Eastern Edge: Sabre Rattling
Buffalo is off to a poor start this season, sporting a 2-5-2 record in their first nine contests. Their minus-11 goal differential is second-worst in the East next to dumpster fire Montreal and their minus-20. Good thing most of us fantasy hockey people don’t care much about how successful most NHL teams actually are, well, except for those teams where we own their goaltenders.
Let’s take a look at some of those Sabre-toothless tigers, plus a trio of guys who caught my eye this week.
Welcome back to Pominville. The 34-year-old finds himself back on the team he started with. With 11 points in nine games, it’s obvious that the return to Buffalo has given him a new lease on life.
Pominville is spending the majority of his even strength shifts with Jack Eichel and Evander Kane and receives second unit power play minutes. He also has five multi-point efforts to his credit so far this season. Can he keep it going? Well, he’s obviously not going to finish as a point-per game player, but I could see him hitting 60 points for the seventh time in his NHL career.
A lot of pre-season talk I came across, had Reinhart centering the third line. He’s now lining up with Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo, a much better fantasy scenario. Even better, he’s receiving top power play minutes. I saw predictions for anywhere from 50-65 points this season, but after I read that he might be destined for third line duties, I marked him down to about the 45-50 point range.
After starting the season pointless in the first five contests, Reinhart has picked up three points in his last four games. He’s available in 70 per cent of Yahoo leagues, so if you have the room on your roster or an easy drop, he has the talent to help any fantasy team.
Contract year. Two words that seem to motivate certain players. It’s safe to assume that Kane is one of those players. He’s a money player on par with Cuba Gooding Junior’s character, Rod Tidwell from the movie Jerry Maguire. I keep hearing “show me the money” in my head when I think of Evander Kane. Can’t help it after that “money phone” picture surfaced back in 2011.
Kane has 11 points in nine contests and his 47 shots on goal are second only to Alexander Ovechkin’s 50. He also has two short-handed goals and three power play points to go along with 21 hits, which would put him on pace for 190 hits on the season. Barring injury, the 26-year-old should top his previous career highs in goals (30), points (57) and hits (173).
It’s been an unbelievably bad start for Okposo, with only one point in seven games. After a decent debut in Buffalo last season, 45 points in 65 games (a 57-point full season pace), I pegged him for around 50 points this year.
His slow start hasn’t got me concerned; he’s firmly entrenched in the top six that has two excellent centers and is a fixture on the top power play unit. It’s only a matter of time before the 29-year-old reverts back to his usual scoring ways.
As expected, O’Reilly is dominating the face-off dot. That said, he’s still not a well-rounded roto league player, with his Lady Byng-like penalty minutes (zero) and minus-6 rating. At least his seven points in nine games, along with his 25 shots on goal, help make ROR less of a one category fantasy star.
Heading into last night’s slate of games, Ristolainen was third in the league with 30 hits. He finished last season with 195 hits, good for 25th in the NHL. In the early stages of his fifth NHL campaign, the soon-to-be 23-year-old (27 October) has four points in nine matches. No one averages more ice time than his 27:27 minutes per game.
Last year’s 45 points was Ristolainen’s best to date. Many pundits predicted that he will set new highs this season, but I’m not convinced that it will happen this year.
In his first season as a Senator, he had a disappointing 39 points in 81 games. In the two preceding campaigns, Brassard recorded 58 and 60-point efforts. He’s averaging 18:33 minutes of ice time per game including 4:06 with the man advantage. If the first eight games of this season are any indication (six goals, 10 points), he’s well on his way to hitting the 60-point mark again.
Second only to Ristolainen in average ice time per game, Carlson receives nearly more three minutes per game than the next Capital. Only Ovechkin averages more power play time on ice than their top defenseman. Carlson is on pace for 310 shots on goal. His previous high is 208, achieved back in the 2013-14 season. His 34 shots on goal are second only to Alex Pietrangelo’s 36 amongst NHL defensemen. As much as I’d like to see him get back to the 55-point mark, I think he will more realistically finish just north of 45 points.
I’m still a little bummed that I took Crosby with the third overall pick in the Dobberhockey Experts draft when I clearly should have taken Ovechkin and all his multi-cat goodness. Further adding to my misery was the wicked start the Russian Machine got off to this year. My rationale for not taking Ovenchicken? I thought he would be distracted by not being able to go to the Olympics and at worst, I thought he might go anyway, at least until they ruled NHL players ineligible to play.
Thankfully, Crosby’s not doing too bad for me. While Ovechkin is currently the number four ranked player in our league, Crosby sits at number 30. Not great, but even with the team’s hot and cold start, he’s still got 10 points in nine games and his 28 penalty minutes already surpass last year’s total of 24 (in 75 games). I currently sit half a point out of first.
Thanks for reading. You can read more Eastern Edge from Russ here.
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