Ramblings: Lindholm Has Found a Home, Tuch Extended, Kuznetsov, Parise, & The Sabres’ Farm (Oct. 20)
Elias Lindholm sure looks like he's found his forever home. The talented Swedish forward has toyed with fantasy owners for years. He had the lofty draft slot, the silky skills and the promise of more production to come. However, over the course of his five NHL seasons, he'd never broke the 50-point barrier. That mark is certainly in danger this season.
A goal and an assist in Calgary's 5-3 loss Nashville on Friday brings him up to five goals eight points in seven games. That's all well and good, but what I like to see is the insanely juicy deployment. Lindholm is locked onto to Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monohan at even-strength and on the top power-play unit. He's skating over 19 minutes a night with 4:41 coming on the man-advantage. You can't ask for much better than that.
The shooting percent is ridiculous (35%) and due for a fistful of a market correction, but this a player who has always appeared to have 60-plus point upside and he's trending nicely towards that this season.
Things haven't been as rosy for the other major forward addition in Calgary. James Neal went pointless again tonight and has just two points in seven contests. With the Flames putting the 3M line back together, Neal is struggling to find much offense next to Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. The second unit power-play deployment isn't helping much either.
To make matters worse, he has just 11 shots in seven games, five of which came in game two of the season. It's time to cut ties if you haven't already.
Signs of life from Kevin Fiala. A sexy preseason pick to break out this season, he had gone pointless in his first six games. A goal and an assist tonight will go a long way to ease owners who are anxiously hovering over the 'drop' button.
Roope Hintz got a turn on the Benn and Seguin line tonight. Not a bad spot for the 21-year-old rookie. Hintz ended the evening with two shots on goal in 17:26 of ice. It was an especially quiet night for the Stars’ top line and resulted in a 3-1 loss to the Wild.
Hintz always been an interesting talent. He found good success in the Finnish Liiga, but none more than his playoff run in 2016-17 with HIFK. He led the league in scoring that spring and that helped catapult him to a 20-goal rookie season in the American League last season. He's a young player to watch.
The change-up was the result of an Alexander Radulov lower-body injury. Something to keep an eye on.
Zach Parise kept his quick start going by adding a goal, an assist and five shots in 18:33 of action. That brings the 34-year-old up to nine points (2+7) in seven games. Health is a MAJOR concern with Parise these days but there’s nothing wrong with getting on the streamer wagon while the getting is good.
Ryan Suter chipped in with a goal and an assist himself. That brings him up to seven points in six games. He looks none the worse after that nasty ankle break last spring. He’s playing over 25 minutes a contest, which is likely a better place for the 33-year-old than 27-29 range he’s lived in in the past. He may not be flashy, but Suter is as consistent as they come. He's played at or above a 40-point pace in eight consecutive years and nine of his 13 career seasons.
The Panthers and Capitals got together in a battle of former Southeast Division rivals. It was all Florida early in this one as the Cats led 4-1 after one. However, it was not to be long-lived. Washington rallied to outscore their opponents 3-1 in the second frame and close the gap to one.
The third period was quiet until Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-tying goal with under two minutes to play.
Jonathan Huberdeau tallied the shootout winner to cap off a great night. Despite the continued banishment from the Barkov line, the former third overall pick produced a goal and two helpers to go along with six shots on goal.
Hubey is up to five points in as many games but his production may be in somewhat unsustainable. His power play percentage has dipped from a career-high 66 percent last year to just 38 percent early on this season as he's found himself the odd-man out from the tasty top unit. Second line and second power-play duties are difficult places to produce top-notch numbers.
Vincent Trocheck had a goal and two assists as well, while Evgeni Dadonov chipped in a goal and an assist. Both of those players are featured on the top man-advantage unit and are safer bets at this point.
On the Washington side, Lars Eller led the way offensively on Friday evening by setting up three tallies. He's a streaky scorer and one to shy away from in most leagues. But if you catch him on a heater, you can find some value in the short term.
Braden Holtby’s save percentage numbers weren’t helped tonight. After a stinky 0.907 last season, he’s sporting an even uglier 0.881 through six games this year. Fantasy owners better hope he keeps getting run support in order to mask the dullness in his game.
On the bright side, it’s finally happened, folks. Evgeni Kuznetsov is a superstar. We’ve been as patient as any sane human could ever hope for. Four years of KHL action that had Caps fans and fantasy junkies salivating at the prospect of him tearing it up in the Nation’s Capitol. It took nearly 100 games to push near the point-per-game mark, then a quick backslide and now, now it is here!
Sure, it’s only been six weeks, but all the magical ingredients are coming together. He’s 26-years-old and still in his statistical prime. He’s clicking on a heeeealthy 16.7 percent of his shots, all the while eating up the entirety of all-situations deployment next to the best finisher of all-time.
Speaking of time-on-ice, he’s getting a lot of it. Through seven games he’s played 20:57. That’s more than three minutes above the mark he set last season – which represented a career-high at the time. His time-on-ice total places him firmly in the top 10 for forwards to begin the season.
With over four minutes of that coming on the man-advantage, you can’t ask for better deployment. The scary thing is, he hasn’t even begun filling his apple basket by feeding Ovi for the patented one-timer. Of Kuzya’s six power-play points, four of them have been goals. That rate will dip, but the PPA’s should more than make up for it. He’s also shooting more than ever before, averaging 3.43 per game. His previous career-high was 2.35.
Last year we had an unseasonable number of high-end scorers. Nine players cusped the 90-point threshold. Will anyone be surprised if Kuznetsov breaks that milestone this season?
I don’t know about you, but I snuck a little preseason coin on him grabbing the Hart Trophy. At 82-1 odds I would’ve been stupid not to, right? Right? Right.
The Golden Knights made a surprise move on Friday by inking injured second-year winger, Alex Tuch to a seven-year deal that pays him 4.75 million per season. The 22-year-old has turned into one of the best value plays of the expansion draft. Minnesota packaged Tuch up so Vegas would take Erik Haula and not Jonas Brodin. They thought they were moving out a fourth line centre and their fifth-best prospect. They didn’t realize they were sending two impactful top nine forwards.
This is one of those deals where many question the length of the deal and then it turns into a steal in a couple of seasons. Either that, or it becomes an anchor. I like it to be the former.
The Jets beat the Canucks 4-1 on Thursday night. The best part? The MTS Centre had a little “Too much Fortnight” chant going on toward the Vancouver squad. Not only was Patrik Laine living rent-free in their heads a few weeks back, but now the fans are getting in on it.
For the record, I can almost understand the rational to ban video games on an early roadtrip in an effort to pursue team bonding and camaraderie. But the silliness of it is just too much. Who’s policing this rule? The guys can go out for a team dinner and then binge watch Netflix but not fire up the Xbox? I'm not a video game guy, but I get why people are scratching their heads at this.
The Canucks are taking it on the chin for good reason on this one.
… on this one too.
Get some perspective here, people.
Here's some good news for Sabres' fans, they're not in the basement! It might not sound like much, but for a team with such a storied history in the cellar, their 3-4 start has to be considered a step forward.
What's even more heartening is the play of their prospects in AHL Rochester. Victor Olofsson and his ridiculous release crossed over from the SHL this fall and has been terrorizing goaltenders in the AHL early and often. The 23-year-old led the SHL in goals last season and is leading the AHL in points (13) and sits second in goals (5). His nine primary points also lead the way.
Fellow Swede and SHL import, Lawrence Pilut leads all AHL blueliners in points with 10 in six games. There was speculation that he'd be getting the call to replace an injured Zach Bogosian when he wasn't on the ice for the Amerks game. However, it was announced he was out due to an upper-body injury. The Sabres need another puck-mover and he's close to stepping in when healthy.
The most relieving start has to be from former eighth overall pick, Alex Nylander. The Sabres top pick from 2016 has struggled in two teenaged seasons in the American League. But so far in 2018-19 he produced eight points in seven games and looks ready to really knock the door down for an NHL gig.
He hasn't been a passenger either. Of his eight total points, seven have been primary and five have come at even-strength. It's just him and Olli Juolevi who haven't cracked the NHL from the top 10 in 2016. The race is on to see who gets the call first.
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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