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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Jake Guentzel was on an absolute tear before he suffered a concussion after a hit from Rasmus Ristolainen. He was owned by most of Razzball Nation as we got on top of it before Guentzel broke out. Thankfully, Guentzel recovered quickly and returned on Friday night. He scored a goal on three shots in his return and then repeated that performance on Sunday. The Penguins have a decent schedule this week with four games, including a back to back on Saturday and Sunday to close the regular season. You can wait a day since the Pens don’t play tonight but I’d look to grab Guentzel again if you cut him when he went down. The minutes and role are right back to where they were pre-concussion so I’m looking for Guentzel to finish the season strong before he contributes to a potential playoff run for Pittsburgh. Here’s what else happened on the penultimate weekend of the season:

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The Philadelphia Flyers have nothing to play for besides being a spoiler. Their season is effectively over but they basically ended their division rivals on Thursday. The Flyers blitzed the Islanders on Thursday going up 5-0 in the first period and winning 6-3. With the Bruins, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Hurricanes all winning, the Islanders are toast. There were many players who stood out for the Flyers in this game but the one with the biggest fantasy impact is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds had a Gordie Howe hat trick and then some totaling a goal, two assists, five penalty minutes and four shots. The goal was Simmonds’ 30th of the season allowing him to reach the 30 goal plateau for the second straight season. With four straight seasons of 28+ goals and massive penalty minutes, we know who Simmonds is in those departments. The shots are solid and the PPP are elite but there are some concerns. One, he’s been a minus player every season in Philly with this year being his worst ever, a -20. The other issue is that he’s never topped 31 assists. I thought this season he would set a new career high but he’s not coming close. So where does that leave us? I had Simmonds in my top 25 last season which turned out to be too high. I love Simmonds for what he is but it’s not worth taking him in the top of the third round when he’s only getting 55-60 points. He’ll certainly be in my top 50 but since he’s on the verge of turning 29, my hopes of Simmonds taking another step seem incredibly unlikely. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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In the marquee match of the night in Washington, both goalies played extremely well. At the end of the game, Braden Holtby came out on top saving 29 of 30 shots in the 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets. He’s managed to find a way to improve his goals against and save percentage the season after winning the Vezina Trophy. His counterpart in this game may be the favorite to win the Vezina this year but Holtby has solidified himself as the #1 goalie in hockey, both in real life and fantasy. I highly doubt that I will draft him next season solely because I’m anti-goalie in the first round but there’s no doubt that Holtby will be the first goalie on my board. It looks like this will be the second season in a row that he finishes as the #2 overall goalie and that consistency is exactly what you’re looking for in your top goalie. If you can find an issue with Holtby, let me know because he’s seemingly perfect. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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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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I know evisceration seems like I’m going too far but the Panthers had control of their game against Toronto from the first shift of the game. Florida scored 18 seconds in and led the rest of the way winning the game 7-2. Their leading scorer was Thomas Vanek who notched four assists, a career high, with four shots on goal finishing +3. Vanek was struggling since arriving in Florida with only one point in five games while being -7. Now, his overall stat line seems pretty good after this explosion. The Panthers schedule is very fantasy-friendly down the stretch making Vanek as good of a streamer as there is. Is he worth holding? Well, that’s to be determined. While the matchups are tough, the Panthers have three games in four nights starting on Thursday morning. I’m probably going to grab Vanek, ride him through the weekend and then proceed from there. Here’s what else happened around the league on Tuesday night:

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Antti Raanta has been very good when called upon this season for the Rangers. After recent developments, he’s going to have a massive impact in the fantasy playoffs. Henrik Lundqvist is out for the next 2-3 weeks due to a hip injury allowing Raanta to be the guy for the Rangers. His strong play continued on Sunday stopping 23 of 24 shots in the 4-1 win over the Red Wings. Even after the recent rush of people going to grab Raanta, he’s still available in two-thirds of leagues. If you’re fortunate enough to be in your fantasy playoffs, stop reading right now, add Raanta and then come back and see what else happened over the weekend:

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Loyal Razzballers know the love that the writer, editor and chief of Razzball Hockey has for Sebastian Aho long term. He hasn’t taken the league by storm but his rookie season has been incredibly impressive for a 19 year old. Aho had his second best game to date on Thursday scoring two goals and an assist with six shots in the win over the Rangers. That gives him 19+19 on the season with over 2.5 shots per game. He’s been a great streamer most of the season but right now I would grab him for the rest of the season. Why? If you recall, the Hurricanes have the best schedule over the last four weeks by a country mile (schedule breakdown here). Aho will be a solid contributor at his current pace given the volume but as we’ve seen, there is plenty of upside as well. He’s still available in over 75% of leagues so go pick up that Aho! Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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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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