In a Pacific Division battle on Thursday, Stuart Skinner stole the show. Against the Kings, Skinner saved all 43 shots he faced in the 2-0 win. We all know about the firepower the Oilers possess, but they made the conference finals last season in large part because of Mike Smith getting hot as he was known to do. The Oilers replaced him with Campbell, but that has been an epic disaster. Skinner has established himself as the clear #1 and will be going into the playoffs. His numbers are that of a #2 in fantasy, and while I do like the 24 year old long term, I don't really see upside past that unless the Oilers completely revamp their defense. That said, for the Oilers to get on a run, they'll need solid goaltending, and Skinner has shown that he's capable of that. He's the goalie of the future and more importantly, the present. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I've never seen an organization do more to sabotage their own team and coach as the Canucks have over the last six weeks. They've been openly interviewing coaches for two months while Boudreau was still employed. It was already reported that Rick Tocchet was going to take over the Canucks before the Canucks played on Saturday night. It was highly emotional for the fans, players, and coaches, as Zach Hyman had a goal and three assists with five shots to lead Edmonton to a 4-2 win over the Canucks in Boudreau's last game. He was 50-40-13 in his Vancouver, a 90 point pace per 82 games, much better than it should be with their roster. Boudreau is one of the best coaches of the last 20 years, and I hope he gets another chance. Fantasy wise, Tocchet steps in and well, he was really bad when he coached the Lightning and Coyotes. His only playoff appearance was in the bubble because of an expanded playoffs. The schedule does lighten up quite a bit for the Canucks in the short term, which obviously helps. The distraction of the entire situation being gone also helps, but at the same time, they're going to trade Horvat sooner than later, and this could end up a slight negative for the value of their players. If anything, I lean neutral to their values, but I really don't like the way things are trending in Vancouver. Shame on Aquilini and Rutherford for handling this situation as poorly as possible. As for the Oilers, they're on fire finally starting to solidify their playoff positioning being carried by their superstars. The big thing I would say is never panic about their lines, Hyman and RNH will score plenty regardless, and will end up taking extra shifts with McDavid and Draisaitl anyways. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
It was great to see Aleksander Barkov back in the lineup on Thursday, and if you didn't get him back into your lineup off injured reserve, well, that one is going to hurt for a while. Barkov scored a hat trick in the first period against the Canadiens and added two assists in the 7-2 win over the Canadiens. It hasn't been Barkov's best season to this point, but I'm buying Barkov going forward to get back to being well over a point per game. Florida has dug itself quite a hole in the playoff race and I expect Maurice to really ride their top six even more. Barkov's shooting percentage is also much lower than his career sh% (10.3 vs 14.0) so look for some positive regression in the New Year for the Panthers captain. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
One of the highest variance players for fantasy hockey this season is Logan Thompson. You can't ask for much of a better start. Thompson had a 27 save shutout on Thursday, and the Golden Knights needed every bit of it in the 1-0 win over the Blackhawks. He also had 27 saves on 30 shots in the first Vegas win, 4-3 over the Kings. I liked Thompson as a #2 this year, and this start makes me feel better about it. It's not going to be smooth, but that happens for only a few goalies in the entire league. Outside of the worst matchups, I feel good about rolling Thompson against everybody for the time being. Let's see what else happened on Thursday:
What’s poppin, Razzpimples?
If you missed my Top 20 full-bangs defensemen piece (accounting for standard cats + blocks + PIMs), you can find it right here.
Below, you'll see #21-#40. After that, I'll give a list of names to watch for various reasons, but I don't see much point ranking guys when you get to that range. It'll depend on personal preference and your team build when it comes to deciding who should be our #4 or #5 defenseman. Odds are they won't stick on your roster all season anyway.
Keep in mind, these rankings are for categories leagues.
We move through more defensemen today going through my Top 40. For those that didn't see my Top 20, you can check that out here. I have some good news before I get going with these rankings. JKJ is going to be back! He's going to shift his focus this season towards defensemen, similar to what he does on the baseball side of things with relief pitchers. Look for him to be writing again in the near future, with a rebuttal to my defenseman rankings the first thing coming. And now, let's get to it!
I hope all you loyal Razzballers are doing well! We're just over a month away from the NHL season starting, and with football starting tonight (Go Bills!), it's time for people to transition to fantasy hockey drafts. I'm going to start my rankings next week, but for today, I'm going to look at every team's offseason. Some teams made massive changes and will have a longer write up e.g. Calgary, and others who did minimal will have a short blurb e.g. the Islanders. Let's get to it!
Yes, the Sabres are still a bad hockey team, but the good news for long suffering fans like me, is there are finally some signs of hope. One of the best signs is how well the first line has performed since Tuch returned from injury after the trade. They single-handedly won the game for the Sabres on Sunday against Montreal, and it started with their highest paid player. Jeff Skinner was left floundering on the fourth line or scratched by Ralph Kreuger last season because, well, Krueger had no clue about coaching hockey. Skinner had one of the games of the season on Sunday afternoon, scoring four goals and an assist on six shots in the 5-3 win over the Canadiens. That bring Skinner up to 20 goals with 14 assists in 45 games. Is he worth his massive contract? No, but he's proving once again that he's still a damn good hockey player. I've had him on the fringe for a while, but I feel good about holding him now. His shot rate is back over three per game on the season so that's plenty good enough given his contribution in points. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Last season couldn't have been more of a disaster for Patrik Laine. Is he as good as people expected when he .came out of the draft in regards to being an overall player? Probably not. As an offensive player? He's still incredible. Laine had two goals and an assist with five shots on Tuesday, and that doesn't even count his empty net attempt in the last five seconds that somehow hit both posts and went out. Laine now has 12+12 in 25 games this season. Does 40+40 seem good to you because it does to me? Laine is an incredibly gifted offensive player who has the upside to determine fantasy leagues. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Prior to Monday, there has only been four times in the last 25 years that a player scored five goals in a game. Add Timo Meier to the list. Meier single-handedly won the game for San Jose, scoring five times on six shots in the 6-2 win over the Kings. We haven't seen a player ascent from solid top six player to bonafide superstar in quite some time. Meier now has 20+25 in 35 games to go with over four shots per game. He looked to be on this path three seasons ago when he had 30+36 as a 22-year-old, but he was a major letdown the last two seasons. So what should we be looking for from Meier going forward? Well, his shooting percentage isn't that outlandish to expect major regression. It appears to be the real deal, which would make Meier a top 20 player going forward. At 25 years old, Meier's prime should only be beginning. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
The Blues have cooled off a bit since their hot start, but that doesn't mean that all of their players have. Pavel Buchnevich tore it up over the weekend, scoring a goal and an assist with three shots and two PIM on Friday before coming back with two goals and an assist with five shots on Saturday. Buch is crushing it across the board on the seasons now with 8+8, 18 PIM and 58 shots in 19 games. Add in a +8 rating and he's a top 20 forward at the moment. Do I expect that to last? No, but his fit in St. Louis couldn't be better and now he's getting plenty of minutes, especially with David Perron out of the lineup. Somehow, he's still available in over 20% of leagues which is blasphemous. He has a real chance at being a top 50 player this year. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Jeff Skinner scored 40 goals in 2018-19 playing on the first line with the Sabres. Then, for no reason at all, Ralph Krueger decided that Skinner shouldn't play on the first line anymore. Last season, Krueger thought that Skinner, on a team devoid of talent, should play on the fourth line, or even be scratched. Needless to say, Krueger was one of the worst coaches in the league and quickly lost his job. Since Don Granato took over, Skinner has been back in the role he should be, and he's been thriving in the early part of this season. Skinner scored two goals and added an assist on Saturday against the Maple Leafs. He has 5+4 in 14 games so far with a whopping 47 shots on goal. The shot volume will go a long way towards Skinner finding his goal scoring touch again. I don't think he's a slam dunk hold in 12'ers just yet, but he's an elite streamer with clear upside in his role. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend: