Jumping at the Opportunity

Using depth charts and lineup holes to find potential fantasy sleepers.

Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens:

The Habs lost two-thirds of the best line in hockey (min. 100 minutes) when Phil Danault (LAK) and Tomas Tatar (NJD) departed bringing the line’s 70.8% xG% with them. Particularly the signing of Danault in California opened up a unique opportunity for two young centers in Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki. Then the Hurricanes rolled in and pulled Kotkaniemi away from Montreal via offer sheet. That leaves Suzuki as the lone legitimate top-six center on the roster. The Canadiens did acquire Christian Dvorak from Arizona, and we have not seen Dvorak play on an offensive-minded team yet, but I am not too worried about Suzuki’s play time because of this.

Source: Montreal Gazette

Suzuki has done nothing but impress in his two years in the NHL. He was a significant contributor in Montreal’s dream run to the Cup finals last season playing around 19 minutes per game as a 21-year old. I see no reason for Suzuki not to see similar or even increased minutes this season in addition to some more PP time.

In last year’s playoffs the line of Toffoli-Suzuki-Caufield produced at a great clip (3.02xG/60) while also being the best line on the team in their own zone (2.12xG/60). Suzuki is currently ranked #47 on ESPN’s Top 300 rankings but is getting drafted in the 90’s in early fantasy drafts. He doesn’t jump off the page with his current point production but we are talking about a top-six center entering his third season. I’ll be scooping him up in drafts.

Eeli Tolvanen, Nashville Predators:

It is fair to say that even Nashville fans have low expectations for the team this season. This is the first year in around a decade I am underwhelmed with the defense core in Smashville. What once was an elite group now features two or three names a casual hockey fan has never heard before. Nonetheless, someone has to do the scoring there.

The RW side is the most intriguing to me. This paragraph may be about Tolvanen, but I am also high on prospect Philip Tomasino as a flier or rookie sleeper. Either way, RW1 is up for grabs with the departure of Viktor Arvidsson to L.A.

The prospect who felt like he was around forever, Eeli Tolvanen was a pleasant addition last season to a forward crop filled with overpaid vets and middle-six power forwards. Putting up a respectable 22 points in 40 games, Tolvanen also had the second highest shooting % amongst Nashville regulars (16.9%) signifying that the talent and luck was there for him. Without a doubt, Tolvanen has work to do defensively and with an increase in minutes expected this season, youthfulness may be more noticeable as he is still only 22 years old. The advanced stats don’t jump off the page at me, but the opportunity to still play alongside Forsberg and assist-machine Ryan Johansen makes me willing to take a risk on Tolvanen late.

Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes:

The first defenseman on this list is one looking for a fresh start in a new division. Ghost broke into the league with a 46-point season as a rookie, earning himself a spot as a First-Team All-Star and a finishing second in the Calder race behind Artemi Panarin.

It quickly become evident that Gostisbehere would be an offensive defenseman, so in recent seasons when the point production was not there, Philly chose to move on. Lucky for us, I don’t see any real competition for Ghost as Arizona’s PP2 anchor. The Coyotes cleaned house this offseason as Alex Goligoski (MIN), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (VAN) and Jordan Oesterle (DET) all parted ways. Aside from Norris contender Jakob Chychrun, the Coyotes are left with Ghost and a lot of young guns.

Source: puckprose.com

Arizona has been known in recent years to be a defensive-minded team, so will this mentality work its way into Ghost’s game as well? It is critical for it to in order for him to stay in the lineup. The Flyers were not shy to sit or scratch Gostisbehere towards the end of his time there, but I think a fresh start is exactly what the doctor ordered. We cannot forget this was once a 65-point d-man only four seasons ago.

Gostisbehere actually led Philly defenseman in Corsi For % (57.3%), mind you it was very sheltered minutes. Only a 37% defensive zone start % will do that for a guy. Philly understood his true value was only in the offensive zone and utilized him in that way only. He may never return to the Norris candidate form he was once at, but fantasy owners only care about offensive production, something I think Ghost still possesses given the opportunity.

Tony DeAngelo/Brett Pesce, Carolina Hurricanes:

In cases like this, sometimes one needs to put off-ice issues and opinions aside when managing a fantasy team. Do I like the drama and history that DeAngelo brings to Carolina? No. But from a strictly fantasy perspective, I can’t ignore a 15-goal and 53-point season from a young defenseman just two seasons ago.

With the departure of Dougie Hamilton (NJ) (one of my favourite fantasy D), a huge opportunity emerges for a d-man to take advantage of this opportunity. Not only will 5v5 minutes be available, but an exciting PP1 opening is on the board as well.

I compare DeAngelo’s situation to Gostisbehere’s. A mid to late twenties offensive d-man looking for a fresh start. Perhaps they have something to prove? Something about the conditions on these two players intrigues me.

Source: canescountry.com

When we look at the stats, DeAngelo’s breakout season was far more productive than any season from Brett Pesce. But Carolina trusts Pesce and he was nothing but solid last season 5v5 and with a taste on PP2. This may be a situation that we have to wait and see how it is handled in preseason and from the Hurricanes’ coaching staff.

Let’s take a look at the careers of Brett Pesce vs. Tony DeAngelo:

Just by looking at some quick stats, it is clear that DeAngelo’s offense outweighs the defensive aspect that Pesce brings. I like both of these defenseman as late fliers. DeAngelo is the riskier play, but has a higher offensive ceiling. If I am Carolina I go DeAngelo on PP1 and Pesce on PP2.

Thanks for reading the first FP Don article of 2021-22. Let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my picks. Who do you see jumping into a greater role this season?

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