I was all in on the Tampa Bay Lightning again this year picking them to make the Stanley Cup Finals.  Obviously they don’t crown champions 3 weeks into the season but Tampa has started off incredibly well.  They’ve had some depth players step up but at the end of the day, their studs have been incredible.  The top two players in points in the NHL by a wide margin are both Lightning players with Steven Stamkos.  Tampa Bay blitzed Pittsburgh 7-1 on Saturday and Stamkos led the way with a goal, three assists and four shots on goal.  That gives Stamkos a whopping 17 points (3+14) in 9 games.  Stamkos was a player who consistently dropped in my drafts into the third round and while it’s too early to celebrate given Stamkos’ injury, it’s been the dream start.  Fingers crossed that he stays healthy because Stammer could be a top 10, maybe even top 5 player.  Let’s take a look at what else happened over the weekend:

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All everyone talked about in the preseason was wondering how bad Vegas was going to be in their expansion year.  Sure, it’s only two games, but boy did they have some excitement.  On Friday, Dallas was dominating Vegas in their franchise opener but was only up 1-0 in the third.  Down goes Ben Bishop which opened up the door for James Neal to give the people of Las Vegas some relief in an awful time.  Neal scored two goals in the third period to propel the Golden Knights to victory.  To top off the weekend, Neal scored another goal, this time the game winner in overtime, to give Vegas two wins to start the season.  Neal is still available in over 40% of leagues and if you are in one of them, grab him.  The shot rate is going to be elite along with solid penalty minutes and goals.  At least for now, I’m not overly concerned about the top guys on Vegas having bad plus-minuses either.  Let’s take a look at what else happened in the first (long) weekend of the NHL season:

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Sadly, the fantasy hockey season has come to an end. I’ll have an RCL summary post up later this week along with a preview of The Stanley Cup Playoffs with Reid on Tuesday’s podcast. For now, I’d like to invite everyone to join the Razzball Bracket Challenge again through the link here and to present my super early top 50 for next season. I’m not going to go into much detail at this point because so many things can change between now and six months from now when the 2017-18 regular season actually begins. This will go longer than our mock draft podcast but if you want more details about my thought process, I’d be sure to check that out. I’ll be separating these guys into tiers with tier explanations but that will be the extent of the analysis. Obviously you’re welcome to ask me in the comments section about anything you like / disagree with. Let’s get to it!

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When talking about the Carolina Hurricanes schedule in my Playoff Breakdown piece, I said the following: “The Godfather of playoff schedules, the Hurricanes are going to be great on volume alone. They don’t have three games in three nights like Detroit but there’s a pile of back to backs here. There has to be with 17(!!!) games in 28 nights to close the season. That’s two more games than anyone else in the league. Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask should be monsters in the playoffs while Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm will be among the best streamers in the league.” And that’s me quoting me! All of this had held true except for Rask being mediocre. Not bad. Skinner has been the best of the bunch and that continued on Tuesday night. Skinner had two goals and an assist with five shots in the 5-3 loss to the Wild. He’s been hotter than a pistol bringing his totals to 35 goals and 26 assists on the season. With the elite shot rate, Skinner is pushing towards a top 50 player going forward. The team around him is getting much better and Skinner is nearing his prime as he turns 25 in May. I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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The greatest goal scorer in the history of the NHL has made a massive push down the stretch to push many teams towards a fantasy championship. While his shot rate and goal rate have dropped this year, Alex Ovechkin is still a monster. He had his best game of the season scoring a hat trick and an assist with six shots in the 5-4 OT win over the Wild. That brings his totals to 33+33 on the season with a solid plus-minus and penalty minute contribution. Obviously it’s disappointing his shot rate went from five per game to four per game but it’s still outstanding. We discussed on the podcast where Ovechkin will rank for next season and while I don’t think he’s worthy of the top selection anymore, he’s still a top five pick without hesitation. Here’s to hoping he finally gets over the playoff hump and Ovechkin gets the accolades he deserves. Let’s take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:

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Here’s what I said about Jonathan Marchessault in my season preview of the Florida Panthers: “Jared McCann and Jonathan Marchessault are the two Panthers I can see taking a late flier on in deep leagues… Marchessault scored 18 points in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season despite averaging only 12 minutes of ice time per game. When Tampa was hit with injuries, Marchessault filled in admirably. If Florida was hit by the injury bug, I could see both of these guys becoming relevant in 12’ers; for now they are potential waiting for their chance.” And that’s me quoting me! Well, Florida did get struck by the injury bug and while McCann didn’t provide much value this season, Marchessault certainly did. The return of their two best players hasn’t hurt Marchessault at all. In fact, it’s helped him on the power play. He recorded his first career hat trick in the 7-0 win over the Blackhawk, which also included four shots and four PIM. That brings Marchessault’s totals to 28+20 with 34 PIM and 2.5 shots per game in 67 GP. Not bad for a guy the Panthers signed for $750k for this season and next. The Panthers have an interesting offseason ahead to determine how their forward core is going to look next season. Regardless, I think Marchessault is worry of a late round pick next season. I don’t think there’s more upside than what he’s doing this season but there’s no complaints with a 34+25 per 82 games when he’s not hurting you elsewhere. I expect the Panthers to be back in the playoffs next season with Marchessault providing some nice depth behind the big guns. Let’s take a look at what else happened this weekend around the league:

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In these parts, we’re a big supporter of the Jets for fantasy hockey. Going back to when I started writing here, the Jets love started with Blake Wheeler. An unheralded superstar, Wheeler has never received the credit he deserves for his consistent level of play. Another year goes by and it’s another year where Wheeler is pushing the top ten overall forwards. Wheeler continued his recent hot streak with a goal and two assists with two shots in the 3-2 win over the Flyers. That brings his totals to 22+41 in 73 games with 43 PIM and 230 SOG. The safety he provides is the main reason why I ranked him 21st overall in the preseason and it looks like Wheeler is going to reach that value. So where will he be next season? He’s going to turn 31 before next season starts which means he’s likely to start marginally declining as he exits his prime. However, his quality of teammate is going to continue to improve as the rest of the Jets core moves towards their prime. Is he going to be worth a second pick again? It’s going to be pretty close but at the least, Wheeler will be a high third round pick. I don’t see him falling outside of my top 30. Let’s take a look at the action around the league the last two nights:

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When it comes to the fantasy playoffs, you’re looking for two things. One, you want to get as many starts from your players as possible. Getting one or two extra starts from your bottom end guys / streamers goes a long way. The other thing you want is your superstars to carry you. Because I was in California for the last four days, my time for writing was non-existent. The good news is two fold. One, I got to meet Grey! He is the man, plain and simple. Secondly, I’m here to catch up on everything that’s happened since last Thursday and it starts with Sidney Crosby. On Friday, Crosby scored two goals and an assist with four shots to push the Penguins past the Devils. He followed that up on Sunday with a hat trick on six shots against the Panthers. Both are huge wins for the Penguins given their current injury situation and it was massive for people in the fantasy playoffs. Here’s to hoping you have Crosby because you’re ahead of the field right off the bat. He’s the number 1 skater at the moment and as of now, I’d rank him first overall going into next season. That can be debated at a later time but there’s no denying that Crosby is having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. Here’s what else happened over the last four days:

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For the majority of his professional career, Connor Hellebuyck has gone up and down more than an elevator. He’s bounced around the NHL and AHL along with starting and being the backup in Winnipeg despite the fact that he’s clearly their best option between the pipes. That’s not to say Hellboy has been a great goalie throughout. In fact, he’s had plenty of times where he looks rough. That’s simply the nature of the beast in the NHL being a young goalie. Hellboy was at the bottom last week allowing five goals in consecutive starts. Naturally, he turns things around this weekend with a 29 save shutout against the Blues and saving 22 of 23 shots in the 6-1 win over the Avalanche. The numbers are poor on the whole but he has won half of his games. Should he be owned right now? I think you have to gamble on the upside in 12’ers. The main point is that this season has done nothing to dissuade me from loving Hellebuyck in dynasties. We all know that the Jets are loaded with offensive talent that is only going to get better and Hellebuyck will be a beneficiary. The prospect cupboard remains full despite all of their recent graduates and most importantly, there are a bunch on the blue line. What do I expect him next season? Probably a #2 goalie with upside to be a #1 who should be owned in all leagues. Long term? He should eventually develop into a guy who is a middling to bottom end #1 year in and year out. Bottom line, I’m still driving the Hellboy bandwagon! Here’s what else happened around the league last weekend:

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