Top 10 takeaways a few games into the season

by Tom Collins on October 17, 2016

The Top 10 takeaways from the first few games of 2016-17

 

It’s always easy to panic at the start of a hockey season.

There’s usually threads on the forums from people asking if they should drop a superstar for a journeyman who has started off hot. While it’s important not to do anything drastic, you have to look at the situation and figure out if this could be a sign of things to come. Look at last season. Artemi Panarin had four points in the first three games. Patrick Kane had six points in the first three games. Jakub Voracek had zero points in the first three games. This was the start of a trend for these guys. Of course, many other guys such as Dale Weise came crashing down to earth.

I can’t stress enough that these are still extremely small sample sizes. No one has played more than three games so far. Things can change pretty quickly. But looking at the reasoning behind the early-season storylines can only help you make better decisions early on. Onto the list.

 

10. Taylor Hall

Again, it’s important to stress that these are extremely small sample sizes. But Hall’s zero points is a bit surprising considering he had three points in three preseason games and seemed perfect for a “I’m-going-to-prove-the-Oilers-wrong-for-trading-me” type season. He’s still hitting, shooting and is on the top power-play unit. But the Devils could struggle to score this year and this will impact Hall’s ability to have a revenge season.

 

9. Mika Zibanejad

Zibanejad’s four points is tied for the team lead with the Rangers. But his greatest impact so far has been in the faceoff circle. Zibanejad’s 30 faceoff wins is seventh in the league (everyone ahead of him has played an extra game) and he has an amazing 63.8 faceoff winning percentage. Let’s not forget that he can also count as a right-winger in Yahoo pools, thereby increasing his value tremendously.

 

8. Hampus Lindholm

He’s the last big-named remaining free agent out there. Yes, there is Jacob Trouba, but that is a different situation since he’s demanded a trade. But Lindholm could be a long time away from signing. The Ducks have just $320,000 in cap space and are severely limited in their moves. This has to be disappointing to most fantasy general managers as Lindholm was drafted in 99 per cent of Yahoo leagues this year.

 

7. David Pastrnak

Most of the focus in Boston has been on Brad Marchand following his excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament and a five-point opening night. But Pastrnak also stepped up and has five points in two games and has scored in both games. One reason is he has taken a ton of shots (14 so far). Unfortunately, his time on ice hasn’t really increased overall from last year even though he is seeing some power play time.

 

6. Richard Panik

How much of a surprise is Panik? His career high is 17 points in 76 games. And he already has five points this year. He’s getting favourable zone starts by beginning in the offensive zone 72.7 per cent of the time. His average time on ice of 15:11 is three minutes higher than his career high. And he’s playing regularly with Jonathan Toews. And he’s only owned in 26 per cent of Yahoo pools (hint, hint).

 

5. Morgan Rielly

It is a little disconcerting that Rielly simply does not get any power play time. Last year, Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock wanted Rielly to be better defensively and would reward him with power play time. It seems like he’s doing the same thing this year. Rielly has averaged just 56 seconds of power play time (and he had just 11 seconds in the first game against Ottawa). Eleven Leafs average more power play time and Nikita Zaitsev leads all Toronto dmen at 4:02 a game.

 

4. P.K. Subban

Nashville has only played two games so far this year, but it’s important to note that P.K. Subban has been on the second power play unit thus far. The Preds are rolling with four forwards and Roman Josi on their top unit. That’s going to put a major crimp in Subban’s output this season if this continues. Forty-six per cent of Subban’s points the last four years have come on the power play.

 

3. Paul Stastny

Stastny is finally showing that he’s worth the $7-million price tag. He’s had at least one point in every game and has a total of six points in three games to lead the league (albeit tied with two other players). But he’s also a plus-two, two PIM, four shots, two hits, three power play points and he leads the league with 38 faceoff wins. He’s averaging three minutes per game more than at any time in the last five years and his power play time has almost doubled. He’s also playing on the top power play unit. So he may slow down somewhat but there is lots of potential for a great fantasy season from Stastny.

 

2. Marc-Andre Fleury

My main keeper pool had its draft last Thursday night. I went into the season with Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury as my goalies. I was worried after Fleury’s preseason (1-3 record, a 3.37 GAA and a 0.884 SV%). So I traded Mark Scheifele, Shayne Gostisbehere and the 46th overall for Max Domi, Derek Stepan, fourth overall and 30th overall. I then used that fourth overall to take Matt Murray with the thinking he would be the number one once he came back from injury. But Fleury has been dynamite so far against two excellent teams in Washington and Anaheim. That’s going to make it tougher for Murray to take over the starter’s job.

 

1. Jonathan Drouin

This season is going almost better than fantasy owners could have imagined. He’s averaging more power play time per game than any one else on the Lightning and is tops for forwards for overall ice time. And despite the fact he has three points in two games, his low PDO and five-on-five shooting percentage actually makes him a buy candidate.