One of my favorite late round gambles on the blue line this season was Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson played 35 games last season and has 16 points and two shots per game. That doesn't sound great, but that was with zero power play time and limited minutes. Keith and Seabrook were falling off a cliff giving Gustafsson prime opportunity. He took advantage of it and then some. Gustafsson dished three assists on Monday night while putting a shot on goal and adding 4 PIM. That brings Gustafsson up to a whopping 17+42 with 34 PIM and almost exactly two shots per game. That's with 18 STP, a number which could be higher if he played on PP1 all year. So what do we make of Gustafsson for next season? Well, it's early to say. I think these numbers are mostly sustainable as long as Chicago doesn't add a PP specialist in the offseason. I don't expect them to with the young guys they have coming, especially Jokiharju, but there's always a chance. Gustafsson looks like he'll be a solid #3 next season, possibly a bottom end #2. The goals will probably come down a bit, but 40+ assists should be a near lock with Chicago's style and strong PP, and he's average in PIM and shot rate. If he's going to be better, it's because he takes a few more shots. Let's take a look at what else happened on Monday night:
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:
Has Sam Reinhart lived up to being the second overall pick in his draft? Definitely not. Is the book closed on him becoming a great player? I don't think so. Reinhart has shown flashes this season but his quality of linemate has been quite poor. Last game, Reinhart moved to the first line with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane. This move paid dividends on Tuesday night where Reinhart scored a goal and two assists with four shots playing 18:36 in the 5-4 OT loss to the Penguins. What does this mean going forward? Well, Reinhart becomes an elite streamer and potential hold as long as he's playing with Eichel and Kane. Subjectively, I think Reinhart has been much stronger on the puck this year and if not for Eichel missing a glorious chance and another point blank save, Reinhart could have easily reached 4-5 points in this game. Obviously we can't expect that on a nightly basis but there's no reason Reinhart can't play around a 25+35 pace going forward. Here's to hoping Phil Housley does what's right and keeps him there. Let's take a look at what else happened around the league the past two nights:
It's finally opening week! The season starts Wednesday and I can not wait. I am going to set up some RCL's later today that draft tonight and Tuesday night so if you haven't joined a league yet, do so here. To wrap up my team previews, I'm going to look at the prospects in the Pacific Division. Let's get right to it!