20 Fantasy Thoughts: Rantanen makes Avalanche more than one-player team

Colorado Avalanche's Mikko Rantanen pots twenty goals for the second consecutive year, this one comes off a one-timer on the power play, set up my Nathan MacKinnon against the Vancouver Canucks.

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. We heard someone on a hockey broadcast the other day say that the Avalanche are basically a one-man team, which is why Nathan MacKinnon is a serious MVP candidate. The one-man team part of that sentence is not true, as Mikko Rantanen is closing in on 70 points. Rantanen scored a goal and added two assists with a plus-2 on Saturday, giving him 69 points in just 67 games.

Given the fact that no one would touch MacKinnon until the later rounds of fantasy hockey drafts at the start of the current year, Rantanen has been a steal for those who rolled the dice on him. To give you an idea how quickly Rantanen has ascended, he was drafted in just six per cent of Yahoo leagues before the season. Six per cent!

2. No player is on the kind of roll that Patrik Laine is on right now. He has nine of the Jets’ last 13 goals, has scored in each of his last five games (with nine goals over that span), and has 15 goals and 21 points over his last 11 games. Needless to say, you don’t want to be the team that faces the Laine owner in head-to-head.

We know we’ve mentioned this before and so have others, but the acquisition of Paul Stastny has helped both Stastny and Laine. With his assist on Laine’s goal on Saturday, Stastny now has seven points and a plus-8 in his six games as a Jet. The Jets are usually on a budget, so I have my doubts as to whether they can re-sign Stastny, who has traditionally been on the expensive side for his production level. So, unless the Jets prove me wrong and can bring him back as a UFA, I’d have a hard time thinking Stastny can continue this kind of pace next season for a different team without a goal scorer of Laine’s ability.

3. Ryan Spooner has collected 12 points (2g-10a) in just seven games as a Ranger. Sometimes it’s all about opportunity, as Spooner’s ice time in New York is about two minutes higher than his average in Boston. You could say Spooner and Kevin Hayes have formed a poor man’s version of the Stastny-Laine post-trade deadline combo.

Hayes has shown flashes of brilliance through his four-year career, but with a goal on Saturday he has now reached 20 goals for the first time. Since the Spooner acquisition, Hayes has five goals and seven points in seven games. We had no idea there would be such a positive trickle-down effect on Hayes, let alone that the deal would provide a major boost for Spooner. It’s early, but so far the trade has been a home run for Spooner’s and Hayes’s values.

4. Ever wonder what could have been when it comes to Canucks’ Alex Edler in the fantasy hockey game? Remember that from 2009 to 2012, his 82-game paces were nine goals and 39 assists (48 points), 23 of those points on the power play, 200 shots on goal, and 38 penalty minutes. For those in real-time stats leagues, throw in 122 hits and 136 blocked shots. In this era of the NHL, that’s an extremely productive fantasy defenceman.

Of course, it hasn’t been rosy for several years now. Since the lockout campaign, he’s played just 312 of a possible 395 games, and 65 games a season just isn’t going to cut it. You always wonder ‘what if’ with some guys. What if Edler stays healthy all these years? What if the pipeline is replenished sooner with top offensive talent? What if he never loses the top power-play spot?

There are a lot of what-ifs but those what-ifs also amount to a player who was on the verge of becoming a regular roto stud. The hits and blocks are still there, and the production has ticked up this season, but with only one year left on his deal and him being 32 next month, it’s doubtful he returns to what he could have been: a decade-long just-outside-the-top-defencemen roto asset. A shame, really.

5. Jamie Benn is well on his way to his second consecutive sub-point-per-game season. Last year there was good reason to believe it took him a couple months to get over his off-season surgery. This season, the Stars are playing a lot more defensively than they have in the past. Spreading out the scoring makes sense, but if this is any indication of a long-term solution, and coach Ken Hitchcock is around for a couple more seasons, it’s possible Benn’s point-per-game days are behind him.

6. Everyone was all excited about Evgeny Svechnikov joining the Red Wings lineup, right? We should have seen this coming: Detroit called up (arguably) their top winger prospect and played him nine minutes on Thursday night. This is with fewer than five weeks left in a rebuilding season. That was followed with about five and a half minutes on Friday night. There were no indications of injury.

We shouldn’t, and you shouldn’t, be surprised: Andreas Athanasiou wasn’t even worth a two-year deal to this team, Martin Frk toils away playing on the fourth line for who knows what reason, and it took until half-way through Anthony Mantha’s age-23 season to finally be given consistent top-six minutes without fear of fourth-line relegation. And yet, we continue to be surprised.

7. Moving forward, we must consider Thomas Chabot’s role without Erik Karlsson around, assuming that Karlsson is traded by the Sens in the summer. He will assuredly get more ice time and may well be the team’s best puck-moving rearguard when the 2018-19 season begins, but who is he going to be skating with? His next-most common partner this year is Cody Ceci.

How do you evaluate the fantasy performance of a player with high shooting percentage and secondary assist rates, which may be mitigated by a rise in ice time but may be playing with a (significantly) lower-quality player seven months from now? By the eye test, Chabot has been fine. His numbers with Ceci this year, surprisingly, have been fine, so maybe Chabot can carry them next year?

Our opinion of Chabot hasn’t really changed much from where it was a year ago. He appears to be the part of a top-pair defenceman in the next couple years. Whatever your opinion was of him a year ago, we’re not sure anything this season has been enough to sway it one way or another.

8. Is Pekka Rinne in the discussion for comeback player of the year? The Predators’ win streak at was snapped at 10 games on Saturday, but Rinne is on a personal eight-game win streak since he sat for that one. We’ll admit we didn’t target him thinking age was catching up to him and Juuse Saros would grab an increased number of starts. But at the moment, is there any goalie that you would feel more confident in a playoff pool right now than Rinne?

9. Don’t sleep on the Coyotes as a team that could help your fantasy squad down the stretch. If you’re not sold on adding Antti Raanta or Darcy Kuemper, keep in mind that the Yotes are 9-3-2 over the past 30 days. So, their place in the standings is a bit misleading compared to the team they are now, just because of their awful start.

Here are a couple of Coyotes to target: Derek Stepan has 13 points over his last 15 games. He’s still unowned in over two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. Clayton Keller is more likely to be owned (nearly half of Yahoo leagues). He has 13 points over his last 14 games and can play all three forward positions in Yahoo leagues, so he might be useful if you can find him.

10. With Brock Boeser out of the lineup and Thomas Vanek traded to Columbus, Sam Gagner is scooping up PP time for the Canucks. We know he is capable of getting hot. Also intriguing is Brendan Leipsic, who now has six points in five games with the Canucks. He is skating minutes with Bo Horvat. Good spot.

11. Great timing from Wayne Simmonds to return for the fantasy playoffs. His return has pushed Nolan Patrick back onto the second power-play unit, and likely off of many fantasy teams. Even if he remains on the second line as Jakub Voracek’s centreman, this demotion means it’s time to look for juicier fantasy hockey options.

Still, it was nice to see a flash of what the future might hold for Patrick. Net-front man on a tent-pole power play? We can dig that. Simmonds has one year left on his deal. The Flyers would be wise to either sell this summer or treat him like an ‘own rental’ a la James van Riemsdyk in Toronto. He remains a premiere net-front man but the Flyers have multiple options to replace him in house with Patrick and Oskar Lindblom.

12. Still in Philly, Claude Giroux has had a brilliant bounce-back season, but overall has seen his physical ability eroding. One thing that hasn’t yet dropped off is that ability to run a power play. Giroux might be able to quarterback a power play for another decade, or at least until his mega deal runs out in 2022. We have seen numerous examples of how hockey IQ can carry playmaking forwards well past their prime.

13. As far as the regular season is concerned, the Bruins have all but wrapped up a playoff spot and it’s just a matter of jockeying for home ice. They will have to do so without Charlie McAvoy, though, who will be out at least a month with a MCL sprain.

McAvoy had been very solid in roto leagues to this point, which is rare for a 20-year old rookie defenceman. He was on pace for 40-plus points, a monster plus rating, 60-plus penalty minutes, and triple-digits in both blocked shots and hits. Outside of strictly points leagues, he’s likely a top-20 defenceman. That’s an excellent rookie fantasy campaign. Of course, he won’t reach all those numbers now, but it’s a good sign for the future.

Just as a small aside, Zdeno Chara’s numbers have been considerably worse this year when he hasn’t been paired with McAvoy: the Bruins allow just shy of 30 per cent more shots when Chara is on the ice with any other defence partner aside from the rookie. Of all players, we wonder if this affects Tuukka Rask the most. Patrice Bergeron still isn’t back and with McAvoy out of the lineup now, that is a lot missing from the team when it comes to driving the play.


14. Alex Barre-Boulet signed with Tampa Bay out of the QMJHL. He has 113 points in 62 games as a 20-year-old. We’re not so impressed with that number. That type of production is not all that uncommon from an overager. What we’re more intrigued in is the 51 points he scored in 68 games during his 17-year-old draft year. That’s the season that really matters when it comes to projecting forwards. He was 10th in the ‘Q’ among under-18 scorers that year. It also doesn’t hurt that he was signed by Tampa Bay, who is making a killing off of prospect selection and development. Worth a flyer in deep keepers.

15. How many fantasy leagues will Evgeni Malkin swing with his supernova second half? He’s been good all year, but has 53 points in 32 games since Christmas. Half of those points have been goals so we’re talking about an ’80s-esque run of 26 goals in 32 games. Kudos to everyone daring enough to take the swing with Malkin. He’s been worth all the risk.

16. Wild prospect Luke Kunin is done for the year with a torn ACL. He’s looking at a six-to-eight-month recovery time. Seems like guys usually beat those estimates, but this could mean he doesn’t come into training camp in quite as good of shape as you’d like, which might mean waiting another year for him to truly arrive.

The Wild specifically waived Chris Stewart with the intent of clearing room for Kunin (and Jordan Greenway, whom they hope to sign when his college season is done). Stewart was mostly a healthy scratch, so it isn’t a huge loss, just an unfortunate loss of opportunity. Now Greenway may have an easier path to regular minutes, though he’s unlikely to make an impact this season.

17. We always thought Jason Zucker’s cap was around 65 points, but he was likely a 55-point player due to wild inconsistency. He’s already at 54 and on pace for 64. We now think his ceiling is in the 70s. We’re taking a little longer to come around to that with him, though. But as with Randy Carlyle, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau is stacking his best offensive players on the same line – Zucker and Eric Staal are playing with Mikael Granlund.

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18. Panthers’ Evgenii Dadonov has 20 points in his last 14 games. It puts him on pace to finish with 65 in 74. This streak has really put him into a different category of fantasy player. It’s the decision to put him with Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov that’s put Dadonov, his line, and the Florida Panthers on a real good run here. It also means that Jonathan Huberdeau can give Vincent Trocheck a top star to play with and create two very potent lines.

Bjugstad has 17 points in his last 18 games. It’s as if his last two injury-filled seasons put his career on hold and this year he’s finally resuming his career again — sort of a third attempt at his third NHL season. Last year was so horrible that we, along with most people, had completely written him off. But if he’s finally put injuries behind him, he’s a great candidate for another step forward next year as a 26-year-old. Think of a point output in the mid-50s.

19. The Blackhawks knew what they were doing when they traded Ryan Hartman to the Predators. We had never been impressed with him as a prospect and then we were shocked when he became an NHL regular last year. We were shocked once again when he began this season with five big games. But he’s since come back down to earth and now he’s just another depth guy. Really not impressed with what we’ve seen, nor the stat trends with him. The Hawks got a first-round pick and a solid prospect in Victor Ejdsell.

20. Man, what could have been with Ryan Ellis this year. If he can stay healthy, he can outproduce P.K. Subban and Roman Josi and perhaps even hang up there with Erik Karlsson, John Klingberg, Brent Burns, and Shayne Gostisbehere. Ellis has 22 points in 30 games, and 13 points in his last 11 games. Keep in mind that he needed a few games as a ‘training camp’ of sorts. At 27, he’s in his prime. The problem is, he missed 38 games this year, 11 last year, three the year prior, and 24 the season before that. That’s 76 games missed in four seasons. Or, 19 per season. But man, we’re very bullish on him next year if you don’t mind a 65-game player.

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