20 Fantasy Thoughts: Bounce-back seasons coming for Price, Tarasenko?

The panel looks at the upcoming contract negotiations for Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews, and the Sedin twins potentially retiring and what their timeline is.

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. How high will you rank Carey Price in your fantasy drafts next season? It’s been a season to forget for Price, whose fantasy value has crashed both because of injuries and his team’s sudden decline from respectability. For a player whose average draft position (ADP) was 5.9 in Yahoo leagues, Price’s season has been a massive letdown for those who spent a first-round pick on him. So, what are his chances of bouncing back next season? And where should he be ranked?

Price’s track record should count for something, which is why we’ll use the comparable of Henrik Lundqvist here. King Henrik’s struggles in 2016-17 weren’t to the same extent (2.74 GAA, .910 SV%) that Price’s struggles have been in 2017-18. Lundqvist hasn’t really improved in 2017-18 (2.94 GAA, .915 SV%), but Lundqvist is also quite a bit older at age 36. The Rangers were also sellers at the draft and are beginning a rebuild. Lundqvist has had a fine career but this seems to be the new normal for him.

Entering this season, Lundqvist was still able to secure an ADP of 58.9, which was 14th among goalies. So, a preliminary ranking projection would be for Price’s ADP to be approximately in that spot – just outside of the top 50. This projection isn’t exact by any means, and the Habs’ roster could change for better or for worse this off-season (if you think about it, a draft lottery win could change the mood in Montreal).


2. We’re also wondering what Vladimir Tarasenko’s ADP will be next year. Barring a big point binge over the balance of the season, it’ll be the first time since 2013-14 that he’ll fail to crack 70 points. He needs four more goals to crack 35 or he’ll fail to do so since that same season. He was typically a late first-round pick this year but will he be next year? We could easily see Tarasenko fall outside the top 12 and maybe in the 15-20 range.

He’s shooting 8.45 per cent on the power play (by far a career-low, having never been below 15 per cent before), 10.75 per cent at 5-on-5 (the second-lowest of his career among 82-game seasons), and has a four-year low in total assists per minute. All this is to say that despite having an established career, there may be some bad luck going on for him and his linemates.

3. A hat trick for Sam Reinhart on Saturday gives him 34 points in the last 34 games, which all kicked off after the Sabres’ bye week. A big reason for his second-half tear has been Buffalo’s rediscovery of power-play excellence. Fourteen of Reinhart’s points in this run have come on the man-advantage unit, helping him to career-highs in power-play goals (11) and PP points (20). A full season of PP production like this could lead to a breakout but we also said that last season.

4. Thatcher Demko got the win in his NHL debut on Saturday. Demko has boasted some solid numbers in the AHL this season, including a .921 save percentage.

After two years in the minors, one has to figure that Demko is ready to take another step. If the Canucks were closer to seriously competing, perhaps it would make sense to bring Demko up sooner, but since they aren’t he’d be better off continuing to get regular action in the AHL than making the Canucks as a backup next season. However, as we have seen in Colorado and New Jersey, teams can turn around faster than you might think so perhaps he could get dragged up by mid-season next year.

5. We’re not sure how many people realize this but over the last three seasons, Josh Manson leads the Ducks blue line in points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (0.85) and it’s not particularly close with Cam Fowler at 0.62. Over those three seasons, league-wide, he’s tied with the likes of Shea Weber, Morgan Rielly, and Matt Niskanen. That’s pretty good company.

It’s been a fantastic season this year with 32 points and none on the power play. All those 5-on-5 points have him third in the league on a per-minute basis behind only Erik Karlsson and Torey Krug. He doesn’t seem to have favour with the coaches, though, at least offensively, given his non-existent PP usage and the fact that even though they lost Shea Theodore in the off-season, traded Sami Vatanen, and have been fighting injuries all season, he’s still earning just about 20 minutes a game (including a lot of short-handed minutes).

With no PP time, and without additional 5-on-5 minutes, this season will be the high-water mark for Manson. Don’t chase these points next year in drafts.

6. Can we say how impressive it’s been to watch Ryan Donato since he debuted with the Bruins? We know it’s a common trope in the media and among fans but he genuinely looks like a middle-six winger that has been playing in the NHL for three or four years. Should the injury to Rick Nash prove even more serious and he misses playoff time, Donato is a very nice insurance policy.

We’re also very optimistic for his fantasy value next year. Without Nash in the lineup – which he won’t be for 2018-19 – Donato has been earning those top power-play minutes. Second line with David Krejci and top PP unit with Patrice Bergeron and company? Yes, please.

7. Petr Mrazek hasn’t shown out the way we might have hoped since landing in Philadelphia. This has probably cost him any shot at a starting gig next season. You also have to think that the Flyers won’t be qualifying him at $4 million this summer, so he’ll be a UFA looking for a backup gig. He could save this with a big playoff run but that is looking exceedingly unlikely. If you’re offering Mrazek around in your league, he won’t be worth much.

How many times have we seen a goalie look lost before landing in the right situation with the right goalie coach, rediscover his confidence and prove himself to be a legitimate starter? Devan Dubnyk lost three seasons in his mid-20s before rediscovering his game in Arizona. He did enough there to warrant a trade to Minnesota that saved the Wild’s season and Dubnyk’s career. Someone is going to give Mrazek a shot this summer and whether it works out or not, there’s a chance he could become relevant again.

8. Mathew Barzal is a super-duper star, capable of carrying his own line, and potentially his own team. No doubt life would become more difficult losing John Tavares as he’d get more attention from the opposition’s best players, as well as more focus from coaching staffs trying to shut him down. However, a guy who skates like Barzal is always going to be able to put the opposition into crisis.

My main concern would be if the Islanders make a coaching change and get away from the wide-open play they have had all season. A coach not so content to trade chances could stifle Barzal by really having him focus on becoming a more complete two-way player. I suspect that plan would be accelerated if Tavares leaves.

The safe play is to peg Barzal for just under a point-per-game season as a hedge against the ‘sophomore slump’ and that’s with or without Tavares. I suspect that if Tavares leaves there may be an overcorrection against Barzal underrating what he is capable of on his own.

9. Philly’s Shayne Gostisbehere has now reached the 60 points plateau for the season, while blue line mate Ivan Provorov has hit the 15-goal mark. We can remember numerous fantasy hockey GMs suggesting before the season that Gostisbehere shouldn’t be drafted too high because of the presence of Provorov. Well, if you did anyway, aren’t you glad you didn’t take their advice?

10. The Caps’ Evgeny Kuznetsov has vaulted over the point-per-game mark with 77 points (25g-52a) in 75 games, which has already matched his previous career-high.

One key off-season move that has boosted Kuznetsov’s value in at least one category was the trading of Marcus Johansson, which resulted in the former finally being moved to the first-unit power play. Kuznetsov has averaged over three minutes of power-play time per game, more than one full minute over his previous career mark. As a result, he has reached a career-high 28 power-play points. Combine that with even-strength ice time with Alex Ovechkin and we’re finally seeing Kuznetsov at his full potential.

11. It has been a dismal second half for the Dallas Stars. One bright spot has been Tyler Pitlick, who was drafted by Edmonton at the beginning of the decade and essentially bounced between the AHL and NHL for the next six years. He was let go last off-season and subsequently signed with Dallas. He’s responded by scoring 14 goals for the Stars thus far, well above his career-high of eight last year for the Oilers.

There’s clearly a need for the top-line right wing spot in Dallas next year. Maybe they bring someone in – Valeri Nichushkin returning comes to mind – and they’ll have cap space to do it; they have maybe a half-dozen RFAs to sign but no one will have a huge cap hit. However, if they don’t bring in some outside help, Pitlick could very well end up there next year. They seem committed to leaving Alexander Radulov on the second line and in-house options are thin beyond him and Brett Ritchie. Just keep Pitlick in mind for deep leagues next draft season.

12. We don’t think we’re really appreciating what Clayton Keller is doing in his rookie season. Monday night, he became the second rookie to crack 60 points this year after Barzal did it long ago. Keller is sitting at 23 goals and 63 points as a 19-year old rookie.

As far as we can tell (which is to say, with the records we have going back to the mid-70s), Keller is the first player to crack 60 points as a rookie teenager on a team scoring fewer than 2.5 goals per game. Keller’s production this year, in the context of the quality of the team offensively, has no parallel.

Barzal wrapped up the Calder Trophy race months ago – being a point-per-game rookie as a 20-year-old is something truly special. Let’s not let this overshadow Keller’s season, though. It is, quite literally, historic.

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13. Buffalo’s Casey Mittelstadt is a dynamic playmaking forward with speed and skill. The Sabres could use about five more of these to truly get competitive but Mittelstadt will help. It sucks that he comes in only after the team lost Evander Kane at the trade deadline. One step forward, one step back. The fact that the Sabres are so bad opens up vast opportunity for Mittelstadt right away. There probably isn’t much room on the top power-play unit with Reinhart having a big second half but there will be minutes for Mittelstadt.

14. Now in Florida, Henrik Borgstrom destroyed college hockey with 95 points in 77 games and should be ready to make an immediate impact. With the enviable strength that the Panthers boast down the middle with Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck, we may see Borgstrom on the wing. He could have ludicrous value if plunked onto Trocheck’s wing opposite Jonathan Huberdeau.

The Panthers could also slot him in on a depth line in an effort to get more out of one of the league’s worst bottom-six groups, but fantasy owners have to hope he can displace the unimposing trio of Frank Vatrano, Denis Malgin and Jamie McGinn that has been occupying time on that Trocheck line.

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15. Barkov is carrying an obscene load on a nightly basis. He and the Kings’ Anze Kopitar are the only two forwards in the league averaging over 22 minutes per game. If they sustain this pace, they’ll be the first forwards to do so since the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

How Barkov is doing this, with predominantly defensive shifts against the opposition’s best is crazy, but it’s even wilder that he has kept it up when you consider his injury track record. The 76 games he has played blow away his previous career-high and may force us to reconceptualize what to expect from him going forward.

We want to see another healthy season from Barkov before forgetting the injury history, but we were singing his virtues pre-season even assuming he’d miss 10-15 games. He’s that good.

16. Matt Niskanen is having a solid close to the season despite being shut out of power-play time. Niskanen might hit 30 points despite missing double-digit games and earning less than a minute of power-play time per game. That’s impressive, especially with what’s happened to Washington’s depth scoring. Niskanen’s fantasy value could spike if John Carlson (having a career year) heads elsewhere in free agency.

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17. A 30-goal season for Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher, the first of his career. He’d have gotten there sooner if not for injuries, which you have to consider when valuing Gallagher going forward, but you also have to consider that he still isn’t an 18-minute-a-night forward, so there is production being left on the table. It is worth noting that Gallagher’s minutes are up near 17 minutes a night during this productive second half, where he has 15 goals and 30 points in 37 games. That portends to a strong 2018-19 season.

18. Is Ty Rattie playing his way into an NHL job for next year? Usually we would say no to this, and we would say it quickly and easily. After all, he’s 25 now and has had his chances. Just another failed highly-touted prospect who is making a mark on a non-playoff team when games don’t mean anything. Usually, you’ll see that team re-sign him but also sign (or trade for) other players to fill the ranks on the wing, thereby forcing him to the press box or the minors. Or, to a depth line and dismal production.

However, we suspect that the Oilers could fire their GM in the summer, in which case, the philosophy changes. The focus should be on defencemen and if deals and signings are geared towards that, then maybe they count on Rattie lining up with McDavid. Why not? The Penguins did that with Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby and it worked just fine. Draftable? If your league is deep enough, we think he’s worth a flier in the final round when hunches are played. Unless something massive happens to change things among Edmonton forwards in the summer.

19. While we don’t see Ethan Bear as more than a 25-point rookie next season, we do really like his long-term value in Edmonton. The Oilers are dying for a puck-moving defenceman and he’s a promising one. We assume they make a play for a game-breaker like John Carlson, though, if they can afford him. If only they didn’t have that Kris Russell contract …

20. The Wild have signed prospect Jordan Greenway to a three-year ELC, turning pro after his junior season with Boston University. Greenway is one of the best ‘real’ hockey prospects in the world and in fact was one of five players named by The Hockey News as the best outside of the NHL.

He recorded eight points in seven games for Team USA at the WJC and was one of the better players for Team USA at the Olympics. That being said, from a fantasy standpoint, we’re looking at Chris Kreider-like production. He’s a six-foot-six giant power forward who will chip in suitable production early but don’t expect him anywhere near his upside for five or six years.

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