20 Fantasy Thoughts: Galchenyuk going to cause headaches all year

TVA Sports’ David Morissette joins HC at Noon to discuss the Montreal Canadiens scoring problems, and try to figure out what to do with Alex Galchenyuk.

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. Over the previous three seasons, Alex Galchenyuk has a primary points rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five of 1.49, which compares to other top-end wingers league-wide like James Neal (1.50), Tyler Toffoli (1.51), and Nikolaj Ehlers (1.51). If the Habs don’t want to use him as a centre, fine, but there’s no reason to bury him on the depth chart like they have. If the team is as good defensively as it thinks it is, with the best goaltender on the planet between the pipes, it can afford to have Galchenyuk in the top-six. Even with his defensive deficiencies.

Regardless of what the Canadiens should do, this is what they are doing, and that’s going to mean a headache for fantasy owners all year. In shallow leagues he’s droppable, while he should be relegated to the bench in deeper formats.

2. With Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter, and Charlie Coyle on the shelf, the Wild are missing what amounts to two thirds of their top two lines. That is significant.

For fantasy purposes, this should mean more minutes for Jason Zucker and I would assume he will play prime minutes for this team at least in the short term. Beyond Zucker, Chris Stewart is playing 16-17 minutes, which is much higher than anyone should anticipate for him when this team is healthy.

As a whole, this is just bad news for everyone on Minnesota. From the forwards to the goalie, injuries of this magnitude are tough for any team to overcome, and the Wild are no exception. It’s going to be a rough run for them over the next month. Check the waiver wires for Zucker, maybe Stewart or Tyler Ennis for those that are desperate, but it’s not a situation to chase.

3. Carey Price owners are worried that he’s no longer elite, while Frederik Andersen owners wonder if he’s even worth starting right now. Price should be able to right the ship, which he usually does when he hits a rough patch. As for Andersen, he will need to be better if the Leafs are to be one of the league’s top-level teams. But don’t bail on him, as he got off to a slow October last season as well before settling things down in November.

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4. Because of the injury to Erik Haula, the Vegas Golden Knights were finally able to recall Vadim Shipachyov from the AHL. Shipachyov has missed only four games, so you shouldn’t have to adjust your projections that much for him. Shipachyov makes a great gamble in deeper leagues. There have probably already been a number of owners that have dropped him, so at 31 per cent Yahoo! ownership there’s a good chance that he’s available in yours.

5. Ryan Getzlaf missed time to start the year, returned, and then was scratched again Friday night. There is no telling what the severity of his lower-body (back) injury is but it’s clear he’s not healthy. Even if he returns to the lineup on Sunday, how healthy will he be? How healthy will he be in two weeks? A month? No one wants a lingering issue but that’s what it looks like right now.

There’s nothing fantasy owners can do except sit tight and hope he can get healthy ASAP. Who knows if, or when, that may be, though.

6. Even though the Jets signed Steve Mason to a significant free-agent deal, I said that Connor Hellebuyck would make a great buy-low candidate. And even though the season is just over a week old, I’ll double down on my words.

This is going to be a goaltending controversy at the very least. And if you think Mason is still ‘the guy’, then Yahoo! owners at large also disagree with you. Hellboy is owned in 38 per cent of Yahoo leagues, while Mason is owned in just 23 per cent. Expect coach Paul Maurice to continue to ride the hot hand, as he’s probably a goner if this Jets team with all its promise doesn’t get off the ground this season.

Either way, whoever plays in net for the Jets on any given night will be busy. The Jets have allowed at least 31 shots in each of their four games.

7. Hopefully you targeted Martin Frk this past week. Frk now has three goals in four games. Ice time is a concern, though, as he has yet to crack the 15-minute mark in any game thus far and has usually hovered around 10-12 TOI. But there’s opportunity for more on a team like the Wings.

8. Because of injuries to Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi, Samuel Girard has not only stepped into the Predators’ lineup, he’s also stepped into a top-4 role for the moment.

Girard fits the profile of a power-play specialist with his combination of size (five-foot-10, 160 pounds) and offensive prowess (over a point per game over his last two seasons in the QMJHL). Once Josi and eventually Ellis return, the Predators’ defence will be too loaded for Girard to be an impact player this season. You know that the Predators won’t rush this kid so that his defensive game is in order. But he is certainly a name to remember for keeper leagues, since he represents the next wave of that factory of defencemen in Nashville.

9. The debut the hockey world had been waiting for since he signed occurred in Los Angeles Wednesday night as Jaromir Jagr skated in his first game for the Calgary Flames. He’s on the third line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg, while also managing secondary power-play minutes. If he doesn’t move up the lineup, and to the top PP, I wonder how effective he can be for fantasy owners. Things will change, of course; it’s a long season.

10. Brandon Saad has six goals in six games. What’s more important: he’s played more than 19 minutes a game in the last five, has 26 shots on goal, and is being featured on the team’s heavily used top power-play unit. In fact, he already has as many PP goals this year (1!) as all of last season.

He was always a high-rate producer at five-on-five but his ceiling was limited due to usage and being a non-factor on the power play. Now that both issues are taken care of, Saad is genuinely in line for a career year as far as points are concerned. I would not be ‘selling high’. Ride the wave.

11. Jesper Bratt is a rare commodity because he wasn’t a high pick (sixth round, 2016), yet he is already in the NHL at age 19. Because of his age, he’s still eligible to return to the London Knights, who hold his junior rights. According to DobberProspects, one knock on him seems to be his defensive play. Yet, the fact that he is being used in all situations – not only the power play but also on the penalty kill – should at least mean that he is a strong bet to stick around all season.

He is at a disadvantage with his lack of size (five-foot-10, 172 pounds) but a strong camp has earned him ice time with Taylor Hall, which he has taken full advantage of. We know that the Devils aren’t bursting with offensive options, although Bratt could be bumped from top-6 duty once Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford return from injury.

For now, feel free to take a flier on Bratt in single-season leagues while he holds the sizzling stick. The bigger takeaway, however, is that we have a very recent sixth-rounder that has suddenly emerged and should thus at least be in the keeper conversation.

12. Mika Zibanejad now has five goals this season. Even better for multi-category leaguers, four of those five goals have been on the power play. Hopefully you didn’t let Zibanejad slip down your rankings too far because he missed 26 games due to injury last season.

13. During the off-season, the jury was out as to whether Sonny Milano would be able to crack a deep Blue Jackets roster. But thanks to the Boone Jenner injury and the Josh Anderson pre-season holdout, the former first-round pick was able to find a spot on the Jackets’ opening-night roster. Since then, he has delivered.

With two goals on Tuesday, including the overtime winner, Milano has scored four goals in just three games. So not only has he made the team, he has been placed on a solid second line with Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand. The Jackets are overflowing with young scoring talent. Once Jenner returns they will be able to send out three legitimate scoring lines.

Now that Milano has quickly established himself, he appears to be in the NHL to stay. The only concern I’d have is ice time, since the Jackets have numerous other scoring options should he fall into a slump. If you’ve stuck with him this entire time in your keeper league, your patience is finally being rewarded. Unfortunately, I wasn’t patient enough, since I shipped him for Kevin Labanc a few months ago to help shore up my lack of depth at right wing.

14. James Neal has been the real deal in Vegas. Hey, I’ll admit I was wrong about him being a potential bust, but I’ll turn around and say now might be a great time to sell high to an owner that thinks he’s worth his weight in gold. This is, after all, an expansion team.

15. Despite Charlie McAvoy’s encouraging start to the season, he was always destined to be pushed to the second unit once Torey Krug returned. I’m sure his fantasy owners were hoping Krug may miss a few more games but this was the inevitable call.

The rookie Bruins blueliner has a bright future, undoubtedly, but I’m dubious as to his fantasy value this year. Boston uses its top PP unit very heavily, so even cracking double-digit PP points is a longshot. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

16. Dylan Strome was demoted by Arizona on Monday after averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time through the team’s first two games. The third overall pick from 2015 has just nine NHL games to his credit so far.

Though I’m sure Strome’s dynasty owners would like to see him play in the NHL, he’s not going to do much fantasy-wise if all he can manage is 12 minutes a game. Going down to the AHL to get more ice time and hone his craft a bit further isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, a Top 3 pick from three drafts ago still not being able to consistently crack this roster is getting worrisome.

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17. Michael Matheson signed an eight-year contract extension with the Florida Panthers on Monday. His new deal kicks in for 2018-19 and carries an AAV of $4.875M.

I think Matheson is a genuinely underrated player, mostly because he plays on a team with other very good young talents like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aaron Ekblad. This AAV is about the going rate for young second-pair defensemen these days.

Florida was probably pretty keen on signing him but it wasn’t necessary to give him eight years. Though, I suppose, if you think he can be a second-pair guy for the next decade, then it’s fine.

18. I have to admit that I am getting bad vibes about the Sharks. I wasn’t high on them coming into the season. Martin Jones was a third-tier goalie in my rankings and with that placement I knew I wouldn’t have him on any of my rosters. This roster feels a lot like last season’s LA Kings if they don’t have some youngsters step up for them.

Timo Meier is the guy I’m pointing fingers at. He was a top-10 draft pick and put up some decent numbers in the AHL last season. Meier has also put up some exceptional shot rates on a per-minute basis at both the NHL and AHL. A step forward for Meier could be enough to help keep the Sharks afloat. I really want him to step into Patrick Marleau’s minutes, especially on the PP, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. Instead, Mikkel Boedker is gobbling up the top unit PP time, which shouldn’t excite anyone.

The Sharks’ power play quietly fell to the bottom half of the league last season, which you wouldn’t have noticed based on Brent Burns’ crazy production, but the rest of the lineup regressed. The Sharks’ power play shouldn’t be that bad with talent like Joe Thornton, Burns and Joe Pavelski but it may continue.

19. Shea Theodore is intriguing as a top defensive option but he’s nothing more than a curiosity at this point. Despite dominating at the AHL level, we still don’t know how good he’ll be in the NHL, especially on an expansion team.

Odds are he’s going to bounce up and down off the waiver wire all season. My philosophy with defencemen is that they need to score 45-plus points and/or put up 180-plus SOG to merit a continued roster spot, otherwise they are interchangeable with the 20 other replacement level defencemen constantly sitting on the waiver wire.

We don’t know that Theodore isn’t replacement level and should assume that he is since it is rare for rookie defencemen to have a huge impact. There’s no sense in waiting for replacement level.

20. My philosophy with the early season is to avoid making moves with the top end of my roster. I’m not going to dump Ehlers or Jeff Skinner for a hot starter like Ryan Hartman or Brayden Point. I’m not averse to jumping on those hot starters as there is a ton of value in getting on those guys early. You just need to have a line in the sand where you won’t touch certain parts of your roster to make a move.

My line in the sand is somewhere around the top 150 or so players. Roughly the first 10-12 rounds of my draft, depending on league size. After that, my draft strategy was to take big swings and hopefully land some studs. It’s from that late group of players that I don’t mind making drops if they aren’t making an immediate impact.

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