We’re back sooner than we expected! Thanks to the support of SeatGeek, we’re back on our regular schedule for the month of May. On today’s pod, we catch up with some news around the league, most notably the draft lottery impact for fantasy hockey and Scott Darling being traded to the Hurricanes I can smell a sleeper post in his future assuming he signs. After that, we hit on all four playoffs series. Main topics of discussions are the injury to Sidney Crosby, J.G. Pageau’s incredible game, the ongoing chess match between Randy Carlyle and Todd McLellan, and the top three on Smashville’s blue line taking their game to another level. Afterwards, we wrap things up with picks in the Three Point Challenge. Be sure to make your picks for Tuesday and Wednesday in the comments section at hockey.razzball.com. All of that and more on the latest edition of the Razzball Hockey Podcast brought to you by Seatgeek!

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The playoffs are almost upon us! Reid joins me to preview all of the first round playoff matchups. Can Connor McDavid carry the Oilers past the Sharks? Can the Predators blue line neutralize the Blackhawks top six? Will the Maple Leafs put up any fight against the Capitals? What will the Blue Jackets do in an attempt to slow down Sidney Crosby? There are so many questions in each series that we look at before we make our selections for each series. We’re also going to have a Playoff Three Point Challenge where you can take any player so be sure to make your pick for Wednesday’s games below! You can also join the Razzball Bracket Challenge here. All of that and more on the latest edition of the Razzball Hockey Podcast brought to you by Seatgeek and Draft!

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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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Jake Guentzel was on an absolute tear before he suffered a concussion after a hit from Rasmus Ristolainen. He was owned by most of Razzball Nation as we got on top of it before Guentzel broke out. Thankfully, Guentzel recovered quickly and returned on Friday night. He scored a goal on three shots in his return and then repeated that performance on Sunday. The Penguins have a decent schedule this week with four games, including a back to back on Saturday and Sunday to close the regular season. You can wait a day since the Pens don’t play tonight but I’d look to grab Guentzel again if you cut him when he went down. The minutes and role are right back to where they were pre-concussion so I’m looking for Guentzel to finish the season strong before he contributes to a potential playoff run for Pittsburgh. Here’s what else happened on the penultimate weekend of the season:

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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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When it comes to the fantasy playoffs, you’re looking for two things. One, you want to get as many starts from your players as possible. Getting one or two extra starts from your bottom end guys / streamers goes a long way. The other thing you want is your superstars to carry you. Because I was in California for the last four days, my time for writing was non-existent. The good news is two fold. One, I got to meet Grey! He is the man, plain and simple. Secondly, I’m here to catch up on everything that’s happened since last Thursday and it starts with Sidney Crosby. On Friday, Crosby scored two goals and an assist with four shots to push the Penguins past the Devils. He followed that up on Sunday with a hat trick on six shots against the Panthers. Both are huge wins for the Penguins given their current injury situation and it was massive for people in the fantasy playoffs. Here’s to hoping you have Crosby because you’re ahead of the field right off the bat. He’s the number 1 skater at the moment and as of now, I’d rank him first overall going into next season. That can be debated at a later time but there’s no denying that Crosby is having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. Here’s what else happened over the last four days:

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We’ve been talking up Jaccob Slavin over the past couple of weeks on the podcast as someone who can help your team if you’re in need of assists. The increased workload as the season has progressed has push Slavin onto the fringe but his playoff schedule was enough to justify grabbing him. Well, if you were fortunate enough to do so, he just started off the fantasy playoffs with the game of his career. Slavin scored more goals than he had in the first 65 games of the season, registering his first career hat trick and added an assist in the 8-4(!) win over the Islanders. Look, despite this game, it’s not going to be anything incredible down the stretch, but Slavin just had a five game assist streak. Add in that he’s +18 and as mentioned above, the Hurricanes have more games left than anyone else the rest of the way, and I’d grab Slavin if you need defenseman help. Here’s what else happened on a randomly busy Monday night around the NHL:

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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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