20 Fantasy Thoughts: Buyer beware for Leafs’ Gardiner after career year

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner joins David Amber in studio to talk about who the Leafs will face in the playoffs and learning from last year.

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. If you had told anyone that you thought Claude Giroux would score 100 points this season, they would have thought you were taking crazy pills. But in a season that has reverted away from another dead puck era, Giroux’s final tally reached 102 points (second in the NHL) thanks to his hat trick on Saturday afternoon. With a 10-game point streak and points in 18 of his last 19 games, Giroux represents a huge risk/reward gamble in playoff pools for those who understand that the Flyers’ playoff run might be short if their goaltending can’t keep it together.

2. Jake Gardiner reached the 50-point plateau for the first time in his career. After topping out at 31 points in his first five seasons, Gardiner had 43 last year and now 52 this year. For those in points leagues, we would expect Gardiner at 40-plus points for the foreseeable future. That Leafs offence has the potential to be a juggernaut for a couple of years and playing 22 minutes a night with power-play time on that team means he can sleepwalk to 40 points.

It doesn’t appear Gardiner will be a huge roto contributor, though. Fifty-two points is very impressive but it’ll be another season without 140 shots, another season without 40 penalty minutes, and another season with a very meager hits total. The offensive production is nice but in fantasy roto leagues, offence alone isn’t enough unless the player is head and shoulders above everyone else.

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3. Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin couldn’t quite get to 50 goals. You can’t fault him for lack of trying, as he managed to get to 49 by scoring two goals and taking eight shots on goal and 18 shot attempts on Saturday. So, he’s your Rocket Richard Trophy winner. That’s two consecutive seasons of no 50-goal scorers, but at least we were closer this season than last. Ovie might not be many people’s idea of a Hart Trophy candidate, but he might be the most valuable player in your fantasy league because of the league-leading totals in both goals and shots (355).

4. We all know about the MVP-type season and drastic improvement from Nathan MacKinnon (44-point improvement) but Gabriel Landeskog was able to improve by 29 points himself. It was impossible to predict this kind of production from either player last season, but both players were far too young to be written off completely.

5. Vladimir Tarasenko left Saturday’s game after a collision along the boards resulting in an upper-body injury. This might seem like a moot point now that the Blues will miss the playoffs, but it sounds like a bit of a serious injury and probably worth monitoring this off-season if you are a Tarasenko keeper owner.

6. Remember when the Golden Knights were keeping Shea Theodore off the NHL roster because they had so many defencemen they didn’t want to lose, like, Luca Sbisa or something to waivers? That’s basically what killed his fantasy value for the season on the whole.

When you look at Theodore’s production since actually being called to the roster, though, it’s hard to complain with what he did. His 82-game paces this year work out to eight goals, 30 assists, 19 penalty minutes, 194 shots, and 13 power-play points. Yet, he was being drafted consistently outside the top-60 defencemen. In other words, he was routinely being drafted as a bench option in 12-team leagues.

What worries us is they’re not really using Theodore as their go-to blueliner. Colin Miller had a big season, Brad Hunt keeps getting power-play time, and other guys get more five-on-five ice time. That doesn’t bode well for Theodore’s true upside of being the heavily-used top PP quarterback playing 24 minutes a night. Maybe he doesn’t get there for a couple seasons yet. All that said, Theodore is still very talented and that showed through this year even in a middle-pair role. Betting on talent is usually a good bet to make.

7. Not that it’s anything concrete, but Dallas Stars beat writer Mike Heika seems to think Valeri Nichushkin will be returning to the team next year. Things didn’t go so well the first time around though injuries surely played a factor there. If Nichushkin can fulfill his potential, this is a bona fide top-line scoring winger that could be coming back to Dallas. If it’s just more of the same from before he left for the KHL, well, at least he should bolster the fourth line.

8. Flyers’ Ivan Provorov reached the 40-point plateau on the year. He did so while garnering just five power-play points. Just an outstanding fantasy season from the 21-year-old, especially for those in leagues counting hits and blocked shots.

9. Taylor Hall will rightfully get a lot of the praise for New Jersey breaking their playoff drought, but Keith Kinkaid had a .929 save percentage over 21 games spanning the last seven weeks. The Devils are likely still hoping Cory Schneider can find his game next season, but Kinkaid effectively saved their year this season. It’s a great story.

10. Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly finished with 61 points on the season. Doesn’t feel like it, does it? He also has at least 55 points in six straight 82-game seasons. We wonder if a healthy season from Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt (should they use him as a centre) means fewer minutes next year for O’Reilly.

11. Were it not for names like Barzal, McAvoy, Boeser, and Keller, Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat and his 28 goals would be getting a lot more press for the rookie season he’s having. He’s done this all while playing fewer than 15 minutes a night. Not too shabby.

12. Sens’ Marian Gaborik is off to see a back specialist. We’re not sure he’ll ever have much fantasy value again, but it’s just a shame to think what could have been if he had stayed healthy his entire career. He’s one of just six forwards with 400 goals and 400 assists this century and at least four of the others are future Hall of Famers.

13. Projected by many to regress in Columbus, Artemi Panarin has actually improved with his first 80-point season (82, more precisely). Panarin ripped it up with 32 points in just 19 games since the beginning of March. We can officially abandon the narrative that Panarin’s point totals were high because of Patrick Kane. He’s an exceptional player on his own.

On Panarin’s line: Pierre-Luc Dubois has been a point-per-game player over that same hot stretch since early March. The other player on that line is Cam Atkinson, also a point-per-game player since early March after a disappointing first half.

14. Mathew Barzal has collected 63 assists and 85 points on the season. Let’s step back and admire what a rookie season it has been for Barzal, who is the first rookie since Evgeni Malkin in 2006-07 to reach 80 points. The Calder Trophy is pretty much his at this point, as he finished 20 points clear of the next highest-scoring rookie (Clayton Keller). One burning question we have: Will he be the Islanders’ first-line centre next season? That question applies whether or not John Tavares is back on Long Island.

15. Flyers’ Nolan Patrick hit the 30-point plateau in his rookie season. Don’t forget to add the 2017 second overall pick to your sleeper list next season. These splits seem to foreshadow progression:

• October to January: 41 GP, 11 PTS (0.27 PTS/GP)

• February to April: 31 GP, 19 PTS (0.61 PTS/GP)

Over a full season, Patrick’s production over the past two months would amount to a 50-point pace.

16. In Carolina, Derek Ryan scored 15 goals in 2017-18, which makes it a nice season for him, but also bodes well for the future of the Hurricanes. It was the first time since 2008-09 that the franchise had eight different players score at least 15 times.

Over the years, the Canes have had a lot of trouble finding consistent scoring outside of Jeff Skinner. However, Sebastian Aho turning into a premier goal scorer and Teuvo Teravainen making good on the promise he flashed over the years. Plus, guys like Ryan and Brock McGinn are picking up the scoring slack.

17. Bad break: Wild’s Ryan Suter is out for the season, both regular and playoffs, following ankle surgery. This is a huge blow to the team and their Cup chances. Jared Spurgeon is still on the mend after a partial tear to his hamstring when he went crashing awkwardly into the boards a few weeks ago. It’s possible Minnesota goes into the post-season with its top two defencemen out of the lineup.

If there’s good news for poolies, it’s that the injury to Suter happened before playoff drafts. You never want to see a player injured, but this is basically the best time for it to happen from a fantasy perspective. It’s late enough in the year that it won’t have a huge impact in roto leagues, most head-to-head leagues are done, and playoff drafts are yet to take place.

Suter finishes the season one point shy of setting a career-high with 52, but he did crack 50 for the second time in three years. With Suter out, Matt Dumba has been getting the lion’s share of power-play time with Jonas Brodin and Ryan Murphy getting some extra PP minutes.

18. With 43 goals and 78 points, William Karlsson has firmly crossed the Golden Boy threshold. It’s one thing to get 39 goals and 69 points but when you cross 40 and 75, it’s a completely different animal. Besides the increased digit at the front of his million-dollar contract, Karlsson will have the full confidence of the coach (and himself) for the next three years – even if he sucks horribly.

His ticket is punched. You can expect big points from now on. Just in case you were heading into the summer ready to treat him like a 60-point player with the potential to swing down to 50 points or up to 75, you should change your thinking.

Advanced stats point to him falling short of 40 goals next year, but we think he’ll still make it close and he’ll increase his assist total to make sure he reaches 70. We’ve underrated this guy long enough and it’s time to stop. By the way, did you know Wild Bill leads the NHL with a plus-49? Chemistry is chemistry and confidence is confidence. He’s found both in Vegas.

19. Tyson Jost has five goals and 33 SOG in his last 15 games. Sure, he has zero assists, but you can see that he’s starting to get more leash and gain more confidence. His PP time has seen a huge increase – he’s on the top unit – since late February. We suspect he’ll take a step forward next year, but watch for him to play a surprisingly productive role in the post-season.

20. With Philipp Grubauer winning seven of his last nine starts, what we have in Washington is a good old-fashioned goaltender controversy. Sure, Braden Holtby will be the playoff starter. We guarantee it. But that won’t stop the media, the bloggers and the fans on social media from clamouring for Grubauer. His overall season numbers are better, and since Jan. 1 he has been absolutely stellar: 13-5-0.

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