In this week’s installment, we take a look at how some more of the NHL’s top lines have been performing. I can’t express how much more convenient it is to look at all these stats with the Frozen Pool tool. Click on each team’s ‘ES Point Production’ to get started. If you want a line featured in next week’s article, let me know in the comments!
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeon – Anders Bjork
Upon first glance, generating 26% of the team’s even strength points doesn’t seem too impressive. But then you realize Bergeron has only played two games, so while the team took seven games to generate 31 points, this line only needed two games to get eight of those. When I say Patrice Bergeron, top defensive forward is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Although his 53 points in 79 games last season aren’t mind-blowing, he did tally 24 of those points in the final 27 games of the campaign. What’s significant about that 27-game stretch? The Bruins’ weren’t playing under the defensively-minded Claude Julien, but current coach Bruce Cassidy. Bergeron’s offensive game seems to have more freedom under Cassidy’s system, so he should continue to contribute offensively to this line. Brad Marchand took his game to the next level last season, joining elite company with his 85 points in 80 games. He seems to have picked up right where he left off, already totalling seven points in 11 games this season. Do be weary of his shooting percentage though, currently at 33% it should see some regression to his career shooting percentage of 15.7%. Now that we’ve covered the big names of this line let’s get to the final member, Anders Bjork. Once a fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft, the rookie has been clicking with Marchand and Bergeron, already with six points in seven games. While Bjork might make a good short-term addition to your roster, don’t be surprised to see him lose his top line spot if the Bruins struggle offensively.
Eight games into the season and the Coyotes are the only team without a win. Fortunately, just as every cloud has a silver lining, Arizona has a Clayton Keller. The former seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft and early Calder favourite already has eight points in eight games. What makes Keller even more intriguing in Yahoo Fantasy Leagues is his triple position eligibility, giving owners much more flexibility when adjusting their lineups. Keller’s presence has also benefitted the other members of his line as Derek Stepan has six points in eight games and Max Domi has seven points in eight games. Max Domi. Remember him? Now that the 12th overall pick of the 2013 draft finally has some NHL experience and some talented line mates could he flirt with the 60-point mark? Speaking of the 60-point mark, guess who has never crossed that threshold? Derek Stepan. Once a member of a deep New York Rangers’ roster, Stepan finds himself as the undisputed first line center on a young Coyotes team. It’s still early in the desert so let’s check back in on this line a few weeks.
In arguably the biggest trade of the offseason, the Blue Jackets acquired Artemi Panarin and parted ways with Brandon Saad. Last week we talked about Saad and the role he has played alongside Jonathan Toews, so this week it’s only fair to take a look at Panarin. After seven seasons in the KHL, the Russian forward put up 151 points in 162 games as a Chicago Blackhawk. When Panarin was moved to Columbus, many believed his fantasy hockey value would take a hit without Patrick Kane on his line. But here we are, eight games into the season and Panarin already has nine points, partly in thanks to his talented line mates. Alex Wennberg was a 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft, and in 80 games last season he totalled 59 points. While Wennberg has the pedigree, Cam Atkinson came out of nowhere last season, joining the 30-goal club (35 goals in 82 games) for the first time in his career! There’s no doubting this line’s talent, and while their hot start hints that they’re the real deal, only time will tell.
The beginning of the season has seen the Devils shuffle their top six into a number of combinations, but I believe this one has the most potential. Taylor Hall – first overall pick in 2010. Nico Hischier – first overall pick in 2017. Drew Stafford – 14th overall pick in 2004. Pedigree? Check. Now before you go scooping up Drew Stafford from free agency, you must realize that this isn’t his first time beside talented players. In Boston he spent most of his time with David Pastrnak and David Krejci. In Winnipeg it was Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele. Considering these fantastic opportunites, Stafford’s production has been pretty underwhelming, totalling just 102 points over the past three seasons (212 games). Although he could be an asset to your fantasy team (given he stays on this line), I wouldn’t expect anything better than a half-point per game pace. Taylor Hall on the other hand is capable of much more. While injuries have hindered him throughout his career, Hall has still managed to maintain a 0.85 point per game pace. A healthy season might see him return to his 2013-2014 form, a season in which he amassed 80 points in 75 games. Unlike his line mates, we don’t have any past data for Hischier at the NHL level, so I don’t want to make any predictions. But as long as he’s playing with Taylor Hall, there’s going to be an interesting race for the Calder this season.
Many attribute the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals to their amazing defensive core, and often forget the talent their top line possesses. Even with a tough start to last season (two goals in the first 21 games), Filip Forsberg was still able to cross the 30-goal mark for the second season in a row, and is quickly emerging as one of the league’s top goal scorers. Although his current 28.6% shooting percentage is due for some regression (career shooting percentage = 12.5%), it’s extremely encouraging that he already has six goals in the first eight games of the year. Now it may be a bit of a stretch to compare Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin to Forsberg and Johansen, but the same sort of dynamic exists between each pair. One gets the assists, one gets the goals. Speaking of Ryan Johansen, did you know that he’s put up at least 60 points in each of his last four seasons? Because I sure as heck didn’t. I also sure as heck didn’t know the name Viktor Arvidsson before his 61 points in 80 games last season, but I feel like we’re going to become more familiar with that name as the campaign progresses.
Since the 2014-2015 season in which I owned both Kyle Okposo and John Tavares (the duo combined for 137 points in 142 games played), I’ve made it a point to see who John Tavares’ line mates are. I used to pick up guys like Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and yes even Andrew Ladd. But none of them could really produce at the same level as Okposo, so I gave up on the Islanders. Until now. For many, Jordan Eberle is considered to be an underwhelming first-round pick (22nd overall). But this guy was able to produce for the Oilers when they were just plain bad, and he’s only a couple of seasons removed from his 60-point form. Sure he could prove to be yet another project that didn’t work out, but I would be patient for a little bit longer. While Eberle was a new acquisition, Anders Lee has seen his fair share of ice time beside Tavares and last season was a step in the right direction as he put up 52 points in 81 games, the highest of his career. Also, Lee is entering his fourth full season in the NHL…did somebody say breakout? Obviously, it hasn’t been an ideal start for this line as a whole, as they are currently getting outscored by the Josh Bailey – Matthew Barzal – Andrew Ladd line at even strength, but I believe as Tavares starts to heat up, Lee and Eberle will too.
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