Patrik Laine — more like Hatrik Laine.
OK, I didn’t come up with that myself, it’s not original material, but how good is this kid?
The Winnipeg Jets are very lucky to have Laine and so are all those fantasy owners who took a chance on him — myself included.
The crazy thing is, had the draft lottery played out according to the odds, Laine would be flanking Connor McDavid right now. He would have gone to the Edmonton Oilers. How unfair would that be?
Nothing against Mark Scheifele but, as McDavid’s wingman, I would have bet on Laine breaking Teemu Selanne’s rookie goal-scoring record. Yes, more than 76 goals. He’s still going to score 50-plus, which is incredible for this day and age. Talk about a special talent.
The Mailbag fielded a question, just prior to the season, about whether Laine would be the “better fantasy player” and whether he was worth picking first overall ahead of Auston Matthews in a rookie draft.
You can go back and read my answer in full here, but I labelled Matthews the “safer” pick and Laine the more electrifying of the two. Then, Matthews comes out and scores four goals in his first game. Now, though, Laine is making my answer look pretty bang-on. Granted, I said it then and I’ll say it again — you really can’t go wrong with either of them.
This edition of the Mailbag belongs to Jason Carkner, who asked not one but five questions — all relating to a recent trade he made in his single-season league.
INCOMING = Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Quick
OUTGOING = Ryan Kesler and Marc-Andre Fleury
Jason asked via email: Your thoughts on the deal?
BACKGROUND: Jason’s league utilizes the following 12 categories — goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, penalty minutes, hits and +/- for skaters, and wins, losses, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for goaltenders.
ANSWER: The other GM owned Matt Murray, so it made sense to acquire Fleury to secure that Pittsburgh tandem. Jason made the trade with playoffs in mind, assuming he makes it, and the fact he would rather have Quick than Fleury when that time comes. That is, providing Quick recovers from his groin injury. He probably won’t be back before Christmas and may take a while to return to form whenever he’s ready. Quick is a risky acquisition, make no mistake about it, especially in a single-season league. Jason’s other goaltenders are currently Tuukka Rask, who has been stellar for Boston, and Steve Mason, who has been mediocre for Philadelphia. With Quick sidelined long-term but eligible to be placed on the injury reserve, that opens up another roster spot for Jason for the time being.
The centre swap was an opportunity for Jason to buy low on Barkov, who had been marred in an eight-game point drought when this deal went down. Barkov has since got off the snide with an assist in Monday’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay, but he’s been limited to two goals and six points through 13 games so far. Do the math and Barkov is only on pace for 13 goals and 38 points right now. He’s coming off a breakout campaign in his third NHL season, with 28 goals and 59 points in just 66 games — prorated to 35 goals and 73 points over 82 games.
Barkov had a ton of chemistry with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr on Florida’s top line last season, but Huberdeau suffered an Achilles injury in the preseason and won’t be back before Christmas either. Barkov has been missing Huberdeau despite Jonathan Marchessault’s emergence as a capable replacement, with a team-leading seven goals and 13 points in as many games. Jagr has been hurting too, but Barkov should pick up the pace. Jason was still hopeful for 60-plus points, including roughly 20 on the power play, but that might be a bit optimistic. The season is still young but, at this point, if I owned Barkov, I’d be happy with 55 and 15.
That would likely be in the same range as Kesler, who is off to a better start this season with four goals and 10 points in 13 games — prorated to 25 goals and 63 points over 82 games. Kesler should be good for 20 to 25 goals again, and anywhere from 45 to 60 points. Kesler might actually have more value than Barkov in this type of single-season league just because he’ll contribute more in the other categories like hits and penalty minutes.
So, although I much prefer Barkov’s playing style and potential to that of Kesler — I’m a big Barkov fan — this trade isn’t necessarily a win for Jason. The outcome will ultimately be decided by Quick’s health, but Jason is giving up Fleury’s starts and stats over the next couple months and those could be difficult to replace on the waiver wire. As of today, on paper, Jason maybe loses the deal, but there is the potential to come away a winner when it matters most — in the playoffs.
Jason also asked: The other GM is going to have to drop Ryan Miller to make room for Fleury. Should I claim Miller or Michal Neuvirth, for the Flyers’ tandem, to fill my open goalie spot?
ANSWER: I would grab Neuvirth over Miller for a couple reasons. If you are rostering a goalie in a platoon system, like Mason, it’s a good idea to get his partner. Neuvirth is every bit as good as Mason and some, myself included, would argue better. I prefer Neuvirth to Mason, but neither of them are great fantasy options. Together, they could be a good option if the Flyers are winning more than they are losing. Which brings me to my second reason, the fact that Vancouver is a losing team and Miller isn’t going to get Jason too many wins even if his other stats are respectable right now. I’d pass on Miller.
Jason then asked: What about Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is also available in free agency? What do you think the odds are that Bishop gets moved? Is it worth adding Vasilevskiy now just in case?
ANSWER: Yes, yes and YES! Well, maybe, leaning towards probably on Bishop being moved. But absolutely I would claim Vasilevskiy before Miller or Neuvirth. Rask and Vasilevskiy would be my top two over either of the Philadelphia goaltenders. If guys like Vasilevskiy are available, I might take a closer look at the free-agent pool and perhaps try to pluck another goalie with upside to replace Mason as well. I’ve never been a Mason fan, dating back to his Columbus days. He’s burned me in fantasy years past and I’ve avoided him ever since.
Vasilevskiy, though, would be a no-brainer for me. The Lightning are going to be a winning team and Tampa’s plan is to start Vasilevskiy every third game, if not more often. Vasilevskiy is going to be their goalie of the future — Bishop has priced himself out of town, apparently seeking a seven-year, $49-million contract as a free agent next summer — so if Vasilevskiy gets on a hot streak or Bishop struggles ever so slightly, the Lightning won’t hesitate to play the young Russian. That could turn into a goalie controversy at some point, which could result in Bishop getting moved at or before the trade deadline. It’s a similar situation to Pittsburgh, with the Murray-Fleury dynamic there. Vasilevskiy is fantasy worthy now, and certainly for future seasons.
Switching gears, Jason asked: I’ve got a few guys coming off the IR soon. If I can’t pull off a 2-for-1 trade — or two trades like that — it looks like I’m going to have to drop Leon Draisaitl and Henrik Zetterberg. Do you agree there? Or should I drop a goalie and just run with two this season?
ANSWER: If Jason had two clear-cut starters, I would go that route, but he doesn’t have that luxury. Rask and Vasilevskiy, if he claimed the latter, would be a solid 1-2 punch, but a third goalie is probably still a necessity since Vasilevskiy is being used sparingly in the present.
Taking a closer look at Jason’s roster, David Backes and Evander Kane have since returned from the IR. I wouldn’t have dropped Draisaitl. I would have cut Kyle Palmieri and possibly Ondrej Palat before Draisaitl. Zetterberg would have been in that mix too.
Dropping two of the four, I probably go against Jason’s suggestions and cut Palmieri and Palat rather than Draisaitl and Zetterberg, but that’s just me. Palmieri before Draisaitl for sure, then flip a coin between Palat and Zetterberg. Kane wouldn’t necessarily be a roster lock either. He might be part of that coin flip too. You could make a decent case for dropping Palmieri and Kane from that group.
Regardless of that decision, I still like Jason’s roster. He’s got Sidney Crosby, Tyler Seguin and now Barkov as centres, Jeff Skinner and two of Kane, Palat and Zetterberg as left-wingers, Mats Zuccarello and two of Backes, Draisaitl and Palmieri as right-wingers, as well as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Roman Josi, Dougie Hamilton, Sami Vatanen and Torey Krug on defence. That should, or could, be a contending team. It looks like a playoff team to me, which bodes well for waiting on Quick.
Last but not least, Jason asked: Nick Ritchie has been an interesting player this season. Should I go out of my way to make room for him on my roster? It would require another 2-for-1 trade or that I drop someone else.
BACKGROUND: Jason added that, over a full 82 games, Ritchie would be on pace for approximately 200 shots, nearly 70 PIMs and 320 hits, which is huge. Jason had read that Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is pretty high on the kid, and he’s been getting consistent playing time with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. If his shooting percentage gets up to the 8-10 percent range, a 20-goal season is in the offing, Jason concluded.
ANSWER: This is a good question. At first thought, Ritchie wouldn’t seem to have a place on that roster. But when you factor in those non-scoring categories, Ritchie’s value is certainly on the rise. He’s unproven, at least over the course of a full season, but he’s got potential. Who would Ritchie replace? Well, let’s assume Palmieri was dropped to make room for Backes coming off the IR.
That leaves Kane and Ritchie as iffy additions, with Palat, Zetterberg and Draisaitl on the bubble in terms of being dropped. Zetterberg has experience on his side but seems to be on the decline. This is a single-season league, we must remember, so Zetterberg should still have value this season. Draisaitl has the most potential of that group, but he’s centering Edmonton’s third line for the time being and on the second power-play unit. Palat is still a top-six forward in Tampa, but he hasn’t been producing much alongside Tyler Johnson or Steven Stamkos, with just two goals and five points through 13 games. By comparison, Draisaitl has three goals and eight points in 14 games; Zetterberg has two goals and eight points in 14 games; and Ritchie now has three goals and four points through 12 games.
Those stat-lines suggest Draisaitl and Zetterberg should be the keepers, with Palat possibly getting dropped for either Kane or Ritchie. Or Jason could just stay the course without Kane and Ritchie. That might be his best bet, but if he wants to gamble on Kane or Ritchie, then Palat is probably the odd-man out from that trio. Either way, Palmieri would have been first to go for me.
My Fantasy World
I’ve yet to win a head-to-head here through three periods, twice losing 6-3-1 to title contenders and settling for a 5-5-0 tie against a middle-of-the-pack team in between. Last week’s setback was sort of bittersweet. If, at the beginning of the week, I was offered a 6-3-1 defeat, I might have taken it. However, I got off to a strong start and was actually leading 8-2-0 heading into Friday’s games — with a sizable lead in a handful of those categories — before Al Montoya got torched for 10 goals to kill my save percentage. It was all downhill from there, and the result didn’t feel very satisfying in the end.
I was approaching this season as a potential seller and I’m entering must-win territory already in order to avoid that fate. I have a couple presumably weaker opponents this week and next, so if I can’t beat them — and in blowout fashion — then it’s probably best to go into rebuild mode. If I do happen to score lopsided wins, then I’ll give it a few more weeks to see where my team stands and perhaps look to make some roster improvements. I won’t be trading away a bunch of prospects and draft picks for win-now players, but I’ll be trying to get better through hockey deals.
I got Ryan Murray back from injury and Jacob Trouba will be making his season debut tonight after finally signing with the Winnipeg Jets, so that’s the good news. I lost Joel Armia to injury but claimed Winnipeg call-up Nic Petan to fill his void. Simon Despres is still out long-term too and Chris Wideman has been banged-up but should return soon. Also concerning for my team is the fact that Nail Yakupov, Devante Smith-Pelly and even Philip Larsen have been healthy scratches lately, while Curtis Lazar and Teemu Pulkkinen are still stuck in the minors amounting to wasted roster spots. Overall, my team has been underachieving aside from my stars — Crosby, Erik Karlsson and Carey Price — so I’ll need a big push from their supporting cast for the rest of this week and going forward.
There have been only four trades in this league since the last Mailbag:
INCOMING = Henrik Zetterberg
OUTGOING = Markus Granlund, Anton Rodin, Nic Kerdiles and Mattias Backman
INCOMING = Mike Condon, Andrew Shaw and Brian Campbell
OUTGOING = Peter Budaj, Anton Khudobin and Paul Martin
INCOMING = Marc-Andre Fleury
OUTGOING = Magnus Nygren and a first-round pick (1-20)
INCOMING = T.J. Brodie and Antoine Roussel
OUTGOING = Jared Spurgeon, Josh Bailey, Brandon Hickey and Yegor Korshkov
This is where I have Laine and he’s obviously been a bright spot so far. Laine helped my team put up a better fight than anticipated last week, putting a bit of a scare into one of the favourites to win my division. I still ended up losing for the third straight period (124.5-116), but Laine’s second hat trick of the season on Tuesday has given me a commanding lead to start this week (66.1-32.1) and a good shot at my first win of the season.
My team is in the midst of a full-scale rebuild, so the wins will be few and far between. For that reason, I’ve been making roster moves with an eye to the future. For example, I recently claimed Florida’s Denis Malgin and Buffalo’s Justin Bailey — both passed over in this league’s rookie draft — as soon as they became eligible free agents by playing their 10th career regular-season games. Those two may or may not be productive NHLers down the road, but I added them for free through no-risk, potentially high-reward moves.
There were just three trades here but some pretty substantial ones again:
INCOMING = Rick Nash and Mark Streit
OUTGOING = Travis Konecny, Kris Russell and Sean Day
INCOMING = Robby Fabbri
OUTGOING = Brock Nelson and a first-round pick (19-28)
INCOMING = Dougie Hamilton
OUTGOING = Dylan Strome and Oliver Kylington
I’m moving up in the world here, having climbed from 11th place in the last Mailbag into a tie for eighth in this 12-team draft. I have 105 points from 14 players, which is still 21 points behind the league-leader but also 15 clear of the bottom-feeder.
Crosby has been the biggest reason for my team’s improvement, but Oliver Bjorkstrand being stuck in the wrong league is still holding me back. That pick is haunting me, especially since I had already taken my mandatory rookie in Pavel Buchnevich, who thankfully is racking up the points lately.
I’m still shocked I got Crosby sixth overall behind McDavid, Jamie Benn, Patrick Kane, John Tavares and Alex Ovechkin in order. It shouldn’t be long until Crosby is back in the top five in the league’s scoring race. He’ll probably be in the top three before December.
David Pastrnak, my ninth-round pick, is surprisingly leading my team in scoring with 13 points, followed by Jordan Eberle (11) and then Crosby, Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk, all with 10 points. Bringing up the rear, besides Bjorkstrand, are Tyson Barrie and Loui Eriksson, both with five points. The latter finally scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday, so maybe Eriksson will get it going now. Hopefully Barrie will too, along with his Colorado teammate Nathan MacKinnon — my second-rounder with only seven points. Go team!
More good news here to close out the Mailbag, with my team moving up from 20th at last check into a tie for 14th now. That’s middle of the pack in this 31-team league. I have 194 points from 21 players — 29 below the leader, 23 above the basement.
NHL scoring leader Mark Scheifele and McDavid, just one point behind, are topping my team, followed by the likes of Auston Matthews, Vladimir Tarasenko, Eberle, Karlsson, Crosby, Blake Wheeler and Corey Crawford — all with 10-plus fantasy points based on this pool’s scoring system.
The disappointments here include Derick Brassard (5), Evgeny Kuznetsov (6) and Tyler Johnson (6), while MacKinnon (7), the Sedin twins Henrik (8) and Daniel (7), James Neal (7) and John Klingberg (8) have left a bit to be desired too.
It’s a long season, but a couple of those guys could be on the chopping block come the All-Star break when we are able to swap out two skaters and one goaltender for an upgrade from their original box group. I’ve put them on notice now, so let’s see if that sparks any — or, ideally, all — of them.
For the record, Brassard could be upgraded to Wayne Simmonds (12) or Max Domi (10); Kuznetsov to Nikita Kucherov (15) or Artemi Panarin (14); and MacKinnon to Jakub Voracek (16) or Brad Marchand (15). Those are the biggest discrepancies so far, but I’m hopeful my actual picks can pick up their pace over the next 30 or so games. Time will tell.
Do you have a question for the Fantasy Hockey Mailbag? You can reach out to me in the comments section below, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.