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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Once you get outside of the top 200 overall, you’re looking at the last 2-3 picks in a standard 12 man league.  There are a few different ways you can go about making your last few picks.  You can shoot for upside, get a couple safe players if you already have plenty of upside, fill out your last couple defensemen, grab a goalie out of desperation.  I’m going to list a bunch of players in different categories that fall outside of my top 200 that you can target depending on what you’re looking for.  I’m not going to go into detail on these guys but I will put them in my order of preference.  Here is my list:

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The streak has finally ended.  After 26 consecutive seasons of making the playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs last season.  They are a team that seems to be stuck in no man’s land.  They have an exciting young forward core in place (although some of them disappointed last season) but they also have a older set of players that are approaching the end.  Additionally, they have one of the worst bluelines in the league.  In a division full of teams on the rise, Detroit seems to be lagging a step behind.  Let’s take a look at what Detroit is working with:

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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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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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On the last podcast, Reid and I looked at a bunch of players who were under 50% that I thought were must-own. I made a massive oversight leaving somebody off that list: Conor Sheary. I just looked and saw that he’s 45% owned which absolutely blows my mind (I thought he was in the 70’s or 80’s). Sheary had an excellent weekend scoring twice on three shots on Friday and then getting two goals and an assist with four shots on Sunday. That brings Sheary’s totals to 17+17 while being +17 in 39 games. Seventeens are wild! Anyways, Sheary is on pace for 35+35 over 82 games with an excellent plus-minus and decent enough shots. That’s closer to a top 50 player than someone who is on the waiver wire. We’ve seen guys in the past be excellent fantasy values being a passenger on Crosby’s line so if you’re in one of the leagues where Sheary is available, pick him up immediately (I’d put him ahead of everyone discussed on the podcast). Then come back and read what else happened 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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In NHL history, two teams with a 12+ game winning streak have never played each other. That will change on Saturday as the Blue Jackets, winners of 14 straight, go to Minnesota to take on the Wild and their 12 game win streak. Both teams extended their streaks on Thursday in a different manner than usual. Their goalies have been the top 2 goalies to this point and it’s not even close but last night, they scored 5 and 6 goals respectively. Their captains led the way with Nick Foligno scoring a goal and two assists with five shots while Mikko Koivu had two assists with a shot finishing +3. Foligno has been a top 10 forward this season bouncing back from a dreadful 2015-16 while Koivu has a solid 23 points and is +18. They’re in different tiers at the moment but regardless they both need to be in your lineups night in and night out. I can’t wait to watch these teams battle it out on Saturday. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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As far as players that I’ve enjoyed watching hockey over the years go, Jaromir Jagr is at or near the top of the list. The adjustments he’s made to his game over the years while the NHL has become a young man’s game is incredible. When you look in the record books under points, now there’s only one player ahead of him: Wayne Gretzky. Jagr led the way for the Panthers on Tuesday posting 3 assists and 3 shots placing him second all-time in points. It’s a shame he went to Russia for 4 years because he’d probably be #1 all-time in goals. While he’s nowhere near last season’s 66 point pace, Jagr’s shots and PIM are up quite a bit and now that the first line is picking it up over the last few weeks, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jagr is a top 100 player the rest of the way. We salute you, Jaromir Jagr. Let’s take a look at everything that happened around the league the last two nights:

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I think most fantasy hockey players would agree that Antti Raanta is worth streaming every time he gets the start. The problem has been that Raanta rarely plays because he’s behind one of the best goalies in the world, Henrik Lundqvist. A healthy Lundqvist never sat three games in a row while healthy. Until this weekend. After a game on Thursday, Vigneault turned to Raanta again and he posted a 26 save shutout in the 1-0 win over his former team in Chicago. To the surprise of everyone, Raanta started again on Sunday and posted another shutout, this time an easy 5-0 win over the Devils in which Raanta posted 19 saves. If you streamed Raanta on Sunday, hold him until Tuesday to see if he gets another game. This certainly isn’t going to last, this is Lundqvist’s team, but ride the hot wave while you can. At the least, Raanta is a must-stream every time he gets the nod. Let’s take a look at everything else that happened over the weekend:

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