Recently some had speculated that when Ryan Callahan went down with an injury it would be Nikita Kucherov (3 G, 6 SOG, +2) that would step up to the Stamkos line. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be. Instead he’s found some seriously strong chemistry with line mates Ondrej Palat (1 A, 1 SOG, +2) and Tyler Johnson (4 A, 3 SOG, +2) on what is fast becoming one of the better lines in hockey. Last season Kucherov didn’t look very good at atime and at others he looked flat out lost, but it wasn’t all bad as he showed flashes of brilliance that had become his hallmark as he exceled at every level of play on his way to the NHL. Still, he tallied just 9 goals and 18 points over 52 games played so it didn’t exactly leave anyone with a high expectations of a breakout campaign in 2015. The big question is whether or not his current scoring outburst is the start of something big or will it burn itself out sooner than later? Well, Kucherov has incredibly hands and sports an elite wrister that would put most in the NHL to shame. He relies on his generally sharp offensive instincts to drive a fast pace and has shown natural nose for the net, but he could stand to bulk up at bit standing at 5’ 11” 178 lbs. I like the kid and I think he could do well this year, but he sees limited time on the power play and that limits his value. Obviously the seven points in three games is an unsustainable pace, but this isn’t just a passing fad, this kid is good and he’s going to get better. Expect the scoring to dry up and come in streaks, but with his talent the streaks may continue to be fairly grand affairs. He’s only owned in 15% of Yahoo! Leagues and 8.7% of ESPN leagues, so go snatch him up and stream him while the streamin’s good! In keeper leagues, considering holding him for longer if you can. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Ben Bishop (W, 22 SV, 3 GA, .880%) – He could have been worse, he could have been better, the win is a salve on the wounds caused by bleh peripherals. He’s been a bit shaky lately, but the loss of Victor Hedman has a cascade effect on the Bolts’ D and it isn’t a positive one.
Valtteri Filppula (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – You’d think playing on a line with Steven Stamkos (1 A, 4 SOG, -1) would yield a better plus/minus than the minus-four he sports, but apparently not. Flip has seven points in 10 games and that’s about what you can expect from him moving forward, though I think there’s a bit more in the tank than 60 points on the season for him.
Brian Boyle (2 G, 2 SOG, +2) – He doesn’t have much worth in most leagues, but in deeper leagues he’s actually worth owning at this point. He has five points in 10 games, plus-five, nine PIM and 13 Hits. Of course, all this has come only after I dropped him in favor of Leo Komarov (1 A, +1) who hits everything that moves.
Vladimir Tarasenko (3 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – If you’re wondering if you should pick him up, the answer is almost always going to be yes unless you’re in a shallow league. Pick him up, now.
Tuukka Rask (L, 38 SV, 4 GA, .905%) – I don’t know what the deal with Tuukka is right now, but he looks bad. He’s not this bad, but he’s sure playing like it though losing Zdeno Chara to injury certainly hasn’t helped. The only thing you can do is ride it out, you can’t trade him because you’ll never get value and obviously you can’t drop him. There is some good news here, though not great; there’s very little chance he loses his number one job to upstart rookie Niklas Svedberg despite Sved’s solid play so far.
Niklas Backstrom (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – You had to figure Backs would get the call after Darcy Kuemper coughed up five goals in his last start, but after seeing him in this game I can safely say he’s no threat to Kuemps and you can expect to see Kuemps back between the pipes for the Wild in their next game.
Marco Scandella (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – I mentioned him yesterday and here he is again with another point for a third straight game. He was limited by a concussion last year but there’s real promise here. He’s in a system that favors offensive contributions from defenseman, so I’d add him if you’re looking for help on your blue line.
Nino Niederreiter (1 G, 4 SOG) – I expected Nino to have a solid season, I mean he almost have to improve on his paltry 3.6% shooting percentage at even strength and after a slow start he has points in three straight. He has added value in leagues that count hits. 20 goals is probably out of the question, but 15 goals and 45 points sounds aboot right.
Zach Parise (1 G, 3 SOG) – The hardest working man in hockey has been one of the most valuable forwards in the game so far. He has eight points in eight games, a plus-seven rating, 17 PIM and 43 SOG in just eight games. It’s a small sample size so far, but this is the first time since he’s looked like his old self since he blew out his knee back in 2010. I could see him finishing with 80 points and 35 goals this year.
Milan Lucic (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Good ole’ Milan, Lucicin’ it up with six points in his last four games with 26 PIM so far to boot, though he hasn’t seen the inside of the sin bin in his last five. Still, his overall value is exactly where you’d hope it would be.
Robin Lehner (W, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) – Man, I love it when Lehner plays well. It’s a win-win for me as I loathe Craig Anderson and have been a strong Lehner advocate for a bit now. He continues to out play Anderson, though not handily enough to win the starting job. Still, it’s trending that way. If you’re streaming Lehner, you might want to think twice about dropping him this time.
Curtis McElhinney (L, 29 SV, 5 GA, .853%) – I warned against picking him up just because he was going to get starts while Sergei Bobrovsky was on IR nursing his broken finger and this is why. Don’t expect much better moving forward. Bobrovsky is supposed to be back in two weeks tops.
Clarke MacArthur (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – A three point night gives Mac seven points in eight games this year, but I doubt it continues at this pace. He is on a solid line with Kyle Turris (2 A, 1 SOG, +2) and Bobby Ryan (1 A, 6 SOG, +2), so he’s going to have his chance to match last year’s career high of 24 goals, which I think he could beat. The ceiling here is 60 points.
Erik Karlsson (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Seven points in eight games with 40 SOG is all systems go, but a bleh minus-2 rating, but that’s to be expected on the Sens.
Cam Atkinson (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – Atkins took Ryan Kesler’s skate to the face and suffered a nasty gash for his troubles a few games ago so he missed the last game, but returned earlier than most expected to score a goal. I’m not a huge fan of his, but six points in eight games isn’t something you leave on the wire in deeper leagues.
Cory Schneider (L, 18 SV, 5 GA, .783%) – Ouch. Much like Tuukka Rask and his bleh start, Schneider has looked bad himself. He seems to waffle from good to bad in stretches, but four games of four or more goals allowed in nine isn’t going to cut it. He should right the ship sooner than later, but it’s a bit troubling to see him give up five goals on 23 shots.
Marc-Andre Fleury (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) – Fluery didn’t get much work in this one either but that didn’t stop him from coughing up three goals on 19 shots. This game was all offense with 11 goals potted on 45 shots total for both teams though luckily for MAF owners, he bungled his way to the win.
Sidney Crosby (2 G, 6 SOG, +2) – 14 points in eight games, so he’s right on schedule on his march towards the century mark once again.
Steve Downie (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 2 PIM) – Downie is looking like his old self since joining the Pens. Over his last four games he has four points, three coming on the power play, six PIM and six SOG. He’s capable of being a poor man’s Milan Lucic to the tune of 45 points and 100 PIM. If he keeps seeing time on the Pens’ power play, he could top 50 points. In either case, he’s well worth owning in most leagues right now.
John Gibson (W, 38 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Despite the good starts he’s not going to supplant Frederik Andersen anytime soon, but he’s earning himself a few more starts with play like this.
Scott Darling (L, 24 SV, 1 GA, .960%) – Corey Crawford is due back this week, and despite the fact that Darling has been better than Antti Raanta you can expect Darling to get sent down. He might get one more start.
Mike Smith (L, 27 SV, 6 GA, .818%) – Just when you convinced yourself that your ole’ buddy JD doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to Smith, he’s back to his old tricks! Six goals on 33 shots? Dude’s garbage, yo.
Semyon Varlamov (L, 49 SV, 2 GA, .961%) – I took one look at his line from last night and all I could do was feel for the guy. Your defense allows a whopping 51 shots on goal, you push away 49 of them and you still can’t buy a win? The Avs possession game is so bad it’s really not funny and Varly is taking a beating because of it. I have to admit he’s been playing better of late than he did to start the year, but I’m still eh on his chances to repeat last year’s performance, especially when he gets pelted like this.
Antti Niemi (W, 31 SV, 2 GA, .939%) – Niemi might be pulling away from Alex Stalock after his second consecutive good start. That’s not just two good starts in a row, it’s two starts in a row, too. Say that three times fast. Colorado is a spazz to start the season but holding the Ducks to one goal the other day was pretty impressive. If Niemi gets the next start and does well he’s probably not long from securing the lion’s share of the starts moving forward.
Brent Burns (1 G, 5 SOG, -1) – With 12 points in 11 games, 18 PIM, 36 SOG, +1 and a five game scoring streak Burns is putting to bed any worries that his shift back to the blue line would limit his offensive potential. If anything it looks like he’s stepped up to another level that he hadn’t reached on the wing or the back end until this season. He’s shooting, he’s scoring and the Sharks use him in all situations so I see no reason why this can’t continue. Could we have a dark horse challenger to P.K. Subban (2 SOG, 2 PIM) and Erik Karlsson (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) as fantasy hockey’s most prolific scoring defenseman? Mayhaps, mayhaps.
Logan Couture (1 G, 6 SOG) – 35 more to go!
Gabriel Landeskog (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) – Landy is showing signs of life with goals in three of his last four games, but the Avs on whole look like a mess. He’s going to keep scoring, but until the team gets its act together as a whole, he’s going to have trouble meeting preseason projections. Like most Avs…
Alex Tanguay (1 G, 1 SOG) – …unlike Tanguay, who with six points in his first 10 games already beat his preseason projections. It’s all down hill from here! No, seriously, he’s looking halfway decent and he’s worth owning in deeper leagues while he’s playing on a line with Landeskog.
Ondrej Pavelec (W, 18 SV, 3 GA, .857%) – Only Pavs can make a victory look this ugly.
Jaroslav Halak (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) – Of course I recommended that we start you one time, just one time, and this is what I get. The Isles offense is a thing to behold, but their defense is pretty bad. Halak can’t blame his D entirely though, he doesn’t look very good either. Chad Johnson is looking like a better and better option for the Isles every day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him between the pipes for the Isles’ next tilt.
Brock Nelson (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – Nelson can’t sustain this pace, but he’s looking like he and his new line has arrived. He’s skating with Ryan Strome (+1) and Anders Lee (1 SOG) and there is definitely some chemistry there, so I wouldn’t imagine the line is going to be broken up very soon. The big question is always whether any of these young Isles wingers are going to get any time on a line with John Tavares (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) and Kyle Okposo (1 A, 3 SOG, -1) but I think that ship has sailed. Cory Conacher (-1, 1 SOG) seems to have locked up the pivot role for now with Tavares moving to the wing opposite Okie on their top line with the Nelson/Strome/Lee line fast becoming their secondary scoring unit. Nelson could hit the 20 goal and 50 point markers this year, but those are somewhat optimistic predictions.
Andrew Ladd (2 G, 5 SOG, +2) – Ladd has six points in his last four games, with back-to-back two point efforts in his last two games. The scoring comes in bunches with Ladd, but it’s going to come to the tune of 60 or so points, so grab him if he’s available.
Jacob Trouba (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Tuba finally scored his first goal and point of the season nine games in. That doesn’t bode well. I wouldn’t cut bait on him in deeper leagues just yet, but in shallower redrafts you should have cut him a few games ago.
Jonathan Bernier (W, 10 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Bernie needed just 10 saves to earn the shutout victory against the hapless Sabres last night. 10 freakin’ saves, are you kidding me? That’s pathetic Buffalo. You’re bad and you should feel bad.
Michal Neuvirth (L, 33 SV, 4 GA, .892%) – Again, you shouldn’t own Buffalo goalies.
Tyler Bozak (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – It’s a shame this line is on the Leafs because it’s a fun line to watch but it won’t amount to squat because their defense is so porous. Still, Bozak has 10 points in nine games so far this season and that should continue with Phil Kessel (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) and James van Reimsdyk (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) on his wings.
Ray Emery (W, 38 SV, 2 GA, .950%) – Steve Mason coughed up four goals to the Hawks on November 21st and no one has seen hide nor hair of him in a game since while Emery has won three straight. I guess that makes Emery the defecto start for the Flyers for now, but the other shoe is going to drop sooner than later. Still, while he’s playing and playing well he’s streamable.
Brayden Schenn (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – With goals in back-to-back games and a game winner last night here’s to hoping Schenn breaks out of his early season funk and gets rolling. I don’t expect more than 20 goals and 45 points, but the hits! Where are my hits?!