Chris Pronger was recently hired by the NHL to join the league’s Player Safety Department. Wow. Really? Uh. No. Wait. Really? What’s next? Announcing the new head of the NHL’s Driver Safety Department, Ray Charles! He’s not only blind, he’s dead! Perfect! I suppose hiring a guy responsible for so many injuries and damage over the years (dem elbows) might make the perfect hire, I mean, the government hires hackers that are good enough to get into their systems to show the government how to secure said systems again, right? So it all makes sense that way. Right? The weird/illegal/BS aspect of this is that Pronger is still under contract with the Flyers for two more years. That’s right, he’s still technically a player in the league. And now he’s going to be part of a league office? We all know he’ll never skate again, but still, come on. How on earth is this legal? Can you imagine if this sticks? This just in! The entire top-six of the Devils and Rangers were just suspended for, uh, violating player safety. Yeah, that’s it. Player safety. What a crock. None of this has anything to do with fantasy hockey, but something had to be said. Chris Pronger? Player Safety? With his deputy Todd Bertuzzi, right? Jesus. Anyway, here’s what I saw in the first full night of action in the world o’ fantasy hockey:
Mason Raymond (3 G, 5 SOG, +3) – I don’t expect much from MayRay this season, but he does have the ability to reach 20 goals and 50 points again. Will he? Eh. Last night probably had more to do with the fact that the Oilers just cannot play defense. There was a moment when, late in the third down a man all four Oilers bunched up on the crease or behind the goal line. It was terrible. They looked terrible. I feel bad for Ben Scrivens and his owners.
Taylor Hall (1 G, 4 SOG, -2) – Ugh, that plus/minus hurts my heart. You know when I ranked Hall as high as I did in the preseason I didn’t expect the Oiler defense to be as horrible as it’s showing itself to be early on. Even in the preseason I watched and cringed. How many times can all five guys end up in one corner?! Sigh. Hall’s goal was a sick snipe from the top of the circle and he looked as stellar as ever doing it.
Mikkel Boedker (1 G, 3 SOG) – Boedacious is one of my sleepers this year and last night does nothing but embolden my belief that he’ll a) lead the ‘yotes in scoring this year and b) score 60 points doing it.
Tomas Plekanec (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – At this rate he’s going to hit my projections by next month!
John Gibson (L, 6 GA, 33 SV, .846 SV%) – Ouch. So, yeah. Frederik Andersen will start the next game for the Ducks and you best believe that. Gibsy looked completely lost going up against the Pens, which is a tall order, but damn he looked bad. There were a handful of soft goals here too, so it wasn’t like he was just out classed. He looked bad. I wouldn’t panic, but this was not the way he wanted to kick off the season. If Andersen does well against the Wings on Saturday expect him to get the next start after that, too. Eventually Gibson will get his time, but remember he’s still a rookie.
Semyon Varlamov (L, 33 SV, 5 GA, .868 SV%) – I said repeatedly that I didn’t think Varly was as good as he showed last year and he wasted no time showing us that that is indeed the case. I don’t think he’s bad, per se, he’s just not nearly as good as he played last year. Expect a regression to his career averages this season with decent wins, but anything else is a bonus.
Pascal Dupuis (1 G, 3 A, 5 SOG, +3) – You shouldn’t expect this kind of game from Dupuis regularly. Hell, you shouldn’t expect it occasionally either. He’s always been a secondary scoring guy and he’ll always be a secondary scoring guy. He’s also 35, so it’s not like there’s a ceiling he hasn’t reached yet. I’d wager he’s good for about 40-45 points this season, even if he’s on Crosby or Geno’s line.
Zach Parise (1 G, 2 A, 9 SOG, +4) – Adding Thomas Vanek helps taking some of the pressure off of Parise who at 30 is still going to give you 30+ goals. Last season he was slowed by injuries, this season he’ll only be slowed by his desire, which is mighty powerful, like Homer after donuts powerful. Dude never gives up and it showed on last night’s goal. He’s a beast.
Karri Ramo (W, 2 GA, 38 SV, 95.0 SV%) – Jonas Hiller looked pretty bad in his first start and Ramo looked pretty good in his first start. There’s a lot of talk about the goalie battles in Minnesota, San Jose and Anaheim, but I’m thinking there might be one developing here. I’m not a fan of either tender, but Hiller won’t keep his starting gig long if this keeps up.
Valeri Nichushkin (1 SOG) – Nuke managed just 10:53 TOI yesterday but don’t get all panicky on me, he’s going to be fine. He’s been battling some injuries and illness and he was questionable going into the game, so this isn’t a sign that he’s not going to get his ice time or any apocalyptic tidings. When he gets healthy, which should be soon, he’ll be on the top line with Benn and Seguin and all will be well. It might take him another season to pull it all together, so look for a ceiling of around 45 points and 20 goals this year. He’s still a must own in all keeper and deeper leagues.
Adam Henrique (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) – If you throw out the lockout shortened 2012 season Henrique has been really solid since his runner up Calder campaign back in 2011. Granted that only leaves one season, but you mean what I know. He’s got two-way written all over him, but the goal scoring threat remains and he’s capable of giving you 25 goals this year. I don’t know if he’ll ever blossom into a 60-point player, but you know, goooooals!
Bryan Little (2 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Lots of folks found out Little was going to be relegated to the second line by Mark Scheifelelelele to start the season and freaked out a bit. I urged calm; I’m not sure who listened. Does anyone?! *sobs* Anyway, hopefully this game helps Xanax you out a bit if you were worried. You can safely expect 20+ goals and around 60 points with some upside as he enters his prime.
Rick Nash (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) – Rick looked positively Nashty last night. Word has it he came to camp in the best shape of his career and I wouldn’t doubt it after seeing him last night. He’ll easily eclipse 40 goals this year if he keeps playing at this level throughout the year. Martin St. Louis didn’t look half bad in the pivot role, either.
Chris Kreider (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2) – Kreider was everywhere last night. I didn’t give him enough attention in the preseason because I think I assumed he was a known commodity at this point. I figure he’s going to hit 50-55 points with 25 goals this year and I’d buy that for a dollar!
Dan Boyle (+1, 2 SOG, 2 PIM) – Signing Boyle seemed to cost the Rangers the opportunity to keep personnel key to their cup run that many feel they’ll be sorely missing this season. Good thing he fractured his hand blocking a shot in his first game as a Ranger! He’s out 4-6 weeks. It’s almost as if signing aging vets might not be the path to winning in the NHL. Go figure?
Evander Kane (Nada, Zip, Zilch) – Speaking of getting hurt, Kane was on the ice for just 1:24 before going knee-to-knee with teammate Mark Scheifele. He left and did not return. No one knows how bad it is, but for crying out loud can this kid catch a break? It’s a real shame, but I have almost no faith that he can stay on the ice long enough to realize his potential and that gives me and his owners sadface. No, I don’t own him, you cray? I don’t trust players with injury histories like his. Scheifelelelele seems to be fine.
Mark Scheifele (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) – Scheifels played nearly 18 minutes and looked good doing it, save for that whole knee-on-knee thing with Kane.
Dustin Tokarski (W, 1 GA, 29 SV, 96.7 SV%) – Toker looked great giving Carey Price a breather and shutting down the Caps for a tight 2-1 victory last night. He’s not going to get a ton of starts with Price leading the way, but he has the ability to be one of the best backups in the league this year.
Sidney Crosby (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +2) – Sid looks like Sid again this season, and does like Sid do. He do good, y’all!
Filip Forsberg (2A, 2 SOG, +2) – Forsberg needed to do two things since being drafted to take the next step. Numero uno was bulk up. He’s up to 195lbs. Check. Numero dos was to step up the intensity. It looks as though that’s in line as well. The offensive skill is there, but I still expect him to hit a wall sooner than later.
Ben Bishop (W, 1 GA, 20 SV, 90.5 SV%) – Bishop’s surgically repaired wrist showed absolutely no signs of being a problem. Did you see that slick stretch pass to Hedman on the game winner? Twas a thing of beauty, twas. He should be just fine this season and remain among the leagues elite tenders.
Wayne Simmonds (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) – His line actually looks a bit better than the game he played. One of his goals was solid, the other was a junker and the assist was a killer outlet pass that turned into a break away goal. That said, Simmonds loves some junk goals and he’s got about another 28 of them left in the tank this season.
Blake Wheeler (2 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +2, 5 PIM) – Wheels has quietly become one of the most valuable fantasy assets on the board over the last few seasons, but don’t expect him to keep racking up PIM and fights. The points, like the spice, should continue to flow however. It seems like the B’s trade away a lot of really solid talent and yet still manage to contend for and win the cup with regularity.
Corey Crawford (W, 2 GA, 32 SV, 94.1 SV%) – Crawdad could contend for the Vezina this season. I doubt he wins it, but he’ll get some votes. He’s like that third party candidate that will bleed votes away from one of the mainstream party candidates and you think to yourself “Why couldn’t he just not run?! He won’t win and it hurts my guy’s chances of winning!” and then you realize they’re all jerks and it doesn’t matter. Not that Crawford is a jerk or anything, I mean, well… where was I going with that? Crawford is good.
Mikael Granlund (2 A, 3 SOG, +4) – Somewhere Duncan Keith and Brad Richardson scowl with discontent. There can be only one. I, on the other hand, smile with glee! I love Granlund this season and this is why. Expect lots o’ dis.
Jason Pominville (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) – The Wild are pretty stacked this year, right?
Michael Ryder (1 G, 2 A, 2 SOG, +2) – Ryder is moving in on 250 career goals, a mark he could hit this season. Frankly I’m shocked he still has an NHL contract, he seems like the type of guy that should have long since hit the KHL. Honestly, this could be his best game all year.
Darcy Kuemper (W, 0 GA, 16 SV, 100.0 SV%) – Darcy didn’t have to work hard for this one at all. The Avs had no energy and couldn’t muster any sort of sustained offensive push all game. It’s a good first start but expect Niklas Backstrom to get a start soon, likely this week. Fortch for Kuemper owners that game won’t be the next game as it looks like Mr. Darcy is slated to start against the Avs this Saturday. Kuemper remains the guy to own.
Jimmy Howard (W, 1 GA, 16 SV, .941 SV%) – Sixteen seems to be the magic number because Howie only needed as many saves to stop the Bs in their second game on back-to-back nights. There wasn’t much offense to speak of for Boston,so this wasn’t exactly a huge test for Howie, but he handled what little was sent his way well. He has the ability to rebound and have a good year but he’s just as likely to fall apart again. I avoided him this year after being an enthusiastic supporter last year. Fool me once!
Joe Colborne (3 A, +3, 2 PIM) – Joe Collarbone isn’t going to give you more than mid-twenties for points at most, so don’t get excited.
Ryan Suter (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +3) – That’s one goal down, three more to go!
Mike Cammalleri (2 G, 7 SOG, +1) – Squidy is always good for goals, but they come in bunches, so grab him while he’s hot and drop him while he’s not, y’all!
Pekka Rinne (W, 2 GA, 18 SV, 90.0 SV%) – He coughed up two goals on just 20 shots and looked fairly shaky at times doing it. I am not exactly brimming with confidence here. I might be brimming with other things, but they aren’t confidence in Rinne. I drafted him, too. I did so reluctantly. The talent is there, but a 30+ year-old tender with a funky hip? Next. If you’re like me you’re waiting for him to go on a decent stretch and then sell high. Not like me? You should be.
Patric Hornqvist (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) – Horny is this year’s Dupuis because as soon as any forward goes to Pittsburgh he immediately becomes worth more, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Wait, is Dupuis this year’s Dupuis? If that’s so, what’s Hornqvist? Just horny?! I’m not a big Dupuis fan, but Horny here could score 30 goals this year. No joke.
Olli Maatta (3 A, 1 SOG, +2) – Maatta is going to be good. In fact he’s good right now. What he isn’t is a 45-point defenseman this season. These three helpers look better than they are, so lets break them down. His first was a very distant secondary assist; the play developed a lot after the puck left Maatta’s stick. The other two were slick passes that lead to one-timers potted into wide-open nets. That doesn’t take away from the solid night, it’s just to say temper your expectations. He’s young, he needs more time to develop and he’s likely going hit a 30-point ceiling this year.
Victor Hedman (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Hedman doesn’t need time to develop, he’s here, he’s nasty, and I own him everywhere! When you drafted Weber, I drafted Hedman. When you drafted Subban, I drafted Hedman. When you draf—well, you get the idea. I think Hedman is going to be huge this year.
Dustin Byfuglein (1 G, 4 SOG, +3) – Doth thine eyes deceive thee? Big Buff scored a goal and didn’t finish in the minus? Plus-three, even? I must be dreaming.
Nino Niederreiter (1 G, 7 SOG, +1) – Nino is an interesting sleeper this season. He’s got some value in hits leagues for sure, but I’m starting to think his value extends beyond those leagues. Last season he sucked it up with a 3.6% shooting percentage. That’s pretty damn low and it’s going to come up this season and with it, goals. Beautiful, tasty goals. I’d say aboot 20 of ‘em this year. In keeper leagues his value is much higher, he’ll continue to develop into a front line scoring threat as the games go by.
Ondrej Pavalec (W, 26 SV, 2 GA, .929 SV%) – Annnnnd it’s all down hill from here!
Mike Smith (L, 21 SV, 6 GA, .778 SV%) – I heard people calling Smith a top 15 goalie this off-season. Are you kidding me? Please say you’re kidding. Top 150 maybe. I don’t like Smith at all this season and this is why.
Craig Anderson (L, 3 GA, 34 SV, 91.9 SV%) – Of course, what else would he do? Now then, lets give my boy Robin Lehner his just dues, eh? More than one or two starts every 10 days would be just swell.