20 Fantasy Thoughts: Sabres’ Reinhart poised for breakout

Sam Reinhart had a goal and assist to help the Sabres to a 4-3 shootout victory over the Senators.

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”.
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1. With three assists on Saturday, Boston’s Torey Krug has now reached 51 points for the second consecutive season. Nine defensemen have now scored at least 50 points. Six more have at least 46 points with at least 11 games left. Only nine blueliners reached 50 points all of last season. However, three of them (Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson) reached 70 points last year, a mark that no defenceman is on pace to reach this season.

What does the difference between 2016-17 and ’17-18 defence scoring mean? We predict that in your typical fantasy draft, you won’t see any rearguards drafted in the first two rounds, like we did with Burns and Karlsson the past couple years. But after that, there will be a real run on defencemen over the next few rounds, even with overall scoring up.

2. One of those defenders knocking on the 50-point door is Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo. After a dry spell through much of February, Pietrangelo is back producing for fantasy hockey teams with seven points (3g-4a) over his last four games. Pietrangelo is back running the first-unit power play, yet only one of those points has been on the power play. So, as the Blues have rebounded a bit recently (won three of their last four), Pietrangelo should be counted on for solid numbers down the stretch.

3. Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart had already started to heat up even before Jack Eichel’s injury but during Eichel’s injury, he posted 12 points in 15 games. You may be interested in these splits for Reinhart:

– Oct/Nov/Dec: 16 points in 38 games (0.42 Pts/GP)
– Jan/Feb/Mar: 31 points in 33 games (0.94 Pts/GP)

Who says the Sabres didn’t have any scorers with Eichel and Evander Kane out of the lineup? Reinhart’s potential breakout fourth (full) season is next season, so he might be one to keep tabs on as a sleeper. He’s still owned in less than half of Yahoo leagues, we might add.

4. Something we didn’t expect: Keith Kinkaid is in the driver’s seat for the Devils’ starting goalie job. Kinkaid stopped all 38 shots he faced in the Devils’ 3-0 Saturday afternoon victory over the Kings. He has won four consecutive games and nine of his last 11 contest dating back to the past month. Since February 15, Kinkaid sports a 1.98 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.

Kinkaid is surprisingly owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo leagues, probably because many who don’t follow the Devils closely still think Cory Schneider has been starting most of their games. But with the Devils playing their second of back-to-backs, expect Schneider to start Sunday in Anaheim. Schneider hasn’t helped his cause, allowing three goals in each of his three starts since his return from injury on March 1.

We still see Schneider claiming his starting job back eventually, though, since he’s the $6 million man compared to Kinkaid’s $1.25 million over this season and next. If you ever have to make a decision like this, the size of the paycheck matters.

5. Despite a horrific streak from early January through late February that saw the sniper pocket just one goal, Kings’ Tyler Toffoli has 23 tallies on the season, tying him for second-most of his career. He’s on pace for 26 goals and is doing so with a shooting percentage (10 percent) lower than his career average (11.2 percent).

A big reason for that is shot volume. While we’re accustomed to Toffoli shooting a lot, he was at a career-best 20.58 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five going into Saturday night action. He was also taking 8.9 percent of the team’s shots per 15 minutes. He’s been a machine this year but it’s as if Darryl Sutter is still behind the bench seeing as Toffoli is earning just 16 seconds more per game of five-on-five ice time than Trevor Lewis. C’est la vie.

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6. Devils’ Miles Wood seems to have a pretty bright future. His on-ice speed is something to behold. I don’t want to put him in the Michael Grabner conversation but it almost seems at times that the Devils have a set play when he’s on the ice and they’re in the defensive zone. The set play is ‘get the puck into the neutral zone and let Wood skate.’ Not a bad plan.

The problem is I’m not sure how much consistent fantasy relevance he can have. The one spot this team is deep in is left wing. Should they keep Pat Maroon or Michael Grabner around in the offseason, and Marcus Johansson is healthy, Wood could be the team’s fourth-line left wing next year. Good for the team’s depth, bad for his fantasy value.

7. Calle Jarnkrok has been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He may miss the playoffs, as well. It’s a good thing the Preds went out and added nearly an entire extra forward line at the trade deadline. On pace for a 40-point season, Jarnkrok wasn’t overly fantasy relevant but his absence might be enough to get multi-category option, Scott Hartnell, back into the regular rotation for Nashville.

8. How about the Golden Knights taking a pile of seventh forwards and fifth defencemen and turning them into division champs? Sure, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault looks like a star now, but do you think William Karlsson goes from fourth line centre with 18 career goals to a likely 40-goal man without chemistry playing some kind of role?

9. Caps’ Andre Burakovsky was a popular breakout pick during preseason but he has struggled to find his groove and has battled injuries. I wonder how much room there is for him to produce as a playmaking winger on a team with two dominant playmaking centermen. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are better served with players more willing to shoot the puck.

10. Anthony Deangelo will miss 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury. Seems like a missed opportunity for the young defenceman. With the Rangers’ rebuilding, and the absence of Kevin Shattenkirk, there have been minutes to go around. DeAngelo skated 17 minutes a night with secondary power play time over the past two months. He wasn’t particularly productive, with seven points in 24 games since being recalled, but if he was going to produce, it needed to be now.

DeAngelo is already with his third team in three years as a pro. He’s only 22, so there is still time, but this was a big opportunity. No guarantee the Rangers are this bad next season.

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11. Another young blueliner, Jared Spurgeon of the Wild, will miss at least four weeks after partially tearing his hamstring on Tuesday night. This ends a breakout season for the 28-year-old. With 37 points, he finishes one shy of the career high he set last season, but he seemed like a sure bet for 40-plus points.

Over the past four seasons, Spurgeon had been right on that borderline for fantasy hockey relevance, but finally tipped over the edge with enhanced power play usage this season. At the time of his injury, he ranked 20th in goals among defencemen (tied with teammate Mathew Dumba), and 37th in defenceman points. His 13 power play points and 2:37 PP time per game are both career highs.

Spurgeon will be a final round target for many next season. That’s how overlooked we expect him to be after this injury. In fact, he was overlooked all season despite grading out as a top-40 defenceman in standard leagues. The only real mark on Spurgeon’s record is that this continues a run of injury-proneness. In seven seasons since making the league full time, Spurgeon has missed 84 games, an average of 12 per season.

12. Has anyone seen the Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault? He has now gone seven straight games without a point, crushing fantasy owners during their playoff matchups. The absence of Reilly Smith is notable in this run but is that really all it took to push him into a cold streak?

13. So far, Derick Brassard is struggling to produce in a reduced role in Pittsburgh. He has four points in nine games, while averaging a little over 15 minutes per game. Even his shot volume is down a bit with 19 SOG in those nine outings. Keeper league owners can’t be too enthused that he is locked in for one more year in Pittsburgh. Sure, they have firepower, but he isn’t going to see too many shifts with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, which really reduces how lucrative this spot can be.

14. We’ve been starting to think of next year’s fantasy drafts a little bit. One guy whose ADP we’re excited (read: intrigued) to see is Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev.

We wonder how many people realize he has zero goals and 10 assists in 33 games since Christmas? All his damage, fantasy-wise, came before the holiday break. With the addition of Ryan McDonagh, next season Sergachev will be, at best, fourth on the depth chart for Lightning blueliners at five-on-five. He might also be lucky to see any significant secondary PP minutes.

Sergachev clearly has a bright future as a fantasy option but it’ll probably have to wait another year. We imagine he’ll be drafted inside the top-50 defencemen next season, however. That feels like a waste of a draft pick to us, though there is a lot of time between now and then.

15. Another rearguard whose ADP should be interesting come September is Jeff Petry. Since Shea Weber’s injury in the middle of December, Petry has 23 points in 38 games with half those points coming on the power play. He’s earning a couple more minutes of ice time overall, which is obviously going to decline with a healthy Weber, but it’s the power play that is interesting.

There was a good article just over a month ago in the Montreal Gazette that touched on Montreal’s power-play improvement post-Weber. Since then, the power play is near the bottom of actual goals scored but closer to the middle of the league in expected goals scored (from Corsica). The days of big defencemen just bombing shots from the blue line is long gone; you see top power plays in the league now that rely on puck movement rather than 55-foot slap shots.

The question is whether Montreal’s coaching staff actually decides to supplant Weber with Petry on the top PP unit when both are healthy. We really doubt it because the veteran with previous success will always priority but if Petry is cheap enough at the draft, it might be worth gambling on him eventually taking over the top quintet next season.

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16. Matt Duchene in the last 33 games: 15 goals, 33 points, 83 SOG. That’s awesome. What’s crazy is that he’s done it without the benefit of much from the power play. It’s tempting to assume he might go for 70-plus points next season. The big question: will Erik Karlsson be there? If that answer is no, it’s going to be tough for any Senator, even Mark Stone, to amass 70 points or more.

17. Don’t make too many long-term judgements on Braden Holtby as a result of his struggles this season. He could certainly rebound next season. It’s worth mentioning that legendary goalie coach Mitch Korn retired, which may have had an added influence on Holtby’s play. He could get on a better page with the new goalie coach and rediscover his game next season. The Capitals’ blue line could improve with another year of comfort for youngsters like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, too.

Is Holtby fatigued? Likely yes. However, he hasn’t even started an egregious number of games relative to season’s past. He’s on pace for just 57 starts. Moreover, he has been bad all year. His numbers have been particularly awful over the past two weeks (as any Holtby owner now licking his wounds can no doubt attest) but he has been below average since game one.

Is this the cumulative effect of three consecutive seasons of heavy starts plus subsequent playoff runs? Is this the result of an exodus of half of Washington’s starting defencemen over the summer? Is the position simply too difficult to play at a high level for extended periods?

We did not have Holtby ranked as a top-tier goalie this season because we’ve noticed a trend that goalies simply do not finish with top-five fantasy numbers for more than three years in a row. It just doesn’t happen. Likely because of a confluence of the above questions. The league’s salary cap makes it difficult to keep teams together for very long. Injuries or general wear and tear can creep in. Year-over-year fatigue may play a role as well.

18. Riley Sheahan has 27 points in his last 53 games. This is the Sheahan we all expected when he had 36 in 72 back in 2014-15 and it took a trade to Pittsburgh to get there. His confidence is back and it doesn’t hurt that he’s seeing regular duty with Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard. We think he still has another gear yet, though his ceiling is still limited to fewer than 50 points. We think he’ll flirt with that number next year if he continues to be implemented this way.

Pens’ general manager Jim Rutherford has really dug up the gems this year. Aside from Sheahan, Jamie Oleksiak has been a revelation. He’s eating up more than 17 minutes per game for the Penguins and has 10 points in 35 games since joining them. He also has 52 PIM in those 35 games not to mention he’s been a hit machine. With Dallas he had 36 hits in 21 games (1.71/game). With Pittsburgh – 116 in 35 (3.31)!

19. Erik Gustafsson is a must-own short-term pickup. The 25-year-old had 14 points in half a season with the Hawks two years ago but spent last year in Rockford posting middling numbers. This year, however, he was going nuts down there with 17 points in 25 games. Now in the NHL, he has 11 points in 25 games.

Earlier this week, Gustafsson picked up two points on the power play and now it’s his turn to get the opportunity that Jordan Oesterle had two months ago. If you recall, Oesterle was given a ton of ice and PP time for about 25 games. He was hot for the first 10 and then did nothing for 15 before Joel Quenneville started rolling back the experiment. Looks like he’s doing the same thing with Gustafsson now. Oesterle didn’t seize his chance – possibly his only chance ever. Will Gustafsson?

20. This year’s Cy Young Award winner (so far)? Michael Grabner, who has 27 goals and seven assists. He beats out Artem Anisimov, who has potted 20 goals to go with his eight assists. Anders Lee (33-20) and James Neal (24-16) would also get consideration.

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