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!