20 Fantasy Thoughts: Jonathan Drouin emerging as a star

Watch as Jonathan Drouin shows off his speed by skating right past the San Jose Sharks to score.

Every Sunday this season, we’ll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from the writers at Dobber Hockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s “Daily Ramblings” on DobberHockey.com.

1. Maybe Father Time is catching up with the 37-year-old Roberto Luongo, who let in another four goals on Friday. Since December 5, Lu hasn’t been the greatest thing for your fantasy team, posting a dreadful 3.32 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Over that same stretch, James Reimer has a 2.17 GAA and a .930 save percentage.

Despite Luongo’s age, you may not have seen this coming. Lu’s GAA and save percentage had remained relatively stable since the 2011-12 season, and the analytics-focused Panthers appeared to be on the way up. But in spite of the fancy stats, the Cats are in the top-third in the league in shots allowed (31.6/game). Luongo is owned in 89 percent of Yahoo leagues. Reimer is owned in just 36 percent. If you own Luongo, you better find a way to handcuff Reimer if he’s still available.

2. With his goal and two assists on Saturday, Filip Forsberg now has seven goals and nine points over his last three games. If you own Forsberg, you’ve experienced the extreme valley and peak first hand. But if not, I’ll tell you that Forsberg didn’t score his third goal of the season until December 13 – a span of 28 games. Now he’s on pace for 31 goals, 61 points, and 230 SOG. This is why you bet on talent. I know that he’s not had the breakout season you hoped for but a repeat of last season isn’t that bad.

It’s also worth noting how Forsberg has done all this damage without much impact on the power play. Last season he scored eight goals and 23 points with the man advantage. This season, he has just two goals and seven points while up a man with the same type of ice time he had last season on the Predators’ top unit.

3. Forsberg isn’t the only red-hot Predator. Ryan Johansen has six goals in three games this week. He has yet to score his 10th goal of the season, but he’s a top-10 option when it comes to assists. As long as you know what you’re getting when you draft him, you just have to plan to get the goals from someone else.

4. Of Morgan Rielly’s 22 points this season, only four have been scored with the man advantage. Yes, it’s fair to say that Mike Babcock is killing Rielly’s fantasy value. But with the league’s top-ranked power play (tied with Minnesota at 22.8 percent), Babcock won’t be changing his power play anytime soon. That power play currently has Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev ahead of Rielly.

I’d give Rielly a 60-point ceiling, which is contingent on him receiving first-unit power-play minutes. I think time on the top power-play unit will happen sometime in his career, just not this season. If this season is any indication, there should be a lot of scoring to go around in Toronto for many seasons to come.

5. If you drafted Jonathan Quick and left him on IR since he was injured in the first game of the season, you were finally rewarded on Saturday. Quick made his long-awaited return by stopping 32 of 33 shots in a 4-1 win against the Ducks. Quick appeared ready for the task in this game, so you probably shouldn’t have to worry about him performance-wise going forward. Wins might be more of a challenge than normal, however, with the Kings’ offence in the bottom third of the league.

Don’t toss Peter Budaj to the waiver wire yet if possible. The Kings play back-to-backs on Monday and Tuesday, so he should start one of those games. Even though the Kings are fighting for a playoff spot, you’d have to think that Darryl Sutter won’t overwork his top goalie.

6. Saturday’s game against the Ducks also featured a Kings reunion of That 70s Line, with Tanner Pearson recording three assists and Jeff Carter scoring a goal and an assist. With Anze Kopitar struggling mightily, That 70s Line has to be considered the de facto top unit for the Kings.

7. With no points in 14 games, Victor Rask had been dropped in many leagues to the point where he was owned in just 15 per cent of Yahoo leagues. But the points slump ended on Friday with an assist. Goals-wise, though, he’s now at 15 games and counting without one.

Sebastian Aho had also been cold, recording just one point over his previous six games. But he also recorded an assist on Friday while firing six shots on goal. He wasn’t the only Cane to shoot the puck on Friday, as Jordan Staal took eight shots on goal while scoring a goal and adding an assist. My best explanation for the Hurricanes is that they seem to be a team that scores by committee.

8. The Blackhawks have the uncanny ability to turn suspect players into solid contributors – one current case in point being Richard Panik. Though only 24, new acquisition Tomas Jurco has zero points in 16 games this season. That’s right, zero. Plus if you go back to last season, Jurco has now gone 25 consecutive games without a point. So, if the Hawks want to turn Jurco into a solid contributor, they’ll have their work cut out for them.

Jurco will need to start at the bottom and work his way up in Chi Town.

9. Patrick Eaves was held without a point in his first game with the Ducks. Randy Carlyle seemed to experiment with where to put him, flip-flopping him between Corey Perry’s line and Ryan Getzlaf’s. Eaves saw 16 minutes of ice time, including 2:42 on the second-unit power play.

Back in Dallas, I think Patrick Sharp would benefit in the short term with Eaves’s departure. Sharp hasn’t reached Jurco-level proportions of mediocrity, but it’s fair to say he’s been a massive disappointment if you drafted him and kept him on your team all season. I realize he scored 55 points last season, but remember that the Stars seemed to massively overachieve. Maybe if he stays healthy there’s a late-season surge in him, but I wouldn’t blame you at all if you simply decided to move on.

10. Corey Perry is on pace for just 55 points, his lowest total in a full season since 2007-08. Perry has only four goals since Dec. 15, a span of 33 games. His shooting percentage is an abysmal six per cent, much lower than his career 13 per cent. Perry is now 31, so there could be some age-related decline in his shot velocity. But the possibility of a late-season turnaround should remain, so don’t try to actively shop him.

11. Three games without Michael Stone and two goals for Jakob Chychrun. I don’t think there’s a causation here but I like seeing these flashes from Chychrun, even if I’m not a big believer in his long-term potential.

More intriguing to me is Anthony DeAngelo, who skated 19:48 Thursday in his return from the AHL. He went scoreless with three SOG and a bunch of usage on the second PP unit. DeAngelo has big upside even though Oliver Ekman-Larsson is entrenched as the Coyotes’ number-one. They have shown a willingness to use two defencemen on the top PP unit, even as the league trends towards the one-defenceman look.

Whether or not there’s top unit PP time for DeAngelo long-term will certainly affect his upside but his ability to click with Alex Goligoski will be key in determining what he can do at even strength. Goligoski was a big factor in unleashing John Klingberg in Dallas. He could have a similar impact on DeAngelo.

12. Ryan Callahan is done for the year, in case you were holding out hope. Where this gets interesting is that it opens up some cap space for the Lightning to add and also closes the door on the possibility that Callahan could help their thinning forward group. Suddenly this team might be looking for offensive and defensive help, although rookie Jake Dotchin has been a revelation for its blue line.

The East playoff race is insane but the Lightning’s window for contention is now. Can’t imagine they want to wave the white flag and become sellers. Although I’d be awfully tempted to go that way if I were an NHL GM. Everyone is trying to buy right now. Zig when everyone else is zagging. You could take a similar approach in your fantasy league as the deadline approaches

13. If the Lightning do wave the white flag, the trade market could explode in a hurry. They’ve got dudes like Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, and Ondrej Palat looking to get paid in restricted free agency, on top of Brian Boyle and Ben Bishop hitting unrestricted free agency.

14. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins seems to be going through the struggles that Nazem Kadri went through last year. His shot volume is up, on pace for a career high 212, but his shooting percentage is down, and his linemates cannot score either. Jordan Eberle has been particularly snake-bitten, while Milan Lucic is taking shots from further and further out, instead of getting into the high-danger areas.

What’s interesting is that Nugent-Hopkins has gotten that shot volume up despite losing minutes, down to 17:46 per game from 19:04 a year ago. Much of that drop has come on the PP, but some at even strength as well. The only place his minutes are up is on the penalty kill. It is clear that Nugent-Hopkins is being used in a more defensive role but there should still be room for him to produce at or around a fantasy relevant level. It just doesn’t appear to be happening this season.

15. In the long term, I don’t think Josh Leivo has scoring-line upside. But if he can keep producing like this early on then he can carve himself an NHL career as a productive third-liner. The odds have been against him – I myself had ruled him out simply due to the numbers game and his penchant for injury. But whenever he’s in the NHL he seems to step up.

16. I love Kevin Labanc’s future with the Sharks, especially with the aging core that is currently ahead of him. Big ‘buy’ recommend in keeper formats. He’ll be worth the wait and you won’t have to wait long.

17. Newly-acquired Ron Hainsey made his Penguins debut in the Stadium Series game, already taking on top-four minutes on the club’s injury-depleted defence. The Pens were without Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, and Trevor Daley for this game. Hainsey should log plenty of minutes over the next few weeks, although his contributions to fantasy teams will likely be minimal.

18. I wonder if Pittsburgh would re-acquire Jussi Jokinen. Florida doesn’t need him now that they’re back to full health, whereas Pittsburgh’s possible undoing in the playoffs could be injuries – and we’ve seen how shallow they are up front. Scott Wilson, Carter Rowney, and Josh Archibald are adequate but the versatile and experienced Jokinen would be a better depth option.

The 33-year-old has 11 points in his last 10 games, pushing his value back up. He’s signed through 2017-18 at $4 million, but GM Jim Rutherford indicated that he’d be fine with helping his team now and worry about next year’s cap hit after the playoffs.

19. How many more dazzling plays does Jonathan Drouin need to make before we start reconsidering the Drouin-or-Nathan MacKinnon debate we all had in their draft year? The correct answer turned out to be neither. Aleksander Barkov is the cat’s pyjamas but MacKinnon’s inability to convert shot volume into actual goals has resulted in stagnation that has Drouin back in the conversation.

At the time, I preferred Drouin because he had a higher upside. It is starting to look like that is the case. Of course, you’d rather have MacKinnon’s first three years than what little you got from Drouin, but Drouin is finally emerging as a star. I think the discussion is back open.

20. Seth Jones, by the way, has 14 points in his last 14 games. Almost all of Jones’s damage has come at even strength, which suggests to me that this isn’t entirely sustainable but he’s very talented and with the right bounces could push into the 45-point range even without much power play production.

Jones is on pace for 48 points, and that’s even factoring in the six games he has already missed, but it would be wrong to take his current pace at face value. You always assume the good times won’t end until they ultimately do. Enjoy this run and hang onto until he shows signs of tailing off but don’t marry yourself to Jones.