20 Fantasy Hockey Thoughts

by Mario Prata on September 24, 2017 | (0 Comments)

Every Sunday this offseason, we'll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week's "Daily Ramblings".

Contributors: Ian Gooding, Michael Clifford, and Neil Parker

 

1. For those playing public leagues looking to grab Frederik Andersen, he may have to be your first goalie in 12-team leagues. That is a lot of risk.

Last year, the Leafs allowed the fifth-most adjusted scoring chances per 60 minutes at five-on-five, and fifth-most shots overall. They were a high-paced offensive team, though, so they were still able to drive the play more often to the opponent’s net than their own. That was one reason for their success. However, the goalies facing so many shots is probably going to be bad for their goals against average. The trade-off is if his team scores a lot, he should still rack up wins, which is why he was ninth in the league in wins in 2016-17 despite having a lower GAA than Steve Mason.

Toronto will be better this year as the team continues maturing but will they simply drive a higher pace, or will they legitimately suppress their shots and chances against? I am not willing to bet on them lowering shots against at a significantly higher rate to the point where I’m comfortable having Andersen as the first goalie on my roster.

 

2. In a preseason game on Tuesday, PK Subban lined up mainly with Mattias Ekholm while on the power play. Now, one preseason game is nothing to overreact to but it’s important to note this pairing. The reason for that is Subban and Ryan Ellis were by far the second-most used defencemen on the Nashville power play last year, just behind Roman Josi as the lone blueliner on the top unit, but way ahead the pairing of Josi and Ekholm. That would indicate the team will still expect to use Josi on the top unit in a four-forward setup with Ellis out likely until February.

Now, even on the second unit, Subban still managed 16 power-play points in 66 games last year. But he did see nearly a minute less power-play ice time per game than in any season of his career. If the penalty parade continues all season as it has in the preseason, it may not matter.

 

3. Though he missed 10 games while playing for the third-lowest scoring team in the league, Taylor Hall was one of 12 forwards with at least 20 goals, 30 assists, 30 penalty minutes and three shots on goal per game.

The team added Marcus Johansson, who is currently lining up as his centre, and the (way too early) returns on Nico Hischier are good. This team should be better offensively, yet still be a bottom-10 scoring team. On the Devils, he just doesn’t have the upside that he would have had in Edmonton.

 

4. Even in a season in Columbus, where he managed just three power-play points thanks to largely being stuck on an infrequently-used second unit, Brandon Saad managed his third straight season with at least 20 goals and 50 points. In fact, he had a higher points/60 minutes at five-on-five than guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, and Vladimir Tarasenko. If he can get those prime PP minutes on the top unit with Patrick Kane, Saad can get to 60 points this year

 

5. There has been some Ales Hemsky hype popping up. Obviously, he's a veteran that should have a top-six gig to lose, so there is an opportunity. But Hemsky hasn't scored 15 goals since the 2008-09 season and he's now 34 years old and played just 15 games last year.

Your mileage may vary but there is absolutely no scenario where he is on any of my teams. He doesn't exactly jump out as a Claude Julien-type guy, either.

 

6. Derek Ryan is having a solid preseason for the Hurricanes, which comes on the heels of a respectable 29-point showing through just 67 games last year. There is likely no upside with the 30-year-old forward but Ryan could carve out a big enough role to provide a modest fantasy floor in cavernous settings. He recorded eight power-play points while averaging 2:07 of ice time per game with the man advantage in 2016-17, and he's recorded three goals and an assist through two exhibition games. For what it's worth, he's scored in the AHL and during his four seasons playing in Europe.

 

7. Two years ago, Tyson Jost was playing in the BCHL. He's now missed the past week of training camp with a groin injury. I'm skeptical of Jost's ability to make two huge jumps in class in consecutive years, so potentially missing critical time preparing for the regular season amplifies the concern. He's a wait-and-see candidate in most settings.

 

8. Torey Krug will miss at least three weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his jaw. This is the type of injury that could linger and be an annoyance. Krug might have to wear a full shield, face mask or some other piece of protective gear when he returns and that can be a real challenge.

The overall impact to Krug's fantasy value is probably minor and Charlie McAvoy is the obvious recipient of a small fantasy boost. There is no reason to alter rankings for either defenseman but at the same time, it's not out of the question to look to another rearguard in the same tier instead of Krug.

McAvoy is probably going to gain enough steam leading into draft season to become even more of a risky investment. He's a well-inked rookie on a public team, who is also coming off an excellent postseason debut. There are going to be very few setups where someone doesn't target McAvoy aggressively.

 

9. On one hand, a new opportunity in Vegas might give James Neal that boost that he needs for his fantasy value. On the other hand, he could be viewed as an overvalued player.

In his three seasons on a Predators team that has more offensive weapons than the Golden Knights team that he is joining, Neal cracked the 25-goal mark and the 45-point mark just once. Granted, he missed at least 12 games in each of those two seasons., but there should also be an injury deduction for Neal, who has missed at least that many games in three of his last four seasons overall. Yes, he’s a Band-Aid Boy.

Neal could be leaned upon heavily in Vegas for top-line minutes and first-unit power-play time. But where are you drafting Jonathan Marchessault? What about Vadim Shipachyov? Maybe you’re targeting them but you’re not drafting them in the top 100, or even shortly after. We’ve gotten kind of used to ranking Neal high after his 81-point explosion in 2011-12 with Pittsburgh, but we shouldn’t be drafting him well before other Vegas forwards.

Where Neal could hold some real value, though, is if he is traded at the deadline. Should Neal find his way onto a line with a true top-end center (like Sidney Crosby when Neal was traded to Pittsburgh), then he would be a player to target.

 

10. Kailer Yamamoto, who was just drafted at 22nd overall (mainly because of his lack of size), is likely headed back to junior. I’d be curious of Yamamoto’s chances of making other NHL clubs, though, since the Oilers are obviously deep at the forward position from years of high draft picks.

Assuming he is back in the WHL, Yamamoto stands a strong chance of scoring 100 points (he reached 99 in 65 games last season), even though his season will probably be interrupted by the World Juniors again. Because of his strong camp, move Yamamoto up your keeper rankings.

 

11. I really hope Jakub Vrana gets an extended look with Evgeny Kuznetsov. Though he had just six points in 21 regular season games last year, including zero five-on-five goals, he has 75 points in 88 career regular season AHL games. He has long been considered a high-end offensive prospect, and in his stint with the Caps, spent it mostly in the bottom-six. He should have good chemistry with Kuznetsov, an extremely talented and creative centre. We’ll see if it actually sticks. He won’t get top power-play time but Vrana dynasty owners can start getting a bit excited.

 

12. In what can only be considered a fleecing, Arizona continued their solid offseason by trading for right-handed defenceman Jason Demers.

Not long ago, I mused that I was worried about Antti Raanta this year because the team in front of him still had a ways to go before contending for playoffs, but this changes things. Obviously, one non-elite defenceman doesn’t change everything, but this team now has a very solid top-four on the blue line with Oliver Ekman-Larsson / Niklas Hjalmarsson and Alex Goligoski / Demers. Once Jakob Chychrun is healthy, they’ll be able to boast a very solid defence corps from top to bottom. Things are looking up for Raanta and I’m a little more bullish on him in fantasy with this trade.

 

13. At first glance, Jay Bouwmeester's ankle injury is a blow to the Blues and in particular, Jake Allen. However, St. Louis has defensemen ready for work at the highest level and Joel Edmundson is likely ready for an extended role. Jordan Schmaltz is now seemingly a lock to crack the roster to begin the season.

Look for Jake Walman to crack the roster for Opening Night with a strong camp. He'll likely shuttle between the AHL and NHL most of this season. Vince Dunn is the other candidate and he has a full season of AHL duty under his belt finishing second in rookie-defensemen scoring.

 

14. Reader Steven Ives asks: Keeper league, which rookie do you take of: Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Dylan Strome?

The more I examine the numbers and scouting reports on Dobber Prospects on these three prospects, the more I believe that these three prospects are very closely valued.

Strome was the highest pick out of the three (third overall) but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be the highest valued of the group in single-season leagues. Coyotes’ prospects writer Keith Duggan on Strome: He's still an excellent prospect but it's probably going to be a slow adjustment for Strome into the pro ranks. Keep an eye on him in training camp and preseason, as with a strong camp he could begin 2017-18 as the Coyotes No. 2 center behind Derek Stepan. But with a weak camp could find himself beginning the year in the AHL.

There’s a possibility that Connor (who plays on the wing) could be the highest scorer of the three in 2017-18. He’s the only one with AHL experience and he could be ready to make the jump to the NHL. Barzal scored at a similar pace to Strome last season in junior (about two points per game), so we shouldn’t ignore his potential either. But if this is a keeper league and you have to make the choice, Strome has the highest upside.

 

15. Thought you might like to validate that you are coming to the right place. According to fantasyref.ca, DobberHockey’s overall rankings were listed as the top fantasy hockey rankings this past season! This was out of 11 fantasy hockey websites that projected goals, assists, points, and wins. See how their numbers were calculated here.

 

16. Uncertainty of his role is a big reason that David Backes is avoidable in drafts altogether. He won’t slot on the top line, which is where the prime minutes are. He won’t slot on the top power-play unit, which is given the lion’s share of the deployment. He might slot next to David Krejci on the second line, which would be okay for fantasy but he could also slot in the third line, which is a death knell.

I get wanting to draft him; he was a favourite of mine in roto leagues when he was slotting on the top line for the Blues. His across-the-board production was coveted. But a massive decline in ice time and an uncertain role at five-on-five with no role on the power play makes me nervous. I think last year’s production was about the high-water mark for him given his slotting on the Bruins roster. Without the upside, I’ll pass on where he’s going.

 

17. Joe Thornton is coming off knee surgery as a 38-year old. His ice time continues to decline, as does his shot rate. All this isn’t to say he doesn’t have value.

In a full year, Thornton can push for 50 assists, and in roto setups, that can be very valuable as it gives such a huge leg up in one category. I just don’t want to select him in the first 10 rounds of a 12-team league when there are so many options at the centre position. There are other players that can provide as many assists but are younger without the injury history that can be drafted later (like Alexander Wennberg).

 

18. The news that Zach Parise is battling a back injury should alter his rankings significantly. The last time Parise played at least 75 games, let alone close to a full year, was 2011-12. Over the last four seasons he has played 67, 74, 70, and 69 for an average of 12 games missed per season. Beyond that, a back injury for a 33-year old player is incredibly hard to stomach. Maybe he’s fine by the time Opening Night rolls around, or maybe it’s something that lingers with him for the rest of his career.

Beyond that, as he’s aged and the injuries have piled up, he’s earning a lot less ice time. In the lockout-shortened season – his first in Minnesota – he was given 20:40 per game. That has declined every year since, bottoming out at 17:26 last season, his lowest TOI since his rookie campaign in 2005-06. With the team as deep as it is on the wing, there is no real need to play him 19 or 20 minutes a game, let alone risk further injury. So, even though his shot rate has been pretty consistent for four years, his shots per game continue to decline and that’s bad for fantasy.

Even if he were healthy, a 25-goal, 60-point season would be his upside at the moment. That is in a full year with everything going right for him. Yet, even if the team says he’s healthy, I’m avoiding any 30-plus-year old player with back issues.

 

19. With 12 goals and 42 points, it was a very good year for Seth Jones. However, it’s another young blueliner that will prevent Jones from reaching his fantasy potential and will make the impending regression even worse.

At five-on-five last year, Jones shot 6.9 percent. The year before, it was 1.56. Going back to the start of his career, he managed 1.64, 5.68, and 4.09. That means he shot 1.31 percent higher last year than his previous career-high, a relative uptick of about 19 percent. That’s a lot. In fact, he scored eight five-on-five goals last year after having 10 (!) to his name for his first four years. It’s not like he will probably start shooting more, either, which could help mitigate a percentage drop, as his shot rate per minute last year was in line with his previous three seasons.

More than that, though, is the power-play issue. If the team keeps using a four-forward top unit with Zach Werenski on the blue line, he won’t be able to pile on the power-play points. With the impending goals drop, very little in the way of strong peripherals, and a lack of power-play production, it could be hard for him to live up to being a borderline top-25 defenseman in roto leagues.

Stil more than that, though, is the lack of upside; there are other d-men in the same range like John Carlson and Aaron Ekblad, who could legitimately be top-15 roto defensemen if things break right. I don’t see that for Jones so long as Werenski controls a significant portion of PP time.

 

20. If I don’t have one of the elite goalies like Carey Price or Braden Holtby on my fantasy roster, I don’t see the sense in using fourth, fifth, and sixth round picks on guys like Martin Jones, Jake Allen, Pekka Rinne, or Andrei Vasilevskiy. I’d rather just wait and hope to hit on guys like Brian Elliott or Scott Darling.
 

Have a good week, folks!!