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:
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 21st stop on the 31 in 31 tour, we’re shuffling off to Buffalo to talk about the Sabres! 50 years of existence for the Sabres, and what a time it should be to be rooting for them. With some interesting offseason moves to add some much-needed depth, will this be the year Buffalo claws for a wildcard spot?
We're pushing through the halfway point today in terms of forwards as I get through the top 60. To see my posts for the top 40 forwards, you can check that out here. Let's get to it! 41) Jake Guentzel - Guentzel had his big regular season breakout with 40 goals and 36 assists last season. At first, I was a little hesitant to rank Guentzel this high, but now I feel really good about. One, he was stapled onto Crosby's wing all season. I don't expect that to change. Two, the shot rate took a huge jump forward in year three. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets to 3+ per game this year. Three, and the biggest thing, is that there's a spot for him on the first power play unit with Kessel's departure. Guentzel had only 6 PPG and 5 PPA last season. He could easily get to 20 PPP if he earns that spot in the preseason (his competition is Galchenyuk I guess?). Sure, we can't expect 17.6% shooting again, but I don't expect much regression getting to play with Crosby. I think Guentzel is a solid bet to get back to 40 goals again and boosts his assists to get up to a point per game. He should be a solid value at this point, especially if he falls between last season's 26 PIM and his 42 in 2017-18.
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!
On January 3rd, the St. Louis Blues were in last place of the entire NHL. Here we are six weeks later and they're safely in a playoff position. The Blues have matched the longest winning streak in the NHL this season at 10, winning two games this weekend in convincing fashion. First, Jake Allen shutout the Avalanche, then Jordan Binnington shut out the Wild on a back to back. Right now, Binnington is as hot as it gets in the league. I don't expect this to continue, but for now, he's a must start every time out. I still view Allen as somewhat of a desperation play, but with how well the team is playing in front of him, I'm fine with streaming him for the time being. Looks like a coaching change was what they needed to right the ship. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It's no secret that the Ducks are a mess right now. I said in a post last week that they're the worst team in the league at the moment, but last night's game took the cake. Getting shutout by the Senators is as low as it gets. Sure, Anders Nilsson played great stopping 45 shots, but a lot of them were low quality like the team taking them. This isn't a post about Nilsson, he's barely usable. This is a reminder that you should stream against the Ducks every time you get. Anaheim plays against plenty of bad teams this month (Vancouver 2x, Edmonton, Chicago) yet I still wouldn't hesitate to use any of their goaltenders. Take advantage of the Ducks every opportunity that you get. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
If you would told me before the season that the Canadiens would be in a playoff spot at the halfway point of the season, I'd have guessed that Carey Price was playing at a Vezina level Yet, here we are with Price struggling and the Canadiens succeeding. However, we've seen a few good starts lately from Price, with his best coming on Thursday. Price stopped all 33 Canucks shots in the 2-0 win over Vancouver. So what do we make of Price? Well, this game was the second of a back-to-back for Vancouver, who lost their rookie phenom, so I don't take much away from this. His other really good games were against Arizona and Chicago; not exactly powerhouses. I feel a little bit better about Price than I did before the season starting, but only to the point that I view him as a middling to bottom end #2 goalie. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
To say the season for Philadelphia as been a mess is an understatement. First they fire Hextall as GM, then the mess last week of Hakstol being fired as coach, only to still be the coach for a couple days as new GM Chuck Fletcher said no decision has been made, only for Hakstol to be fired anyways. They were in last place in the Eastern Conference on Monday when Fletcher decided to recall Carter Hart. The 20 year old is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the league, and he received his first NHL start on Tuesday. Hart saved 20 of 22 shots against the Red Wings getting his first career win by a score of 3-2. Look, I'm not saying Hart is a future superstar. Goaltending is extremely unpredictable and it seems like Philadelphia has been cursed in net for a while. However, he has as good of a chance as any young goaltender to be a starter for years to come. For that alone, he's worth grabbing in all formats, especially dynasties. Who knows how long that Fletcher keeps Hart on the big squad, but it seems like he should be up going forward. Either he plays so well they have to roll Hart, or they fall out of it completely and want to get him more playing time. There's no guarantee it's good now either, but I doubt another goalie with more upside will show up on the waiver wire later on in the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Eichel and Skinner are getting tons of credit for the great start to the season for the Buffalo Sabres, but Sam Reinhart isn't getting the love he deserves. Reinhart had five assists in two games over the weekend, extending his point streak to 10 and reaching 32 points in 34 games. I've long been a Reinhart supporter but this jump is to an unprecedented level. The former second overall pick does all of the little things so well and this year, he's finally being rewarded for it. I don't see why he can't get 70+ points come season's end. His goals are actually down from last season and with how well the top line is playing, there's no reason why Reinhart can't end up pushing last season's total of 25. He was always expected to be a playmaker going back to his junior days and now, he might set a new career high in assists by New Year's. If you're in one of the 25% of leagues that Reinhart is still available, go grab him immediately. For those who own him, I would definitely hold tight and enjoy the breakout. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
All of the people who have read me since I started writing here three seasons ago (it's going by quick!) knows how big of a fan I am of Dr. Bo Horvat. In a game where the Canucks were massive underdogs in Boston, Horvat led the Canucks to a major upset, scoring two goals and two assists with four shots and six PIM in the 8-5 win over the Bruins. That brings Horvat's totals to an outstanding 9+6 in 17 games with 19 PIM and around 2.5 shots per game. All of the attention is going to Elias Pettersson, and he deserves plenty of it, but Pettersson's arrival finally puts Horvat in a role that he can thrive in. Yes, Horvat has been fairly luck to this point in terms of on-ice shooting percentage, but he's doing the heavy lifting and still producing plenty offensively. The question isn't whether Horvat is a hold or not, it's how high his ceiling is. I don't see a top 50 player, at least not until his linemates improve, but with how the Canucks are playing, he should be a top 100 player. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights: