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Fantasy hockey mailbag: MacKinnon vs. Drouin, and other keeper league pickles

Is Nathan MacKinnon still a better keeper than Jonathan Drouin? Will Cam Talbot's fantasy value take a nose dive soon? And many more questions answered in Matt Larkin's fantasy mailbag.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Seeking advice in your fantasy hockey pool right now? You must be:

(a) Seeking upgrades or smart last-minute roster adds for your post-season push

(b) Scraping the roadkill that is your team off the pavement, and assessing keeper players

Today's mailbag tackles questions from both perspectives.

Jeremy Aubin (@JAubs19) asks

Strictly a points league, better player to draft next year: Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin?

Answer: Who knew this would be such a good question? It boils the blood of any MacKinnon owner, especially after he was shut down with a broken foot last week, adding injury to the insult of his sophomore slump. MacKinnon made poolie mouths water as an 18-year-old rookie in 2013-14, churning out 63 points, spurred by a great second half, and dominating in the post-season.

This year? A measly 12 goals and 38 points in 64 games. Yikes. And just when he showed signs of life with five goals and nine points in his past 10 games, his season ended. So it's understandable to wonder if Tampa Bay left winger Jonathan Drouin, Mackinnon's former Halifax Mooseheads teammate and the young man picked two spots after him in 2013, is a better keeper-league option.

My answer is no, especially in the next couple years. Note that MacKinnon and Drouin are the same age, born about three months apart. In MacKinnon's down year, he's still vastly outproduced Drouin's two goals and 26 points in 57 games. Yes, it's Drouin's rookie season, but that's kind of the point. MacKinnon's six-foot, 195-pound body was NHL-ready a year earlier than Drouin's 5-foot-11, 186-pound frame. MacKinnon scored 24 goals a year younger than Drouin is during his two-goal campaign. MacKinnon is a better bet to continue developing faster than Drouin. More importantly, MacKinnon's role is greater. There's no way he plays anywhere outside the top six in Colorado going forward.

Drouin, on the other hand? He plays for a Stanley Cup contender with two outstanding scoring lines. It's awfully tough to squeeze ahead of Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula on the left side in the top six. Maybe Jon Cooper gives Drouin a shot with Palat out a couple weeks, but Palat will reclaim his slot alongside Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.

Drouin is less experienced and has more people to pass on the depth chart, so MacKinnon remains the stronger bet for the next few seasons. He's a prime bounce-back candidate for 2015-16.

Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) asks…

Goalies heading into playoffs: Braden Holtby, Cam Talbot, Michael Hutchinson, Sergei Bobrovsky. Who to drop? Need more offense.

Answer: Not all roster questions are created equal. This one's easy. That list includes two workhorse starters in Holtby and Bobrovsky. Holtby you keep because he's been fantastic this season, Bobrovsky because he still provides counting stats. The list includes another pseudo-starter in Michael Hutchinson, who has cooled in Winnipeg but will still play at least half the games going forwards. That leaves a piping-hot goalie but one whose role is about to shrink: Cam Talbot. He's filled in great for Henrik Lundqvist, but 'The King' will start once he's healed from his vascular injury. Lundqvist has begun skating and isn't too far away from medical clearance.

Sure, coach Alain Vigneault will likely ease Lundqvist back into action, allowing for more Talbot starts, but you don't want to be caught with Talbot once the job fully shifts back to Lundqvist. Drop Talbot. Better yet – trade him to a bubble team desperate for short-term help.

Austin Gagne (gagne31) asks…

Who is the most underrated prospect that could really surprise next year?

Answer: Everyone has a different definition of underrated, so hopefully I dig deep enough here. I don't consider future studs like Max Domi, Nikolaj Ehlers or William Nylander underrated, for example. One to watch for next year is Detroit's Teemu Pulkkinen. He's 23 and it'll be five years ago this June since he was drafted, but that's the beauty of targeting Detroit prospects in pools. The Wings wait years and years to let their youngsters become full-time NHLers, and sometimes they're relatively forgotten once they reach the big league for good. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, for example, crept up on people last year and were waiver-wire pickups in most leagues.

Pulkkinen, drafted 111th overall in 2010, has risen to 50th overall in our THN Future Watch rankings. He is a pure goal-scorer, having ripped 31 goals in 71 games with AHL Grand Rapids last year and 34 – with 61 points – in just 46 games there this season. Wow. He's a stocky turret of a man with a powerful one-timer that draws Brett Hull (!) comparisons. He's up with Detroit now and has a pair of goals in his past four games, so he may even provide late-season value this year. In 2015-16, though, look out.

Another prospect to watch who isn't as underrated: Kasperi Kapanen. He almost made the Penguins last year, so he should crack the roster next season. And you know he has an excellent shot at all-world linemates.

Sean van den Berg (@seanvdb) asks…

Would you trade Patrick Kane for John Tavares in a keeper league?

Answer: In a heartbeat. Tavares is two years younger than Kane. In the past four seasons they are one game apart. Tavares has 266 points in 258 games. Kane has 254 in 259. Think about how much better Kane's supporting cast has been over that time and how much Tavares' supporting cast is improving. Kane has also missed significant time with late-season injuries two seasons in a row, whereas Tavares has (knock on wood) been healthy after a season-ending injury last season. Kane is a true superstar, but so is Tavares. He's a better fantasy option.

ye olde ryan clowe (@riotsurvivor) asks…

Who is the better keeper option: Nick Bjugstad or Johnny Gaudreau? League counts faceoffs won, hits, shots and standard scoring.

Answer: Ugh. Tough question and good problem to have. Bjugstad is an impressive physical specimen, and I own him in one of my leagues. He's more of a goal scorer, whereas the shifty, inspiring Gaudreau trends toward the playmaking side. If your pool was pure points or even standard scoring, I'd lean Gaudreau's way. He's a natural winner and a more purely offensive weapon with a higher statistical ceiling. Bjugstad, however, fills the stat sheet in your league setting. He's 6-foot-6 and throws about 10 times as many hits as Gaudreau. Bjugstad shoots more, too, and he's a center, meaning he pastes Gaudreau in the FW category. Go with Bjugstad based on your league setup.

RTC (@RickyCrinkleton) asks…

I lost Kane and MacKinnon on my team, holding 4th. Gimme a sleeper pickup, Matt. Someone with power play potential.

Answer: Kane and MacKinnon? Brutal. I'm so impressed by the name "Ricky Crinkleton" that I have to help. One sleeper with power play potential is Chris Stewart. We know he can play when his head and heart are in it, and he has two goals and four points in five games since joining the Wild. Stewart has averaged 1:46 of power play time with Minnesota, too. Another guy to consider: Carolina blue-chipper Elias Lindholm, who scored a hat trick on Sunday. He's a high-end prospect who should get plenty of minutes for the rest of the season on a team going nowhere.

Amanda Montgomery (@akmo2523) asks

What goalies do you recommend to replace Miller while he is out?

Answer: It's hard to give perfect advice not knowing how big your league is, but if Miller plays a key role on your team, I'll assume the pool is reasonably deep. The easiest place to look when a goalie goes down is his own team. Eddie Lack makes for a reasonable add. He's carrying the mail for a playoff bubble team that can't trust mentally shaky Jacob Markstrom. Since you only need short-term help, you could also ride Talbot until Lundqvist comes back. Another option: Craig Anderson. The Senators appear committed to handing him his starting job back, and he may have been dropped during his injury.

Matthew Lane (@FingersTalk) asks…

Will Patrick Sharp turn it around?

Answer: Sharp worried me before the season even started. He posted a career-best 78 points last year but has played 94 playoff games over the past six seasons. He has a lot of mileage. You have to wonder if he's an "old" 33. And then there's the 18-game scoring drought.

It's also fair to wonder if all the rumors about his personal life and feuding with teammates have gotten to him. Even if they aren't true, they have to be at least a little distracting. Sharp isn't a guy you can drop, but I wouldn't try to buy low on him right now, either. This season looks like a lost one for him.

Jon Janusch (@JonJanusch1) asks…

Please list your top 10 dynasty league goalies.

Answer: A nice meat-and-potatoes question deserves a nice meat-and-potatoes answer. This could be its own blog, so I'll provide you with just the list for now. The most important thing to remember: goalies take time, so a keeper list won't automatically include John Gibson and Jake Allen at the top. Think about age but also whose role is stable for the next few years.

1. Carey Price

2. Tuukka Rask

3. Pekka Rinne

4. Cory Schneider

5. Sergei Bobrovsky

6. Semyon Varlamov

7. Henrik Lundqvist

8. Braden Holtby

9. Corey Crawford

10. Jonathan Quick

Ben Bishop just misses. Great goalie, but he has elite prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy breathing down his neck.

Ben Thielmann (@BenThielmann41) asks…

Who would you compare Nikolaj Ehlers to?

Answer: What a special talent this kid is. A question I commonly ask at the THN office is, "If the 2014 draft were held again right now, how much higher would Ehlers go?" Maybe top five. He's blindingly fast with great hands and all-around scoring ability. The realistic comparison that comes to mind for me: Marian Gaborik. The pipedream comparison: Pavel Bure. But let's not get carried away. We'll go with Gaborik for now and see how Ehlers does at the NHL level.

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin



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