With the slight majority of teams playing (16 of 31), Thursday was our first “busy night” of hockey in the 2019-20 season. For all of the teams playing, Thursday also represented their first game of the season.
So you bought and studied your Fantasy Guide. Secured your keepers and nailed your draft. You’re all psyched to go, and…
Tough start to the season for Lias Andersson pic.twitter.com/y8AwIH9Nkg
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 3, 2019
Yeah, that was kind of awkward. Hopefully that didn’t describe your Thursday. If it did, remember that each team has at least 81 games left.
Fortunately things got much better for the Rangers, who were rolling out Artemi Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, and Jacob Trouba (what a haul this offseason). Panarin scored a power-play goal and added an assist with a plus-3, while Kakko was held without a point with three shots on goal in a debut that consisted of 15:31 of icetime.
Yet it was Trouba that stood out the most in his Rangers’ debut, coincidentally against the Jets. In his Rangers’ debut, Trouba stuffed the statsheet with a goal, two assists, three shots on goal, and five hits in nearly 25 minutes of icetime. Not surprisingly, Trouba also took on first-unit power-play duties for his new team. Expect him to log all the big minutes for his new team, which puts him in a great spot to match his career high of 50 points set last season.
The real scoring star for the Rangers was Mika Zibanejad, who scored a goal with three helpers and a plus-4 to go with seven shots on goal in over 20 minutes of icetime. You might be wondering why Zibanejad, a center who had never cracked 55 points before last season, was a top-100 player in many fantasy drafts. It’s because of the possibility of playing alongside Panarin, the kind of playmaker that the Rangers didn’t roster last season. Guess what: It happened, and so far the returns are there.
Despite the loss, your Jets’ players didn’t necessarily come home empty-handed. Blake Wheeler scored his first two goals of the season, with Nikolaj Ehlers assisting on both goals and adding one more helper while totaling eight shots on goal. A spot on the top line with Wheeler and Mark Scheifele won’t hurt Ehlers in his quest for a bounce-back season, and he certainly stated his case on Thursday.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s Panthers’ debut wasn’t so nice, but at least he can admit it was the toughest of matchups. Bob allowed four goals on 29 shots in an eventual 5-2 loss to the cross-state Lightning. Consider that one a mulligan for one of the top 5 goalies drafted in many fantasy leagues. The Panthers have to face the Lightning again on Saturday, but on the bright side at least they're getting two of their toughest matchups out of the way.
Although he played on the third pairing with just 17 minutes, Mikhail Sergachev recorded three assists in the win. Sergachev played second-unit power-play minutes with newcomer Kevin Shattenkirk, who scored a goal on five shots on goal in his Bolts’ debut. Shattenkirk was paired with Victor Hedman at even strength, which should make for an interesting pairing.
Remember when we used to talk about adding Conor Sheary from the waiver wire? Could we be doing so again soon? (Sheary is 2 percent owned in Yahoo leagues.) I don’t know about that, but it was quite a season debut for Sheary against his former club. Sheary scored two goals, including one on the power play, in the Sabres’ 3-1 over Pittsburgh.
Sheary played on a line with Casey Mittelstadt, who assisted on both of Sheary’s goals. The part that I’m concerned about is that the pair each played only nine minutes. Obviously Mittelstadt has upside and shouldn’t be playing those kind of minutes forever, while Sheary has proven to be a low floor/high ceiling option that benefits from strong linemates. Case in point 2016-17, when he scored a career high 53 points while tagging along with Sidney Crosby. So we’ll have to wait and see whether this duo can form anything more than short-term chemistry.
Because some of you will no doubt be interested, I’ll talk about Dougie Hamilton for a moment. Hamilton recorded two assists (one on the power play), took five shots on goal, and blocked three shots. And he received over 20 minutes of icetime. But as we’ve grown accustomed to, he didn’t receive first-unit power-play time. That went to Jake Gardiner, who did not record a point in his Hurricanes’ debut.
Wannabe country singer (according to his Twitter profile) Matt Duchene seemed to desire Nashville all along, and so far he has looked comfortable in the Music City. Duchene recorded three helpers in his Predators’ debut, centering a line with Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund. The Predators have traditionally had trouble scoring, so the additions of Duchene and Granlund over the 2019 calendar year should help with that, including with their league-worst 2018-19 power play. Duchene and Granlund allow the Preds to spread out their scoring, as Ryan Johansen centered a line with Viktor Arvidsson and Craig Smith. As a result, the Predators may turn out to have sneaky good scoring this season.
In his Dallas Stars’ debut, Joe Pavelski recorded one assist. Yet the most newsworthy event from the Stars/Bruins game was Roman Polak being stretchered off after falling into the boards (view here). Fortunately, Polak looks like he will be okay.
The Flames picked up right where they left off last season – with a loss to Colorado. In his Avalanche debut, Joonas Donskoi scored two goals while playing on a line with Matt Nieto and J.T. Compher. Donskoi also played just 14 minutes, so I wouldn’t consider him a must-add off the waiver wire right away (for those of you who like to be on top of things).
Mikko Rantanen also scored twice for the Avs while taking five shots on goal.
One of the most debated PP1 discussions this offseason involved the Avalanche and whether the guy to replace Tyson Barrie would be Cale Makar or Samuel Girard. To answer that question, Makar logged 6:20 of power-play time (Girard had 3:20). In his regular-season debut, Makar totaled 22 minutes while playing alongside hard-hitting but low-scoring Nikita Zadorov. For those of you in deep bangers leagues, Zadorov took 9 PIM on Thursday.
One more new team debut, since we’re having fun with them: Phil Kessel recorded an assist on the Coyotes’ only goal in their 2-1 loss to Anaheim. Kessel played on what should be the Coyotes’ top line with Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan, who scored the goal that Kessel assisted on.
Stepan, who played over 20 minutes in this game, could be in for a bounceback if this line combination sticks. Before dropping to just 35 points in 2018-19, Stepan had been the definition of consistency, recording between 53 and 57 points in each of his previous five seasons. At just 12 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, Stepan could provide some great hidden value, particularly if he sticks with Phil the Thrill (yup, I just added him in one league as I finished this sentence).
From earlier in the day:
The Oilers looked more defensively sound under new coach Dave Tippett on Wednesday, but they’ll have to make do without one of their regulars for a while. Adam Larsson is expected to miss the next 6-8 weeks with a fractured fibula. Even though Larsson isn’t someone to target in fantasy, there may be fantasy implications. Evan Bouchard was called up from the AHL as a result, while Joel Persson could make his NHL debut soon after being cleared for contact.
Nate Schmidt is considered week-to-week with a lower-body injury from the first period of Wednesday’s game. Either Nicolas Hague or Jimmy Schuldt could draw into the lineup for the Golden Knights’ rematch with the Sharks on Friday.
The Blackhawks won’t be dragging out contract negotiations with Alex DeBrincat next summer, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year contract with an AAV of $6.4 million. DeBrincat has one more year on his entry-level contract, so at least salary cap league owners won’t have to guess how much to budget for him next offseason. DeBrincat scored 76 points during his second NHL season, so this contract could turn out to be well worth the money if he can improve on that total.
One last thing: Just a friendly reminder to set your lineup today (Friday) before 2 pm ET (11 am PT). The Blackhawks and Flyers face off at that time in the Czech Republic.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.