Today, I’m going to look at all of the impactful offseason moves in the Western Conference. If you didn’t catch my post on the Eastern Conference, you can do that here. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Today, I move into the forwards section of my rankings. I'm going to go through the top 40 forwards overall, 18 of which were covered in my Top 10 and 20 posts (linked below). My plan for the rest of the week is to plow through 80 forwards before compiling a top 200 list to be out Friday for everyone's drafts over the next week. I'm sure this will be a long one so let's get to it!
The Panthers have won 11 in a row, and 14 of their past 15 games. There's been plenty of crazy games in this stretch that has them tied for the league lead in points. On Tuesday, they tied the game with less than four minutes left before they won it 20 seconds into overtime, and it was the usual suspects. Aleksander Barkov scored all three goals in the 3-2 OT win, with Jonathan Huberdeau assisting on all three goals. Barkov has a new career high in goals, 37, despite playing in only 63 games to this point. Additionally, Huberdeau now leads the league in points. Yes, that's correct, he leads the league in points. Both of them will be in the discussion to be first round picks in drafts next season. It's going to be great to see them in the playoffs, hopefully for longer than last time around. Let's see what else happened on Tuesday:
Every season, Kevin Fiala finishes on an absolute tear. This season, he's found another level. Fiala had a goal and three assists on Sunday against the Sharks, bringing his totals to 29+44 in 75 games with over three shots per game, all career highs. I've been driving the Fiala bandwagon forever, and I still think it could even get better. He's still only averaging 17:23 per game, a number that's low for a player of his caliber. The Wild have a massive decision this summer with Fiala. They will have to trade players away in order to be able to keep him, and it seems like Guerin has been hesitant to do that since he's taken over. What if Fiala goes somewhere and plays for 20 minutes on somebody's first line? To my amazement, Fiala is still only 25 years old. There are a lot of things that are working in Fiala's favor. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last few days:
It wasn't that long ago that Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade from the Blues. It wasn't that long ago that Tarasenko could have went to Seattle in the expansion draft. Now, St. Louis has to be thanking their lucky stars that he's still on the roster. Tarasenko had his biggest game of the season on Thursday, scoring a hat trick on four shots and adding two more assists in the 6-2 win over the Sabres. Tarasenko now has 31+41 in 67 games, with a great chance of setting a career high in points. It's a remarkable turnaround for the Russian who is certainly a top 100 player for drafts next season. I don't see him cracking the top 50, but it's great to see Tarasenko playing great hockey again. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I've been aggressive ranking Matthew Tkachuk for years, but I never expected this type of offense from him. Tkachuk had a hat trick on Tuesday, bringing his season totals up to 37+55 in 73 games. He has a chance for 100 points, he's +49, the PIM are strong, and his shot rate is over three per game. Tkachuk is pretty much having a Marchand-esque season. That's the Marchand who has been a top five player for the past 4-5 years. Now, I'm not quite going there with Tkachuk for next season. Gaudreau could leave and this is an outlier in terms of past performance. That said, he's firmly in the first round pick discussion because he smashes every category. I can't wait to see what he does in the playoffs. Let's take a look at what else happened the last two nights:
If I was going to pick a team to back up an eight goal game with a nine goal game, it would obviously be The Desert Dogs! The last few weeks have been very strange as a whole in the NHL, but this takes the cake. Arizona scored eight on Ottawa before scoring a nine ball, corner pocket on Detroit Tuesday. They were led by the one, the only, Nick Schmaltz, who had two goals and two assists in this game. That's 11 points and a +11 in two games! He's the best thing since Gretzky! While I like to joke, Schmaltz was on fire a week ago and then decided to get 11 points in two games. He clearly needs to be held for the time being. Let's see what else happened over the last two nights:
Who would have thought that a seven point game wouldn't get the opening? It would take something extravagant and that's what happened, with Jason Robertson scoring back-to-back hat tricks. R0bertson carried the Stars to victory on Friday scoring three on seven shots, including the overtime winner. He capped it off with an empty netter to seal the game against Minnesota on Sunday, totaling six shots and two PIM with his hat trick. That brings Robertson to a whopping 29+25 in 47 games and three shots per game. Robertson seemingly came out of nowhere last season to earn a second place finish in the Calder race. Now, the sky appears to be the limit. Robertson is still only 22 years old and has his center of the present and future already with him. It looks like the Stars have their new Benn and Seguin. They can only hope Hintz and Robertson reach that level, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. I don't think Robertson quite cracks the top 20 for the rest of the season and next year, but he's a slam dunk top 50 player. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Remember when the Kraken took Vitek Vanecek in the expansion draft and then traded him right back to Washington? Imagine where Washington would be if they only had Samsonov. Vanecek had a 36 save shutout in the 4-0 win over the Hurricanes. He missed some time recently, but Vanecek is approaching a 2.30/.920 line. He's been miles better than Samsonov despite Samsonov winning at a much higher clip. Amazingly, Vanecek is still available in over 70% of leagues at the time of this writing. I'm not saying that he's going to be a workhorse, but Vanecek will be splitting at the very least, and his numbers are clearly good enough to hold. This season has been quite encouraging for Vanecek's long term prospects as well. He's not a lock to be the Washington goalie of the future, but it's certainly in play now. At the least, he looks the part of a capable tandem. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
What's up, Razzball hockey nerds! I'm filling in for Viz this week, who's doing some traveling. Let's start off by giving some love to Tanner Jeannot. At the time of writing this, the dude is still only 47% rostered on Yahoo despite being the #94 overall player in standard formats. He brings massive value in the hits category, clocking in as the #4 forward (and #5 player) in that regard. But he's not your Clutterbuck or Reaves type who isn't scoring any points. Nay, Jeannot has 17 G and 14 A in 51 GP this year. On Tuesday, Jeannot netted two more goals on 3 SOG, chipping in a +2 rating and 6 H, which is a badass freakin line in a standard format. Oh yeah! And if you're a PIM-leaguer, Jeannot is elite there as well, with 87 on the year. All this from a 24-year-old I'd never heard of and who went undrafted, ultimately being signed by the Preds last year and appearing in 15 games. He's an every day-er now, and I think it's safe to say he's found a very comfortable home in the NHL. Here's what stood out over the last couple days of action:
Before this season, Tage Thompson was part of the punch line about how bad the Sabres were fleeced in the RoR trade. Amazingly, Thompson has come out of nowhere to play better than RoR has this season (although I'm sure the Blues are just fine with it, banners fly forever). Thompson was fantastic over the weekend, scoring a hat trick against the Avalanche before scoring a goal on four shots against the Blue Jackets on Sunday. That brings Thompson up to 20 goals and 18 assists in 47 games and over three shots per game. Thompson is right on the fringe although I lean towards grabbing him for now. Buffalo's next opponent? Montreal. Let me get some of that. Either way, Thompson's development is massive for the Sabres going forward. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Yes, the Sabres are still a bad hockey team, but the good news for long suffering fans like me, is there are finally some signs of hope. One of the best signs is how well the first line has performed since Tuch returned from injury after the trade. They single-handedly won the game for the Sabres on Sunday against Montreal, and it started with their highest paid player. Jeff Skinner was left floundering on the fourth line or scratched by Ralph Kreuger last season because, well, Krueger had no clue about coaching hockey. Skinner had one of the games of the season on Sunday afternoon, scoring four goals and an assist on six shots in the 5-3 win over the Canadiens. That bring Skinner up to 20 goals with 14 assists in 45 games. Is he worth his massive contract? No, but he's proving once again that he's still a damn good hockey player. I've had him on the fringe for a while, but I feel good about holding him now. His shot rate is back over three per game on the season so that's plenty good enough given his contribution in points. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend: