Going into Wednesday night, we were officially a week into the NHL season. Still far too early for any determinations! Let’s keep that in mind – I know Vegas is a nice early story, Chicago is an offensive juggernaut, and Los Angeles looks impossible to score on, but Colorado started 3-1-0 last year and ended up posting one of the worst seasons of this generation.
I wanted to look at some players that are off to interesting starts for one reason or another this year that are worth keeping an eye on for the next week or two – yes, in an admittedly very small sample. This is just for pointing out performances and players to focus on in the near-future, not for definitive analysis.
Brandon Saad has five goals in four games. What’s more important: he’s playing nearly 19 minutes a game, has 17 shots on goal, and is being featured on the team’s heavily-used top power-play unit. In fact, he already has as many PP goals this year (1!) as all last season.
He was always a high-rate producer at five-on-five, but his ceiling was limited due to usage and being a non-factor on the power play. Now that both issues are taken care of, Saad is genuinely in line for a career-year as far as points are concerned. I would not be “selling high.” Ride the wave.
Speaking of wingers getting heavy usage: Chris Krieder has averaged 18:45 a game through the team’s first four games. In no season has he averaged over 17:00. He has failed to score but does have three assists, and with that kind of usage, it’s a matter of time before he starts bulging the twine.
Overall, his shot attempt rate is down a bit from previous seasons, but if he keeps playing this volume of minutes, it shouldn’t matter too much. This is another player I would hold, or maybe even put out some feelers to see what it would take to acquire in a trade.
It’s just two games so it’s nothing to panic about, just something to keep an eye on, but the top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Evgeni Dadonov have combined for 13 shots on goal. That’s not a lot. The reason to keep an eye on it is because they didn’t generate a lot last year either (whether it was with Jaromir Jagr or Jonathan Marchessault), managing fewer shot attempts per minute than the Vincent Trocheck line.
Now, they’re a very talented trio. Hopefully, then, they can drive percentages, or at least pick up the shot rate. It’s certainly nothing worth acting upon as far as trading away these players from fantasy rosters, but they have the Penguins twice, the Flyers, the Caps, and the Habs (along with the Blues) over the next couple of weeks. We should have a better idea of where they stand after this stretch of potential playoff teams.
My pre-season concerns with Alex Galchenyuk’s fantasy value was the uncertainty of his role. Two years ago, he was a star on the top line with the Habs. This year, the acquisition of Jonathan Drouin, the ensuing determination to use him as the top-line centre, and the continued reliance on Tomas Plekanec as the team’s second centre meant that Galchenyuk could be moved all around the lineup. At Wednesday’s practice, his situation deteriorated:
Like last night, Alex Galchenyuk is on the fourth line this morning with Torrey Mitchell and Ales Hemsky. Julien not speaking to media today
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) October 11, 2017
Over the previous three seasons, Galchenyuk has a primary points rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five of 1.49, which compares to other top-end wingers league-wide like James Neal (1.50), Tyler Toffoli (1.51), and Nikolaj Ehlers (1.51). If the team doesn’t want to use him as a centre, fine, but there’s no reason to bury him on the depth chart like they have. If the team is as good defensively as they think they are, with the best goaltender on the planet between the pipes, they can afford to have Galchenyuk in their top-six. Even with his defensive deficiencies.
Regardless of what they should do, this is what they are doing, and that’s going to mean a headache for fantasy owners all year. In shallow leagues he’s droppable, while he should be relegated to the bench in deeper formats.
On the brighter side of Habs news, Artturi Lehkonen was moved to the top line with Brendan Gallagher pushed down to the second line. Bad news for Gallagher owners, but good news for those in deep leagues who took the chance on Lehkonen.
The young Finn had a very high shot rate last year and though the Habs haven’t had difficulty in finding shots this year, they are having trouble finding the back of the net. Who knows how long it lasts, but with a home game against Toronto on Saturday – a team that should give up a lot of shots in their own right – he’s worth a speculative add for those needing a roster spot this weekend in head-to-head leagues.
Monday night, Winnipeg was without Dustin Byfuglien in their 5-2 win over the Oilers. Aside from Big Buff missing the game, this was a pretty crucial takeaway:
interesting that WPG went to Morrissey instead of Trouba to run their top PP
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) October 10, 2017
It would seem to make sense that Jacob Trouba took his spot as he and Byfuglien are the same handedness, and Trouba was presumably the heir-apparent should anything happen to the veteran with regards to long-term injury. But it was the sophomore who took over.
Morrissey dynasty owners, rejoice!
Christian Djoos made his debut for the Capitals on Wednesday night. Read his Dobber Prospects profile here.
It was a memorable debut, as Djoos scored late in the second period to cut the Penguins’ 2-0 lead in half. It wasn’t anything pretty, but he joined the rush, opened up, and wired a one-timer past Matt Murray:
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 12, 2017
It wasn’t the only time he jumped up, either. He made a few nice pinches – nothing to take himself out of the play but involving himself offensively nonetheless – and had a solid game overall. He even added an assist on Alex Ovechkin’s eighth (!) goal of the season. This would be a welcome sight for the Caps if he could be a solid third-pair guy for them this year.
The debut the hockey world had been waiting for since he signed occurred in Los Angeles last night as Jaromir Jagr skated in his first game for the Calgary Flames. He was on the third line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg while also managing secondary power-play minutes. If he doesn’t move up the lineup, and to the top PP, I wonder how effective he can be for fantasy owners. Things will change, of course; it’s a long season.
Riley Nash skated between David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand on Wednesday night as a result of the continued absence of Patrice Bergeron. Nash has four full seasons under his belt with career-highs of 10 goals and 25 points. So, things are going well.
Anaheim is starting to get a bit healthier as they got back Ryan Getzlaf in their home loss to Calgary a earlier this week and got Patrick Eaves back last night. Of course, things aren’t all rosy as Ondrej Kase missed the game with a head injury after leaving the Calgary game in the first period. Eaves returned to the top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
As I’m writing this, it’s the end of the second period of the game, and Eaves is still with that dynamic Ducks duo. Needless to say that with Ryan Kesler out for the next few months, Eaves could be a very solid producer in roto formats with this positioning.
Well, if he is playing through a foot injury, he didn’t show much. He scored in the waning few minutes of the first period on a nice off-wing shot to the far side. Just watching him, he didn’t look to be noticeably slower, so hopefully it’s just more of a maintenance and precaution thing with the walking boot rather than nursing an injury. On the whole, the Bruins didn’t look great in this game, but the Avalanche did, as they outshot the Bruins 26-9 through two periods. Boston needs to get Patrice Bergeron back in the lineup as soon as possible.
Cory Schneider had a very good game in goal for the Devils, stopping 47 of 50 shots, including 19 of 20 in the third period. He has now stopped 110 of 116 shots to begin the season. That’s a whole lot of rubber to face, but the issue in most seasons for New Jersey with Schneider has been goal support, and he’s starting to get that. He’s good enough to be able to face a few extra shots; if he can get the goals to help his win column, it could be a very good year for fantasy owners.
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