Lacing Up: A Fantasy World of Risers and Fallers
Matt Paul: This week we’re turning our attention to fantasy hockey, focusing our discussion on the risers and fallers — players who could be sleepers and players who could be disasters. To aid in our discussion, we’ve solicited Josh Endsley, FF contributor, founding member of the UPJFHL, and a fantasy hockey “expert.”
Welcome, Josh! Did you ever think anyone would call you an expert at anything?
Josh Endsley: Thanks for hearty welcome, Matt! While I certainly appreciate the generously quotation-ed expert label, it’s probably a little more apropos to call me an enthusiast. We’ll reserve the expert label for a day when I get paid handsomely to share my “expertise.” Unless, of course, there’s a Faceoff-Factor corporate check in the mail…
All jokes aside, I do have a couple noteworthy risers for this upcoming season. Tops on my list is the newest “star” in Dallas: Tyler Seguin. There’s a lot to like here… He’s moving off the wing and back to his natural center position, he’ll be playing first-line minutes with All-Star winger Jamie Benn riding shotgun, and he’ll be playing in an up-tempo system more suited to his skill set. I don’t think a 35 goal, 45 assist season is out of the question.
After Seguin, I really like Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier . After three seasons of playing ‘Goose’ to Jonathan Quick’s ‘Maverick’, he’s ready to take over as the ‘Top Gun’ for the Leafs.
While the presence of James Reimer is cause for some concern, it’s hard to ignore the Bernier’s pedigree. He posted a 1.88 GAA and a SV% of .922 last year, and he had career AHL numbers of 2.19 GAA and .927 SV% before becoming Quick’s backup. I expect for this guy to insert himself into the discussion as one of he best goalies in the Eastern Conference.
So those are my top two risers for this season, Joshua. Am I crazy to expect so much of these young guys? Who’s on your radar?
Joshua Neal: I don’t think so, Josh. (It’s nice to use that phrase for once, instead of just hearing it.) Seguin’s change of scenery and position certainly make for an intriguing development from a fantasy perspective. And the goalie swap you allude to creates an interesting situation as well – with a fully capable, yet injury prone James Reimer in the wings. It detracts from Bernier’s ceiling, sure, but he could prove a steal because of where he is going in drafts. And in keeper leagues, it’s got to feel like it’s about time for Bernier’s faithful owners.
To me, Seguin’s key counterpart in the deal, Loui Eriksson, is a potential big riser. Sure, Dallas never had much trouble scoring goals, but Eriksson is walking into a situation in Boston where he could be looked at to be a primary scorer on a defensive-minded team. He will likely serve as a Power Play specialist on one of the league’s top units, and it’s easy to pile up points on a unit that has Zdeno Chara launching bombs from the point.
The other riser I’m going to go with is one that might sound obvious – but don’t call it a cop out. How can you not love the spot into which Seth Jones fell? Sure, he didn’t end up being the first overall pick, but the consolation prize of playing alongside Shea Weber should turn that disappointment into excitement. I mean, look at what Ryan Suter did with Jonas Brodin. I see great things for Seth Jones, perhaps as early as this season.
Matt, who should be added to this list of guys trending upwards?
Matt: Since we’re predominantly a Penguin blog, allow me to stay in-house with two local risers. Neither of these players should be considered as high-end risers, such as Seguin or Jones, but they’ll be valuable fantasy players who will be better in 2013-14 than they were in 2012-13.
The first is Beau Bennett. Going into training camp, he as an undeniable chance to claim a spot on one of the top two lines. If he grabs the bull by the horns, he’ll have an opportunity become a prominent scorer, possibly in the 60-70 point range. For keeper leagues, he’s a must-have, as this season will be just the tip of the iceberg, I believe.
The other Penguin riser is fellow youngster Simon Despres, whose chances at a top-four spot took a hit with the signing of Rob Scuderi. That said, Despres has a wealth of talent that can andwill shine through whether he is on the first or third pairing. Regardless of what pairing he is on, expect him to see power play time and get enough opportunities to produce in the 40 point range on this high scoring team.
Endsley, let’s shift our focus to the anchors. Who should be avoided like the plague?
Endsley: Quite frankly, there’s a number of players I am bypassing this year, many of whom are big name offseason acquisitions. Being that this is a Penguin blog, I’m tempted to dive into discussing the new dead weight in the Metropolitan Division, in particular, but I’ll restrain myself and look out west for my duds of 2013-14. Not that there isn’t value in some of Although I’m tempted to dive into discussing the dead weight within the Metropolitan Division (a few big name acquisitions come to mind), I’ll look out west for my duds of 2013-14.
First off, I’d have to be very hard-pressed for a center to draft Mike Ribeiro this year. In Washington, he was able to capitalize by lurking in the shadows of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Green. In Phoenix, however, he’s going to carry the burden of being the premier offensive player, which means a healthy dose of elite defenders night after night. It’s safe to say this desert dog won’t be sniffing anything close to the 28 power play points he racked up as Ovi’s setup man. Plus, he will turn 34 this season – it’s about time age has caught up to him.
Another centerman who is about to lose his race with age is Olli Jokinen. Some fantasy GMs think the soon-to-be 35 year old will bounce back from an abysmal year in which he posted just 14 points in 45 games. I’m not one of them. With Mark Scheifele poised to join Winnipeg this year, Jokinen could quickly find himself relegated to the third line, meaning he’ll be no more than a 40 point producer with terrible +/-. Not exactly something I’d call “championship value.”
So it’s on to you, Joshua… Who tops your Do Not Draft (DND) List?
Neal: You can win fantasy leagues with smart picks on average players in later rounds, but there’s nothing more crippling than taking a player high and seeing him fail to produce. So the DND list, for me, is one that I try to pay very close attention to when I’m assembling my team.
One guy that I’m staying away from is Vincent Lecavalier. Sure, he’s going to get big minutes with the Flyers, playing on their second line and likely their top power play unit. But he’s another one whose age is beginning to catch up to him. Sure, he’s only 33, he’s got a bit more mileage on him than your average 33-year old. In a messy Flyers’ roster, Lecavalier will likely see his career +/- of -117 suffer, and I doubt he even comes close to the pace that gave him 32 points in 39 games last year.
Maybe it was your mention of the Metropolitan Division that got me on this track, but the next name that comes to mind that I’m going to stay away from is Nathan Horton. Sure, he’s a very talented player in a new city. But Horton can’t seem to string together a whole season lately, and he’s going to be looked at to provide a bulk of the team’s scoring punch. He had just 1 power play point last year despite averaging over 2:00 per game on one of the league’s top units. His role will be expanded in Columbus, but if you’re expecting production to match his shiny new 7-year, $37 million contract, you’ll likely be disappointed.
To round out our list of underachievers, who won’t get a look from you this year, Matt?
Matt: Laugh at me if you will, and I’m actually laughing at myself as I type this, but the player I would avoid (and in retrospect should have avoided) is Bryan Bickell. At 27, he went from dime-a-dozen role player with a $541,667 cap hit to playoff hero with a shiny new $4 million cap hit — all because he tallied 17 points in the tournament.
Bickell has played in 220 career games in parts of 6 NHL seasons, totaling just 90 points with a career-best season of 37 points in 2010-11. He’s a great example of a product of the playoff hype machine that should be avoided.
Folks don’t be like me — take the advice within this week’s Lacing Up. You’ll thank us later! Next week, Josh Endsley returns as we dive into another fantasy hockey discussion!