Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: What will the Avalanche's top six look like?

Colorado Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog (92), Artturi Lehkonen (62), Kurtis MacDermid (56) and Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL conference finals action in Edmonton on Monday, June 6, 2022. (Jason Franson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Finally, hockey is officially back. Sure, it’s fun to watch young prospects and newly acquired players take to the ice in the preseason, but there’s nothing like the real thing. The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks kick things off in Prague today, and the Preds should be one of the more interesting teams in fantasy hockey this season.

A number of Nashville forwards had strong campaigns in 2021-22, but they were accompanied by inflated shooting percentages. Filip Forsberg (18.6 per cent), Matt Duchene (18.9 per cent), Ryan Johansen (22 per cent), and Tanner Jeannot (19.4 per cent) all figure to come back down to earth somewhat as far as their production goes, so I’m curious to see how that impacts Roman Josi’s numbers. Josi led the league in secondary assists a year ago, which was no doubt aided by the aforementioned Preds forwards burying more of their chances. If some of those players regress slightly, Josi’s totals figure to take a hit, too.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have drafted Josi, but only to temper expectations. The Nashville blueliner is likely head for another great season, just don’t expect him to hit 90 points again.

Now let’s get to your questions:

@mikewalsh86 asks: Between Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin who would you think has more value in leagues that also have banger categories.

Colorado’s top six is a bit difficult to forecast right now with Gabriel Landeskog sidelined, but I think when he returns it’s going to negatively impact Lehkonen the most. I can’t see the Avs bumping Nichushkin off the first power play unit or down the lineup in favour of Lehkonen, whose game is perfectly suited to help the third line in a checking role. Plus, Nichushkin actually had 89 hits in only 62 games last year, so he’s no slouch in leagues that value that category.

@Mawesome21 asks: Does Evan Rodrigues stick in the top six, and what is his points/shots on goal ceiling?

I think he does. As mentioned earlier, Lehkonen is someone I could see dropping down for balance, since Rodrigues probably needs higher-end offensive talent around him to get the most out of his game. Rodrigues played a fair bit with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel last season, so if he can skate with one of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen or Landeskog, he should continue to be productive. As for his ceiling, I think he drops down a bit from the huge year he had in 2021-22 and settles into the 15 goal and 175-200 shot range.

@HockeyRockBeer asks: I mostly took established guys but also went on a run grabbing Jesse Puljajarvi, Mason McTavish, Marco Rossi and Vitaly Kravtstov. Any chance at least two of those pan out for me?

Out of that group I think Rossi and McTavish have a decent chance to make an impact. Rossi should land on a line with Matt Boldy, who scored at a 68-point pace as a rookie. That duo should be able to generate plenty of offence.

As for McTavish, I’d like his outlook a lot better if the Ducks move him to wing in the top six, as opposed to slotting him in as a centre further down the lineup. If he can spend any significant time with Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry or even Ryan Strome, I think McTavish will be fairly productive.

@shaneCthompson asks: Who among this group of young forwards do you expect the most from this year? Anton Lundell, Seth Jarvis, Matt Boldy. Category leagues and points if possible.

It’s Jarvis for me. He played like a savvy veteran a season ago as a rookie and is only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of. Jarvis appears to be penciled as the right winger on Carolina’s top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, which should be very fruitful.

@rory_inkster asks: I have forward Mark Scheifele, David Pastrnak, Elias Pettersson and Kirill Kaprizov locked up as keepers. Given the option to draft Kevin Fiala, Brent Burns or Zach Werenski, who would you lean towards?

You could go with a defender to give your roster more balance, but if Fiala is available, he’ll be hard to pass up. Fiala posted 85 points in 2021-22, even though he spent very little time with Kirill Kaprizov. If he gets more of a featured role in Los Angeles, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could hit 90 points and get close to 300 shots.

@zaclw asks: In a keeper league. I have Igor Shesterkin, but no first-, second- or fourth-round picks. Should I grab another top goalie in the third round or just wait it out for a guy like Philipp Grubauer? 16 team banger.

I’d wait it out. We’ve seen numerous examples over the past few seasons of goalies like Alex Nedeljkovic, Ville Husso and Jonathan Quick that probably weren’t even drafted in the majority of leagues, resulting in great value. You could probably wait and grab a Logan Thompson, Spencer Knight or Anton Forsberg to complement Shesterkin.

@DavidSt11951642 asks: 15-team keep-five league, going after a goalie first overall… Frederik Andersen, Tristan Jarry or Jake Oettinger? Categories are games started, wins, losses, goals-against average, save percentage, shots … we start two goalies, not a keeper next year, it’s a reset.

I have Oettinger ranked the highest out of those three for this season, based on the fact that I think he’ll be the most durable and will play the most. Though it’s very close and all three are on strong teams. You can’t really go wrong with any of those options.

@punk_hockey asks: Jesperi Kotkaniemi vs. Dylan Strome. On ESPN, both are C/LW. For a bangers point league, who's the better roster?

Strome has the better offensive upside, as his second line centre role should be fairly secure in Washington and he closed the second half of last season on a tear. Kotkaniemi hasn’t showed much offensively in his brief career and I’m not confident he won’t get pushed down the lineup by either Paul Stastny or Martin Necas getting a look at centre on the second line.

@CDHendricks22 asks: A deep sleeper to add? Someone not on the radar of too many.

Sean Durzi might be worth taking a chance on. He only scored 27 points last season, but over half of them came with the man advantage. He could end up being a bit of a category specialist for you on defence for power play points.

@MatthewConor15 asks: Who is the best goalie tandem in the league now?

As long as they can stay healthy, I’d say it’s Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. They’ve got a great team in front of them, too. Honourable mention goes to Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, as well as Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight.

@BigShow162 asks: I need to pick four keepers from the skaters, who do you like best? Thanks.

Guentzel, William Nylander, Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar. I considered Evander Kane and Tim Stützle as well, but since it doesn’t look like your league has hits, the other four should be more valuable. That group should also give you the best shot volume.

@offspring10 asks: Thoughts on Elvis Merzlikins in Columbus? Sneaky good this season?

Yes, he should be. Merzlikins had a winning record and respectable numbers on a bad team last year. If Columbus is even marginally better, which you’d think they would be with the Johnny Gaudreau signing, Merzlikins’ win totals should improve and he could be one of the better value goalies in drafts for 2022-23.

@creststorm asks: Young defencemen potentially making an impact this year…? Dylan Coghlan? Jakub Zboril? Kaiden Guhle? Brandt Clarke? Who else?

I can’t say I see any of the defencemen you listed as having major fantasy impact this season. That said, Rasmus Sandin could be worth a look as a waiver wire option down the line now that he’s signed. It seems unlikely that Jake Muzzin and Mark Giordano will make it through the whole season without an injury, so I’d bet Sandin gets a shot in the top four and on the second power play unit at some point.

There’s also Calen Addison, who’s getting a long look on the first power play this preseason in Minnesota. He might be able to land that job.

@captaintrash7 asks: Who do you like as an end-of-bench stash between: Jakub Vrana, Andrei Kuzmenko, Nick Robertson, Alex Holtz, Cole Perfetti, Jack Quinn, Brandon Saad? Mostly debating between Kuzmenko and Vrana, slightly leaning Kuz given the power-play spot. Categories are: goals, assists, points, shots on goal, power-play points, blocks, plus/minus.

Kuzmenko is a good option, but I’d be worried about him losing that spot when Brock Boeser gets healthy. I think I’d prefer Vrana. He’s scored at a 47-goal pace since joining Detroit, albeit in a small sample size. If Vrana can stay healthy he might be your best bet.

@HitmanCanadian asks: How much focus do we give Vitaly Kravtsov? Will he make an impact?

High-level forward prospects haven’t exactly had a lot of offensive success in recent years for the New York Rangers, if you use Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere as examples. Still, if Kravstov lands on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, he’ll at least be worth a look. I’d keep an eye on your waiver wire and see how Kravstov is producing in the first week or two before adding.

@MarkFromTO asks: Will Dawson Mercer break out this year playing along side Jack Hughes?

If he plays with Hughes for a significant portion of the season it’s a real possibility, but I’m not sure that’s where Mercer will slot in. Yegor Sharangovich quietly had 24 goals last year and he’ll probably at least start on Hughes’ right wing. Mercer will be an important player for the Devils, though a breakout season likely won’t come as quickly as 2022-23.

@timitopshelf asks: Who would you pick between Josi, Adam Fox and Victor Hedman. Plus or minus don’t matter, only points. Thanks.

If it’s strictly points than I’d go with Josi. I know mentioned earlier that his numbers may take a slight dip, but not enough to put him behind those two in a league that’s just points. Hedman would be my next choice and then Fox. I’d say Fox is just half a step behind Josi and Hedman from a production standpoint.

@FullHouseDT asks: Where is Eric Comrie?

Comrie should get the bulk of the starts this year for the Sabres and have a real opportunity to prove he can be a starter after showing well in a small sample size for the Winnipeg Jets. He’s not worth rostering at the moment as Buffalo probably won’t be that strong once again, but Comrie could be a viable candidate off the waiver wire for spot starts when the right matchup presents itself.

@Fhacc3 asks: Which players do you think are the most overrated this year? Who would you put above them? What is your outlook on good players on bad teams in terms of fantasy value? (i.e. Cole Caufield, Tomas Hertl, Travis Konecny, Tage Thompson.)

I mentioned a few in the opening that could be a bit overvalued because of their shooting percentages last year, so just be wary about taking players that might regress. Focus on breakout candidates or those that may be moving up the lineup this season and getting more of an opportunity.

As for your second question, there’s nothing wrong with taking players from teams that don’t figure to be that strong, depending on your league categories of course. If you have plus/minus for example, players on weaker teams may struggle more in that category. The same thing goes for wins when it comes to goalies. Some of the names you mentioned like Caufield, Hertl and Thompson should all be worth rostering, though, despite their teams’ shortcomings.

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