Eastern Edge – Trick or Treat?

by Russ on October 31, 2017

Heading into last night’s slate of games, all but five of the top 17 scorers (those with 13 points and up) were from the Eastern Conference. In fact, only two of the top eight (15 points plus) point getters are from the Western Conference. This is great if your fantasy team’s forwards and defensemen are more East than West, but if your goaltending demographic resides more on the right side of the map, then you might be less than happy at this point in the season.Let’s unmask some of those players from the Eastern Conference who currently sit amongst the top scorers and see if their performance is for real (treat) or will ultimately regress (trick) as the season progresses.

 

Evgeny Kuznetsov

 

I was on the fence with where to rank Kuznetsov heading into this year’s draft. Two seasons ago, he broke out in a big way, registering 77 points. Last year’s 59 points was a bit of a letdown. Which Kuznetsov was going to come to play in 2017-18?

Last year, both Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson received more power play ice time than Kuznetsov. This season, the Caps power play is exactly what you would expect; Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson. During Kuznetsov’s breakout season in 2015-16, his primary linemates were Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky. Last year’s disappointing campaign saw him line up mostly with Williams and Marcus Johansson. So far this year, he’s spending the majority of his even-strength shifts with Alexander Ovechkin and Jakub Vrana while receiving about two minutes of ice time per game more than last season.

 

Trick or Treat?  Sugary sweet treat

 

Mark Stone

 

With 12 points in as many games, is it too early to start the annual discussion about whether Stone is a lock for 70 points?

Last year, he finished with 54 points in 71 games, a 62-point pace. In the preceding two campaigns, he recorded 61 and 64 points. The 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this season, but I don’t see his contract status as a prime motivator. By the end of the season, Hands of Stone will end up squarely in the 60-65 point range once again.

 

Trick or Treat?  Mild trick

 

Vladislav Namestnikov

 

I named Namestnikov as one of my Sleeper Picks (Eastern Conference) for the Dobberhockey guide:  “If he can find some chemistry with fellow Russian Nikita Kucherov, in what is a contract year for Namestnikov, then he could turn out to be a sneaky late-round addition on draft day.”

 

More than 80 per cent of his even-strength shifts have been with Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Combine that with the fact that he’s now averaging just north of 18 minutes of ice time per match, including 3:30 on the man advantage. With 13 points in his first 13 games this season, he is on pace to obliterate his 35-point career high.

 

Trick or Treat?  Tasty treat as long as he stays in this situation

 

Josh Bailey

 

He broke out in a big way last year with 56 points after recording 32 the season before.

After starting the 2017-18 campaign with two points in five games, Bailey has a seven game, 12-point streak on the go.

 

The 28-year-old has NHL seasons of 25, 35, 28, 32, 19 (in 38 games), 38, 41, 32 and 56 points. Including last night’s contest, Bailey has 14 points in 12 games and even though he isn’t playing with John Tavares, he is averaging nearly three minutes of power play time per game. Another factor that might be at play is that this is a contract year.

 

Trick or Treat?  More trick than treat

 

Mikhail Sergachev

 

I’ll admit, I did not see this kind of offense coming this early in his career. Sir Gachev has 11 points in 13 games this season, but is averaging only 13:19 minutes per game, including 1:41 on the power play. Over his last seven games, he’s averaging closer to 15 minutes per game and has nine points during that stretch.

 

I’m kind of regretting trading him (and Jacob Markstrom) for P.K. Subban in my deep dynasty roto league this off-season and today, in the Dobberhockey Experts league, I received a trade offer of Sergachev for my Ryan Suter straight up. I will reject that offer, but only after much consideration. One thing that could work against him this year, is that if he plays 40 games (regular season or playoffs), the Canadiens get to keep their 2018 second round draft pick.

 

Trick or Treat?  At this stage of the young jedi’s career, it’s a trap…I mean trick

 

John Tavares

 

 

He’s baaaaack. JT has not performed to expectations over the last couple of seasons, recording 66 and 70 points after hitting for 86 in 2014-15. This year started with three points (all in one game) over his first seven contests. Then the player we all expected turned up, recording a dozen points, nine of them goals in only five games.

 

Interestingly, Tavares is an unrestricted free agent following this season. The opportunity to sign a very long contract for a massive amount of money is not providing any added motivation for the recent surge in offense, right? Just a coincidence I’m sure.

 

Trick or Treat?  Clearly a treat that had lost its taste and got it back

 

Sean Couturier

 

With two tallies in last night’s contest, Couturier now has 15 points in 12 games. This is what happens when you spend 80 per cent of your even-strength shifts with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

 

Back in 2015-16, Couturier scored at a 51-point pace with 39 points in 63 games. If he can stay on the top line, he has a legitimate shot at surpassing the 40-point mark for the first time in his NHL career.

 

Trick or Treat?  Treat that could turn into a trick with a line change

 

Thanks for reading. Happy Halloween.