Early Season Fantasy Nuggets
We are early into the first week of the season, but you can bet that I already have a few opinions to dispense. I'm happy to report that I'll be publishing my roughly-organized ramblings on a weekly basis this season so there will be more of me to consume. I’ll let the people decide whether that development is a positive one.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into these early-season nuggets.
There is still plenty of time to join a Yahoo! Hockey Pool.
My adoration for Mikhail Grabovski this season is now approaching restraining order levels, as evidenced by the fact I named him as my favorite sleeper in the Rotoworld Staff Predictions piece and have been screaming his praises at every opportunity I receive. My colleague James O'Brien clearly agrees with me, as he touted Grabovski in Wednesday's Daily Dose on the heels of his opening night breakout. The outpouring of optimism stems from the fact the Belarussian forward’s offseason took him from one of the worst situations in the league, a primarily defensive role with little ice time under Randy Carlyle, to one of the league’s best alongside Alex Ovechkin in Washington. The way I see it, if you take Mike Ribeiro's 2012-13 scoring pace and add a healthy dash of penalty minutes, you’ll get Grabovski's ceiling with the Capitals.
I fully appreciate the potential for this opinion to blow up in my face, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I find John Tavares to be one of the more overvalued fantasy commodities entering the season. I can't recall reading even one negative take on the young star entering the season, but allow me to show my work. Firstly, Tavares may have scored goals at a career-best rate last season (0.58 goals per game vs. 0.35 in his career prior to that), but that figure was largely the result of an unsustainable shooting percentage of 17.3 percent. Conversely, his rate of assists per game prior to last season was 0.49, but that number dipped to 0.40 in 2012-13, which brings me to my next point – his teammates. Matt Moulson has exceeded all expectations and carved out a nice little niche as the Isles’ top triggerman, but Tavares is not exactly surrounded with talent on the level that Sidney Crosby, to use just one example. Finally, let's not forget that he will never offer much of a contribution in the area of penalty minutes and has yet to post a positive plus/minus rating in his four-year career. Add it all up and I think Tavares is a second round value masquerading as a surefire first-rounder.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $1,000 Fantasy Hockey league on Sunday. It's just $5 to join and first prize is $200. Starts at 5pm ET. Here's the link .
I pointed out in one my columns last year that few players in the NHL had consistently been placed in more fortuitous situations than Daniel and Henrik Sedin were under coach Alain Vigneault. I don't expect John Tortorella to suddenly use the twins in a checking role, but even a slight reduction in their offensive zone usage could lead to a noticeable drop in scoring rates so I'm trying to stay away from them unless the value is exceptional.
On the other side of the continent, I expect Vigneault to implement his habitual coaching tactics in New York, which is why I'm very optimistic about Rick Nash's potential under his system. Nash very quietly enjoyed his best all-around season in last year’s Broadway debut, but I think there remains room for improvement for the dynamic winger, especially given the potential for Brad Richards to be rejuvenated by the change in bench boss.
Is there a more criminally underrated forward in today’s game than Radim Vrbata? Fresh off a virtually silent 35-goal campaign in 2011-12, he nearly led the Coyotes in scoring last year despite missing about 30 percent of the schedule due to injury. The best stretch of Vrbata's career came while he was skating alongside playmaker Ray Whitney so no Phoenix player should be happier to see Mike Ribeiro and his benevolent style of play arrive in the desert.
As a born-and-bred Maple Leafs supporter, it might be blasphemous for me to say this, but I absolutely love the Canadiens' young trio of Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. It’s foolish to overreact to one game, but the trio of youngsters were a force against the Leafs in the season opener and was by far the most dangerous unit for the Habs. I'll be buying as many shares in these three players as I can, especially in keeper formats.
I'll probably go to my grave waiting for the breakout to occur, but to borrow a popular phrase, I can't quit Zach Bogosian. Given that he's stuck playing behind two supremely talented offensive blueliners in Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, there's no clear path to premium minutes for him, but I still come away impressed every time I watch the Jets play. An injury to one of Enstrom or Byfuglien would significantly increase his value.
If the presence of Martin Brodeur depresses the price of Cory Schneider at your draft in any significant way, I beg that you use this as an opportunity to acquire the former Canuck's services at a discount. Brodeur has enjoyed an excellent career, but Lou Lamoriello made his intentions clear when he acquired Schneider for a first-round draft pick in the offseason. I can't promise that his workload will rival that of the league's busiest goaltenders, but any suggestion that the two Devils might split playing time evenly throughout the year is absolutely misguided.
Your guess is as good as mine about how the St. Louis goaltending situation might shake out, but in deep leagues I'm actually targeting Jake Allen. Neither Brian Elliott nor Jaroslav Halak can boast an extensive track record of above-average performance so it's not crazy to suggest their past successes had as much to do with Ken Hitchcock's system as it did their own abilities. Each of the veteran netminders is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent over the summer so it's very possible the team gives Allen an opportunity to take the reins before the season ends.
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