When Johnny Gaudreau underwent surgery for his finger injury, the expectation was that he was going to miss six weeks. Flames fans and fantasy owners had to be thrilled when he came back on Sunday in less than three weeks. The team did surprisingly well in the 10 games Gaudreau missed, mostly due to Chad Johnson between the pipes, but they didn't score than 3 goals in any game during that stretch. That changed in a big way Sunday night against a strong Ducks team. The Flames scored a whopping 8 goals beating the Ducks 8-3 with Gaudreau scoring the opener and adding an assist later on. He was finally playing well before his injury so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. We know that he's a top end player but the impact of his return will be felt throughout the lineup. More on those guys later in the Sunday section, let's get to the games!
During last season, it looked like Eric Staal's career was on a steep decline. While he's still not close to the player he was in his prime, the 39 point season he had in 83 games in 2015-16 looks to be a thing of the past. Staal moved to Minnesota this offseason on a three year deal to center the first line and it's no surprise that Bruce Boudreau has helped revitalize his career. On Thursday night, Staal led the way for the Wild scoring a goal and two assists with six shots on goal being +3 in the Wild's 4-2 road win over the Penguins. That boosts Staal's totals to 5 goals and 6 assists in 12 games with almost 3 shots per game. He's shown an amazing ability to stay healthy throughout his career leading me to believe he has a pretty good chance to reach 60 points again. As the frequent readers know, I'm a big fan of the Wild's chances of success, at least from a regular season standpoint, and Staal is a big factor in that. For now, Staal should be considered a borderline top 100 player who should remain a clear hold for the entire season; I would not try to sell high on him. Let's take a look at what happened around the league the last two nights:
It's no secret that coming into the season, I loved the best players on the Jets. While the team itself is of to a mediocre start, the forward in my top 50 that I was highest on compared to consensus was Mark Scheifele. After a monstrous second half last season, I wrote repeatedly how much I liked him for 2016-17 and dynasties going forward. It was evident looking at Fantasy Pros where I was 16 spots higher than anyone else and 19 spots above consensus, quite a margin for a player who I had ranked 32nd overall. Well, it's been a terrific start to the season for Scheifele and it continued over the weekend. On Friday, Scheifele had a goal, two assists and two shots while being +3 in the 5-3 win over Detroit. He followed that up with a goal and an assist with two shots and +1 on Sunday despite the Jets losing 5-2 to the red hot Rangers. That gives Scheifele a total of 7 goals and 7 assists in 13 games with a +5 rating, 10 PIM and almost 3 shots per game. It puts him easily in the top 20 skaters on the season in the player rater and is making me look smart! I salute you, Mr. Scheifele. With the workload that he's receiving, I have little doubt that he will produce going forward at an elite rate. Let's take a look at what else went on around the league over the weekend.
On the most recent podcast, I talked about how the Stars were going to start riding Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn for big minutes with their depleted depth. I stated that it was only a matter of time until they broke out and despite the tough matchup against St. Louis, they were elite options in the Three Point Challenge. Well, I wish I went with my first thought because Seguin got there and then some while Benn reached it with an empty net point. Seguin finished with 4 assists, 4 SOG and +3 while Benn had 3 assists, 6 PIM, +4 and a shot. Obviously this doesn't come as a shock, both were top 10 players with ease the last two seasons and should continue to say so barring health issues. Look for them to carry the Stars in the next week or so as they have 6 games in 9 nights starting Saturday. Next week, they get Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. As someone who has both of those guys in multiple leagues, I'm licking my lips thinking about what they can do. Let's take a look at what else happened the last two nights around the league.
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:
Last season Henrik Lundqvist (L, 21 SV, 6 GA, .778 SV%) had a pretty terrible October finishing the month with a line of 3-5-0, 2.84 GAA, .908 SV%, 22 GA. He rebounded a bit in November but returned to blehsville in December finishing with an even worse line of 4-4-2, 3.08 GAA, .888 SV%, 29 GA. People freaked. Should I trade Lundqvist? Is he hurt? Is he past it? Ahh! Then, from January on he followed that crapfest he called a start to his season with three months of sub 2.00 GAA’s and SV% in the .930s. He finished the season with a very Hankish 33-24-5, 2.36 GAA, .920 SV% on route to a monumental run at the Stanley Cup that ended just short of success. Everything with Hank was fine. Everything with Hank is fine. Yet here we at the start of the 2015 season and again we are faced with another slow start from His Majesty. With it, of course, comes more panic from the masses and really, it’s the same story and erryone should relax, he isn’t this bad and he won’t continue to be. That being said, there is one key difference this year and that’s the Rangers defense. In that it’s not nearly as good as it was last year. Losing possession king Anton Stralman to the Bolts hurts, but what hurts more is his “replacement” Mike Kostka who was directly responsible for two of the four goals in the fourth that rolled the Rangers after the Isles took an early 3-2 third period lead on an unassisted Kyle Okposo goal. Dan Boyle being injured doesn’t help much either, but if losing Boyle does this to your team defensively there are deeper problems that need solving, but I digress. Hank should be fine and no, he won’t keep coughing up six goals a game. Still, his owners should beware. There are cracks and holes showing on the Rangers where few existed last season that may limit his value slightly relative to seasons past. This is why I do not advise using your first or second round pick on a goalie, y’all! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
When the Ducks dealt Bobby Ryan to the Senators everyone wondered just what they were getting back in Jakob Silfverberg (1 G, 3 SOG, +1), the key player in the deal for the Ducks. Well, if last night’s return to action after missing 24 games with a broken hand is any indication, they might have something special. Jacke (swedish nickname for Jakob, just an FYI) scored a goal and picked up right where he left off back in October when he was matching Ryan point for point through most of the first month of the season. He wasn’t keeping that beautifully OCD parity with his goals and assists that Bobby likes to maintain, but despite missing those 24 games he’s on pace for as many goals. I guess he figures he needs to score a goal for every game he misses? What a work ethic on this kid! So what can he do for the rest of the year? It remains to be seen whether or not he pans out into a top-six forward or not, but he’s absolutely worth a flier in most leagues because the boy loves to score some goals and we love guys who love scoring goals. Jacke is mature for his age, strong, smart and a great skater with a solid set of technical skills. He has a nose for the net, as I’ve mentioned, but his shot lacks a bit of accuracy at this point in his young career. Still, he’s an immensely talented young player and worth a flier in most leagues. That’s the second time I’ve said so in this paragraph alone, so go get him! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey last night: