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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While the Razzball Hockey committee of one didn’t love the Patrick Marleau contract, we did like Marleau for this season in fantasy.  Like the majority of his teammates, his season debut went extremely well.  Marleau scored twice in his first game as a Maple Leaf registering five shots on goal.  His linemates were inconsistent but whether he’s with Matthews or Kadri, it doesn’t really matter.  Marleau scored 27 goals last season and I don’t see why he can’t get back to that number.  Despite ranking him as a top 150 player, he’s still available in over 50% of ESPN leagues, so grab him now.  Here’s what else happened around the NHL on opening night:

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After spending Part One highlighting the mistakes I made, it’s time to give myself some credit! Today, I’m going to look at the players who I was highest on among experts on Fantasy Pros that outperformed their ranking and then the players I was lowest on that failed to meet expectations. Like Part One, I will break down each of the players discussing why my ranking was successful and what we can learn from it going forward. Let’s get to it!

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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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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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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 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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There comes a point in the season where teams are desperate for their superstars to carry them towards the playoffs. That time is now and it’s happening in Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucherov has been spectacular all season but he had his best game Monday night scoring a hat trick on seven shots and adding an assist in the 5-1 win over the Senators. Look how remarkably similar all three goals are:

He now has nine points in his last three games and twenty-five shots on goal over the pats four. Kucherov is producing points at the fourth highest rate in the league this season (min 20 GP) and sits as a top ten forward on the season despite missing some time. I had him as a high second round pick going into this season but he’s been ever better than that. I expect to have Kucherov ranked as a first rounder going into next season and given that he’s still 23 years old, we may not have seen the best from him. Let’s take a look at what else has happened in the game around the league the last two nights:

NOTE: There is a separate post going up regarding trades that will be updated throughout the trade deadline. For instant analysis, go here

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In the Razzball realm, the panel of writers (total of one) has been down on Jonathan Toews since I’ve been writing in this space. There were plenty of questions about his overall place 10 days ago when he had 33 points in 46 games. Whatever Toews has been doing over the last four games, he needs to keep that routine going. Toews has been coming on but had the game of the season on Tuesday scoring a hat trick on four shots while adding 2 assists and a +5 rating in the 5-3 win over the Wild. Let’s just say the Wild trying to use Matt Dumba against him didn’t work well. Now, Toews has 42 points giving you the value you hoped for taking him in the early to middle rounds. The new wingers with Toews (more on them later) have brought an offensive surge that Toews owners can only hope continues. Here’s what else happened around the league the last two nights:

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