Ramblings: ‘Canes Lose Late; Ovi Racks Points; Morrissey’s Production – January 13

by Michael Clifford on January 13, 2018 | (15 Comments)
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: ‘Canes Lose Late; Ovi Racks Points; Morrissey’s Production – January 13

Victor Hedman will be out three to six weeks, according to the team. That timeline puts him back in the lineup anywhere from just after the All-Star Game until nearly the trade deadline. That is a huge blow for his fantasy owners, presuming they don't have Mikhail Sergachev on their rosters. He will, presumably, assume the top PP duties as he did after Hedman was injured in their most recent game. 

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The Columbus power play connected again last night, this time against Vancouver. After an abysmal start to the year, the Jackets power play now has 10 goals in their last 15 games going back nearly a month.

It’s worth noting that after Christmas, the team went to the two-defencemen setup with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. They’ve also been skating most often with Artemi Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois. When the Jackets have those four on the ice since they were put together, the team is generating over 125 shot attempts/60 minutes on the power play. They’ve only played a little over 20 minutes together, so *extreme small sample alert*. However, that number is lightyears ahead of what the team was accomplishing before, putting up well under 90 shot attempts per 60 minutes.

Could the team using two defencemen be the turning point this power play needs? Maybe it is. The early returns are very promising. As always, please beware of a small sample like seven games, but at least they’re not wasting time as they were earlier in the year. If this works, it could be the missing piece the team needs, and would be a huge boost for fantasy owners of anyone on that top unit.

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What, exactly, are fantasy owners hoping for with Alex Wennberg? He’s now 248 games into his career (before Friday night’s game), and that’s just over three full seasons. In those 248 career games, he has 29 goals and 334 shots. On an 82-game basis, that’s 10 goals and 110 shots. That isn’t in minimal ice time, either, that’s with nearly 17 minutes a game with infrequent penalty killing. Those might be passable numbers for a second-pair defenceman, not a top-six centre that was expected to be a significant fantasy contributor.

I get it, he had a load of PP points last year. That was a poor power play that rode a super-hot first-half to relevance. That is not a good power play, and with the emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois, there’s no real need to force Wennberg on the top PP unit anymore. So I ask again, what are fantasy owners hoping for from Wennberg? His absolute upside would be a season like Ryan Johansen had last year, and that was a top-100 fantasy season. What if he’s David Desharnais, circa 2015 instead?

Wennberg doesn’t have the skillset or role to be a significant fantasy contributor year in and year out. This seems to be a case where he’s a much more valuable real-world player than fantasy option.

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Don’t forget to grab your copy of the Dobber Midseason Guide that dropped yesterday! It has everything you need to dominate down the stretch run of roto leagues or heading into head-to-head playoffs. Just head on over to the Dobber Shop!

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Thomas Vanek had two assists, both with the man advantage, to lead the Canucks to a 5-2 win over Columbus. He now has 31 points (13 of the PP variety) on the season. He also had this sweet feed, even if it did tip off a skate in front:

It’s discussed in the Midseason Guide’s section on trade potential, but Vanek is most certainly going to be gone at the deadline. He’s been very good in helping the Canucks provide scoring down the lineup for most of the year. He’s still a very good scorer, and that’s not easy to come by.

By the way, Boone Jenner had six shots on goal in this game, and is now up to 100 shots on the season with just four goals. He shot 11.3 percent over the first 267 games of his career. Be patient, fantasy owners. The goals are coming (let’s just hope it’s this year and not next).

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Evgenii Dadonov had a couple goals while playing over 20 minutes in the loss to Calgary. It's nice to see him back on the top line consistently along with the power-play minutes. Let's hope he sticks. 

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Quick shout out to Mike Smith, who sits as a top-10 fantasy goalie and likely will be when the Flames hit their bye week break after Sunday’s game against Carolina. I was skeptical about acquiring a 35-year old goalie to help them solidify things in net at a level we really haven’t seen since Miikka Kiprusoff; the team had been in the bottom-half of the league in five-on-five save percentage each of the previous five seasons, and in the bottom-five teams on three separate occasions (they’re ninth this year). They never needed best-in-the-league work between the pipes, they just needed to not be near the bottom of the league. Smith has been everything they’ve needed and more. If they get to the playoffs, he’ll be a big reason why, and that certainly feels like a weird sentence to type out. Let’s hope he can keep it up for the second half.

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Not that it has anything to do with fantasy, but I got a kick out of this:

The guy is a machine. That contract is looking real, real good.

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Jay Beagle scored with one second left on the clock to give Washington a 4-3 win over Carolina on Friday night. Carolina was up 3-2 with fewer than 200 seconds left before Brett Connolly tied it up on a brutal turnover from Noah Hanifin. It honestly looked like the Caps were content with waiting out the final 15 seconds on the clock, but the Hurricanes pressured, Alex Ovechkin raced up the ice with the puck, and the rest is history:

Ovechkin had a goal and two assists, including a power-play point. He’s now on pace for 38 assists, which would be the highest for him in a single season since 2010-11. That power-play point was also his 17th PP point of the season, and he well on his way of surpassing last year’s total of 26.

Sebastian Aho also had a goal and an assist in this one, and he’s on pace for 69 points. Nice.

Jakub Vrana had a power-play assist on Lars Eller’s goal, Vrana’s first PP assist of the season.

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Vrana has been something of a revelation for the Caps this year. With Marcus Johansson gone and TJ Oshie’s new contract ensuring they weren’t bringing in a top-tier left winger, the Caps were in need of either Vrana or Andre Burakovsky to take a step forward and occupy that second-line left wing position. The former has been able to do just that.

In terms of primary points per 60 minutes this year (goals plus first assists), Vrana’s 1.33 is mid-pack among Caps forwards, ahead of Nicklas Backstrom’s 1.27 and Oshie’s 1.03. He’s also fourth among Caps forwards in shot attempts per 60 minutes, trailing Alex Ovechkin, Lars Eller, and Devante Smith-Pelly. He’s also the youngest player in the league with at least 10 goals, two shots on goal per game, and one power-play point or fewer. That last fact is important; he could crack 20 goals this year with only a couple coming on the man advantage. Playing basically third-line minutes. Not bad.

With the obvious caveat that this is using data (via Corey Sznajder and CJ Turtoro) from a limited number of games, Vrana ranks very well next to another young left winger who is much more highly thought of in terms of zone entries/exits as well as shot assists and shot rates:

This does not say that Vrana is as skilled as Forsberg, as well-rounded, or a host of other mitigating factors. What it says is that Vrana, in a small sample, did things that lead to generating shots and scoring chances at a similar rate to a player who is regarded as one of the best at his position. It is far from conclusive about anything, but is certainly a good start to Vrana’s career.

Just watching him – and I’ve watched a lot of Caps games this year largely to just watch him and Kuznetsov – but he’s confident with the puck while possessing the skills to do so. At the drop of a hat, he can take off and cut through the neutral zone seemingly, at times, with ease. He’s a joy on the ice. 

The problem for fantasy, of course, is that Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Oshie are all locked up for at least two more years. That means it’s unlikely Vrana gets any meaningful power-play minutes in the near-future, which caps his upside and hurts his fantasy value. He is doing everything that can be asked of him, though, and is performing extremely well in the role he’s been given. This might be the time to buy him in dynasty because there is evidence emerging that he’s very good offensively, yet the raw production isn’t there yet because of his role. If fantasy owners wait a year, it may be too late.

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David Kampf scored his first NHL goal for the Blackhawks in their 2-1 win against Winnipeg. Anthony Duclair garnered his first point with Chicago, assisting on Jan Rutta’s second-period goal. It’s worth noting that Duclair was also on the top power-play unit with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane even if he was skating on the third line. That’s not a bad spot to be for fantasy production if he can stick there.

Jeff Glass stopped 31 of 32 in the win, though the Jets did hit three posts in the final five minutes. Sometimes, we all need a little help from our friends. 

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Due to the other names on the Winnipeg blue line, it’s pretty easy to forget about Josh Morrissey. After all, Dustin Byfuglien has been a top defenceman for years and Jacob Trouba is expected is assume that mantle in the next year or two if he hasn't already. Morrissey, though, is off to a great start in his career. Not just as a rookie or sophomore or as a young defenceman, but among all defencemen league-wide:

They are clearly hoping for Morrissey to become a shutdown defenceman, which is why he and Trouba have been eating a lot of the tough minutes for over a month now. That’s partly due to Dustin Byfuglien’s injury, but they have started to reduce Byfuglien’s minutes with him back in the lineup.

With Byfuglien signed for a few years more, Tyler Myers having a year left, Trouba hopefully being re-signed, and the wealth of talent among the forwards, like Vrana, it’s doubtful Morrissey can reach his full fantasy potential because of a lack of power-play time. He could fall into that Alec Martinez-type territory: push for double-digit goals, 30-plus points, and solid peripheral numbers. It’s far from what he’s capable should he ever earn 2+ minutes of PP time per game, but it’s still valuable in roto leagues.

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  • Allan Phillips

    Do you think that cutting back Big Buf’s minutes will make him somewhat less fantasy-relevant? I have an opportunity to trade him for Patrick Kane in my roto league where I have a big lead. If I trade him, he will likely end up in the hands of another contender, but as a guy who fills the score sheet, I don’t want him to wind up exploding. Obviously less likely if they are cutting back his minutes. I would still have EK, Werenski, McAvoy, Colin Miller & Petry.

  • anonymouse

    I’m sorta thinking that Vrana is last years Mikko Rantanen from last year. Will put up very solid numbers for a rookie and has the potential to take off next year.

    Also, glad that Daddy’s finally getting some love. The guy is so talented, he’s not just cherry picking off his linemates like Namestnikov and Couturier have been doing, he really helps drive that line. He helps Barkov and Huberdeau a lot more than, say, Nick Bjugstad

  • Striker

    Do you see Trouba staying in Winnipeg. He has arbitration rights this summer & can force a 2 year deal making himself a UFA coming out of such. I don’t see Trouba staying in Winnipeg. I’m sure they will do everything they can to convince him to stay but he simply doesn’t want to be there. Chevy forced a 2 year bridge deal on him but now the leverage swings to Trouba. I’d say Winnipeg is better served to trade him before he uses his leverage & reduces his trade value for them.

    They would be best served to trade him this summer to 1 of the teams he would be willing to sign with long term.

    It’s going to be interesting to watch how this plays out. If Trouba becomes available there will be an incredible bidding war. This type of Dman is by far the rarest commodity in the NHL. A solid 2 way Dman that can play it anyway you want, young & RH.

    • Michael Clifford

      I’m assuming he stays, I don’t know whether he likes it there or not. I don’t know him personally.

      • Striker

        Just the opposite for me. I see no way he stays past the trade deadline of that 2nd year. No slight to Win, a great young team but he has marketing aspirations & just not possible in Win.

      • MarkRM16

        The odds of him sticking around must be higher now that the Jets are doing so well. There’d be more desire on his part to leave a city he dislikes while also playing on a bad team.

    • Karl Paquette

      I was just listening to sportsnet and a JETS Insider was saying the exact opposite. That peopl are drawing their own conclusions based on the contract hold out- but that he very much DOES want to be there. Ive heard this sentiment more than once. I dont think hes going anywhere…

      • Striker

        That would be awesome. I hate it when teams aren’t able to retain these types of assets. Virtually irreplaceable. There may be 12 of these types of Dman in the entire NHL today & at this age far less.

  • Striker

    No slight to Slavin, great Dman but in that highlight, really low light, had he not been trying to play the puck, trying to block a pass & taking his man Beagle who scored, Carolina wouldn’t have lost that game with .5 of a second left. it that situation his job is to take away the pass we were taught that all the way thru minor hockey.

    • Michael Clifford

      that final sequence was a nightmare for everyone on the ice. Lots of blame to go around.

      • Striker

        I didn’t watch the game, wanted to watch Duclair’s 1st game in Chi. Did catch the high lights & low lights though.

  • GNB

    I appreciate the Mike Smith shout-out but why no love for Rittich as he’s the one one who got the win last night?

    • Michael Clifford

      because I thought it would be worth mentioning the guy who has been fantasy-irrelevant for half a decade suddenly being a top-10 goalie and possibly leading a team to the postseason for the third time in ten years

      • MarkRM16

        It’s especially relevant given his age and the fact that he’s actually stayed healthy for a good stretch, too.

      • Allan Phillips

        He always been a good goalie, but with the horrible D in front of him in Arizona, no one could look good. A little bit of Jakob Markstrom syndrome – if you always play on a team with crappy D, how does anyone tell how good a goalie you are?