October 2 2015

by Ian Gooding on October 2, 2015

Injury news on Backstrom, Halak; training camp battles in Vancouver, Toronto, and more…

Friday is normally Steve’s day for the Ramblings. But he can’t make it today, so you’re stuck with me… but I’ll try to make it worth your while.

Let’s start with some injury news. According to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, Nicklas Backstrom is going to miss at least the first four games of the season and may not return until November 1. Backstrom is still recovering from offseason arthroscopic hip surgery.

You might want to move Evgeny Kuznetsov up your draft rankings slightly, as Khurshudyan mentions him as moving up to the top line with Alex Ovechkin. Andre Burakovsky would move to center the second line, although he would move back to wing upon Backstrom’s return. The Backstrom injury also increases the likelihood that Derek Roy makes the team from his professional tryout. Of course if you’re an Ovechkin owner, you’ll also be keeping an eye on how Backstrom’s absence affects Ovie’s production.

*

Islanders’ coach Jack Capuano said that Jaroslav Halak might not be ready for the Islanders’ season-opener next Friday (NHL.com) after Halak left practice Thursday with an upper-body injury. If you missed out on goaltending at your draft, you may want to speculatively grab Thomas Greiss, who would be the starter if Halak misses time.  

*

According to the team website, the Red Wings may be without Danny DeKeyser to start the season after he left Wednesday’s game with a lower-leg injury. DeKeyser was expected to start the season on the Wings’ second defense pair along with Mike Green, who himself is expected to return to the lineup Friday from a groin injury. DeKeyser was in an immobilizing boot and on crutches the day after the game, which is never a good sign.

Assuming DeKeyser does in fact miss time, Kyle Quincey would move up to the second unit with Green, while Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl would form the third pairing. One of Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, or Brian Lashoff would make the Wings’ opening-night roster. If Quincey can play top-4 minutes for the Wings, there’s a chance he might become fantasy relevant again. A slender chance, but a chance nevertheless.

*

The injury news appears to be better for Nikita Kucherov. Although he left Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, he’s expected to ready for next Thursday’s season opener (theScore).

*

Andrew Hammond is dealing with a groin injury, so Craig Anderson started for the Sens on Thursday against Montreal (NHL.com). Keep an eye on Hammond’s status, as groin injuries tend to linger, especially early in the season.

*

In that same game, Max Pacioretty played his first preseason game after injuring his left knee during the offseason (NHL.com).

*

Now onto a few training camp battles. For the first time in ages, youngsters are turning heads during the preseason for the Canucks. I wrote about how I thought Jake Virtanen and Brendan Gaunce had the inside track as rookies to crack the opening-night lineup (Today’s Slapshot). However, both Jared McCann and Ben Hutton have also been making strong cases for sticking around.

On Thursday, however, the Canucks tried Virtanen and Sven Baertschi as wingers to Bo Horvat, and the results were impressive. The line combined for ten points in handing the Oilers their first loss of the preseason. Virtanen scored a goal in one of the most painful ways possible, but fortunately he was able to return later in the game after getting stitched up.

As a Canucks fan, I kind of want to see them go with a few youngsters, especially if a player on a one-way contract like Linden Vey continues to underperform. But playing on the fourth line with Brandon Prust and Derek Dorsett isn’t exactly the right opportunity for anyone, especially Vey.

*

Nicolas Petan and Nikolai Ehlers are two more youngsters that are having strong camps. Both earned points in the Jets’ 3-1 win over Calgary on Thursday (Winnipeg Sun). Petan and Ehlers are two major reasons that the Jets have one of the top prospect pools in the NHL. Never mind keeper leagues, both could become relevant in single-season leagues as early as this season.  

If you thought that was a bold prediction on my part, Dobber has 15 more in his latest for Puck Daddy over at Yahoo. Teaser: His Kings prediction may surprise you.

*

While he made headlines for his criticism of the Leafs’ veterans, Mike Babcock also managed to credit William Nylander and Connor Brown as the team’s two best forwards in their lackluster 4-0 loss to Buffalo on Tuesday night. But Pierre LeBrun of TSN doesn’t think that either youngster will crack the squad this season. That makes sense. Why would you want these kids to start their careers off in what is going to be a ton of losing in Toronto?

If you disagree, consider how well bringing in 18 year olds has worked for the Oilers. Sure, they’re bringing in another one this season, but rushing young players because you’re desperate for a quick fix to a losing environment is not the way to go.

Having said that, the Oilers have to turn it around eventually. I’m not as bullish on them as Dobber, as I don’t see them making the playoffs this season. But they will be an improved team – I’ll say that much.

*

Dylan Strome strikes me someone who will be around for the nine-game trial. But for the reasons mentioned above, would the Coyotes really want to bring him along while this team resembles last year’s version of the Buffalo Sabres? He may have already dominated the OHL, but he’ll feel a lot more confident there than he would with a last-place team. Even if he has nothing left to accomplish there.

*

On Wednesday I (kind of) participated in another draft. This draft was for the Experts League, a league that I have competed in for several years. The league includes writers from the big sites such as TSN, NHL.com, and Yahoo. I won’t get into great detail on my picks, but instead I’ll tell you about a strategy that I was forced to use.

Life sometimes gets in the way of fantasy hockey. This draft happened to be on the same evening as my son’s school’s open house. My son is now in Grade 1, and he was dying to show me his classroom. So rather than upsetting him (and my wife in the process), I decided to prerank my players using Fantasy Hockey Geek. So I ended up with around 240 players that were moved up or down according to how FHG calculated their value for this league format.

Fortunately, the first four picks were my keepers from last year – Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Tyler Johnson, and Tuukka Rask. I was able to stick around for the first half hour of the draft, where I was able to gather a few more players so that I didn’t have any glaring holes in any one position of my roster. I selected Drew Doughty and FHG darling Oliver Ekman-Larsson on defense, Ryan Miller as a second goalie, and David Backes for some toughness at the forward position (the league counts hits).

In all honesty, I thought the rest of my autopicked roster turned out okay. You can see it here. (Plus it was nice to meet my son's new teacher and see all of the bright happy things that make up an early elementary school classroom.) I did make it back for a few picks at the very end, but at least half of this roster was autopicked. Ideally, I’d prefer to make the choices myself. It’s in my competitive DNA to want to have control over that. But I’m willing to try this as an experiment and see how it fares. I can’t do much worse than I did last season (tied for last), but I don’t know if it is good enough to provide me with my second title since joining this league (I won it in 2012-13… I know, lockout-shortened season, but a win’s a win).

*

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your TGIF!