It was quite the weekend for last season's Calder Trophy winner. Mathew Barzal entered Friday's game against the Senators with five goals on the season, and he matched that in two games. Barzal scored two goals and an assist against the Senators before scoring a hat trick against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. That brings Barzal up to 10+25 in 37 games with solid PIM and an improved shot rate. He's still only 21 years old so clearly the best is to come. For the rest of this season, I think he's just inside the top 50 now that his shot rate isn't far from average. If he can eventually get that up towards three a game, it's game over. Barzal has top 20 player upside down the line; hopefully the Isles get some more talent around him. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
We've gone without daily notes for five days due to Razzball crashing for a short period of time. The good news is that the problem is fixed and that we are backed! I'm not going to go through every single game over the past five days because at this point, some of it would be outdated. I'm going to go through each team in the league and write a little bit about each of them. Let's get right to it!
The Minnesota Wild had an excellent regular season in 2016-17, their first under Bruce Boudreau, finishing with 106 points. Unfortunately for them, they had another first round exit, this time as a prohibitive favorite against the St. Louis Blues. I was all in on the Wild last year in the regular season strictly because of Boudreau; the man is as good as it gets behind the bench. Arguably my biggest call of the year, having Devan Dubnyk 40 spots higher than ADP, worked out perfectly as Dubnyk finished as the #3 overall goalie. With a few players breaking out and others finding their form again, the Wild remain a very interesting team for fantasy purposes. Let's take a look at the plethora of options Boudreau has to work with:
There comes a point in the season where teams are desperate for their superstars to carry them towards the playoffs. That time is now and it's happening in Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucherov has been spectacular all season but he had his best game Monday night scoring a hat trick on seven shots and adding an assist in the 5-1 win over the Senators. Look how remarkably similar all three goals are: He now has nine points in his last three games and twenty-five shots on goal over the pats four. Kucherov is producing points at the fourth highest rate in the league this season (min 20 GP) and sits as a top ten forward on the season despite missing some time. I had him as a high second round pick going into this season but he's been ever better than that. I expect to have Kucherov ranked as a first rounder going into next season and given that he's still 23 years old, we may not have seen the best from him. Let's take a look at what else has happened in the game around the league the last two nights: NOTE: There is a separate post going up regarding trades that will be updated throughout the trade deadline. For instant analysis, go here
The Minnesota Wild are one of the most interesting teams to watch this coming season. They have a strong older core that is supplemented by an up and coming young group ready to make a consistent impact. Their defense is among the best in the league and they have a goaltender who has settled in as a true #1 goalie since his arrival. Add in the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, one of the best coaches in the league, and you have a team that could surprise in the best division in hockey (and it's not even close). Let's take a look at what the Wild are working with from top to bottom:
After Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 24 SV, 1.000%, SHO) was dealt to the Wild I took a deeper dive into his numbers and quickly jumped on the bandwagon and you should too. Since joining the Wild Doobie is 6-1-0 with a 1.48 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage with three shutouts. Obviously those aren’t sustainable numbers, but given his season line now sits at a robust 15-6-2/2.35/.923 in 27 games and taking into account he’s amassed much of that line while playing for the woeful Coyotoes, that’s pretty damned impressive. Hell, those numbers would be impressive anywhere, but for some strange reason people aren’t flocking to pick him up before it’s too late. Owners in CBS leagues know what’s up and he’s owned on 60% of teams there with Yahoo clocking in at 53% and ESPN way behind the times at 41% owned. These numbers are about as ridiculous as Doobie’s. There’s no way he shouldn’t be owned just about everywhere by now, so if you need help in the crease you should definitely go ahead and pick him up. Don’t be shy. I know his time on the Oil might have you looking at his name on the wire and rolling your eyes, but don’t pass on him this season, you’ll regret it. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
The Arizona Coyotoes did a strange thing yesterday when they traded their best goalie, Devan Dubnyk, to the Wild for a third round pick. On the surface this might sound like a fairly yawnstipating deal. The Wild are getting killed in goal this season and it’s one of the few parts that don’t work for them, but adding a guy who has a career GAA of 2.88 might seem like the wrong direction to take to fix those woes, but if you take a deeper dive into his numbers you’ll find a goalie who has been burned by playing on some of the worst possession teams in the league for his entire career, and this season is no different. With Niklas Backstrom clearly past it and Darcy Kuemper both injured and clearly not ready to handle a starter’s workload, Dubs will get every opportunity to win the starting job right now and that means if you need help in the crease, he’s is definitely worth adding.
I’m not a fan of shootouts. I think they belong in the All Star Skills competition, not playing a critical role in determining who goes home with two points and who goes home with regrets. In a sport where individual achievement is only possible through teamwork we’ve boiled down deciding games to a one-on-one competition that’s antithetical to the very nature of the game. A game where who you play with and the chemistry you have with those players has as much impact on your chances for success as your individual skill does. Why does it have to be this way? Do the fans really prefer shorter games this much? How often do teams really go into double OT anyway? Bah. If thats the worry, lets adopt the AHL's new three-on-three OT rules and watch the fun! Of course this rant is brought on by the longest shoot out in the history of the universe last night between the Cat and Caps. Twenty rounds this circus went. Roberto Luongo, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) stood tall and man was I too harsh on Lu in the preseason; he’s been fantastic all year. He must really love living in Florida. I digress, on the other side of this madness was Braden Holtby, G (L, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) who took the loss but not because he played poorly. He held his ground for 19 rounds until he finally cracked and gave one up to Nick Bjugstad (1 SOG) in what was Jugs’ second attempt of the night. Why second attempt? Because the Cats ran out of people to take the bloody shots so they had to give him another go. Ugh. This proves who the better team was last night how, exactly? And of course this wasn’t the only shootout of the night, the Wings and Jackets needed one to decide their game too. Shootouts are so bunk, man. They're about as useful as FoxTrax. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Yesterday I brought big Anthony Mantha to your attention and said you should keep an eye on him as he’s on the rise. Well, there’s another kid you should get to know that’s already on big ice and lately his star is rising fast. Nick Bjugstad, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +1) is on a roll with seven points in his last three games including multiple two goal games giving him six goals in his last seven games. In fact, he has nine points in his last eight games and these totals aren’t unexpected. He started the season slowly, but at just 22 years of age and one full season under his belt that’s not surprising. It was only a matter of time before he started producing, and here it is. Can he keep it up? Absolutely. Just like Mantha he’s a big boy at 6’5”, 215lbs and he knows how to use his big frame to create space and opportunities for himself. Clearly he knows how to cash in on those opportunities as well bringing a heavy, accurate shot to the table in his big bag o’ tricks. He’s not just big; he’s strong too often winning battles along the boards. With exceptional on-ice awareness and vision he rarely finds himself out of position. Lately he’s playing with fellow prospect Jonathan Huberdeau (2 A, 4 SOG, +1) and veteran Brad Boyes (+1) so it’s a solid line for him to grow on. I don’t expect more than 50 points from Jugs, but he could beat that mark if he and Huber gel like the Cats hope they will. In any case, he should be added in all keeper leagues if he was on the wire and in deep re-drafts as well. It may not be long before he’s relevant in all leagues, so like I always say, get it while the gettins’ good, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Seven years ago Kris Versteeg, RW – (1 G, 2 A, +3, 7 SOG) started his career in Chicago with high hopes and what seemed like a higher ceiling. Initially all the signs looked good; he notched 20 goals in each of his first two full seasons and ended up with 53 and 44 points in each season respectively. Despite the slight drop-off in production many expected a breakout season in 2010, but alas, it didn’t happen. In what would become a theme for throughout his young career Versteeg went down with a knee injury. Over the next few seasons he struggled with more knee problems and after failed stints in Philly and Toronto he landed in Florida where it looked like he regained his form setting a career high in goals with 23 and points with 54. Again, a breakout was expected the following season and again knee problems knocked him down, but if Kris Versteeg has shown us anything in his time on big ice, it’s that you can knock him down but he’s going to get right back up. Fast forward three more years and it’s 2014, Versteeg’s knee is doing well and since joining a line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane he’s been scoring to the tune of five points in his last four games. You might pause in terror seeing Richards’ name here, but he seems to have found a home on this line and he’s is scoring too, so worry not for now. Vertseeg might leave a lot of owners gun shy after years of disappointment, but he was battling knee issues that prevented him from, you know, skating properly. Those knee problems seem solved for now and the talent was always there, so if you want in on a guy who could score 60 points and 25 goals on the cheap, now’s the time to buy in. I already did. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in the world o’ fantasy hockey: