Semyon Varlamov missed Saturday’s game because of taking a shot to the jaw in warmups. The good news is that he was back on Monday, and the better news is that he did exactly what he did in the season opener: get a shutout. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Things have changed quite a bit with goaltending in the NHL since I started writing at Razzball. When I started, there were tons of workhorses with very few teams using a platoon. Now, more than half of the teams have a duo where the backup is getting at least 1/3 of the starts, if not a complete split. Among the few workhorses that we have left, there are only six that I completely trust to be a #1 goalie this year. I am breaking down all of the goalies in the NHL into tiers (and ranking them within in each tier), but be sure to understand how your league format can change the value of certain players. For example, if you're in a head to head league, Marc-Andre Fleury is going to be more valuable than in a roto league because the volume should be there. In a roto league where you have a set number of starts, someone like Ilya Sorokin, who, barring injury, should start 35-40 games, gets a boost because the quality of starts matters a lot more than volume. If you have specific questions, ask them in the comments section, but I'll have a quick note on everyone when necessary. Let's get to it!
While he's not getting the attention that he received in Vegas' inaugural season, Jonathan Marchessault has quietly had a terrific campaign. His best game came on Wednesday, where Marchessault had two goals, two assists, and five shots leading Vegas to a 5-2 victory over the Sharks. This let Vegas become the first team to clinch the playoffs this season, something that has been a formality for months already. Marchessault now had 13 goals and 22 assists in 46 games, along with a +12 rating, 37 PIM, and 147 shots. In other words, he's a plus across the board with elite PIM and a strong shot rate. At 30 years old, Marchessault has shown no signs of slowing down. He's getting easier matchups now which is helping him thrive on the second line. He looks every bit of a top 100 player going forward, with the upside of being top 50 if he has some shooting luck in a season like he did in his one season in Florida. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Things have taken a dramatic turn for the fourth playoff spot in the West division. With the Blues crumbling, Arizona has played its way into the fourth spot. They opened up a three point lead on Sunday night, almost exclusively because of Jakob Chychrun. Chychrun had the first hat trick of his career, tying the game late in the third before scoring the winner in overtime. That gives him twelve goals on the season pushing towards three shots per game and with elite penalty minutes. He's a solid #2 for this season, but what's the long term ceiling? Chychrun just turned 23 years old and this jump in shot rate does a lot for his long term value. In terms of dynasties, Chychrun has shown me enough this year to warrant a spot in the bottom of the top ten for defensemen, making him a #1D. He's a stud, plain and simple. Arizona has been a surprise offensively, and a lot of it has to do with their kingpin defenseman. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Mika Zibanejad was looking like the biggest bust of this season near the halfway point. Well, it's changing pretty quickly and amazingly, it wasn't the Sabres that turned it around. Last week, Zibanejad had three goals and three assists against the Flyers. It was so fun that he did it again eight days later! On Thursday, Zibanejad doubled down with his second natural hat trick and six point game in rapid succession against Philadelphia in the 8-3 win. That brings him up to 10+16 in 32 games, not exactly lighting the world on fire, but within reason. He's still over three shots per game, so while a repeat top 20 season is out of play, a top 50 season is still within reason. As I said at the time, Zibanejad is prone to huge hot streaks, and I think 17 points in 7 games qualifies. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Sure, it's on the basis of playing two more games than Washington, but the Islanders in first place in late March is a truly remarkable feat. Yes, they did make the Conference Finals last season, but in this division, they were not expected to contend for first place. Goaltending is going a long way for their success, and their future is starting to become more of the present. Ilya Sorokin saved 36 of 37 shots in the 2-1 OT win over the Flyers on Monday night. That brings Sorokin to 8 wins in 11 games with a 1.97/.922 stat line. That's elite right off the bat for the rookie which has led Sorokin to starting four games over the past two weeks. Semyon Varlamov's numbers and Sorokin's are nearly identical and for now, Trotz seems content to split between the two of them. Long term, Sorokin is one of the best goalies for fantasy hockey, granted he's a 25 year old rookie. That said, he's playing enough right now that I would own Sorokin in all formats. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
The hype surrounding Kirill Kaprizov was building for a few years before he came to the NHL. Even with the lofty expectations on his shoulders, he's played at a level higher than anyone expected. On Friday, Kaprizov scored a hat trick on eight shots with two PIM and a +4 rating. He followed that up with another eight shots on Sunday, adding an assist and two penalty minutes. I wrote about a month ago that I expected Kaprizov's shot rate to take a big jump as the season progressed based on his shooting totals in the KHL. Well, sixteen shots in the past two games brings him over 2.5 per game, an average rate for a forward. Add in being just under a point per game and we can basically call the Calder race now. I'm not convinced that it's going to get better in the future as Kaprizov will be 24 by the time the regular season ends, but either way, he should establish himself around a 30+40 pace in a normal season with slight upside on both of those numbers. Kaprizov is definitely a top 50 dynasty asset, but I don't think he pushes the top 25 long term because the penalty minutes will be low and more importantly, I don't think he gets to be a 3.5-4 shot per game guy because he's too good of a playmaker for that. Either way, if you're lucky enough to have him, enjoy it because there's nothing fluky about his performance. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Nothing helps getting your season back on track like playing against the Buffalo Sabres. Carter Hart has had a really rough go of it in the opening month of the season, but on Sunday, he looked to turn it around in Buffalo. You'd think that after the Sabres were shutout 3-0 on Saturday that they would come out firing on Sunday. Nope. Hart stopped all 28 shots he faced, most of the routine variety, to beat the Sabres 3-0. Brian Elliott only needed to make 23 saves on Saturday as the Sabres are in complete disarray. As I always say, goalies are voodoo, but I'd be stunned if Hart doesn't make a jump towards being a #1 fantasy goalie again. If you can buy low on Hart, I would try to do so. The fact that the Flyers are 11-4-3 despite Hart's horrible start shows you what kind of upside the team has. Elliott should be streamed every time he starts as his save percentage is over .930 in his eight games. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It's time to get rolling with my fantasy hockey rankings. Instead of starting with my top 10 and going from there, I'm going to be starting with goaltenders today, defensemen Tuesday, and then forwards and my top 200 by the end of the week. I will be ranking the guys in order, but I am putting more focus on tiers than the exact rankings of players. I will be writing in detail about guys that I aggressive with in my rankings, either because I like them a lot or also don't want anything to do with them. Let's get to it!
At the time of his injury, Victor Olofsson was leading rookies in points. That's not to say that he was the Calder favorite because he certainly was not, but he was in the race, albeit in the third spot. Sadly he missed 15 games, but he picked up right where he left off. Olofsson scored two goals on Thursday, including the game winner, in the 4-3 OT win over the Blue Jackets. That gives him 18+19 in 43 games, a great season from my favorite preseason target for my last pick in drafts. Sure, the PIM are non-existent and the shot rate is slightly below average, but Olofsson has lived up to expectations. He's an old rookie at 24, but he should get a bit better going forward. His role as a PP1 sniper and top six winger is locked in going forward and his chemistry with Eichel is outstanding. If he was dropped in your league, grab him immediately. Let's take a look at what else happened on Thursday: