20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on September 10, 2017 | (0 Comments)

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. Mikhail Sergachev is unlikely to spend the entire season with the Bolts. Tampa Bay already has enough NHL blueliners on the roster and if Sergachev plays fewer than 40 games with the Lightning, THEN Tampa Bay receives an additional second-round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft as a condition in the Jonathan Drouin deal.

Second-round picks have become coveted assets in the league and it would be surprising if Tampa Bay didn't ensure they were able to acquire the selection from the Canadiens.

For our fantasy interests, Sergachev's keeper/dynasty stock will likely drop with his likely demotion to the AHL. In turn, that's a perfect opportunity to make a buy-low pitch. It wouldn't be surprising to see Sergachev finish the season with a 25- to 35-game stint with Tampa Bay.

 

2. I think we can safely assume the Avalanche will be bad this year. One-of-the-worst-teams-this-generation bad? Again? Maybe not. But still nowhere near a playoff team. To say that one huge difference between Alex Pietrangelo and Tyson Barrie this year should be plus/minus is true. I say should because even on a playoff-bound Blues team last year, Pietrangelo was still just plus-3. It’s a dumb stat. Again, however, it’s fair to say there will be a gap in this regard.

Everywhere else, though, these two have been pretty much the same over the last two years.

I can already hear people screaming “BUT KEVIN SHATTENKIRK IS GONE!” And yes, Pietrangelo went on a tear after Shattenkirk was traded to Washington last year with 18 points in 20 games. But beware of small samples: when Shattenkirk missed nearly two months in 2014-15, Pietrangelo had two goals and 13 points in 25 games. Post hoc etc., etc.

Because Colorado is expected to be so bad, it’s forgivable that Barrie would be overlooked. Even in an abysmal season last year, though, he was still on a 42-point pace/82 games with a career-best in shots per game. Presumably, things can’t get worse for Colorado and hopefully the younger group like Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Jost can keep progressing. With better power-play production, Barrie could be a minus-20 player and still be a fringe top-30 roto defenseman. Considering there will probably be over a half-dozen rounds between them, the track record of Barrie is not a bad bet to take.

 

3. The cross-category production Drew Doughty provides shouldn't be underrated. At 27, he's still in the heart of his prime and will continue to play significant minutes. After a mediocre fantasy showing last year, Doughty should also check out as a ripe value in most circles.   

 

4. Nico Hischier and Will Butcher have made the Devils an intriguing young team for me. The offseason addition of Marcus Johansson helps their outlook, while Cory Schneider is a ripe candidate for statistical correction after last year's anomaly.

Obviously, the Devils are unlikely to make a significant move up the NHL standings but is there enough talent there right now to be more helpful for our fantasy purposes?

 

5. Anton Slepyshev may miss the entire preseason with an ankle injury he sustained training. His status for Opening Night is unknown at this point. This is bad timing for Slepyshev, as his window to push for a secure middle-six role – or higher – is closing.

Ryan Strome is an immediate beneficiary and Jesse Puljujarvi's shot at meaningful minutes to start the season also improves. The wildcard is Drake Caggiula. Paying attention to Edmonton's line combinations in training camp could unearth a late-round gem over the first month – or more – of the year.

 

6. Bo Horvat has seen double-digit improvement in his point totals in each of his first three seasons, from 25 to 40 to 52, which led the Canucks in scoring last season. And now he’s entering that fourth year that seems to be profitable for many players.

With what could be yet another season with substantial gains, Horvat appears to have surpassed Henrik Sedin as the Canucks’ true No. 1 center. As valuable as Horvat is to the Canucks, he may turn out to be a better real-life player than fantasy player. That could mean he is equivalent to Jonathan Toews or Patrice Bergeron in the fantasy sense, in that they have their place on fantasy teams, but they shouldn’t be your elite options.

Horvat’s potential career path as the Canucks’ future leader is especially important to remember in salary cap leagues, where his cap hit increases by $4.5 million with the new contract. But he was an RFA this offseason, so you would have had time to react.

 

7. Ryan Ellis is expected to be out until January following offseason knee surgery. This is a serious fantasy blow to the Predators because it means that Alexei Emelin will likely be counted on to step into a larger role. That's not good.

Emelin is off the fantasy radar outside of cavernous settings including hits and penalty minutes. But more importantly, his career minus-2.7 Relative Corsi For percentage won't improve as he enters his 30s. Over the past few seasons, we've seen more and more defensemen of Emelin's ilk become an on-ice hindrance to their teams. Ellis, by comparison, posted his first minus Relative Corsi For percentage (-1.7) last season, but owns a 1.7 mark for his career. Additionally, Ellis' work with the man advantage will be missed.

P.K. Subban or Mattias Ekholm could both see a slight uptick in minutes and there's a chance that Nashville turns to utilizing a top-heavy unit with the man advantage without Ellis. Last season, the Predators primarily rolled out two power play units and gave them each similar ice time. The real unknown will be how Nashville adjusts its personnel up a man.

Unfortunately, that is likely to be a wait-and-see situation. There could be signs throughout training camp but until the games matter, it's going to be difficult to project. A four-forward unit quarterbacked by Roman Josi first, and then have three forwards with Subban and Ekholm seems likely, though.

 

8. Some more recent notable PTOs, in case you missed them:

Scottie Upshall (Vancouver): The Canucks’ penalty killing was atrocious last season and two of Upshall’s 10 goals were shorthanded. With Brendan Gaunce likely out until November, Upshall could be given a long look, even though the Canucks already have a ton of forwards.

Alex Chiasson (Washington): Chiasson spent a third of his even-strength time with both Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. But that didn’t translate to fantasy success (24 points in 81 games). The Capitals lost a fair number of forwards in free agency but Chiasson will need to compete for a bottom-six spot with the likes of Jakub Vrana and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Chris Kelly (Edmonton): Hasn’t been a fantasy option in even deep leagues for a while. He would likely need an injury to one of the Oilers’ regulars in order to make the roster.

 

9. When doing projections, one area that is *always* a struggle is projecting players coming off solid seasons due to injuries of teammates. Sometimes, it hurts players when they lose a productive teammate, or specifically a linemate, for a significant amount of time but it can also help players who find themselves moving up the depth chart. Just think of Justin Schultz and Kris Letang from this past campaign.

 

10. Another player fitting the bill above is Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point. The Lightning had centre depth but then they lost Steven Stamkos for most of the campaign, Tyler Johnson for about 20 percent of the season, and traded Valtteri Filppula at the Trade Deadline. All this led to Point, a 20-year old rookie that was a third-round pick in 2014, playing over 17 minutes a game. He finished third among their regular forwards in five-on-five ice time per game.

At this moment, I’m leaning to the team running Point out as the third-line centre and that likely destroys any fantasy value he has in the majority of leagues. It’ll be hard for him to surpass last season’s totals, even if he plays somewhere around 80 games, playing in the bottom-six.

I suppose where he ends up being drafted depends on the person drafting him. He can be a top-200 roto player if he can get top-six centre minutes as well as secondary power-play time. If he’s stuck in the bottom-six, though, considering he won’t be a guy to stuff peripherals, he’ll be very hard-pressed to live up to that draft slotting without injuries from other players again this year.

 

11. One thing I’ve noticed going through rankings is that I’m going to be higher on Vadim Shipachyov than others. This is a change from earlier in the summer when the team’s roster was unknown.

Shipachyov is the team’s unquestioned top-line centre. I can’t fathom the ice time being balanced in Vegas this year like, say, the Rangers have been in recent seasons. The 30-year old Russian will be on the top line, I assume with James Neal, as well as heavily featured on the top power play unit.

As mentioned often in these Ramblings, ice time creates a floor. At 18 minutes a game and 80 games played, a total of 1440 minutes would put Shipachyov among the top-60 used forwards last year. Of the 58 forwards to play at least that many minutes last year, two-thirds managed at least 55 points, while fewer than 14 percent managed under 50. Most of the guys that didn’t crack 50 points were second-line players that played the penalty kill, while the others played for New Jersey or Vancouver. The defense should be able to help move the puck in Vegas than either of those teams, so I’m more optimistic of that top line scoring this year than those respective top lines last year.

A 50-point season is a reasonable floor so long as he stays on the top line and top power play and I’m betting he does. He may be more useful in points-only than roto leagues but being a top-200 player is eminently doable in either format.

 

12. While on the topic of Vegas, that defense situation is one to really keep an eye on as training camps get underway in a couple weeks. I know it was something written in these Ramblings months ago but for a refresher: I still don’t think this team scores a lot this year. That would limit the fantasy utility of blueliners beyond the top PP unit. Just keep an eye on training camp PP tweets or reports to see who is playing where.

I would wager that it’s Shea Theodore that gets the first crack but it could be a fluid situation week to week, let alone over the course of the year. I have no problem with following reports and using a late-round pick on he or Nate Schmidt but I don’t know if there’ll be more than one defenseman with enough fantasy value to be rostered in standard 12-team leagues at a time this season.

 

13. Could Joel Edmundson become that fourth defenseman for the Blues? There seems to be a very good chance that he will, since he spent 64 percent of his even-strength minutes with Parayko last season. So, an increase in ice time from 17:46 last season to over 20 minutes in 2017-18 seems like a strong possibility. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to fantasy success. Remember that Erik Karlsson’s main defense partner last season was Marc Methot.

Could he be a power-play option? There’s a chance but he did not record a single power-play point in 69 games last season, so it doesn’t appear that the Blues will likely use him that way. It’s more likely that Jake Walman is used in that role going forward, as Walman has a higher offensive upside than Edmundson.

So that leaves peripheral categories. The Blues could be a contender in the Central Division, which could mean Edmundson has strong plus-minus (more on that shortly). He also finished third on the Blues with 122 hits and fourth with 95 blocked shots. With increased icetime, the hits and blocked shots totals only stand to increase.

My conclusion is that there is no reason to reach for him in a standard-sized Yahoo league. But you may be hearing more about him this season simply as an NHL defenseman.

 

14. It was that Erik Karlsson ‘hasn’t done anything’ since undergoing foot surgery back in June to repair torn tendons. Everyone remembers watching Karlsson limping on and off the ice during Ottawa’s Conference Final run in the spring, and it appears he may not be ready for the start of the regular season as a result.

Karlsson was pretty much a lock to be a second-round pick in fantasy drafts and it’ll be interesting to see if this changes anything in the coming week or so. I imagine we’ll get more news as the weeks progress but not being not being ready for the opener is somewhat vague. Does he miss two games? Five? More? Keep in mind that he missed five games last year over the course of the year and was still a top-20 fantasy option. Unless something drastic changes in the next month, I would still be comfortable taking him in the back half of the second round.

 

15. It's easy to forget that Sam Bennett is only 21 and that he has just two full seasons under his belt. So, he still has that magical fourth season ahead of him, just not this season. Now might be the time to buy low (maybe even very low) on him in keeper leagues from an owner that is expecting the more instant results that other players of a similar age have already been able to provide.

One bright spot in some leagues from an otherwise dreary season from Bennett: He accumulated 75 penalty minutes last season, which was third on the Flames. Combine that with his 127 hits last season and he shows added value in leagues that count any physical categories.

 

16. The Arizona Coyotes signed Anthony Duclair to a one-year, $1.2 million contract. If that seems like a small contract for a player of his upside, it’s because he himself said that he wants to prove himself after struggling last season.

If you simply looked at Duclair’s goal and assist totals from 2015-16 (20 goals, 24 assists), you would have assumed bigger and better things were ahead in 2016-17. Particularly since eight of his goals came with the man advantage. But a 19 percent shooting accuracy from just 105 shots taken should have raised a red flag if you reached for Duclair as a sleeper. Not only was he unable to replicate his 2015-16 season (just 15 points in 58 games) but he was also sent to the AHL for part of the season.

Which version of Duclair will we see in 2017-18? Your best bet would be to predict something in the middle. Don’t expect him to be demoted to the AHL again now that he’s in another contract year but don’t expect him to shoot 19 percent again. If he is to reach 20 goals again, he will likely need to take a minimum of 150 shots. Actually, 200 might be a more realistic number, as he would reach 20 goals with a 10 percent shot success rate. Duclair has never shot more than 6.6 percent in either of his other two seasons.

Duclair is probably best left for deep leagues. But once the young Arizona scoring attack breaks out, there’s a good chance that he will be along for the ride.

 

17. According to the Dallas Morning News via NHL.com, Ken Hitchcock intends to use Jason Spezza at both center and left wing this coming season. Spezza is currently eligible as a center and a right wing with Yahoo, so it’s possible that he could be the versatile forward that is eligible at all three forward positions this coming season.

This potential eligibility at all three forward positions could provide a much-needed boost for Spezza’s fantasy value. He is coming off the worst goal and point totals of his career (15 goals and 50 points) since his rookie season and his minus-18 sunk his fantasy value even further. His lack of scoring success can be attributed to the fact that he took just 149 shots when we’ve become accustomed to him taking at least 200 over the past few seasons.

Unfortunately, Spezza won’t have the benefit of playing alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. As was widely predicted, Alexander Radulov is expected to take on that role. In fact, Spezza and new acquisition Martin Hanzal are expected to play on separate lines. I would assume Spezza would be on the second line and Hanzal on the third line. Hitchcock also believes that Radek Faksa will play on the Hanzal line.

The Stars’ scoring depth takes a major dip after the first line, which doesn’t bode well for Spezza. The one potential breakout candidate for the Stars is Brett Ritchie, who averaged under 13 minutes per game last season. Ritchie stands to experience a significant boost in ice time if he plays on the Spezza line and perhaps even on the Hanzal line. As a result, Ritchie should be considered a potential sleeper candidate in many formats.

 

18. It took 27 games for Sean Monahan to record his first multi-point showing last year and he had just six goals and five helpers during that stretch. However, the pivot caught fire and recorded 47 points – 21 tallies – through the next 51 games. He'll turn 23 in October and has averaged 26.8 goals per year since entering the league. Monahan has also posted 62, 63 and 58 points through his past three seasons, respectively. Additionally, with over 190 shots in each of the past three years, he offers a solid offensive floor.

The knock on Monahan is his underwhelming peripheral contributions. He rarely takes penalties and doesn't offer help in the blocked shots or hits columns, either. His numbers are also reliant on playing with Johnny Gaudreau. The duo posted 2.67 goals for per 60 minutes last year but Monahan dipped to a 1.46 mark when he wasn't playing with Gaudreau. It's worth noting that Gaudreau also dropped to a 1.67 goals per 60 minutes away from Monahan.

All said, while Monahan is much more valuable in points-only settings, a step forward is within reach considering last season's midseason surge and his career trajectory entering his prime.

 

19. Boston Bruins reporter Joe Haggerty broke down the Boston rookies and he's high on Anders Bjork. He notes that the Fighting Irish alum has been the best players both of the past two offseasons in Bruins development camp. That's a telling sign and there's a better-than-zero shot that Bjork sees time in a top-six gig during training camp.

While Bjork is obviously off the map in most fantasy settings at this stage of the game, he could be a quick riser over the next five weeks. Additionally, there are spots open for him – or other youngsters – to seize. This could be a case of Haggerty being a little biased towards Bjork but his belief in the 21-year-old winger has held steadfast over the past year.

 

20. Winning NHL teams have strong centers. In fact, the last time a team won the Stanley Cup without a star pivot was all the way back in 2002-03 season, when the Devils ran out Scott Gomez, Joe Nieuwendyk and John Madden up the middle. Those three weren't exactly plugs, either.

Obviously, Carolina is more likely to miss the playoffs entirely than go on a deep playoff run but it's still something that shouldn't be overlooked in regards to the 2017-18 Hurricanes. Jordan Staal has been relatively healthy and reliable throughout his career, and while his offensive ceiling is capped at this stage of his career, his possession game and ability to play against the opposition's top players has become extremely valuable. He needs to take a step forward offensively while maintaining his 200-foot game, and then Victor Rask and/or Elias Lindholm also need to step up down the middle.

The potential is there. It is just going to be interesting to see if things can break right.

 

Have a good week, folks!!