With no exhibition games this season, it’s going to be harder to predict what lines and pairing teams are going to use.  Thankfully, there are some coaches, such as Ralph Krueger in Buffalo, who made it clear from Day 1 of practices who would be playing together.  In this post, I’m going to hit on some notable decisions around the league and how they impact fantasy hockey.  Let’s get to it!

Early indications are that Jack Eichel will center Taylor Hall and Victor Olofsson.  Eichel and Olofsson are dealing with minor injuries, but are expected to return to practice on Wednesday.  My aggressive ranking of Olofsson (you can read it here) was on the premise that this was the line.  I feel better about Olofsson being a top 50 player if this holds.

The second line saw Eric Staal centering Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart.  There was talk about Reinhart potentially playing on the third line as a driver, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.  I’m giving Reinhart a small boost as a result.  Additionally, that leaves Dylan Cozens out of the top six.  He’s been Canada’s best player so far in the World Junior Championships, but he won’t have much time to get acclimated in Buffalo before the season starts.  Cozens is still worth a dart throw at the end of drafts, but that’s it.

In Toronto, the shocker of the last couple days was Joe Thornton playing on the first line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.  This… seems like an awful idea.  Thornton was below replacement level last season and it’s hard to see a resurgence at age 41.  It would be great for his fantasy value, but I don’t see this being a sustainable option.  It’s only a matter of time until Hyman or someone else takes that spot.  I’m still not drafting Thornton, but I don’t hate the thought of streaming him early.  Also, Jimmy Vesey was practicing on the second line.  Even if he sticks there, I have a hard time seeing him worth owning.

In Colorado, Andre Burakovsky has been skating on the first line while Gabriel Landeskog is on the second.  I’m not going to knock Landeskog too much for this considering he’s still going to be on PP1, but this is a boost for Burakovsky.  I had Burakovsky ranked 198th in my Top 200 but now, I’d have him closer to 150th overall.  On their blue line, Devon Toews has been skating with Cale Makar.  That pair has incredible potential.  Makar stays in tier two, but Toews moves into tier five of defensemen now and should be drafted in all leagues.

Tony DeAngelo will move to the left side of the Rangers blue line to play with Jacob Trouba.  I’m not changing DeAngelo’s rank because there’s still the chance he loses his spot on the first power play unit to Fox, but the addition minutes at even strength do give him some more upside, granted he is due for regression from last season’s massive breakout.

Bobby Ryan is going to start on the second line in Detroit along with the first power play unit.  I don’t see him being relevant in standard leagues, but for those of you in deep leagues, it’s something to monitor.

Luke Kunin is slotted to play in the top six with Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene.  It looks like he’ll be on the second PP unit, but it’s not a lock.  I’m not drafting Kunin, but he’s got solid streamer potential given his penalty minutes. Kunin played at a 40 point pace last season with barely any power play time, so it’s more of a deep league play, but there’s a bit of upside here if things click.

Andreas Johnsson is expected to open the season with Jack Hughes and Kyle Palmieri.  Johnson has been a solid player with the Leafs the past two seasons.  Now, he’ll get more opportunity in New Jersey.  If Hughes takes the step forward everyone expects while Palmieri maintains his level of play, this line could be respectable.  Johnsson is another play who falls in the category of player who could end up a solid streamer.

Mathew Barzal hasn’t shown up to Islanders camp.  He’s in New York so once he does agree to a contract, he’ll be able to attend camp, but he’s not showing up without one.  I’m not going to drop Barzal far since I think a deal gets done sooner than later, but I think he needs to go down 10-15 spots just because of the downside.

I liked Kasperi Kapanen a decent amount this year since he’s slated to play on the first line, but he’s going to miss at least the season opener due to an immigration issue.  If it’s solved in the next couple days, then it should only be a game or two, but if it takes longer, Kapanen could miss the first week or more.  I’m inclined to pass on drafting him now, but I’d look to stream him the second he’s back.  As for who replaces Kapanen to start the season on the first line, it’s hard to say.  I’ll hope to have an update later in the week, and that person will be a solid streamer to start against the Flyers since there are only five games on opening night.

Ryan Donato is going to get the best opportunity of his career playing with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.  He started off great in Boston before falling off and then repeated the same thing in Minnesota.  The good news is that the Sharks have so few options at RW that he should stay in that slot all season.  He had 14 goals last season despite playing only 10:38 per game.  Even in 12 man leagues, I’m inclined to consider Donato with my last pick in the draft, and am looking to stream him early at the very least.

That’s all for now guys.  I’ll be back with a post on Tuesday.  I’m open to suggestions on what comes first, but I’m inclined to write about what I think the crazy rankings in Yahoo’s top 200 are.  I’ll also have extended posts on players I like and don’t like later in the week, but I’d rather break down Yahoo’s rankings first.  Also, ESPN changed their rankings to reflect one of the worst point systems I’ve ever seen, so it’s not even worth talking about how poor their stuff is now.  As always, feel free to ask any questions, leave any comments, or give any suggestions below.  Thanks for reading, take care!

  1. josh maver says:
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    Hey Viz,

    Thanks for the write ups as always. I wanted your opinion on my keepers and some help with the last couple.

    So I’m in a 10-tm H2H Cat Keepers league (keep 10) with 8 Skater cat (G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SHP, GWG, SOG) and 4 goalie cats (W, GAA, SV, SHO)

    This league is pretty active on the wire AND everyone goes Goalie heavy (ie, if you don’t draft goalies, very unlikely you find one on the wire).

    I’ve added a *K* beside the current 10 keepers I will be keeping but I keep circling back looking at K. Kakko & S. Monahan. As far as I can tell my low end keepers are Giroux, Forsberg and Meier and maybe Dubois. Would you keep Kakko (thinking youth, expect him to excel this year and is currently slotted on the Panarin/Strome line) over any of these guys and why ?

    My Team:
    C – C. McDavid *K*
    C – A. Barkov *K*
    C – P.-L. Dubois *K*
    LW – J. Huberdeau *K*
    LW – C. Giroux (C/LW) *K*
    LW – F. Forsberg *K*
    RW – J. Guentzel (LW/RW) *K*
    RW – T. Meier (LW/RW) *K*
    RW – K. Kakko
    D – J. Klingberg
    D – J. Trouba
    D – P.K. Subban
    D – D. Byfuglien
    UTIL – D. Larkin *K*
    BN – S. Monahan
    BN – B. Horvat
    BN – A. Radulov (LW/RW)
    BN – V. Arvidsson (LW/RW)

    G – C. Hellebuyck*K*
    G – J. Quick
    BN – M. Jones
    BN – H. Lindqvist

    Thanks, Marv

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      Hey Marv, hope you’re doing well!

      I’m inclined to keep what you have listed as keepers right now. I do think we see a Kappo bounce back, but he’s been going very late in drafts and I think you’ll be able to draft him back fairly easily if you want to. I think it’ll be much more difficult to get any of those other guys back. I’ve never been a big Monahan fan, and he’s a tier below all of your potential keepers besides Meier, who I have in the same tier but definitely prefer from a keeper perspective, so I think you’re making the right decisions here.

  2. farcus says:
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    Hey Viz,

    This is invaluable stuff heading into my draft, thank you!

    Quick one for you, would you prefer keeping Olofsson in the 11th or Tarasenko in the 13th knowing you could keep either in perpetuity in that round?

    Thanks.

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      No problem, thanks for letting me know! This is tough, but I lean towards Olofsson. I’m scared long term of Tarasenko having another injury issue, we know he’s out at least a month this season, and Olofsson is getting first crack at playing with Hall and Eichel

  3. BEN KELLY says:
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    Did my draft a week ago and I’m kicking myself for not remembering about you guys sooner! Glad to see you’re back in full swing. Been coming here I think 3 years now and you do a great job. Love the different formats and willingness to make a few bold projections. One suggestion I’d like to make is some content or references to hits leagues. Yahoo standard leagues are hits leagues now and we are still on ESPN but we’ve been using hits for years. Maybe you aren’t a fan, I don’t know, but its more common every season.

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      Thanks Ben, glad that you’re back! During the season, I usually reference players that are worth streaming because of hits, or players that get a boost because of hits leagues. There are a couple reasons I don’t include hits in my base rankings. The main one is personally, I think they’re an awful stat. What is considered a hit in one arena isn’t considered a hit in one arena, it comes down strictly to the game’s stat keeper. Two, I really don’t understand why people should be rewarded for hits. Now, I feel the same way about PIM, but almost every league uses PIM. I’d like that to change, but it is what it is. The other thing is I don’t want to promote a format that I don’t like and would like things to change. I would never play in a league that has a hits as a category as they don’t help you win hockey games. In actuality, poor teams usually accumulate hits because they have the puck less often. I’m more than willing to answer specific questions to it, but I don’t want to cater my rankings to hit leagues. To me, it’s even worse than including say, triples in baseball or shutouts in hockey, which are mostly noise.

  4. nightpandas says:
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    Hey Viz,

    I’m back again on Nate Mackinnon…

    Now the offer is Connor Vasilevskiy and Hedman for my Mackinnon and Markstrom,

    Means I would keep Vas Hedman huberdeau Petterson and one of Connor/JT MIller instead of

    mackinnon huberdeau Petterson letang Markstrom….

    You still sticking with Mack?

    • Viz

      Viz says:
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      Man, this is super close one way or the other. I’m still leaning towards passing just because of goaltending variance, I don’t think Hedman is that much better than Letang right now, and MacKinnon is simply that damn good, but this is close enough that even with my general stance on things, you can convince me it’s good enough of a return to do. If you really want to have the top goalie, then I’m okay with doing it, but I generally don’t like having a first round pick among my keepers, and you wouldn’t with this trade (granted you’d have arguably three second rounders).

    • itookdonschery says:
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      if you do the trade you better keep Connor over Miller. Connor is almost top five in goals the last 3 years. I see Miller as being a big letdown this year.

  5. Mordacious Levator says:
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    12 teamer with faceoffs/PPP/hits/blocks added. shots too and points as another category (in addition to goals/assists, so scorers value comes back up and anybody that gets points AND hits/blocks and/or faceoffs are kings). i “won” this (by having best record right when playoffs were starting). it’s of course based on high end centers that score from those settings. i haven’t kept a goalie in years since i was worried not keeping price would hurt me, i never got less than say 4th even with no or little value keeper goalie. other teams sometimes DO keep goalies though, and they certainly draft them right quick too.

    rosters: 2 C, 2 LW, 2 RW, 2 F, 6 D, 1 util, 2 G, 5 BN, max IR+ (10), 4 IR, 1 NA

    possible keepers for me:
    mackinnon (yep)
    rantanen (yep)
    d.hamilton (yep)
    then 4 out of these:
    – schenn (faceoffs, hits, C and RW, points and PPP)
    – e.kane (hits, PIMs, shots, PPP, some faceoffs last year too)
    – dubois (points, faceoffs, hits, blocks quite good for a forward)
    – t.meier
    – perron
    – monahan (very weak in hits, PIMs, super strong in faceoffs)
    – zucker
    – rust
    – goalies: price (maybe i did keep him last year, or drafted him fairly early), merzlikins, mrazek (so anybody thinking that list for a 12’er is weak, well i won with these settings and am never worse than 3rd in season ever).

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