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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Giving up five goals to St. Louis in the opener wasn’t extremely concerning for the Penguins.  But ten goals to Chicago in game two?  I believe that qualifies as a mess.  Obviously I’m not going to panic in regards to the Pittsburgh season outlook; I’d actually try to trade for Matt Murray if their owner is panicking.  We’ll have to wait a few weeks to develop a bigger sample size, especially because this spot was perfect for the Blackhawks, but maybe they’re better than I gave them credit for.  Let’s take a look at the eight games from Thursday night and see what developed:

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We’ve reached the halfway point in my rankings and it’s time to approach the finish line.  I will keep updating this with info for players as Friday progresses but I wanted to get the top 150 out as soon as possible.  Also, sorry for the delay, but the RCL’s will launch this coming Monday in the afternoon.  I’ve had a few technical difficulties setting it up but that should be taken care of by then.  Without further adieu, here is my top 150:

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The Chicago Blackhawks were the best team in the Western Conference during the 2016-17 regular season but unlike in years past, the postseason had no success.  The Blackhawks were demolished in the first round by the Predators leading them to make some radical offseason changes.  Out goes Artemi Panarin, back comes Brandon Saad.  Out goes Marian Hossa due to injury, back comes Patrick Sharp.  Out goes Niklas Hjalmarsson, Connor Murphy comes back in return.  Overall, I really don’t like the direction that Chicago is going as I discussed on this podcast.  Despite the fact that I think they could be in a battle this season just to make the playoffs, there’s still plenty of fantasy talents worth discussing.  Let’s take a look at what they’re working with:

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After the season from hell in 2015-16, the Columbus Blue Jackets took the NHL by storm to begin last season and never looked back.  Their goalie won the Vezina Trophy, their rookie defenseman was a Calder finalist and a bunch of their forwards broke through in a big way.  Now, they have some more young forwards on the way and made another blockbuster trade bringing in Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad.  Let’s take a look at what Torts is working with:

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We’ve been talking up Jaccob Slavin over the past couple of weeks on the podcast as someone who can help your team if you’re in need of assists. The increased workload as the season has progressed has push Slavin onto the fringe but his playoff schedule was enough to justify grabbing him. Well, if you were fortunate enough to do so, he just started off the fantasy playoffs with the game of his career. Slavin scored more goals than he had in the first 65 games of the season, registering his first career hat trick and added an assist in the 8-4(!) win over the Islanders. Look, despite this game, it’s not going to be anything incredible down the stretch, but Slavin just had a five game assist streak. Add in that he’s +18 and as mentioned above, the Hurricanes have more games left than anyone else the rest of the way, and I’d grab Slavin if you need defenseman help. Here’s what else happened on a randomly busy Monday night around the NHL:

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Everything we talked about on the trade deadline podcast regarding Alexandre Burrows came to fruition on Thursday night. In Burrows’ debut for the Senators, Burrows scored a brace (two goals for those who aren’t aware) on three shots playing 14 minutes in the 2-1 win over the Avalanche. I called him a great streamer for this game (streamer success!) and he performed admirably. Do I think he’s going to be a huge difference maker down the stretch? Probably not unless he piles up a ton of penalty minutes. However, I do expect him to be useful. While the next two games for the Senators are tough matchups, the Senators play the Stars, Coyotes and Avalanche next week. That is an excellent opportunity to stream Burrows. I’m even fine with grabbing him now just to make sure you have him for those games. As along as he stays on the first line, there’s some fantasy value here. Here’s what else happened the last two nights:

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First off, I want to apologize for not having notes on Friday. I wrote them up Thursday night, scheduled the post and then when I logged on Friday afternoon, it was nowhere to be found. I have no idea what happened so hopefully it’s a one-time incident. Anyways, the first two major trade dominoes fell on Sunday night. We’ll get to the Wild’s big move later but the first trade of the night was Ben Bishop getting moved. I’m not shocked that he was traded but I am pretty shocked that it was to the Kings. There are a few players impacted by this move. First, Bishop’s value takes a massive hit. If you are in a redraft, I think you can just cut Bishop. He probably gets one out of three games down the stretch for the Kings barring another Jonathan Quick injury. That’s seven games the rest of the season. I would stream Bishop in all of those games but I don’t think it’s worth holding. If you’re in a dynasty and out of contention, I think it makes a lot of sense to buy low on Bishop on the hopes he lands somewhere nice in the offseason. Peter Budaj goes to Tampa in the trade and he loses all of his value; you can safely drop him. The real winner is Andrei Vasilevskiy who should be the workhorse down the stretch. We know that he’s been up and down all season but he should be owned in all leagues now for the upside. Here’s what else happened around the league the last few nights:

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Remember how poor Max Pacioretty was playing the first six weeks of the season? Despite the incredible start from the Canadiens, Patches was struggling to find the back of the net, mostly due to his shot rate falling off a cliff. While he’s not at his normal levels, he’s back over three shots per game and on Tuesday, Patches had a huge night. He scored on all three of his shots leading the way in Montreal’s destruction of the Sabres. All of a sudden, Pacioretty is tied for second in the league in goals (at the time of this writing) being a plus contributor in all categories. While he’s not pushing the top 25 like he was a couple years ago, Patches is firmly in the top 50 going forward. Here’s what else I saw around the league on a massive Tuesday slate:

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In my preseason rankings, I wrote the following about Chris Kreider: “He’s good for 20+20 with strong penalty minutes but I’m not expecting much more even though he has a ton of potential.” What I meant to include was 20+20 at the halfway point! For years, Kreider has been talked about as an elite talent but somebody who hasn’t been able to put it together. Like a few other players on the Rangers, Kreider has seemingly put it all together at this point and the results are outstanding. In the 6-2 win over the Avalanche on Saturday, Kreider scored a hat trick on six shots extending his point streak to 4 games (8 total points). In 33 games, Kreider now has 15+14 with 19 PIM and 91 shots. Add in Kreider being +6 and you’re looking at a contributor in all categories. At this point, we’re looking at a guy who should push towards the top 50 at the end of the season and going forward; he’s still only 25 years old. Let’s take a look at what happened to close 2016 and the opening day of 2017:

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