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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The Minnesota Wild had an excellent regular season in 2016-17, their first under Bruce Boudreau, finishing with 106 points.  Unfortunately for them, they had another first round exit, this time as a prohibitive favorite against the St. Louis Blues.  I was all in on the Wild last year in the regular season strictly because of Boudreau; the man is as good as it gets behind the bench.  Arguably my biggest call of the year, having Devan Dubnyk 40 spots higher than ADP, worked out perfectly as Dubnyk finished as the #3 overall goalie.  With a few players breaking out and others finding their form again, the Wild remain a very interesting team for fantasy purposes.  Let’s take a look at the plethora of options Boudreau has to work with: 

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Since it’s almost Labor Day, it’s time for me to pick up the pace with my rankings.  For those who haven’t seen them, you can check out my Top 50 here.  I’m not going to bore you with an intro, everybody wants to see my top 100 and this is going to be incredibly long as is, so let’s get right to it!

51) Ben Bishop – The more research that I do, the more I’m tempted to move Bishop up even higher.  Yes, last season was a disaster, but Bishop was the #1 overall player in 2015-16.  But Viz, Dallas has been a train wreck defensively for years!  This is true, but with Marc Methot coming on board and the growth of their young blueliners, they could take a step forward.  More importantly, we’ve seen some goalies with far less talent than Bishop succeed in Ken Hitchcock’s system *cough* Brian Elliott *cough*.  It’s a little risky but I’m expecting Dallas to push for the Central Division title giving Bishop massive upside across the board.

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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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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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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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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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Brad Marchand was one of the biggest breakout players in 2015-16 scoring 37 goals drastically increasing his shot rate to 3.5 per game while adding 90 PIM. While all of those numbers are taking a slight step back this season, he’s improving the weaknesses in his game to become a well rounded player. Marchand returned to his old ways this weekend with three goals on six shots over two games to give him 12+22 on the season. He’s only six assists from a career high and we’ve just reached the halfway point. Marchand also has nine power play points which is already a career high. Instead of being a three or four category stud (depending on plus-minus), he’s become a big plus in five categories with the potential for all six if the plus-minus improves. These totals have him 15th in the player rater among forwards and that shouldn’t come as a shock coming off a top ten season. It might not be exactly what you wanted but it’s been excellent across the board. Here’s what else I saw around the league this weekend:

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When it comes to determining Patrick Maroon’s fantasy value, someone who has no idea about hockey can figure it out. Is he playing on a line with Connor McDavid? If yes, pick him up and hold. If no, leave him on the waiver wire. Maroon received another chance to play with McDavid on Thursday and he took advantage in a big way scoring his first career hat trick on five shots and adding five penalty minutes. That brings his totals to 14 goals and 7 assists on the season with 48 PIM and a +12 rating. Does 30 goals and 100 PIM sound good to you? Maroon is almost on that pace and if he sticks with McDavid, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. He’s available in over 80% of leagues at the moment so use whatever waiver priority you need to and grab him. Here’s what else I saw around the league the last two nights:

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