This week, we’ll take a look at the biggest fantasy hockey news out of the Metropolitan Division so far in this young season. Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza to get this kind of information throughout the 2019-2020 campaign!
Just as everyone expected, six games into the season Carolina’s leading scorer is… Dougie Hamilton. The 26-year-old tallied eight points through his first six games of the campaign and also put up 19 shots – an impressive total for a defenseman as only Brent Burns (22) and Kris Letang have more (21). Hamilton averages about three minutes of power-play time per game, which is considerably more than Jake Gardiner who plays with the man advantage for about two minutes a night. Can Hamilton sustain this insane pace for the rest of the season? Probably not. He’s currently scoring on 21% of his shots when his shooting percentage has been around 6-7% throughout his career. With that being said, don’t be surprised to see Hamilton break the 60-point barrier for the first time. When he first arrived in Carolina at the beginning of last season, he put up just 14 points in his first 41 games. After that brief adjustment period, he went on to tally 25 points in the final 41 games of the campaign. He’s carried that same momentum into the 2019-2020 season.
I also have to mention Erik Haula’s sizzling start to the season as he’s scored five goals in just six games. He’s playing more minutes in Carolina (both at even strength and on the power-play) than he’s ever played before. While he won’t be able to score on nearly 30% of his shots for the whole season, a 30-goal showing isn’t out of the question.
You’ve probably heard this already but buy low on Sebastian Aho who has just two points through seven games. His 26 shots place him in the top-five of that category, but he has just one goal to show for it.
Columbus Blue Jackets
So, their 2-3-0 record isn’t all that impressive, but those two wins came against the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres – who would both be undefeated without those losses to the Blue Jackets. I think Columbus is strong enough defensively that Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins can be solid fantasy options once they find their individual games. While I trust the team’s defense, Columbus has struggled offensively with just 11 goals through five games. To give you some perspective, the Ottawa Senators have scored 12 times in the same span. With that being said, I still think Cam Atkinson is an underrated fantasy hockey asset. While he has just two points to start the season, I’m encouraged that he continues to be a high-volume shooter with 25 shots so far.
New Jersey Devils
We’re a couple of weeks into the season and every single team has managed to register their first win – except for the Devils. New Jersey is winless through six games, scoring just 13 goals and conceding 27 in that span. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a team struggle immediately after major changes to the roster. It makes sense that an adjustment period is required as offseason acquisitions get accustomed to the coach’s system and returning players become familiar with new teammates. The team has way too much talent to be this bad for the whole season. Jack Hughes hasn’t found his first point in the NHL just yet, but the floodgates will open when he eventually gets the monkey off his back. Nico Hischier and P.K. Subban have each tallied two points through six games, but they’re capable of much more. I was extremely high on the Devils going into the season and the sample size is small enough that I’m not ready to jump ship.
New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss have shared the net to start the 2019-2020 campaign, but one has performed better than the other. Greiss has continued his strong play from last season with a 2.27 GAA and .925 SV% in four appearances while Varlamov has a 3.16 GAA and .905 SV% in three games. I still expect the two to share starts going forward.
The team’s identity hasn’t changed much from last season, they remain a strong defensive team that doesn’t score very much. Mathew Barzal is a very talented player who will have a strong showing this season to rebound from the sophomore slump that limited him to ‘just’ 62 points last year. Some owners might be willing to sell low on him since he’s only tallied four points in six games this year, I advise you to buy, buy, buy!
Devon Toews has had a strong start to the season with four points in six games. If he can get more of an opportunity on the power-play I think he’s in for a breakout performance.
New York Rangers
New York’s new players have done the impossible and met the high expectations that were set for them in the offseason. Artemi Panarin and Jacob Trouba each have four points in the first three games of the Rangers’ 2019-2020 campaign. Trouba has averaged three minutes and 40 seconds of power-play ice time which is a huge step up from the two minutes he saw last year. Trouba will continue to be the guy in New York because of his contract, but it’s important to note that Anthony DeAngelo is also very talented and can also produce if given Trouba’s current role. Mika Zibanejad scored four goals and put up eight points in his first two games of the season – but that’s last week’s news. Again, the Rangers have only played three games this year so it’s difficult to accurately judge the fantasy hockey value of their roster. Continue to expect big things from their big names and while other storylines develop as the season progresses.
Through three games, Shayne Gostisbehere has seen the most power-play time among Philadelphia’s blueliners, yet he remains the only defenseman on the roster who hasn’t registered a point. That’s right, Justin Braun, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim each have a point, Matt Niskanen has two and Ivan Provorov has three – but Ghost has none. It’s important to remember that a three-game sample size is incredibly small, if Gostisbehere failed to get on the scoresheet for three straight games in the middle of the season, no one would blink an eye. Does anyone genuinely thing that Robert Hagg and Justin Braun are going to finish the season with more points than Gostisbehere? Now is a great time to buy low on Ghost because a lot of fantasy owners will lump this poor start together with his poor showing last season and come to the misguided conclusion that he’s going to struggle this year.
The Penguins are on a three-game winning streak despite the absences of Alex Galchenyuk, Evgeni Malkin, and Nick Bjugstad – all of whom are on the shelf with injuries. Sidney Crosby has been Sidney Crosby with 10 point in six games, Kris Letang has been excellent with eight points in six games, and Jake Guentzel has also impressed while posting a point-per-game pace. Sam Lafferty has surprised us with five points in four games, but his current fourth-line deployment limits his fantasy hockey value. Jared McCann was endorsed as a waiver-wire target when Pittsburgh’s centers were first taken out by injuries, but I’m not as bullish on him as others are. He isn’t on the first power-play unit and isn’t seeing any exposure to Crosby and Guentzel so I’m not particularly excited about him as a fantasy asset.
Braden Holtby has not been good to start the 2019-2020 campaign. Through five games he has just one win, with a 4.27 GAA and .846 SV%. In contrast, Washington’s ‘backup’ Ilya Samsonov has won each of his two starts while posting a 1.43 GAA and .944 SV%. The sample size is still small, but I think there’s legitimately cause for worry if Holtby is your fantasy hockey goalie. My primary concern is that Samsonov is under contract next season, while Holtby is in the final year of his deal and management could very well decide to part ways with him instead of overpaying him based on his past performance. With that being said, Holtby has all the motivation he needs to turn things around as he seeks long-term job security. We know how well he’s capable of playing, so I wouldn’t fault you for betting on him to bounce back. Now is a great time to buy low in your fantasy league but beware as he could lose the starting job in Washington if he doesn’t find his game soon.