Every Sunday during the regular season, we’ll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s “Daily Ramblings”.
1. One of the very few bright spots in Montreal this year has been Brendan Gallagher. He has 20 goals, four off his career-high. The assists totals are a problem, sure, having just 12, but he’s never been an assist guy. The question now, is, what do we make of him next year?
It’s no secret that Montreal’s pipeline is mostly empty. Outside of Ryan Poehling, how many forward prospects look to even possess the potential of a future fantasy contributor? Not (m)any. So, if Max Pacioretty is traded (that seems likely, whether at the deadline or in the summer), who’s left to put the puck in the net? Alex Galchenyuk, if he’s not traded himself. Jonathan Drouin? Maybe Artturi Lehkonen, if he finds some consistency? It’s not pretty.
It’s a shame, too. Gallagher has been a first-line goal scorer for a while now but injuries and lack of ice time have limited his upside in fantasy hockey. I can’t imagine it gets better as this franchise continues its trajectory toward a full-fledged rebuild. He had a predictable bounce-back year, which is nice and should give us hope moving forward, but if the team is going to tear down around him, his bounce-back personally is mostly meaningless for fantasy.
2. The shots are finally starting to go in for Mitch Marner, who after long stretches without goals now has seven goals over his last 10 games. As much as he was thought to be slumping this season, he is now on pace to match his 61-point rookie season. Maybe you expected more given where you had to draft him but if you look at the overall body of work now, the young Leaf hasn’t disappointed as much as you think.
3. It’s been mainly a down season for the Wild’s Charlie Coyle but he rewarded his remaining fantasy owners with two goals on Saturday. It’s worth mentioning that his points-per-game pace this season (0.59) isn’t much lower than last season’s (0.68). Sometimes there’s a fine line between success and failure in fantasy.
4. Bruins’ Anton Khudobin is one of the league’s better backups with a 11-3-4 record, a 2.28 GAA and a .925 SV%, so he’s a sneaky Sunday start if you need a final push to your goaltending stats for the week.
5. Troy Brouwer will be out of the Flames lineup for the foreseeable future with a facial fracture. While the hit totals remains stout, Brouwer hasn’t done much else in the fantasy hockey game for a couple years now, so I can’t imagine this will impact many in the fantasy game directly.
Indirectly, though, this could be good for those hoping Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski break out of their slumps (they have seven points combined since Christmas): this year, the trio of Bennett-Jankowski-Brouwer are getting absolutely crushed at five-on-five to the tune of a 40.9 percent shot share and 79.9 adjusted shot attempts against per 60 minutes at five-on-five. On second thought, ‘absolutely crushed’ doesn’t do those pathetic numbers justice.
On the flipside, the line of Bennett-Jankowski-Garnet Hathaway had a 54.1 per cent adjusted shot share and 57.2 adjusted shot attempts against per 60 minutes at five-on-five before Friday’s game versus the Rangers. It’s incomprehensible how much Brouwer has dragged that line into the abyss. Don’t give up, Janko and Bennett owners.
6. Notorious second-half assassin Dougie Hamilton continues to roll here in 2018. The Flames defenceman has 13 points in 16 games since the start of January. He should be heavily targeted because of his second-half steeliness. You might even find that you can get Hamilton cheap as his current pace has him only getting 43 but I’d bet on him hitting 50.
Flyers’ Travis Konecny’s second-half heroics are also on point. He has 17 points in 19 games since Christmas. Two quibbles: a lack of top unit power play time (Philly’s second PP unit is awful) and what happens if he gets bumped from the top line. Ride him while he’s hot.
7. Holy smokes, here comes Sam Reinhart! The forward has 14 points in the last 11 games. He is back on a line with Jack Eichel and has reclaimed his net-front spot on the Sabres’ rejuvenated power play. I still have some skepticism in Reinhart’s long-term viability but he’s a former lottery pick, only 22, and in just his third season, so he gets some benefit of the doubt.
8. I don’t like where Brock Boeser’s (hand, day to day) season is headed. He’s certainly a player who will shoot a high percentage for his career but the whole shooting above 25 percent for two straight months thing is dead in the water. I don’t know that this is ‘the rookie wall’ – he has just nine points in 15 games – but I do think there’s some regression kicking in. I also suspect that since he was named an All-Star that he is the guy opponents are focusing greater attention on. And, I also think that even with Bo Horvat back the Canucks are still a bad team that will allow opponents to gang up on him.
9. Brandon Saad was brought in to help elevate Jonathan Toews, and while he hasn’t held up his end of the bargain, there was no foreseeing a player who scored at a first-line rate for his entire career suddenly falling off at age 25. So, what to do with him in fantasy hockey? That’s a fair question; he’s on pace for his lowest goals/game output since 2013-14, his lowest assists/game of his career, and this is all despite a career-high 17:28 in TOI per game.
Yeah, he’s not having a great season, but he’s still doing everything you want to see out of someone from your fantasy roster by taking shots and help driving the play forward. Logically, he’s been a victim of percentages. He’s shooting much lower than we’ve been accustomed to, as he shot 10.92 per cent at five-on-five from 2013-17, but is sitting at 8.18 per cent this year. He’s also managing a point on just 51.1 per cent of goals scored with him on the ice this season, and going back chronologically, he posted rates of 75.7 per cent, 70.7 per cent, 73.2 per cent, and 61 per cent in the previous four campaigns. This has caused his assist rate at five-on-five to plummet to a career-low (and it’s not even close).
So, to answer the question, there’s no real telling what to do with him and fantasy. If these percentages persist and he remains in the Chicago bottom-six with no power-play time, he has no chance of turning things around. Again, though, it’s not as if he’s disappeared. He’s still playing very well and doing all the things necessary to rack up points except actually racking up points. Maybe he goes on a scoring bender over the final third of the season. Maybe he finishes the year on the fourth line and puts up seven points the rest of the way. There is just no telling. I always bet on talent so I would hold on but fantasy owners have a hard choice ahead of them.
10. We all knew it would take Ryan Kesler some time to get back to full speed but we’re over a month into his return and it is not quite yet working out. His minutes have dropped significantly from 21:18 to 17:42 per game, the latter being the fewest the multi-purpose forward has averaged since his early Canuck years.
His peripherals remain strong. Where fantasy owners have really felt it is in a lack of scoring, where he has only eight points in 19 games. That’s a sub-40-point pace, although not far enough off to be damning. In a lot of leagues, even a 40-point pace will send you to the waiver wire but in multi-category settings, he offers enough that even just that level of scoring will have him relevant.
Father time comes for every player, and it is impressive that Kesler had as good of a season as he did last year at age 32. Now 33, and gritting through coming off of hip surgery, is Kesler pushing himself towards a debilitating condition that won’t go away?
11. Tyler Toffoli has failed to score a goal in 13 straight games. He has just one assist in that stretch. I wonder if there’s an underlying injury here because he has been skating with Anze Kopitar quite a bit.
Toffoli started out very strong with 17 goals and 29 points through the first 41 games of the season, mostly without Jeff Carter, so we can’t use that excuse. Sure, scoring has slowed after a crazy first month but it’s not like Toffoli’s scoring came from the big PP boost we saw at the start anyhow. I’m at a loss to explain this one so perhaps the move is to try and buy off of a panicky owner.
12. Coach Mike Babcock about Kasperi Kapanen: “Well, I just said, ‘That’s the way you’re going to play in the NHL.’ We’ve told Borgy the same thing. You’re not playing on the PP so better find a way to make yourself important.”
That shouldn’t instill too much confidence for fantasy owners but at least it appears that Kapanen is in the NHL to stay. His speed dynamic fits right into today’s game and could make him a Michael Grabner-esque threat if he isn’t going to get a more offensive role.
13. In case you don’t know who Harris Sateri is, he’s the Florida Panthers’ goalie with Roberto Luongo and James Reimer nursing injuries. You may not have a lot of faith in him because the Panthers aren’t that great but hey, if the Cubs can win the World Series, then anything is possible, right?
There is some indication that Luongo will return for the Panthers next week. This sets up an awkward situation with Reimer, who returned from injury on Friday, and Sateri performing well. That alone may be reason enough for the Panthers to be extra cautious with Luongo and allow him to take his time. Reimer and Luongo combine to make over $8 million this year, so no matter how good this little run from Sateri has been, he’s the odd man out.
14. If you’re a Matt Duchene owner like I am, let’s just throw away his 2017 numbers as a Senator. Since January 5, Duchene has been scoring at a hair under a point-per-game pace with 15 points (six goals and nine assists) in 16 games.
If you had been patient enough with Duchene because his shooting percentage showed that he was snakebitten, you are finally being rewarded. Combine that with the Sens’ favorable schedule during the last few weeks of the season (the playoff weeks in fantasy), and you have yourself a potential buy-low candidate. Maybe even a waiver-wire pickup, since Duchene is still unowned in 60 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
The one potential hiccup to Duchene enjoying a strong second half, though, would happen if the Sens trade sniper Mike Hoffman. He has been up and down this season but he is making it work with Duchene at the moment with six points over his last four games.
15. Rangers’ Rick Nash still has plenty to offer, although probably less to fantasy hockey teams than to NHL teams. He seems to have fallen out of the mix of even being a 50-point player. Still, he’s got enough goal-scoring and shot volume ability to have value in deep settings but for the most part, I’d steer clear beyond using him for short-term pickups.
One of the teams rumoured to be in on Nash is the Dallas Stars, who could use some secondary scoring, especially with Jason Spezza having turned into a pumpkin. Could Nash rejuvenate Spezza? Seems like a stretch, I’ve written Spezza off. I do like the idea of a Nash/Radek Faksa combo that could be quite the shutdown line.
16. Leafs’ defenceman Jake Gardiner is up to 13 assists in the last 11 games. He was supposed to slow down with Morgan Rielly back in the lineup but he remains hot! Rielly, however, has proven to be the better power play option, so if you were picking between the two I’d lean towards Rielly.
17. He’ll never be considered among Montreal’s great players considering the storied history of the franchise but if he stays healthy this year and they don’t trade him, Tomas Plekanec will be one of six players to play 1000 games with the team. He’s also the 13th player in franchise history to get to 600 points with the Bleu-blanc-rouge. No, he won’t be considered one of the greats but he’s been an important part of the roster for much of this century.
18. I do wonder what the Golden Knights do with David Perron with the Trade Deadline coming up. He’s never produced at this rate in his career (at least assists-wise), so he’s probably carrying more value than he would have even four months ago. But how can they justify someone producing so well for a team that, apparently, is a Cup contender? Interesting times ahead. I suppose the same could apply for James Neal. But there’s no way they trade them, right?
19. Since Jumbo Joe Thornton’s injury, Kevin Labanc has seven points over his last eight games and has been added to the first-unit power play. Timo Meier, meanwhile, has four points over his last four games while playing on Joe Pavelski’s line. Both players are worth keeping an eye on, as it appears that Thornton won’t be back anytime soon – maybe even at all. Remember that Thornton is on a one-year contract worth $8 million and GM Doug Wilson could decide to move on from him after this season.
A top-10 pick in 2015, Sharks fans have been waiting for Meier to become one of their premier goal scorers, and things are finally pointing in that direction with eight markers in 20 games since Christmas. He’s not shooting a crazy-high percentage, either. He’s doing it through sheer shot generation. In other words, he’s scoring like a goal scorer, not like a luckbox. This is good news for San Jose’s faithful and great news for Meier’s dynasty owners. All that’s missing now is top power-play minutes.
20. After a somewhat slow start to the year, Sharks’ Brent Burns now has 40 points in 36 games dating back to the start of December, averaging nearly 4.5 shots on goal per game in that span. It’s good to see the big man doing his thing again.