Ramblings: No Games on Tap, Toronto’s Insane Start, Oilers on the Hot Seat, PPTOI (Oct. 13th)
To start this off, I'm extremely pleased to announce that I've accepted the position of Managing Editor with DobberProspects. The buzz surrounding the site is palpable these days. It's an exciting time.
I’d like to have a word with the schedule maker. 12 contests splayed across Thursday evening. 14 more will grace our presence on Saturday. But here we are, on a Friday evening with NO HOCKEY TO WATCH? Where’s the justice? Where’s the accountability? Why does it have to be on my Ramblings’ night?!
Needless to say, I’m taking this as a personal slight.
Yet, we move forward. There’s been enough action of late to dig up some goods. Starting with the sorcery that’s going on in The Big Smoke these days. We’re 10 days into the NHL season and here are your top point getters.
Notice a theme at the top? It’s the type of production that can springboard fantasy teams out to a great start. It can whip a massive fan base into a tizzy, and it’s already ruined Hockey Twitter for countless people west of the Lake Superior.
Toronto is averaging four goals per game. They’re clicking on 50 percent of their power plays. And as a team, they’re converting on 15.4 percent of their shots. Last season, the Lightning and Caps led the way with a 10.7 percent team conversion rate.
We haven’t seen a club click over 30 percent on the man-advantage since the Canadiens and Islanders were destroying the competition in the late 1970's. Can the Leafs make a run at that lofty mark? They clicked on 25 percent last season without John Tavares…
Individually, Morgan Rielly sits second all-time for the most defenseman points in the first five games of a season. He just passed Bobby Orr and trails only Harry Cameron’s 15 in 1917-18. Mmmhmm, 101 years ago. That seems comparable.
Matthews and his nine goals in five contests tied Mario Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Bossy and teammate, Patty Marleau for the most since “the modern era” began in 1943-44. Matthews is just the 12th player in history to record multi-point outings in his first five games to start the season. He’s also the youngest player to ever do so.
Some nice company for the boys.
I’d say this is the perfect time to look at selling high on some of these guys, but I don’t see too many avenues to improve. This team is young, fast, deadly on the PP and looking to make some noise. I did pop this out to the Twitterverse to see how high Rielly’s stock has come. As a reminder, Ghost had 65 points 78 games last season. Rielly had 52 in 76. Reilly is 11 months younger.
The best advice to give is to ride the blue wave like so many Americans are hoping to see next month in the midterms. Unless someone decides to go bonkers on an offer, these Leafs are going to be sniffing the top of all sorts of lists for the foreseeable future.
Travis Konecny took an Ivan Provorov clapper off the foot in practice on Friday. He left the ice, returned for a quick spin and left again. Not a great sign for the third year player.
Konecny has struggled out of the gate. He’s bounced between the top two lines receiving second unit power play duties. He’s recorded a single assist and witnessed his time on ice decrease in each game – landing at 11:17 against Ottawa on Wednesday night.
Pegged a sleeper or breakout candidate by many, owners better hope for health first and production second.
With the night off from NHL action, it allowed me to tune into the Hughes Brother Showdown. Jack Hughes, the consensus first overall pick this June and his USNTDP U18 mates took on older brother Quinn Hughes and the University of Michigan. I'll be frank, The youngsters at The Program took it to the top end Division 1 squad.
The end result was a 6-3 victory for the U18's with Jack leading the charge with a goal and two helpers. His speed is breathtaking to watch. Reminiscent of Nathan MacKinnon in his Halifax days. But if I were to compare the younger Hughes to an NHL'er it would be Patrick Kane. He's undersized but packs the biggest of skill punches.
Load up on those lottery picks for next year's rookie drafts. Hughes is going to be worth it.
The chilly season has arrived for those of us above the 49th parallel. The wood stoves are starting to cook and the thermostats are being cranked up. No place more than in Edmonton these days.
The Oilers look flat, disinterested and a burgeoning train wreck through their first two contests. The organization already pilfered away Connor McDavid’s entry-level contract and now they begin their march towards wasting his prime aged years.
Something is going to have to give.
Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli will try desperately to open a window and let the cold air in, but ownership may pull the plug before Chia goes out and deals Leon Draisaitl for a second pairing defender.
Finding a way to get Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi more than a minute of PP time a night and perhaps some exposure to McDavid could go a long way in adding some enthusiasm to the lineup and aura surrounding this squad.
There’s a craze building in Vancouver these days. Sure, we’ve all heard of the Pettersson Boogie that’s been sweeping the lower mainland. The Swedish sensation finding the scoresheet in each of his first four contests and hanging around the top 10 in scoring is impressive no doubt, but that’s not what I’m referring too.
No, the new fad is built around 2014 sixth overall pick, Jake Virtanen. #ShotGunJake began on TSN1040 radio and has taken on a life of its own. With each Virtanen tally, more and more brews are pierced and hammered. None better than this Rockstar version from Thursday night.
Oh and just for the record, Virtanen and his three points in four games lead both Nikolaj Ehlers and Wiliam Nylander. I won’t be taking questions or comments at this time.
Sticking with Vancouver, Brock Boeser got off the schneid on Thursday night and boy did he need that. The celebration that followed was the loudest we’ve seen from the sophomore who has made it a habit of filling the net and celebrating like he’s done it before.
If the Canucks can have him and Pettersson wheeling, coupled with the growth of Nikolay Goldobin, Sven Bartschi and Bo Horvat, the late games out West will at least be entertaining.
They likely still lose a good chunk more than they win, but the buzz is for real.
I have this theory: that unless you own Artemi Panarin in a league, you undoubtedly undervalue him. It seems like this guy is the Rodney Dangerfield of hockey. A mid-20’s star who has made it his business to click at or near a point-per-game since the moment he entered the NHL.
So far, this season has been no different. Panarin racked up a goal and three helpers on Thursday night to sit at seven points in four games. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, when Panarin was a rookie, there are only six players who have amassed more than his 239 points.
Their names are Kane, Crosby, McDavid, Kucherov, Wheeler and Benn.
The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent is a juicy fruit just ripe for the taking in keeper leagues as managers concern themselves with a potential move. He’s likely to be had for less than his production should command. Now go out and make an offer.
The Rangers may be bottoming out this season as they attempt the quick rebuild, but one area they don’t need to concern themselves with is in net.
At 36 years old, Henrik Lundqvist is still above average. Sure, his consistency isn’t what it once was, but he still possesses strong ability and can be leaned on. But those days won’t last forever. Father Time remains undefeated.
Enter Igor Shestyorkin. The 22-year-old Russian has been building a wall in front of the SKA nets for the last few seasons and none better than his performance early on this year. Through seven games, the 2014 fourth round pick is undefeated. He’s posted four shutouts in the last five games and is sporting a 0.972 save percentage and 0.71 goals-against-average.
No, you didn't read that wrong.
In 101 KHL games, he owns a career record of 66-16-15 with a 0.932 save percentage and 1.80 goals-against-average. Those metrics are mind-boggling.
Yes, SKA is a strong team. A very strong team. They boast Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Gusev, and Nail Yakupov. They have also enjoyed deploying veteran netminders ahead of Shestyorkin – Mikko Koskinen last year and Magnus Hellberg this year. I’m guessing that changes somewhat as the season wears on if the youngster continues to post video game-like numbers.
As for his ticket to Broadway, Shesty will conclude his KHL contract this spring. It’s expected that he’ll cross the pond and begin his North American career as the starter in Hartford in 2019-20 or in an immediate platoon role on the big squad. He could be the man as early as 2020-21 when Lundqvist is in the final year of his deal.
That plan can be thrown out the window if Lundqvist gets hurt, traded, or if the transition doesn’t go as smoothly for Shesty. But this is the kid whom I consider neck and neck with Ilya Samsonov as the best goaltender outside of the NHL. I like his chances be an elite fantasy asset.
When I’m assessing the potential for breakout players, deployment reigns supreme. Power play deployment especially. Once the dust settles and we have a large enough sample size, looking at average PPTOI is usually good enough. However, early on, seeing who is receiving the highest percentage of their team’s man-advantage deployment sheds a lot of light.
Through a week and a half, many of the leaders are mainstays. Alex Ovechkin has earned 84.5 percent of Washington’s power play minutes. Tyler Seguin has played 83.8 percent. Jack Eichel is up to 80.3, and OEL has skated in 79.8 percent.
As we mine for less obvious options, Rasmus Ristolainen (78.1), Alex DeBrincat (71.3), and Tyson Jost (67.1) all stand out for various reasons.
Risto has clearly put to bed the threat of Rasmus Dahlin poaching his PP1 duties to begin the season. He’s seeing 4:58 on the power play and both his points have come from that deployment.
Over in Chicago, DeBrincat has been en fuego to begin the year. He’s skating on the top line and seeing 3:57 on the top power-play unit. He has four goals and seven points in four games and is dispelling any concerns of a sophomore slump. I already liked DeBrincat to break out this season, but with that deployment and the early chemistry with Toews, he may just smash all expectations.
Finally, in Colorado, the last spot on the vaunted top power play has been taken by Jost. The former BCHL superstar has a single goal this year (on the PP) but nearly a third of his ice time is with the extra man and lining up with Nate MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Barrie and company. He’s likely a bit away from a true explosion, but with that type of deployment, things should get going quickly.
That’s all for this week. Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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