This is the beginning of teams having bye weeks in the NHL Season.  While most head to head leagues will have a two week schedule this week given the All-Star Break is also here, it's still worth planning for.  With such a small slate this week, I figured this was a good time to layout what my strategy is during this slow period.  I'll finish the posts with streamers for the next three days.  My next post after this will be an updated hold/stream list next Monday after the All-Star Break.  Let's get to it! UPDATE: I will have a post coming out Thursday morning now recapping Monday-Wednesday
It's hard to find a bigger fan of Blake Wheeler than yours truly.  He's been excellent for years, and while he is showing some signs of aging, he's remained incredibly productive.  Wheeler scored a goal and dished three assists in the 7-4 win over the Avalanche, adding two penalty minutes.  Wheeler now has 7+48 in 42 games, a very strong point total.  So where's the concern?  Well, seven goals obviously isn't great, and his shot rate is closer to 2.5 now than 3 per game.  Add in a career low shooting percentage and you can see why he's on pace for only 14 goals.  He's still solid in PIM and has been a quality +/- player for a long time, so he'll still be a top 50 player for a few years.  However, it would be a mistake to expect Wheeler to be a top 20 player again going forward.  Here's a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
Monday night was a short slate, but there were a couple great games.  Florida and Edmonton decided that defense (and goaltending) was optional leading to a 7-5 barn burner.  Vincent Trocheck took over the game late, scoring three goals in the third period on six shots to record his first career hat trick.  No matter what format you play, Trocheck has been incredible this season.  By the end of the month, there's a great chance that Trocheck has set career highs in goals, assists, PPP (already did that) and SOG.  The 24 year old is also a monster in faceoffs, hits, and blocks for a forward as well.  For those of us in standard leagues, Trocheck looks like a top 35 player for this season and in the future, if not even better.  He's basically Jamie Benn with a better shot rate and a lower floor for penalty minutes (obviously plus-minus can shift year-to-year).  The only potential downside going forward is that Trocheck is already averaging 21:33 per game, which has nowhere to go but down.  Either way, that's of no concern for me; Trocheck is still underrated in my eyes.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
The Chicago Blackhawks are in last place in their division for the first time in what seems like an eternity.  They are lacking in the scoring department in a big way.  There's one easily move that Joel Quenneville can make to help their cause: play Alex DeBrincat more.  The 20 year old scored his second hat trick of the season on Thursday while adding an assist.  He's now tied for third on the team in points and second in goals.  However, on a per-minute basis, he scores more goals than anyone on the team by a country mile and he's incredibly close to Kane in points per minute.  DeBrincat is averaging under 15 minutes per game on the season and to be blunt, that makes no sense to me.  The Blackhawks aren't completely dead in the water, especially if Corey Crawford eventually returns (it's been reported that he could return to the ice "soon").  Either way though, getting DeBrincat more ice time helps the team now and helps his development.  He's playing at a 28 goal pace with bottom six ice time!  DeBrincat is an elite streamer in 12'ers right now but if his minutes increase as they should, I would bet he becomes a hold down the stretch.  Let's take a look at what happened in the NHL over the last two nights:
What the Vegas Golden Knights are doing in their inaugural season is nothing short of spectacular.  The only thing I've ever seen like it is Leicester City fighting off relegation before winning the Premier League title the next season at 5000-1 shots.  Sure, Vegas was nowhere near that big of a long shot, but to have the best record in the West is remarkable.  On Tuesday, they beat their top competition, the Nashville Predators, 3-0.  Marc-Andre Fleury led the way with a 28 save shutout.  It's a shame Fleury was injured this season because he's been great in 9 of 10 starts.  Fleury has won 8 of his 10 starts with a GAA below 2 and save percentage above .940.  It's safe to say it will regress some but I'm well past the point of thinking Vegas is going to regress.  This team is real and Fleury looks like he'll be a slam dunk #1 fantasy goalie for the rest of the season and going forward.  Just a remarkable story that I can't get enough of.  Let's take a look at what else happened on Tuesday night:
Goals were plentiful around the NHL on Thursday night, none more than in Florida where the Panthers went eight ball, corner pocket on the Ducks.  The Panthers won 8-3 with Radim Vrbata leading the way.  Vrbata netted his seventh career hat trick and his first three goals as a Panther on six shots.  That brings him to 9 points in 10 games with elite shots and solid PIM.  I wouldn't expect the PIM to last but the points and shots should be plenty to make him a hold.  He's available in over 50% of leagues right now so grab Vrbata while you can.  He's a clear must own in 12'ers and probably should be owned in 10'ers as well.  Let's take a look at what else happened over the last two nights:
All everyone talked about in the preseason was wondering how bad Vegas was going to be in their expansion year.  Sure, it's only two games, but boy did they have some excitement.  On Friday, Dallas was dominating Vegas in their franchise opener but was only up 1-0 in the third.  Down goes Ben Bishop which opened up the door for James Neal to give the people of Las Vegas some relief in an awful time.  Neal scored two goals in the third period to propel the Golden Knights to victory.  To top off the weekend, Neal scored another goal, this time the game winner in overtime, to give Vegas two wins to start the season.  Neal is still available in over 40% of leagues and if you are in one of them, grab him.  The shot rate is going to be elite along with solid penalty minutes and goals.  At least for now, I'm not overly concerned about the top guys on Vegas having bad plus-minuses either.  Let's take a look at what else happened in the first (long) weekend of the NHL season:
If I had to pick a team to break out this year like Columbus did last season, it would be the Carolina Hurricanes.  They have an excellent young core in place, especially on the blue line, and now they may finally an answer in net.  After being dragged down by a few different goalies (mostly Cam Ward), Scott Darling now gets his chance to be a #1 goalie.  If his performance in Chicago is a predictor for the future, Darling should be just what the Hurricanes need to make the jump.  Let's take a look at what Carolina is working with:
When talking about the Carolina Hurricanes schedule in my Playoff Breakdown piece, I said the following: "The Godfather of playoff schedules, the Hurricanes are going to be great on volume alone. They don’t have three games in three nights like Detroit but there’s a pile of back to backs here. There has to be with 17(!!!) games in 28 nights to close the season. That’s two more games than anyone else in the league. Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask should be monsters in the playoffs while Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm will be among the best streamers in the league." And that's me quoting me! All of this had held true except for Rask being mediocre. Not bad. Skinner has been the best of the bunch and that continued on Tuesday night. Skinner had two goals and an assist with five shots in the 5-3 loss to the Wild. He's been hotter than a pistol bringing his totals to 35 goals and 26 assists on the season. With the elite shot rate, Skinner is pushing towards a top 50 player going forward. The team around him is getting much better and Skinner is nearing his prime as he turns 25 in May. I don't think we've seen his best yet. Here's what else happened around the league the last two nights: