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Fantasy Hockey: The Monday Mailbag

A regular piece where you folks do all the work. You can send in any fantasy hockey related questions via twitter @fantasyhockeydk. I’ll try to post them on Mondays, unless I sleep in, then it will be Tuesdays, or in the very worst case scenario, we’ll just keep your mail and laugh maniacally.

This may have been the first time I’ve ever seen in-game results from on-ice scrimmages being live tweeted. Scrimmages from training camp fall one level below the value of pre-season games in terms of gauging player ability. Normally I would totally disregard any of this information – it’s teammates playing against each other after all.

But, of course, it’s the offseason, and we’re all starved for ‘actual’ hockey news. It took about an hour but suddenly I was fully invested in the Dallas Stars’ practice. Apparently through two periods Spezza’s line was yet to score. This sort of set me off on a tangent: Maybe he’s not going to work out in Dallas? Maybe he’s too old? Maybe he won’t be able to adjust to the Western Conference? Maybe those back issues are flaring up again?

Or, maybe I need to take a break from twitter

I guess my lesson here is that it’s early – VERY early. Over the next few weeks we’re all going to be inundated with loads of information, some of it valuable, most of it will be forgettable. If you believe (or don’t believe) in a specific player today, don’t let news out of camp significantly change your opinion.

Saying all of that, it’s never too early for mail. Thanks to everyone who sent in a question this week.

If you draft a Washington defencemen, should it be Green, Carlson, or Niskanen?

I love this question because you’ll likely get three different answers depending on who you ask.

Niskanen is generally being overvalued based on the strength of last season (46 points in 81 games). The issue with him is that his shooting percentage was significantly higher than his career average and he did a lot of damage on the power play. Washington has an incredible group on the man advantage, but he’ll be battling both Green and Carlson for consistent time.

Green carries the most name recognition and likely has the most upside if everything breaks right. But the risk is significant, making him better served as a number three on your depth chart.

I’ll be targeting John Carlson. He’s developed into a quality points option (37 in 2013-14) and shot at an elite rate (top five for defencemen with 208). Even if he loses some ice time to Niskanen he’ll still be shooting the puck with regularity. He doesn’t have the cache of Green, meaning you can hold off until the mid-rounds and scoop him as your second blueliner.

Your projection of 56 points, up two from last year, for Jeff Skinner seems fairly modest.   I’m wondering if we should consider him a prime breakout candidate.  He’s just 22 years old, scored an incredible 70 goals in 84 regular season and playoff games in his last year in junior, and scored 31 goals and 63 points as a teenage rookie in the NHL — more goals and the same total points as McKinnon last year.    I realize his supporting cast hold him back, but still…

I have to agree that 56 feels a tad low. And it’s worth mentioning that all of the writers at McKeen’s likely have slightly varying opinions on specific players, but you can only have one projection in the magazine, one that reflects all of the opinions.

If I were to build a case for 56 points it would be based on a couple of factors. Firstly, Skinner has had a difficult time staying healthy, missing time each of the past three years. His 56 points may come over the course of 70 games (which is still a nice points per game rate).

Secondly, Carolina had a difficult time scoring goals last year (22nd in the NHL) and not much about their roster has changed. They’ll have to work to be in the top half.

Lastly, there is the issue of their depth chart. The past coaching regime seemed unwilling to deploy Skinner consistently with guys like Eric Staal and Alex Semin, instead keeping him on the second and third line, playing sheltered minutes. There is always the chance that this continues.

Personally, my projection for Skinner is around 65 points, with 35 goals and over 300 shots. But I’m probably higher on him than most.

I looked at Palat’s ppg over the  four quarters and I see him going from .25/ppg to .62 to .90 to…a Crosby-esque 1.16!  I wrote WHOA in my notes.  Yet you guys are projecting a drop-off from 59 to 49 points or .68, which suggests 2nd half complete fluke.  Yet I don’t see much suggesting that in his write-up.  What am I missing here?

Two things working against him are his unsustainable shooting percentage (13.9%) and the fact that Tampa will be crowded up front. They’ve got a number of different options in their top six and I would expect things to shift around throughout the year. A drop to 49 points isn’t that significant, and he’ll still be a nice option. Of course all of our projections go out the window if he skates the entire year with Stamkos.

Who could become an elite player Gustav Nyquist, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Valeri Nichushkin?

A softball question. I like it.

Any question that involves Nichushkin generally also has him in the answer.

But seriously, it’s Nichushkin. Even if Nyquist may be the “safer” pick, he doesn’t possess Valeri’s upper end potential.

JVR or Voracek in a keeper pool?

In a case like this, where two players have very similar numbers, I always side with the guy that could presumably produce on his own. Voracek is starting to build a track record that, to me anyway, indicates he could be productive sans Giroux. I don’t feel the same about JVR – without Kessel he’s a mid-round pick.

How can I manipulate everyone into giving me all of their 1st round picks?

If I knew this I would be a wealthy man with mantle after mantle stuffed with fantasy hockey trophies from yesteryear.

How would you rank Bobrovsky vs Schneider, and why?

This one is difficult for a number of reasons. At 28 years old we SHOULD have seen more from Schneider by now. No one thought he’d spend a good piece of his prime years stuck splitting time with Luongo and then Broduer. As a result the sample size is slightly smaller than we’d like – but still incredibly impressive. He has a career 2.12 goals against average and .925 save percentage. Yes, those totals are helped by playing a talented Vancouver team and defensively aware New Jersey, but he has played a significant role.

With Bobrovsky, we have a guy who has now been a top 10 option for two straight years. If he produces again in 2014-15 there is a strong argument to place him among the first five off the draft board (especially considering his age – recently turned 26).

Truthfully, I don’t think there is a right answer between these two. Bobrovsky has a longer resume, Schneider has been more coveted over the past few years largely based on pedigree and potential – it’s a virtual coin toss.

In a keep 10 (Tavares, Seguin, Hall, Landeskog, RNH, Duchene, E. Kane, Nichushkin, Karlsson and Rask) featuring G,A,PPP, +/-, GWG, SHG, Shots, Hits - I am considering acquiring OEL for next to nothing (late round draft pick - the other owner is dropping him anyways) and dropping Nichushkin.

Like to get your thoughts on OEL. Everyone is so high on Hedman this year - but OEL is a year younger and has generally posted better numbers to date.  Playing in Arizona I feel he is a touch under the radar. What do you see from him this year and long term? 

Get out.

Get out of this mailbag and don’t you ever return!!

Sorry, seeing the words “drop” and “Nichushkin” used in such close proximately tends to elicit an angry response. My apologies.

I don’t know how you managed to assemble that squad but it’s pretty damn impressive. Tavares, Seguin, Hall, Karlsson, and Rask represent five of the best 12 assets in the game. Nicely done.

In terms of acquiring OEL and moving on from Nichushkin, it would seem to make sense. You need another defencemen to support Karlsson and your depth of young, high upside forwards means keeping Nichushkin is probably a bit redundant. In Arizona he should be a safe bet for around 45 to 50 points, with close to 200 shots. He’ll have blips above that, but plays too much of a defensive game to ever approach that Karlsson level of offensive output.

As a #2 Dman (behind Karlsson, Subban, Byfuglien and Letang) how would you rank these guys: Yandle, OEL, Hedman, Mcdonagh, Giordano?

Hmmmm, interesting.

For me it depends a bit on context – keeper league versus one year.

In keeper formats I have it at Yandle, OEL, Giordano, Hedman, McDonagh. Whereas one year leagues it would be Yandle, Giordano, OEL, Hedman, McDonagh . The only major difference is that Giordano’s age slides him back slightly in long-term leagues. I’d expect him to be fantastic both this year and next.

Roman Josi or Jonas Brodin? (My 2 sleeper defensemen for this year)

Josi – and it really isn’t that close. He’ll shoot a tonne and will be paired with Mr.Weber.

Older guys, are Markov, Boyle and Wideman still useful in standard formats?

Markov certainly is. Montreal doesn’t have any other options to replace him as their number two option. With Boyle there will be risk. He’s not nearly as productive at 5v5 as he used to be and the Rangers have some established guys who will need power play time as well. Wideman is someone I tend to stay away from, although he can provide value in shorter bursts.

Sekera will probably regress right? How far back does he fall?

Assuming his shooting percentage normalizes (was 7.7% last year compared to a career 5.4%) and he doesn’t get quite the bounces he did in 2013-14 – I’d look for somewhere in the high 30s for points. A nice option in multi-cat leagues due to his above average shots (140).

(What about) Faulk’s future: every year you hear about how he could become the #1 guy in Carolina but he always seems to not live up to it. He’s still young at 22 and put up 32 pts last year but not great peripherals... what do you make of him?

I think he’s his own worst enemy, and I mean that as a compliment. He’s so terrific defensively that Carolina will use him in all situations (played 2:25 shorthanded last season). He’ll approach 40 points most years, but it’s hard to see him every being an elite producer.


Darren (@fantasyhockeydk) is a writer for McKeen’s. He once proclaimed Nikita Filatov to be the next Pavel Bure – so trust his opinions at your own risk.