Gretzky, Lemieux, Forsberg, LaFontaine. That's the list of players in the last 30 seasons to have multiple five assist games in one season. Add Mathew Barzal to the list after Friday night. Barzal became the first rookie in 100 years to have three five point games in one season dishing five assists in the 7-6 win over the Red Wings. That puts Barzal over a point per game on the season and makes him the prohibitive favorite for the Calder (sorry Boeser). Our second podcast ever, which took place before last season, saw Reid and I hype up Barzal for dynasties. Regardless, he's blown away my expectations this season. Now, it's not all rosy for fantasy. The penalty minutes are low, but more importantly the shot rate is barely over two per game. On the other hand, he's 20 years old and is over a point per game, so it's hard to complain. There's a top 20 fantasy player in Barzal's future if he can get that shot rate up. Regardless, he'll be a borderline top 50 player next year solely for the points, and it's only going to get better from there. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It's hard to say a team that finished in 7th place in their division with 84 points overachieved but I'd argue that the New Jersey Devils did just that. Amazingly, they were in playoff contention for the majority of the season until their all-world goalie Cory Schneider went down with an injury. The Devils had plenty of surprises among their forwards while their defense is as bad as it gets from a fantasy perspective. Will their forwards repeat or was last season a fluke? Let's take a look!
I've been talking about Nazem Kadri's shooting percentage for the entire season. To be blunt, it's not possible for a forward to be shooting 5% for an entire season; regression will always find you for better or worse. He finally saw a big boost on Tuesday scoring his third career hat trick on four shots in the 5-2 win over the Panthers. There aren't many guys who have an excellent shot rate and supply great penalty minutes but Kadri is one of them. I love players like these to fill out the middle or bottom of my roster and I'm sure I'll be higher on Kadri than most next season. Add in the young talent Toronto is adding around him and wouldn't shock me if Kadri approached 30 goals next season. Here's what else I saw around the league on Tuesday night:
On Thursday, for the third time this season, Zach Parise scored his third hat trick of the season, adding an assist and six shots in the 6-2 win over the Flames. While he's a step behind his usual pace, 22+25 in 64 games is nothing to sneeze at, especially with elite shots. However, I'll probably be staying away from him next year given where I suspect his ADP will be. He plays a heavy game, he turns 32 in the summer and is starting to miss chunks of the season more regularly. That's not to say I don't like his game but his days of a top 50 player, for me, are over. Here's what I saw around the league the last two nights:
Brad Marchand is really good at his job. He looks like a troll, plays like a troll by starting things while teetering on the edge of dirty and now, he’s trolling us all with his offensive prowess. Please, blog, may I have some more?
There were 12 games in the NHL last night and there was an insane amount of goals. Two games had 11 goals, three had 7 or more and another bunch had 5+. The goalie that had the only shutout of the night was Martin Jones, who arguably had the hardest matchup in the league, stopped all 33 shots he faced in Chicago. In his first season, Jones has been a workhorse (only 5 goalies have started more games) and has put up solid stats across the board, especially wins. He's a big reason why the Sharks are in prime position to get back into the playoffs after one season out. I'm not a huge fan of Jones going forward but he's still a very good #2 goalie going forward. Here's what else happened in an action packed night around the league:
Poor Sergei Bobrovsky. After a horrible start, he catches fire for a month only to get a groin injury that sidelines him for a month. Then, he gets activated off injured reserve only to get in practice before he plays a game putting him out for a few more weeks. Bob finally gets healthy and who does he get in his first game back? The best team in the league so far, the Washington Capitals. Bob gave up 5 goals on 27 shots in the 6-3 loss. The question is do you panic? The answer is no. I'm blindly rolling Bob in every matchup going forward outside of two possible matchups; Washington and Chicago. Those depend how he's playing in the games before hand but the point is that Bob will be fine. Here's what else happened around the league on Tuesday night:
Mats Zuccarello (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) has established himself as both a staple of the New York Rangers’ offense, such as it is, and a guy that’s now worth a look in standard formats. After a dismal start to the season that saw Zucc post just 3 points (1 G, 2 A) in 11 games he’s turned it around completely and is actually producing and nearly a point-per-game pace since with 27 points in his last 30 games. Not only has that, 12 of those points came with the man advantage as his TOI there continues to increase. Zucc has been productive enough over the last two months to be on pace for 60 points and 20 goals this season, and that’s after three lousy points in all of October? I’d buy that for a dollar! And that’s what the Rangers must be thinking when they look at the individual stats and salaries and find Zuccarello leading the Rangers in points (30), goals (10) and assists (20) while high priced talent like Rick Nash (16 P in 25 GP), Brad Richards (27 P in 42 GP) and Derek Stepan (25 P in 42 GP) continue to struggle. I’d wager a decent sum that Zucc’s lack of production early on had a lot to do with his finding a place in and learning new head coach Alain Vigneault’s system. Well, he gets it now and all you need to do is go get him; standards, deeper, keeper, it doesn’t matter, Mats is worth a look errywhere! Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy hockey:
Reid Boucher (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) is a pure sniper in every sense of the word and his shot is as quick as it is accurate, and it’s bloody quick. Last year Boucher potted 62 goals in 68 games for the OHL's Sarina Sting, breaking Steven Stamkos’ club record for goals in a season with 60 back in 2011-2012. How’s that for a pedigree? Dude’s leaving broken Stamkos goal scoring records in his wake on his way to the NHL. His nose for the prime scoring opportunities is not something that can be taught and he can’t be left alone for even a second in the offensive zone or the opposing team will regret it. It’s not all roses and rainbows for Boucher, however, and one of the big knocks against him is his size, or lack thereof. He stands at just 5’10 and around 194lbs and from what I’ve seen he tends to play with his head down a bit too often, which if you ask Pat Lafontaine about sometime, he, well… he probably can’t remember, but that’s kind of the point. His defensive game needs some work as well and that is always a bit scary as it will limit his TOI even as he develops. Still, the Devils think very highly of their young sniper and you might consider doing the same. He’s worth a flier in deeper leagues, totally worth owning in keeper leagues and a wait-and-see status for standard leagues. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on a short night o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Normally I focus on one player that stands out to me as I write these rundowns, but tonight I have to switch it up because the Edmonton Oilers have come alive! Semyon Varlamov stayed in the entire game taking an 8-2 pounding from the league’s youngest team. It's pretty ironic that back in 1995 when Avs Head Coach Patrick Roy was left in for all 9 goals scored effectively ending his career with the Habs (and he nearly retired completely) and now he's gone and done the same thing to Varlamov, classy. I never liked Roy. Anyway, here’s the rundown for the Oil: Taylor Hall (3 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, + 1) is elite and should be the guy that leads this team back to greatness. He’s got all the skills and he put them all on display tonight. Jordan Eberle (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) is the other half of the core of this offensive unit that could be one of the best in the league in the second half. David Perron (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) is having a career year and after not living up to expectations for years seems to have found a home in the Great White North. Ales Hemsky (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1) is showing signs of life as well. He’s one of my second-half sleepers. Mark Acrobello (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +1) remains a risky add at best. He’s tiny and inconsistent, but could live well off the table scraps of others if the Oil take off like I think they can. Sam Ganger (1 G, 2 SOG, even) should take this opportunity to step up and be a leader for this young bunch. He was once a highly touted prospect himself. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) chipped in an assist, but should be right in the middle of all the scoring sooner than later. What would a mention of the Oilers’ potential be without the Nudge?! Nail Yakupov (1 SOG, -1) continues to be a huge bust and what a tickertease for his owners. I never buy in early on young Russians because so few of them pan out and Yakupov seems to be the same. On a team flush with young talent this kid is playing an embarassing season of hockey with a -17 rating and just 9 points in 28 games played so far. Nail, I think the KHL is calling. After a terrible start to the season it seems like this young team is getting its legs and finding their identity as a team. They’ve won four of their last five games and with performances like this there’s a possibility this team might, may be able to ull itself out of the basement and fight for a playoff spot. After adding Breezy to upgrade their goalie situation and a favorable schedule going up to the Olympic break facing the likes of the Flames, Jets, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Predators, things are looking up for the Edmonton faithful. Is the horrible start a thing of the past? Maybe, but you can’t deny tonight’s results, and this didn’t come against a bad team with lackluster goaltending either. Don’t miss out on this potential buffet o’ fantasy black gold, grab some Oil while you can get ‘em cheap! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently: