Opening Night has come and gone. The slog of the 2018-19 regular season is officially upon us. There may be some out there with drafts to do this weekend so if you’re in a pinch, let me recommend the 2018-19 Dobber fantasy guide, available now in the Dobber Shop. There is too much information to process in a day or two, but the draft lists can help in a variety of leagues. The rest of the guide can help with waiver pickups and identifying players to follow throughout the season.
If readers out there still have a draft to do, the work done by Cam Metz in his Eastern Edge columns is really good. It naturally only covers the Eastern Conference but it does help identify, by position, players both over and undervalued. There were a couple surprises for me that made me do a double-take, but that’s what good research and writing does. You can read about centres here, left wings here, and right wings here.
Not overly fantasy-related, but I enjoyed this piece from Bruce Arthur at The Star covering Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. It’s incredibly refreshing to read about someone in power of an NHL team that isn’t one of the 200 Hockey Men. People are constantly looking to Moneyball hockey when the simplest way to find an inefficiency is probably by just not hiring some GM that trades MVP-calibre talents or doesn’t know how to value what defencemen do outside of being ‘tough to play against.’
In a completely unrelated note, Karl Alzner was a healthy scratch for the Habs in their season opener against the Leafs. Only four years and $18.5-million left.
Tom Wilson was suspended 20 games by the Department of Player Safety for his check to the head of Oskar Sundqvist. This was Wilson’s fourth suspension in the last 12 months, likely the reason for such a lengthy suspension. The league needed to send a message that he can’t run around like an idiot and injure at will. Hopefully Wilson gets this message because another play like this anytime soon and he’s going to get significantly longer than 20 games.
Brett Connolly took Wilson’s spot on the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. We saw both TJ Oshie and Devante Smith-Pelly spend some time there over the last couple seasons. They also just claimed Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers a couple days ago. They have options and I wouldn’t expect any of them to be permanent until Wilson returns.
Speaking of the Caps, they absolutely curb-stomped the Bruins. It was Washington’s banner-raising night, and they jumped out of the gate scoring a couple goals in the first two minutes. To be honest, Boston looked flat all game. Once it got to 6-0, we were on cruise control. Each of TJ Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and John Carlson had multi-point games.
Aside from Connolly skating with Kuzy and Ovi, the only lineup notes worth mentioning are Matt Grzelcyk manning the top PP unit for the Bruins while Christian Djoos lined up with John Carlson at even strength.
Toronto and Montreal, though looking like a mismatch at the outset, was a very fun game from start to finish. Though the Habs are lacking true top-end talent like the Leafs, they do have skill through the lineup and were able to control the play for large chunks of time. Jesperi Kotkaniemi did not look out of place in the slightest. He played a little over 15 minutes and registered his first career NHL point assisting on Andrew Shaw’s power-play goal. This was a tough first test for the rookie and he passed with flying colours.
Carey Price had himself a solid game in the 3-2 overtime loss. He made a couple very nice saves including a stretching pad save in the waning minutes of regulation. He only faced 26 shots but many were of the high-quality variety.
This game was about Toronto’s skill. The power play looked absolutely lethal once they got possession and once they got to 3-on-3 overtime, the skill disparity was evident. Auston Matthews scored his second of the night to seal the win.
AM34’s first goal was the prettiest:
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) October 3, 2018
Each of Matthews, Tavares, and Kadri played at least 17 minutes. Having to face one of those three for 50-plus minutes a game is going to be a nightmare for the opposition.
For what it’s worth, Joel Armia was the only Habs forward to crack 18 minutes.
So, uh, Elias Pettersson didn't take long to make his mark in the league:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 4, 2018
I think Mike Smith is still looking for the puck.
Pettersson added an assist on an early third-period goal by Nikolay Goldobin to finish Vanccouver's 5-2 win over Calgary with a multi-point effort. Vancouver gave Calgary seven power plays and the Flames did not convert on a single one.
James Neal spent most of the third period skating on the top line with Gaudreau and Monahan, bumping Elias Lindholm down to the third line. Given how things were going at that point for Calgary, it's not a surprise. Something like that will likely often happen this year. That did not happen on the PP, though, as Lindholm, along with Tkachuk, stayed on the top unit through to the end of the game.
Three third-period goals from Brandon Montour, Carter Rowney, and Adam Henrique pushed the Ducks 5-2 over the Sharks in San Jose's home opener. I'll admit that I did not watch the final 40 minutes but the Sharks had two power plays in the first 20 minutes and neither looked good. I won't overreact to one game but eventually, I do wonder if we see Erik Karlsson as the lone defenceman on the top unit.
By the way, after those disaster early PPs, the Sharks changed their units: unit 1 was Hertl, Pavelski, Thornton, Vlasic, Burns and unit 2 was Meier, Labanc, Couture, Hertl, and Karlsson. This is a mess.
John Gibson made 31 saves in the win while Maxime Comtois scored his first career NHL goal early in the first period.
Marcus Sorensen joined San Jose's top line with Thornton and Meier for almost the entire third period while Joe Pavelski moved down to play with Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane. Whether that sticks or not, we'll find out in the team's next practice.
Anaheim was outshot 33-14, so let's not read *too* much into this game.
Some news to pass along.
It appears Brady Tkachuk may not be ready for the season opener tonight. He didn’t skate in practice yesterday with Colin White moving up to the second line in his stead. It doesn’t seem to be anything serious right now but if there’s anything significant to pass along, we will.
Jordan Kyrou, not David Perron, was skating on the second line for St. Louis with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn. He had been there at times in the preseason but looks to have the start there in the regular season now. Perron was on the third line with Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen.
The Golden Knights had Tomas Nosek on the top PP unit in practice along with the top line and Colin Miller. We’ll see how long it lasts but that could be a cheap source of PP production in deeper leagues. Just something to keep an eye on.
Tuesday night, Part 1 of the Dobber Hockey panel’s predictions were released. The writers, editors, and Dobber himself were all polled on a variety of categories, including a sleeper, a bust, a dark horse, a midseason callup, and a bounce-back candidate. I explained my thoughts on my own predictions here, as well as making a few more.
I just wanted to talk about a few of the predictions made in that panel prediction.
The player selected most often to be a bounce back was Max Pacioretty, selected by 5 of the 17 people on the panel. That makes sense. His 17 goals and 20 assists last year were the lowest for him in any season in which he’s played at least 60 games. One thing I will say is that few players being drafted inside the top-100 skaters saw his ADP get steamed as much as the former Canadiens captain. At the outset of the draft season he was often drafted somewhere between picks 80 and 100. By the end of the draft season, he was consistently in the top-75 and his CBS ADP finished just outside the top-50. For as undervalued as he was a month ago, he wasn’t at the start of this week.
Cam Talbot was also a popular pick as a bounce back candidate. It’ll be hard for him to be worse than last year and at the least, the forward group should be better with both Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi set to take a leap forward. That defence group, which just added Jason Garrison, still seems like a huge problem. We’ll see.
I found this kind of amusing. A few writers picked Raanta as a sleeper while Eric Daoust picked him as a bust. I see the logic behind Eric’s thinking; Raanta has been a popular sleeper pick among many. And any player who starts to pick up steam can definitely bust out, especially if Arizona doesn’t take a step forward as a team. I don’t mean to speak for Eric, just what seems like the logic behind it. It’s solid.
All the same, I think Raanta was going late enough in drafts that it’s worth the risk. Even with his popularity rising, he was consistently going outside the top-15 goalies, mostly around the top-20. Once you get to a tier of goalies that includes Mike Smith and Carter Hutton, Raanta seems like a pretty good gamble to take. Let’s just hope the Coyotes can get, and stay, healthy.
By far the most popular mid-season callup was Tolvanen. It makes sense, given what we know about his options. Once he hits 10 games in the AHL, he can leave for the KHL for the season if he so chooses. That would seem to force the hand of the Predators to get Tolvanen to the NHL by Halloween.
Another guy picked more than once was Vegas defenceman Erik Brannstrom. He certainly stood out enough in the preseason to make the NHL roster, especially with the suspension to Nate Schmidt. My problem with Brannstrom this year is that if they didn’t have him crack the NHL roster now, are they going to call him up, barring injury, when Schmidt is back? It seems unlikely. Now if a player or two goes down to injury, things will change.
The most interesting part about these predictions was Dobber picking Giordano as a probable bust while Steve Laidlaw picked him as a probable sleeper. While I tend to agree with Laidlaw here, like Raanta, it’s just interesting to see to people on opposite sides of the fence of the same player. This would make an interesting variation of a cage match article.
Part 2 of our predictions, including division and individual trophy winners, was released Wednesday morning. Take a perusal through that and I’m going to review some of those tomorrow.