Part One of this feature ran earlier today.
For the introduction – Fantasy Chatter: Undervalues and Deep Cuts
By Lane Myer
FANTASY ‘HAWK FACTOR
Not much in the way of undervalued Blackhawks this season unless Teuvo Koivu captures a top 6 role due to injury, or Jeremy Morin skates top 9 minutes all season long. Nick Leddy would normally be a trendy target to peg for a break out season should he happen to come upon top 4 pairing minutes and a wealth of PP opportunities, but it seems like Leddy may be bumped off of the second PP unit in favor of Richards and Seabrook if recent events come to fruition. Perhaps an ill-advised trade is forthcoming which may in turn bump Leddy’s value back to where it should be.
The wildcard would have to be Brandon Saad. See Breakout Candidates section above. If there is one Hawk, health provided, who should easily out earn his draft position, it’s Saad.
Patrick Kane is typically overvalued in fantasy drafts by a round or two each year, but he’s a reliable star who sparingly misses games. There is value in certainty. That said, Kane finished at the back end of the top 30 fantasy players in standard 5×4 or 6×4 leagues last season and his average draft position is right at the end of the first round this year. Perhaps the Brad Richards effect is prompting this, but Kane simply doesn’t produce to his draft position in leagues such as the vaunted TTMI League that counts face-offs, hits, blocked shots, short-handed goals etc. Move him down a round in those types of leagues because guys like a healthy Patrick Marleau or Gabriel Landeskog will outperform #88 with an average draft position of 3 rounds later.
Patrick Sharp actually shined brighter than both Kane and Toews in fantasy last season finishing up at #6 overall in standard 5×4 & 6×4 leagues thanks to 10 PP tallies and another 15 PP assists to go along with his 78 point performance and positional eligibility at both LW and C. ESPN’s projections have Sharp’s production dropping off a bit across the board, but would still place him in the top 20 fantasy forwards overall.
GOALIE WATCH: Preseason Goalie Battles
Anaheim: Frederik Andersen vs John Gibson
Recent Speculation suggests the Ducks could potentially use a timeshare in goal, but if Gibson should struggle or flash rust with a platoon role, Andersen would seem to have the inside track given that he’s signed to a one-way contract while Gibson is still on his entry level deal. Andersen flashed elite level potential in his 28 regular season games last year. Compiling a 2.29 GAA and .923 SV%. He did not fare so well in his 7 playoff games however. Gibson in his scant 3 regular season games highly impressed with 1.33/.954 ratios respectively. He just needs reps at this point.
TTMI Counsel: The Ducks should be a top 4 conference finisher, if not higher, so Anaheim’s goaltending options are appealing for chasing counting stats (such as wins), but this is a case where if you were to draft Andersen, it’s imperative to hedge with Gibson. If you’re drafting with a wheel pick (#1 or #10/#12 in a standard 10 or 12 team league), this is an ideal situation to take them back to back in the middle rounds.
Buffalo: Jhonas Enroth vs Michal Neuvirth
The diminutive Swede, Jhonas Enroth, entered the preseason as the early favorite between the pipes and he’s subsequently strengthened his hold with his exhibition play in shutting out the Hurricanes in his first full start. Couple that with Michal Neuvirth coughing up 4 goals on the first 7 shots he faced to the Leafs in his first start and Enroth further pulled ahead in their starting battle. Enroth started 26 games for Buffalo last season finishing with a dreadful 4-17-5 record but decent .911 save%. However he also tallied a stat category-crushing 2.82 goals against in those 26 games. Working in Neuvirth’s favor is he’s been reunited with his former goaltending coach, Arturs Irbe, from their tenure together in Washington. In 48 starts under Irbe’s watch in Washington, Neuvirth posted a 27-12-4 record and league average ratios (2.45/.914) respectively. Of course, those were largely solid playoff caliber Capitals teams, not a legit contender for the honor to select Connor McDavid or future American hero, Jack Eichel, with the worst record in the league Buffalo Sabres. Working against Neuvirth is he missed the final 15 games of the season in Buffalo last April with a hip issue and has looked rusty to begin this preseason. Former Minnesota Wild third rounder, Matthew Hackett, is coming off a knee surgery of his own and is unlikely to contribute even at Rochester until around the time you’ve composted the holiday Poinsettia your employer gifted you.
TTMI Counsel: Ted Nolan guided teams tend to play sound structured team defense, so there exists a chance Nolan turns the Sabres into an Eastern version of the Predators or Coyotes smothering neutral zone clogging defense first and foremost team, which would helps the GAA averages of either starting goalie contender, but the Sabres goaltending situation has all the ability to kill your roster with very little in the way of wins and goals against ratios. However, if Enroth can repeat his .911 save% you can live with that. In addition, if your league has a counting stat category for saves or shots against/faced that seems to be the only other lone value in rostering a Sabres goaltender this season. For you 15 team – start two goalie – leaguers, it comes down to Enroth vs the Oilers (Scrivens/Fasth) as the final starter to come off of the draft board.
Carolina: Anton Khudobin vs Cam Ward
The perpetually disappointing Cam Ward will enter this season as the understudy for the first time since his rookie season. The truth of the matter is Ward simply hasn’t even been league average since the 2011-12 season and that’s just barely as he posted a weak 2.74 GAA that season. Ward is still only 30 years old, but despite having only 57 careers games played at the NHL level, Anton Khudobin enters the season with a leg-up on the former first rounder – if not, a decided advantage. Khudobin flashed elite level ratios to those he racked up behind a much superior Bruins team the year prior banking a stellar .926 sv% and well above average 2.30 GAA despite the thoroughly mediocre Carolina team in front of him. Conversely behind the same squad, Ward rolled out a cringe-inducing .898 sv% and 3.06 GAA while battling nagging injuries in only 30 games. Ward hasn’t looked any better this preseason allowing 3 goals on only 12 shots to Columbus in his first start. Gone is former second rounder Justin Peters who posted a solid .919 sv% in limited action, to Washington, replaced by AHL fodder, Drew MacInytre.
TTMI Counsel: Despite playing just 36 games and banking 19 wins with Carolina last season, Khudobin’s ratios were so stellar that he ended up finishing with a Rick Nash-ian overall ranking in standard Yahoo 5×4 or 6×4 category leagues last season as the #113 overall rated player. Right between Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan. It’s tough to predict regression given that Khudobin actually outperformed his part time roll in Boston with a greatly inferior Carolina team last season. The Hurricanes’ blueline returns completely intact from last season and adds Jay McClement to the checking line. I personally drafted Khudobin as my #3 goalie in a 12 team 25 player roster league last night. There’s enough caution with a small career sample size to where you likely won’t want him as anything more than a #2 goalie in a daily start two goalies league , but as a #3 he could provide tremendous depth to your ratio stats despite what should be a low win total. With 60 starts he could turn into a top 10 goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky, or become Islanders era Evgeni Nabokov where you’ll want to carefully choose enviable match-ups when choosing to start him.
Edmonton: Ben Scrivens vs Viktor Fasth
With a tick over a week until the curtain recoils on the 2014 season, the Oilers have yet to decide on a frontrunner for the start between the pipes. The competition boils down to Edmonton’s late season trade acquisitions of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth. Neither stood out against the other last season with the Oil, though Scrivens was given 66% of the starts down the stretch in Edmonton. Scrivens finished with a solid .916 save% but an awful 3.01 GAA behind a terrible Oiler defense. Fasth compiled a league average .914 save% to go along with a below average 2.73 GAA. The Oiler defense should be moderately improved with the additions of Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin to the blueline and the addition of Benoit Pouliot to what should be their primary checking line. The question is will they be enough to help either Scrivens or Fasth bring their GAA down to league average levels because it’s likely the wins won’t be there either. After allowing 5 goals on 22 shots in his lone preseason opportunity, Richard Bachman will almost assuredly join Ty Ritter in Oklahoma City to begin the season.
TTMI Counsel: Based on Dallas Eakins allotting two thirds of the starts to Scrivens last season, it would seem that he has a slight step-up on Fasth for the starting role, but the lion’s share minutes could easily come down to which goalie gets off to the better start. In a 12 team 25 man roster league draft last night, Scrivens come off of the board much sooner than Fasth who hung around the draft board after certain back-ups such as Alex Stalock and Chad Johnson were selected.
Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom vs Darcy Kuemper vs Ilya Bryzgalov
With Josh Harding nursing his self-inflicted wound for at least half of the season, Niklas Backstrom would seem to have the first shot at locking down the start in net. Backstrom reportedly spent his off-season strengthening his core muscles & flexibility to curtail his problematic abdomen & hip maladies. While Backstrom played well enough to place tenth in the Vezina voting in 2012, he hasn’t posted a save% better than 91% since the 2011-2012 season. Even considering the Wild’s shot preventative defense, we can’t envision a scenario where Backstrom tops his 2012-13 .909 save%. The 6’5 former 6th rounder, Darcy Kuemper, played well in his 26 game sample posting more or less marginally above league average ratios at 2.43 GAA/.915 Sv% respectively. However, Ilya Bryzgalov further complicates matters despite just enjoying his life in the off-season and arriving in camp out of shape and notably winded in scrimmages, he did perform surprisingly well in his 12 games in the Twin Cities last season posting a 7-1 record and a GAA of 2.12. Bryzgalov himself claims that he doesn’t see himself in Minnesota’s plans, but the Wild could potentially consider sending Kuemper to Iowa despite his one way contract while keeping Bryzgalov on as the backup. It seems unlikely, and if we had to wager, Kuemper would end the season with more starts than his competition based on both health and performance.
TTMI Counsel: Again, Backstrom will have first crack as the starting net-minder, but it’s a risky proposition counting on him to even fill your second starting goalie slot in a 10 or 12 team league that starts two goaltenders daily. Unless your league is comprised of 15 teams, we don’t see Backstrom as anything more than a 3rd slot/back-up goalie. As of now, drafting Kuemper in 12 team leagues that have more than 4 bench slots in the late rounds as a potential above league average #3 goalie seems the better play.
–And as a reminder… Importantly urgent! As of present, there are a couple spots remaining in the TTMI Fantasy Hockey League, so don’t procrastinate. Email TTMI’s shadowy overlord at ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com to ensure one of the final spots. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to bathe in the tears of Block and his podcast compadre Superstar at season’s end while they’re starting up at your place in the final standings with bottom lip quivering and eyes misty. Also for any new TTMI League players, Block loves when people draft Zetterberg and Dustin Brown out from under him. Loves it! See you nerds Monday night.