Reviewing point total over/unders for Byfuglien, Backstrom, Ovechkin, Johnson, Duchene, MacKinnon and more.
The Midseason Guide will be released late on Friday afternoon, in time for your weekend midseason drafts or just for you to look things over and evaluate the second-half outlook. Besides the second-half projections, this beauty will also have players on the trade block (and what it means), prospects ready to make the jump for a dozen games down the stretch, the lowdown on undrafted or unsigned free agents (both in college and in Europe) and much more!
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Since we’ve reached the midway point in the season, let’s check in again on the pre-season player over/under bets that you could have made. The full list (over 100 in all) along with polls of what people thought at the time can be found here.
A number of those bets are no longer up in the air. For instance, Dylan Strome has been demoted and obviously won’t be surpassing the line 45.5 points that was set. On the other hand, Ryan Kesler’s sizzling play makes him a shoe-in to blow past the line of 51.5 points, of course, he could get hurt and rescue the under, which 80% of voters thought he would hit.
The majority of these are still in doubt and I’d like to examine a few of them:
Dustin Byfuglien over under 51.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
Byfuglien has been one of the best defensemen in the league and is still on pace for just 48 points. Blame the Jets’ miserable power play, which was one of the worst over the first couple of months. Thankfully, the team has started to get healthy and with that their power play has surged going 11 for 50 (22%) since the start of December. Byfuglien has 12 points and four power-play points in those 18 games, which is a 55-point pace.
Of course, this could all just be a blip on the radar. The injuries really haven’t stopped for the Jets as Patrik Laine is now out with a concussion. Byfuglien himself is no stranger to the injury bug having missed about six games on average over the past four seasons. He has already missed one thus far.
I wish I felt confident one way or the other but the bottom line is that I would expect Byfuglien to finish in the neighbourhood of 50 points and luck could push that number five points either way.
Matt Duchene over under 59.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
Duchene is one of the few Avalanche players who haven’t been hit hard by the team’s dreadful play and he is still on pace for just 53 points. He has been in a funk lately with just two points in his last nine games but still has a 14.8% shooting percentage.
Of course, with all the trade rumours swirling anything could happen. Bottom line: regression is more likely to help than hurt Duchene even with a shooting percentage on the high end.
Nathan MacKinnon over under 58.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
It’s nearly a dead split on MacKinnon, which is interesting because 96% of voters hit the over back in the pre-season. Hope is dwindling but not lost. I like the over. MacKinnon is still on pace for 57 points despite how poorly things are going. Sure, injuries could screw this but you could say that for anyone. Assuming good health, I’d bank on regression getting MacKinnon up to the 60-point mark.
Sidney Crosby over under 93.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
Crazy to see how this one has flipped since the pre-season. Sure, we all expect Crosby to score over a point per game but with his injury track record we all assume that he won’t play enough games to get there. Even having missed six games already, Crosby is on pace for 101 points but if he misses more time he’ll like go under and I’d still count on that.
Tyler Johnson over under 49.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
This one was one of my pre-season locks and it is in serious jeopardy. Unlike the past couple of seasons, Johnson hasn’t missed any time and yet he is still on pace for just 47 points. He also hasn’t experienced a shooting percentage slump as he is currently at 14.3%. More over, half of his 24 point have come on the power play so this isn’t a usage issue. Johnson just isn’t producing at even strength despite a favourable deployment:
There is a small IPP effect in play as Johnson has only registered points on 58.5% of goals while he’s been on the ice but that would only have cost him a couple of points. More damaging is the reality that the Lightning are losing the possession battle when Johnson is out there. This is likely related to their poor team defense as a whole. Barring some defensive help, this one could go down to the wire.
Alex Ovechkin over under 75.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
Nicklas Backstrom over under 74.5 points?— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) January 7, 2017
After going off last night these two are on pace for 68 and 70 points respectively. They are so good that they’ll make it close but as we’ve discussed all season, their usage is down nearly a minute and a half per game from their peak and doesn’t appear to be heading anywhere but down as the season wears on.
It is worth pointing out that the Capitals are still in a Wild Card spot despite rattling off five straight wins, this thanks to a lighter first half schedule but also due to playing in the league’s toughest division.
Perhaps there is hope that they start to extend their stars in the second half to push for home ice advantage but it seems more likely that they will stay the course to keep these guys fresh for playoffs, which is more important.
Also, don’t sleep on the potential advantage of sticking in the #1 Wild Card slot and crossing over to the Atlantic. I don’t think anyone wants to face Montreal in the playoffs but the Atlantic bracket is a lot more enticing than the Metro side.
Final Washington thought: this team has one of the worst schedules for the fantasy playoffs in standard head-to-head leagues which run from March 13 to April 2. In that span they only play 10 games, which is on the lower end. More importantly, they only have six games during the first two weeks and all of those games are played on the dense Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
You aren’t going to dump Ovechkin or Backstrom because of a poor schedule but realize that if you have either of them in your lineup come fantasy playoffs, they are going to limit your roster flexibility and streaming options.
Since the game that Aleksander Barkov got hurt, Vincent Trocheck has four goals and eight points. I don’t usually get happy about injuries but considering I took Barkov in no pools (exactly because he gets hurt so frequently) and now have Trocheck in every pool, I’d say this one is working out for me.
Barkov is due to miss another three weeks, which means another eight or nine games. Take your time.
The injuries for the Panthers simply will not end. Denis Malgin was hurt on a boarding penalty by Pavel Zacha. Malgin isn’t exactly fantasy relevant, but the Panthers are going to be forced to use another replacement-level player in a lineup becoming loaded with them.
I am starting to get excited about Cory Schneider. Sure, he had the meltdown against the Leafs last week but he has four quality starts in his last five outings. They are heading on a Western road trip that takes them through Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Minnesota but that’s likely a reprieve from the beatings they have been taking in their Metro division contests. Could be a hot run for Schneider. I am daring to be optimistic.
The Jets’ lines with Laine out:
Drew Stafford notched an assist and could make for a decent short-term pickup. Nikolaj Ehlers is one of the hottest players in the league, extending his scoring streak to five games, with 13 points in his last 10. That’s good company to keep.
Evgeny Kuznetsov now has eight points in the last four games. Things can turn around that quickly for a superstar:
more angles pic.twitter.com/POqod6Vd8R— GIF Grand Maester (@myregularface) January 10, 2017
Once the Kings chased Lehtonen, Antti Niemi came on in relief. He only needed to make one save to earn the win.
Speaking of slump-busting, Jiri Hudler scored his first goal of the season and added an assist. He skated on the top line with Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza, which is almost as good as getting to face Lehtonen but not quite.
The Oilers finally pulled the trigger on demoting Puljujarvi, a move we’ve all been pining for. Of course, there’s very little fantasy relevance to this, except for those in keeper leagues with games-played limits for minors eligibility. Otherwise, it’s just an unproductive third/fourth liner getting dropped to the minors.
Of course, the hope is that Puljujarvi learns more playing 18 minutes a game in the AHL than he was playing eight minutes a game in the NHL. This situation is all too reminiscent of when the Oilers kept Leon Draisaitl around for half of his rookie season before finally demoting him. I think Draisaitl has turned out okay.
It is certainly worth asking why Puljujarvi was kept around as long as he was. For instance, he could have been released for the World Junior tournament a couple of weeks ago. Puljujarvi was always going to burn a year off his entry-level deal but by waiting as long as they did, the Oilers have now pushed him a year closer to unrestricted free agency, which will hurt their leverage on a long-term deal somewhere down the line. There’s an extensive discussion of this taking place in the forum. (Join the conversation!)
I can’t think of a good excuse for this beyond that the Oilers will likely have Puljujarvi back up before the end of the season. I also wonder what impact Tyler Pitlick’s injury had on things. Furthermore, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate just participated in an outdoor game that was played despite an absurd amount of rain. Did they want to shield him from potentially adverse conditions? That might be giving them too much benefit of the doubt. It’s all speculation at this point.
In keeper leagues, use this demotion as a chance to acquire Puljujarvi at a lower price.
As for Jonas Gustavsson getting waived, if the Oilers can find a legitimate backup then Cam Talbot might lose some starts. He has been on the Marty Brodeur plan all season and is on pace for 72 starts. Now, I don’t think that such a workload guarantees Talbot will wear out but I do have some concerns about injury.
The Oilers’ top goaltending prospect Laurent Brossoit has some NHL experience but has struggled at the AHL level this season being outplayed by first-year pro Nick Ellis. This suggests the Oilers might have a trade in the works. Or they are simply going to claim Curtis McElhinney who the Blue Jackets also waived yesterday. That would be a sideways move, however.
Check out Ian Gooding on the latest episode of the Fantasy Fix Podcast. It’s a good listen as Ian dishes on some of the hottest players in the league like Anthony Mantha, Bo Horvat and Michael Grabner.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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