It certainly hasn't been consistent on a game to game basis but T.J. Oshie's overall production can't be denied. He had his best game of the season on Wednesday with two goals and two assists (one shorthanded, two power play points) with three shots in Washington's 7-1 beatdown of the Penguins. That brings Oshie's totals on the season to 8 goals, 2 assists, 10 PIM, +10, 6 STP (4 PPP, 2 SHP) and 37 shots in 16 games. The big games have been there; 10 of Oshie's points are in his 4 multi-point games while he was 2 in the other 12. If he starts to put some games together, which I expect with the Capitals power play due for a hot streak, Oshie owners will get a guy who easily settles in the top 75 with the potential to push the top 50 if the plus-minus keeps progressing. Here's what else I saw around the league the last two nights:
The first few weeks of the season, Connor Hellebuyck was a polarizing figure in the fantasy hockey world. He made the Jets roster and was clearly the best goalie but Hellboy was struggling and splitting starts. Plenty of people were asking me if he was worth rostering and justifiably so. Well, things no longer look to be a mixed bag after the last week of games. Hellebuyck has won 4 straight starts allowing no more than 2 goals in a game. His best performance came last night recording a 27 save shutout at home against the Blackhawks. Hellebuyck is getting massive offensive support right now and the defense is gradually improving in front of him. At the end of the year, I believe he will finish as a top end #2 goaltender with the expectation that he will be a #1 in 2017-18 and beyond. Here's what else I saw around the league in a very busy Tuesday night slate.
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:
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?
Last season, the Nashville Predators won a playoff series for the first time since 2012 beating the division champion Ducks before losing to the Sharks in 7 games. The first blockbuster trade for Ryan Johansen gave the Preds a bonafide #1 center while still maintaining a strong defensive core. Then in the offseason, David Piole pulled off one of the most lopsided trades ever acquiring P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Now, the Predators are absolutely loaded and if Pekka Rinne has one of his good years, they're among the favorites to win the Cup. Let's take a look at what Peter Laviolette has to work with:
At this point in the season players start to break down and injuries tend to be more frequent. You may have suffered through the loss of guys like Jimmy Howard or Pekka Rinne recently so you’re keenly aware of the sting that comes with losing all-world players giving you all-world seasons. The increased likelihood and frequency of injuries means adding the right replacement at the right time is critical to the overall success or failure of your season, so you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot when your studs go down. When Howie tore his groin picking up his understudy Petr Mrazek, G (4 SV, 3 GA, .571%) was a no brainer and after three strong starts since taking over as the starter for the Red Wings, last night’s breakdown against the league’s worst team might make you want to send the talented young tender packing back to the wire, but if you do you will be making a big mistake.
Backup goaltenders are among the most important players to track over the course of the season if you want a real chance at winning your league. Like closers in fantasy baseball or running backs in fantasy football, goalie turnover can be rather high due to injuries, poor performance or trades, so knowing whom to own before they get their shot is key. What’s more, the idea of the “no. 1” goaltender doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of games started. In the past, 70-75 games for a starter was not unheard if your team is lucky enough to have a Tuukka Rask or Corey Crawford between the pipes, but these days it’s much smarter to limit even the elites to around 60 games started. Even with a guy who can start 70ish games, it does more harm than good to roll your starter out that many games during the regular season leaving him too exhausted to perform up to snuff in the playoffs, when it matters most. The need for teams to strike a good balance between riding their work horses in net and giving them a break leaves open a wealth of opportunity for fantasy owners to exploit.
Only able to break the 50-point mark once back in 2010-11 suddenly Alexander Steen is keeping pace with Ovie atop the league leaderboards and the biggest question in everyone’s minds is “Will it last?” My first instinct is to say no, it won’t. The biggest indicator that the Steen Goal Scoring Express is soon to derail is that his shooting percentage sits at a whopping 25.3%. Lets be realistic here, no one is going to score a goal once every four shots over the course of 82 games so expect that number to drop closer to his career average of 9.9%. Beyond his established personal averages, just 37 players in the history of the NHL have finished with a shooting percentage higher than 25% (100 shot minimum) and I think it's reasonable to say Steen will not become number 38 this year. It's not just the high volume of shots that are leading to Steen's early success, though, his Corsi numbers have long shown him to be a critical cog in the puck possession game and that keeps him in the mix for chances more often than not for the Blues. Unfortunately, outside of his inflated shooting percentage he isn’t doing much different than he has in previous seasons. His TOI numbers remain mostly consistent with previous years both at even strength and on the powerplay, and his shot totals and locations also line up, so what gives? Luck, and eventually it will run out. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to finish the year closer to 35-goals than 50 and with few assists to add to that he’s likely given fantasy owners more than half of what he’s going to give all season, so sell high where you can. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey:
At just 5’9” he is one of the smallest players in the league, but Torey Krug’s game is anything but. Debuting with four goals in five games in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals he helped the B’s topple the Rangers and hasn’t slowed down one bit to start his rookie season. Currently tied for first in goals scored among defensemen with seven, he averages nearly 18 minutes a game and what’s more, he’s getting top powerplay minutes as well. Amid a roster dripping with talent from top to bottom it has been Krug, the rookie, that boosted the B’s lackluster powerplay and that’s just what the league needed, the B’s strengthening one of the few weak parts of their game. At any rate, being as small as he is as a defensemen does come with some increased injury risk, but so far Krug has shown himself to be tough as nails taking big hits and quickly shaking them off. To be successful he'll have to avoid those hits rather than endure them, as even the biggest guys have been felled by the plague of concussions in recent years. Most of the time he relies on his quickness and good vision to avoid getting hit too hard and while there are some concerns about his ability to handle larger power forwards on the defensive end, it’s all cylinders go where it matters to us. Going into the season Krug was more known than he would have been because of last year’s playoff performance, but he’s still available in 27% of Yahoo! Leagues. Listen, he has a booming shot, great hands, explosive acceleration and a tremendous hockey IQ so this rookie isn’t just for keeper leagues. If he's on Team USA's radar he should definitely be on yours, so add him where you can. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey last night: