We’ve made it to our final round of stops: the Atlantic Division. It’s a two-day journey, where today I’ll be taking you through Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, and then circle back southeast for Florida. Lot of ground to cover in one day but thankfully we won’t stay long in Buffalo or Detroit. Not much to see. Tomorrow, our final four stops together shall commence: Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Tampa Bay.
Need a refresher on all the previews thus far? Have at it:
Forwards to watch: David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Taylor Hall
Defensemen to watch: Charlie McAvoy
Goalie(s) to own: Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman
The Bruins are another one of those top-heavy teams to me. If I can’t get my hands on one of their studs, then I’m not looking at anyone else except for streaming purposes. Brad Marchand rocks (in fantasy…IRL he’s the physical manifestation of a skid mark, the tightie-whities kind). He’ll fill up all of your categories except blocks and FOW and of course is extra valuable in PIMs leagues. Patrice Bergeron is always a major health risk but has still managed four-straight 30-goal seasons (if you count last year’s pace) despite not playing more than 65 games in each of the three seasons between 2017-18 and 2019-20. His value is a little higher in points leagues but when you’re great in your own right and flanked by Marchand and David Pastrnak, then you’re gonna be a good play in any format. Total beast in FOW/TK leagues. And speaking of Pasta, he’s an obviously elite RW. I was happy to scoop him up a little later than usual last season due to injury but his ADP has jumped back up to 1st-round levels this year. Rightfully so; he’s as safe a 40-goal threat as there is at the position. Elite shots, elite PPP, yadda yadda. Then there’s Taylor Hall. Once upon a time, Hall looked like a perennial 100-point guy. Now he’s…not. And the departure of David Krejci will not help things. Dude’s gonna be with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. Those guys aren’t bad, but are they gonna elevate Hall to must-own status? Hall’s currently being drafted in the 8th round. Do you really foresee single-digit round value from him this year? Wouldn’t you rather have guys like Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron, William Nylander, and Kevin Fiala, who can be had for the same price or cheaper? I’m all aboard the Avoid Taylor Hall train this year. Yeah, he’ll be on the top power play unit, but there’s still a floor there that I emphatically want to steer clear of. I could try to wow you with Craigh Smith’s rate metrics and possession metrics and whatever, but I wouldn’t follow my own advice. I’m not drafting Smith. I’m streaming him or I’m adding him if there’s an injury to Pasta. Smith is a very fine hockey player but it’s just not gonna happen in fantasy.
Only one defenseman on this team even kind of matters to me: Charlie McAvoy. Bound to be on the top pairing and on the top PP (for real this time). He also bangs a lot. Y’all, I like McAvoy, especially with that deployment, but he’s absurdly being drafted right before Roman Josi and Shea Theodore. Not down for that. You’d be hard-pressed to convince me McAvoy will return the same value Josi and Theo will. McAvoy’s career high is 32 points. Sure, he paced for 48 points last year. Most of those came during a hot streak at the start of the year. After said streak, he scored at a 40-point pace the rest of the way. Not but, but not great. I recognize he’s never had truly consistent PP1 exposure and that seems like it’ll be the case this year, but do we really want to gamble on him that early? Okay fine, yeah, he did score 12 points in 11 postseason games, with 8 of those being PPP. I’m of a mind to not make rash decisions based on small sample sizes, and *spoiler alert* postseason numbers are still small sample sizes. Playoff hockey is a whole different beast than regular season, and guess what? Regular season numbers are what count in fantasy, if you weren’t aware. McAvoy doesn’t shoot and doesn’t score goals. Josi and Theo will get you the same amount of assists (if not more), way more goals, and wayyy more shots. Those two shoot like forwards! But I digress. McAvoy is a good option, and if you feel confident he can reach new heights offensively and you need his bangs, then go for it.
The Boston goalie tandem is very intriguing. How will Linus Ullmark fare with an actually good team instead of the dumpster’s turd that is the Buffalo Sabres? Will Jeremy Swayman repeat his very impressive debut campaign? Let’s start with Ullmark. He wasn’t awful in Buffalo, and that alone is saying something. Last year, he had 5.44 GSAA but also had -2.13 GSAx. The year prior was almost identical in terms of GSAA but twice as bad for GSAx. I’m not gonna blame Ullmark much for getting hung out to dry in Buffalo. Last year, BUF was +10% compared to league average in xGA/60 at 5v5). Boston, meanwhile, was -14%. When you’re still managing a .917 SV% playing for the Sabres, I’m pretty impressed. As for Swayman, that kid won 7 games in 10 appearances, going bonkers with a .945 SV% and 1.50 GAA. Metrics-wise, he had 9.97 GSAA and 4.81 GSAx. Rather impressive stuff in your first taste of NHL action. Beware, though! Only 10 starts is only 10 starts. And as good as he was, I’m not expecting him to be given the lion’s share of starts. Ullmark is the guy to own, but Swayman is a great handcuff to stash if you can afford it. Also not opposed to just rostering the tandem.
Forwards to watch: Jack Eichel, Casey Mittelstadt
Defensemen to watch: Rasmus Dahlin
Goalie(s) to own: N/A
Wooooooof. This is gonna be a short section. I had half a mind to put “N/A” at least two times. The Jack Eichel mystery remains unsolved and I just don’t want any part of that unless he drops real far down the board. Right now, he’s going in the 7th round. Hard pass. Get a for sure deal there. Don’t be tempted by the “but maybe it’ll be 1st-round value at a 7th-round price!” mindset. However, I will say I have some inkling of an interest in Casey Mittelstadt. Highly-touted once upon a time, yet has struggled hardcore as an NHLer. It’s breakout time according to Dobber, and he ended last year with 17 points in his last 22 games. I’m definitely not, like, very interested. Very unlikely to draft him, but if he shows some promise early on then I might pounce if he’s on the waivers. Alas, I couldn’t bring myself to list Victor Olofsson. Paced for a mere 47 points last year (24th percentile in primary pts/60 at ES, yuck) and his shot rate dipped to a very meh rate. Still remained a strong power play contributor, at least rate-stats wise, but what’s the Buffalo power play without Eichel? Nothing; the answer is nothing. That’s always been Goalofsson’s M.O., power play or nothing. And in my mind, if the team’s power play is nothing, then Olofsson is nothing.
Rasmus Dahlin has all the talent in the world but has two things working against him: 1). his supporting cast is *poop emoji* and 2). he’s annoyingly inconsistent. He didn’t jive well with Ralph Krueger last season, so this year will be a fresh start that could mean he still provides plenty of value despite having a bunch of turds on skates as teammates. Worth noting that Dahlin scored only 12 points in 28 games after now-head-coach-but-then-interim-coach Don Granato took over. Still, with a whole offseason and camp and whatnot under their belts, maybe things can improve. A 13th-round draft price for a guaranteed top pairing and PP1 defender who’s offensively minded has “potential bargain” written all over it. Provides solid bangs, too.
Easiest fantasy advice ever: don’t draft a Buffalo goalie.
Detroit Red Wings
Forwards to watch: Dylan Larkin, Jakub Vrana, Filip Zadina, Lucas Raymond
Defensemen to watch: Filip Hronek, Moritz Seider
Goalie(s) to own: Alex Nedeljkovic
Jakub Vrana will miss four months at least after hurting his shoulder in practice and getting surgery, so let’s just get that one out of the way at the onset. Sneaky fantasy value when he returns, assuming he’s able to at full strength. Far from a sure thing, however (looking at you, Vlad Tarasenko). Okay, so that leaves a lot of youth. I still fully believe in Dylan Larkin. He’s a great cheaper center if FOW count, but I can dig him in any format. Last year, in just 44 games, he still got you 134 SOG, 361 FOW, 21 TK, 38 H, and 34 PIM. Only scored 9 G and only had 14 A, but he shot a career-low 6.7%. Only place to go from that kind of output is up. But pacing those peripherals out, you’d get 250 SOG, 673 FOW, 39 TK, 70 H, and 63 PIM. Not too shabby, but I realize a lot of you don’t play in leagues that count that many things. I’m not comfortable saying he’s got 70-point upside on this roster, but maybe, just maybe, Lucas Raymond gels or Filip Zadina finds that other gear Red Wings fans hope he has. That’s a deadly trio in years to come, it just remains to be seen what kind of impact they can have at this stage in their careers. Both are worth late-round fliers simply for the upside, just be ready to drop if it’s slow going.
I was very high on Filip Hronek a couple years back, pegging him as the sleeper defender to target in drafts. I’m…not that high on him anymore, but that isn’t to say I don’t like him. D-men don’t have high shooting percentages, but last year’s mark of < 2% is just not gonna happen again. He likes to let ‘er rip and I expect more goals. He’ll be the PP1 QB unless Moritz Seider just waltzes in and blows the world away, which isn’t all that unlikely given the trajectory this guy is on. He just seems to be getting better and better based on everything I read about him. Admittedly, prospects aren’t my bag and I’m not a film-watcher, but I know plenty of smart folk who rave about this guy. Hronek is still the redraft defender to own in Detroit in my humble opinion but watchlist you some Seider.
Gotta do it, but it’s kinda tough to recommend Alex Nedeljkovic even though he was utterly insane to close out last season. The obvious fact is he’s gone from Carolina to Detroit. I don’t know what the shiz Carolina was doing letting this guy skidaddle out of town. After securing regular starts in February, dude went 15-5-3 with a .932 SV% and 1.90 GAA. He outperformed his expected Fenwick SV% by 1.49%, which ranked 1st (tied with Fleury) among all goalies with at least 20 starts. Also had 15.7 GSAA and 13.48 GSAx, both Top 5 marks in the entire league. Small sample size alert: he only played 23 games. Can’t complain with what he gave ya, though. We’ll see how that translates to a new system in a losing/tanking environment. Has to be on your mind that you’re going from a legit Cup contender to a dungeon dweller. I’ll say this: in Steve Yzerman I trust. He’s already building a great foundation with an exciting future.
Forwards to watch: Alexander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Noel Acciari, Anthony Duclair, Patric Hornqvist, Carter Verhaeghe, Owen Tippett
Defensemen to watch: Aaron Ekblad, MacKenzie Weegar, Radko Gudas
Goalie(s) to own: Sergei Bobrovsky, Spencer Knight
Holy name vomit, Batman! That’s a shiz ton of names right there. The Panthers are good. So very good. So much ammo to work with. You need elite scoring? They got it. You need category monsters? They got ‘em. You need elite fantasy D? Yarp, that too. You need reliable goalies? Well, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch. We’ll get to that. First up, the forwards. For the sake of brevity, I won’t spend much time on Alexander Barkov or Jonathan Huberdeau. They’re borderline 1st-round picks who will be drafted for sure by the 2nd round in all of your leagues. They’re great in all conceivable formats, with Barkov especially kicking ass in FOW leagues. Stacks aren’t the wisest choice in most cases, but I can fully support smart double-stacks, and this is one of them. The rest of the names you see there will provide solid value, but one (or two) of them will rise above the others. Kinda hard to guess who. Sam Bennett joined the Panthers for the final month and some change of the season, scoring 15 points in just 10 games. That success carried into the playoffs, where he scored at a point-per-game pace. Didn’t quite realize he’s a bit of a PIM daddy, as well. Could push for 100! He’s gotten over 90 before and had 33 in his 10 games with Florida. Seems he’ll be locked into the C2 role with Hubey on his left and Owen Tippett on his right, perhaps. Or maybe that’ll be Anthony Duclair. We’ll see. Noel Acciari and Patric Hornqvist could be fourth-liners or they could be third-liners, but both can still chip in some goals and good peripherals (Acciari with hits and blocks, always valuable from a forward, and Horny with shots and hits). Horny could also still be PP1 as a point man alongside Ekblad. Carter Verhaeghe should be the top LW next to Barkov, so that’s an obvious “hell yes, please,” though he could be PP2, unfortunately. Sam Reinhart enjoyed a Sam Renaissance year, matching a career-best 25 goals in just 54 games. Now he’s gotten the hell out of Dodge (that is, Buffalo). I’m not gonna lie, I 100% thought Reinhart was already at least 30 years old (he’s 25), and I damn sure didn’t realize he was a former #2 overall draft pick. I swear I’ve been paying attention to hockey for a long time, but sometimes things just slip right on past ya, amirite? Couple of outlets I’m looking at right now peg Reinhart as top line next to Barkov. Coming off a career goal-scoring pace, moving from the dregs of the league and cold ass Buffalo to a Cup favorite in sunny Florida, and playing next to Barkov?! Reinhart has gotta be stoked to the moon. $GME levels of “to the moon.” Gimme allllll of that.
Not many teams out there have three fantasy-relevant defenders. In all fairness, only two are relevant outside of bangers, but all three are very relevant if hits+blocks come into play. Firstly there’s Aaron Ekblad, who did what everyone hoped he would sans Keith Yandle. I say sans Yandle, but I really mean san Yandle on the PP1. This year though is for real sans Yandle. Ekblad’s PPTOI spiked to 3:53 on average last year, and he tallied 11 PPP in just 35 games. Honestly the sky’s the limit when you’re as good as Ekblad is and you’re surrounded by so. much. talent. The assists should be good and you gotta love that 93rd percentile goals/60 mark among all defensemen. The bangs aren’t amazing but they’re solid enough. Definitely D1 material. He was on pace for his best season yet but was cut short with an ugly leg fracture. He’s 100% healthy now. MacKenzie Weegar has some pretty solid sleeper appeal. You can get him in about the 10th round and Evolving Wild has a love affair with the dude, projecting him for 44 points and 250+ hits+blocks. Those kinds of bangs will play even if the points aren’t quite there, but I imagine they will be on this team. Those projections look sound enough to me. Then there’s Radko Gudas. He’s there to bang, and bang he will. Should challenge 300+ hits and 100+ blocks.
Okie doke, the goalies. Sergei Bobrovsky has been rather terrible with Florida, but he makes $10 million and will play because of it. The wins will come, so there’s fantasy value in that if nothing else. I can’t get it out of my head that he’s better than what he’s been doing, though. Last year really wasn’t all that bad, it’s just the year prior was so bad we still remember it vividly. He at least improved upon 2019-20’s mark of -15.04 GSAA with -1.96 last year. That’s progress, right? You can get him in around the 10th round, and if that’s when you’re taking your G2 then that’s a fine price to pay for a guy who will likely win the vast majority of starts. Hell, even him as a G1 isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Own the tandem and then have a G3 like Khudobin or Driedger or Merzlikins. Depends how you wanna go about it and depends on your league setup, of course, but that’s sound logic if’n you ask me. Spencer Knight is the future of the franchise and certainly looked the part in his three starts last year. He won all three (and even stole a fourth win in a backup appearance), posting a 2.32 GAA and .919 SV%. Kid was nineteen years old. I was picking boogers and popping zits at 19, lifting virtual Stanley Cups and getting into World of Warcraft. Small sample, duh, very small sample, but still hell impressive at that age. Daily Faceoff has Knight pegged as the G1 for the Panthers at time of writing, but I don’t see him ousting the man making $10 million, at least at first. Could certainly play out that way. Get both, why the hell not?
Alrighty, we’ll do it one more time tomorrow. See yinz then!
I do a some fantasy baseball as well as a some fantasy hockey here at Razzball. Find me on Twitter: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time.