On January 3rd, the St. Louis Blues were in last place of the entire NHL. Here we are six weeks later and they're safely in a playoff position. The Blues have matched the longest winning streak in the NHL this season at 10, winning two games this weekend in convincing fashion. First, Jake Allen shutout the Avalanche, then Jordan Binnington shut out the Wild on a back to back. Right now, Binnington is as hot as it gets in the league. I don't expect this to continue, but for now, he's a must start every time out. I still view Allen as somewhat of a desperation play, but with how well the team is playing in front of him, I'm fine with streaming him for the time being. Looks like a coaching change was what they needed to right the ship. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
In the game of the night, a stealth Hart Trophy candidate led his team to glory. Johnny Gaudreau scored a hat trick on four shots in the 4-1 win in Winnipeg. Just like that, he's 5th in the NHL in scoring with by far the best shot rate of his career. Couple that with a career high shooting percentage and Johnny Hockey is well on his way to a career high in goals. I've generally been lower on Gaudreau than most, but this year he has proven me wrong. That line is among the best in hockey and Gaudreau is at the forefront. I don't expect him to slow down much in the second half making Gaudreau is a good bet to finish as a top 20 player in fantasy. Let's take a look at what else happened on Thursday night:
It wasn't that long ago that people were talking about a Stanley Cup hangover for the Capitals. Now, the defending champs have won 10 out of 12 on the backs of their captain, Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin recorded the 21st hat trick of his career on Tuesday extending his league lead in goals. He now has 25 goals and 14 assists in only 30 games this season to go along with 116 shots. That means he's below four shots per game, a rarity for The Great Eight, but still an elite rate. Sure, his shooting percentage is going to drop a bit, but there's no reason at all to expect a regression. I've seen a few articles on other sites that say you should sell high on Ovechkin, and I'd have to disagree. He gets drafted in the first round for his incredibly high floor, and nothing has changed to reduce that floor. Let the good times roll and enjoy what should be his eighth 50 goal season of his career. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Add another goalie to the list of guys who struggled in the opening month only to turn it around. Braden Holtby, the consensus #1 goaltender going into the season, showed us why this weekend with two big performances. Holtby saved 27 shots in Friday's 4-1 win over the Penguins and followed it up with 29 saves in the 2-1 SO win over the Oilers. Just like that, his save percentage is back to its normal level. Sure, the goals against average is still a little high, but goals are up around the league and it's not out of the realm of possibility it goes back down. With the massive win total as well, expect Holtby to get back to the #1 goalie by season's end. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
When Johnny Gaudreau underwent surgery for his finger injury, the expectation was that he was going to miss six weeks. Flames fans and fantasy owners had to be thrilled when he came back on Sunday in less than three weeks. The team did surprisingly well in the 10 games Gaudreau missed, mostly due to Chad Johnson between the pipes, but they didn't score than 3 goals in any game during that stretch. That changed in a big way Sunday night against a strong Ducks team. The Flames scored a whopping 8 goals beating the Ducks 8-3 with Gaudreau scoring the opener and adding an assist later on. He was finally playing well before his injury so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. We know that he's a top end player but the impact of his return will be felt throughout the lineup. More on those guys later in the Sunday section, let's get to the games!
The beginning is nigh! Yes my dear readers we’re drawing near to the start of the season so I won’t waste your time with a long blurb to kick this post off. I will say that this list is pretty comprehensive and if you can’t fill out your D based on this list you’re either playing in the deepest of leagues of you’re not very good at this fantasy hockey thing and should take up knitting. I covered as many guys as I could, but when I hit around the 65th rearguard there wasn’t much to say about the last ten guys so they became the honorable mentions. I guess that makes this a top 65 in some ways, but whatevs. There’s 75 names and sets o’ projections so I’m sticking to my guns. Plus, 75 sounds so much better than top 65, you know? As usual if I missed your guy or you have any questions, hit me up in the comments! At any rate, without further ado (there’s that word again), here are the 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Top 75 Defensemen:
Patrik Elias (3 A, 3 SOG, +2) was automatic at one point in his career, in fact he was almost always a sure thing and as recently as 2011-12 he was just shy of a point-per-game player. Fast-forward a few years and father time is finally catching up with Elias this season as he’s struggled to stay healthy and stay consistent. Still, a bad season for Elias means he’s going to top the 60-point marker by season’s end, even at his age, so he retains some value in most formats. Right now he’s absolutely on fire with 12 points in his last 10 games. Some speculate the recent birth of his second child has given Elias new life, and that might be true, but I think it has more to do with his pairing with surging rookie Adam Henrique (3 A, 1 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) instead. Henrique exploded after the Olympic break with 14 points in 12 games and that coincided with his being shifted to a line with Elias, so there you go! The trio of helpers he tallied last night serve as more evidence that he is going to keep producing, trying to get his team into the playoffs, so if you enjoy winning you might want to add Elias. It shouldn’t be hard if you’re a Yahoo player as he’s only owned in 58% leagues there, but sad news for you ESPN people, he’s at 100% ownership there. It’s kind of ironic that ESPN has all but abandoned any semblance of decent coverage for the NHL and yet their fantasy hockey system seems to be far more active than Yahoos. Not that Yahoo has been a pillar of support and good coverage for the NHL, but ESPN really has been that bad. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world of fantasy hockey yesterday:
Tomas Jurco (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +2) probably has the best hands in the hockey world. Don’t believe me? Have a look. It’s likely that Jurco doesn’t just have the best hands in the hockey world, he might be the talented young player out there right now and with all due respect to Tomas Hertl, he has the highest offensive upside, too. Last season he was fourth on the Sea Dogs in scoring despite missing 20 games and posted a ridiculous 13 goals, 16 assists, plus-24 in 16 playoff games. He earned the nickname “YouTube guy” because of his sick moves and it actually peeved him something severe. Not wanting to be a one-trick pony he has since stopped all the fancy-pants circus tricks with the puck and is now focused on becoming a complete hockey player. That couldn't be better news for the Wings and fantasy owners alike and so far it seems to be working. As the Wings battle a rash of injuries he’s making the best of his opportunity with a goal and an assist, plus-3 with eight shots in his first four NHL games. With hands like his you’d think he would be on course to be a sniper but he excels in just about every aspect of the game and shows flashes of a possible power-forward future and given the Wings’ struggles this season, it seems like it’s time to give the kid a chance to stick with the team, something he’s more than capable of doing. He’s an absolute must own in keeper and deeper leagues and worth very close scrutiny for standard leagues. He has the ability to be a top-six guy right now. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
Reid Boucher (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) is a pure sniper in every sense of the word and his shot is as quick as it is accurate, and it’s bloody quick. Last year Boucher potted 62 goals in 68 games for the OHL's Sarina Sting, breaking Steven Stamkos’ club record for goals in a season with 60 back in 2011-2012. How’s that for a pedigree? Dude’s leaving broken Stamkos goal scoring records in his wake on his way to the NHL. His nose for the prime scoring opportunities is not something that can be taught and he can’t be left alone for even a second in the offensive zone or the opposing team will regret it. It’s not all roses and rainbows for Boucher, however, and one of the big knocks against him is his size, or lack thereof. He stands at just 5’10 and around 194lbs and from what I’ve seen he tends to play with his head down a bit too often, which if you ask Pat Lafontaine about sometime, he, well… he probably can’t remember, but that’s kind of the point. His defensive game needs some work as well and that is always a bit scary as it will limit his TOI even as he develops. Still, the Devils think very highly of their young sniper and you might consider doing the same. He’s worth a flier in deeper leagues, totally worth owning in keeper leagues and a wait-and-see status for standard leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on a short night o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Sheldon Souray’s goal with 2:08 left in regulation lifted the Anaheim Ducks to a 2-1 win over Chicago and pulled the Ducks within three points of the top spot in the league. Please, blog, may I have some more?