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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Minnesota played an excellent game on Thursday booking an impressive 5-2 win over the Blackhawks.  Sadly for them, it came at a brutal cost.  Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter both left the game injured and were already ruled out for Saturday’s game.  Coyle was hit in the back of the leg with a shot while Nino looked to suffer an ankle injury that could cost him multiple weeks.  Hopefully you have an injured reserve spot for both of these guys but Nino definitely should be held through the injury.  With Mikael Granlund out as well, the Wild are getting extremely thin.  So who gets a boost?  Jason Zucker (1+1, 5 SOG) becomes must-own in 12’ers while Chris Stewart (2G, 5 SOG) moves back on to the streaming radar.  We’ll have a clearer picture tomorrow but this is a big blow to the Wild and fantasy teams in the short term.  Here’s what else happened the last two nights around the league:

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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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Jeff Carter has been a top 100 fantasy player for almost ten years running. His high floor of 25 goals and 30 assists with great shots made him a staple of the early rounds. That said, I don’t think anyone saw this type of upside from him at 32 years old. Carter had one of the best games of this season with two goals, two assists, four shots and two PIM in the 6-3 win over the Panthers on Thursday. This puts him one goal off the league lead and into the top ten in points. Carter is playing like a top 20 player and I see no reason for that to drastically slow down for the rest of the season. Sure, his shooting percentage will probably drop, but his workload is conducive to top end production. Next season, I’m not sure he’ll even be in my top 50 but the stability shall remain. Here’s what else happened the last two nights:

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Dating all the way back to the preseason, I called Pekka Rinne the biggest wild card of the fantasy hockey season. In some seasons, he plays like the #1 goalie. In other seasons, he’s been a detriment to fantasy rosters. This year, he’s settled more in the middle but closer to the good side. We saw that top end ability once again on Thursday night when Rinne posted a 31 save shutout in the 2-0 win over the Oilers. So what do we do with him going forward? Honestly, nothing really changes. One, Peter Laviolette has already said that he wants to play Juuse Saros more down the stretch. Two, his variance is so high that any game or even any month doesn’t change his long term prognosis. Basically, if you want to gamble, Rinne is someone worth the shot based on the high upside. If you want stability, stay the hell away. In dynasties, I’m down on him only because I’m a huge believer in Saros but for the rest of the season, I’m more on the side of Rinne being a top 10 goalie the rest of the way. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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There have been a lot of bad trades over the last five years in the NHL. It’s no surprise that Nino Niederreiter has turned into an excellent player in Minnesota after being traded by the Islanders, the team who drafted him fifth overall. Who knew trading a player who just went in the top five in the draft at 20 years old was a bad idea? Anyways, Nino has been solid for a few years now but he’s starting to peak in his age 24 season. Niederreiter scored two goals and an assist with four shots in the 4-3 win over the Coyotes on Thursday. This brought Nino to 30 points (14+16) on the season while being +18. The PIM are below average and the shots are barely above two per game but with his developing power play prowess to supplement his even strength play, Niederreiter is looking like a clear hold at the moment. Hopefully everyone in dynasties held onto him because the best is yet to come. Let’s take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:

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We’re changing things up with the lede today, and by we I mean me! Carey Price was definitely the least valuable player of Thursday night. The superstar goaltender was lit up like a Christmas tree by the Wild allowing 7 goals on 24 shots. In his last 6 starts, Price has allowed, 7, 4, 3, 1, 4, and 4 goals. To say it’s been a rough two weeks would be like saying repealing Obamacare is a bad idea. No kidding! Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Anyways, how high is the panic meter on Price in my eyes from 1 to 10, 10 being highly concerned? Maybe a 3? We know how good of a goalie he is, I’m not overly concerned over a poor stretch. I doubt you’ll be able to buy low on him but it’s at least worth kicking the tires and finding out. Look for Price to get back on track sooner than later. Let’s take a look at what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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On a Thursday night that lacked in big performances in comparison to recent weeks, Tyler Toffoli’s night was probably the best. In the dominating 4-1 win over the Red Wings, Toffoli found the back of the net twice on three shots and added an assist with two penalty minutes. That brings Toffoli’s totals to 7 goals and 12 assists in 29 games with almost three shots per game and an elite +14. It’s a significant decrease in goals for a 23 year old who buried 31 last year. Toffoli was one of the most polarizing players in preseason, at least to me because I had him ranked much lower than other experts (97th overall, highest rank was 29th, nobody else lower than 69th). It’s nice to see the assist rate and shot rate up and apparently he’ll be able to post a +20 or better every season of his career but Toffoli will need more games like this where he finds the back of the net to come anywhere near his 59th overall ADP. Can it happen? With the minutes his line is getting and with how much the Kings depend on his line for offense, definitely. I’d be a bit surprised if it happened though because the goals will probably come at the expense of assists and the penalty minutes are non-existent. Toffoli is a great example of a player who is better in real life than fantasy. That’s not to say he’s a dud in fantasy, he’s a top 100 player, but Toffoli should be mentioned among the best young snipers in the game more frequently than he is. Let’s take a look at what else happened around the NHL on Wednesday and Thursday night:

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The first few weeks of the season, Connor Hellebuyck was a polarizing figure in the fantasy hockey world. He made the Jets roster and was clearly the best goalie but Hellboy was struggling and splitting starts. Plenty of people were asking me if he was worth rostering and justifiably so. Well, things no longer look to be a mixed bag after the last week of games. Hellebuyck has won 4 straight starts allowing no more than 2 goals in a game. His best performance came last night recording a 27 save shutout at home against the Blackhawks. Hellebuyck is getting massive offensive support right now and the defense is gradually improving in front of him. At the end of the year, I believe he will finish as a top end #2 goaltender with the expectation that he will be a #1 in 2017-18 and beyond. Here’s what else I saw around the league in a very busy Tuesday night slate.

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It’s no secret that coming into the season, I loved the best players on the Jets. While the team itself is of to a mediocre start, the forward in my top 50 that I was highest on compared to consensus was Mark Scheifele. After a monstrous second half last season, I wrote repeatedly how much I liked him for 2016-17 and dynasties going forward. It was evident looking at Fantasy Pros where I was 16 spots higher than anyone else and 19 spots above consensus, quite a margin for a player who I had ranked 32nd overall. Well, it’s been a terrific start to the season for Scheifele and it continued over the weekend. On Friday, Scheifele had a goal, two assists and two shots while being +3 in the 5-3 win over Detroit. He followed that up with a goal and an assist with two shots and +1 on Sunday despite the Jets losing 5-2 to the red hot Rangers. That gives Scheifele a total of 7 goals and 7 assists in 13 games with a +5 rating, 10 PIM and almost 3 shots per game. It puts him easily in the top 20 skaters on the season in the player rater and is making me look smart! I salute you, Mr. Scheifele. With the workload that he’s receiving, I have little doubt that he will produce going forward at an elite rate. Let’s take a look at what else went on around the league over the weekend.

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