The Florida Panthers were the biggest surprise of 2015-16 as they went from near the bottom of the league to winning the Atlantic Division.  They entered last season with lofty expectations but an injury-riddled season saw them miss the playoffs.  Despite last season's disappointment, the Panthers enter this season as a favorite to get back into the playoffs.  Their young core remains intact but there are plenty of new supplementary pieces around them instead of Jonathan Marchessault and Jaromir Jagr.  They have no superstar fantasy players but there are plenty of top end talents and intriguing pieces.  Let's take a look at the Florida Panthers roster for the 2017-18 NHL Season:
In these parts, we're a big supporter of the Jets for fantasy hockey. Going back to when I started writing here, the Jets love started with Blake Wheeler. An unheralded superstar, Wheeler has never received the credit he deserves for his consistent level of play. Another year goes by and it's another year where Wheeler is pushing the top ten overall forwards. Wheeler continued his recent hot streak with a goal and two assists with two shots in the 3-2 win over the Flyers. That brings his totals to 22+41 in 73 games with 43 PIM and 230 SOG. The safety he provides is the main reason why I ranked him 21st overall in the preseason and it looks like Wheeler is going to reach that value. So where will he be next season? He's going to turn 31 before next season starts which means he's likely to start marginally declining as he exits his prime. However, his quality of teammate is going to continue to improve as the rest of the Jets core moves towards their prime. Is he going to be worth a second pick again? It's going to be pretty close but at the least, Wheeler will be a high third round pick. I don't see him falling outside of my top 30. Let's take a look at the action around the league the last two nights:
Remember how poor Max Pacioretty was playing the first six weeks of the season? Despite the incredible start from the Canadiens, Patches was struggling to find the back of the net, mostly due to his shot rate falling off a cliff. While he's not at his normal levels, he's back over three shots per game and on Tuesday, Patches had a huge night. He scored on all three of his shots leading the way in Montreal's destruction of the Sabres. All of a sudden, Pacioretty is tied for second in the league in goals (at the time of this writing) being a plus contributor in all categories. While he's not pushing the top 25 like he was a couple years ago, Patches is firmly in the top 50 going forward. Here's what else I saw around the league on a massive Tuesday slate:
Hopefully everyone's holidays went extremely well. The only thing my weekend was missing was hockey so I'm glad that things will be back tonight. I haven't updated how things went on Friday's games so here goes nothing. In my preseason rankings, I wrote the following about Charlie Coyle: "Coyle had a big second half to get over 20 goals and 20 assists for the season. Now, he’s going to be on the first line which should dominate the possession game. The shots need a slight boost but he’s a good bet for 25+25 or possibly slightly better." First line, check. Possession game, not quite dominant but still above average so still a check. Slight boost in shots, check. Good bet for 25+25 or slightly better, check. Coyle had a monster game on Friday scoring a goal and three assists with four shots in the 7-4 win over the Rangers. That puts Coyle at 12+15 in 33 games with just over 2 shots per game, 22 PIM and +13. Instead of 25+25, we're potentially looking at 30+35. Coyle is currently the 30th ranked forward and while I had him in my top 150, his consensus ranking ended up over 40 spots later. Hopefully he ended up being one of your last couple picks like he was for me in a bunch of leagues because he's been terrific and I don't see it slowing down. Here's what else happened on Friday night before the break:
I certainly didn't think I'd be writing about Peter Budaj at any point this year. After all, he played in a whopping one game over the past two seasons combined. Alas, we're here in December with Budaj being a major talking point of the NHL season. After Jonathan Quick went down, the expectation was that offseason signing Jeff Zatkoff would get the majority of the starts but when he went down as well, Budaj stepped in and has kept the job. He had arguably his best two performances over the weekend. Budaj posted a 39 save shutout in the 1-0 OT win over the Penguins before making 29 saves on 30 shots in the 1-0 loss in Boston. Budaj is currently #12 in the ESPN player rater among goalies making him a bottom end #1 or elite #2. With the news that Quick is going to be out until at least March, it's Budaj's job going forward. Despite that, Budaj is still available in over 40% of leagues. Can I explain it? No, not one bit. If you don't already own him and he's available in your league, grab Budaj. Let's take a look at everything that happened around the league the last three nights:
During last season, it looked like Eric Staal's career was on a steep decline. While he's still not close to the player he was in his prime, the 39 point season he had in 83 games in 2015-16 looks to be a thing of the past. Staal moved to Minnesota this offseason on a three year deal to center the first line and it's no surprise that Bruce Boudreau has helped revitalize his career. On Thursday night, Staal led the way for the Wild scoring a goal and two assists with six shots on goal being +3 in the Wild's 4-2 road win over the Penguins. That boosts Staal's totals to 5 goals and 6 assists in 12 games with almost 3 shots per game. He's shown an amazing ability to stay healthy throughout his career leading me to believe he has a pretty good chance to reach 60 points again. As the frequent readers know, I'm a big fan of the Wild's chances of success, at least from a regular season standpoint, and Staal is a big factor in that. For now, Staal should be considered a borderline top 100 player who should remain a clear hold for the entire season; I would not try to sell high on him. Let's take a look at what happened around the league the last two nights:
I said on Friday that I don't like leading off with the same person back to back, let alone the same month. Well, Devan Dubnyk deserves to be the lede again with his third consecutive shutout on Saturday stopping all 29 shots against the Stars. For those of you who own Dubnyk in weekly head to head leagues, congrats on winning the goaltending categories this week! Three starts, three shutouts for my most frequently owned goaltender, go me! In the big picture, this doesn't really change things for me; Dubnyk is a #1 goalie and will continue to be so. While it matters less in fantasy hockey (it still has an impact for streaming and matchups), this shows me that the Wild are for real this season. I harped on it in the preseason and on the podcasts (mostly the over-under) but Bruce Boudreau does amazing things for hockey teams. I'm sure we'll be talking about it on Tuesday's podcast. Anyways, let's take a look at everything that happened around the league this weekend.
The Dallas Stars surprised a lot of people last season winning the Central Division with 109 points. They made it to the second round of the playoffs losing in 7 to the Blues without superstar Tyler Seguin. Now, there's hope that last season was just the beginning. While the forwards remain loaded, there are additional question marks on defense now and they still have the goaltending duo that led to their demise. Let's take a look at what they're working with:
The Florida Panthers were the biggest surprise of last regular season, riding breakouts from their elite young talent along with the resurgence of some veterans to win the Atlantic Division. Despite bowing out in the first round, last season's success has the Panthers facing the most pressure they have in years. Many consider them as a sneaky Stanley Cup contender this year. They have plenty of fantasy options at all positions worthy of our attention so let's take a look at their roster: