The hockey season is underway with nine total games in the books so far.  In this post, I will cover those games quickly at the end highlighting some notables, and will have the same for Friday despite a shortened Thursday schedule.  Monday morning will have my first big set of daily notes from the weekend.  This post will open with 10 Bold Predictions for the season.  These are all meant to be bold; I’d be glad to hit on three of them.  Last season, we had some awful whiffs (thanks Cole Sillinger) but also hit on Dahlin being a top 5 defenseman and predicting massive failure for Chicago and Philly from a fantasy (and real) perspective.  Let’s get to it!

All predictions were done before any regular season games.

1) Gabe Vilardi is a hold all season, boosting his shot rate on the way to 30+ goals.

There are three big factors here in this prediction.  The situation can’t be any better for Vilardi.  He’s going from third line usage to the first line with two elite offensive players.  He’s getting to play on the point of the power play.  His minutes are going to skyrocket.  And most importantly, the back issues that have plagued him look to be behind him.  Vilardi has always had the talent, and now it’s going to come through.

2) Karel Vejmelka is a top 15 goalie.

Vejmelka is ranked outside of the top 25 in ADP and preseason rankings everywhere, included by me, but as noted in my goaltending post, I like his upside quite a bit.  The Coyotes should be quite improved, his underlying numbers were elite in the first half of last season, and the volume should be there.  It wouldn’t be fun if the prediction didn’t have the chance to blow up in my face like this one does.  I mean, who doesn’t want a goalie who had a 3.43 GAA last season!?

3) Tyler Toffoli tops last season’s 73 points, putting up at least a point per game in doing so.

Before last season, Toffoli had never topped 31 goals or 29 assists, so expecting a repeat for a guy entering his 11th season in the league seems farfetched.  That said, it’s hard to pick a better spot to be in than New Jersey right now for even strength play.  People were worried about Toffoli’s power play role to open, but it looks like the Devils are starting with the two balanced unit approach.  Personally, I hate it, but it’s a big boost to the value of the guy who normally would be on PP2, which Toffoli looked to be.  I’m all the way in.

4) Cale Makar stays healthy en route to a 30 goal, 100 point season.

Three defenseman have done this ever:  Coffey, Orr, Potvin.  That’s the kind of company Makar would be keeping if this came to fruition.  He came dangerously close to the goals two seasons ago, something that has only been done by Mike Green in the last thirty seasons.  Makar hasn’t quite had the assist rate yet to get the 70ish assists required to get to 100.  A lot has to go right for this to happen, but I’m buying Makar going supernova.  The team’s depth is more questionable now than in the past, which could force Makar into trying to do even more offensively.  He’s entering his fifth full season, a year we usually see defenseman take a jump offensively (granted most are starting from a way lower point than Makar).  Time for Makar to establish himself as the McDavid of defensemen.

5) Cam Talbot is a top ten fantasy goalie.

Let’s get really bold with it.  Talbot was bad in Ottawa last season, no way around it.  However, it’s a completely different ballgame playing behind the Senators and the Kings.  In the three seasons before between Calgary and Minnesota, Talbot had a .914 sv%.  If he does that in L.A. and the Kings maintain their defensive play from last season, Talbot’s GAA will be around 2.40.  That would put him right towards the bottom of the top ten for goalie rankings.  I’m not sold on Copley being anything more than a fringe backup, so the chance is there for Talbot.  Maybe he’s just old and washed now, but I’ll take my chance on a huge bounce back.

6) Moritz Seider, who is D16 in ADP, is outperformed by his teammate, Shayne Gostisbehere, who is D43 and almost 100 spots behind Seider in ADP.

Another one that could blow up in my face, as everybody loves Seider.  I don’t question that he can turn into a stud long term, but why is it happening now?  If your league doesn’t include hits and blocks, Seider wasn’t even a hold last season for large parts unless you were being stubborn.  All of a sudden, he’s D16 again?  He’s been below average at even strength in both seasons so far, and Detroit hasn’t really done anything to improve outside of natural development.  To be blunt, Seider’s offensive game hasn’t come around yet, while Gostisbehere has always been a solid to great fantasy producer when healthy.  They’re even going 2D on PP1 to start with Gostisbehere on the half-wall to rip slapshots.  I don’t understand this at all, as they have Sprong, Raymond, and Fabbri who could all play that role.  However, they probably feel like Seider has to be on PP1 because he’s the anoited one, when in actuality, Gostisbehere should be on the point with Seider on PP2.  I admit that I must be missing something, because nothing suggests that Seider has been unlucky before outside of having to play with Chiarot for chunks of last season.  If Seider was as good as people think, wouldn’t he make due?  The Red Wings even shot 11.3% with him on the ice last season and he still only had 42 points.  I wanted to predict Seider isn’t a top 40D in standard formats, but I’ll pivot to saying that Gostisbehere will be better than him.

7) Ryan Donato plays his way onto the fringe in 12 man leagues, becoming a hold for stretches.

It’s been a long time since Donato took the league by storm in Boston and then Minnesota in his first two appearances in the league.  Well, he’s getting the biggest opportunity he’s ever had this season in Chicago.  Donato is going to play with Bedard and Hall on the top line and seemingly on the first power play unit.  That alone puts him on the radar.  Why I’m buying him is that he’s always had the offensive ability.  It’s the defensive ability that has been the issue, but Chicago is going to be bad.  They will live with the defensive warts to start, similar to what Buffalo did under Granato the last two seasons.  There’s also nobody to take Donato outside of the top six besides Athanasiou, who is even worse defensively than Donato, or an old vet like Perry.  If your league has deep benches, I’d be tempted to get Donato now.  If it doesn’t, keep him on your radar and aggressively stream in good spots i.e. back to back, good matchups etc.

8) Only two players receive first place Calder votes: Bedard and Devon Levi.

With how well Bedard is going to do (barring injury), it’s going to take quite the season for Levi to get first place votes.  That said, the team is clearly all in on him, leaving the same two backups from last season around.  It’s likely that if the Sabres live up to lofty expectations, Levi is the main reason they break their playoff drought.  The recent track record of 21 year old goalies is bad, and it’s even worse for short goalies.  Levi’s entire track record leading up to the league defies logic, so I’m banking on it continuing at the top level.  He settles in as a solid #2 for fantasy.

9) The top line for the Blues for 225+ points, while their goalie is the least valuable player in fantasy.

The Blues are kind of stuck in no mans land right now.  I don’t see much of a playoff chance, but they’re also above the bottom feeders.  I’ve always been a huge believer in Pavel Buchnevich.  Robert Thomas should get back to his elite playmaking ways, while Jordan Kyrou is arguably the best of the three.  This line should dominate offensively.  Hell, even Vrana or other middle six guys could have quality seasons.  The problem is the blue line is ugly, and Jordan Binnington has gone in the wrong direction every season.  Maybe they bail on him and Hofer gets more starts, but my expectation is Binnington gets volume, but sinks the team and his fantasy value.

10) The defenseman with the second most points after Makar?  Evan Bouchard.

There are a lot of candidates for top defenseman scorer.  Fox, Dahlin, Hamilton, Josi, Karlsson, etc.  I’m planting my flag with Bouchard.  He’s in the perfect situation with Edmonton to pile up tons of power play points.  Add in that he has a top shot for a defenseman, and I think we see him reaching 20+ goals.  He has 63 assists in the last two seasons combined, and he probably needs that in one season to reach these heights.  He’ll get to play with Ekholm, giving Bouchard the freedom offensively necessary.  You don’t see many players jumping from 40 points to 80+, but Bouchard isn’t in normal circumstances.

Notes on the first two nights:

It’s only one game, but I may have undersold some Nashville guys, mainly my main man Filip Forsberg.  He never received the minutes he deserved with Hynes, but he played almost 21 minutes in their opener, dishing two assists and putting six shots on goal.  It’ll be worth monitoring going forward.

Nick Paul was the fifth wheel on PP1 and delivered, scoring twice and adding an assist.  He’s in elite streamer status now, while Brandon Hagel takes a hit, although he’s still a clear hold.

Auston Matthews had a hat trick to rally the Maple Leafs past the Canadiens.  Safe to say that he enjoys playing Montreal.  It’s just a matter of staying healthy.

Alex Newhook scored two goals in his Montreal debut.  The talent is there, but he failed to deliver in Colorado despite Bednar giving him plenty of chances in the top six.  However, Newhook is still only 22 so he could be a change of scenery guy.  I’ll call him a middling streamer for now but there’s upside.

I already feel like I had Connor Bedard too low.  I’d be shocked if he didn’t average four shots per game.

Jacob Markstrom stole the game for the Flames against the Jets.  As evidenced in my rankings, I am bullish on a bounce back for Markstrom.  He’s too good of a goalie to play that poorly again.

I noted Jonathan Drouin as one of my favorite late round targets just in case it clicks.  Well, he had a point in Colorado’s opener, and more importantly, he received plenty of minutes.  If you drafted him, hold for now.  If he’s on the wire, he’s an elite streamer that I would hold to see what happens over the first week or two.

Brandt Clarke was sent to the minors.  Have to make sure they have Bjornfot and Englund in their lineup over Clarke because that makes a ton of sense.

Speaking of making a ton of sense, what in the f*** is Jay Woodcroft doing?  Why are you starting Jack Campbell on opening night over Stuart Skinner?  Sure, you paid Campbell a lot of money last season, but that’s insanity given their performances.  Campbell was torn to pieces by the Canucks, getting pulled before half of the game was over.  Skinner was shelled too, but that doesn’t prove anything.  I was asked by a couple people about Campbell’s value if he is the starter, and I said that I have very little interest.  He’s a hard pass for me now until he puts together a decent stretch of games, and not 2-3.

On the good side of the blowout was the Canucks top players.  Brock Boeser scored four goals, J.T. Miller had a goal and four assists, Elias Pettersson scored a goal and dished three assists, while Quinn Hughes also tallied three assists.  I know Ekholm didn’t play but my god, Vancouver’s studs destroyed the Oilers.  We know the last three are holds as they’re in superstar status, but Boeser wasn’t even a guaranteed hold to open the season.  He’s been trending in the wrong direction, but needless to say that he could get back on track.  The top PP time is back which is crucial on that team.  If he’s available, grab him to see what happens.

That’s all for now guys.  There will be a post on Friday as JKJ should be back in the fold with his Friday Sundae Split posts.  As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below.  Thanks for reading, take care!