Fantasy Hockey Week 4 Notes: Early returns from Patrik Laine and the Blue Jackets

·7 min read

By Jason Chen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Here's a look around the league at the latest trends after another week of hockey. Some food for thought, some leftover stats, and, of course, some fantasy advice. Let's dig in.

All fancy stats courtesy Natural Stat Trick.

The Blue Jackets are still figuring out Patrik Laine

I have a soft spot for the Blue Jackets because A) I love the cannon, and B) I think it's endearing that they have not changed their identity as a low-scoring, grit-and-grind type of team since inception. Something is amusing about being that stubborn, and bringing in Patrik Laine has invoked shades of the Rick Nash era when the Jackets could never find a proper playmaker for their top goal scorer. They maximized Nash's usage but could never unlock his full potential. They leaned on him to score, but also never managed to make his job any easier except for a brief moment with Ray Whitney.

Nearly 10 years later, the Jackets have the exact same problem. Here's the list of line combinations coach John Tortorella has already tried with Laine in the lineup at 5-on-5:

Patrik Laine line combos.
Patrik Laine line combos. (Chart by Natural Stat Trick)

The results haven't been very good. Tortorella can be impatient and he's already hinted that changes may follow again if Laine's line with Jack Roslovic and Cam Atkinson doesn't shine Sunday. Their appearances together have been limited to just 6:06, and the early results are encouraging but also surprising; in three seasons with the Jets and 287:58 minutes together, Laine and Roslovic were never particularly good playing together (46.94 CF% and 46.76 xGF%). In fact, they had better individual possession numbers playing without each other. Granted, Roslovic never really played center for the Jets, but both him and Laine had quality linemates most of the time.

Max Domi did not get a boost playing with Laine, and I often wonder why we even like Domi as a top-line playmaker. Other than his two seasons with Montreal, he's never scored enough to make you think he can carry an offense, and he's also never been able to be a full-time center. The truth is, going from Pierre-Luc Dubois to Domi is a huge downgrade and leaves a giant hole at center for the Jackets … but that's why they got Jack Roslovic. And, true to their word, the Jackets are giving him a long look at center.

Here's how Roslovic's fared at 5-on-5:

Roslovic centering lines. (Chart by Natural Stat Trick)
Roslovic centering lines. (Chart by Natural Stat Trick)

The results for Roslovic playing center are very encouraging, especially the line with Atkinson and Boone Jenner; there is both quality and quantity in the stats to support the claim. That means Roslovic (4 percent rostered) and Alexandre Texier (14 percent) — who should end up as the team's top two centers — definitely have upside and should be rostered in deeper leagues if managers can afford to be patient. Laine's played just three games this season and with two teams; he's yet to really settle in and has zero shots on the Columbus power play, the one area where he's expected to make a significant difference.

Two backup goalies should start

The NHL has this really bad habit of overpaying goalies and then overplaying said overpaid goalies, usually for some silly reason like saving face or getting your dollars' worth. Two big names come to mind: Jonathan Quick and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Quick fell off a cliff seemingly overnight, going from winning the Jennings Trophy to finishing second-to-last the following season. Since 2018-19, of 115 goalies, Quick ranks 114th with a -33.50 5v5 GSAA and 87th with a .903 5v5 Sv%. Yet, he has started 94 games, nearly 60 percent of the total. Coach Todd McLellan is stubbornly sticking to his rotation, and though you could argue who starts for the lottery-bound Kings doesn't really matter in the short run, it's pretty clear that there shouldn't be a rotation; Cal Petersen should be the No. 1.

He ranks sixth in Sv% (.935), 11th in GAA (2.18), and fifth in GSAA (4.13). This is pretty amazing considering the Kings allow the eighth-most shots per game (32.2), consistently lose the possession battle and rank 25th in CF% (47.29), 29th in GF% (38.46), 19th in CA/60 (53.54), and 30th in xGA/60 (2.67). Translating that numbers salad, it means the Kings defense is horrific and Petersen's somehow posting ridiculous numbers that should earn him the No. 1 job. Even the stubborn McLellan (he once started Cam Talbot 73 games) can't ignore it forever, and Petersen (10 percent rostered) should be getting more starts sooner than later. The wins will be rare but the rest of the numbers should be sparkling.

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Cal Petersen (40)
Cal Petersen has been excellent for the non-excellent Kings. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

Sergei Bobrovsky's the other big-name, big-money goalie who looks like he's about to be out of a job in a year. We didn't think he would be worse than last season, but he definitely is with a .881 Sv% and 3.57 GAA. Like the Kings, it's the backup goalie who's actually been the better goalie. Chris Driedger ranks fourth in 5v5 Sv% (.967) and fourth GSAA/60 (1.47), and also top five in nearly every major goalie category. Astute managers are catching on; Driedger is rostered in 34 percent of leagues, and that number has been climbing. All the underlying numbers suggest the Panthers are no fluke.

Players to watch

We sure acted like we didn't believe in him. With another goal Saturday, Jesse Puljujarvi now has three goals this season, all of which have been scored in the last two games and all of which have come with playing on the first line with Connor McDavid. This is the McDavid effect, of course, but Puljujarvi certainly looks like a different player this season, and he's starting to bury his chances. His possession numbers were very good (55.05 CF%)63.35 xGF%), but his shooting percentage remained low at 6.7 S% entering the game, and already it's creeping back to league average. Puljujarvi is rostered in only 20 percent of leagues, and that number will jump way up because it doesn't seem like he's in danger of getting moved off that line in the immediate future. The North Division is going to be high-scoring all season, and it already boasts all four of the league's top scorers entering Sunday.

Another player to watch is Pittsburgh's Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who plays first-pairing minutes with Kris Letang. Acquired from Arizona in the Phil Kessel trade years ago, Joseph is being thrown into the fire amidst desperate times. The Pens have injuries to key defensemen, including five of their six regulars at one point, but it's allowed them to uncover a potential gem. Joseph averaged 26 minutes and notched three assists in two games with the Rangers, and on Saturday against the Islanders scored his first goal. Playing on with Letang assures Joseph will get a lot of playing time with the team's top players, and his all-situations ability means he can rack up stats in all categories. It's still early stages, but Joseph (6 percent rostered) could be a very popular name very shortly if he keeps this up. Dependable all-round defenders don't come around very often, and the ones who do everything well tend to be sought because they're reliable and most nights won't give you a straight line of zero's. This was your early warning.