It's Christmas in February! I'm going to hit on all of the trades that I haven't discussed to this point and then update this post with every trade that takes place today. These are all my instant thoughts from both a real life and fantasy perspective. Let's get right to it!
Calgary has been quite a mess over the past two weeks since Mike Smith went down with a groin injury. The 7-3 loss to Vegas on Wednesday was close to rock bottom, even though they played a solid game through 45 minutes before falling apart. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Quick, who is second in the NHL in points? The question would be harder to answer if you guys couldn’t see the title of this post. Phil Kessel has been absolutely incredible all season and he’s certainly not getting the credit he deserves. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Aleksander Barkov is in a dead heat with McJesus for the most time on ice per game as a forward in the NHL. Barkov has been making those minutes count in October and he continued to do so on Monday. Barkov finished the month with a bang scoring a goal and three assists with two shots against the Lightning. The bad news for Barkov is that his team was still electrocuted by the Lightning losing 8-5. The good news for us fantasy owners is that it doesn't affect us. Barkov has been outstanding and if these minutes last, a top 50 season is a near lock. Let's take a look at what else happened around the league on Monday night:
The Philadelphia Flyers have nothing to play for besides being a spoiler. Their season is effectively over but they basically ended their division rivals on Thursday. The Flyers blitzed the Islanders on Thursday going up 5-0 in the first period and winning 6-3. With the Bruins, Maple Leafs, Lightning and Hurricanes all winning, the Islanders are toast. There were many players who stood out for the Flyers in this game but the one with the biggest fantasy impact is Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds had a Gordie Howe hat trick and then some totaling a goal, two assists, five penalty minutes and four shots. The goal was Simmonds' 30th of the season allowing him to reach the 30 goal plateau for the second straight season. With four straight seasons of 28+ goals and massive penalty minutes, we know who Simmonds is in those departments. The shots are solid and the PPP are elite but there are some concerns. One, he's been a minus player every season in Philly with this year being his worst ever, a -20. The other issue is that he's never topped 31 assists. I thought this season he would set a new career high but he's not coming close. So where does that leave us? I had Simmonds in my top 25 last season which turned out to be too high. I love Simmonds for what he is but it's not worth taking him in the top of the third round when he's only getting 55-60 points. He'll certainly be in my top 50 but since he's on the verge of turning 29, my hopes of Simmonds taking another step seem incredibly unlikely. Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights:
In the first half of Tuesday's game, Jack Eichel couldn't get anything going. The puck was constantly jumping over his stick and was turning the puck over constantly. Things certainly changed in the second half of the game as he willed the Sabres to a third straight overtime victory. Eichel scored twice, including an absurd overtime winner, on four shots.
Eichel's shot rate is currently the best in the league over his 26 games along with 12 goals and 9 assists. Now, it's not a huge sample, but that's a 40 goal, 30 assist pace with over 320 shots. That's why I had him ranked in the top 20 before his preseason injury and while he'll probably be there at the start of next season. We'll be sure to include some dynasty talk on Thursday's podcast; in Eichel's case, we haven't seen his best yet, far from it. Here's what else happened around the league on Tuesday night:
I think most fantasy hockey players would agree that Antti Raanta is worth streaming every time he gets the start. The problem has been that Raanta rarely plays because he's behind one of the best goalies in the world, Henrik Lundqvist. A healthy Lundqvist never sat three games in a row while healthy. Until this weekend. After a game on Thursday, Vigneault turned to Raanta again and he posted a 26 save shutout in the 1-0 win over his former team in Chicago. To the surprise of everyone, Raanta started again on Sunday and posted another shutout, this time an easy 5-0 win over the Devils in which Raanta posted 19 saves. If you streamed Raanta on Sunday, hold him until Tuesday to see if he gets another game. This certainly isn't going to last, this is Lundqvist's team, but ride the hot wave while you can. At the least, Raanta is a must-stream every time he gets the nod. Let's take a look at everything else that happened over the weekend:
There have been plenty of defensemen this season who have frustrated their owners due to lack of performance. A player who looked on the verge of a breakout after last season was Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres agreed with that take giving him a 5 year deal and early dividends were not there. Risto was accumulating assists but not much else. However, things are starting to change and it's no coincidence that it has occurred when Jack Eichel returned to the lineup. On Tuesday night, Ristolainen scored his first goal of the season, an amazing slapshot in overtime, and added two assists and three shots in the 4-3 OT win against the Oilers. That gives Ristolainen 1 goal and 6 assists in the 5 games with Eichel in the lineup. He played almost 30 minutes in each of the last two games showing how important he is to the Sabres depleted blue line and with how the top power play unit moves the puck, I expect Ristolainen to be a #2 defenseman the rest of the way with the upside to be a #1. Let's take a look at what else developed over the last two nights.
Wednesday night saw the first showdown between the first two picks of the 2016 NHL draft, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. It looked like Matthews was going to have the best of it when the Leafs were up 4-0 in the second period but then the Jets, led by Laine, turned things around to win 5-4 in overtime. Laine stole the show with his first career hat trick on five shots, including the tying goal with 55 seconds left and the overtime winner. He was moved up to the first line a couple games ago solidifying his minutes and has delivered ever since. I picked him as the better rookie for fantasy over Matthews (assist, seven shots) and still feel strongly about that. Laine is easily a top 100 player for this season and by next year, he's going to be a top 50 player and eventually a top 20 player. Every time he's on the ice, you can see the potential as an Ovechkin-lite. Let's take a look at everything that happened in the Wednesday and Thursday night games:
The hockey season has finally started! With four games in the books, I'll wait until tomorrow night to recap them all instead of doing a very short post today that would mainly consist of gushing over Auston Matthews' debut. Instead, there is a podcast that will be posted in the afternoon (I'm editing it this morning) and then this post, something I've been excited to do for a while. I've mentioned repeatedly how poor the rankings are for the "big" websites so I'm going to review ESPN's final staff rankings. You can find them here to follow along. Yes, their rankings include time on ice but there is still a pile of things that are unexplainable. At the end of this post, I'll list the players who I am much higher or lower than consensus on plus some streamers for Thursday. Let's get to it!