Going into the season, I was high on Aaron Ekblad because the reports out of Florida were that Yandle was going to get scratched to open the season and his future was in doubt.  One bout of COVID later, and Yandle was in opening night and scored.  For the bad luck I've had on rankings this year , Yandle has not impacted Ekblad one bit.  Ekblad had hit a bit of a rough patch over the last week, but he fixed that in a big way on Thursday.  Ekblad scored two goals and added two assists with six shots in the 5-4 win over the Predators.  That brings Ekblad to 8+7 in 22 games, an incredible rate of goals for a defenseman.  Add in three shots per game and strong PIM, and Ekblad has a chance at finishing as a #2D this season.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
James Neal opened the season on an absolute tear, a stretch that included a four goal game.  He fell off dramatically over the last two months, but he had another massive game on Tuesday.  Neal had a hat trick and an assist in the 7-5 win over the Rangers.  So should we care?  I mean, the Rangers are a disaster defensively.  And the answer is... yes and no.  What great advice!  It all comes down to your team needs.  Neal has been excellent on the power play and should continue to do so on Edmonton's first unit.  The goals are going to keep coming in.  On the other hand, he's -23 and has only eight assists on the season.  If you're desperate for goals and power play points, or are in a league with extra categories that include PPG, then there's a case to hold Neal.  Otherwise, I would prefer to stream him so he doesn't tank my plus-minus while also giving less assists than any other fantasy relevant player.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last three nights:
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:
Hat tricks aren't that uncommon in the NHL.  First period hat tricks are.  Evander Kane became the first player in Sharks history to do so, scoring three goals and adding an assist with five shots in the 5-2 win over the Hurricanes on Wednesday.  Kane has long been a player that I rate higher than consensus because of his shot rate and penalty minutes.  Kane has four goals and two assists in four games since returning from suspension to go along with four PIM and 13 shots.  Pretty, pretty good.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the Sharks went 0-3 without Kane and are 3-1 since.  With their current depth issues, Kane should be leaned on heavily giving him a great chance at a top 50 fantasy season.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Not sure David Pastrnak even knows who Christopher Columbus is, but he sure dominated on his day Monday.  Pastrnak won the game for the Bruins scoring all four goals on five shots.  Two of those goals were on the power play, he chipped in two penalty minutes, and finished +1.  I generally don't like to lead off posts talking about superstars, but I feel obligated to give Pasta props for a four goal game.  The top seven going into the season were pretty clear for me but who was eighth was a debate.  I ultimately decided on Draisaitl but went with Pastrnak in the nine spot.  So far, so good.  Look for the Bruins top line to dominate on a nightly basis.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I've been stubborn in terms of thinking Dougie Hamilton was going to have a massive fantasy season for years now.  Loyal Razzballers know my love for guys who hit all of the categories, and Hamilton has always done that.  It seems like Carolina is finally giving him the chance to be the #1 guy in all situations and he's off to a tremendous start.  On Friday, Dougie scored a goal and an assist with four shots and two PIM.  He followed that up with a goal on five shots Saturday, bringing him to 4+4 in 6 games with 19 shots, 6 PIM and +7.  Obviously he's not going to keep up this pace, but this is the kind of start that can allow Hamilton to finish as a top five defenseman.  In fact, gun to head, I'd bet on it happening right now.  If you follow my rankings, odds are that you have Hamilton on your team in redrafts or keepers.  If that's the case, don't even consider selling high because this isn't a fluke.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Today, we wrap up my defensemen rankings going through the top 40.  Guys that don't make this list will creep into my top 200, but these 20 blueliners will be the last guys that get a whole paragraph on them.  For those who didn't see it, my top 20 can be read here.  Let's get right to it! 21) Seth Jones - I know it will be controversial that Jones isn't in my top 20.  A lot of my concerns with Jones last season were founded.  His huge jump in shot rate dropped almost all the way back to where it was in 2016-17.  His power play totals plummeted.  His assists and goals both dropped despite the team shooting 9.9% while Jones was on the ice last season, the best of his career.  Am I expecting a big bounce back?  Not really.  The loss of Panarin should help increase his PP role, but he could also lose PP1 time to Werenski.  Obviously he could get back to 2017-18 form where he was a bottom end #2, but I have my doubts.
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: