As the NHL offseason comes to an end, fantasy hockey drafts begin. As we all know, hockey is a team sport. So, it’s extremely important to consider a player’s line mates when assessing their value. Over the course of this season, I’ll be doing deep dives into line combinations that are relevant in fantasy hockey leagues, this week I’ll start with a quick little overview. Since most NHL teams haven’t quite set their lineups yet, I thought I’d suggest realistic trios that could make up each team’s most valuable line combo. Here’s half of them…
If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix it
In my opinion, Rickard Rakell is going to be Anaheim’s most interesting forward during the upcoming season. Rakell has shown consistent improvement throughout his career and is coming off of an impressive 69-point campaign in 2017-2018. His success is closely linked to Ryan Getzlaf, who put up 61 points in 56 games last season. If Getzlaf can avoid injury this season, can he replicate his magic from last year?
One of the most dominant lines in the NHL last season, the trio played 500+ minutes together during the 2017-2018 campaign and managed an outrageous 58.86 Corsi For %. Each of the three members put together reach the 30-goal mark last year, expect more of the same from them in 2018-2019.
I chose this line over the Zach Parise – Eric Staal – Jason Zucker trio because I believe this one has more upside. I expect Staal to take a step back after an insane 76-point (42 goal) season, and Parise’s injury history scares. So, if you’re looking for a good line in Minnesota, this one might be your best bet.
Following a disappointing second-round exit, the Nashville Predators might be tempted to shake up their lines during the regular season, to find new combinations that click. Forsberg –Johansen – Arvidsson is a combination that has clicked many times in the past – through 500+ minutes of ice-time. This trio is extremely familiar with each other, a fact further reinforced by their 55.80 CF% from 2017-2018.
Hall won the Hart. Hischier broke the 50-point mark in his rookie season. 20-year-old Jesper Bratt – A 6th round pick in 2016 – managed 35 points in 74 games. If everything goes right for the Devils, Hischier will avoid the sophomore slump and Bratt will continue to develop into a solid top-six forward. I expect New jersey to shake up their lines throughout the season, with guys like Kyle Palmieri and Pavel Zacha also seeing time alongside Taylor Hall.
Nothing’s Set in Stone
Missing the playoffs last season was extremely disappointing for the Blackhawks, and during their downward spiral they experimented with many different line combinations. While there is some fluidity in the top-six, there are certain players who work very well together – Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz being a prime example. I choose this connection because Kane is Chicago’s best offensive player, so logic dictates that he would be involved in most of the team’s scoring.
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have great chemistry together, so it doesn’t matter who you throw on their wing, the duo is going to put up points. Dallas struggled mightily with depth scoring last season, and often found themselves stacking the top line with Benn, Seguin and Radulov. To start this season, they’re playing Alex Radulov with Valeri Nichushkin and Jason Spezza. However, if that doesn’t work out, don’t be surprised to see Benn and Seguin split up. Additionally, I don’t think Comeau holds onto this spot long-term.
Although Ty Rattie was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, he still hasn’t been given much of a chance at the NHL level, through six seasons he has played just 49 games and registered 19 points. However, if someone is playing alongside Connor McDavid, they instantly become relevant in fantasy hockey circles. If Rattie can stay on this line, I have a feeling he’ll be setting some new career-highs.
Now that the Rangers are publicly rebuilding, they need to focus on developing their young assets. This should bode well for 23-year-old Pavel Buchnevich, whom I think takes a step forward this season, and improves on the 43 points he tallied in 74 games last year. With quality line mates like Kreider and Zibanejad, Buchnevich might even flirt with the 60-point mark.
Now that Galchenyuk can finally put his troubled time in Montreal behind him, I expect him to reach new offensive heights. The smaller hockey market in Arizona should allow him to develop as a centre and turn into the player the Canadiens hoped he would be. Clayton Keller’s production really slowed down last year, but I think he might be able to avoid the sophomore slump with someone like Galchenyuk helping him drive offense.
After Victor Rask’s freak kitchen injury, it looks like Sebastian Aho will be centering a line with the second overall pick of the 2018 draft, and the newly acquired Micheal Ferland. I’m still convinced Ferland’s success in Calgary was tied to the talent of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, so I don’t expect too much from him this season in terms of offensive output. If Aho and Svechnikov find chemistry together, I think they could rack up quite a few points.
Anze Kopitar is a very good hockey player and he bounced back in a big way after a disappointing 2016-2017 campaign. Dustin Brown is capable of putting up points, as he showed us last season (61 points), but I wouldn’t expect him to be as successful in 2018-2019. Ilya Kovalchuk is also still capable of putting up points, but the 63 points he tallied in 53 KHL games during 2017-2018, are overshadowed by the fact that he’s 35 years old.
With a new season, comes a new winger playing center for the Canadiens. While I am extremely excited to see Drouin’s offensive abilities shine in his natural position, I’m cautious because there’s a chance Domi doesn’t work out at center either. A player like Lehkonen – who can shoot the puck well – should complement Drouin and Domi’s playmaking skills.
Considering how good the Jaden Schwartz – Brayden Schenn – Vladimir Tarasenko line was last season, it’s surprising to see Tarasenko with two completely different line mates here, but apparently new chemistry is developing… I’m expecting a big jump in O’Reilly’s fantasy hockey value, because he has never really had access to a winger of Tarasenko’s offensive talent. From his days with Getzlaf and Perry in Anaheim, to McDavid’s wing in Edmonton, Patrick Maroon continues to find himself among high quality players.
Now that Henrik Zetterberg has hung up his skates, the young blood in Detroit has to be a little more independent. While Bertuzzi, Larkin and Mantha all have potential to become great players in the NHL, I would have preferred that they developed alongside the wisdom and leadership of Zetterberg.