And it has happened at last. After a long summer of waiting, we finally have some actual hockey to report on. It has been an exciting first week with three and four-goal outings (I mean he isn’t in the West, but how about that Mika Zibanejad with eight points in two games!). Games played means we have an opportunity to look at real live production and line combos to review to make our recommendations, and not everything has happened exactly like predicted. In the name of keeping the column honest, there are a few players we need to touch on who have not had the start I was hoping for.
Paul Stastny: Stastny was featured in this column as recently as last week. I was pumping him up because he has had a great stretch since Mark Stone joined the team (regular season and playoffs) and all indications were that he, Stone, and Max Pacioretty were due to start the season as one of Vegas’ top lines. Don’t get me wrong the line has been good. Stone has four points in two games, and Pacioretty was one, but with eight shots. No the problem with the line is that Stastny is not on it. He has been playing on line three with Brandon Pirri, and Valentin Zykov. It is not great and definitely not what we were hoping for. Cody Glass has received the bump and put in a goal in his first game. Now the one potential silver lining here is that his deployment may be based on the fact the typical third-line center, Cody Eakin, is out injured. Given that, there is a theory that Vegas needed a solid shut down center on the third line and that is Stastny over Glass. The hope is that when Eakin returns Stastny gets his spot back.
Sam Steel: So I can’t really be blamed for this one, but in the last preseason article I highlighted the fact that he was skating the Rickard Rakell (and Jakob Silfverberg too, but that is less exciting). Once the article was posted he immediately went down to injury. He is currently still dealing with a mid-body injury, though the apparent time table for his return is short.
Nick Schmaltz: In the Dobber Guide I recommended Schmaltz as a potential value add because his regular-season numbers weren’t fantastic, but he had had an excellent showing in Arizona alongside Keller. I assumed that the deployment would continue and when Alex Galchenyuk was swapped out for Phil Kessel that only improved things. Unfortunately, the beneficiary of the deployment and the wing upgrade has been Derek Stepan. He has seen over 20 minutes a night with a goal and seven shots over the Coyote’s first two games skating on the top line and the top power play. The positive here is that Schmaltz has still been getting power-play time, With no points and one shot though, his upside is looking significantly lower at the moment.
And now on to our regularly scheduled programming.
Wild West Weekly Streamers:
This week there aren’t a lot of great schedules in the West. Most teams are playing on the busy nights, which means you are going to have a tough time fitting in additional games from players. The Kings probably have the best streaming schedule though so, of course, we will start there.
Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo: I am listing both as I have historically not really loved either, but their deployment is good at the moment so they are worth taking a chance on. Iafallo is skating on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, as well as on the top power play. In one game he has put up one lonely shot. Kempe has been playing on the second line with Jeff Carter and Iyla Kovalchuk, and on the top power-play as well and has five shots in the King’s single game.
Cody Glass: Per the Stastny report above, Glass is a good look for the week ahead. Vegas has four games and he is getting an increased look at the moment. We can’t say for sure how long this will last, but he has some pedigree to his name and is getting great linemates for the moment. Be ready to move on if Stastny returns to his spot, but for the moment add if you can.
And for a bonus option, here is confirmation that Mikael Backlund is not injured (the last article we weren’t sure). If you didn’t pick him up yet, it isn’t too late as he still has a four-game schedule this week.
Hot or Not?
It is far too early in the season to be making any dramatic moves. The general rule of thumb is to take most everything you are seeing with a grain of salt because these are super small sample sizes. The one player I did want to briefly mention here is James Neal. During the offseason I was not very high on Neal, and to be honest I am still very skeptical. The one thing we can’t deny though is that he put up two goals in Edmonton’s last game. He played almost six minutes of power-play time and 19.5 minutes in total. At even strength, he seemed to be playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but on the power play he was lining up with Connor McDavid. Now those two goals were on six shots, so not a sustainable shooting percentage by any stretch of the imagination, but if he keeps getting 75% of the power-play time, and more than 16-17 minutes of total ice time a night, he is definitely worth checking out. That top power-play time makes him a bit like Patrick Hornqvist who was often worth owning even his is even-strength deployment wasn’t great because he saw so much power-play time on that stacked Pittsburgh unit. If Neal can do the same, he is definitely worth the gamble.