Ramblings: Malkin injured; Namestnikov traded; Gusev to line one; early impressions – October 8
Bad news came for Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins, their fans, and fantasy owners as the star centre is expected to miss significant time with his injury from the weekend. The team hasn’t elaborated yet on what the injury is (beyond a lower-body one) or what the timeframe for a return might be, so we’re all just kind of flying blind for now. All we know is that fantasy owners should expect Malkin – and Nick Bjugstad – to be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.
Vitaly Abramov was called up by the Sens and slotted on the second line. The beat writers seemed optimistic about his game in preseason but there isn’t going to be very many players having fantasy success on this roster this year. This is more about fantasy owners being able to evaluate him for future seasons.
Ottawa traded for Vladislav Namestnikov on Monday night in exchange for prospect Nick Ebert and a fourth-round pick in 2021. Not sure why Ottawa is trading for middle-six UFAs in this particular season, but you do you, Kanata.
The Jets have called up Sami Niku. The team is saying it’s while Dmitry Kulikov takes a personal leave, but let’s face it, the Jets need all the help they can get on that blue line. It’s all hands on deck.
Washington will have Evgeny Kuznetsov back in the lineup for their next game as he’s finished his three-game suspension, but it looks like he may be coming back on the third line. That’s pretty bad news for almost everyone involved, fantasy-wise, except for Lars Eller. I can’t imagine it lasts long but that this is even being considered now is a problem for fantasy owners.
St. Louis went in to Toronto and walked out with a 3-2 win.
The most notable thing to happen in this game fantasy-wise might actually be something that doesn’t occur for days or weeks yet. I know that sounds confusing, but it’s in relation to Kasperi Kapanen. He just hasn’t looked right all year on the top line and there’s some speculation it could be a matter of time before Ilya Mikheyev gets promoted. Now, that’s just speculation from some writers and fantasy players, but in the Leafs games I’ve watched, there’s at least reason to be nervous about Kapanen’s role as it stands.
Victor Olofsson scored his third goal in as many games in a Buffalo uniform, but the Sabres fell 4-3 in overtime to the Blue Jackets. It was a game where Columbus massively outplayed Buffalo but Linus Ullmark kept his team in it, earning them a loser point.
What’s notable for Olofsson isn’t necessarily the production, though that is notable of course. It’s that in his three games he’s played 17:11, 19:28, and 20:33. Unless he completely falls off the map, it seems he’s earned the full trust of the coaching staff to play a featured role. Make sure he’s not on your waiver wire.
It was three goals against on 18 shots for Joonas Korpisalo, a game after Elvis Merzlikins gave up seven goals. For now, the Columbus goaltending situation is a bit of a mess.
At this point of the season, there isn’t much actionable information. Outside of a few changes in roles or health – Drouin to the third line, Kase to his top line, and whatever Dallas is doing, for example – there just isn’t much to go on right now as most teams have only played 2-3 games. In general, I wait until the end of October to really make any decisions about my teams and/or players. Again, things like injuries or demotions force decisions before then, I just mean in terms of incorporating season-to-date data into the decision-making process.
That doesn’t mean it’s too early for impressions. Here are some impressions from around the league on both teams and players through less than a week.
Over the summer, I was vocal in saying I didn’t believe in Roope Hintz to be a good sleeper. Rather, I saw just another average middle-6 forward being thrust into Dallas’s top-6, maybe even top line, who would get shifted around constantly. He has looked far from an average middle-6 forward in three games this year. In fact, he’s looked like Dallas’s best forward.
Now, I still have some worry about his overall fantasy value because I still don’t think he’s a volume shooter and without top PP minutes, there are too many holes for significant roto value. With that said, Hintz has looked great early on and with most of the team not playing their best, he should stay in the top-6 for the foreseeable future.
It’s been a terrible start to the year for the Jets. Maybe not by their record, strictly speaking, as they’re 1-2, but just for the lineup: Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine were late to camp, the former getting his contract right at the end; Dustin Byfuglien took a leave of absence with the team already having parted ways with Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers; Sami Niku didn’t really take the next step the team and its fans were hoping for. On top of all this, Josh Morrissey was injured during warmups on Sunday night.
This has effectively forced Ville Heinola into a featured role with the Jets, playing over 23 minutes in Sunday evening’s contest. He’s looked good for the Jets, too, looking to be a good puck-mover already. As a rookie 18-year old defenceman, that’s about as much as can be asked for.
It’s just been nice to see Kase on the top line and not the third line (shout out Randy Carlyle). He’s healthy and looks like himself on the ice, almost skittering across the offensive zone like a water bug, looking for a soft spot in the defensive coverage. That’s the Ondrej Kase we’ve seen when he’s been able to stay healthy.
Now, whether Ryan Getzlaf can be the Getzlaf necessary to get Kase over 30 goals, we’ll see. Also, I worry that Dallas Eakins will just leave the two together because the rest of the lineup may struggle to generate offence. All the same, welcome back Kase.
NYR top line
I think one player I’ll kind of miss on with my preseason rankings is Mika Zibanejad, in that I didn’t have him ranked highly enough. He put up a huge season last year and added Artemi Panarin and a couple good puck-moving defencemen to his partners in crime. I’m not sure what my projections assumed would happen, but I think we undersold how good they’re going to be. What’s been the nicest part of this: there’s no indication that Pavel Buchnevich will be demoted, as has been the hallmark of his career to date. The Rangers are going to be entertaining to watch. Maybe not a good hockey team, per se, but definitely entertaining.
Through two games, Dumba has one goal, one assist, one PPP, six shots, three blocks, and four hits. It’s basically a buffet of fantasy goodness, and that led me to thinking that he’s the next Shea Weber, for fantasy purposes – a defenceman who can post 15-20 goals, near 50 points, and across-the-board peripherals. He was a guy I was very, very high on going into the year and hopefully y’all listened to me on that one (as I hope you guys didn’t listen to me about Hintz).
Tampa Bay without Point
Tampa Bay was absolutely speed-bagged by Carolina in a shootout loss on Sunday night but we shouldn’t read too much into one game. Instead, we’ll read into the three games they’ve played so far as Tampa has the worst shot share at five-on-five in the NHL. Even without considering the game they got speed-bagged, they arguably got outplayed in both games against Florida, certainly in at least one of them. This is a team that desperately needs Brayden Point, and his offence, back in the lineup. Not to say they’re a bad team without him, but it sure seems like he’s the lynchpin in taking this team from good to great.
With the quartet of Duchene-Forsberg-Arvidsson-Johansen at the coach’s disposal, it made sense that they ran pairs of players rather than stacking a line and leaving one guy on the second line. The duo of Duchene-Forsberg seems to have been a home run so far, with Duchene having multi-assist games in each of the first two contests while Forsberg has scored in each of the first two contests, posting nine shots on goal. Teams won’t be able to key in on just one line anymore and that brings a dynamic that Nashville has been sorely lacking over the last couple of seasons.
It would seem dumb to not include the guy who had a four-goal game in a section on early-season impressions. Of course, that four-goal game came the night after a three-point night, which now gives Mantha five goals and seven points with 13 shots on goal in two games.
More than all of this, however, is Mantha playing over 20 minutes a night in aggregate over those first two games. There isn’t much talent on this team, so it makes sense that the top line sees a lot of minutes, but that they’re actually getting those minutes is nice to see. If this level of TOI maintains for Mantha all year long while skating alongside Dylan Larkin, there could be a huge season here.
Maybe Hamilton isn’t on what would be described as the top PP unit – at least by player skill – but Hamilton’s power-play unit has looked much better than the one run by Jake Gardiner so far this year. There’s also a quote from Hamilton in this article from The Athletic where he talks about the trade of Justin Faulk opening more opportunities for him specifically. That’s music to the ears of fantasy owners.
No data at this moment.