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Fantasy Hockey: Goalies and other risky picks for 2018-19

So far, PHT highlighted sleepers and players due for rebounds in fantasy hockey. Between those two lists, you’ll find quite a few strong value propositions.

Pushing people up the ladder naturally means that someone must go down a few rungs, and that’s where this post comes in.

Before we dive in, please note: none of this is to say that these players are “bad.” Fantasy hockey is ultimately about value, which means making educated guesses about players who are being drafted too soon or being passed up by too many people.

Such a list, then, could be even more vulnerable to changes than the more optimistic sleepers and bounce-back years. After all, “reaching” for a goalie is a lot more reasonable if, say, there are five skater stats and five goalie stats in your league.

[More Fantasy: Pick up the Rotoworld Draft Guide]

Hopefully these general guidelines can help you in just about any format. At worst, it’s a good idea to question things rather than just defaulting to whoever is ranked higher in your draft app.

Reasonable choices, but just too high for goalies

Look, if you make a couple of picks and then decide you just CANNOT DEAL with a lack of goalies, I understand. Just realize that, ultimately, I personally only view there being two semi-reliable “premium” netminders: Andrei Vasilevskiy and Sergei Bobrovsky.

There’s a lot to like with those choices, yet there are issues. Rinne’s struggled many times during his career, and now he must fend off a fantastic backup/goalie-of-the-future in Juuse Saros. Hellebuyck was fantastic, yet has a limited track record, and no longer enjoys contract year motivation. Rask stumbled last season, Andersen plays behind an up-and-down defense, and Gibson’s dealt with injuries and might need to overcome a dicey Ducks team.

Personally, I’d feel comfortable going with a skater in that range, instead. As two examples, Rinne’s ADP lands him right before Blake Wheeler and Brent Burns, while you can grab Johnny Gaudreau, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Artemi Panarin instead of, say, Hellebuyck.

[More Fantasy: Rotoworld’s DFS Toolkit]

I like Martin Jones’ situation, and he’s fine, but I’m not blown away by him, either. If you’re considering a goalie with such a prominent pick, you need to think that he could very well win the Vezina.

Sound the alarms

In a way, it’s comforting that hockey fans still hold Price in a high regard, as it resists some of the “What have you done for me lately?” culture of sports. There’s also the chance that Montreal could exceed expectations amid another dour offseason of dismal moves by Marc Bergevin.

The overall picture of Price is too risky for a top-50 pick, as Price hasn’t performed that well and/or has dealt with striking injury concerns lately.

Quick had a great season in 2017-18, and if healthy, should provide volume, if nothing else. Still, this Kings team could regress out of the playoffs, and Quick’s track record of providing quality along with all that quantity is suspect at best. At least when we’re talking about premium picks. You could get a premium center like Jack Eichel or Mark Scheifele in that range.

“MAF” was absolutely dazzling last season, carrying over an honestly incredible regular season to an almost uniformly impeccable playoff run. (Sure, he struggled a bit against Washington, but Fleury was outstanding overall. As close to heroic as you can get … you know, stopping pucks.)

Still, MAF is 33, rounding out a group of older goalies (Quick is 32, Price is 31). With increased age comes increased risks for injuries and physical decline. Also, the Golden Knights could stink like they were expected to last season, for all we know.

Goalies are already dangerous to draft early, but this trio worries me the most of the top 50 ADP.

Skaters, maybe another goalie or two

In Yahoo formats, Nashville’s first-line forward seems to settle into the 30 range (36 ADP), which seems more or less fine. I’d be a bit more excited about the ceiling of, say, Eichel or Scheifele, but we’re talking slight difference here.

The sticker shock happens in ESPN, however, as I’ve seen him ranked 16th. Sorry, but I’d much rather have Jamie Benn, Steven Stamkos, or Taylor Hall in that range.

At this point, people bash “Wild Bill” for being overrated so often, I now believe that he’s underrated. Karlsson has talent, and if he can stick with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, a 20-goal season is reasonable.

But he’s being drafted as if he can at least parallel his breakout(of nowhere) 43-goal, 78-point campaign, as his ADP is 61.3. Judging by other players drafted around him, instead of rolling the dice in true Vegas fashion, I’d recommend that you make sure you get at least one elite defenseman in this range, if you haven’t already. I wouldn’t be stunned if Shayne Gostisbehere (67.6) or John Klingberg (69.1) ended up being the top fantasy hockey defensemen of 2018-19, honestly, and they’d be much safer bets than Karlsson. Just saying.

I don’t totally dismiss the possibility that Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers are due for positive regression this season. The problem is that, much like with Carey Price, too-large bets are being made that Talbot will rebound, as his ADP is 75.

My guess is that a lot of people witness a rush on goalies, panic, and settle upon Talbot. Honestly, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Antti Raanta (a sleeper pick) has a better season, and his ADP is 135.7.

Now, if you’re confident about the Oilers and Talbot’s available around pick, say, 100? Sure, why not.

Lightning round of misgivings and worthy notes

  • Patrik Laine (6.8) – Is there some Winnipeg edict to try to get value out of players while also keeping opportunities down while they’re not under long-term contracts? If so, that’s cagey, kind of evil, and sort of impressive.

Laine is awesome, and he could easily justify being a top-10 pick, but the Jets give him limited ice time (his reps actually went down from his rookie workload by about a minute-and-a-half per night). Yes, Winnipeg boasts a bounty of talented forwards, yet it still feels weird that Laine gets the short straw.

Anyway, when you’re talking about your top picks, being sure is pretty important. Maybe he’ll take off CURIOUSLY after signing an extension? Hmmm …

  • Evgeni Malkin (13.9) – Strictly an injury concern here.
  • Patrice Bergeron (41.5) – Like Malkin, Bergeron was snubbed from “The NHL 100” list, in my opinion. Both are great players, yet they’ve taken their lumps. Bergeron missed 18 games last season and already enters 2018-19 with lingering issues.
  • Brock Boeser, Mikko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal – All three are very, very good young players. Dazzling even. Still, they’re going very high in drafts, and there are slight concerns about them stumbling in encore performances.

I’m not saying don’t draft either one of the three, but maybe wait a little while.

  • Ilya Kovalchuk (77.8) – If you’re like me, you’re jazzed that Kovalchuk is back. It’s like a good friend moving back into town, only without those glances at your larger belly.

That said, Kovalchuk is 35. I’d rather let someone else fit the bill in case he doesn’t really “have it” as much any longer, at least in such a lofty range. Otherwise, you might get the same feeling with Kovalchuk as you do when you realize that you’ve grown apart from your old pal.

(Sheesh, this got sad all of a sudden.)

  • Corey Perry, Seth Jones, other recent injury worries – As always, be careful about injuries. Sometimes a player can have a Yahoo note next to their name that amounts to them having a broken nail. Other times, they could miss a ton of time. How much of a loss does Jones suffer for missing at least one month? That’s up to you to decide, but my feeling is “quite a bit,” especially since he might be nagged by the injury even once he plays.

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Anyway, that’s enough mild negativity for now. Are there any “reaches” that really stand out to you in fantasy drafts, or rankings? Feel free to share your tidbits in the comments.

MORE:
Sleepers, bargains for 2018-19
2018-19 bounce back candidates

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penguins keep heating up; Struggling Stars sink lower

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Is it time for the Dallas Stars to throw Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn under the bus again?

We’re still in October, and things are looking unsettling for a team that navigated some serious highs and lows in 2018-19 to eventually drum up lofty expectations for 2019-20. So far, the Stars have flopped in their encore performance, like a band tripping over all of their instruments while the crowd raises its lighters.

On paper, you’d think it would be the Pittsburgh Penguins who were struggling against the Stars on Friday. After all, they are the team still dealing with injuries to Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Bjugstad, and Bryan Rust, while the Stars recently got interesting offseason addition Corey Perry back in the lineup.

Instead, the two teams continued on their opposite trajectories. The Penguins keep finding ways to win, in this case riding two Kris Letang goals to a 4-2 win against the Stars, pushing Pittsburgh’s winning streak to five games. Dallas, meanwhile, lost its fifth game in a row (0-4-1), and the Stars saw their overall 2019-20 record sink to a deeply unsettling 1-7-1.

Former PHT editor Brandon Worley captured much of the mood among Stars fans after another dispiriting loss.

Most are shaking their heads in dismay, with some feeling like it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Like many, I didn’t expect Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, and other Stars goalies to combine for a .923 team save percentage like they did in 2018-19, which towered over last season’s league average of .905.

It absolutely was a red flag that the Stars only marginally outscored the opposition (209 goals for, 200 against) last season despite that Herculean goaltending.

Still, there were signs that Jim Montgomery’s system was putting Bishop and Khudobin in a situation to succeed, and there are elements of a modern puck-moving defense in place. One could picture another step for sizzling sophomore Miro Heiskanen, and the Stars made the playoffs despite dark horse Norris candidate John Klingberg being limited to 64 regular-season games. More Heiskanen, more Klingberg, another step for Roope Hintz, plus the additions of Joe Pavelski and, to a much lesser extent, Corey Perry? There were worse formulas for success heading into 2019-20, so fools like me wondered if the Stars might be able to rekindle that magic.

Luck should improve

And, to be fair, counting the Stars out just a little more than two weeks into 2019-20 would be hasty.

Hintz and Heiskanen are some of the only Stars off to the starts you’d expect, with Seguin parked at four points in nine games, Pavelski only managing one goal and one assist, and Klingberg being limited to a single point.

Things should regress in a positive way, even in the highly likely instance that neither Bishop nor Khudobin will rekindle that 2018-19 magic. Much like the slow-starting Wild, the Stars have played most of their games on the road (six of nine away from home) so far. After Saturday’s trip to Philly to play the Flyers, the Stars play six of seven games in Dallas from Oct. 21 through Nov. 5. The outlook could look quite a bit rosier by the end of that stretch.

It doesn’t change the fact that the Stars dug themselves a formidable hole. While the Stars have a hapless divisional neighbor in the Minnesota Wild, the bottom line is that the Central Division figures to be unforgiving.

A matter of philosophy?

Maybe it’s too early to panic, but it’s absolutely time to ask tough questions. The Stars aren’t that far removed from being one of the most electrifying teams in the NHL, only to turn their back on that formula at the first signs of pushback, instead going the “safer” route of becoming more defensive-minded under Ken Hitchcock and then Montgomery.

It was easier to watch that beautiful thing die when the Stars were winning, yet it’s debatable if dumbing things down by going all-defense is truly the “safe” route, especially with a team fueled by offensive talent from Seguin and Alexander Radulov on offense and skilled defensemen like Klingberg and Heiskanen on the blueline.

Maybe losing to a depleted Penguins teams at least provides another chance to do some soul-searching?

The Penguins carried the Stars’ outscore-your-problems torch once Dallas wavered, and Pittsburgh marched to two consecutive Stanley Cups despite defense that ranged from shaky to shabby. Then, for reasons even more perplexing, the Penguins began to lose confidence in that approach, and ended up losing some ground in the process.

As of Friday, the Penguins and Stars are moving in very different directions, and one can bet that they’ll see other dramatic shifts over an 82-game regular season. Maybe both can provide each other lessons about playing to your strengths and knowing who you are, though.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Nationals’ Scherzer drops ceremonial baseball before Capitals game

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The Washington Nationals have some time to kill before the 2019 World Series after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, so why not take in a Washington Capitals game … and maybe put a new knuckleball-like spin on a common hockey photo-op?

Instead of dropping the ceremonial first puck before Friday’s Capitals – Rangers contest, three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer elected to drop a baseball instead. You can watch video of that fun ceremony (which vaguely reminded me of Auston Matthews doing a little Globetrotter spin with a Raptors basketball) in the video above. Sports city synergy is fun, is what I’m trying to say.

As a baseball not-knower, this brings up a lot of questions — some I can answer, some not so much.

  • Was it one of those new-fangled “juiced” baseballs? Scherzer probably doesn’t like those, if they’re really a thing.
  • I was wondering about Scherzer’s (maybe somewhat intimidating) different-colored eyes. Apparently Scherzer was born that way, although one eye was blue and the other was green, originally. (The blue eye turned bluer, while the green one turned brown.) Dany Heatley is a hockey player who comes to mind with that, but his story is less fun and more upsetting.
  • CNN clears up the Nationals’ connection to “Baby Shark,” which I wondered about thanks to this:

(Even Capitals fans would probably admit that this is swimming a bit close to San Jose’s waters.)

  • In case you were wondering, that sports city synergy went both ways, as you can see from Alex Ovechkin hugging Scherzer before a Nationals game in June 2018 (via Getty):
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

As of this writing, the Capitals lead the Rangers 3-2 and the New York Yankees are trying to protect a 4-1 lead against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the ALCS. If the Astros win, they’ll face Scherzer’s Nationals.

… And that about concludes my baseball-knowing.

/chews imaginary tobacco/Major League Chew

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Devils, Hischier agree to seven-year, $50.75 million extension

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While the Devils don’t know yet if Taylor Hall will sign an extension to remain in New Jersey or find a new home next summer in free agency, GM Ray Shero has young locked down one of the team’s core pieces.

On Friday, Nico Hischier agreed to a seven-year, $50.75 million extension that carries a $7.25 million cap hit through the 2026-27 NHL season. The deal buys three unrestricted free agent years since the Devils forward has been playing since he was 18, per Cap Friendly.

“Nico is a special person who possess a team-first mentality combined with an inner drive to succeed,” said Shero in a statement. The entire organization is thankful to him and his family for believing in our future. We are excited that he will continue to play a prominent role with us for many years to come.”

According to the Devils, here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

2020-21: $7,000,000 (includes $3 million signing bonus)
2021-22: $7,250,000
2022-23:  $4,500,000
2023-24:  $7,750,000
2024-25:  $7,750,000
2025-26:  $8,000,000
2026-27:  $8,500,000

The extension also features a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.

In 157 NHL games, Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has 37 goals and 101 points while averaging over 17 minutes a night. His offense has been just fine with a 20 and 17 goals in his first two seasons, but his two-way game is what’s really boosted his talent.

The 20-year-old center joins the list of NHLers who passed on restricted free agency in 2020 to put pen to paper on a new deal, joining the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot, and Sam Girard.

Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dylan Strome, and Mikhail Sergachev are some of the other potential 2020 RFAs who will be looking for extensions before next season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Helm fined $5K for slash on Flames’ Lindholm

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Darren Helm and Elias Lindholm had a little battle in the third period of Thursday’s 5-1 Flames win and it has resulted in a $5,000 fine for the Red Wings forward.

It all began during a face-off when Lindholm got taken down by Helm. The Flames forward took exception and skated after Helm as the puck entered the Calgary zone. The tiff continued on with Lindholm throwing an elbow at Helm, who responded by getting up off the ice and slashing Lindholm in the back of the leg.

“Their guy comes with an elbow that should have probably been called right away,” said Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill. “Then Darren reacts to that as most guys would, you get an elbow to the face for no reason you’re going to react. We got to be more disciplined in those situations, but he slashed him. I don’t think the slash was that super-hard, but it sure looked hard the way he went down.”

The fine is the maximum amount allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Helm was given a major for slashing and a game misconduct, while Lindholm got off with just an interference minor. Lindholm was helped to the dressing room and there’s been no update yet on his condition.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.