Late Tuesday night (or early Wednesday morning), some rumours started swirling around social media that Marian Hossa would be out for the 2017-18 season, and possibly had played his final NHL game. The genesis here was Elliotte Friedman’s ’30 Thoughts’ post.
This was confirmed on Wednesday, as a statement released by the team and doctors confirmed that Hossa would indeed be out for the upcoming season with a severe allergy. Issues from this allergy and his ability to play rise from the side effects of the medications needed to treat it.
Undoubtedly a Hall of Fame entrant someday, the Blackhawks will miss Hossa’s presence in the lineup. He’s not the elite producer that he may have been five years ago, but he still had 26 goals in 73 games last season, and is still an effective defensive forward. Yes, this helps Chicago get under the salary cap. No, this doesn’t help their current roster beyond that.
It does open up some things for the Blackhawks depth. Hossa had been relegated at times last year to the third line, with the Patrick Kane line staying together, and Jonathan Toews enjoying a rotation of line mates. For me, beyond Richard Panik, there are two players to keep an eye on:
Ryan Hartman was a guy I wrote about last month as a potential breakout candidate. Whether this open roster spot gets him top line minutes is another issue entirely, but I imagine it at least keeps him in the top-9 forward mix, and perhaps he can play his way to a bigger role as the season wears on.
Alex DeBrincat has all the makings of a high-end scorer, it’s just about getting the opportunity to do so. We know coach Joel Quenneville isn’t always the quickest to play his youth, or given them consistent minutes, but his hand may be forced here.
What Chicago wants to do with their top line is completely up in the air, but the lack of one of their more reliable options should afford an opportunity to another forward.
Below are some of the Expansion Draft picks that piqued my interest from a fantasy slant. The list of players selected and deals made can be found here:
Sometimes, players just end up being Quad-A players, for lack of a better term; they’re too good for the AHL, but never figure it out at the NHL level. Pulkkinen had 65 goals in 117 AHL games from 2013-15, but has never been able to stick in the NHL.
This is probably Pulkkinen’s last chance to show himself as a capable NHLer. He made his way from Detroit, to Minnesota, to Arizona in the span of a year, and I would imagine gets a one-year deal from the Golden Knights. He’s certainly not anyone to focus on in most drafts come September, but he’s worth keeping an eye on in October and November. Sometimes, a player just needs a new zip code and an opportunity, kind of like this next guy did…
Being able to draft a 30-goal scorer is never a bad thing for an expansion team. I am curious to see how he fares in Vegas, however. He was moved up and down the lineup, but he did play about half his minutes with one of Aleksander Barkov or Vincent Trocheck. If he doesn’t get on a line with Vadim Shipachyov, he might be in trouble finding a talented line to play with.
Beyond that, he shot over 15 percent at five-on-five, which is something to be difficult to repeat in consecutive years. If he gets heavy minutes, the drop in percentages could be offset by a rise in ice time. He should be given a big role on this team, so it’ll be fascinating to see how he can follow his breakout season, but his line mates will be a huge factor here as well.
A real deal – sorry, I couldn’t help myself – obviously couldn’t be reached between Nashville and Vegas, so the Golden Knights picked up Neal in the expansion draft. He has one year left on his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency.
At face value, going from the Cup Finalist to an expansion team is a massive downgrade. On the flipside, I cannot imagine that Neal isn’t consistently on the top line for Vegas alongside Shipachyov. That should also mean heavy minutes and guaranteed top power-play time. This is important to note because the emergence of Viktor Arvidsson last year diminished Neal’s role, and the result was a four-year low in minutes per game.
Going to Vegas, with the roster that they have, it’s hard to imagine Neal not getting close to 20 minutes a game. For a guy that is among the top-20 in volume shooters among forwards in the NHL, that should mean more shots on goal, and hopefully he can maintain his 20-goal season streak. This is a downgrade in team, but it might not hurt his production that much.
Leipsic being chosen seems to be a situation where he had nowhere to play on the Leafs roster, but that’s not an indictment of him as a player. He will get a chance to play in Vegas, it’s a matter of what he does with it. I do worry about his line mates, however, as I would for any forward that isn’t playing on the top line of this team.
Not sure how many people realize this, but over the last two seasons, Miller is among the league leaders for shot attempts from defencemen. The problem in Boston was he was buried on the depth chart. Given the depth (or lack thereof) in Vegas, Miller should at least be given a consistent role night in and night out. Not that he’d be worth anything in most fantasy leagues, but in deeper formats he can rack up the shots if he can get 19-20 minutes a night as opposed to the 15-16 in Boston. I’ll hold my breath that he actually gets those minutes, though.
This is kind of like Neal’s situation. Given how the draft has worked out, Perron should be getting a lot of minutes for Vegas, hopefully even on the top line with Neal and Shipachyov. It’s been three years since he cracked 20 goals, but with heavy usage, he could get there again. With his penchant for penalties and hits, he can be a multi-category guy in roto leagues.
Acquired via trade for also taking Clayton Stoner, he should be the offensive catalyst from the blue line for this team. The hope is he gets heavy top power-play minutes, and that will undoubtedly be a boost to his fantasy value. He wasn’t going to get a feature role in Anaheim with the depth on the blue line they have, but turning 22 years old in October, he should be a pillar of the Vegas blue line for the next decade.
As usual, social media was way better than the actual awards show:
How about that NHL ’18 Cover:
Always nice to take a trip down memory lane
The full list of award winners can be found here.
Patrice Bergeron won the Selke Trophy. I don’t think that was a huge surprise. Looking at the voting breakdown, the huge surprise was TJ Oshie getting *two* first-place votes:
However, not to be outdone, after Brent Burns accepted his Norris Trophy, we found out that Shea Weber got a first-place vote!
Outstanding stuff here from one of the voters.
Every writer should have to make their ballots public, because I would love to hear the rationale behind voting TJ Oshie as the NHL’s top defensive forward, as well as leaving Erik Karlsson completely off the Norris ballot, or voting Torey Krug second. Oh well.
There was a nice tribute during the awards show to Bryan Bickell. In fantasy sports, you’re always supposed to separate your emotion from logic, which can have a dehumanizing effect. C.D. Carter wrote about this in the New York Times a couple of years ago, and it’s very true.
Stories like Bickell’s, however, are a reminder of the other side of the game. There are players with families and friends, and they go though many of the same issues we do. Something to keep in mind the next time someone feels like yelling at a player on Twitter, Facebook, or in person just because they missed a shot, or didn’t backcheck hard enough.
All the best to Bickell and his family moving forward.