Here's what I said about Jonathan Marchessault in my season preview of the Florida Panthers: "Jared McCann and Jonathan Marchessault are the two Panthers I can see taking a late flier on in deep leagues... Marchessault scored 18 points in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season despite averaging only 12 minutes of ice time per game. When Tampa was hit with injuries, Marchessault filled in admirably. If Florida was hit by the injury bug, I could see both of these guys becoming relevant in 12’ers; for now they are potential waiting for their chance." And that's me quoting me! Well, Florida did get struck by the injury bug and while McCann didn't provide much value this season, Marchessault certainly did. The return of their two best players hasn't hurt Marchessault at all. In fact, it's helped him on the power play. He recorded his first career hat trick in the 7-0 win over the Blackhawk, which also included four shots and four PIM. That brings Marchessault's totals to 28+20 with 34 PIM and 2.5 shots per game in 67 GP. Not bad for a guy the Panthers signed for $750k for this season and next. The Panthers have an interesting offseason ahead to determine how their forward core is going to look next season. Regardless, I think Marchessault is worry of a late round pick next season. I don't think there's more upside than what he's doing this season but there's no complaints with a 34+25 per 82 games when he's not hurting you elsewhere. I expect the Panthers to be back in the playoffs next season with Marchessault providing some nice depth behind the big guns. Let's take a look at what else happened this weekend around the league:
After two years of being in the basement of the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres made a large improvement in 2015-16. They finished one game below the NHL's version of .500, finishing with 81 points. This coming season, the Sabres should be ready to make a push for a playoff spot, especially considering that they are in arguably the weakest division in the NHL at the moment. At least that's what I'm hoping for being a Sabres fan! Let's take an in-depth look at the Sabres current roster and a few of their top prospects for those of you in dynasty leagues:
Throughout the season, J.T. Miller was one of my favorite streamers. The former first round pick who will play on the North American team in the World Cup of Hockey had 22 goals and 21 assists in the regular season with a solid plus-minus and penalty minutes; it was only his lack of shots that kept him from being a hold all year. Miller had his first big playoff game on Saturday dishing three assists and adding a shot and two PIM in the 4-2 win over the Penguins. There's upside for a better year next season (he just turned 23) so I'd look to take Miller with one of my last picks in drafts in the late summer / early fall. Here's what else I saw around the league this weekend:
For most of the season the New York Islanders rotated what seemed like every one of their young forwards through the open slot on their top line alongside Kyle Okposo and NHL scoring leader John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG), but no one stuck. Then out of nowhere Okie’s eyeball broke off and he needed emergency surgery to fix the problem because, hey, everyone needs working eyes and if they didn’t put him under the knife then there was no chance he’d return this season. Well, the news out of Long Island today is good! Okie is traveling to Florida to skate with the team tomorrow morning ahead of their Saturday tilt with the Cats and that means he’s very close to returning to game action. That’s great news for Okie and JT owners, but in Okie’s absence Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) and Josh Bailey, RW (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) have played well, but one of them is going to get demoted when Okie returns and I highly doubt it will be Lee.
Dustin Byfuglien started at forward, shifted to defense and now it looks like he's back at forward for the foreseeable future again. Leafs sophomore defenseman Jake Gardiner (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) has taken the opposite path, having shifted from wing to defense, but lets hope the comparison stops there and the back and forth that the Jets are forcing on Buff doesn’t end up happening to Gardiner. Regardless of what might happen, it was a good call to shift Gardiner because before the move he was a middle-tier forward at best, but on the blue line he’s got some serious offensive upside. What’s that sound I hear? The ring rang o’ the cash register, because this kid’s going to be money for fantasy owners very soon. Of course the big question is how quickly can he adapt to the new position at the NHL level? The answer is quickly! Even better, he already has! It helps that he was a good two-way forward to start, so he already had solid defensive chops or this experiment would likely have never taken place this late in a guy’s career, even though his NHL career has basically just started. But I digress, Gardiner is adapting quite well to his new role as evidenced by a solid rookie campaign back in 2011-12 when he put up 30 points (7 G, 23 A, -2) in 80 games. So far this season he has 16 points in 49 games and sits even with plus/minus. Not bad at all! When you project out over 80 games he’s looking at 26 points powered by seven goals, which is actually slightly lower than what he put up as a rookie, though I think he’ll have a minor surge sometime in the second half that gets his points total over his rookie season benchmark. The bottom line is this kid is good and getting better and he could be a top-four defenseman as early as next season, so if you are looking to plan ahead for your keeper league consider keeping Jake the Snake in your plans. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists to pace Pittsburgh in a 5-2 win over Washington. Pittsburgh scored all five goals in the second period en route to its fifth straight win. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Patrick Sharp got hurt against Detroit because he was either A) slashed by Jiri Hudler or B) fell hard on the ice during a penalty kill. The one thing we do know, which by the words being used means we know nothing, is that he has an upper body injury and will be out 3-4 weeks… (Sigh, Gasp, Yell)… The good news however (if you own Sharp) is that I have not heard any mention of the “C” word and seriously doubt we will. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Make no mistake, the new NHL realignment will be dominating hockey media for the next few days. I gotta admit it’s a pretty radical change in the structuring of the league. Please, blog, may I have some more?
I have to admit that in every Columbus Blue Jackets game I hope for Grant Clitsome to get a hat trick. When a name provides comedy on its own, it makes my writing that much easier. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Just hours before the game with Phoenix Pekka Rinne hit the jackpot and signed a 7 year, $49MM contract to stay in the hockey hot-bed of Nashville, Tennessee. He then proceeded to make management look good by pitching a Shutout against the offensively challenged Coyotes. Please, blog, may I have some more?