Fantasy Hockey: Opening Week Impressions

Rejoice! Fantasy hockey season is back! The long, hockey-less wait through the summer is over. There were a ton of moves over the summer, as teams like the Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers made themselves more formidable. We saw big free-agent signings while waiting for others to finally put ink to paper. In the end, all the big names signed in time for Opening Night. After almost a full week of games, here is a list of things that stood out:

New Faces, New Places

Toronto Maple Leafs

Everyone worried about Tyson Barrie cramping Morgan Rielly‘s style should probably just stop all that. Rielly has five helpers, two of which have come on the power play. Barrie has four, one on the man advantage. Rielly is getting a tad more ice time, but both are elite fantasy options. They shoot a fair amount, too.

Ilya Mikheyev is off to a strong start in his NHL career. He raised some eyebrows in the KHL, and the transition to North America has been seamless. Three points in three games, all at even strength. Practically zero PP time though, so keep an eye on that. He’s down in the pecking order but could work his way into consideration if he keeps this up.

Nashville Predators

Matt Duchene has been all that and then some for Nashville. All the talk in the recent weeks about fading centres in drafts turned out to be sage advice. Duchene went late in fantasy hockey drafts (#142 on Yahoo), yet he has five assists in only two games so far. He doesn’t shoot much, and he doesn’t contribute in banger categories hardly at all. If somehow he’s still out there in your league, though, scoop him up. The Predators were dead last in the NHL in power-play efficiency last year, but Duchene could reverse that trend.

Tampa Bay Lightning

New defenceman for the Tampa Bay Lightning Kevin Shattenkirk is enjoying a wonderful rebound season so far. The veteran has a point in all three games thus far (two goals, one assist) to go along with 11 shots on goal. Sunday’s goal came on the power play.

Sophomore Standouts

Brady Tkachuk scored 25 seconds into the season, going in the books as the first goal of the 2019-20 season. The sophomore winger made a splash last season in 71 games, registering 45 points, 214 shots, and a whopping 174 hits. So far in two games, he’s got two goals, seven shots, and five hits. Looks like he’ll be what everyone hoped for: a multi-category behemoth.

Sammy Blais should be owned in every single banger and multi-category league out there. The sophomore winger pretty much went undrafted across the board. In two games, he has two goals and one assist. Not too shabby at all in its own right, but also he has 12 hits. Six a game. That’s a 492 hit pace. Of course, that’s absurd and won’t happen. But he could easily get over 200 and even push 300 – he hit a ton last year and all throughout the playoffs. He should continue to get top-six minutes next to Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron. Blais is eligible at both wing positions, too. Immense value.

Defenceman Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres is looking like an elite option. Going into the season, he hoped to build off an excellent rookie campaign in which he scored 44 points. Right now after two games, he’s already got four (one goal, three assists). Dahlin quarterbacks a lethal power play which features star Jack Eichel and up-and-coming rookie sensation Victor Olofsson, not to mention a 40-goal scorer in Jeff Skinner and a 65-point winger in Sam Reinhart.

Who’s Hot

The Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one deadly team. We all knew this, but it’s nice to see things clicking so well so early. Frederik Andersen and Auston Matthews are fantasy superstars. One because he plays a lot and will win a lot, and the other because he scores a lot. Three games and five goals for Matthews. Andersen may not have the best save percentage or GAA out there, but the wins and the saves should continue to pile up.

Mika Zibanejad

Back to the topic of fading centres, another gem you could have waited on is Mika Zibanejad. The Swede did something we last saw when Jaromir Jagr was in his prime: score eight points in the first two games of a season. Even split of production so far – four goals and four assists. Even crazier, one goal and one assist came while shorthanded. It’s an absolutely insane start. This guy went around 90th overall in Yahoo leagues. Having Artemi Panarin around sure helps.

Oscar Klefbom

Is this finally the year for Oscar Klefbom? The dude is eating minutes and getting top power-play time. He had an excellent preseason, and he’s showing no signs of letting up. Klefbom didn’t do a ton in the first game, but still had three shots, one hit, and two blocks. On Saturday night, though, he exploded for three assists (two on the power play), three shots, one hit, and five blocks. Doesn’t get much better than that for a defender in fantasy, especially in a banger.

The Avs

That Colorado Avalanche power play is clicking just like everyone thought it would. Rookie Cale Makar has two assists in two games, both on the power play. He has zero shots though, but who cares? The PPP potential is just filthy. Mikko Rantanen took a while to sign, but he’s showing everyone why he wanted that kind of money. In two games, Rantanen has three goals and four assists (two PP goals, both assisted by Makar and Nathan MacKinnon).

Red Wings Top Line

The Detroit Red Wings seem to have themselves a doozy of a top-line forward core. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi closed out the 2018-19 season on a tear and they’re picking up right where they left off. Mantha just clubbed the Stars for all four Detroit goals. Altogether, those three have 16 points in the first two games. Sit back and enjoy fantasy hockey fans. Unless your opponent has any of them.

Who’s Not

Don’t Panic

Slow(ish) starts you shouldn’t worry about: David PastrnakVladimir TarasenkoSteven StamkosBrent BurnsBrad MarchandSebastian AhoAleksander Barkov.

Caution

Slow(ish) starts you might want to worry about, a little, depending on where you drafted them: Kevin LabancJack Hughes, Jaden SchwartzPhil KesselJoe Pavelski, Elias Pettersson.

The Jets

The Winnipeg Jets don’t look good. The San Jose Sharks don’t either. Both Connor Hellebuyck and Martin Jones are in a world of trouble. Still, no word on Dustin Byfuglien‘s status and Josh Morrissey missed Sunday’s game. Winnipeg can’t seem to catch a break. San Jose looks pretty terrible defensively as well.

The Stars

Any Dallas Stars not named Roope Hintz. After his postseason display, everyone in the fantasy hockey world expected a breakout. So far, so good. The rest of the Stars lineup is a different story. Joe Pavelski has one assist in three games. Alexander RadulovJohn Klingberg, and Jamie Benn are all pointless. Things should turn around, right?

Goalie Notes

David Rittich sure is making fantasy hockey owners happy right now. After two starts, he’s sitting at 1-1-0 with a .938 SV% and 2.01 GAA. He shutout the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, stopping all 34 shots that came his way.

For fantasy hockey purposes, many were advised to stay away from Tuukka Rask because of Jaroslav Halak. Each of them has a start under their belt, and they’ve been dandies. Rask stopped 28 of 29 shots against the Dallas Stars. Halak did one better, stopping all 35 shots against the Arizona Coyotes. Rask went very early in some drafts, being the fifth-highest drafted goalie base on Yahoo. If Halak keeps playing like this, the timeshare will be close to 50-50, which isn’t a good thing for fantasy. Rask has value of course, but not as your team’s #1 option. If you have him, try to sell high.

Jordan Binnington has played well early on, despite the 1-0-1 record. He’s faced 63 shots in two contests, stopping 58 of them (.921 SV%, 2.44 GAA). Watching his highlights, you’ll see all the markers that made him the fantasy stud he was last year. Big save after big save. As the Blues figure out the new-look defence with Justin Faulk in the mix, look for Binnington’s numbers to remain top-notch.

Highlight Of The Week

Lastly, this has to be talked about. Blake Coleman scored the goal of the…what? Year? Decade? The 2000s? No words can really describe it. Known more for his hitting, he has two goals and an assist in two games this season. Maybe don’t expect magic like this every night, but still. Wow.

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