James Neal opened the season on an absolute tear, a stretch that included a four goal game. He fell off dramatically over the last two months, but he had another massive game on Tuesday. Neal had a hat trick and an assist in the 7-5 win over the Rangers. So should we care? I mean, the Rangers are a disaster defensively. And the answer is... yes and no. What great advice! It all comes down to your team needs. Neal has been excellent on the power play and should continue to do so on Edmonton's first unit. The goals are going to keep coming in. On the other hand, he's -23 and has only eight assists on the season. If you're desperate for goals and power play points, or are in a league with extra categories that include PPG, then there's a case to hold Neal. Otherwise, I would prefer to stream him so he doesn't tank my plus-minus while also giving less assists than any other fantasy relevant player. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last three nights:
Loyal Razzballers know that I've been a big fan of Juuse Saros for a while. He's had a tough start to this season, but I still believe in the player long term. Saros was less than two minutes from a shutout on Tuesday, making 24 saves on 25 shots in the 2-1 win over the Sharks. His overall numbers are still poor, but the Predators have started to tighten up defensively. Saros is still only 24 years old and is one of the best long term goaltending prospects. Saros is starting to see even more action starting five of the last eight games. There's real upside here so if you need goaltending help, I'd grab him now. Additionally, I would try to get him in a dynasty league before he boosts his value back up. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Life without Couturier hasn't been as good without Claude Giroux. He started the turnaround on Thursday night. Giroux scored two goals and two assists with three shots and two PIM in the 5-3 win over Carolina. That brings Giroux up to 17 points in 22 games, not exactly lighting the world on fire, but the shot rate is the best of his career. 75 shots in 22 games is a huge step forward, and if that continues, we could be looking at a new career high in goals. Yes, he only has 7 to this point, but we could be on the verge of a heater. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I wrote in this space two seasons ago that Nathan MacKinnon deserved the Hart Trophy. While he didn't ultimately win, he's been one of the best players in the league for a few years now. Right now, he's making a legitimate case again in the early going. With both of his star linemates injured, MacKinnon has continued to dominate. His best game yet came on Thursday, where he scored a goal on ten shots and added three assists. In his last four games, he has 34 SOG! MacKinnon now has 9+13 in 16 games with over five shots per game. We haven't seen a shot rate like this since prime Ovechkin. Obviously there's a long way to go, but MacKinnon has a great chance to finally get to 100 points this season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
The gap between Brad Marchand and the rest of the league right now for fantasy hockey is incredible. Marchand scored five points on Monday, tallying two goals and three assists and a +4 rating. It's nothing new, but the first line in Boston has managed to find a way to get even better. Marchand is crushing every category with 10+18 in 15 games with a +13 rating, 28 PIM and 41 SOG. He's as good of a bet as any to finish as the #1 player in fantasy this season. Honestly, he'd be my pick as long as he avoids a lengthy suspension. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
While general sports fans were watching playoff baseball (Go Braves!) or Sunday Night Baseball, hockey fans saw one of the best performances of the season take place on the first weekend. Anthony Mantha scored four goals on eight shot, including the winner in the last minute of the game, to beat the Stars 4-3. This comes after an incredible performance in his season opener in which he scored a goal and two assists with five shots and four penalty minutes in the upset win over Nashville. In both games, the players on the top line were at or above 20 minutes each. That's extremely encouraging for their long-term success. Obviously we're not expecting Mantha to be a top 25 player all of a sudden, but the potential is there for 30 goals, 50 PIM and a very good shot rate. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
We're at the end of individual rankings! Almost 15,000 words later, we've ranked the top 100 forwards and 40 defensemen. Now, we conclude that with my goaltending rankings. I'm going to start by talking about my goaltending strategy for drafts, then split the goalies into tiers. I'm not going to go in-depth on every goalie, just the ones that I feel are worth talking about, mostly because I'm higher or lower on somebody. The reason I don't want to go very in-depth on every goalie is that the variance on goaltending from season to season is massive. In other words, even the best goalies have poor seasons from time to time, and guys will come out of nowhere to have excellent seasons. Did anyone know who Jordan Binnington was a year ago? The public certainly did not. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss were afterthoughts for most. Darcy Kuemper was the backup and wasn't drafted outside of deep leagues. Those goalies were the 3rd-6th ranked goalies at the end of the season. This is why I never draft goalies in the first two rounds, and never more than one in the first 7-8 rounds. If you like to have one presumed top end goalie, that's fine, go for it in the 4th-5th rounds if they're still there. Just do not reach, because the range of outcomes in goalies is incredibly wide, while forwards and defensemen are much more certain. Any other questions on this, let me know in the comments section below. Here are my tiers:
Hey guys! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2019-20 fantasy hockey season. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to streamers, deeper league holds, even to rookie-eligible prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season. Last year my previews went alphabetically, but this year we’re going to go division-by-division, starting with the top team. On our 18th stop on the 31 in 31 tour, we’re crossing the border again to stop in the 6ix – What’s up Leafs Nation? After the monster signing up Johnny T last summer, the Willy hold-out and re-upping Matthews for five years, the time has come to pay Mitch. GM Kyle Dubas has bobbed and weaved thus far, and I am sure they will get something figured out soon. That being said, there are 19 other Leafers to talk about!
One of my favorite late round gambles on the blue line this season was Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson played 35 games last season and has 16 points and two shots per game. That doesn't sound great, but that was with zero power play time and limited minutes. Keith and Seabrook were falling off a cliff giving Gustafsson prime opportunity. He took advantage of it and then some. Gustafsson dished three assists on Monday night while putting a shot on goal and adding 4 PIM. That brings Gustafsson up to a whopping 17+42 with 34 PIM and almost exactly two shots per game. That's with 18 STP, a number which could be higher if he played on PP1 all year. So what do we make of Gustafsson for next season? Well, it's early to say. I think these numbers are mostly sustainable as long as Chicago doesn't add a PP specialist in the offseason. I don't expect them to with the young guys they have coming, especially Jokiharju, but there's always a chance. Gustafsson looks like he'll be a solid #3 next season, possibly a bottom end #2. The goals will probably come down a bit, but 40+ assists should be a near lock with Chicago's style and strong PP, and he's average in PIM and shot rate. If he's going to be better, it's because he takes a few more shots. Let's take a look at what else happened on Monday night:
For those of you doing well in your head to head leagues, this is the most important post of the year. This is my annual playoff manifesto where I break down every team's schedule for the last four weeks of the season. I tell you who are the best teams and players to stream from, who you should look to trade for or away if your deadline hasn't passed, and it allows you to plan ahead with ease. For those who haven't read it in the past, the numbers in the parentheses are how many games the team plays in each of those weeks, with the last number being the last week in the season and preceding accordingly. This is going to be a massive post so let's get right to the 2019 Playoff Manifesto!