Eastern Edge: Atlantic Division observations

by Brennan Des on October 8, 2019

 

We finally have regular season hockey to talk about!! This week, we’ll take a look at the biggest fantasy hockey news out of the Atlantic Division so far in this young season. Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza to get this kind of information throughout the 2019-2020 campaign!

 

Boston

When I think about the Bruins in the context of fantasy hockey, that top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak is the first thing that comes to mind. However, through the team’s first two games, the big story has been goaltending – not offense. Tuukka Rask was stellar in Boston’s opener against the Stars, allowing just one goal on 29 shots. Jaroslav Halak watched that performance from the bench and displayed an “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude as he posted a 35-save shutout against the Coyotes two days later. I think this is one of very few situations where I would endorse owning two goalies who play for the same team. We saw last season how Halak and Rask thrived while sharing a pretty even distribution of the workload – which ultimately led to a sensational playoff showing from a rested Rask. We’re just two games into the season but I’m expecting a similar situation to play out this year. Halak is owned in just 33% of Yahoo Leagues and makes for an excellent second or third goalie on your fantasy roster.

 

 

Buffalo

All of the fantasy hockey talk in Buffalo has been about Victor Olofsson, and for good reason. He’s registered a point in each of his first three games and is in a great situation beside Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart on the top line. The thing that excites me most about his production going forward is the opportunity he’s been given at both even strength and on the power play. Olofsson played 17 minutes in his season debut against the Penguins, 19 and a half minutes in game two against the Devils, and 20 and a half minutes in game three against the Blue Jackets. But you probably knew all of that already, so I’ll mention another story that isn’t getting enough attention: Rasmus Dahlin’s incredible start to the season. The sophomore leads the team with five points in three games and plays a prominent role on a dangerous top power-play unit that also features Jeff Skinner, Eichel, Reinhart and the aforementioned Olofsson. The Sabres have scored six times on 10 opportunities with the man advantage this season. While they won’t score on 60% of their chances all year, I expect them to improve on their 19.5% success rate from last season.

 

 

Detroit

Anthony Mantha scored four goals against the Stars. Do you know who scored all of Detroit’s goals in their 4-3 win over Dallas? Anthony Mantha. Would you happen to know who currently sits second in NHL scoring with seven points in two games? Anthony Mantha! My friends, Mantha’s scorching start to the 2019-2020 campaign has been well documented, so I’ll avoid boring you with details you’ve probably heard before. Instead, I’ll be the pessimist that reminds you how young the season is. This Red Wings roster – while full of promising young assets – is not going to win a lot of games this year. I know that’s hard to believe considering their 2-0 start has them on pace for an 82-win season, but I’m afraid that projection won’t become a reality. I hate to be such a Debby Downer because Detroit managed to take down a couple of tough opponents in Nashville and Dallas, but the sample size isn’t big enough. Essentially, I’m trying to knock some sense into the 25% of you that currently own Jimmy Howard in your Yahoo fantasy league. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for riding the hot streak – as long as you know when to get off. After all that negativity, I think it’s important to end on a high note. Tyler Bertuzzi has an impressive five points in two games and sophomore defenseman Filip Hronek has already tallied a couple of assists. Detroit may not be a playoff team, but they boast a surprisingly long list of valuable fantasy assets in Mantha, Bertuzzi, Hronek, Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou (who should make his season debut on Tuesday against the Ducks).

 

 

Florida

The Panthers have played just two games and both of them were against the Lightning, so it’s way too early to make any concrete conclusions about this team. I should note that Florida was able to defeat Tampa Bay in the second of those two games, thanks to great performances from Sergei Bobrovsky and Mike Hoffman. Expectations are understandably high for Bobrovsky as he was the second goalie drafted in most leagues, so some rookie fantasy managers will be disappointed with the 3.53 GAA and .891 SV% he has posted thus far. Obviously, more experienced managers will trust that those numbers will improve as Bob plays more games – against offenses that are less potent than Tampa Bay’s.

 

 

Montreal

Jonathan Drouin has been spectacular in Montreal’s first two games. That’s a bold statement to make considering he has ‘just’ two points in his first two games, but he’s been effective on each and every one of his shifts. There appears to be a fire inside Drouin that I didn’t see at any point last season – even though he tallied 17 points in 20 games to open the 2018-2019 campaign. Any laziness that was observed in his play last year has been completely shed as he now approaches every puck battle with an incredible desire to win. Drouin’s fantasy value might be limited as a result of Montreal’s offensive system, where coach Claude Julien runs four solid lines in an attempt to spread out the scoring and maintain his team’s energy for the duration of the game. With that being said, Drouin appears to be a prominent piece of Montreal’s top power-play unit so his production with the man advantage can help offset a lack of even-strength scoring considering he’s not playing 20+ minutes a night like some other forwards around the league. That potential power-play production is contingent on Montreal icing a more successful unit this year, which appears likely as long as they avoid becoming too predictable. That means not deferring to Shea Weber for every single shot like we saw during overtime against the Leafs on Saturday night…

 

 

Ottawa

Brady Tkachuk has two points, eight hits and seven shots in the first two games of his sophomore season. He’s one of the few bright spots in Ottawa and is a really valuable fantasy hockey asset – especially if your league doesn’t count plus/minus as a stat (which it really shouldn’t).

Thomas Chabot has one point, four hits, three blocks and eight shots in his first two games of the 2019-2020 campaign. What really stands out to me is his ice-time so far – he played 30 minutes against the Rangers on Saturday and almost eight of those minutes were spent on the power play! Chabot is going to be given every opportunity to produce this season as he’s Ottawa’s best defenseman by a country mile (Erik Brannstrom has the potential to close that gap this season).

 

 

Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning have dropped two of their first three games this season! Somebody call 9-1-1! Trade Nikita Kucherov to the Oilers for Adam Larsson! Ship Steven Stamkos to Vancouver for Loui Eriksson! For the love of God can someone find Andrew Raycroft so Tampa can trade Andrei Vasilevskiy for him. In all seriousness, Tampa’s 1-1-1 start is nothing to worry about. This team finished with 62 wins last season and the core of the roster hasn’t changed. Newly acquired Kevin Shattenkirk has fit in nicely with three points in his first three games with the team, but I’m not rushing to grab him in any of my fantasy leagues until the sample size grows. I think this short stretch has allowed us to appreciate how important Brayden Point is to the team. Point missed the start of the campaign as he was recovering from offseason hip surgery but has been practicing and could return as early as Thursday against the Leafs.

 

 

Toronto

The sample size is small, but so far Tyson Barrie’s presence hasn’t hampered Morgan Rielly’s offensive production. Could it be that both players are capable of having strong fantasy seasons? Does this mean that one’s success doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the other? Well, I sure think so. As Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson showed us last year, two defensemen on the same team can both have strong offensive showings. While I expect Barrie to have a good year, I do think Rielly will put up more points as he is being given a greater opportunity.  Rielly has five points through four games and Barrie has four in the same span. Rielly has been averaging 25 minutes of ice-time a night with over three and a half minutes on the power play. Barrie has seen a slightly smaller role – playing 22 and a half minutes per night and averaging about three minutes of power-play time each game. Rielly has the benefit of playing on the top PP unit alongside John Tavares, Andreas Johnsson, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. William Nylander plays on the second unit with Barrie, but it’s a long season and those lines are always subject to change. Speaking of Nylander and Matthews, they’ve looked outstanding to start the season. If Matthews can stay healthy, I expect him to take home the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer.