Matthew Tkachuk entered the All-Star break on a massive hot streak. He continued it at the All-Star Game, winning MVP honors. Needless to say, it was continued on Monday night against their rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tkachuk had two goals and three assists with six shots in the 7-1 win over Tampa, going +5 in the process. Tkachuk has managed to blow last season's 42+62 out of the water to this point. He's the #3 forward overall on the season and has the most balanced stat line of everyone in the entire league. Marchand was a top five forward for years because of his all-around contribution. Now, that spot is Tkachuk's. He's every bit of a top five player now and going forward. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
During the longest playoff drought in NHL history, there have been plenty of hot starts from the Sabres. While I still expect that drought to extend for another season, Thursday's game against the Flames felt different. Coming off a win that they stole in Edmonton, the Sabres came in with house money. They got a 4-1 lead before giving a goal with 1.6 seconds left in the second that the linesman inexplicably kicked into the middle of the ice. Then, the Flames scored a minute into the third. Old Sabres teams would have collapsed, but this one took over the rest of the game, winning 6-3 and being the better team against an elite Calgary team. Leading the way was Alex Tuch, scoring a hat trick to give him five goals in the past three games. Tuch has at least three shots on goal in all four games this season. Buffalo's schedule for the rest of the month? Vancouver, Seattle, Montreal, Chicago and Detroit. Yeah, Tuch definitely needs to be held for the time being. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I hope all you loyal Razzballers are doing well! We're just over a month away from the NHL season starting, and with football starting tonight (Go Bills!), it's time for people to transition to fantasy hockey drafts. I'm going to start my rankings next week, but for today, I'm going to look at every team's offseason. Some teams made massive changes and will have a longer write up e.g. Calgary, and others who did minimal will have a short blurb e.g. the Islanders. Let's get to it!
Columbus was in an absolutely miserable spot on Tuesday. They were missing their #1 goalie, their best defenseman, arguably their second best defenseman, and one of their hottest forwards. Their backup goalie was playing his first game in three weeks, and they were facing the healthiest version of Tampa that we've seen in months. Needless to say, it did not go well. Tampa was in control from the very beginning and won 7-2, led by Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point. Palat scored two goals and an assist with four shots, while Point had a goal and two assists with two shots. These two haven't spent too much time together this season as Palat has been with Stamkos for the vast majority. They didn't miss a step from playing together in the past. Point is a fringe top 20 player while Palat is solidified himself as a hold again. If he's available, grab him now, because I have no doubt that Palat will be a no brainer hold once Nikita Kucherov comes back, which should be in a couple weeks. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Not everybody can step into the league and score 105 points like Crosby or 52 goals like Ovechkin did. Even for #1 overall picks, it can take some time for them to learn the league and figure out how to play to their strengths. If the last week is any indication, it looks like Jack Hughes has started to figure it out. After a three point game earlier in the week, Hughes followed that up with another three point game; two goals and an assist with seven shots against the Oilers. On Sunday, Hughes kept the multi-point streak going with two assists against the Capitals. That brings to 8+8 in 16 games. You don't need a math major like me to tell you that's a 41+41 pace over 82 games. The minutes are starting to reach first line minutes on a regular basis. Missing a lot of time will keep his overall value down, but Hughes has a reasonable chance to be a top 50 player this season on a per-game basis, and he'll be ranked extremely high from yours truly in 2022-23. Let's take a look at what else happened over what was hopefully a great New Years weekend for everyone!
In Ilya Sorokin's first two starts, he allowed ten goals. In the next seven, he's allowed eight total. Sorokin kept up his hot streak with a 24 save shutout against the Jets on Saturday. Semyon Varlamov is back for the Islanders, but for now, Sorokin is getting all of the volume. I had him pegged as a great platoon guy this year who ideally was your #3, but would be fine as a #2. Now, it would be terrific if Sorokin is your #2 because he could easily end up being a top 10 goalie even without much volume. The GAA and save percentage look to be elite while the wins on a per-game basis should be as well. Long term, Sorokin looks like a top five goalie. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It's no secret that I think Nikolaj Ehlers is the best forward on the Jets and it's not much of a debate. Ehlers stole the show on Tuesday night, tying the game with the goalie pulled, only to score 19 seconds later and win the game for Winnipeg. Ehlers had an assist earlier in the game bringing him up to 2+2 in six games. The big thing is that he has 25 shots in six games. Ehlers is an absolute stud and the points are going to keep flowing in. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
There was plenty of craziness on Thursday night, but the Detroit-Tampa game takes the cake. The Red Wings took the lead 6-3 in the third on the back of four, count them four, Tyler Bertuzzi goals, only to blow the game and lose in overtime 7-6. Bertuzzi looks to be a solid streamer, but it's going to take a lot more to hold him. He's been inconsistent in the past, and he's unvaccinated. That means he won't be able to play any games in Canada. The Red Wings already have a one off in Montreal next Saturday and another game in Toronto the week after. It's simply too hard to hold a player that's missing games for something other than an injury. Let's take a look at what else happened on the ice on Thursday night:
Howdy, Razzballers! We've reached our final four stops: Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. Apologies for leaving y'all stranded yesterday, been a little under the weather. If you'd like to look back over the other team previews, you can find them all below:
We wrap up the forward rankings today with the Top 100. If you've missed the early parts, you can start with the Top 60 here and go backwards from there. In a few days, I'll have my Top 200 list out and before you know it, the season will be starting. Let's get to it! 61) Bryan Rust - The point per game season will probably be an outlier, but Rust has a high floor no matter who his center is. Like Guentzel, I wouldn't be surprised if the shot volume goes up a tad while Crosby and Malkin are out because the Penguins will need the puck on their sticks more.
Mika Zibanejad was looking like the biggest bust of this season near the halfway point. Well, it's changing pretty quickly and amazingly, it wasn't the Sabres that turned it around. Last week, Zibanejad had three goals and three assists against the Flyers. It was so fun that he did it again eight days later! On Thursday, Zibanejad doubled down with his second natural hat trick and six point game in rapid succession against Philadelphia in the 8-3 win. That brings him up to 10+16 in 32 games, not exactly lighting the world on fire, but within reason. He's still over three shots per game, so while a repeat top 20 season is out of play, a top 50 season is still within reason. As I said at the time, Zibanejad is prone to huge hot streaks, and I think 17 points in 7 games qualifies. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
The hype surrounding Kirill Kaprizov was building for a few years before he came to the NHL. Even with the lofty expectations on his shoulders, he's played at a level higher than anyone expected. On Friday, Kaprizov scored a hat trick on eight shots with two PIM and a +4 rating. He followed that up with another eight shots on Sunday, adding an assist and two penalty minutes. I wrote about a month ago that I expected Kaprizov's shot rate to take a big jump as the season progressed based on his shooting totals in the KHL. Well, sixteen shots in the past two games brings him over 2.5 per game, an average rate for a forward. Add in being just under a point per game and we can basically call the Calder race now. I'm not convinced that it's going to get better in the future as Kaprizov will be 24 by the time the regular season ends, but either way, he should establish himself around a 30+40 pace in a normal season with slight upside on both of those numbers. Kaprizov is definitely a top 50 dynasty asset, but I don't think he pushes the top 25 long term because the penalty minutes will be low and more importantly, I don't think he gets to be a 3.5-4 shot per game guy because he's too good of a playmaker for that. Either way, if you're lucky enough to have him, enjoy it because there's nothing fluky about his performance. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend: