First, a couple of site announcements. We have gathered all the feedback (via the forum, Twitter and emails), plus our own notes, and we are moving forward with setting up the site to best feature what we do best – content. And from what I gather, because this is now on a new, modernized platform, putting in changes is now quick and pretty streamlined. Can't wait to see what's to come soon. Right now it’s still very much bare bones and looking more than a little awkward. Bear with us!
The Fantasy Guide will have a new release date for this year – July 29 instead of August 1. The Ultimate and Keeper League Fantasy Packs will be ready for pre-sale on May 1. And based on the success of last year's test run, we'll be translating the Fantasy Guide into French again too.
The Top 200 Fantasy Prospects List is late again. I have been going through entire team systems and carefully putting in any prospects that I've been missing, and this is a long process that I started two weeks ago. I'm halfway through. I may just post it before Friday from where I'm at, just to get something out there for you.
Since Sid the Kid returned from his two-month injury stint, he's fired off 19 points in 12 games. With a generational player like this, you pretty much need to subtract five years off of his age and then worry about his age accordingly. At 32, he's hitting his stride the way a 27-year-old 'regular' star would. At 1.24 points-per game this season and 1.27 last year, both numbers exceed any of his prior four campaigns.
What I'm thinking about Sidney Crosby right now is that this guy is about to roll into the playoffs with just 54 games played and hitting midseason form. Now that he has a seemingly capable winger riding shotgun, the Penguins could be a surprise team in the East.
That capable winger, Jason Zucker, now has three points in three games for the Penguins. Dominik Simon is the other winger on the line, but has just a point to show for it. Neither Zucker nor Simon are a part of the power play right now.
Bryan Rust is now pointless in his last six games – and he's still averaging over a point-per-game on the season. That's how hot he was rolling. But the numbers are starting to catch up to him now. His 5on5 S% is still 12.0 when his career high before this was 8.56%. You can inflate this when you play with Evgeni Malkin, but not that much. His 17.6% shot percentage is also unsustainable. What's concerning to me, besides his proneness to injury, is the fact that he's not doing anything at even strength anymore. Five of his last eight points have come on the power play, meaning in the last 13 games he has three ES points. Looking at that in a positive light – he is producing on the power play. Or at least he was prior to this six-game dry spell.
The Penguins chased Jimmy Howard from the net and that runs his record on the season to a nice-looking pattern: 2-22-2. The soon-to-be 36-year-old will have a tough time finding a one-way contract this summer with that combined with a 0.886 SV%.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Bernier came in and stopped 18 of 19. Since late December, Bernier has been a Top 3 goaltender. True story, look it up. His overall numbers are still kind of ugly and he could be had for cheap if his owner is sleeping. He was much better in the second half last year as well.
If only he didn't get injured. After last week's Ramblings, Andreas Athanasiou went minus-6 in his next three games, tumbling to minus-45 in 43 games. It's fascinating to witness, even if you don't think too much of the plus-minus stat (I don't). He was plus-1 on Sunday, spoiling the fun a bit.
Filip Hronek was hit off the head by a shot. Here is the play.
No word on how long he will be out, if at all. He did leave the game. I imagine precautions will be taken and he misses a bit of time.
With a goal Sunday, Mika Zibanejad has 21 points in his last 17 games. His linemate Chris Kreider was held pointless in the game but I notice he's rolling at a point-per-game over his last 29. Driving the ol' trade value up for sure…
Josh Archibald scored a pair for the Oilers and he's been a pleasant surprise for the team. He has 10 points in his last 14 games, playing often on a line with Connor McDavid. Now that McDavid is out, he still managed a pair of goals while playing with Tyler Benson. The latter picked up his first NHL point on Sunday. I have Benson ranked in my Top 75 prospect forwards and I feel he's adapted well to the pro game so far.
But the story to me is Kailer Yamamoto and the tremendous chemistry he has had with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Yamamoto now has 18 points in 18 games this year and has firmly established himself as an NHLer. This is tremendous for Edmonton, who have been desperate to find any kind of skillful help in their top six. This has so many obvious repercussions. It allows Draisaitl to tear himself away from McDavid. This second line (first line? Whatever you want to call it, the label is meaningless) is a huge threat. And McDavid is a huge threat even if I was on one wing and you were on his other. So now Edmonton legit has two lines. When was the last time you could say that? Yamamoto is now averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game and with McDavid out, he is now firmly implanted on the top PP line too. Just two PPPts to show for it so far, but you can just see the potential here.
James Reimer snapped a four-game winning streak with the 4-3 overtime loss, but the last time he lost in regulation was the end of December – nine games ago. Making things interesting is Petr Mrazek posting two consecutive Quality Starts. It's a playoff race now, and a tight one, so Coach Brind'Amour is going to keep rolling with the hot hand.
Sebastian Aho tallied three points, in on all three goals, Sunday and he now has 15 points during his nine-game points streak. He started the season with three points in 10 games and I had lots of questions come to me about him and my confidence in my preseason projection for him. Needless to say, with this kind of talent you can rely on it to shine through if you give the player enough time. He has 53 points in 48 games since then.
At the same time, Teuvo Teravainen had nine points in those 10 games and pretty much led the Hurricanes throughout the season. But Aho has now caught him – both players tied at 56 points.
John Gibson had a shutout on November 25. Since then, 24 games, he has allowed two or more goals in all of them. Sunday was his first game allowing just one goal…in his last 25 appearances.
Since November 13:
Jacob Markstrom 17-12-0, 2.86, 0.918, 51.7 QS%
Thatcher Demko 10-6-2, 3.04, 0.905, 63.2 QS%
It's starting to look as though it is worth Vancouver's while to re-sign Markstrom, despite the cost. Demko is great, and he'll be much, much better. But team brass may be looking at this and wondering if he's ready to shoulder 55 games.
Craig Smith scored again Sunday and while his overall numbers are subpar in terms of season-to-date, he has six goals in his last five games. I think much of this has to do with his linemate Rocco Grimaldi really finding his comfort zone and setting up some sweet shots. Grimaldi, who has six points in his last 10 games and 29 on the season, has been on the ice for 65.2% of Smith's ES points while playing 55.8% of his ES shifts with him.
Grimaldi's IPP is 70.7% this season and was 92.9% last year. He's actually third on the entire team for even-strength IPP behind on Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg. The IPP tells us what percentage of goals that a player is on the ice for that he got a point on. It indicates how much of a role he plays in the offense, and Grimaldi plays a large role. If he ever gets a bump in ice time and PP time, I think he can surprise. He was a very highly-ranked prospect in his day.
Stephen Johns continues to be a multi-category asset since his return to action. Normally when a player is absent for so long, he tends to start slowly. Johns is on a career pace right now with five points, 29 Hits, 16 BLKS and 18 SOG in 10 games. He's on some sort of mission to prove himself and show that he's back. I know Dallas lost Sunday, but they've been winning because he's in the lineup. Dallas is 7-3-0 when Johns plays, and the two games they scratched him they lost twice (once in OT). Add a skilled, hard-hitting 6-4, 225-pound monster to your blue line and your team becomes much better.
Craig Anderson has had strong games in four of his last five appearances.
Mackenzie Blackwood has now posted four consecutive Quality Starts after stopping 52 of 55 shots on Sunday. He stole that game for the Devils. He's now working for that big contract in the summer, with each percentage point that he can add to that 0.913 SV% he's pretty much adding $200,000 to his annual salary am I right?
Instead of moving the struggling Nikita Gusev to a more skilled line (such as with Jack Hughes) now that Blake Coleman has been traded, the coach kept him handcuffed to Travis Zajac and moved Miles Wood into Coleman's spot. Here were the line combos without Coleman:
Freq EV – FORWARDS CF CA CF%
22.8% GUSEV,NIKITA – WOOD,MILES – ZAJAC,TRAVIS 9 20 31.0
19% BRATT,JESPER – HISCHIER,NICO – PALMIERI,KYLE 5 15 25.0
17.7% ANDERSON,JOEY – MERKLEY,NICHOLAS – ROONEY,KEVIN 8 9 47.1
16.8% HUGHES,JACK – SIMMONDS,WAYNE – ZACHA,PAVEL 10 10 50.0
5.6% SIMMONDS,WAYNE – WOOD,MILES – ZAJAC,TRAVIS 0 4 0.0
Yegor Korshkov scored in his NHL debut for the Leafs against the Sabres. Korshkov has had an excellent North American rookie-pro season so far with 14 goals in 35 games for the Marlies. He has pretty good upside, perhaps the second line. But as a 6-4 player he will take a little longer to get there. Our scouting page on Korshkov is here.
With the assist Sunday, Rasmus Dahlin has 14 points in his last 15 games – six on the power play.
Adam Boqvist was a healthy scratch on Sunday. It's his second scratch in five games. He has two points in his last 13 contests.
The Jets called up and dressed Andrei Chibisov for his first career NHL game. The 6-4 power forward has 45-point, 100-PIM upside (currently has 73 PIM in the AHL in 48 games). His scouting profile is here.
See you next Monday.