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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.

***

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.

Russ Conway, writer who brought down hockey union boss, dies

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LAWRENCE, Mass. — Russ Conway, a hockey writer who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1992 for his stories about corruption in the NHL Players Association that helped bring down union head Alan Eagleson, has died. He was 70.

His death was reported by the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he had started at the age of 18 and later served as sports editor.

A longtime Boston Bruins beat writer, Conway published a series of articles that exposed Eagleson’s lucrative conflicts of interest as the union boss, player agent and organizer of international tournaments. Conway’s reporting spawned investigations in both the United States and Canada that resulted in Eagleson serving six months in prison and forfeiting his Order of Canada.

The Hockey Hall of Fame kicked Eagleson out and gave Conway its Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award in 1999 for bringing honor to journalism and hockey.

Can Henrik Lundqvist bounce back for Rangers?

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Rangers.

Let’s tackle three questions for the Rangers in 2019-20 …

1. How will the new guys fit in (and how many new guys will fit in)?

Don’t blame head coach David Quinn if he uses phrases like “learning process” a lot next season, as there are a ton of new faces in New York, including players who figure to be top scorers and minute-eaters.

It’s not just about getting the most from Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba. Really, it’s not even about integrating likely rookie impact-makers like Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox.

The Rangers must also decide if prospects like Vitali Kravtsov will make the team out of training camp, and if they’ll stay long enough to eat up a year of their rookie contracts. Quinn must decide if players like Lias Andersson are ready to take another step forward.

From a forwards and defense level, this is a very different-looking team, something that was cemented by the Kevin Shattenkirk buyout. As far as chemistry experiments go, the Rangers are basically mad science.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Under Pressure | X-factor]

2. Is Henrik Lundqvist washed up?

If you had to choose one Ranger to forget all about last season, it would be Lundqvist.

The Rangers’ defense was abysmal in 2018-19, and Lundqvist buckled under the pressure of trying to carry that sorry bunch, suffering through a season where he had a very un-Hank-like .907 save percentage.

When you look a little deeper at the numbers, you’ll see that his 2018-19 season wasn’t that far from normal, or maybe a “new normal.” Via Hockey Reference, you can see that his even-strength save percentage has been nearly identical for the last three seasons, as it was .919 in both 2018-19 and 2017-18 and .918 in 2016-17.

Before that, prime Lundqvist was regularly beyond .930 at even-strength, and so frequently above .920 overall that you almost set your watch to his elite play.

Considering that he’s 37, maybe the window for his elite play has finally closed, but maybe Lundqvist can squeeze out one or two more great years? Let’s not forget that Lundqvist wasn’t exactly protected in Alain Vigneault’s latter years with the Rangers, as those teams were often horrendous from a possession standpoint.

If Quinn can create more of cocoon for Lundqvist (and Alexandar Georgiev), might the Rangers improve at keeping pucks out of their own net? Even with Panarin leading a big boost in offensive punch, you’d think they’d need a lot more than they got from their goalies last season, Swiss cheese defense and all.

3. Will the playoff picture be an open road or treacherous path?

The Rangers aren’t the only team in their division that should be tough to gauge once prediction time rolls around, making it difficult to tell if the Metro will compare to what was a mighty Atlantic Division last season.

The Devils are just about as wildly different as the Rangers, and the Flyers made bold moves in their own right.

It’s easiest to imagine the Rangers falling in the wild-card range, so a lot may hinge on how other teams perform, both in the Metro and Atlantic Divisions. If the Panthers and Sabres take big strides — as they’re paying to do — then the Atlantic teams could gobble up as many as five playoff spots, forcing the Rangers to break into the top three of the Metro. That might be asking too much, so the Rangers have to hope for a little bit of a buffer when it comes to the playoff bubble.

(You know, unless they end up being far better or far worse than expected.)

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• 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.

Rangers put Quinn under pressure to show spending was worth it

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are Broadway’s NHL team, so consider the 2018-19 season a “dress rehearsal” for head coach David Quinn.

Expectations were low for a team that telegraphed a rebuild to the point of sending out a press release, but you can take the training wheels off after the Rangers invested huge money and resources into the likes of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Kaapo Kakko, and Adam Fox.

If this was a video game or fantasy hockey, you’d seamlessly improve with seemingly more skilled players without much fuss. Actually making it all work in reality isn’t always so simple, though, putting Quinn under pressure to make it all come together in 2019-20.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Three Questions | X-factor]

Let’s consider some of the challenges ahead.

Manufacturing a Bread Line, and managing young guns

The first question falls under “good problems to have,” as Quinn should ponder how to get the most out of Panarin.

As PHT’s Scott Billeck discussed here, one likely combination would involve Panarin lining up with top center Mika Zibanejad, and rookie Kakko. There are plenty of other ways to experiment with Panarin, though, and a lot of those possibilities hinge on which younger forwards can earn significant reps, or even spots on the roster at all.

One could imagine Panarin setting the table for someone like Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, or Vitali Kravtsov, much like Panarin undoubtedly helped Pierre Luc-Dubois become a quick study in the NHL during Panarin’s days with the Blue Jackets. It could end up working out best if Panarin and Zibanejad power one line apiece, or it may be better to concentrate that high-end, more experienced NHL scoring talent on a first line.

Along with Kravtsov and others fighting for roster spots, there are also players with something to prove, from Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich to someone coming off of a rough stretch like Vladislav Namestnikov.

It’s up to Quinn to mold this intriguing, but somewhat unshapen group into something cohesive. Unlike last season, the raw materials are there for something, even if this group isn’t necessarily primed to be explosive out of the gate.

Getting some stops

The good and bad news is that the Rangers’ defense basically had nowhere to go but up. It won’t be easy to generate the sort of gains that can help the Rangers contend, though.

Jacob Trouba’s getting his wish: he’s the man on that New York defense, no question about it; we’ll see if this is a “careful what you wish for” situation, because if this unit’s going to be any good, it will probably come down to Trouba being the minutes-eating top guy.

Adam Fox has been drawing hype for a while, but what can he be right off the bat? Considering the Rangers’ personnel, they might not be able to ease the 21-year-old into the NHL fray as much as would normally be ideal.

Even with considerable gains, the Rangers will probably continue to do what they’ve done for more than a decade: ask a whole lot from Henrik Lundqvist.

The 37-year-old is coming off of the worst year of his NHL career, as he languished with a .907 save percentage behind that lousy defense. Lundqvist can’t be asked to patch up the same mistakes as he did during his prime, but if the Rangers are going to take a big step forward, they need King Henrik to return somewhere close to form.

If not, that presents another hurdle for Quinn. Can he manage Lundqvist’s ego — and placate those around him — while getting results in net, particularly if it becomes clear that Alexandar Georgiev would be the superior option most nights? That’s a potential instance where problems become as much political as tactical, and answers rarely come easily.

***

Change can come quickly in the NHL, yet even by those standards, the Rangers have undergone a dramatic makeover. Quinn is charged with making sure that things don’t end up looking ugly.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• 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.

Grade the Hurricanes’ new road uniform

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On Tuesday morning Carolina Hurricanes unveiled a new road uniform for the 2019-20 NHL season, ditching their primary storm logo on the front for some diagonal lettering that spells out “Canes.”

It is a rather simplistic design, but it is clean and pretty sharp.

Along with the wording across the front, they also brought back the warning flags along the waistline of the jersey.

Have a look.

Other features as part of the new uniform: The new secondary logo (the hockey stick with the warning flags attached to it) appears on both shoulders, while the helmet will feature a raised 3-D sticker of the primary logo which you can see here.

You can check out all of the features at the Hurricanes’ website.

What do you think, hockey fans?

Is it a good look? Does the diagonal lettering work for a team that is not the New York Rangers? What is your grade for the Hurricanes’ new road uniform?

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.