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:
Here is what I wrote about J.T. Miller in Tuesday's post: "J.T. Miller is getting huge minutes in Tampa and has six points in six games for the Bolts.  The shot rate is rough, but Miller should be held despite that.  Everything else should be a clear plus and nothing is better than playing for Tampa.  Miller was on the fringe for the Rangers so this move is enough to move him to a hold."  And that's me quoting me!  Well, Miller exploded on Tuesday night, scoring his first career hat trick and putting ten shots on goal.  He played over 20 minutes, including on the top power play unit.  Long story short, if you had any doubt about whether Miller should be held, this game should eliminate that.  Pick the man up because he can be a huge difference maker down the stretch.  Let's take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:
As far as disappointments for this season go, Cam Atkinson is near the top of the list.  After his breakout last season with 35+27, Atkinson has struggled mightily on the ice and with an injury.  We're finally seeing signs of Atkinson getting back to last season's level.  Atkinson scored a shorthanded goal and added two power play assists with five shots on goal in the Columbus win on Monday. That gives Atkinson 4+4 in his last 9 games with at least three shots on goal in each game during that span.  The minutes are strong so that hasn't been a problem.  The issue has been that Columbus' power play has been so bad that Atkinson had only 3 STP before this game (which he doubled in this one).  Columbus has been better on the man advantage lately, and the arrival of Thomas Vanek should help them even more.  Atkinson is still available in over 40% of leagues and in a 12'er, I'd grab him right now while he's finding his groove again.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Monday night was a short slate, but there were a couple great games.  Florida and Edmonton decided that defense (and goaltending) was optional leading to a 7-5 barn burner.  Vincent Trocheck took over the game late, scoring three goals in the third period on six shots to record his first career hat trick.  No matter what format you play, Trocheck has been incredible this season.  By the end of the month, there's a great chance that Trocheck has set career highs in goals, assists, PPP (already did that) and SOG.  The 24 year old is also a monster in faceoffs, hits, and blocks for a forward as well.  For those of us in standard leagues, Trocheck looks like a top 35 player for this season and in the future, if not even better.  He's basically Jamie Benn with a better shot rate and a lower floor for penalty minutes (obviously plus-minus can shift year-to-year).  The only potential downside going forward is that Trocheck is already averaging 21:33 per game, which has nowhere to go but down.  Either way, that's of no concern for me; Trocheck is still underrated in my eyes.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Winnipeg cooled off the red hot Oilers on Wednesday night winning 4-3.  They'd probably trade that win if it meant Mark Scheifele wasn't injured.  The Jets superstar center fell awkwardly into the boards in the second period and did not return.  This is mostly guesswork on my part but from watching a ton of hockey over the years, it looked like Scheifele severely damaged his shoulder or collarbone.  Either way, we could be looking at a significant absence.  What does it mean going forward for the Jets in fantasy hockey?  I think we see the top two lines get their minutes evened out.  Consequently, it would give a small boost to Laine and Ehlers while a slight down tick to Wheeler and Connor.  The potential winner is Bryan Little.  Little scored a goal in this game on three shots and played over 21 minutes.  The Jets lack a true replacement as a top six center so it'll be interesting to see what the Jets lines look like tomorrow in practice and during the next game.  My speculation: Little becomes must-own, one other player becomes a streamer (Armia?) and not much else changes.  Here's to hoping Scheifele isn't out too long for everyone.  Let's take a look at what else happened on Wednesday night after a three day hiatus for the NHL:
The first home game for the Vegas Golden Knights couldn't have started any better.  After an amazing pre-game ceremony, Vegas stormed out to four goals in the first period en route to winning 5-2 against the Coyotes.  Here we are with Vegas sitting at 3-0.  So do we have to change our expectations for the team?  I'll talk about it extensively with Reid tomorrow but I still believe they'll be at the bottom of the league come April.  That said, what an amazing start for a team in the wake of tragedy.  For fantasy, I think there's three guys I would own right now in standard 12'ers: Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal and Nate Schmidt.  There is still some downside for all of them but in the moment, just enjoy the ride.  I can't wait to be there next week to see a game in Vegas.  Let's take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:
Here's what I said about Jonathan Marchessault in my season preview of the Florida Panthers: "Jared McCann and Jonathan Marchessault are the two Panthers I can see taking a late flier on in deep leagues... Marchessault scored 18 points in 45 games for Tampa Bay last season despite averaging only 12 minutes of ice time per game. When Tampa was hit with injuries, Marchessault filled in admirably. If Florida was hit by the injury bug, I could see both of these guys becoming relevant in 12’ers; for now they are potential waiting for their chance." And that's me quoting me! Well, Florida did get struck by the injury bug and while McCann didn't provide much value this season, Marchessault certainly did. The return of their two best players hasn't hurt Marchessault at all. In fact, it's helped him on the power play. He recorded his first career hat trick in the 7-0 win over the Blackhawk, which also included four shots and four PIM. That brings Marchessault's totals to 28+20 with 34 PIM and 2.5 shots per game in 67 GP. Not bad for a guy the Panthers signed for $750k for this season and next. The Panthers have an interesting offseason ahead to determine how their forward core is going to look next season. Regardless, I think Marchessault is worry of a late round pick next season. I don't think there's more upside than what he's doing this season but there's no complaints with a 34+25 per 82 games when he's not hurting you elsewhere. I expect the Panthers to be back in the playoffs next season with Marchessault providing some nice depth behind the big guns. Let's take a look at what else happened this weekend around the league:
In the marquee match of the night in Washington, both goalies played extremely well. At the end of the game, Braden Holtby came out on top saving 29 of 30 shots in the 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets. He's managed to find a way to improve his goals against and save percentage the season after winning the Vezina Trophy. His counterpart in this game may be the favorite to win the Vezina this year but Holtby has solidified himself as the #1 goalie in hockey, both in real life and fantasy. I highly doubt that I will draft him next season solely because I'm anti-goalie in the first round but there's no doubt that Holtby will be the first goalie on my board. It looks like this will be the second season in a row that he finishes as the #2 overall goalie and that consistency is exactly what you're looking for in your top goalie. If you can find an issue with Holtby, let me know because he's seemingly perfect. Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
The Florida Panthers have had so many high draft picks that among their young core, Vincent Trocheck tends to be forgotten. The 22 year old has taken a massive step forward in his progression this season and he had his best game to date on Thursday, scoring a goal and three assists in the 6-2 win over the Senators. Trocheck now has 20+25 with solid numbers in all categories with 15 games to go. He's 90% at this point (I'm surprised it's not 100%) and should make a nice target in the mid to late rounds in drafts next season. Here's what else I saw around the league on Thursday night: