Fantasy Hockey Mailbag is a weekly column, answering your questions on any and all topics related to fantasy hockey. No question is too big or too small, so if you want advice or feedback, just ask away in the comments below.
So, it looks like I was wrong about Lee Stempniak.
Despite the fact he was leading the New Jersey Devils in scoring, I honestly felt the Boston Bruins overpaid by giving up two draft picks — second- and fourth-rounders — to acquire Stempniak as a rental at the trade deadline.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 8, 2016
I was much higher on Andrew Ladd in Chicago, Mikkel Boedker in Colorado and even Eric Staal with the Rangers. They have all been reasonably impressive with their new teams, but Stempniak has made the biggest impact so far. He’s been the perfect fit alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, helping to solidify the Bruins as a playoff-bound team with the potential to make some noise in the post-season.
— Larry Fisher (@LarryFisher_KDC) March 8, 2016
If Stempniak is still available in your league, now might be a good time to grab him. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s effective — think Justin Williams. Those depth scorers can definitely be difference-makers down the stretch and into the playoffs for your team too.
Moving on to the Mailbag, I might be publishing less frequently going forward — now that the fantasy season is in the home stretch, trade deadlines are behind us, and my services may no longer be required on a weekly basis. I will continue to post as questions come in, but I’m assuming they will be more sporadic.
In saying that, fantasy playoffs are starting this week for a lot of leagues, post-season drafts are right around the corner, and those in keepers need to remain active year-round. Do you want advice on your off-season keeper plans? Or maybe you need help with your rookie draft preparations? Ask and you shall receive.
Jon Miazyk asked via email: Would you drop Evander Kane for Nail Yakupov?
ANSWER: Here we go with the McDavid factor! Benoit Pouliot’s injury has bumped Yakupov up to Connor McDavid’s line, along with Jordan Eberle. That is certainly a favourable spot for Yakupov, and a bit of a familiar spot as well. Yakupov was putting up points on McDavid’s wing early in the season — when Eberle was hurt — but he’s produced very little on Edmonton’s other lines. We’ll see if he can get it going again as part of this potent trio.
Yakupov’s value is on the rise right now, but Kane is still the better fantasy player and it’s not that close. Kane is streaky in his own right, but he’s been more hot than cold lately since flanking Buffalo’s dynamic rookies in Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. That line has been finding the scoresheet almost every game, so I’d stick with Kane over Yakupov for the time being.
If an injury strikes and you suddenly have an open roster spot, then go ahead and take a gamble on Yakupov, but I wouldn’t advise dropping a more established player like Kane for him as of today. Ask me again in a week and I might have a different answer.
Patrick Feser (@PatrickEFeser) asked on Twitter: If I have to draft second overall in a keeper league, do I take Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi?
ANSWER: I don’t think you can go wrong with either of them. Like most draft junkies, I have these Finns as 2A and 2B behind projected No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews. Puljujarvi has been a household name among prospects for a few seasons already while Laine has become a fast riser ever since the world under-18 tournament last spring. That momentum might help Laine go ahead of Puljujarvi in the NHL draft, but does that mean Laine should automatically go second in fantasy drafts too?
It’s a tough call. Laine is a scoring winger with size while Puljujarvi is more of a playmaker as a centre. He’s not small either and probably has the higher point potential between the two. Laine is going to net more goals if that matters, and he might make an impact sooner than Puljujarvi. Some scouts are saying Laine’s more of a “sure thing” too — the safer pick. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both of them on NHL rosters for next season.
You can probably flip a coin unless you have a preference towards goals (Laine) or assists (Puljujarvi). Let’s also wait and see who drafts who, because the team picking them could sway your decision one way or the other. I’m leaning towards Laine, but my mind isn’t totally made up just yet.
Jeff Clarke asked via email: I’m trying to trade for Erik Karlsson, but the other managers in my league are vetoing everything. For example, my offer of Duncan Keith and Johnny Gaudreau for Karlsson was accepted, then vetoed. Now I’m considering Keith and Dustin Byfuglien for Karlsson — your thoughts?
ANSWER: That’s a steep price to pay for Karlsson, but I’d do it. He’s in a league of his own for defencemen, so any 2-for-1 swap of blue-liners should still favour him. You’d be getting the best player in the deal and that typically bodes well.
It helps that Jeff’s defence corps also includes P.K. Subban and Sami Vatanen, so adding Karlsson could put Jeff’s team over the top. His peers obviously realize that. They don’t want the rich to get richer, and Jeff is already in first place in this league. So those opponents are exercising their right to block Jeff’s blockbusters. That doesn’t make it right, not by any means.
Jeff’s first offer was more than fair too in my opinion. The poor guy also had a similar deal voted down that would have landed him Brent Burns for Keith and Gaudreau. I’m failing to see what’s wrong with that outgoing package?
What I do know is that I’m glad we don’t have a veto process in either of my keeper leagues because I can imagine how infuriating this must be. I’d be livid. Hopefully, Jeff gets his man this time around — third time is the charm? — or that his league’s commissioner steps in to overrule the inevitable veto. With or without Karlsson in the fold, I hope the Hockey Gods reward Jeff for his persistence.
My Fantasy World
It’s playoff time, baby! Others are more excited about the second season than yours truly, knowing I don’t stand much chance of making it out of the first round as a seller. It certainly doesn’t help that Joonas Korpisalo — my go-to goalie the last couple months, sad I know — is back in the minors with the imminent return of Sergei Bobrovsky. That leaves me with Edmonton rookie Laurent Brossoit and an injury Carey Price as my netminders, having previously traded Jacob Markstrom for picks and prospects.
I finished the regular season in 11th place and drew the sixth-seeded team for playoffs, a buyer that I helped load up in his push for a top-five payout that fell just short. My former players on his roster include Josh Bailey, Patrik Berglund, Zemgus Girgensons and Vincent Lecavalier — all depth forwards that I had no intention of keeping, but who could contribute to ending my season this week. In return for those four, from two separate trades, I received Ryan Callahan, prospects Sergei Tolchinsky and Gustav Forsling, plus second- and third-round picks — the 35th and 55th overall selections in our rookie draft.
Aside from the top-four picks, which are decided through an ongoing draft lottery tournament, the rest of the order is now decided. I own nine picks in total and will also select 10th, 46th, 54th, 56th, 57th, 60th and 69th. I’m a prospect junkie, so the challenge will be to make the most of those late picks and avoid taking busts.
Assuming I do lose this week — I’m only trailing 5-4-1 through two nights — then I’d have one last chance at prize money from the consolation tournament, featuring the eight first-round losers. It’s still early, but it looks like we could have a couple upsets, which would mean higher seeds winding up as favourites for this $50 consolation prize — half off next season’s entry fee.
The top-four teams from the regular season — including our now four-time champion in our six-year existence — are powerhouses and will probably end up facing off in the semifinals, with first-, second- and third-place also earning playoff money. Those slugfests will be fun to watch, but it’d be nice to see a David somehow get in there with those Goliaths. I’ll be rooting for the underdogs, that’s for sure.
Playoffs are underway here too but, without a consolation tournament, my season is already over. It ended on a disappointing note, with a win over another bottom-feeder that bumped me down the draft order from sixth to eighth in the first round.
I might try to trade up — back into the top-six — because looking ahead to the 2016 NHL draft, I feel there is a drop-off in talent right before my schedule pick. I would have been happy at sixth, but now I have to hope somebody falls into my lap at eighth. I also own the 12th, 19th and 26th picks in the first round, along with 38th in the second round, so I will have the assets to move up if somebody is willing to move down. That might be easier said than done, but it’s an option that I plan on exploring between now and June. I’ll have plenty of time on my hands with this extended off-season.
As mentioned, this 28-team league is undergoing a realignment for next season, which will see four random divisions turned into three ranked by fantasy points. It will work on a relegation system, with the top two teams from the third division moving up to the second division after next season, trading spots with the bottom two teams from there. The top three from the second division will move up to the first, with the bottom three from the first moving down to the second if that makes sense.
As a seller in the infancy of a full rebuild, I’m starting in the third division — ranked third out of eight teams based on this season’s fantasy points. Only the winner of the third division will receive a payout — getting their $50 entry fee covered for the following season. As you move up the ranks, there is more and more money to be won. I might be spending a couple years in the third division, still planning to further strip down my roster this off-season before trending back up.
Box Pool Update
Suddenly, this is the fantasy league with the most intrigue to me. I hadn’t been paying close attention for much of the season, when I was toiling in the middle of the pack among 32 teams. However, I’ve been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break and now I’m checking the standings on a daily basis.
The top three get paid and I’m currently in third — three points up on fourth and eight on fifth, but 23 back of second and 38 behind the standings leader with roughly 450 NHL games remaining on the schedule, an average of 15 per team. Those deficits still seem insurmountable but, a month ago, I was in 12th place and more than 50 points out of the money. I closed that gap and overtook a bunch of teams, so perhaps this rapid rise can take me to the top. Stay tuned!
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter at The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, and has been an at-large contributor for The Hockey Writers since August 2014.
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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.