My last ramblings discussed the sneaky value Evgeni Malkin provided in the PIM column. How I stumbled upon that stat grab was looking into Patrick Maroon, as the Oilers winger was one of just six players to post 25 goals, 40 points, 75 PIM and 150 shots last season.
Maroon obviously benefitted from playing with Connor McDavid last season, and investing in the power forward assumes the risk that Maroon and McDavid could land on separate lines for stretches and potentially lengthy ones. Still, with Maroon's cross-category profile in mind, he's definitely a high-upside target that will probably be undervalued next fall.
McDavid and Maroon combined for 3.62 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five this season, and McDavid's mark dropped to 3.41 without Maroon. The winger dropped to a 2.25 mark without the star pivot, so the fantasy floor is low if Maroon doesn't see consistent time on McDavid's flank.
Another interesting name on the above list is Nazem Kadri. He finished 31st on the ESPN Player Rater last year and is currently positioned 87th on Pete Jensen's NHL.com ranks. Kadri is likely to garner a little more fantasy attention, and the center position is much deeper, so he's not as intriguing from a value perspective.
Despite posting a career-high 32 goals, which also includes his highest power-play total (12), there aren't any obvious statistical outliers from Kadri's 2016-17 campaign. It will probably be tough to post a 13.6 shooting percentage again, so another 30-goal campaign might be asking a lot. However, he's locked into a go-to role with power-play time, so 25 goals are within reach. Additionally, his offensive vision and creativity should allow him to top last year's 29 helpers and enable him to flirt with 60 points for a second consecutive year.
The obvious barrier is maximizing his efficiency again, as Kadri averaged just 16:35 of ice time. With the Toronto youth movement in full force, he might also slide further into a defensive role with Auston Matthews taking over as the go-to No. 1 center, especially in offensive situations.
It's fitting that after discussing offensive players that also pile up penalty minutes it was Corey Perry that scored the game-winning goal in overtime Thursday. While he hasn't been a dominant player during the postseason, he's been dangerous and effective. He's up to four goals and 11 points through his past 13 games and has been on the ice for the most high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five of any Duck during the Western Conference finals.
Maybe that is dominant.
The real question is how much bounce back can we expect from Perry in 2017-18?
It's easy to pinpoint his career-low 8.8 shooting percent and holler that positive regression is ahead, but repeating his 16.0 mark from the previous three seasons might be too steep of a climb.
If he posts a 12.5 mark with a similar shot volume, he'll score between 25 and 30 goals, which is probably what we should expect. Add a similar assist total alongside solid power-play numbers, a good plus-minus rating and plenty of PIMs, and Perry's back to being a go-to fantasy asset.
Counting on a return to his 2013-14 production is foolish, and sometimes players over 30 hit a wall and a 20-goal, 50-point season is all Perry has left. That's still a nice floor considering his peripheral coverage.
One other mild concern is that Perry has the ability to raise his game to another level, and it's been obvious throughout the postseason. If you're in a must-win spot, he's one of the guys you want on the ice and on your team. Maybe the miles are adding up, and playing at that high level just isn't possible over an entire 82-game season. Perry has played a lot of hockey over the years, and he's won everything. Imagine how difficult it must be to get up for a game against New Jersey in November.
If the price is right, his cross-category ceiling and floor are solid mid-round targets, I'm just not sure he'll still be available in the sweet spot of drafts, though. He's also probably not as attractive in points-only settings. Perry will be a rare over-30 target of mine this fall.
Quickly touching on Game 4, Nashville forced its way back into the contest with a solid push in the third period. Anaheim took some untimely penalties late, and the Predators grabbed the momentum and tied the game. The most important aspect of the game was Nashville holding Anaheim to one goal during the first period. The Preds registered just two shots and six attempted shots in the first frame with Anaheim dominating the possession.
The Predators climbed out of the hole and started to generate chances late in the second and then put on the big push in the third period. After failing to seal the come-back win in overtime, Nashville might regret not taking the 3-1 stranglehold.
The Ducks are relentless and resilient, and the deeper this series goes, the more it favors Anaheim, right?
Winning two games at the Honda Center is going to be difficult, right?
One potential lineup swap that caught my attention Thursday was that the Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson line was being pushed around a little, and while still effective, the trio was missing an edge. The Oilers had success by spreading their physical wingers across a few lines, and it had me wondering if reuniting Forsberg and Johansen with James Neal wouldn't be an effective in-game juggle. Neal's presence would open more space and the trio has spent over 200 minutes together at five-on-five the past two seasons. Arvidsson's speed accomplishes the same thing, but moving him away from the tough matchups might also free him up for more offensive chances.
It's also worth highlighting that Game 5 is at 7:15 p.m. EST, so it's a quick turnaround for the injured players.
Much has been made about the offense the Nashville blue line is able to generate, and their aggressive pinching along the walls stood out in Game 4 on Thursday. There aren't 50-50 decisions, the Preds defensemen pinch aggressively for loose pucks without thinking twice and the high forward covers accordingly. On other teams, the forward will usually chases those pucks with the defenseman covering or playing conservatively, but the skating ability of Nashville's defensemen allow them to press the issue without significantly sacrificing their defensive position.
Mobile defensemen allow teams to utilize an interchangeable five-man attack that is more dangerous than the traditional three-forward, two-defenseman setup. It won't be long before the traditional positions and the accompanying expectations they carry that we're accustomed to become obsolete.
Expect Minnesota to make a serious move or two before next season. There are already a few rumors popping up (Michael Russo's Rants and Elliotte Friedman's 30 Thoughts), and Nino Niederreiter and Mathew Dumba are the two big names being tossed around.
It makes little sense to move Niederreiter, but flipping Dumba could be a worthwhile move. Minnesota has the defense depth to sustain the loss, and if a young rearguard that was NHL-ready was acquired, it would be easy to insulate and position him in a position to succeed immediately. The haul to acquire Dumba would likely be hefty.
As it stands, the Wild have approximately $11 million to re-sign Mikael Granlund and Niederreiter. They also have a expansion draft dilemma and are without a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. It's a wait-and-see situation, but the way things are trending, Jared Spurgeon, Charlie Coyle and Joel Ek Eriksson might be the biggest fantasy beneficiaries of the current swirling rumors.
Here's what general manager John Chayka had to say about recent signee Mario Kempe:
“He’s a dependable, two-way guy who plays with a lot energy, plays in all situations and is willing to be physical in a non-physical league so he has a chance to be that depth player, an energy guy.
At the end of the day it comes down to this: the two-way contract risk is limited so you step up to the plate and take a swing. You can’t be afraid of striking out. I’m tired of just watching and striking out looking. We have our eyes on a couple other European free agents as well. It’s a good, quick, efficient way to add depth to your organization.”
The quote is from an interesting read about the organization's financial constraints that limited European scouting. Arizona now has five scouts in Europe, and as noted, Chayka expects to ink more free agents from across the pond.
Additional quick-hit notes from the article that are of our fantasy interests are that Arizona will look to be more active in trades than the free-agent market, and that the Coyotes hope to make some trades leading up to the expansion draft.
Enjoy Game 4 between Pittsburgh and Ottawa tonight, Dobberheads.
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