We’re going to keep the rankings rolling today with my defensemen tiers. As a reminder from the goaltending rankings, I will be ranking the guys in order, but I am putting more focus on tiers than the exact rankings of players. Please, blog, may I have some more?
The title says it all. Today, I'm going to hit on the ten guys that I like most to break out this season. With the season a week away, I won't have to time to do a ton of sleeper posts, so I decided it would be best to highlight these players and then follow it up with players I expect to disappoint this season in tomorrow's post. Let's get to it!
It's hard to believe that Filip Forsberg recently had a 20 game goalless streak. He had his best game in months on Tuesday scoring two goals and an assist with five shots and two PIM. The thing that excites me most is that Forsberg played 20 minutes in this game. Forsberg is clearly the best forward on the team and it has been infuriating that his minutes have been down, slump or not. The playoff schedule for the Predators is excellent (you can read up on that here) giving Forsberg the opportunity to be a top 20 player down the stretch. I don't expect that, but he has that kind of upside. The Predators are making their playoff push and it's the time for Forsberg to get his season back on track. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
At the time of his injury, Victor Olofsson was leading rookies in points. That's not to say that he was the Calder favorite because he certainly was not, but he was in the race, albeit in the third spot. Sadly he missed 15 games, but he picked up right where he left off. Olofsson scored two goals on Thursday, including the game winner, in the 4-3 OT win over the Blue Jackets. That gives him 18+19 in 43 games, a great season from my favorite preseason target for my last pick in drafts. Sure, the PIM are non-existent and the shot rate is slightly below average, but Olofsson has lived up to expectations. He's an old rookie at 24, but he should get a bit better going forward. His role as a PP1 sniper and top six winger is locked in going forward and his chemistry with Eichel is outstanding. If he was dropped in your league, grab him immediately. Let's take a look at what else happened on Thursday:
It's safe to say that at 26 years old, Jonathan Huberdeau has plenty of hockey to play in his career. The scary thing is that he's going to destroy the Panthers point record. In Sunday's big win over the Maple Leafs, Huberdeau had a goal and an assist to pass Olli Jokinen for the most points in franchise history. After last season's breakout campaign where Huberdeau had 92 points, he's on pace to blow by that this season with 61 points in their first 45 games. The shot rate has fallen off to slightly below average, but I don't think anyone who drafted Huberdeau is complaining. He's a safe bet to finish as a top 20 overall player this season, and since he's entering his prime along with some of his other teammates (notably Barkov), the future is incredibly bright. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
I talked a lot about Taylor Hall in Monday's post (you can read that here). The trade that I was talking about happened on Monday with Hall moving to Arizona. In the trade, Hall and Blake Speers went to Arizona for a 2020 conditional first-round draft pick, a conditional 2021 third-rounder, along with forward prospects Nate Schnarr, Nick Merkley and defenseman Kevin Bahl. First, let's look at this from Arizona's perspective. It's a steep price to pay for a rental, but Hall is the best player traded in quite some time, and Arizona is looking to snap a long playoff drought in a weak division. I totally get the move given their strong defensive talent but lack of overall offensive talent. Hall played on Tuesday dishing an assist and adding a shot in 18 minutes. He played with Christian Dvorak and Clayton Keller. In Monday's piece linked above, I said to buy Keller going forward due to his recent play. This only enhances his value. Same goes with Dvorak, but he moves up to an elite streamer for now. As for New Jersey, it's hard to complain about this return. You have potentially two first round picks in this deal, but at least a 1 and 3. Bahl is a monster coming in at 6'7 and can skate fairly well. I don't see a PP guy there, but he should be a modern stay-at-home who is strong on the PK. For those in deep leagues, he should be a very good hits/blocks guy down the line. Merkley has decent upside, but he has already had reconstructive knee surgery. He's not the best skater, but he has great hockey IQ and should end up as a playmaking center in the middle six. Schnarr was a third round pick in 2018 who didn't show a ton of offense until after he was drafted. He then exploded in Guelph last season, but he's struggled in the AHL so far. That isn't a surprise as many 20 year olds struggle in their first pro season. I don't expect a ton, but there's a decent chance he ends up an NHL'er. All in all, seems like this trade has the potential to be a win-win once you consider that Hall seemingly didn't want to stay in New Jersey. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Things escalated over the weekend with the Devils holding out Taylor Hall from two games due to precautionary reasons. A trade is on the horizon, and all indications are that the team wants to get a deal done before the trade freeze on the 19th. There's no guarantee that it happens, but Shero seems to want to make the big move now. So what does that do for Hall owners in fantasy? Well, if you're in a weekly lineup league, you have to bench him this week. The Devils already don't play until Wednesday this week, and if Hall is still on the team then, I highly doubt that he plays. There's also the chance that there are some visa issues for Hall when he is traded which causes him to miss a game. This is a clear blow to the rest of the Devils. Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Kyle Palmieri all lose a big chunk of value. I would still hold Palmieri, but in redrafts, I think I would cut the other two guys and only look to stream them. The Devils are really devoid of talent on the wings and as good as Hischier and Hughes are going to be, I doubt it will be consistently good for this entire season. Let's take a look at some other things going on around the NHL:
Since returning from injury, David Krecji has been on a tear. That continued on Saturday with two goals on five shots in the win against the Wild. That brings him up to 4+11 in 17 games this season. We know the deal with Krejci by now. He is always on the fringe of holding and streaming because of his shot rate. Right now, the shot rate is still poor with 28 SOG in 17 games. However, he's +15 and 15 points in 17 games is too good to ignore. Obviously it can change, but for now, I'm holding Krejci since he has four games in six nights, including a back to back on tuesday and Wednesday this week. It's hard to ask for better opponents to play than Ottawa, the Rangers, and Montreal twice. It's not going to be exciting, but Krejci's on the first power play and that puts him over the edge. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Brayden Point made his season debut on Thursday for a big showdown with the Maple Leafs. Unsurprisingly, he started right where he left off, scoring two goals and adding an assist with five shots in the 7-3 win. The Bucs beat the Argonauts! Anyways, we know how good Point is and that he's an elite options in all formats. A couple other takeaways from this game. One, Point went on the first line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who had four points each. If that line sticks together, watch out. Two, the new fifth person on the top power play unit was Anthony Cirelli, who ended up with three assists, two on the power play. I'm a big fan of Cirelli's game but he didn't get the opportunity. Now, he is centering the second line and on the top power play unit. He's a must own in all formats. Three, Tampa Bay really is the better version of Toronto. The defensemen on Toronto just can't keep up. I mean, Cody Ceci? Even Rielly and Barrie aren't good defensively. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
While general sports fans were watching playoff baseball (Go Braves!) or Sunday Night Baseball, hockey fans saw one of the best performances of the season take place on the first weekend. Anthony Mantha scored four goals on eight shot, including the winner in the last minute of the game, to beat the Stars 4-3. This comes after an incredible performance in his season opener in which he scored a goal and two assists with five shots and four penalty minutes in the upset win over Nashville. In both games, the players on the top line were at or above 20 minutes each. That's extremely encouraging for their long-term success. Obviously we're not expecting Mantha to be a top 25 player all of a sudden, but the potential is there for 30 goals, 50 PIM and a very good shot rate. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend: