October 9, 2015

by steve laidlaw on October 9, 2015

Eichel and McDavid debut, Niemi steals the crease, Parise's hat-trick and more…

Jack Eichel scored his first career NHL goal so you could call it a successful debut. What I saw of the game Eichel wasn’t too dangerous but this was game one so it’s not really fair to judge him on one viewing. What is important to take away is that the Sabres played the ever-loving crap out of Eichel giving him 21:58 in a regulation game, including 3:19 on the power play where he managed his goal.

Eichel was joined by Evander Kane, who had an assist and what would have been the tying goal had it not been wiped off because of a reviewed offsides. Kane received the exact same 21:58. If this is any indication, then this duo will have something to say in fantasy leagues this season. For context, no forward averaged more than John Tavares’ 20:40 per game last season. It’ll be a tough pace to maintain.

Check out Mike Schmidt’s Sportsnet profile on Kane’s boom-or-bust potential.

Sam Reinhart rounded out the line with Eichel and Kane. Reinhart didn’t appear particularly ready. He’s known as a smart player but he didn’t seem ready for the pace of the NHL game. Some AHL time should get him up to speed. Wouldn’t be surprised if Reinhart gets replaced by Brian Gionta whenever the veteran returns from injury.

Another youngster getting big minutes was Rasmus Ristolainen. He made a bad turnover leading to the ultimate game winner but he led the Sabres in ice time with 23:10 and power play time with 3:31. Comparatively, Cody Franson skated 20:28 with 1:55 on the second power play unit. Didn’t see that coming. I figured Franson’s presence would hold Ristolainen back. So far, not the case.

No surprises here as Robin Lehner came up lame midway through the game having to give way to Chad Johnson. Dan Bylsma said afterwards that Lehner won’t be back any time soon. #BandAidBoy

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The Senators’ top line of Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris and Mark Stone was dynamite last night. Turris scored a pair, while Hoffman and Stone drew assists on both goals. They flashed some excellent chemistry and very creative passing. It’s looking good so far for the young wingers to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

Craig Anderson was solid in goal, I hope you managed to steal him in your fantasy draft.

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Connor McDavid’s debut wasn’t as productive but it was generally similar. McDavid received plenty of minutes and skated with some good talent in Taylor Hall and Anton Slepyshev but wasn’t particularly dangerous. He looked a little like Hall did as a rookie, trying to do a little too much one-on-one and simply not finding great spots to use his speed. He was also facing the Blues on the road so again, we won’t draw too many conclusions from this single game.

Justin Schultz looked pretty good last night jumping up into the action at every opportunity. He led the Oilers in ice time at 22:15 with 2:13 on the power play. Looking good for a breakout season despite the minus-two rating.

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Robbi Fabbri notched a goal in his debut, which bodes well for his chances of sticking with the Blues. Skating with Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera, Fabbri has all the help he needs. Only 10:28 in ice time with no power play action though.

The Vladimir TarasenkoPaul StastnyAlexander Steen line is monstrous. Toss an offer to the Stastny owner in your league now that he failed to score in game one. It’ll be worth it. This line was buzzing all night.

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I still have faith in Tuukka Rask sustaining high fantasy value this season but last night was a confidence rattler. Keep in mind, the Bruins were without their top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. The Bruins would do well to learn how to play without Chara. If last season is any indication, Chara doesn’t have a lot left in the tank.

With the top pairing out Torey Krug had to step up skating a team high 24:33. I never had Krug projected as more than a power-play specialist so this development is intriguing. If Krug can pump up his even-strength production towards 30, then a 50-point total becomes possible. Barring that development he’ll always been limited right around the 40 he’s averaged in his first couple of seasons.

Another interesting development was Claude Julien abandoning his power play cycling ways. He typically divides the power play ice time evenly but in this one he rode David Krejci for the full four minutes of power play time the team received. Krug, Ryan Spooner, Loui Eriksson and Brett Connolly joined Krejci for the majority of those minutes.

This bodes well for Krejci’s hopes of a bounceback season and indeed he scored a goal. It doesn’t do so much for Patrice Bergeron’s stock. Nor does it help David Pastrnak, who scored a goal despite receiving not a second of power play time.

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Not much to report on the Jets after a well-balanced performance. Check out their line combos from last night:

23.42%

EV

16 LADD,ANDREW – 18 LITTLE,BRYAN – 26 WHEELER,BLAKE

21.19%

EV

27 EHLERS,NIKOLAJ – 85 PERREAULT,MATHIEU – 55 SCHEIFELE,MARK

18.59%

EV

6 BURMISTROV,ALEXANDER – 17 LOWRY,ADAM – 12 STAFFORD,DREW

10.04%

EV

9 COPP,ANDREW – 19 PETAN,NICOLAS – 22 THORBURN,CHRIS

 

Nikolaj Ehlers led the team with five shots. No points for the rookie, however.

Nic Petan scored the first of his career in just 10 minutes of action. Not expecting much fantasy-wise from the fourth-liner.

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I hope you started Antti Niemi in your league last night. With two assists Niemi is tied for second in league scoring. Oh yeah, and he shutout the Penguins making 37 saves, no small feat. This will earn him quite a bit of rope in the battle for the Stars’ crease.

Rookie forward Mattias Janmark scored his first career goal skating alongside Ales Hemsky on the third line. Check out the Stars’ lines:

28.35%

EV

14 BENN,JAMIE – 20 EAKIN,CODY – 91 SEGUIN,TYLER

16.93%

EV

43 NICHUSHKIN,VALERI – 10 SHARP,PATRICK – 90 SPEZZA,JASON

14.57%

EV

83 HEMSKY,ALES – 13 JANMARK,MATTIAS – 21 ROUSSEL,ANTOINE

10.63%

EV

18 EAVES,PATRICK – 38 FIDDLER,VERNON – 27 MOEN,TRAVIS

 

I’m not sure anyone is happy about Cody Eakin on the top line, not even Eakin owners. Eakin’s a nice player but he doesn’t have anywhere near the punch necessary to maximize the top line billing.

Patrick Sharp managed three shots but no points. I wonder if he couldn’t sneak out a couple more years of elite production even as his skills wane if given the opportunity to ride the coattails of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. He is present on the top power play unit so there will be points.

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Early on the Penguins experimented with using Evgeni Malkin on the second power play unit but once they needed to mount a comeback they scrapped that silliness. In fact, we saw a bunch of the Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel trio in the third period. No one was beating Niemi last night, however.

The Penguins had David Perron (skating on the third line) on the top power play while they were messing about early on. Something worth monitoring.

Also worth monitoring: Kris Letang’s ice time. He skated 28:18 and fired eight SOG. The only other Penguin defenseman to skate more than 20 minutes was Ian Cole at 20:27. I can’t see Letang remaining healthy all season skating all these minutes.

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We saw our first bit of regular season three-on-three as the Flyers and Lightning went to overtime last night. It lived up to the billing as it was non-stop action. Jason Garrison ended it with his second goal of the night pushing him halfway to last season’s total just one game in. This is a solid market correction for the normally strong shooting Garrison who managed just 3.6% shooting last year.

Garrison is a solid third on the depth chart behind Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman for defensemen I want in fantasy. Hedman managed an assist but it’s Stralman who once again has the reins on the top power play unit. The Lightning split their power play time pretty evenly, and indeed Hedman actually had more ice time with the man-advantage (2:59) than did Stralman (2:37) but would you rather skate with the Triplets and Steven Stamkos or not those guys? Hedman is still the better of the two to own but Stralman is taking nibbles out of Hedman’s pie.

Check out the Lightning lines from last night:

19.53%

EV

9 JOHNSON,TYLER – 86 KUCHEROV,NIKITA – 18 PALAT,ONDREJ

16.41%

EV

24 CALLAHAN,RYAN – 27 DROUIN,JONATHAN – 91 STAMKOS,STEVEN

12.89%

EV

22 CONDRA,ERIK – 51 FILPPULA,VALTTERI – 17 KILLORN,ALEX

12.5%

EV

11 BOYLE,BRIAN – 23 BROWN,J.T. – 90 NAMESTNIKOV,VLADISLAV

Jonathan Drouin getting paired up with Stamkos means Valtteri Filppula loses a lucrative spot in the lineup but check out his effort here on the game winner.

Filppula only gets one apple for that but deserves the whole bushel. Heck, bake that man an apple pie.

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Remember when Mattias Eckholm was stealing minutes from Seth Jones and threatening fantasy relevance last season? Let’s close the book on that shall we. Jones notched a pair of assists skating 21:04, including 2:36 on the power play. That ice time figure was still good for third on the team behind Roman Josi and Shea Weber, there’s no getting ahead of those two but Jones is now firmly in the third slot and given how the Predators roll their power play units, that can be a productive spot. Remember, the Flames had four defensemen score 30 points last season and three reached 40. It’s a challenging task but it’s conceivable given the stacked group Nashville has.

Viktor Arvidsson, one of my pet deep sleepers, notched his first career goal. Arvidsson’s got talent but he was limited to just 11:14 skating with Cody Hodgson and Calle Jarnkrok with no power play time. He’ll be in tough to maintain regular scoring especially since this is one team where there’s little chance of the team going with four forwards on the power play.

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Eric Staal scored the lone goal for Carolina with the lone assist to Justin Faulk. And that’s about where the fantasy relevance ends for the Hurricanes. It was nice to see Staal getting the superstar treatment skating 21:11. If Carolina could just ride him like this all season then he’ll surely have his bounceback. It’s the least Staal owners can ask for after he was inexplicably lowered below the 20-minute mark for the first time in the last four years.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Noah Hanifin debuted skating 18 minutes with no power play time. Meanwhile, Ron Hainsey was second on the team in ice time with 25:20 but also no power play time. Not saying Hanifin is ready for those kind of minutes, just saying this is where the Hurricanes are at.

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Wild affair to finish off the night as Minnesota scored four unanswered in the third period to erase a three-goal deficit and take out the Avalanche 5-4.

Getting shelled early was surely not what Devan Dubnyk owners had in mind but he stayed the course and earned the win so take the silver lining. Dubnyk probably won’t have too many more like this considering the team in front of him.

Zach Parise showed huge in this one scoring a hat-trick, including the game winner on the power play. He’ll have a massive season if the Wild can figure out their power play situation.

That probably starts with Mikael Granlund who had a pair of assists and led all Wild forwards in ice time with 21:28. Only 1:45 of that was on the power play too so it shows he’s becoming a dependable player. We’ll see if it translates to a breakout season.

It was interesting to see Jonas Brodin split away from Ryan Suter. Brodin skated just 18:15 pairing with Matt Dumba instead. Looks like Brodin is transitioning from mentee to mentor. Probably not great for his fantasy stock though.

Jared Spurgeon jumped up with Suter and matched the workhorse nearly minute for minute with both skating more than 25 last night. No points for Spurgeon but that has to be a positive for him.

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Have we seen enough of Francois Beauchemin over the years that you know not to blow your wad on his three assists from last night?

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Sean McIndoe looks at seven storylines to overreact to early in the season.

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As always, some great stuff in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:

10. The Predators are deep and talented, with some interesting decisions to come up front. They sent 2014 first-rounder Kevin Fiala and KHL free-agent signing Steve Moses to the AHL, although it wouldn’t be a huge stunner if either returned at some point.

“Moses looked great in practice, he was our fastest player. It didn’t translate — yet — in games,” Poile said. Fiala? “He was trying so hard to make it at a young age. He’s so dangerous with the puck, but he’s got to be a little bit better when he doesn’t have it…He can skate and drive hard. He just needs some time in Milwaukee.”

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FiveThirtyEight had an interesting piece on how teams are pulling the goalie earlier and earlier and how that is the correct strategy.

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Check out Dobber’s latest for Puck Daddy on finding gems off the waiver wire.

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Thanks for reading. You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.