Discussing Laine's goal-scoring prowess, Vanek's rejuvenation, fading Larkin, and more.

There are a lot of exciting young teams in the league this season but for my money, there’s no more fun team to watch than the Winnipeg Jets. They are LOADED with young talent, and like a few teams (Toronto, Arizona, Edmonton) they are actually playing the kids. It’s wonderful and leads to some insane hockey. The Jets have given up four goals in every single game this season and have twice overcome three-goal third period deficits to win in overtime. They have one of the best crowds in the league, who chanted “Laine’s Better” periodically throughout the game. Just an incredible viewing experience.

How about Patrik Laine, by the way, scoring a hat-trick including the tying goal late and then the overtime winner.

You could not script it better than Auston Matthews getting denied on one end leading to Laine’s goal on the other end. Amazing. Laine is going to score a lot of goals in this league. We need to make room for his desk in Ovechkin/Stamkos’ shared office:

Before we fall all over ourselves for Laine, just remember Steven Stamkos is a goal-scoring genius:

That shot is some physics bending shit. Stamkos is a scientist.


Lost in the Laine madness is that Mark Scheifele had a three-point night of his own. He looks dead set on joining Blake Wheeler in the 70-point club this season. One could do a lot of damage in fantasy with that duo on your squad. I nabbed Wheeler in all my pools but didn’t get Scheifele in any. The center position is too deep for where he was going but perhaps I was wrong not to reach. Time will tell.

Michael Hutchinson got the start for Winnipeg, who appear to be going with a tandem setup, much to the chagrin of Connor Hellebuyck owners. As mentioned above, the Jets have given up four goals in literally all of their games so it’s hard to stick with one guy. I still like Hellebuyck to emerge as the starter in the end.


Big two-goal night for Nazem Kadri who scored his first points of the season and also fired four SOG. Kadri, who was a shooting machine last season, had just one shot through the first two games of the season. Good to see him shooting more. I still might give up on him, however, because his linemates do not appeal to me:


Kadri is seeing significant power play usage so it could be worth waiting this out a little longer.

Finally, some significant power play time for Morgan Rielly as well. He was only used on the second unit. Or, his unit saw the shorter stint of PP time but Rielly was out there for 44% of Toronto’s PP minutes. It was only 56 seconds but it’s still an upward trend for a guy who saw just 11 seconds of PP time in the season opener.

Rielly, by the way, has an assist in every game this season and there might be enough offense here that he cracks 40 points without top unit PP time. With some top unit time Rielly could push 50.

Nikita Zaitsev may be getting in the way of a Rielly explosion. Zaitsev is also skating big minutes for the Leafs, over 22 minutes a night thus far and is seeing way more power play time, averaging over three minutes a night. He has two assists in three games, which makes him highly intriguing though his lack of shots (just three so far) turns me off a bit. I like my fantasy defensemen to shoot a high volume. Could this be another Enstrom situation?

Only 13:46 of ice time for Jake Gardiner, his lowest of the season. This could be a one off. Something to monitor.


In Detroit, the Mike Green and Thomas Vanek revitalization projects are in full swing with both getting on the board again last night.

Here’s a good profile on Vanek who is looking for redemption this season:

“He’s been very good so far,” said head coach Jeff Blashill about Vanek after his first game. “We talked about making sure he works hard, backchecks, makes sure he works hard to win battles and be good defensively. He’s been all those things. And if he does those things, you can see he is a really, really talented player. If he does those things, he is going to score, because he’ll be on the ice.”

Vanek is currently 10th out of all Red Wing forwards in terms of average time on ice, at 13:42 per game, but is first in powerplay usage at 2:39. Both of those numbers could see themselves go up if he continues to play like he did in the first three games.

Vanek’s minutes were actually down last night, as the Red Wings nursed a one-goal lead for 19 of the third period’s 20 minutes, but his power play time was up, as he remains a vital part of their top PP unit.

That Red Wings top PP unit sure does seem like it could be a good one as it features proven talents in Green, Vanek, Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen and Tomas Tatar.

I know Tatar hasn’t popped yet, but he put five shots on net for the second straight game. He’s up to 12 SOG on the season, through four games, which is a good rate. If he can get his shot total back over 200 like it was a couple of years ago, he’ll be a 30-goal threat again. He’s a career 12.8% shooter – at that rate he’ll need about 240 SOG to score 30, which means he has to sustain that three shot per game pace.

I am a believer but I’m happy to let Tatar rot on the waiver wire for now.

I have yet to mention Dylan Larkin yet this season and that’s because I am out on D Boss. He’s a fantastic young talent but there isn’t enough scoring depth in Detroit to get me excited about anyone not skating on the top PP unit, which Larkin is not. Also, as impressive as Larkin’s rookie season was, he didn’t do much beyond a hot first month of the season. Good player, middling fantasy option. Talk to me in a couple of years.

Impressive start for Jimmy Howard, stopping 32 of 33 shots he faced. Howard strings enough of these good starts together that we can never forget about him but Petr Mrazek is good enough to be the bonafide #1 if Detroit decided to go that route. You may want to flirt with using Howard as a spot starter when he’s at home. Here are his home/road splits from last season:

Home: 8-5-1, 2.44 GAA, 0.912 Sv%, 2 SO

Road: 6-9-4, 3.07 GAA, 0.902 Sv%, 0 SO

Howard’s career splits aren’t as stark so you may choose to throw this info away. I know many folks disregard home/road splits. For my money, a fresh backup on home ice makes a decent play. In any case, if I’m resorting to using Howard, I don’t want it to be on the road.


With Howard’s strong game the high-scoring Rangers were finally cooled off but Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider kept it going getting in on the loan goal. Only two shots for Kreider who has now fallen off his seven-shots-per-game pace. Zibanejad and Kreider are seeing continued heavy usage on the power play so signs continue to point to these two breaking out together.

Rookie Pavel Buchnevic continues to miss time with back spasms so Rick Nash has the opportunity to jump up with Kreider and Zibanejad. No points for Nash but he did land seven SOG.


As I hope you guys are learning, I like to put together Twitter polls to judge where folks stand on certain topics. This week, I put some out there looking at some of the early trends this season, including fast starters and slow starters. Here’s what came of them:

No surprise here, although I hope the consensus is wrong.


In general, there was quite a bit of skepticism regarding the fast starters. It makes me wonder if the process of a Twitter poll is too abstract to capture how people are really treating these players on their fantasy team.

For instance, the endowment effect is almost certainly the greatest obstacle to trading in fantasy sports. GMs tend to demand much more in a trade than what they would pay to acquire it. For instance, with the McDavid example below, you may not see it as likely that McDavid will reach 100 points, but I’d guess most people are asking for a return worthy of a 100-point player in trade talks. I’m not saying this approach is wrong, it’s just an example of where the answers to a poll and the way people manage their fantasy rosters may differ.

A few notes:

I’ve been spouting about Werenski wherever I can. I think he’s a must-add. If you recall, I don’t have much interest in rostering defensemen who can’t hit 50 points or offer some sort of peripheral value otherwise. While Werenski may not make it to 45 points (let alone 50), the way he is being used, couple with his talent make 35-40 a strong possibility. If he can continue to pile up SOG at a high rate, he doesn’t need to get to 45+ points to be fantasy relevant on a nightly basis. 35-40 points with 200+ SOG would push Werenski firmly into fantasy relevance. Only nine defensemen met those criteria last season so he probably doesn’t even need to put up that many SOG to be better than replacement level.

Interesting to see the near dead split on David Pastrnak. I guess folks are really high on him. I’m a fan. Just skeptical his usage will be where it needs to be to hit this over.

Very interested at the lack of love for Cam Fowler. There are some murmurs that his increase in ice time this year is in order to showcase him for a trade. I don’t think the trade showcase is ever a thing, unless a team is totally out of it and there’s a very strong relationship between the coach and the GM to the point where the coach has enough confidence in his job security to not field the best lineup possible.

I think Randy Carlyle just really likes Fowler. Think about it, Carlyle’s last full season in Anaheim was Fowler’s rookie season, in which he scored his career high of 40 points. Fowler skated 22:08 minutes per game with 3:38 coming on the power play. That’s the highest power play usage Fowler has seen in his career.

This season, Fowler is skating career highs of 24:47 per game with 4:58 on the PP. The minutes will come down a smidge, especially the PP time. He should still continue to be featured on the top PP unit though so he’ll continue to receive exposure to the best Anaheim has to offer. It’s early, we must always stress this, but these usage trends point to the makings of a career year for Fowler.


Really interesting to see the pessimism surrounding these slow starters. Taylor Hall finally got on the board the other night, which was nice to see. Easy for folks to peg the under with his injury history though.

Curious to see how split folks are on John Tavares after a slow start. He was consistently a first round pick in fantasy drafts, going 11th overall in Yahoo! drafts on average.


It sounds as though Jaden Schwartz has a good chance of being back in the lineup for the Blues tonight.

Of course, this being St. Louis, who cannot seem to dodge the injury bug, Jori Lehtera has been placed on IR with an upper-body injury.


Minor lineup note here:

Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon are winning the battle for the top minutes in Minnesota anyhow so if you are counting on a breakout for Dumba you can safely jump off the bandwagon for now. There are hot options who are producing right now who would serve you better.


The Islanders have called up Ryan Pulock on an emergency basis. Not sure who is hurt to warrant this move. It was always silly that the Islanders decided to carry just six defensemen on the roster when they had a viable option in Pulock but it makes sense since they were able to bring him up with the emergency option.


The word is that Jonathan Quick will not have surgery but that he is out indefinitely. This smells like the Carey Price situation from last season. My feelings here are completely anecdotal but I can’t shake that it sounds like bad news to not be doing surgery. Time will tell.


Check out this awesome profile on Marian Hossa and the many what-ifs in his Hall-of-Fame worthy career. By the way, how awesome is this:

As great as Hossa’s career has been, I am out on him as a fantasy asset, though perhaps that is flawed. I have too many questions about injury and usage. He frequently can be found on an island on the third line and second power play unit.

While Hossa has a point in every game thus far, three of which have come on the PP, I don’t expect this to continue. That Hossa is already banged up reinforces this for me:

Of course, Hossa has had only one bad year since joining the Blackhawks so I wonder if I’m not suffering some recency bias.


Here’s a neat look at how the guy behind General Fanager got hired by the new Las Vegas franchise.


Contrary to the rumours, our friends at Cap Friendly will continue to provide salary cap info:


Check out my latest for Puck Daddy, which discusses the early scoring spike and five solid waiver wire options.


Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.