This past offseason there was plenty of intrigue and surprises to go around for everyone; however, the biggest fantasy news and most intriguing of all surprises was Phil Kessel getting traded to Pittsburgh. The rich got richer, and the immediate benefactor of Toronto ridding itself of its "problem children" is the Penguins' power play unit. It was only 8th in the NHL last season with a 19.3% conversion rate, but that was a down year in the Steel City after finishing in the top position the previous year. This could be a flashback from the 2000-01 Penguins team, which had five of the top 29 league scorers with Mario Lemieux at #29 tallying (76) points and (16) power play goals in 43 games. Go ahead and get 76 points in today's game and you'll get $8 million per season for your troubles. That first power play unit consisted of Mario, Jagr, Kovalev, Martin Straka and Robert Lang. While the thought of this year's version has me at half mast already, the proof will be in the pudding or net. With all the options available to head coach Mike Johnston, he has to be tent pitching as well, while opposing coaches are having nightmares on trying to figure out how to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz and a healthy Kris Letang as a possible power play unit one, if they stay healthy for once. That was the Penguins' Achilles Heal last year, man games lost, but a return of Pascal Dupris from blood clots, a healthy Patric Hornqvist and steady David Perron makes this one very skilled and very scary team. Anyway let's get to the business of my 2015-16 Fantasy Hockey Top 12.
We are only a few days away from the trade deadline and the first big trade piece is off the market. The Jets moved their captain Andrew Ladd and sent him to the team they acquired him from in 2010, Chicago. The Blackhawks paid a massive price for the rental sending a first round pick, a conditional third, and Marko Dano. If you remember in the preseason, Dano was my favorite sleeper after he came on strong at the end of last season in Columbus. With Bryan Little out for the season, I expect Dano to be in Winnipeg right away. If that's the case, he's immediately worth consideration in 12'ers because his upside is through the roof. Ladd will go on the first line in Chicago on Jonathan Toews' wing which is also a big boost to his value. This is another trade, like the Columbus and Nashville blockbuster, that is a win for all players from a fantasy perspective. Here's what I saw on the ice the last two nights around the league:
It's isn't rare for a goalie to steal a game in the NHL. That said, I don't think anyone does it more than Roberto Luongo does. Luongo puts up crazy 35 save performances with regularity and on Monday, Luongo posted a 39 save shutout against the Lightning, winning 1-0 on an Aaron Ekblad goal with 21 seconds left (I told you to target him yesterday!) The Panthers were outshot 39-20, the Corsi was 55-34* Tampa and had only one player have a positive Corsi in the game, yet Luongo shut down the Lightning and stole two points for the Panthers. His numbers on the season are about what you'd expect, winning half the time but with a solid goals against average and an elite save percentage. His owners have to be happy so far with his overall performance and thrilled with the great start to the week. Here's what else happened on Monday night:
In my preseason defenseman rankings here, I included a detailed breakdown on why I liked John Klingberg so much for this season. Almost everything I said has come to fruition. Klingberg is definitely a top 10 defenseman next year and is going forward this year, the Stars power play is amazing, he's well on his way to double last year's 12 power play points (he has 10 already) and with 20 points in 18 games, he's well on his way to getting 60 points. He's also exactly at two shots per game so there's no limit to how good Klingberg can finish this season. On Saturday night, Klingberg was involved in all 3 Stars goals, assisting on both goals in regulation before scoring the winner in overtime. He's the #1 defenseman so far this season based on ESPN's player rater, which isn't perfect by any means, but it illustrates just how good he's been. I'd say the number 10 overall player and 5th best skater is even better than what I thought his best case scenario was. I hope you drafted him on some teams because you won't be able to acquire him now. Here's what I saw in the games this weekend:
As far as regular season games go, Blues versus the Blackhawks from last night was one of the best games I've seen in years and definitely the best from this year. The Blackhawks were incredible offensively scoring 5 goals in the first only for the Blues to tie it up in the 2nd period at 5! Then Vladimir Tarasenko took care of business in overtime to earn a big two points for St. Louis early in the season. Tarasenko, who ended with a goal, assist, one shot and +3 with a -13 Corsi, was one of 7 Blues and 11 players total in the game who had two points; that's simply absurd. Let's take a deeper look at this game along with the other three games from Wednesday night:
I've made my fair share of bold predictions and statements this year on Razzball but this one might be the boldest of them all; Tyler Seguin is the best hockey player in the world. No, not Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. Instead, it's a 23 year old who was drafted by the Bruins second overall only to be shipped to Dallas because they thought he partied too much or they simply don't like guys who have a lot of talent. On Tuesday night, Seguin returned to Boston and scored a hat trick on six shots. He also had an assist and eight shots Monday night in Toronto, the team who could have drafted Seguin but they traded that pick to Boston for Phil Kessel who is no longer in their organization. He's up to 20 points in 13 games, tied for the league lead with his linemate Jamie Benn (Goal, two assists, six shots, two PIM the last two days). He also has 60 shots in 13 games which is at an Ovechkin-like level. Bottom line, he's the number one player for me going forward. Man am I pumped to have the Stars to win the Cup at 66-1! Here's what else I saw the last two days:
This weekend, we saw some amazing statlines from players around the league, including 3 hat tricks. Mats Zuccarello scored all 3 goals for the Rangers in a 3-1 win over Toronto on Friday, all assisted by Derick Brassard and Rick Nash. Long time fourth liner Dale Weise had a hat trick on Friday against Calgary and added an assist on Sunday, totaling eight shots between the two games. In the battle of Alberta on Saturday, Michael Frolik scored a hat trick on seven shots. Going forward, Zuccarello is obviously must own. I still wouldn't own Weise in leagues unless it's a super deep league where you include hits. Frolik is an interesting case. On one hand, those were his first three goals of the season. On the other, he now has 8 points in 12 games, is close to 3 shots per game and is now in the top six. I'd call him a streamer in 12'ers for now since he isn't getting much power play time but if he starts to get it, things will change. Here's what else happened in an action packed weekend...
If it wasn't for a late injury last season, Tyler Seguin would have almost certainly led the NHL in points. Instead, his teammate and linemate for most of the year, Jamie Benn, won the Art Ross trophy. Stars coach Lindy Ruff put newly acquired Patrick Sharp on the wing with Seguin and Benn the last two games, and there were immediate dividends. On Saturday, in a 4-2 win, Seguin had 2 goals and 2 assists, Benn had 2 goals and an assist and Sharp had 2 assists. If these three stick together, and there's no reason to expect them to be separated, they're going to be the best line in hockey this season and carry the Stars back into the postseason as a legitimate threat. Here's what else I saw this weekend:
As a Sabres fan, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. After two years of tanking, they ended up with Sam Reinhart and more importantly, Jack Eichel. In the Sabres first preseason game, Eichel showed why he was worth tanking for scoring a shorthanded goal and adding an assist. Sabres coach Dan Blysma has Eichel currently slated to be the second line center with multiple 30 goal scorer Matt Moulson and burgeoning power forward Zemgus Girgensons. It's a great situation for Eichel to thrive, even as an 18 year old. I currently have Eichel at 51st overall (rankings here) and I feel great about having him ranked higher than anywhere else. The combination of speed and power that he has at such a young age is incredibly rare. In dynasty leagues, I'd have him ranked after the big 7 and McDavid. Bottom line is: Teams usually play half of their starting roster in one preseason game and the other half in the next so it's tough to come away with major takeaways from preseason. That said, it could be very telling as to who will play on what line which has a major impact on players' value. Let's take a look at who had a big impact over the first three days of preseason:
At just 18-years-old Aleksander Barkov, C (1 A, 4 SOG) was the selected second overall in the 2013 draft by the Florida Panthers with high expectations. The hulking play making pivot out of Tampere, Finland did not disappoint in his first season on big ice putting up a line of 8/16/24/+10 in 54 games. That might not sound great but given the team he played for you could probably adjust those numbers up to something in the ballpark of 12/25/37/+15 in 54 games on a decent team. Fast forward to this season and he opened up with lots of injuries and garbage play posting just six points (2 G, 4 A) over the first three months of the season. Don’t let that deter you from adding him for scoring help down the stretch, though; he’s white hot lately and only getting better with each passing game.