Milano at a 40 percent chance of making the NHL team. All prospects are given a number from 0% to 100%.).
BTW: If you don’t have your Fantasy Guide yet, then what are you waiting for? Go get it by clicking on the link here. And while you’re at it, you may want to consider the Prospects Report (or a discounted Fantasy Pack of the two) or the Geek Draft Kit (also discounted if you purchase with the Draft Guide). And because they are downloadable, the news that you read about in the Ramblings will be updated in your Fantasy Guide.
A word of advice, please don’t wait until the day of your draft to purchase this. There’s too much content in there for you to review before your draft starts.
10. Anaheim handed the starting reigns to John Gibson last season and he didn't disappoint when healthy. While he was limited to just 49 starts, he posted a sterling .924 save percentage and 2.22 GAA, which included a fifth-ranked .935 save percentage at five-on-five among all goalies with at least 35 games played.
The Ducks have an excellent defense corps in front of Gibson and the addition of Ryan Miller shouldn't be viewed as a negative. Gibson is the better netminder and the clear No. 1, though. Staying healthy is the only hurdle left for Gibson to clear to claim a spot among the high-end fantasy goalies.
It was an outstanding season for the Swedish defender with a career-high 16 goals and a career-high 56 assists. It was also a year that saw him garner a career-high in ice time with 24:30 per game, a career-high in power-play points with 33, a career-high in overall shooting percentage at 9.6 percent, and the second-highest rate at which he garnered a point when he was on the ice of his career at 48.3 percent. That is a lot of career- or near-career-best marks.
The biggest concern is the power-play points. His 33 points were by far the most of his career, and just four PPPs fewer than he put up over the previous three seasons combined. He led all defencemen in points per minute on the power play by a significant margin (a rate roughly 25 percent higher than the next-highest mark), and that mark of 8.01 points per 60 minutes was nearly double the rate he managed from 2013-16.
Yes, Hedman became a focal point on the team last year with all the injuries the team went through, kind of like Nikita Kucherov, but how does that change next year with everyone (presumably) healthy? Also, as mentioned in the piece on the Tampa PP I listed above, he doesn’t fit naturally on a Stamkos power play. How does the team rectify that next year? There are a lot of questions we won’t have answers to until the start the season.
Hedman is a top-end defence option in any fantasy format but I feel as though he’ll be overdrafted in roto leagues in particular. Expecting a repeat anything close to what he did in 2016-17 is unrealistic, and even cracking 60 points will be a big season. I can easily see him being drafted in the second round of 12-team leagues and that’s way too high. We’ll see where he’s actually landing when ADP data starts being readily available but I’m cautious for now.
12. The New York Islanders agreed to a one-year deal with defenceman Calvin de Haan with a value of $3.3 million. The 26-year old rearguard had 25 points playing a full 82 games in 2016-17. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this contract.
Fantasy-wise, it’ll be hard for de Haan to have any real fantasy relevance depending on the league setup. In leagues that count hits and blocked shots he can be very solid, as he’s posted triple digits in each category four straight years now, and finally added a reasonable point total. In leagues that don’t count those categories, however, he’s going to be stuck behind Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy for the foreseeable future.
13. Jonny Miazak (@MiazyK) asks: Will Seguin and Benn both go over 80?
Tyler Seguin hasn’t reached 80 points over his last three seasons, although injuries have gotten in the way. Meanwhile, Jamie Benn hasn’t reached 80 points in his past two seasons since winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15. In spite of that, both players have hovered around the point-per-game mark when averaged over the past three seasons (Benn 1.02 P/GP, Seguin 0.99 P/GP).
With the mess of last season in the rearview mirror, the outlook is very bright in Dallas in the short term. Additions like Alexander Radulov and Martin Hanzal should help the Stars spread the scoring around more. So, there are signs that both Seguin and Benn could experience a minor bounce-back in the coming campaign. But with overall league scoring still relatively low and with the usual defensive effect of a Ken Hitchcock system, it’s hard to bet the over on this.
The Stars were a dysfunctional defensive unit last season (29th in NHL with 3.17 GAA), so expect Hitchcock to be defense-first morning, noon and night as he tries to make the Stars a playoff team again.
For what it’s worth, not many who voted in the recent Cage Match Tournament thought Seguin would ever exceed his career high of 84 points again. Benn may be more likely, although anyone drafting both players could safely project something in the 75-80 point range for each.
14. Reader Jimmy S. (@doublejspencer) asks: Who do you think will be the top 5 fantasy d men this coming season?
Who should be the top three at least should be an easy question. Three defensemen topped 70 points last season (Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman). That doesn’t necessarily mean those three will be the top three scorers or even the top three fantasy d-men but right now they have to be ranked in a class of their own. This grouping as the top tier becomes even more apparent if you consider that no defenseman scored between 60 and 70 points last season.
After that, there are a group of defensemen that could be considered for the numbers four and five slots. That group includes (and may not be restricted to) Kevin Shattenkirk, Duncan Keith, Roman Josi, and Dustin Byfuglien. All four of these blueliners scored between 0.6 and 0.7 points per game last season. On a points-per-game level, Kris Letang was fourth in the NHL with 0.83 points per game but many fantasy owners won’t feel comfortable picking him as the fourth defenseman off the board because of his injury history.
It really depends on whether you’re talking about multi-category leagues or pure points league. In a multi-category format, I might choose someone like Byfuglien for his shots on goal, hits and penalty minutes (although there are many better options for power-play points). In a pure points league, it might be someone like Shattenkirk for his pure offensive ability (while his power-play points don’t hurt in multi-category leagues, either). A consistent option for both types of formats would be Josi, who is fifth among blueliners over the past two seasons with 0.72 points per game.
The top tier should be the top three no matter what. After that, the decision should be based on your scoring system.
15. Brendan Leipsic, 23, is probably ready for the NHL, and landing with Vegas was initially promising. However, his recently signed two-way contract for the 2017-18 campaign is telling. Leipsic does have a one-way deal in place for 2018-19, though. His fantasy value is likely capped for this season and given his mediocre offensive upside and underwhelming setup with the expansion Golden Knights, it's hard to envision Leipsic making a significant impact in the near future. He's still a player to keep tabs on, though.
16. With consecutive 27-goal campaigns in the AHL and a shot-first mentality, Martin Frk is a prime candidate to take the next step and be a full-time NHLer in 2017-18. Unfortunately, Detroit is flush with wingers, albeit a number probably aren't as good as Frk. His recently signed two-way contract will make it that much harder to carve out a role with the Red Wings next season.
17. With a one-way deal locked up, Mirco Mueller is a ripe candidate to crack the New Jersey blue line this fall. He owns everything needed to be a solid real-world defenseman, including the coveted skating ability and puck-moving skills of the modern NHL rearguard. Mueller is probably never going to develop into a reliable offensive contributor, so his fantasy value is likely capped in most settings.
18. On Tuesday, it was Mikael Granlund’s turn to get paid. He signed a three-year, $17.25 million contract with the Wild, avoiding arbitration. The cap hit works out to be $5.75 million per season, nearly doubling his $3 million cap hit from the past two seasons. This is the second major signing of the week for the Wild, who also signed Nino Niederreiter to a five-year, $5.25 million contract on Sunday.
You may recall that Granlund had his breakout season in 2016-17, which was his magical fourth full season in the NHL. After hovering between 39 and 44 points in his first three seasons, Granlund became a must-own in all leagues with 26 goals, 69 points, a plus-23, and 20 power-play points. At the heart of Granlund’s point total was a 12-game point streak during January and February, when he scored 17 points (5g-12a).
Should we expect this kind of scoring from Granlund going forward? Some owners (like me) attempted to sell high during or following the point streak, as Granlund’s nearly 15 percent shooting was noticeably higher than his sub-10 percent career average. Should the shooting percentage fall to career norms with about the same number of shots, Granlund could be looking at just under 20 goals going forward. So, I’ll say this much: Don’t bet on Granlund increasing his goal total again.
A move to the wing alongside fellow Finn Mikko Koivu seemed to make all the difference in the world, so Granlund should continue to experience success for the most part as long as Bruce Boudreau doesn’t mess with that line. The move to the wing also helped Granlund’s fantasy value, as he became eligible at all three forward positions in Yahoo at one point last season. This can make daily league planning a little easier if you have a positional imbalance on your team (although Yahoo went a little crazy awarding multiple positions to forwards last year).
Granlund just got a little more expensive in cap leagues but that shouldn’t tremendously affect his status on your cap league team. He finished just outside the top 20 in overall scoring last season, so a case could be made about him being a top-50 pick in single-season fantasy drafts.
19. Another notable signing on Tuesday (although less so for fantasy purposes) was Brett Pesce receiving a six-year, $24.15 million contract from the Hurricanes. What jumped out at me (and probably many of you as well) was the six years. Pesce is only 22 years old, yet he scored 20 points and was a plus-23, while averaging just over 21 minutes of ice time per game. Pesce was paired with Jaccob Slavin, who himself received a seven-year contract worth $5.3 million per season. Pesce (148) and Slavin (161) both finished in the top 30 in blocked shot totals last season.
I have to admit that living in Western Canada, I don’t get to see the Hurricanes play a whole lot. So, I’ll ask any Hurricanes fans that are reading: is Pesce worth the money? My assumption is that he might be a Chris Tanev type of defender – one who doesn’t play a high-offense or overly physical game, yet you don’t notice him that much because he doesn’t make many glaring mistakes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate well to fantasy hockey. So, unless your deep league places heavy value on blocked shots, it’s probably not worth your while to add Pesce.
20. After scoring just 23 even-strength points and posting a discouraging 1.16 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five in 2015-16, Patrick Marleau bounced back with a 1.47 mark and 30 even-strength points – including 20 goals – last season. He's projected to play a significant role with the Maple Leafs and has been frequently mentioned as an option to play with Auston Matthews and William Nylander
There is no denying that Marleau is past his prime entering his age-38 campaign. However, the versatile forward is still an excellent skater with high-end hockey IQ. At first glance, it's a ripe setup for Marleau to add another 25-goal, 50-point to his illustrious career but there's also the potential that he doesn't line up with Matthews and Nylander.
Still, while his upside would obviously be higher skating with the two young stars, Marleau's fantasy floor will be high regardless of his linemates. After all, Toronto does have the depth to roll out multiple scoring lines.
Have a good week, folks!!
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- Ramblings: Spezza Strikes Back, Sizzling Saros (Jan 17)
- Keeping Karlsson Podcast: Wunderbarzal