Marner, Kuznetsov, Zetterberg (Aug 23)
If you haven’t heard by now, Yahoo Fantasy Hockey has opened for business for the 2017-18 season.
Tom has already weighed in with his top 10 on players ranked too low. It sounds as though Yahoo is a little premature in rolling out its fantasy hockey if its rankings aren’t ready. This seems to reflect a growing digital media trend that getting there early is more important than getting there flawlessly.
If Yahoo waits until September, there may be some deep leagues that need to get their offseason activity going. Or it could be allowing more dates for the growing number of live drafts.
Continuing one of the themes of my last few Ramblings, Yahoo has already updated the positional eligibility for several forwards. Unfortunately, Mikael Granlund, J.T. Miller, and Teuvo Teravainen are no longer eligible at all three forward positions.
— Pete Jensen (@NHLJensen) August 21, 2017
Unlike Mike Clifford, my offseason Ramblings really don’t follow a plan as far as what I’m going to write about. So I’m going to pick players that have recently been drafted in my auction-style keeper league (bids placed by forum posts). So here’s a shoutout to the 11 other dedicated guys who play in this league, at least some of which I know are reading this. To the rest of you, it will be like a random player generator.
Some hockey pundits are predicting that the Leafs will take a small step back in 2017-18 after taking a giant leap forward in 2016-17. How much could that affect a scorer like Marner, who if not for teammate Auston Matthews would have received strong consideration for the Calder Trophy.
Honestly, there isn’t anything that would lead me to believe that a downturn is imminent. Marner absolutely racked up points in the OHL (two 100+ point seasons). His shooting percentage was a relatively normal 10.8 percent. He recorded 24 primary assists as opposed to 18 secondary assists, which is good but not great.
If there is a downside, it could be that his point total is assist-heavy (42 assists compared to just 19 goals). But he has goal-scoring ability, as evidenced from junior by 44 goals in 63 games one year and 39 goals in 57 games in another. You just have to remember to supplement him with goal scorers if you draft him. But a 50-assist season is well within reach. Only eight players reached that total last season.
On a side note, and because I won’t let go of the position eligibility discussion, Marner is listed as both a C and RW on Yahoo, but only a C on CBS. Marner took a grand total of 47 faceoffs last season, so I don’t know how you can tell me he is a center. Any Marner owner would rightfully prefer that his player be a right wing, because you’re talking about eligibility at the shallowest forward position as opposed to the deepest.
I remember a friend of mine who is a Capitals fan mentioning to me a while ago that as long as Nicklas Backstrom is a Capital, Kuznetsov won’t reach his full potential. Kuznetsov owners who witnessed their player drop 18 points from his 77-point career high in 2015-16 are no doubt looking for answers here.
I am bringing up Kuznetsov because in my league that I mentioned earlier, Kuznetsov’s auction value was less than half of Marner’s. Does that seem right to you? Marner finished with only two more points than Kuznetsov. Are fantasy owners really that down on Kuznetsov after failing to crack 60 points last season?
A glance at the top 250 rankings from NHL.com shows Marner ranked at 33 and Kuznetsov at 44, while Yahoo has Marner at 31 and Kuznetsov at 47. If you’re thinking more long term, the Dobber keeper rankings have Kuznetsov at 23 and Marner at 25. Personally, I think the owner who won Kuznetsov made off like a bandit here.
With Kuznetsov, the goal totals (19 in 2016-17 and 20 in 2015-16) are basically a wash. So we should look for reasons that the assist total decreased from 57 in 2015-16 to 40 in 2016-17. During that time, his assists per 60 plummeted from 2.39 in 2015-16 to 1.73 in 2016-17, while primary assists decreased from 43 in 2015-16 to 23 in 2016-17.
Power-play time wasn’t the reason, though. Kuznetsov’s power-play time per game only declined from 2:11 in 2015-16 to 2:00 in 2016-17, while his power-play assists only decreased from 18 to 14. Kuznetsov was mainly used on the second-unit power play over both these seasons, but I did mention in my Marcus Johansson trade analysis that the departure of Johansson could mean that Kuznetsov is good for another 5-10 power-play points should he move up to the first unit. This doesn’t include any even-strength point increase on top of that.
So if you’re drafting players strictly based on sorting last year’s point totals, Kuznetsov may fall farther than he should. It’s understood that he won’t line up beside Alex Ovechkin in even-strength situations very often. So if you were targeting Marner but happen to miss out, Kuznetsov is a very comparable alternative based on both his point total and goal/assist concentration.
If you’re attempting to forecast the Golden Knights’ defense, you might not have an easy time with that (NHL.com). The new expansion team currently have 12 defensemen, half of which can dress for a game. Interestingly enough, only two of those blueliners have right-handed shots (Deryk Engelland and Colin Miller). That should help the odds of both of these players.
This is something to think about if you are targeting Shea Theodore for his offensive ability. Theodore obviously has the most offensive upside in the group, but we’ve witnessed defensive-obsessive coaches healthy scratch these kinds of defensemen from time to time (Shayne Gostisbehere last season comes to mind).
Something for keeper leaguers to keep in the ol’ memory bank: Henrik Zetterberg only plans to stick around for another two more seasons and plans to forego the final two years of his contract (Sportsnet).
It’s easy to project Zetterberg for a point decline in 2017-18 after his point total increased by 18 in 2016-17. What’s really ironic about that overall increase is that his power-play point total actually decreased from 24 in 2015-16 to 15 in 2016-17. So we’re talking about a 27 even-strength-point increase from a 36 year old player. Sure, his shooting percentage increased by 2.5 percent. But his point increase was mainly from assists.
It's also worth mentioning that Zetterberg cranked up the production during the second half, scoring 40 points in his last 41 games. So it's fair to say that he was on a few winning fantasy teams last season.
A look at Zetterberg’s most frequent line combinations shows considerable time with Tomas Tatar. His chemistry with Tatar seems to be a significant factor for the reversal of his age-related decline, as he spent far less time with Tatar in 2015-16. The benefit didn’t seem to be mutual, however, as Tatar’s point total over each of the last two seasons has basically remained the same.
Assuming Zetterberg sticks with Tatar, I would project only a minor point decrease from Zetterberg, but not a massive one. But one piece of news that Zetterberg owners will need to keep track of is the status of Tatar, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery with a recovery time of 4 to 6 months. Tatar is still projected to be ready to start the season, though.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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