Hello everybody and welcome in for the tenth installment in this series. Over on my Twitter feed I’ve been spamming everyone with arbitrary lists, just quick hitting lists to get my thoughts on several fantasy hockey related topics (and several non-fantasy hockey related topics) out and on the record. In these posts I’ll dig a little deeper into those lists and give you a bit of the “why” behind them. Without further ado, let’s get into it:
Mike Hoffman has everyone’s eyes at the Blues’ camp as he’s expected to replace a good chunk of the scoring the Blues will be missing while Vladimir Tarasenko continues to miss time. The Blues have shuffled their lines a little bit and now have Jaden Schwartz on the left side and Robert Thomas down the middle with Hoffman. Thomas is a set up guy through and through which should mesh well with Hoffman’s happy trigger finger. Hoffman is also on the Blues’ PP1, where he should become Torey Krug’s new David Pastrnak in terms of one-timers from the dot. All told Hoffman should barely miss a beat from his days bombing away on Florida’s PP as long as he holds top six and PP1 deployment.
Ondrej Palat looks to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Kucherov injury, as he will play 5v5 with Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, and more importantly get PP1 deployment. For a player who averaged 1:17 of PP time in 2019/20, this represent a big uptick in opportunity and even more exposure to the Lightning stars. Palat is plenty familiar with playing up and down the Lightning lineup and should easily outproduce last season’s pace with the additional opportunity.
Toronto has taken an unorthodox approach with its top two lines in training camp, slotting Joe Thornton alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, while fellow newcomer Jimmy Vesey is getting a look on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. Ilya Mikheyev was the most common linemate for Tavares and Nylander last year, and for my money he’s the best fit there. Mikheyev likely won’t see any significant power play minutes, but I would be shocked if he doesn’t get back to the second line very shortly. It’s both a play on Mikheyev’s ability and Vesey’s less-than-sterling track record thus far. I’m not drafting Mikheyev anywhere, but I’ll be watching Toronto’s line combinations closely and if he does in fact get to play with the varsity, he’ll be worth a streaming look.
Nils Hoglander has stolen camp headlines playing on the second line with Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson, but I expect Jake Virtanen to work his way up there in relatively short order. Hoglander has had the benefit of playing half a season overseas and arrived to camp in midseason form – it’s small wonder he’s had an extra step in the early going. Once the top guys get rolling I expect them to catch up to and eventually surpass Hoglander in terms of play driving impact. Virtanen would be a workmanlike addition to an already blue-collar type second line alongside Horvat and Pearson, and could even be a fit on the top unit with Pettersson and Miller if the Canucks ever decide to split up their scoring a little more.
Chandler Stephenson entered Golden Knight camp expected to fight with rookie Cody Glass for the highly desirable second line center spot between elite wingers Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. So far it has been all Stephenson, which makes him a very attractive option late in drafts. Stephenson isn’t likely to set any records but should be a viable facilitator for Pacioretty and Stone to do their work. If Glass begins to impress Stephenson’s spot could be in danger, but you should be able to stream whichever player is centering Pacioretty and Stone all season long if you should want to.
Jakub Vrana was second on the team to Alexander Ovechkin in most rate stats, generating a ton of shots and leading the team in points per 60. Vrana averaged just 14:52 of ice time in 2019/20, but I would love to see that number jump into the 16-17 minute range in 2020/21. If either of TJ Oshie or Evgeny Kuznetsov start to show signs of decline, Vrana would likely be next in line to join Washington’s potent PP1 unit and that would take his ceiling to a whole different level. In any event, I am interested to see what Vrana’s ice time will look like this season as he could be a nice value in the later rounds if he gets that bump.
Nikolaj Ehlers has opened camp on the top line alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. I don’t think I have to tell you that playing with Scheifele is a significant upgrade over Paul Stastny, and if Ehlers can stick on the top line it will do wonders for the underrated winger, who also led his team in points per 60 last season. Ehlers has always seen the least minutes of any of the top forwards in Winnipeg, but has always been extremely productive in those minutes. If he were to see 18 minutes a night it would significantly raise his ceiling. On top of all this we have Patrik Laine asking for a trade; if that trade goes through Ehlers is most likely to be the player to take his spot on the top power play unit. Ehlers has a solid floor and untapped upside; he would need a few breaks to go his way to get there but I like Ehlers as a mid-to-late round option.
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