Back in 2010 the Chicago Blackhawks used the 24th overall pick to draft a talented but very young Kevin Hayes. At the time Hayes was still in High School and decided to go to college, spending the last four years playing for and often winning with Boston College. When he graduated this year the hockey world was rife with speculation about where he’d sign. Having been drafted by the Hawks you would think that he’d be happy to end up there, but they weren’t able to come to a deal and he became a UFA. Then, oddly, he decided to sign with the Rangers. Wait, what? A highly coveted prospect decided to spurn an original six team set up for perianal runs at the cup… for the Rangers? Yes, it happened. Turns out the Boston native had no desire what so ever to sign with the Hawks. I assume that has to do with the fact that he wouldn’t see NHL ice as a member of the Blackhawks, because, you know, they’re stacked and Hayes is seventh or eighth on their depth chart at best. So, instead of fighting his way through the AHL he went to school to improve his game and let his draft rights expire so he could sign elsewhere. Who cares? You care! Why? Because this kid has some decent hockey chops, or you’d think so given how excited folks seemed to get when this minor circus got kicked off with his recent graduation. Now that he has a home we have to wonder, just how good is Kevin Hayes?

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Apparently all the free agents got together and decided that today was the day to sign a deal. Also, everyone had to sign with a central division team. Or demand a trade to a central division team. If I’m a fan of the Wings, Blue Jackets or any other team lucky enough to have escaped the west, I’m counting my lucky starts tonight because baby, the central is loaded. Normally I’m used to hearing news about a big contract here, a big name move there, but since the draft there have been tons of moves that sent ripples through the fantasy hockey world like so many pebbles being tossed into a still pond. Zen! Anyway, it goes without saying then (though I’ll say it) that y’all need to know who went where and for what and why. When? Yesterday! Today? Who’s on first?! The biggest non-contract move so far has to be Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson going to Dallas for Alex Chaisson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill, a 2015 second round pick and a bag o’ pucks. Couple that with Ales Hemsky inking a 3-year, $12M deal with the Stars today and they might have found a recipe for success in the west! When I initially found out about this deal I saw it as “Spezza/Karlsson traded to Dallas” and my damn jaw dropped. Come to find out its some guy named Ludwig. Really? People are actually named Ludwig? That’s too bad. Anyway, these moves should make the Stars an offensive powerhouse and I’d say Spezza (if he can stay healthy) and Hemsky (if he can stay healthy) get a decent boost in value for next season. Kari Lehtonen (if he can stay healthy) might be a goalie to target in 2015 now, too. I’m sensing a theme here. Huh, anyway, here are the rest of the big moves that matter so far this offseason…

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Who says there’s no hockey now that the playoffs are done? The season starts in less than four months! Schedules are being released next week! Hockey will be back soon, and we will be prepared and to be prepared we must look to the future. Enter the the NHL entry draft, not only a time for young hockey players to make their initial foray onto the big stage, but also into fantasy owners’ hearts and minds. While most of any draft class doesn’t pan out and even fewer still become productive enough to garner fantasy attention in their first few seasons, there are a handful of prospects here you should absolutely be aware of and tracking closely. It’s not every year that a Nathan MacKinnon comes into the league, but tracking guys like MacKinnon make the difference between fantasy champ and fantasy chump. Are you a chump?! Then you’re reading the wrong blog. Or maybe the right blog given I’m trying to teach you how to be a champ! In either case, champ or chump, it’s a thin line and fantasy hockey is a fickle mistress, but we love her just the same. Personally that makes me lover her more, but I’m a glutton for punishment. Anyway, over the next few weeks I’m going to be profiling top prospects in this year’s draft and we’ll start my top prospect for this year, defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

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Suddenly there’s lots of talk of some 22-year-old KHL winger getting lots of offers from NHL teams, twelve offers in fact, and it makes me wonder, who is Jiri Sekac? Jiri is a 22-year-old, 6’2”, 190lb left-winger from the Czech Republic who has recently become a hot commodity in a relatively shallow 2014-15 free agent pool. Why, you might wonder, is this guy seemingly the next big thing? First, he isn’t. His popularity has spiked just recently after a solid 2014 season for the KHL’s HC Lev Praha. How solid? Well, if you consider the KHL a step above the AHL and one below the NHL, not exactly mind-blowingly solid, but solid in a fundamentals sort of way. Ah yes, those valuable fundamentals. The fundamentals that lay the groundwork for future success in any activity one might engage in! The key term here is future, and it isn’t tomorrow yet. This year Sekac put up a line of 11 G, 17 A, 28 P, 18 PIM, + 12 in 47 GP in the regular season and followed up in the playoffs with 1 G, 7 A, 8 P, 24 PIM, + 1 in 21 GP. Wow, this is the guy that has “more than a dozen solid offers” from NHL teams? Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye? Lets take a deeper dive…

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The fantasy season is over and the real playoffs have been fantastic but just because the fun is done in fantasyland doesn’t mean we log off and skate into the sunset until next season, oh no! After a short hiatus I’ve returned to drop more hockey knowledge and start preparing you for victory next season. Before we look ahead, we must look behind and see who did what in the 2013-14 season. Without further ado I present to you the Razzball Fantasy Hockey Player Awards!

Fantasy MVP – Sidney Crosby

This is a pretty easy call; after all there was only one guy who managed to eclipse the elusive century mark with 104 points in 80 games. Yes, Sidney Crosby gets the MVP crown as much as I don’t like it, and I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I think Crosby is the best player in the world right now, and I’d draft him and profit from that talent, but even then I’d find it hard to root for the guy. I’m not sure if it’s Pierre McGuire’s creepily boundless adoration for Sid that makes me think ill of him, or maybe it’s the flops. Yeah, I said it! He flops more often than M. Night Shamalamablahblah flicks, y’all! Who funds that man’s movies by the way? Why? Is anyone watching them? These questions vex me. I’m terribly vexed. At any rate, Crosby had one hell of a season! In 80 games he potted 36 goals, good for 7th in the league and no one matched his league leading 68 helpers to go with those delicious goals. Need power play points? Sid’s got you covered with 11 goals and 27 assists on the man advantage. Sprinkle in 46 PIM, a plus-18 rating and a whopping 259 shots and you’ve got yourself an MVP! He’s a floppy MVP, but an MVP nonetheless. I would compare his numbers with Giroux or Getzlaf, but there is no real comparison to make, Crosby was that far ahead of the pack. So, I’m forced to say We Hart You, Sidney Crosby! (Not really)

Runner up: Claude Giroux
A lot of other ‘perts are going with Corey Perry as the runner up here, but I’m a different kind of ‘pert and I say it’s Giroux. Folks might be thinking his horrible start disqualified him from contention, but I think it’s the reason he belongs here. Claude didn’t put his first biscuit in the basket until November 9th in his 16th game of the season. During October he posted just 6 assists with an anemic minus-6 rating. From there he decided to get his shiz together and he exploded scoring by month; 12, 19, 13, 7 (Olympics) 21, 8 (in just 8 games in April). In his first 26 games he was only able to muster 18 points, he then posted 59 points in his next 56 games to finish with 86 points in 82 games played with a plus-7 on 223 shots on goal. If Giroux didn’t get back on track the Flyers would have never made the playoffs, hell they wouldn’t have even sniffed at the chance, and for that, he comes in second in my fantasy MVP voting.

Honorable mention: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Tyler Seguin

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We’re down to the final week of the season and most leagues have already been decided, but for those of you in leagues who are still fighting it out to the last puck drop, I’ll keep posting my daily roundups to keep you informed. Though I only took over Razzball Hockey halfway through the season I have to say I’ve enjoyed writing every word and I hope that I’ve been able to help shepherd a few of you to success this season. If not, well, I only take credit when you win, so don’t come knocking with all that sadface “I lost!” nonsense! Seriously though, it has been and I hope will continue to be a blast. Now then, for those of you still on the hunt for a title, how can we help? Patrik Hornqvist (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 2 PIM, +3) might be an option! To hell with might, he’s the best option you’ve got this late. Even if it wasn’t this late, the way he’s been playing over the last two-three weeks has been unbelievable. I didn’t mention him because there were other, hotter, better bets to ride to a title but I guess I can’t deny it anymore. Horny has posted a whopping 10 points in his last five games with no signs of slowing down. Granted, no signs means squat because this kind of play is way above Hornqvist’s head, but while he’s scoring like there’s no tomorrow, you should add him, because in a few days there’s going to be no tomorrow! At least for fantasy hockey leagues this season, that is. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:

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Jonathan Bernier (2 GA, 25 SV, W) got the win and looked good doing it until he was hurt when Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger checked Patrice Bergeron (1 G, 1 A, 8 SOG, +2) into Bernier. Bergeron fell awkwardly on Bernier’s leg and he left without being able to put any weight on it. He’s scheduled for an MRI today and is listed as day-to-day with an LBI. He just returned from another injury only to get reinjured and honestly I think his season is done. That’s truly a shame, he deserved more considering how outstanding he has played for the Leafs this season, a team in the process of letting themselves and their fans down in a big way. Oddly that makes me happy. It’s Toronto, what can I say? At any rate, James Reimer (1 GA, 10 SV, W) came in to a standing ovation and held fort allowing one goal on 11 shots helping the Leafs to two critical points with the win. Reimer is what the Leafs have moving forward, it doesn’t look good for Bernier’s chances of returning this season, playoffs or not, but the results of the MRI will tell us more later today or tomorrow. Any Bernier owners should have already handcuffed Reimer to Bernier, but anyone looking for some goalie help can grab Reimer now. It’s the Leafs, and you’ve seen how they have been playing lately, so temper your expectations a bit. That said, a starter is a starter right now and Reimer is talented and the schedule is fairly favorable over the last four games with matchups against Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Florida and Ottawa coming up. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:

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Ryan McDonagh has officially broken into the elite ranks of fantasy defenseman this year with 43 points in 77 games all while maintaining his status as one of, if not these best lockdown defenseman in the east, and maybe the league. A lot of good that does his owners now that Alex Burrows leveled McDonagh in the waning seconds of the Rangers’ Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Canucks. The Rangers brass is playing this one close to the chest and all they’ll say is the injury isn’t serious. That being said, they’re also going to play it safe with their new franchise defenseman and are prepared to hold him out of the lineup for the rest of the regular season to give him a chance to heal and be ready for a cup run. So where does that leave owners who were hoping to get a few more points from the young blue liner? Not up shiz creek like you might think thanks to Alec Martinez (2 A, +1), who keeps finding ways to score and with these two helpers he has a mini-two-game points streak going and five points in his last five. He should be added to any teams still left standing right now. Don’t think so? Take a look at who you have slotted in as your 4th defenseman, is he doing any better over the last month than Martinez? Then add Martinez. I know I did. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:

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The Minnesota Wild seem to have a bit of a goaltending problem. It’s not that they don’t have the personnel, in fact, to start the season you would have tought their duo of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding would again be among the better goaltending situations in the league, but then the curse set in. Backstrom finally realizes how old he is and can’t keep it together, Harding starts the season healthy and finally gets a chance to take the no. 1 job for himself, does, plays like he’s going to win the Vezina and then gets laid low by his MS. And now, in what seems like an inevitability, Mr. Darcy is toppled by an injury during practice?! You read that right, Darcy Kuemper suffered an UBI in yesterday’s morning skate and is day-to-day for now, but it doesn’t sound very promising. That leaves everyone’s favorite Russian goofball, Ilya Bryzgalov (2 GA, 18 SV, W), all alone in the crease and he becomes the de-facto starter for the Wild. What the hell is going on with the Minnesota goaltending? Are they cursed? Does Paul Maurice sit in his office with a little goalie voodoo doll after hours or what? Breezy is a good option (depending on matchups) if you’re looking for some help in the crease towards the end of the week. Owned in just ~13% of ESPN leagues and 17% of Yahoo leagues, he should be available if you need him and I’m willing to bet there’s a handful of Kuemper owners who are sadface today, so turn that frown upside down and add Breezy! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:

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Beau Bennett (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) is an intriguing option that many folks have likely long forgotten. Once upon a time Bennett was slated to start the season on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and everyone’s favorite player James Neal. Say what you will about Neal (I do!) but that was a choice place to land for the youngster who had everything to prove and the skills to do it. Well, he broke his damn hand, or his wrist, or some such nonsense that kept him out for most of this season and now he’s back, healthy, and has the space to play. Malkin’s down, so he won’t be playing along side the big Russian, but Bennett has points in three of his last four games with two goals mixed in for flavor. He’s only seeing around 12-13 minutes of TOI right now, but that’s enough for him to leave a mark and considering the Pens have locked up their playoff spot, I don’t see any reason they won’t let Bennett roam freely over the next week or two to get him up to speed for the post season party. All that adds up to him being a pretty viable scoring option for those in need whilst chasing those sweet sweet league championships. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

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