It has been a terrible year for Kris Letang on and off the ice, but mostly off. He suffered a stroke and his father passed away shortly after. After almost a month away from the team, Letang returned on Tuesday and carried the Penguins to victory. Letang had a vintage performance, scoring two goals and two assists with six shots, four hits, and two blocks in the 7-6 OT win over the Panthers. I'm not going to say Letang will have a monster second half based on one game in his age 35 season. The good news is that there's a lot of games left for him to make an impact, and we know how big the upside is. If I said Letang was a top five defenseman the rest of the way, would you be shocked? I wouldn't. Now, the floor is much lower in the past, even assuming he can stay healthy. However, Pitt is starting to round into form, offensively at least, and the opportunity is there for a big finish. If your team is in position where you need to take a gamble, I would float some offers to the Letang owner. If I had him and was patient through the first three months, fingers crossed that he can salvage the season. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
One of the goaltending performances of the season came in the marquee showdown on Tuesday. Toronto sure didn't make it easy on Matt Murray, taking seven penalties, but Murray stood up to the challenge and then some. Murray had a 44 save shutout, leading Toronto to a 4-0 victory. I thought the Toronto goaltending would be rough this season, but Murray has been very good when on the ice. Same goes with Ilya Samsonov. It could fall apart just like it did for Campbell last season, but the reason I liked these guys as #2 goalies is their floor is so high because of wins. When Toronto gets this level of goaltending, it's extremely hard to beat them. Here's to hoping Murray can stay healthy because he could be a big difference maker in fantasy. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
The Jets have been excellent to open the season, but that hasn't stopped them from tweaking things to get better. On Friday, we saw Bowness go back to last season's duo of Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor together, something I've been clamoring for. They notched one goal on Friday by Connor from Dubois, but they went off against Chicago on Sunday. Dubois had two goals on eight shots, while Connor had a goal and two assists with two shots. I've been saying it was a matter of time for Connor to get going, and I think that time is now. He's too talented to not pile up goals. Dubois has been quite good across the board so far this season, but career highs are now in play. The shot rate is fantastic, the PIM are strong, and he's playing at a 40 goal pace. It sucks that they're missing Ehlers indefinitely so they don't have a great second winger, but even still, look for these guys to improve their even strength performance while remaining great on the power play. Let's see what else happened over the weekend:
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!
It wasn't that long ago that Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade from the Blues. It wasn't that long ago that Tarasenko could have went to Seattle in the expansion draft. Now, St. Louis has to be thanking their lucky stars that he's still on the roster. Tarasenko had his biggest game of the season on Thursday, scoring a hat trick on four shots and adding two more assists in the 6-2 win over the Sabres. Tarasenko now has 31+41 in 67 games, with a great chance of setting a career high in points. It's a remarkable turnaround for the Russian who is certainly a top 100 player for drafts next season. I don't see him cracking the top 50, but it's great to see Tarasenko playing great hockey again. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
I've been aggressive ranking Matthew Tkachuk for years, but I never expected this type of offense from him. Tkachuk had a hat trick on Tuesday, bringing his season totals up to 37+55 in 73 games. He has a chance for 100 points, he's +49, the PIM are strong, and his shot rate is over three per game. Tkachuk is pretty much having a Marchand-esque season. That's the Marchand who has been a top five player for the past 4-5 years. Now, I'm not quite going there with Tkachuk for next season. Gaudreau could leave and this is an outlier in terms of past performance. That said, he's firmly in the first round pick discussion because he smashes every category. I can't wait to see what he does in the playoffs. Let's take a look at what else happened the last two nights:
David Perron had a horrible start to the season and was shaping up to being one of the biggest fantasy busts of this year. To say things have turned for the better is an understatement. Perron scored two goals on seven shots against the Predators before scoring a goal on seven shots against Winnipeg. Since Perron went back on the top line, Perron has exploded. He has eight goals and five assists in the last ten games with 35 SOG. It's good enough across the board that Perron is a clear hold in all formats again. He's only available in about 25% of leagues, but even in a shallow league, I wouldn't be cutting Perron to keep a stream spot. The schedule is a little light the next couple weeks, but it really picks up in the last week of March and early April. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
The Flames are playing incredible hockey at the moment as they make their way up the standings. The top line gets a ton of credit, but the second line has been just as important. They've thoroughly dominated for months generating absurd shot rates and possession. This continued the last two nights as Calgary blew out Vegas and Toronto back to back. Mikael Backlund led the way with six points between the two games, scoring a goal and three assists against Vegas, then following it up with two more assists against the Leafs. Andrew Mangiapane scored three goals over the two games, while Blake Coleman dished two assists. It might be a stretch, but I have them all as elite streamers right now. I'd rank them Mangiapane, Coleman, Backlund depending on your league format, but the work they're doing against top lines is more valuable in real life than fantasy. Still, if they keep getting over 80 shots per 60 minutes as a line, which they've done for over a month, there will be plenty of fantasy value. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
A week without hockey in December did not seem right at all. Thankfully, the NHL is back up and running. Sure, there are plenty of postponements, but I'll take what we can get. There's not a lot of games over the past two nights, but I'm going to do a quick recap of everything that happened. Goaltending was mostly optional, especially in Wednesday's games. The highlight was a 8-7 SO win by the Sharks over the Coyotes, where Arizona scored two goals in the last three minutes of the game to send it to overtime. Phil Kessel had four assists and four shots in the game, and was dominant throughout the entire game. He's an elite streamer for now, but he can end up a hold depending where he goes at the trade deadline. Yes, I'm assuming he's traded, but that seems like a formality. Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays!
Hello again, Razzfolks! Wrapping up the Western Conference today. Time for Part 2 of the Central Division previews, finishing things out with the Wild, the Predators, the Blues, and the Jets. If you want to check out (or look back over) the other previews thus far, links are below:
We're moving out from the crease to the blue liners in my rankings. Today, I'll be going through the top 20 defensemen with the Top 40 coming out later in the week. Let's get right to it! 1) Cale Makar - Covered in the Top 20 overall here. 2) Dougie Hamilton - The top defenseman last season by a fairly wide margin, Hamilton moved from Carolina to New Jersey. It's a little worrisome, but I still expect big things from Dougie. I wouldn't be surprised if Hamilton ends up getting more minutes than he did while he was in Carolina.