Amazingly, the Ottawa Senators were one goal away from making The Stanley Cup Finals last season. It was a simple formula: have the best defenseman in the world on your team, a hot goaltender and nice forward depth (only one forward had more than 11 points in their 19 playoff games). This year, they bring back the entire core from last season while adding a couple veterans and at least one, potentially two elite young talents. There is clear room for improvement given that the Senators actually had a negative goal differential last season. It's fair to say that Ottawa overachieved last season but it's also fair to say that their run wasn't a complete fluke. For fantasy, their team is very much like real life. They have one elite player, solid forwards and a goaltender that can carry you for stretches or bury you. Let's take a look at what Ottawa is working with:
As a Sabres fan, I thoroughly enjoy the dysfunction of the Ottawa Senators. When I look at them from a neutral point of view, they're incredibly frustrating. The Senators have arguably the best player in the NHL in Erik Karlsson in his prime and have done a horrible job filling out the rest of their roster. They have made brief playoff appearances in recent years but last year's 85 point season is about what they can expect again. The Sens will struggle to remain in the playoff race barring a revival between the pipes or a surprise breakout or two. That said, they have some quality fantasy pieces that are worth discussing so let's get to it!
Hey guys! The season starts in two weeks, so I wanted to power through these rankings so you have them in time for your upcoming drafts. I am going to keep the comments to each player shorter than in the past unless it's someone I feel most would be surprised at the ranking, but as always, feel free to ask anything in the comments section below. I will do these rankings through the top-200 and then have a separate post coming up for players that I like the most outside the top-200, mostly for upside reasons because that's what you're looking for with your last few picks. Let's get right to it!
Before the season started I was not a big fan of Roberto Luongo (W, 32 SV, 1 GA, .970%). I mean, I like Lu and think he's a stellar tender, but I figured his chances of a solid year with the Cats were somewhat slim. I mean honestly, it’s the Cats. Yes, they are chock full of young talent, but they’d been garbage for so long and their defense so porous that I expected Lu to return to his old stomping ground and face about the same volume of shots he did in days gone by. An aging goalie returning to face a montain of shots on a young team doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for success, now does it? Well, apparently I was wrong. Since their opening night implosion against the Devils the Cats have really pulled themselves together and have been playing some seriously solid 5-on-5 defense. Their forwards are back-checking like whoa and in general they’re able to disrupt some of the better offenses in the game. Dare I say I’m even impressed? Oh, I dare. I’m impressed. Flordia currently sits at 14th in the league in shots against per game allowing 30 a night and Lu is more than enough goalie to handle that kind of workload and put up solid numbers doing it. With that said this endorsement comes with a word of caution. Florida is indeed very young and while they are currently seventh overall in goals against per game allowing just two a tilt they’re second to last in goals per game with 1.5 per, 23rd on the power play and 28th on the Penalty Kill. Those numbers do not bode well for Lu getting many wins. If the defense holds up his peripherals should range from solid to sparkling despite the lack of wins, so, I guess it really is like he’s back to his old tricks in South Florida, eh? So I was kind of right, anyway. Just the wrong kind of right. Right? Hmn. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
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, it 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:
Heading into this season all eyes were on rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 1 SOG) of the Caps and why not? The big Russian seems to have all the tools he needs to be an offensive powerhouse in the NHL. He showed some serious chops in his time with the KHL, but we all know that has to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I fully expect he’ll break the 40-point mark this season, however, Kuz isn’t the only rookie worth knowing about in D.C. this year. Lost in all that Kuz hype is a dynamic Swede on the verge of a breakout and his name is Andre Burakovsky (1 G, 2 SOG, +1). I blame myself for not mentioning him earlier, I should have, but he slipped my mind so I’ll do it now. Well I already did it. In fact I’m in the middle of the mention at this very moment, and so are you! Trippy, man. I digress, Burakovsky is an offensively gifted pivot in the mold of Henrik Zetterberg, who coach Barry Trotz compared the kid to just the other day. The comparison might seem pretty lofty, but when you break down the kid’s bona fides it starts to seem pretty accurate. Last season Burakovsky lit the OHL up in his first go at North American hockey scoring a gaudy 87 points in 57 games for the Erie Otters. He followed that up by posting seven points in seven games in the World Junior Classic-20 division and then 14 points in 14 games in the U20 (all) International Juniors. Damn, that’s sexy. Do I sense a new mancrush coming on? Mayhaps! There’s plenty of room in my hockey heart for another and this young man is a leading candidate. He’s a strong skater with a remarkably high hockey IQ that will serve him well as he adjusts this season. Couple that with a sick wrister and the top six minutes he’s going to be getting and what does it all add up to? Me adding him in every keeper league, that’s for sure. He’s worth owning in standard leagues while he’s scoring too, and with five points in five games so far he’s doing just that. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Yesterday I preached the virtue of patience, as in have some and don’t give up on guys after two or three games. There is no buy or sell high right now, at least not for the sane, because we’ve only just begun to rumble this season and the chips need to fall before we make the right calls. Next up on the “Don’t freak out, freaks!” front is Carey Price (L, 19 SV, 4 GA, .826 SV%) who has been struggling out of the gate so far this season. He coughed up 4 goals on 23 shots before getting yanked in the second in favor of Dustin Tokarski yesterday. Toker promptly gave up 3 more goals on 18 shots, so Price owners shouldn’t feel too bad. I don’t think anything went right for the Habs last night, honestly. Steven Stamkos victimized Price first on a nearly impossible angle shot for his first goal, then potted one on a break away after Victor Hedman hit him tape-to-tape on a sweet stretch pass and again for a third time on a booming slapper from the top of the circle on the man advantage. So take Stammer out of the game and Price only gives up one goal! That’s good, right?! Price isn’t typically a slow starter so 10 goals allowed in his first three games is a bit unnerving, but there’s not much you can do if you own him other than ride this out. He’s just too good to keep being this mediocre for long. I won’t recommend adding Toker as a handcuff quite yet, but I might have had he come in and done well in relief. He didn’t, so I won’t and I expect Price will get the next start for the Habs. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Beau Bennett (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) is an intriguing option that many folks have likely long forgotten. Once upon a time Bennett was slated to start the season on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and everyone’s favorite player James Neal. Say what you will about Neal (I do!) but that was a choice place to land for the youngster who had everything to prove and the skills to do it. Well, he broke his damn hand, or his wrist, or some such nonsense that kept him out for most of this season and now he’s back, healthy, and has the space to play. Malkin’s down, so he won’t be playing along side the big Russian, but Bennett has points in three of his last four games with two goals mixed in for flavor. He’s only seeing around 12-13 minutes of TOI right now, but that’s enough for him to leave a mark and considering the Pens have locked up their playoff spot, I don’t see any reason they won’t let Bennett roam freely over the next week or two to get him up to speed for the post season party. All that adds up to him being a pretty viable scoring option for those in need whilst chasing those sweet sweet league championships. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
It’s not often that a second year defenseman ends up on the top pairing for a cup contending team, but Dougie Hamilton (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, +2, 2 PIM) broke that mold and earned a place along side Zdeno Chara (1 SOG, even) on the Bs top pairing for a few games in a row now and the results have been very positive at both ends of the ice. When asked about his new weapon on the blue line Bs head coach Claude Julien had nothing but glowing remarks for Hammy’s performance of late; “He’s been good. He’s been steady. He’s moved the puck well. He’s got good vision. He’s got good size, good reach. This is a player that with time will get stronger. He’s a big body. He’ll get stronger. He’ll probably be more impactful than he is right now. But his game has been really good. I think he’s handled it well.” All of this bodes well for his chances of staying on that pairing moving forward, and that also bodes well for his ability to give you those tasty blue line points down the stretch. “Bodes” sounds like a word a sufer would use, doesn’t? “Oh man, Hammy’s gnarly bodes rocked last night!” Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too family safe. Hmn. Anyway, Hammy contributed in just about every way you could hope for as a fantasy owner and given his choice new home next to Chara, you can expect more of this moving forward from the rookie defenseman. So far he has 18 points in 44 games which puts him on pace for around 28 points in 66 games by season’s end and I think it’s probably that he’ll hit that mark, so look for another 10-15 points from Hammy, so if you need help on your blue line down the stretch here’s a great option as he’s only owned in 12% of ESPN leagues and 26% of Yahoo leagues. Anyway, here's what else I saw in the world o' fantasy hockey last night:
Going into this season one of the bigger questions in goaltending was who would start for the Devils; perhaps the greatest goalie of all time or Cory Schneider (2 GA, 14 SV, W)? Sounds like an easy call, right? I figured it’d be Schneider. Why else did the Devils bring him in but to grab the torch from Martin Brodeur and run with it? And had anyone seen this guy play in Vancouver, stuck behind Roberto Luongo? It was a bittersweet symphony that Cory conducted, showing that he was all too capable of handling the starting job somewhere. While Marty is a legend, he’s over 40 and most guys don’t last until they’re 40 so don’t get me started on being productive in your forties. So I drafted Schneider everywhere, and as the season started and Marty came out of the gates hot my heart sank. Still, I stuck with Schneider and preached you do the same as often as it made sense, secretly hoping Brodeur would break down and Schneider would get his chance, and ho ho! It has happened. Schenider has started 10 games this month after only seeing a combined 16 starts in the first three months of the season. What’s more, he’s been absolutely stellar, Vezina worthy, with a season line that now sits at 10-10-7/ 1.87/.926/3 compared to Brodeur’s 13-11-4/2.52/.899 line. Marty’s implosion against the Rangers in the Stadium Series game his grip on the starting job had completely slipped away. Now Marty is saying he wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils traded him. Oh come on, old man, what’s this? A pity party?! I doubt very highly the Devils move him, but it’s safe to say Schneids is the man for the Devils moving forward. I said it before, Ill say it again, if you have a question that starts with “Who do you like ROS, Cory Schneider…” and you can stop there, the answer is always Cory Schneider. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: