It's no secret that coming into the season, I loved the best players on the Jets. While the team itself is of to a mediocre start, the forward in my top 50 that I was highest on compared to consensus was Mark Scheifele. After a monstrous second half last season, I wrote repeatedly how much I liked him for 2016-17 and dynasties going forward. It was evident looking at Fantasy Pros where I was 16 spots higher than anyone else and 19 spots above consensus, quite a margin for a player who I had ranked 32nd overall. Well, it's been a terrific start to the season for Scheifele and it continued over the weekend. On Friday, Scheifele had a goal, two assists and two shots while being +3 in the 5-3 win over Detroit. He followed that up with a goal and an assist with two shots and +1 on Sunday despite the Jets losing 5-2 to the red hot Rangers. That gives Scheifele a total of 7 goals and 7 assists in 13 games with a +5 rating, 10 PIM and almost 3 shots per game. It puts him easily in the top 20 skaters on the season in the player rater and is making me look smart! I salute you, Mr. Scheifele. With the workload that he's receiving, I have little doubt that he will produce going forward at an elite rate. Let's take a look at what else went on around the league over the weekend.
Hey everyone! We are only two days away from the season starting and the preseason is in the books. Today, I'm going to take a quick look at all 30 teams in regards to lines, injuries and surprise players who may make the team. Players officially have to go down by Tuesday so there will be a little guess work on my part for the last couple guys to make the roster but at least for standard leagues, nearly everything is clear at this point. Let's get right to it!
It's hard to say a team that finished in 7th place in their division with 84 points overachieved but I'd argue that the New Jersey Devils did just that. Amazingly, they were in playoff contention for the majority of the season until their all-world goalie Cory Schneider went down with an injury. The Devils had plenty of surprises among their forwards while their defense is as bad as it gets from a fantasy perspective. Will their forwards repeat or was last season a fluke? Let's take a look!
On Wednesday, one of my streamers for the day was Beau Bennett with his recent promotion to the first line. Well, Beau knows! Bennett buried two goals on six shots in the Penguins win over the Oilers. He's available in almost all leagues and I'd look to stream him again tonight against the Kings. He has a ton of upside that he's shown in flashes in the past and if this role sticks, this streamer could turn into somebody you keep on your roster for the rest of the season. Here's what else I saw the last two nights:
At this point, it's no surprise when Jamie Benn has a big night. You almost expect it against Carolina even though he was pointless in the previous three games. Well, it happened on Tuesday with Benn scoring his league leading 19th goal on his only shot of the game with three assists. He's now on a 120 point pace for the year with 39 points in 28 games; I don't know if it's crazier that he's on that pace or that he's not leading the league in points (more on that later). Bottom line is that last year's Art Ross winner is proving that it was no fluke. Here's what else I saw on a busy Tuesday night:
As far as fantasy disappointments go for this hockey season, Evgeni Malkin may have been right at the top going into this week. In 17 games, he had 12 points, which is far below his normal standards. On Tuesday, Malkin single-handedly beat the Wild, scoring two goals and adding two assists in the 4-3 win. Now, 16 points in 18 games with 18 PIM and a +5 doesn't look as bad. One more big game and Malkin is back to his normal levels. I assume this game kills the chance to buy low but I'd look to add as many of the top Penguins as possible in trades; you can't keep these superstars down. Here's what else I saw on Tuesday night:
After missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, the Sharks have started off this season on fire winning their three games by a 12-1 aggregate score. The fact that the Sharks have scored 12 goals in 3 games isn't surprising; they have a lot of firepower and are bound to have streaks like this. The stunning part is that they've given up 1 goal in 3 games and the credit goes to Martin Jones. Back to back shutouts against the Ducks and the Capitals for a goalie entrenched as a full-time starter for the first time is nothing short of impressive. It remains to be seen if the Sharks keep it up and to determine if Jones will wear down being a workhorse for the first time but enjoy the ride while you can. Here's what else happened on Tuesday night:
In just his second full season with the Rangers 23-year-old power forward Chris Kreider, LW (1 G, 7 SOG, +1) burst out of the gates strong and quickly faded, often looking lost on the ice. His decent culminated with a demotion to the Rangers’ fourth line, a destination that Kreider is none too familiar or comfortable with, and following that he was a healthy scratch. The Rangers claimed it was a neck issue, but it was clear to everyone he was just getting scratched. It was clear that the sophomore was listless on the ice at times, bereft of the passion and drive that had propelled him to early playoff success two years ago and a hot start this season. Kreider hadn’t lost it though; he was suffering through the death of his Grandfather, and admitted that his heart just wasn’t in it during that difficult period. Well, that period is over, and he’s currently riding a three game point streak posting four points (2 G, 2 A) over that span. He enters the all-star break riding high, showing every sign of finishing this season with a bang and breaking out in a big way next year.
If you are among the many owners who benched Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 54 SV, 0 GA, 1.000%, SHO) and David Backes, C (4 G, 6 SOG, +2) take some solace in the fact that it was the right call. It might sting, but don’t second-guess yourself here. Before either guy found some semblance of their 2014 selves on Wednesday night they were hot garbage with a side of crusty old gym socks so there was no reason to put either of them in your lineups. Generally the rule of thumb is to always, always start your big names. You drafted them, you can’t trade them and if there’s nothing better on the wire, you just slot them in and live or die with your decisions. But both Varly and Backes have been so bad this year that you almost had no choice but to bench them. With performances this good it begs the question whether or not either of them has found their stride for a big second half, but I’m sorry to say that neither is poised for a big run and neither of them has earned the right to be regularly inserted into your lineups moving forward, either.
I figured that Brian Elliott would eventually tire and leave the window open for Jake Allen to step up and steal the job, but I never imagined that Elliott would get hurt this early in the season. Obviously it’s not because he’s tired, but an injury is an injury and Allen is now the starter while Elliott nurses his LBI back to health. Elliott is currently week-to-week and if you pair that with the dreaded knee injury for a goalie, that’s not a good sign. To make matters worse, the Blues quickly contacted Martin Brodeur for a tryout that I’m almost positive he’ll pass. Even if he does, Marty is 42 and he hasn’t been much more than solid in a few years now, so Allen should remain the starter barring some freak happenings. Grab Marty where you can, but only expect backup minutes at worst and a 50/50 timeshare at best. The St. Louis crease isn’t the only crease that’s looking out of order lately, Tampa’s Ben Bishop, G (W, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) is working his way into a similar pickle. Bishop is young and extremely talented, so I’m not super worried about his early heavy workload, but it’s going to worry me more and more as the season goes on. Evgeni Nabakov is clearly not the answer to backup Bishop, and I was hoping Stevie Y would give Marty Brodeur a call to fill the roll but that ship has sailed so Big Ben still stands tall but alone in the Tampa crease. We’ve seen how well putting the pressure of literally being the only goalie on the roster the team can depend on has done to Cory Schneider in New Jersey, I’m getting worried the same will happen with Bishop before long. It’s not all bad news though, at least for Alex Stalock owners! Antti Niemi, G (L, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) is still mediocre and did very little to make the case that he’s the undisputed no. 1 in San Jose while Stalock was out recovering from minor knee surgery. Even better news for Stalock owners, he’s skating with the team, says his knee feels great and is once again ready to take this starting job from Niemi. It could be that Stalock was suffering from a bum wheel to start the year and now that it’s taken care of, he could be even better upon returning. Stay tuned. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this week: