Hey guys! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2019-20 fantasy hockey season. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to streamers, deeper league holds, even to rookie-eligible prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season. Last year my previews went alphabetically, but this year we’re going to go division-by-division, starting with the top team. On our 19th stop on the 31 in 31 tour, we’re heading East from Toronto – or should I say, est – to Montreal! Last season, coach Claude Julien and the Habs surprised the Atlantic division, coming just a single point shy of a playoff birth. With some young talent taking major steps forward last season, can the Canadiens pull it off again?
It was less than a week ago that James van Riemsdyk was placed on the fourth line for the Flyers and Scott Gordon had a private meeting with him. Since then, JVR has taken off, with a monster game coming on Monday. He scored a hat trick to give him 5+2 in his last 3 games. Look, we know how good of a player JVR can be; he's been a top 100 player the past few seasons. However, he only has two games the rest of the week, and then he doesn't have a game for all of next week with the Flyers on a bye week. Therefore, I wouldn't be holding him right now. I'd be willing to stream him on Wednesday and Saturday, but I'd cut bait then. However, with a very heavy schedule starting 1/28, including a lot of bad teams, I would look to grab JVR at the All-Star break to get three games in four nights after that break. Then, we see how he does in those three games, and proceed from there. Here's a look at what else happened on Monday night:
I've long been a fan of Juuse Saros saying that he's the best goaltending prospect in hockey. His time to be a #1 is coming sooner than later, but for the short term, it's his crease in Nashville. Pekka Rinne is on injured reserve meaning he will miss at least the next three games, and that opens the door for Saros. He came in relief for Rinne in a 3-3 game and didn't allow a goal on nine shots, before posting a 31 save shutout in the 3-0 win over the Oilers. He's available in over 80% of leagues and quite frankly, I don't understand it. Goaltending is awful around the league right now, so pretty much every fantasy team could use him as their G3. That said, Saros should be a #1 option when he starts, so go grab him immediately. He's going to get plenty of starts this year even when Rinne is back, so Saros can make a huge difference for you. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Aloha! It’s Lackeydrinksonme! It’s the second issue of my weekly long-run streamer column. I’m here to offer some pickups for the short-slate games in the upcoming week, with a focus on putting more players on the ice than your opponent. ESPN has changed everything so I don’t have Games Started data for the new year, but bear in mind that the odds of coming out with a win are strongly related to the number of players you put on the ice.
It's not exactly breaking news that John Tavares moves the needle for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He showed why he was worth the mammoth contract on Sunday, scoring a hat trick on seven shots with two PIM in the 7-6 win over the Blackhawks. The main thing that I want to talk about here is Toronto in general. This offense is incredible, but they also remain a sieve defensively. I have a hard time treating them among the truly elite teams in the league until that is tightened up, at least somewhat. That's why I picked them to finish third in the division again. But for us in fantasy, stream everyone you can for the Leafs, and against them for that matter. I'd have a hard time playing any goalie against them right now; it better be someone that's damn good. They're a fantasy gold mine on both sides. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Am I shocked at how well the Jets are doing? No. Reid and I talked about the Jets' ceiling on the Central Division podcast and we said that second place is certainly within the realm of possibility (I guess we sold them a little short, first is in play). Long term readers know how much I love Connor Hellebuyck. The only reason I was scared off a bit for redrafts is that Kevin Cheveldayoff said that Steve Mason would be their starter to open the season. Well, Mason was lit up in his first game as a Jet and the rest is history. Hellebuyck continued his outstanding breakout season over the weekend, saving 30 of 31 shots in the 2-1 SO win over the Flames on Saturday, then a 29 save shutout in the 1-0 win against the Canucks on Sunday. Hellebuyck is currently the #2 goalie on the season, and while there's a chance he falls off a little bit (I'm certain he'll finish as a #1G), I think he's solidified himself as the #2 goalie in dynasty leagues. The Jets are going to be really good for a long time and Hellebuyck will be a big reason and also a beneficiary of the talent around him. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Reid and I talked about Tristan Jarry extensively on last week's podcast. We said that he should be picked up immediately with Matt Murray out for at least a few weeks, mostly because the Penguins had a back-to-back against the hapless Sabres. Well, Jarry delivered and then some in both games. He started off with a 34 save shutout in Buffalo before allowing 1 goal on 33 shots in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The schedule isn't great this week with the Rangers, Islanders, and Maple Leafs on deck, but they're all at home. At the least, Jarry is a nice spec add to see how things go against better competition. He's still available in over 70% of leagues so go grab him now. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
The Montreal Canadiens stormed out of the gates last season and never looked back en route to winning the Atlantic Division. They have a roster that seems like a random collection of players with no clear plan. They've gutted their blue line losing a good top 4 in the last year (Subban, Beaulieu, Sergachev, Markov) leaving themselves depending on Shea Weber far too much. Like last offseason, they made a massive trade in the summer, this time involving two young talents. This is a team who is getting the small things right but the big things wrong and that gives me significant concern going forward. Per usual, it's all on Carey Price's shoulders. Their fantasy assets for this season look to be limited but there are a few guys with elite potential and some intriguing guys for deeper leagues. Let's take a look at what Les Habitants are working with:
The Philadelphia Flyers have nothing to play for besides being a spoiler. Their season is effectively over but they basically ended their division rivals on Thursday. The Flyers blitzed the Islanders on Thursday going up 5-0 in the first period and winning 6-3. With the Bruins, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Hurricanes all winning, the Islanders are toast. There were many players who stood out for the Flyers in this game but the one with the biggest fantasy impact is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds had a Gordie Howe hat trick and then some totaling a goal, two assists, five penalty minutes and four shots. The goal was Simmonds' 30th of the season allowing him to reach the 30 goal plateau for the second straight season. With four straight seasons of 28+ goals and massive penalty minutes, we know who Simmonds is in those departments. The shots are solid and the PPP are elite but there are some concerns. One, he's been a minus player every season in Philly with this year being his worst ever, a -20. The other issue is that he's never topped 31 assists. I thought this season he would set a new career high but he's not coming close. So where does that leave us? I had Simmonds in my top 25 last season which turned out to be too high. I love Simmonds for what he is but it's not worth taking him in the top of the third round when he's only getting 55-60 points. He'll certainly be in my top 50 but since he's on the verge of turning 29, my hopes of Simmonds taking another step seem incredibly unlikely. Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
When it comes to the fantasy playoffs, you're looking for two things. One, you want to get as many starts from your players as possible. Getting one or two extra starts from your bottom end guys / streamers goes a long way. The other thing you want is your superstars to carry you. Because I was in California for the last four days, my time for writing was non-existent. The good news is two fold. One, I got to meet Grey! He is the man, plain and simple. Secondly, I'm here to catch up on everything that's happened since last Thursday and it starts with Sidney Crosby. On Friday, Crosby scored two goals and an assist with four shots to push the Penguins past the Devils. He followed that up on Sunday with a hat trick on six shots against the Panthers. Both are huge wins for the Penguins given their current injury situation and it was massive for people in the fantasy playoffs. Here's to hoping you have Crosby because you're ahead of the field right off the bat. He's the number 1 skater at the moment and as of now, I'd rank him first overall going into next season. That can be debated at a later time but there's no denying that Crosby is having one of the best seasons of his illustrious career. Here's what else happened over the last four days: