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 St. Louis Blues had quite the roller coaster ride of a season in 2016-17.  They started off slowly before rallying to the point where playoffs were a certainty.  That didn’t stop Doug Armstrong from shipping out Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline after they couldn’t agree to a contract extension.  Despite the loss of Shattenkirk and Robby Fabbri to a torn ACL, the Blues upset the Wild in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Predators in round 2.  There are some questions on the blue line and in net but their forward group, if healthy, has incredible depth plus elite talent.  Let’s take a look at what Mike Yeo 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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Last season for the New York Rangers was both a success and disappointment.  The Rangers were the 4th team in a 4 team race in the Metro division last season but that was a huge boost to their playoff chances since that meant they would cross over into the Atlantic Division.  After beating the Canadiens in the first round, the Rangers were upset by the Senators in Round 2.  A few big offseason moves give the Rangers a different feel than in the past.  Off went mainstays Derek Stepan and Dan Girardi, in comes Kevin Shattenkirk.  A few forwards will be placed into bigger roles giving us a few potential value forwards.  Let’s take a look at what Alain “The Brain” Vigneault has to work with:

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Another year, another Capitals heartbreak.  Once again, Washington had the most points in the NHL during the regular season only to lose to the Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.  I feel pretty safe in saying that last season’s Capitals was the best version of them all.  They still remain one of the best teams in the league but they lost plenty of talent in the offseason and their window is starting to close.  They have as much elite talent as anyone in the league but they desperately need some young players to produce to give them necessary depth.  Let’s take a look at what the Capitals are working with:

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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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Here’s what I said about Jonathan Marchessault in my season preview of the Florida Panthers: “Jared McCann and Jonathan Marchessault are the two Panthers I can see taking a late flier on in deep leagues… Marchessault scored 18 points in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season despite averaging only 12 minutes of ice time per game. When Tampa was hit with injuries, Marchessault filled in admirably. If Florida was hit by the injury bug, I could see both of these guys becoming relevant in 12’ers; for now they are potential waiting for their chance.” And that’s me quoting me! Well, Florida did get struck by the injury bug and while McCann didn’t provide much value this season, Marchessault certainly did. The return of their two best players hasn’t hurt Marchessault at all. In fact, it’s helped him on the power play. He recorded his first career hat trick in the 7-0 win over the Blackhawk, which also included four shots and four PIM. That brings Marchessault’s totals to 28+20 with 34 PIM and 2.5 shots per game in 67 GP. Not bad for a guy the Panthers signed for $750k for this season and next. The Panthers have an interesting offseason ahead to determine how their forward core is going to look next season. Regardless, I think Marchessault is worry of a late round pick next season. I don’t think there’s more upside than what he’s doing this season but there’s no complaints with a 34+25 per 82 games when he’s not hurting you elsewhere. I expect the Panthers to be back in the playoffs next season with Marchessault providing some nice depth behind the big guns. Let’s take a look at what else happened this weekend around the league:

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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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