Frozen Tools Forensics: Early Season Deployment
Now a couple of weeks into the fantasy hockey regular season, we can assess some scenarios that are unfolding on teams across the league that are not to the liking of specific individual’s owners. The following players are ones we need to be patient with although I deem their current deployments as undesirable. Nobody could blame anyone for drafting any of the following to see the curveballs thrown out so far this campaign. Alas as managers, one cannot panic regarding the situation and have faith that they all see change for the better as the season progresses. Do not look to unload assets before the end of the season’s first month as that is too early to tear it down, keep the faith for now.
Most unfortunate to see of all that will be discussed in my opinion, Jeff Carter currently finds himself on the Los Angeles Kings third line. What is arguably your most dangerous shooter not being used in the top six blows my mind and hopefully ends soon. Carter is a player you safely draft expecting line two and primary power play duty year in and year out, so seeing him playing with two unproven players is disheartening. This one more than any I cannot foresee continuing for long, as Carter is just too good in his own right to not be a more featured player. The one concern regarding this demotion is that perhaps the injury from last year is still hindering him although he does not look for lack of speed in glimpses I have caught. In the end holding steady is the only way to go with Carter, as dropping him is downright ludicrous. Expect one of the games more consistent scorers to find himself back in the top six sooner rather than later.
More a product of Ryan Getzlaf’s injury than his play, Rikard Rakell is currently playing on line two with Ryan Kesler. Whilst Maxime Comtois has been a nice early season surprise for this Anaheim Ducks squad, fantasy owners with investment in Rakell are sure to take issue with him being knocked off the first line. A player who has been getting better offensively year after year, 2018-19 was set to be the breakout 70-point campaign and though Kesler is no slouch, one must hope upon Getzlaf’s return that he becomes a first line winger once again. Thankfully as far as Rakell goes, Jakob Silfverberg has just gone down with an upper body injury therefore leading to increased minutes. Though the points have not come since his three-point outing in their first game, expect a scoring surge to occur if he keeps seeing over twenty minutes of ice time. Rakell is an overlooked star, do not lose faith he is too talented in his own right not to start producing routinely.
Sign a guy for five years at five-plus million a season and play him on the fourth line, brilliant Tampa Bay, brilliant. Going into drafts, JT Miller’s underappreciated ranking made for a very tantalizing scoop later on in your drafts, one which I myself could not resist. After coming to the Lightning from the New York Rangers, the Ohio native was a goal scoring machine on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. So dominant was his production that one would surmise that role on the top line and top power play were set in stone coming into the new year. Watching Jon Cooper play musical lines and deploy him with Adam Erne and Cedric Paquette is downright infuriating plain and simple. Thankfully, his role on the primary power play has not eroded so at least for now there’s that cushy gig to soften the blow. In order for Miller to be a 60-point player though, he will need to be deployed in the top six in some fashion as he needs talented line mates to bring out the best in him. More a compliment than the straw that stirs the drink, Miller becomes an elite player when playing with elite talent. Let’s hope Cooper has this realization and reunites the trio from the end of last season.
I assumed from the second the ink dried on the contract that James Neal would be on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. More so because of business than anything with the amount he is being paid, turns out I was wrong as he’s now on third line detail. Unfortunately for Neal, Elias Lindholm came along to Calgary as well this offseason in a draft trade and thanks to his right handedness, stole the top line role. Also featured on the top power play unit Lindholm, Neal has been ousted from the most ideal scenario for production with the Flames. Regardless, this is a consistent goal scorer, somehow some way, he will still cross that 20-goal plateau. If he is to stay in this third line deployment although not wanted, that makes for lesser defensive assignments that he can make pay with his shot. I would assume additional line tinkering will continue as the season is still young with Neal finding himself eventually in the top six. Lindholm has never been a prolific scorer so he could fall off a cliff at any moment opening the opportunity once again for Neal. Stash on your bench for the time being but do not jump ship on the savvy veteran just yet.
Though I foresaw Conor Sheary finding his way to the top line as he has the uncanny ability to click with elite centers, I was really pulling for Jeff Skinner on this one. Long underutilized in Raleigh, Skinner coming to the Buffalo Sabres from the Carolina Hurricanes was supposed to be his time to finally play routinely with an elite pivot. Not even a role on the primary power play unit, Skinner seems to have middle child syndrome wherever he plays. One of the most skilled skaters in the game with a figure skating background to go with a dangerous wrist shot and booming slap shot, the tools are there to be a 40-goal scorer. Like JT Miller, he is not good enough in his own right overall to score at a profound rate without assistance from elite line mates. Therefore, if Skinner does not play with Eichel, we are looking at the 50-55 point Skinner per usual. Skinner still finds himself in a solid enough scenario on the second line with Casey Mittelstadt and veteran winger Kyle Okposo, far more enticing than his third line gig last season with the Hurricanes. A 30-goal season is still very much in play for the talented shooter, therefore do not cut the cord prematurely because of disappointment in how lines have panned out so far.
With the New York Rangers finally committing to a legitimate do it the right way rebuild, anyone who invested in Kevin Shattenkirk had to be presuming he’d undertake workhorse minute night in and night out on the top pair. After starting off on the right foot minutes wise in the first two games, Shattenkirk went on to play under eight minutes in their third game versus the Hurricanes followed by a sub-18-minute game against the Edmonton Oilers. David Quinn has stated he needs to be better and maybe rightfully so as I am not the coach but this is a player who is coming off major injury, hesitance has to be an understandable factor. To make him ride the pine like that three games in can only damage his already frazzled confidence and it shows in his play. Not crisp with his passing nor seeming to possess the deception with the puck that is his staple, Shattenkirk is over thinking the game right now. Hold on tight and let time erase this hardship as he will round into form. Much has changed in Manhattan, with many new faces on the roster, a new coach, and a new system. This is not a Stanley Cup contender by any means but they should be surprisingly better than many may give them credit for. Locked into the top power play quarterback spot, expect points to starting flowing in for the New Rochelle native.
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