As a Sabres fan, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. After two years of tanking, they ended up with Sam Reinhart and more importantly, Jack Eichel. In the Sabres first preseason game, Eichel showed why he was worth tanking for scoring a shorthanded goal and adding an assist. Sabres coach Dan Blysma has Eichel currently slated to be the second line center with multiple 30 goal scorer Matt Moulson and burgeoning power forward Zemgus Girgensons. It’s a great situation for Eichel to thrive, even as an 18 year old. I currently have Eichel at 51st overall (rankings here) and I feel great about having him ranked higher than anywhere else. The combination of speed and power that he has at such a young age is incredibly rare. In dynasty leagues, I’d have him ranked after the big 7 and McDavid. Bottom line is:
Teams usually play half of their starting roster in one preseason game and the other half in the next so it’s tough to come away with major takeaways from preseason. That said, it could be very telling as to who will play on what line which has a major impact on players’ value. Let’s take a look at who had a big impact over the first three days of preseason:
Anders Lee – Lee looks to be getting first crack at playing with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo this season. In their first game against the Devils, Lee tallied a power play goal and assist. Lee didn’t crack my top 100 but he will certainly be in the top 150 towards the top end. He scored 25 goals last year and added 16 assists with virtually no power play time (6 total STP). Playing on Tavares’ wing, Lee has 30+30 upside.
Filip Forsberg – Forsberg started where he left off last year burying 2 goals and adding an assist against Florida. The Capitals must be kicking themselves every day for dumping Forsberg to Nashville for a horrible rental in Martin Erat. I have Forsberg 40th overall and feel like that’s a good spot for him. He’s the best player in that tier of young stars who don’t contribute in penalty minutes.
Roman Josi – Without his partner Shea Weber in the lineup, Josi led the Predators blueline and didn’t disappoint scoring a goal and an assist with 5 shots. He’s firmly in the massive third tier of defensemen with 50 points expected and solid contribution across the board.
Ryan Ellis – Took advantage of the extra playing time and tallied three assists. He probably shouldn’t be drafted in 10 or 12 man leagues but if Weber or Josi were to get injured, Ellis would be on the first power play unit and be someone to target on the waiver wire immediately.
Matt Irwin – Irwin’s first preseason game for Boston couldn’t have gone any better burying both goals in a 2-o win. He’s been stuck at the bottom of the Sharks depth chart for years but always produced when he had a chance. He is worth monitoring this preseason because with the departure of Dougie Hamilton to Calgary, Irwin has the chance to have a big role on the Bruins power play.
Chris Kreider – Scored a goal with 2 PIM against the Devils. I have Kreider ranked 81 and the more I think about it, it feels a bit too low. He’s set up to break out in a big way this year on Derek Stepan’s wing and should add 75+ PIM. All the tools are there for a massive season and if you want to gamble on his upside, I’d take Kreider earlier than where I have him ranked.
Eddie Lack – Lack played 40 minutes in his Hurricanes debut and stopped all 22 shots he faced. For the love of God Carolina, please play Lack over the corpse of Cam Ward. The Hurricanes should be pretty poor so Lack will be a net negative in wins but he should be able to put up good ratios given the opportunity.
Jakub Voracek – Two assists and 2 PIM in his preseason debut. Last season wasn’t a fluke; Voracek is the real deal. The big PIM total is a nice bonus to being close to a point per game player. He should go in the back end of the second round in drafts.
Erik Karlsson – A goal and two assists with 2 shots in almost 25 minutes. He’s in a tier by himself among fantasy defensemen. I had a few people ask if they’d take Karlsson in the top 10 and while I wouldn’t quite go that far, I’d be willing to take him on the wheel in a 12 man or at any point in the second round.
Joffrey Lupul – Scored two goals and should have a prominent role for the Maple Leafs this season. He hasn’t been able to dodge the injury bug the last few years though and will probably have a poor +/- being on the Leafs so he’s borderline draftable in 12 man leagues.
Nazem Kadri – Assisted on both Lupul goals. With the Leafs in a rebuild, Kadri should get the chance to be their top center and get the big minutes he’s deserved for a couple years. Again, his +/- will almost certainly be poor but if you’re willing to stomach it, Kadri has 60 point upside this year. I’ll probably have him somewhere around 150th overall.
Mike Hoffman – Scored a goal and I’m officially driving the Hoffman bandwagon. I mentioned in my top 100 article how good Hoffman was at even strength last year. The upside is through the roof if he gets power play time this year. It will be something to track this preseason because if it looks like he’s going to get it, he should be bumped 20 spots or so.
Zach Parise – Took advantage of a young, inexperienced Sabres blueline and tallied two assists. He’s not the flashiest player at this point in his career but his floor is very high.
Jordan Eberle – Two late assists in the Oilers game against Calgary, although one was an empty netter (they all count the same though!). I’m not sure Eberle can get to his previous high in points (76) but with the talent surrounding him in Edmonton, 70 points seems attainable.
Connor McDavid – Another Oiler with two late assists against Calgary with an empty netter, albeit in a completely different game (the Oilers and Flames had two different split squad games). The hype is real boys and girls.
Tyler Toffoli – Scored two goals while his linemate Tanner Pearson added three assists. That 70’s line with Jeff Carter is primed for a big offensive year. Toffoli squeaked into my top 100, Carter barely missed and Pearson is worth a flier in the late rounds due to unsure power play time and a massive lack in assists (only 4 last season). He has the potential for 25+ goals though and it’ll be hard to find those players late in drafts.
David Pastrnak – Tallied both Bruins goals, including the overtime winner. Pastrnak was the youngest player in the NHL last year and looked like he belonged scoring 27 points (10+17) in 46 games. If David Krejci (two assists) can stay healthy, Pastrnak could be looking at a solid second season. He’ll slot somewhere between 150-200 overall with the upside for more and deserving a much higher pick in dynasty leagues.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Two shutout periods with 24 total saves. Bob has shown the ability to win games on his own for extended stretches. He’s seemingly overlooked when mentioning the top goalies in the league but with the best Columbus team he’s ever had in front of him, Bobrovsky is a dark horse to get his second Vezina.
Ryan Johansen – Goal and an assist in his preseason debut. He’s a beast worth a pick at the end of round 2 or any point in the third, end of story.
All of the Penguins – The Pens played their big guns tonight and absolutely buried the Hurricanes scoring 7 goals in the first 31 minutes of the game. Sidney Crosby (1+2), Patrik Hornqvist (2 assists, 4 SOG, 2 PIM), Phil Kessel (2 goals, 4 shots, 2 PIM), Kris Letang (1+3), and Evgeni Malkin (2 assists, 2 PIM) all were in form right from the beginning of the game. Getting as many of the top Penguins you can draft is a completely viable strategy this year. ALL YOUR PENGUINS ARE BELONG TO ME!
Jonathan Huberdeau – Two goals in his preseason action. Could this be the year Huberdeau finally has his big break out? He showed the potential last year putting up 54 points. The top line with Jaromir Jagr and Aleksander Barkov has an incredible amount of talent, albeit at different points of their career. Hell, Jagr is older than his linemates combined age! He’ll show up early in my next rankings (101-150).
Tyler Seguin – Scored a goal. In non-breaking news, he’s very good at the game called hockey.
Vladimir Tarasenko – One goal and two assists. He’s cemented himself as a late first rounder in 10 man leagues this year and a clear first in 12+.
Alex Steen – Buried a goal and added an assist. Please, please stay healthy (see here if you don’t know his injury history).
Ondrej Pavelec – 40 shutout minutes against the Wild. Pavelec is in a great situation on an up and coming Jets team and he’s coming off his best season as a pro. The biggest problem is he’s been very inconsistent throughout his career and has a competent backup (Michael Hutchinson) plus a top prospect that will be ready fairly soon (Connor Hellebuyck). I’d be happy with Pavelec as my third goalie in 10 man and very happy in 12 but counting on him as your number two is a risky proposition.
Jonathan Toews – Captain Serious scored a goal and added an assist. He’s even a go-hard in preseason! I wouldn’t draft him super high (someone could based on name factor) but once the third round starts, Toews should be coming off the board.
John Gibson – Fresh off a new three year contract extension, Gibson struggled tonight giving up 5 goals on 31 shots. The plan is still for Gibson to get playing time in the AHL and come up only if Fredrik Andersen struggles or is injured. In dynasty leagues, Gibson is still worth taking. In shallow leagues, he’s worth monitoring and should absolutely be owned if he’s up on Anaheim but he’s not worth carrying on the bench when he’s playing in San Diego.
Martin Jones – A big debut for Jones posting a 30 save shutout playing all 60 minutes. As mentioned here, the upside is through the roof for Jones and if he’s as good as he’s showed in his brief playing time in L.A., he should be a very good #2 fantasy goalie this season.
Brent Burns – Burns started off strong with a goal and assist plus 4 shots on goal. He’ll probably get a slight boost up when I get closer to the season and get through more drafts. At this point, he makes more sense earlier since he contributes big points while being excellent in shots and PIM for a defensemen. He should fill gaps better than other players at that point for people who don’t get one of the top 4 defensemen.
Tomas Hertl – Another Shark with a goal and an assist. Hertl exploded onto the scene as a rookie only to struggle mightily as a sophomore. Which player will we see this year? I’m inclined to think the former with new coach Pete DeBoer and a spot with talented players Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. Hertl is still only 21 years old and is too talented to score only 31 points in a full season. He won’t be on the top power play unit which limits his upside but his skill will have him coming up very soon just outside the top 100.
That’ll wrap up the first three nights of preseason hockey! Tomorrow I will get the Razzball Commenter League set up so look for a post with the details. I also plan to get the rankings through 150 by Friday and get to 200 by Monday which should get you through the vast majority of your draft. As always, feel free to provide your thoughts and ask any questions below. Take care everyone!