My leaguemates might not all be happy because of my high bids, but I added a cluster of prospects to my auction keeper team over the weekend. I was thrilled to learn that all of my bids for Henri Jokiharju, Juuso Valimaki, Jordan Greenway, and Kristian Vesalainen all went through. Tough problem to have, but now I have to decide which of these prospects I can use this season and which ones I will need to reserve until next year. Having these prospects (especially when I didn’t think I’d land them all) is a nice problem to have, but because of roster space I will only be able to use one of the defensemen and one of the left wingers.
Among the d-men, I’m going with Jokiharju this season. I’ve had my eye on Valimaki for a while, and the fact that he made the Flames only reinforced my decision to add him. The only problem is that Calgary’s top 4 is more solidified than Chicago’s, so I don’t see Valimaki making a major impact this season unless there’s an injury. But the Flames have a couple of solid blueline prospects in the system in Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson.
Jokiharju looks like he could be a top-4 defenseman right away because the competition in Chicago is more wide open. Being paired with Duncan Keith right off the bat has helped, as Jokiharju exploded for five assists over the weekend. He obviously won’t score at that pace, but 30 points is well within reach. Joel Quenneville isn’t easy to impress, but he seems happy with all aspects of Jokiharju’s game (Chicago Tribune), not to mention that he reportedly practiced with the first-unit power play on Monday. The Hawks might be chained to Brent Seabrook for six more seasons and he might still be on your fantasy radar out of habit, but Quenneville has already begun to reduce his minutes (under 20 minutes for all three games so far).
Jokiharju jumps to the front of the line of rookie d-men, but should you drop an established blueliner to pick him up? This is a tricky one. If Jokiharju hits a rookie wall and struggles, then he could be moved into a 5/6 role. Or worse yet, he is made a healthy scratch. If it means dropping a d-man that you had penciled in for 40+ points, I wouldn’t add Jokiharju quite yet. But I’d certainly keep an eye on the situation. More on a couple of those d-men shortly.
I’ve also decided to play Greenway this season and hold Vesalainen for next season. Vesalainen may have been the higher pick, but Greenway was drafted two years ahead of Vesalainen and appears more NHL-ready. Plus like Jokiharju, Greenway appears to potentially hold more opportunity right away. He has slotted in on what appears to be the Wild’s third line along with Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson Ek. Vesalainen has seen time with some Jets’ scorers (Jack Roslovic, Nikolaj Ehlers), but he has been limited to under seven minutes per game over his three games. Greenway has averaged ten minutes per game.
It was made pretty clear that Kevin Shattenkirk will be a healthy scratch Thursday at the Garden against the Sharks. He said he needs more "urgency" in his game, and Quinn said he needs to regain his confidence after what happened last year. #NYR
— Brett Cyrgalis (@BrettCyrgalis) October 9, 2018
Through three games, Kevin Shattenkirk has no points and is a minus-4. He was held to just seven minutes of icetime during Sunday’s goalfest against Carolina. Shattenkirk is coming off knee surgery, which could be contributing to the slow start. Right now fantasy owners should probably take this as a one-off which could potentially motivate the veteran d-man. I wouldn’t cut bait yet, but if the struggles continue after the healthy scratch then I’d advise you to consider looking elsewhere.
I’ve also received multiple questions on whether to drop Jake Gardiner. I believe the motivating reasons behind the requests are 1) Younger d-men off to faster starts (Jokiharju, Thomas Chabot), and 2) Gardiner is not on Toronto’s PP1. Although Gardiner was held without on Tuesday (more on the Leafs below), two assists in four games isn’t that slow of a start. Like many Leafs last season, Gardiner was a tweener between the first- and second-unit power plays. By likely losing a few power-play points, his projection might shift from 50 points to around 45. Plus if the first four games are any indication, there should be plenty of points to go around in TO. I’d definitely continue to hold.
On to Tuesday’s action. The early-season scoring binge continued, with 7 of the 12 teams in action scoring at least three goals. Maybe those measures to improve scoring are finally kicking in… and then some. But remember that it’s still early, so coaches have plenty of time to clamp down. Still, it’s a great time for many of your scorers. Just not so much for your goalies.
The team doing the most damage was the San Jose Sharks. Evander Kane and Joe Pavelski each scored two goals to help the Sharks put eight past Brian Elliott. In 21 games as a Shark, E-Kane has scored 13 goals. It’s still early, but Kane could be in for a career year. He would need over 30 goals and close to 60 points in order for that to happen. He’d need to be healthy for a full season, but he’s also trending in the right direction in that department (78 games played last season).
Kevin Labanc, the third man on the Kane/Pavelski line, recorded four helpers with a plus-4 on Tuesday. That gives him five points in four games, which will likely give him waiver-wire consideration in many leagues when you consider who his linemates are now. Labanc is owned in just 15 percent of Yahoo leagues, but I’d expect that number to grow after Tuesday’s output. The Sharks were forced to juggle lines after Joe Thornton was placed on IR on Sunday.
Not to be outdone, the Leafs scored a touchdown of their own while allowing a bunch of goals themselves. So that’s a 7-4 win that follows the 7-6 OT win on Sunday. It could be a fun year in Toronto.
Points-wise, Mitch Marner led the way with a goal and three assists, giving him multiple points in three consecutive games. Auston Matthews scored another pair, which gives him a league-leading seven goals. Matthews now has goals in all four of his games played. Meanwhile, John Tavares isn’t needing any kind of adjustment period with the Leafs. With a pair of his own goals, he now has six of his own on the season.
One downside for the Leafs’ offense: Not much in the way of secondary scoring. But with this trio on fire, who needs it?
Leafs goals this season 👇
Everyone else: 4 pic.twitter.com/KCW6OBMuyv
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 10, 2018
Morgan Rielly is also off to a scorching start. With four assists on Tuesday, he now has ten points over his first four games. That first four games for Rielly is now in the category of historically impressive.
Morgan Rielly's 9 pts so far in 2018-19= the most in the last 30 seasons by by a D-man through their team's first 4 GP- 1 more than Doug Crossman (1989-90 NYI), Scott Stevens (1993-94 NJD), Brent Burns (2016-17 SJS)
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) October 10, 2018
The Canes are scoring a ton right now, exploding for 13 goals over their last two games (although they’ve allowed eight goals over that same span – but if you can outscore your opponents, then that’s what matters, right?) A couple of their rookies are helping the cause. Warren Foegele scored another goal on Tuesday while firing seven shots on goal. Foegele now has three goals in his last two games. Meanwhile, Andrei Svechnikov now has goals in back-to-back games.
Micheal Ferland continues to hang around the Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen line, and he continues to record points. With an assist on Aho’s goal, Ferland now has five points over his last three games. I’ll admit that I had no interest in Ferland in fantasy drafts after he was moved off the Gaudreau-Monahan line to being buried on the Canes. Yet the hard-hitting winger is proving he can be productive when he is deployed on a team’s top line. Go ahead and add him, but continue to check Frozen Tools to ensure he is still on the top unit.
But sometimes being moved off the top line has the opposite effect. Case in point Sven Baertschi, who scored two goals and added an assist after he was held without a point during his first two games while on the top line. Mind you, two of those points came on the first-unit power play with the Canucks’ big guns that he was already playing alongside on the top line.
Speaking of which… with his assist on Baertschi’s PPG, Elias Pettersson now has points in all three of his games. A friend of mine joked that Pettersson is on an 82-goal scoring pace, which is still the case even without a goal on Tuesday. Personally, I think he’ll shatter Wayne Gretzky’s scoring record in his first season. Okay, I won’t use any more exaggeration to discuss how awesome this kid is. But go pick him up if he happens to still be available in your league, all right? He’ll be knocking on the door of near-100 percent ownership soon.
I discussed Brock Boeser’s early-season struggles in Sunday’s Ramblings. Well, on Tuesday he was moved to Pettersson’s line in the hopes that Pettersson’s magic would rub off on him. He recorded an assist on the power play, but only took one shot on goal and was a minus-3. Boeser still doesn’t look like the same player he was last season, but you could use this as a buy-low opportunity from an owner who knows this all too well right now (or who follows a lot of Canucks coverage, which there is more than enough of where I live).
Nick Foligno scored two goals and added an assist in the Blue Jackets’ 5-2 win over Colorado, while linemate Alexander Wennberg assisted on both of Foligno’s goals. The third member of this line was none other than Anthony Duclair, who you might have assumed has disappeared off the fantasy landscape. But with an assist on Tuesday, Duclair now has two assists in three games. Duclair also received second-unit power-play time. He’s just a one percenter to keep an eye on.
After allowing four goals in each of his first two games (both against the Canucks), Mike Smith pitched a 43-save shutout against the Predators on Tuesday. Smith has only posted a 30-win season once in his career (and that was 38 wins in 2011-12), and all would have to go right for him to reach that total this season. But without serious competition behind him on the Flames’ goalie depth chart, he has a decent shot at that total if he can manage to stay healthy enough to reach 60 games.
Finally, some injury news: Matt Murray is sidelined with a concussion. The Pens’ goalie to pick up in the interim is Casey DeSmith, who is expected to start Thursday’s game against Vegas (NHL.com). Tristan Jarry, who was sent to the AHL earlier because he could clear waivers, is likely to be recalled. You could pre-emptively grab either goalie, but it’s difficult to know how this situation will play out and how long Murray will be out.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.