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:
On a Thursday night that lacked in big performances in comparison to recent weeks, Tyler Toffoli's night was probably the best. In the dominating 4-1 win over the Red Wings, Toffoli found the back of the net twice on three shots and added an assist with two penalty minutes. That brings Toffoli's totals to 7 goals and 12 assists in 29 games with almost three shots per game and an elite +14. It's a significant decrease in goals for a 23 year old who buried 31 last year. Toffoli was one of the most polarizing players in preseason, at least to me because I had him ranked much lower than other experts (97th overall, highest rank was 29th, nobody else lower than 69th). It's nice to see the assist rate and shot rate up and apparently he'll be able to post a +20 or better every season of his career but Toffoli will need more games like this where he finds the back of the net to come anywhere near his 59th overall ADP. Can it happen? With the minutes his line is getting and with how much the Kings depend on his line for offense, definitely. I'd be a bit surprised if it happened though because the goals will probably come at the expense of assists and the penalty minutes are non-existent. Toffoli is a great example of a player who is better in real life than fantasy. That's not to say he's a dud in fantasy, he's a top 100 player, but Toffoli should be mentioned among the best young snipers in the game more frequently than he is. Let's take a look at what else happened around the NHL on Wednesday and Thursday night:
I live in Canada, eh. And what I saw here on election night, and now post-election, was a country shaken to the core in absolute disbelief at how the American election turned out. If that’s how we as a nation are collectively feeling, I can’t imagine how high emotions are running on the other side of the border right now. I’m sure last night’s result cut a lot of social network friend lists in half, for starters. But I’m here to say, for better or worse, dammit man, we have hockey.
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.
It hasn't even been two weeks since the regular season started and the hat tricks are already piling up! On Saturday, we had our most recent hat trick in Calgary as new Blue David Perron scored a hat trick on six shots and added an assist in the 6-4 win for St. Louis. Ken Hitchcock shuffled the lines before the game and the biggest beneficiary was Perron getting to play with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz. Obviously it worked out better than anyone could have imagined. Perron was horrible to start last season in Pittsburgh but took off in Anaheim so there is fantasy potential here. For now, if I had room, I would grab Perron just to be able to stream him on Tuesday to see what happens. The Blues play the Flames again who are a complete dumpster fire defensively at the moment so it's an excellent spot for Perron to produce and there's a chance he turns into a hold. Let's take a look at what else happened around the NHL this weekend:
Everyone who reads this space knows my love for Brent Burns. His beard brings about a magisterial power that guides him on the ice. The Sharks played on Monday and Tuesday to open the week and their all-world defenseman delivered. In Monday's loss to the Rangers, Burns scored two goals and an assist with seven shots. He followed it up with 2 assists and three shots against the Islanders putting him in the early league lead for points. Burns and Erik Karlsson are in a class of their own right now among defensemen and should battle each other season for top dog status on the blue line. Here's what else I've seen around the league the last two nights:
In my season preview for the Chicago Blackhawks, I projected that Richard Panik would be the new player that slides into the Blackhawks' top 6. "Panik should get a chance in the top 6 because quite frankly, the Blackhawks don’t have anybody else. He could be a decent streamer but I can’t expect anything more from the 25 year old." And that's me quoting me doing what Grey does! In the long term for the season, I still think that'll be the case, but for now, Panik is must-own. After scoring in the season opener, Panik had an assist on Friday and came back with a hat trick on four shots on Saturday, both against the Predators. He's getting power play time right now and with 5 points in 3 games, Panik should be held for the time being as he rides the hot streak. Here's what else I saw this weekend around the NHL:
When players get interviewed before their first game, they always give the same boring mundane answers. "I'm focused on keeping things simple out there." "I'm just going to play my game," etc. They dream of scoring a goal in their first game. Well, Auston Matthews did just that in his first game. And then he did it again. And again, and again. The first overall pick from this year's draft became the first player in NHL history to score 4 goals in his debut, doing so on 6 shots playing 17:37 against the Senators. And the Leafs still lost! Man, they are horrible. Everyone is going to overreact to this game so I'll be the one to say that you need to lower expectations. Yes, there will be flashes from Matthews but like any rookie, consistency will come and go. He also won't get to play a team as hopeless defensively as the Senators are again any time soon. There's no doubting that Matthews will be a superstar but in the fantasy realm that we live in, don't think he's going to be a top 50 player this season or anything outlandish after one game. Here's what else happened around the league in the first two nights of the season:
Man, the Kings could be in trouble very soon. Yes, they still have their superstar players but the roster gets thin very quickly. They were absolutely destroyed by their rival San Jose in the first round last season and it shouldn't come as much surprise. The Sharks neutralized their top 6 and killed the Kings with their depth. While the actual team has question marks because Dean Lombardi can't fill out a roster (just his team USA decisions), there are still plenty of fantasy studs on this team along with a couple interesting players. Let's take a look at what they're working with:
So I’m in this one league that drafts way too early each year. On top of that, it’s an email draft that typically takes up to 3 weeks to complete. And it’s deep. Very deep. Twenty teams, with 20-man rosters. So why do I torture myself year after year, with this slow-as-molasses-and-way-too-soon draft? Because it preps me for all the others I will take part in leading up to the season. They’re still playing World Cup games, for crying out loud. How is anyone supposed to be ready for this?