20 Fantasy Thoughts: Senators’ Duchene really testing patience

The Hockey Night in Canada panel discuss comments made by Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson about their contracts and if the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers are open for trades.

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. Ryan Strome is on a similar pace to last year’s numbers. It might be time to accept this is the player he is: a guy who can chip in some points in your bottom-six and second power-play unit. The likelihood of him becoming the top-six, top power-play guy some (present company included) expected him to be is becoming slimmer by the day. For reference, his primary points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 since his 50-point season is in the same range as guys like Kris Versteeg, Ryan O’Reilly, and Valtteri Filppula. If he can do that, that’s fine. It just doesn’t give him much fantasy relevance.

2. Pierre-Luc Dubois is gaining confidence and relevance. He now has points in four straight games. It’s still tough to buy Blue Jackets players with the power play performing so awfully, but the chemistry between Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson is real. Points will flow accordingly.

3. Whether Dave Hakstol is fired or not, I am waiting for the Flyers to experiment with breaking up the top line to try and spread out the scoring. They are getting next to nothing from their other nine forwards despite boasting gifted players like Wayne Simmonds, Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick.

Most would like to see more minutes for Konecny, who is averaging just over 14 minutes per game for the second consecutive season, but I am not certain that he has yet reached the level of play-driving that warrants expanded usage on a nightly basis.

Simmonds is the easy guy to target as a buy-low option. He is on pace for 44 points, but could do more if he got anything going at 5-on-5. He remains one of the league’s best net-front men and offers a ton of multi-category value.

4. In light of Steve Mason’s placement on IR, the Jets recalled Eric Comrie to serve as backup. Comrie is the prospect everyone would be talking about if it weren’t for Connor Hellebuyck.

Through his first couple pro seasons, Comrie’s numbers have left something to be desired but he has been outstanding with a .927 save percentage in 13 AHL games this season. A goalie controversy is unlikely but Comrie is capable if the door is cracked open for him.

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5. For a few years, the only thing that was really missing from the Hurricanes roster was a goalie that wouldn’t consistently lose them games; from 2014-17, the team was last in the NHL in 5-on-5 save percentage but 12th in adjusted Corsi-for percentage. Carolina was playing well but the goaltending was bad and the playoff drought continued.

Then, in the 2017 off-season, the Hurricanes signed Scott Darling. Hurrah! Everything’s fine! Unless, that is, Darling doesn’t perform to expectations, which he hasn’t.

He’s improved slightly over his previous 10 games, posting a .911 save percentage in November (it was .897 through October). However, the team is now nearly mid-pack in goals per game. They’re finally scoring enough to win games. If Darling can at least be average, with how good this team is defensively, those with suffering plus-minus ratings will (hopefully) right that stat for those in fantasy leagues using them. We’ll see.

6. Tyler Toffoli now has 13 goals on the year. Not only is he rebounding, he might set a career-high. Hopefully you smart fantasy owners weren’t scared off by one bad year.

Here’s the concern: I would feel a lot better about Toffoli getting to 30 goals if he were playing 17 minutes a night rather than 15. They’re really trying to spread the scoring and ice time out. Good for the team but bad for fantasy.

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7. The Blues have gone through some offensive struggles over the past week, or as I like to call it, regression.

Brayden Schenn has been hit hardest with no points in the last five games. Getting split off from Vladimir Tarasenko at even strength will hurt a little but there is enough offensive talent that a little juggling doesn’t hurt much. This is especially true because the power-play formations were not messed with much. This is certainly not panic time. The Blues continue to run over opponents on the shot counter, especially with their top forwards. Schenn just wasn’t going to produce at a 100-point pace all year.

8. Jesse Puljujarvi was elevated to the top line alongside Connor McDavid on Saturday and scored a pair of goals. He still isn’t close to demanding universal ownership. He skated only 14:35 and is only seeing use on the second power-play unit. Give me a couple more games of production on the top line before I jump on board.

9. Unlike with Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh, I am not advocating a pickup of Laurent Brossoit in Edmonton, but as I always say, any goalie is capable of going on a run. In a deep enough setup, you could find room to take a flyer on Brossoit but I’d only advise it if dropping an already terrible non-starting goalie option like Scott Wedgewood, for instance. More importantly, Jarry represents a better goalie scoop than Brossoit.

10. Matt Duchene literally could not have two better linemates than Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman. Chemistry is a whole other factor but in terms of pure talent, this is the spot to be. Still, he’s sitting on just two points since joining the Senators 10 games ago. Everything has been there in terms of ice time, PP use, linemates and shot volume.

At a certain point you have to give up. I don’t have Duchene in any pools but I’d have a hard time staying patient. It’s going to click at some point because Erik Karlsson is eventually going to put up some points. He has been silent for much of Duchene’s time in Ottawa. Karlsson is an inevitability. Duchene will have to follow. I’m just not sure folks can wait any longer.

11. I’m nowhere near dropping Vladislav Namestnikov but it’s worth noting that the Stamkos line has slowed down over the past couple of weeks. As the third wheel on that line, Namestnikov has naturally been hit hardest with three points in the last seven games. I’m calling it a blip on the radar until we see more ‘struggles.’ Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and that Lightning power play are probably too good for Namestnikov to reach droppable territory but I’m monitoring the situation.

12. John Gibson should continue to stop pucks at a high rate and will churn out wins whenever the Ducks get healthy. Gibson owners are in for a long couple of months waiting for Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler to return, and will bleed points in the standings, but if I were betting on one goalie to be better come head-to-head playoffs, I’d bet on Gibson. There’s nothing better come H2H playoffs than a goalie on a powerhouse team fighting for a playoff spot.

13. Those who took a chance on Andrei Vasilevskiy due to his lack of experience as a starter have been rewarded. He leads the NHL with 17 wins and posts some solid ratios (2.22 GAA, .932 SV%). You could maybe argue that Sergei Bobrovsky has had a better season among fantasy goalies but so far, Vasilevskiy is in the discussion for fantasy hockey’s top netminder.

14. Just when you thought Loui Eriksson had disappeared from the fantasy landscape, he has eight points in his last eight games. His career stats show that he needs at least a season to warm up to a new team but after that he turns into a 30-goal, 60-point scorer. The Canucks would be thrilled if they could get that kind of return from their $6 million investment.

15. The 2017 version of the Islanders is definitely not the juggernaut with Bossy, Trottier, and Potvin of the early 1980s, but you can’t call this team the Island of Misfit Toys anymore.

With 16 goals, John Tavares trails only Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov in the goal department. If you combine Anders Lee’s 15 goals this season with his 34 goals from last season, Lee is a top-10 goal scorer over that span. He should be owned universally if he isn’t already.

Another Islander who is also approaching universal ownership is Josh Bailey. At least we can now say he is beyond ownership of ‘a few weeks’ or ‘as long as he’s on the Tavares line.’ Only Stamkos has more assists than Bailey, who is tied for second (with Blake Wheeler) with 25 assists. If you’re worried that Bailey’s value will disappear if Tavares signs elsewhere this off-season, remember that the Isles also have that Mathew Barzal kid scoring a point per game on their second line.

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16. Aaron Ekblad is fading from relevance. The shot volume is still there but he has been bumped to PP2 by Keith Yandle. PP2 on the Panthers is like getting exiled north of The Wall. Ekblad has just one assist in the last 11 games. At this stage, if I had Ekblad in any leagues I’d be shopping for a new defenceman.

17. Alex DeBrincat wound up with 10 goals in the month of November, a damn impressive total for a rookie averaging under 15 minutes per game. He has 12 points in the last 10 games and represents a strong option to take a flyer on. I still don’t buy into his staying power at his current deployment but he is obviously an awesome option in keeper leagues.

I’ll keep beating the drum that Nick Schmaltz is a more intriguing option than DeBrincat because he sees more minutes overall, but especially more time with Patrick Kane. Schmaltz has 11 points in the last nine games.

18. With Martin Jones out due to injury, Aaron Dell has been very good in his brief appearances in the NHL so far, posting a .933 save percentage in 10 games and seven starts this year, and a .931 in 24 starts and 30 games for his career. You goalie-needy fantasy owners should grab him. Be proactive.

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19. Michael Grabner is now on pace to surpass last year’s total of 27 goals and could crack 30 by for the first time since 2010-11. I know his shooting percentage is high but it was last year, as well, and he shot 13.7 per cent over his three best years as an Islander. There’s no doubting his skill set, particularly his speed, makes him special. Maybe it’s time to believe?

20. I know some people were expecting bigger things from Viktor Arvidsson this year but improving on a 31-goal, 30-assist season is not easy to do. As of now, he’s on pace for 28 goals, 56 points, and is sitting at over three shots per game. This is a top-end scorer playing on a top-end forward line. If he ever starts racking up PP points with regularity (he has five, including just one goal), he’ll have a very good year.

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