Howdy, hockey nerds!
We’re off to the Eastern Conference team previews now, and on tap today we’ve got the Canes, the Jackets, the Devils, and the Isles. The rest of the Metro will come tomorrow, then it’ll be the Atlantic to close out the week and the series.
If you wanna refresh the ol’ noggin on all teams Western Conference, links are right down yonder:
Forwards to watch: Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter, Teuvo Teravainen
Defensemen to watch: Jaccob Slavin, Tony DeAngelo
Goalie(s) to own: Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta
Simply put, the Carolina Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the NHL. Everyone is aware, and everyone is aware of the fantasy value this team possesses. Sebastian Aho is a bona fide superstar; Andrei Svechnikov is practically there as well; Martin Necas is budding before our very eyes even if he’s a little inconsistent (still only 22!); Vincent Trocheck is a vastly underrated (especially by me last year…) contributor; Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen are also strong players. Aho is arguably worth a late 1st-round pick if you’ve got the stomach to take a C there (I’m looking at a winger if I miss out on McDavid/Draisaitl/MacKinnon/Matthews), but he’s for sure a 2nd-round value at worst. Floor of like, what, 85 points? Ceiling of 100+? Why not? You’re getting at worst 35 G and 50 A from the dude. Plenty of PPP, great +/- for you standard league folks, great shots, etc. etc. I’ve been defaulting to Evolving Wild’s projections because I’m a happy subscriber (good free stuff on there, too, but the paid stuff rocks my socks), and they’ve got him projected as the #11 overall player with Yahoo standard scoring. He brings elite value regardless of format. Svechnikov was a wee bit disappointing last year, ending the year only in the 53rd percentile for xGAR. Also not 100% he plays next to Aho at even strength (def will on the power play). He brings a very a high ceiling but has a floor that a lot of other top wingers don’t have. You won’t see me reprimand anyone for taking him at his Yahoo ADP (in the 27 range right now)…but I think I’m out on that. Give me every single other LW going around him, whether it be slightly before or slightly after: Huberdeau, the Tkachuks, Kaprizov, Guentzel, to name a few. You know what you’ll get with Teravainen. Turbo will get you a boatload of assists and PPP, maybe 20ish goals, then not much else. He’s getting drafted around Anthony Mantha, Kevin Fiala, and Vladimir Tarasenko. I’d straight up rather have any one of those guys, though Turbo is still a good solid RW to roster if you’ve gone light on the assists up until this point in the draft. Nino enjoyed a bit of a bounce-back year, scoring 20 G in 56 games. He’s a type I’d stream in and hold if he’s playing well but wouldn’t think twice about dropping him. As for Necas, there’s a real chance he’s top-line RW alongside Aho and Svech. Of course that would catapult his value to, for him, previously unseen heights. Worth a late flier simply for that possibility but skating alongside Trocheck and Nino isn’t the worst place to be either.
Welp. Here’s the part where I wish I didn’t have to talk about Tony DeAngelo again. Simple fact is, I’m here to give you fantasy advice, and we can’t just gloss over Tony D anymore. No more Dougie Hamilton means DeAngelo will almost assuredly have PP1 duties. He’s gonna be stuck on the third pairing at ES, though, just like he was with the Rangers. He’s a pretty bad hockey player overall, but he definitely can move the puck around and score some goals. His 2019-20 season was awesome, then last year…we all remember that story. The Canes are taking a chance anyway. Dobber and Evolving Wild don’t quite agree projection-wise: Dobber has him in elite territory with 15 G and 40 A, while EW has him with about half the goals and 25 less points (in just 52 games, so a 47-point pace; I guess they’re factoring in risk of suspension). I’m inclined to think he’ll be very useful as long as he keeps his head about him, which is far from guaranteed. Jaccob Slavin is one of those fantastic real-life guys who doesn’t quite bring it for fantasy. He’s got some value if blocks count and even more if takeaways happen to factor in. Otherwise, I’m just not all that interested. Now that Ethan Bear is in the mix, I’m not too sure whether it’d be him or Slavin to step in if Tony DunceAngelo, I mean DeAngelo, were to fall apart.
Former Maple Leaf Frederik Andersen and former Yote Antti Raanta will now be manning the crease for this bunch of jerks. I’m to the point where I don’t trust Raanta to stay healthy, so I won’t be eyeing him even as a G3 unless I drink too many beers while drafting and fade Gs way too hard. Even so, Raanta is quite talented. The split could be more even than I’m anticipating since I’m just so used to Freddy being his team’s workhorse. It would make a lot of sense for both of these guys to rediscover past successes for Carolina. I dunno. I know this is a cop out: it’s tough to predict either’s workload. My heart of hearts tells me Freddy is the main man. Both dudes have enjoyed strong seasons in the past and should improve from a fantasy standpoint for the simple fact they’ll be playing for Carolina. Just ask David Ayres about all that. We’ve seen two straight years of -10 or worse GSAx from Freddy. Raanta wasn’t too much better last year but was much better in 2019-20. Ya know, looking at it, Raanta has been the better goalie since 2017, it’s just always been a matter of health with him. I can’t blame you for taking a late shot at him and hoping for the best (doesn’t even have a Yahoo ADP at time of writing). But gun to my head, I’m leaning Freddy (from a fantasy standpoint). Or just save yourself the trouble and get both! Some people hate to do it, but I like to roster a tandem. Carolina is a good team to do that with. Some people hate to do it, but I like to end sentences with prepositions. And start them with conjunctions.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Forwards to watch: Patrik Laine, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jakub Voracek, Jack Roslovic
Defensemen to watch: Zach Werenski, Adam Boqvist
Goalie(s) to own: Joonas Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins
Okay, this team is kinda bonkers, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. But maybe it could turn into a good way? All I know for sure is Torts is out of town and that’s gotta lift morale and team chemistry. The man knows more hockey than I’ll ever pretend to, but you can’t ignore how awful things went with him in Columbus. Always some drama, not to mention their dead-last output of 1.93 xGF/60 as a team. When you’re behind Detroit or an Eichel-less Sabres team…me oh my. Brad Larsen takes over as a head coach who’s only 43 years old and has been serving as CBJ’s power play coach for the past several seasons. Maybe that means there will be more of an offensive focus? Okay, enough about the coaches, let’s talk about the players. Patrik Laine doesn’t quite do it for me like he used to. Evolving Wild doesn’t even have him hitting 50 points this year. I’d probably take the over there, but I’d be under on 60. He could very well thrive under a new system and return to his Jets form, however. An 11th-round price tag ain’t a bad gamble. Jakub Voracek came over in a deal that sent Cam Atkinson to Philly. Voracek is still good for assists and PPP but that’s it. I still love my boy Oliver Bjorkstrand, who loves to shoot and can score in buckets. I (maybe unfairly) blame Torts drama for Bjork’s dip to 8.7 SOG/60 last season when he was double digits the two years prior. Still a solid rate, but double digits starts to get my blood pumpin’. Jack Roslovic paced for 57 points in his final 20 games and top-six minutes seem pretty secure. Whether they’re with Bjork or Voracek on his right is my real concern. I figure he’s PP1 as well. I’m kinda iffy on the rest of the potential top six. Gustav Nyquist has some sizzle. Missed all of last season but has reached the 60-point plateau before. Not sure I can convince myself it’s possible in Columbus. Alexandre Texier has another level, maybe? We’ve yet to see it, but if you’re familiar with Dobber, they’ve got this magic theory about fourth-year breakouts. We shall see, I suppose. Tex could get stuffed into bottom six, too. Some guy named Gregory Hofmann is on some people’s radars. Been good over in Europe and in international competitions, but it remains to be seen how that all translates to the NHL. Watchlist material in my opinion. And then there’s Boone Jenner, who only matters in banger leagues. Dude hits and blocks like a D-man, though, so he allows you some roster flexibility (and is also eligible at C/LW).
I’ve listed two defenders here but the only one I would actually roster in most formats is Zach Werenski. There’s 20 G potential there, with maybe as many or a little more in the assist department. Maybe a decent bit more with Seth Jones gone. First PP time seems guaranteed. I know they went out and got Adam Boqvist, who is a promising young buck, which is why I’ve listed him. Boqvist has to be second unit though, and second unit on Columbus is…much less than ideal. For what it’s worth to ya: Evolving Wild projects 52 points for Werenski and 23 for Boqvist; Dobber projects 48 and 41, respectively. Both scenarios strike me as plausible, depending on PP usage (that’s what she said). At any rate, it all boils down to gimme that Werenski, homie. Even better if it’s a points league. *Movie trailer voiceover guy voice* “there will be goals.”
Speaking of goalie tandems, the Joonas Korpisalo/Elvis Merzlikins tandem ain’t a bad one either. Who knows how Larsen will deploy them, though. Hot hand? Strict rotation, a la Trotz? Anybody’s guess. Given the uncertainty, I’d either happily own the tandem or just one of them as a G3. My gut tells me Elvis is the better of the two, and GSAA and GSAx metrics mostly back that up (looking at recent years). But again, owning both is a fine way to go and both are quite cheap. Saros, Binnington, Markstrom, etc plus this tandem would get you by mighty fine methinks.
New Jersey Devils
Forwards to watch: Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Tomas Tatar, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich
Defensemen to watch: Dougie Hamilton, Ty Smith
Goalie(s) to own: MacKenzie Blackwood
Meh, at least as far as forwards go, there ain’t much to like in New Jersey. Yeah, yeah, Jack Hughes had all the hype in the world once upon a time and he’s still pretty raw with plenty of room for growth. I dunno, even at a 12th-round price I’m not really ready to pay for a 40-point floor and maybe 60-point ceiling. Say he hits 60 points, just to give him the benefit of the doubt. Gonna be mostly assists. What else is he giving you? Middling PPP, eh? Anything else? Narp. I’m good. Nico Hischier is kinda the same, but instead of assists he can at least score some goals. Pavel Zacha is the one I’m eyeing most. He tallied 17 goals in 50 games, which is about a 28-goal pace. If he can build off that, 30 goals isn’t too outlandish. Still not all that probable, but who knows. He’s only 24 and showing growth, just depends if he can work himself into the top six or not. His 2.5 pts/60 last year is definitely not a bad rate, and on the PP that jumps up to 4.6 pts/60. Some decent sleeper prowess here. Jesper Bratt is okay. Think his ceiling is still only about 50-55 points, though, with light peripherals. Bratt managed 2.4 pts/60 last season, to be fair. Value totally depends on whether he’s top or bottom six, and at the moment I’m not certain which it is. Tomas Tatar has talent and could do some thangs. Brings about a hit per game to the table as well. Just can’t shake the fact this supporting cast is not very exciting. Top-six minutes should be in the cards, at least. Yegor Sharangovich is a dude with somewhat significant sleeper value. He had 16 G and 14 A last year as a rookie (54 games), finishing with 13 points in his last 15. Of his 16 goals, 12 came in the second half. Daily Faceoff currently projects him top line next to Hughes, so that’ll be something to watch for once games actually matter. They’ve also got Janne Kuokkanen projected top line, but I’m just not buying that one. Would wager it’s Tatar or Andreas Johnsson, though I don’t have any real fantasy interest in Johnsson either way. He showed some promise in Toronto a couple seasons back but has done next to nothing since. Maybe it ends up being Kuokkanen by default, but in that case he’s still just stream-worthy at best for me.
I’m not sure how to feel about Dougie Hamilton. I’ve had a fantasy man-crush on him for the past couple years and wanted every single share I could get my hands on. Going from Carolina to New Jersey is a step or three down, however. Can’t help but expect a dip in points, though I have zero doubts they’ll lean heavily on him. Obvs will man the top PP and be in the top pairing. I’m sure he’ll still shoot a ton and score you like 15 goals minimum. We’ll just have to see if the assists stick around or if they taper off. No more Aho and Svech and Turbo to set up. Easily could be a Top 5 D-man or could have a down year with this lackluster squad and slip down the board. I’m not expecting P.K. Subban levels of drop-off, and even if the assists drop, you’ll still get the goals and shots, not to mention solid enough banger totals. In brief, I still like him quite a bit but haven’t been prioritizing him like I had been. He’s the #5 D off the board right now in Yahoo while Roman Josi is #11. My advice: wait for Josi. Ty Smith could be a cheap source of PPP. It’s feasible they run two D on the top unit, so that’d be Hamilton and Smith. The Devils could also drop him to PP2. Smith had almost 0.5 pts/G as a rookie and they gave him plenty of PP time, which increased as the year went on. A former #17 overall pick, he’ll get his looks from time to time but has much more dynasty than redraft appeal. Doesn’t offer much in the banger world but he did have 30+ hits and blocks in 48 games. Don’t feel strongly enough about him to call him “one to watch,” but Ryan Graves should bang bang bang and thus is a good stream at the end of the week if that’s applicable for you.
MacKenzie Blackwood isn’t bad. Sometimes he’s quite good! Would like him a lot more if he played elsewhere, duh, but he’s still gonna be solid for fantasy; volume is in his favor. Won’t lie, last year was ugly af. He posted -7.41 GSAA and -12.62 GSAx. Barf. The two years before that were much better, and the addition of Dougie and Graves should clean things up on the back line a good deal. You’re in a fine spot if he’s your G3, and I like him well enough from a fantasy perspective to have him as my G2 as long as my G1 is rock solid.
New York Islanders
Forwards to watch: Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Kyle Palmieri, Anders Lee, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Brock Nelson, Oliver Wahlstrom
Defensemen to watch: Ryan Pulock, Noah Dobson
Goalie(s) to own: Semyon Varlamov, Ilya Sorokin
The New York Islanders are a deep squad, both in real life and in fantasy. Mathew Barzal is the budding superstar, which we all know. There’s a 70-point floor there and maybe an 85- to 90-point ceiling. Barzal brings no peripherals to the table, so you’ll have to draft them elsewhere or rely on your streaming skills. Feels like there’s been preseason hype for Anthony Beauvillier for the last decade even though he’s never quite put it together in the NHL, failing to even reach a 50-point pace. Still, he’s in a good spot and should get PP1 exposure. Beau won’t cost you hardly a thing on draft day, so take a shot if you’re feeling lucky. Kyle Palmieri is a cheap source of goals (25ish?) and can give you about a hit per game. Anders Lee, if healthy, can theoretically give you 30ish goals with good shot totals tacked on. He’s scored 40 goals before, and while I won’t say it’s likely he ever does it again, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world given he’ll be with Barzal. I dig me some Jean-Gabriel Pageau in banger leagues. He will hit a lot and he will block an excellent amount of shots for a forward. Can get you around 40 points, too. He’s not a star, but he’s a nice bench piece to pad your stats. Brock Nelson has 50 or so points in him with a decent chance at more. Could we see 60? Wouldn’t shock me. He dipped to a 48-point pace last season but was 65 the year before. Very cheap source for goals late in your draft: 14th/15th-round ADP and 30 G is attainable. Lastly, I’ve got Oliver Wahlstrom as one to keep your eyeballs on. All the outlets I’ve peeked at have him third line, yet I could see him clicking well enough to move up and bump boring old Josh Bailey down. Wahlstrom is a former #11 overall pick with a wicked shot and zero fear of throwing that body around. Would not be surprised to see 20 G and 100+ hits from this kid even if he’s left on the third line. However, his floor is fantasy irrelevancy.
I’ve never been too high on Islanders defenders for fantasy just because points aren’t usually their bag: Nick Leddy is the only active player to have ever reached 40+ points for the franchise. Ryan Pulock could get you 300 hits+blocks and could also challenge 200 shots, and if he gets top PP to himself, then maybe he’ll join Leddy on that list (Pulock paced for 42 points in 2019-20). Noah Dobson might get that top power play spot instead, but he won’t get enough ES time to challenge 40 points in all likelihood. Boils down to Pulock being the only one to own unless we’re talking dynasty, then Dobson enters the picture. Plenty of future offensive upside there.
Both Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin are 100% rosterable in any format. Given their probably near-dead-even split in starts, they work best as either a tandem or in leagues that favor ratios over volume. This is the tandem to own, though. The Isles will win and they will allow very few goals (relatively speaking). Ever since Barry Trotz took the helm, the Isles have been 1st, 6th, and 2nd (chronological order) in goals allowed league-wide. What more proof would you even need? I’d want freakin’ Matt Murray and Martin Jones if they were the Isles tandem. Okay, fine, need a little more proof? Varlamov was first in GSAA last season with 21.94 and was 6th in GSAx with 9.82. Sorokin, a rookie, was 19th in both those metrics. Dating back to 2007-08 (that’s as far back as Evolving Wild’s data goes), Varlamov’s 21.94 GSAA was the 31st best total in all those years combined.
Same time tomorrow for the other New York squad, Philly, Pittsburgh, and Washington!