The Top 10 questions for the 2016-17 NHL fantasy hockey season.
We are a scant two days away from the start of the NHL season. Most drafts are finished and fantasy GMs are awaiting the start of the campaign. But you can’t rest on your laurels right yet. You should be preparing for what could lie ahead by the end of the year.
That’s because there are numerous storylines this year that can have a major impact on your season. Some of them probably already have. Just think back a year ago. One of the biggest stories then was what type of season would Patrick Kane have as he was in serious legal trouble. He dropped in many drafts and went on to have an MVP season. There was also the case of 3-on-3 overtime and whether that would boost the points for top players.
This year has many new storylines that you need to keep abreast of. A couple of them are long-term but its something you need to prepare for if you haven’t already. Here are the top 10 fantasy questions for the upcoming NHL season.
10. What impact will the World Cup have on players?
I don’t think you’ll see too much of a change with individual players. If Logan Couture goes pointless during a five-game stretch, it would be hard to point to the World Cup of Hockey as the problem instead of a normal slump. I think the problem will come from teams that had a lot of players at the tournament. Tampa Bay for example. They had 12 players at the World Cup of Hockey. That could impact the team if they start to wear down as the season moves on.
9. How will P.K. Subban fare in Nashville?
This one has many poolies potentially drooling. One guide this summer predicted Subban would score 70-plus points, lead all defensemen in points and win the Norris and the Hart trophies. That may be pushing it a little but there is no doubt that there could be a special situation in Nashville this season. Subban won’t be as restricted in Nashville as he was in Montreal and he should wind back up as one of the game’s elites.
8. Who will be the surprise rookie?
Every year has a Calder candidate that was a complete surprise. Last year it was Artemi Panarin and Shayne Gostisbehere. The year before was Mark Stone. And before that was Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. There’s always someone that completely surprises. But it could be tougher this year as it appears that many of the 2016 draft class could be playing in the NHL to start the year (Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Tkachuk and Mikhail Sergachev to name a few) plus high-profile prospects like William Nylander and Mitchell Marner.
7. What backups will be the starter by the end of the year?
With an expansion draft looming next offseason (more on that later), a lot of teams could play their backups more just to see who they should be protecting. Calvin Pickard, Jacob Markstrom, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Michal Neuvirth and Matthew Murray are all starting the season as a backup or injured and could be the team’s number one by the time the playoffs roll around. And that doesn’t include goalies that could usurp the job because of injuries, such as Chad Johnson, Jonathan Bernier and Anders Nilsson.
6. Is the real Carey Price back?
Price is the best fantasy goalie in the league, bar none. He had the greatest fantasy season for a goalie two years ago. And then he was dynamite last year until his injury cost him most of the campaign. So there is a lot of trepidation this year. But Price was excellent at the World Cup of hockey. So that will instill some confidence. But we need to wait to see if he can stand up to the rigors of a full NHL schedule.
5. How good will be the Penguins offense be?
Remember how Sidney Crosby had points in just one of his first nine games last year? And he looked off for the first half of the season? Look at how productive the top fantasy players were once Mike Sullivan came in as Penguins coach last year compared to before the coaching change:
Sidney Crosby: 19 points in first 28 games (56-point pace), then 66 points in 52 games (104-point pace)
Kris Letang: 14 points in first 25 games (46-point pace), then 53 points in 46 games (94-point pace)
Phil Kessel: 17 points in first 28 games (50-point pace), then 42 points in 54 games (64-point pace)
Patric Hornqvist: 10 points in first 28 games (29-point pace), then 41 points in 54 games (62-point pace)
Evgeni Malkin: 26 points in first 28 games (75-point pace), then 32 points in 29 games (90-point pace)
They all saw significant upticks in point production. Now they will have a full year with Sullivan. It will be interesting to see what kind of pace they can keep up in a full 82 games.
4. How will Connor McDavid fare?
We still haven’t seen the best from McDavid because of his injury last year. But remember that he had the third highest points-per-game of all NHL players that played more than 40 games. Now he’s a year older — still just 19 years old — and if he can play a full season, then big things are expected of him as many expect him to lead the league in points this year.
3. Will new goalie equipment create more goals?
Goalies are bigger than ever before. So the NHL is trying to make the equipment smaller. The pants are going to shrink but no one even knows if that will be ready by the start of the season. Then there’s shrinking shoulder pads and chest protection, but that might not happen until later in the season. Goalies will have to get used to smaller equipment on the fly and that could result in some higher-than-normal scoring.
2. What will Las Vegas expansion mean for teams and trades?
This could create a lot more player movement during the season than you might normally expect as a team might trade players instead of losing them for nothing during an expansion draft. It will also be interesting to see how many pending unrestricted free agents will wait until after the expansion draft to sign with their current teams.
1. What will happen to key RFAs?
The start of the NHL season is just two days away, and there are five key restricted free agents that still haven’t signed: Rasmus Ristolainen, Johnny Gaudreau, Hampus Lindholm, Jacob Trouba and Nikita Kucherov. Even unsigned Rickard Rakell had plenty of love this offseason as a potential 50-point guy. This must be driving fantasy owners and could cost a fantasy GM points, or even wins in a H2H league. Trouba has demanded a trade. Kucherov may have already talked to another team regarding an offer sheet. Big-name RFAs don’t normally go this long being unsigned. If they miss a month or two, that could end a lot of fantasy seasons pretty early.
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