The hockey season is finally upon us! While there are only 4 games tonight, it’s great for hockey to start. I will go through a preview of the games tonight and Thursday (11 total games) and will have a recap of all of that action out on Friday morning. Here’s a breakdown of what we’re looking to see from a fantasy perspective in the first couple games of the season.
Canadiens at Maple Leafs: From a Montreal point of view, the question is who the 6th person will be in their top 6. Early indications are that it’s going to be Alex Semin who has elite talent but hasn’t been fantasy relevant in a few years. Playing with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk would carry some value, especially with power play time. For Toronto, the roster is thin and their top 3 defensemen all look to be on separate pairs. The biggest thing to watch is who plays right wing on the first line. It looks like Brad Boyes has the inside track to play with James Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri. Boyes has played well when giving scoring roles in the past so in deep leagues, keep an eye on this. His plus-minus will surely be bad but he can score 20 goals relatively easily getting the big minutes.
Rangers at Blackhawks: There isn’t much mystery to what the Rangers are doing. The only question is whether Kevin Hayes is on the second line or centering the third line. Obviously it would be much better for him to be on the second line and getting power play time. I’m a big fan of Hayes and see 50-55 points if he gets this opportunity. For Chicago, keep an eye on Teuvo Teravainen and Artemi Panarin. Teravainen is getting the first crack at playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa while Panarin will get to play with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov. Both are excellent late round picks in drafts (I took Teuvo in the RCL yesterday and someone else grabbed Panarin).
Canucks at Flames: The Canucks look to be far worse than last year and will be going up against a team that I expect to take a big step this year in Calgary. For Vancouver, it looks like Brandon Sutter with play with the Sedins while Radim Vrbata will be on the second line. It won’t hurt Vrbata much but gives Sutter some value if he sticks. For Calgary, the biggest thing to watch is Karri Ramo. He will start the opener so for those of you who followed my suggestion of taking Ramo and Jonas Hiller, make sure you have Ramo starting. With Ramo starting, it makes it more likely that he’s going to be on the better side of the platoon.
Sharks at Kings: Two things stand out for the Sharks. Martin Jones will start his first game as the Sharks goalie against his former team. It’s a rough matchup for him to start his season. The most interesting thing is that Joonas Donskoi, who was a big scorer in the Finnish league last year, will be on the first line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski and on the second power play unit. He’s someone to watch in 10 man leagues and should be picked up in all leagues with 12 or more people while he has this opportunity. For the Kings, the team is almost the same so there isn’t much to see outside of how Milan Lucic looks on the first line.
Jets at Bruins: Nikolaj Ehlers is the big talking point for the Jets starting the season. Arguably the best prospect in one of the deepest prospect pools in the league, Ehlers has made the Jets roster and appears to be starting in the top 6. Look to see Ehlers’ role tomorrow. If he plays there, he’s a must add in all leagues and pushes the top 150 overall for this season. In Boston, David Pastrnak looks to be the first line right winger. He should settle around 125th overall in this role instead of around 150 where I had him before. Playing with Patrice Bergeron is a massive win.
Senators at Sabres: The game that I am most looking for since I’ll be attending (Go Sabres!), Craig Anderson is the big story for Ottawa. He’s in position to get a strangle hold on the job and if Ottawa plays anything like they did at the end of last season, Anderson will be in the second tier of goalies. He’s been known to get on incredible hot streaks. For Buffalo, all eyes will be on Jack Eichel. I’m higher on him than anyone else for fantasy this season and he’s going to start on a line with Evander Kane which should be an amazing combination. At least I hope so since I drafted both in the first RCL!
Flyers at Lightning: For the Flyers, there are two players in question and only one of them is going to carry significant value: Michael Raffl and Brayden Schenn. One of these guys will be playing with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and the other will be stuck on the third line. Whoever gets the first line spot is must-own; the other shouldn’t be owned in 12 man leagues. For Tampa, I’ll be watching Jonathan Drouin. This finally looks like the year Drouin will get to play with Steven Stamkos. He’ll have plenty of value regardless but if he sticks with Stamkos, expect Drouin to be a top 100 player or better.
Oilers at Blues: The question surrounding Edmonton is who will play in the top 6 in place of Jordan Eberle who is injured for 3-5 more weeks. I would guessed Nail Yakupov but early indications are that it will be Anton Slepyshev. I wouldn’t rush to pick up Slepyshev but he’s someone to keep an eye on. He scored 15 goals last year in 58 games in the KHL as a 20 year old, an impressive feat. For St. Louis, it will be interesting to see who starts in goal and also how they set up the top 6. It looks like Alex Steen, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko will be the first line which is a big chance from last year. This would boost Stastny’s value quite a bit.
Hurricanes at Predators: Carolina is a bit of a dumpster fire and there isn’t much to look for with them. Goaltending is the only thing that will matter for deep leagues; whether Cam Ward or Eddie Lack starts will be telling. I expect them to get blown out by a deep Predators squad. Nashville brings back almost the same roster. For deep leagues, keep an eye on Cody Hodgson. He was dreadful for Buffalo last season but I expect a bounceback in a better situation.
Penguins at Stars: This should be the most exciting game in the night. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 8+ goals. In Pittsburgh, whether Chris Kunitz or David Perron are on the first line will be massive for both of their values. For Dallas, the question is who is going to play with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. At first, it looked like Valeri Nichushkin, then Patrick Sharp, now Cody Eakin. The first two will be fantasy relevant regardless but Eakin will either be unownable or someone who is must own in 12 man leagues depending on his role.
Wild at Avalanche: The Wild look to be making a pretty big chance on their blueline splitting up Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. The biggest beneficiary will be Jared Spurgeon. He looks to be playing top pair minutes and second unit power play. He has a ton of offensive talent and is worth a spot as your 4th or 5th defenseman in 12 man leagues. For Colorado, we have no idea who is going to start on what line. Patrick Roy is notorious for rotating his lines so I wouldn’t put much stock into what they are game 1. The player who gets the 5th spot on the Avalanche top power play unit is the biggest thing to note. Right now, it appears that it will be Francois Beauchemin.
There’s your preview for the first two days! Be sure to check out the daily fantasy article that also comes out today and the article that will come out tomorrow looking deeper at Thursday’s games. I’ll post a big recap of what happened the first two days on Friday. Any questions or comments, please post below. Enjoy the hockey games!