On Monday, I wrote the following about James Neal: "As long as he’s on the first power play unit, Neal has a real chance to bounce back. I wouldn’t hold him yet, but he’s a solid streaming option." And that's me quoting me copying what Grey does! Well, I hope that you streamed him on Tuesday. Neal stayed on the first power play unit, and the time to hold him is now. Neal scored four goals on eight shots on Tuesday, playing almost 21 minutes, in the 5-2 win over the Islanders. Two of those goals came on the power play where it's clear Edmonton is using him as one of their primary shooters. Am I saying Neal is going to score 40 goals again? Definitely not. However, the upside is too high to leave him on the waiver wire. He's always had a quality shot rate and there's a chance of good penalty minutes on top of the goals. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
It's now time to move on to defensemen for my rankings. I'll be doing the top 40 defensemen in two separate posts, with the top 20 in this one. I have gone through the top 100 forwards so you can check those out through the hockey page. For now, let's get right to the blueliners! 1) Brent Burns - You can check out Burns in the top 20 here. I feel like I ranked him too low, so when I do my top 50 overall post, I may slide him up a bit. 2) John Carlson - Burns is in a tier by himself, and who to put at the top of tier two is has been a big internal debate for me. I ultimately decided on Carlson for the safety. Carlson put up 70 points last season, 33 of which were on the power play. Both numbers are incredible. He's also a plus player most seasons and there's no reason to expect a change. The one concern is that his shot rate plummeted last season from almost 3 shots per game to about 2.25. That's still solid for a defensemen, but nowhere near a great asset. Even given that, Carlson was the #3 defenseman last season. Hopefully there's a bounce back in his shot rate, but either way it's high floor and high ceiling.
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 ninth stop on the 31 in 31 tour, we start up our Central Division breakdown in Music City with the Nashville Predators. The Preds are still on the cusp of something great, but their results have only regressed since their 2017 Finals appearance. To land one of the free-agent big fish, they had to salary dump a big fish of their own. In a Central that looks as competitive as ever, here’s who the Preds will rely on to finish back on top.
As far as best contracts in the league go, Roman Josi's is near the top of the list. Josi, who is nearing the end of a 7/28 deal signed in 2013, has developed into a true #1 defenseman. Josi scored two goals and an assist on five shots in the 5-3 win over the Stars. Josi is currently up to #6 on the player rater for defensemen, in the range that we expected from him. He's not in the top tier, but he's firmly in tier two now and going forward. Josi looks like a good bet to set career highs in both goals (15) and points (61). Let's take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:
It was only a matter of time until Vladimir Tarasenko picked up his play. Tarasenko had four goals over the weekend, including a hat trick on Sunday, in two games against the Predators. That gives him an eight game point streak to get to 22+19 on the season. Obviously that's still disappointing, but there's time for him to salvage the season. Hell, the Blues are even in a playoff spot now because of how bad the Western Conference is. Look for them to make some additions at the deadline because of all of the moves they made in the summer. Missing the playoffs would be a major disappointment, and creating depth for the lineup would help things out for Tarasenko. The buy low window is probably closed but there's a strong chance that he's a top 30 player the rest of the way. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Patrice Bergeron has had an excellent career to this point, one that gives him a chance at making the Hall of Fame one day if he ages well. To this point, we've seen no signs of him slowing down. That continued on Tuesday as Bergeron scored two goals in his 1000th career NHL game. He became the fifth Bruin to reach that mark, and he'll be 3rd all-time early next season behind Bourque and Bucyk. On a per-game basis, this has been the best season of his career. He has 18+28 in 37 games with an elite shot rate. This is his eighth straight season with a Corsi over 56%. Bergeron is arguably the best defensive center in the game who is good enough to dominate the other team's top players on a nightly basis. His prowess is what gives the Bruins a chance to upset someone, presumably Toronto, in the first round of the playoffs. I wouldn't be selling high if I owned him; the first line is so damn good that very few teams have a chance against them. Let Bergeron continue to provide great value to your team. Here's what else happened on a busy Tuesday night:
The Penguins have been on quite a tear lately, and it's not just their All-Stars. Over the weekend, Jake Guentzel destroyed the Ducks and Kings. In the Penguins comeback against the Ducks, Guentzel had a hat trick on seven shots with two penalty minutes, before scoring two more goals on six shots against the Kings. That brings Guentzel to 23 goals, which is already a career high. The shot rate has taken a big jump as well, although we can't expect him to shoot 19% all season. Regardless, Guentzel has settled into being a top 100 player who is a clear hold in all formats. As long as he continues to play with Crosby, things will be just fine. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
To say the season for Philadelphia as been a mess is an understatement. First they fire Hextall as GM, then the mess last week of Hakstol being fired as coach, only to still be the coach for a couple days as new GM Chuck Fletcher said no decision has been made, only for Hakstol to be fired anyways. They were in last place in the Eastern Conference on Monday when Fletcher decided to recall Carter Hart. The 20 year old is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the league, and he received his first NHL start on Tuesday. Hart saved 20 of 22 shots against the Red Wings getting his first career win by a score of 3-2. Look, I'm not saying Hart is a future superstar. Goaltending is extremely unpredictable and it seems like Philadelphia has been cursed in net for a while. However, he has as good of a chance as any young goaltender to be a starter for years to come. For that alone, he's worth grabbing in all formats, especially dynasties. Who knows how long that Fletcher keeps Hart on the big squad, but it seems like he should be up going forward. Either he plays so well they have to roll Hart, or they fall out of it completely and want to get him more playing time. There's no guarantee it's good now either, but I doubt another goalie with more upside will show up on the waiver wire later on in the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Jonathan Quick was already out. Now Jack Campbell is out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. That makes Cal Petersen the starter in Los Angeles for the time being. Petersen was a 5th round pick for the Sabres that blossomed at Notre Dame and signed with the Kings after he became a free agent due to waiting out his time at Notre Dame. He is a very good prospect, and now he's jumped into the show. In his two starts over the weekend, Petersen made 34 saves on 35 shots against the Blackhawks before stopping 38 of 42 shots against the Predators. Obviously the Kings are a bad team, but their schedule is decent for the next two weeks, so I don't mind taking a gamble on Petersen if you need goaltending help. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It's nothing new when Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler have big games, and both managed to do so twice this weekend. In Friday's 5-2 win over the Avalanche, Wheeler registered a point on all five goals, going 1+4, while Scheifele scored a goal and two assists with three shots. They followed that up with Wheeler getting two more assists and Scheifele posting a 2+1 game. Wheeler already has 20 assists in 16 games to go with 19 PIM and 3 goals, while Scheifele is up to 9+10 with 20 PIM. Wheeler was a borderline first round pick that I had ranked as a high second rounder, while Scheifele was more 2nd/3rd range. With his shot rate at exactly 2.5 per game right now, that solidifies him as a second round value. Remember when ESPN had him ranked in the 60s? Hilarious. These two should continue to put up points no matter the opposition. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend: