We had real, meaningful hockey last night! Here are a few things I noticed watching the games that are relevant to your fantasy teams.
This is your friendly reminder (I forgot myself until the game last night) that Paul Maurice likes to use Adam Lowry on Winnipeg’s top power-play unit (the one with Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine). That means a few things for the Jets:
- In the absence of overusing one unit, it means the time is more spread out for both the forwards and the defencemen. That should ensure Nikolaj Ehlers will not get the bevy of PP minutes that his fantasy owners are hoping for.
- Jacob Trouba could be in for a double-digit power-play point season. Even if he only gets 45 seconds out of every two-minute power play, that would be a significant improvement over what he received last season. That bodes well for his overall production.
- If the team keeps using two d-men on the second unit, Tyler Myers should be able to chip in some points once in a while.
The Leafs shellacked the Jets, but one thing that shouldn’t be overlooked: Toronto went short-handed eight (!) times. That is usually not a recipe for success. Poor luck that Winnipeg couldn’t convert more often (or even once).
The Penguins gave up over 30 shots to a short-handed Blues team and obviously one game isn’t much to fret over, but there is something to keep in mind: the Penguins play at a very high pace. That means a lot of shots for (usually), but also a lot against. Murray could be a .920 goalie again this year and have a goals against average float between 2.40 and 2.50. For those in ratio leagues, just be prepared.
McDavid scored this goal last night, where TJ Brodie had a two- or three-stride lead on him when McDavid touched the puck. He never had a chance:
McDavid 0 to 100 real quick pic.twitter.com/fmNV8VZPUu— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) October 5, 2017
The Sabres locked up their franchise cornerstone on Tuesday night as they signed Jack Eichel to an eight-year deal with an average annual value of $10 million. This extension kicks in after the 2017-18 campaign and keeps the young centre under contract through 2025-26.
Eichel has 48 goals and 113 points in 142 career games. Ian Gooding wrote about this in his Ramblings yesterday if you want his thoughts.
If the number-2 pick from 2015 has the season many expect him to have, there is no chance he was going to be any cheaper than this. While $10 million per season may turn some off, if he’s a point-per-game player this year, he’ll be even more expensive next season. It also sets the bar for another certain franchise centre playing in Ontario.
This will be a big season for Eichel. In truth, his five-on-five results to date in his short career have not been great:
For ten million dollars you'd think you'd get a little more than this. pic.twitter.com/X2EjdynBiw
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) October 4, 2017
What makes this season important is that the team has started to fill out: Sam Reinhart on the third line helps lengthen the lineup; they added two middle-six wingers in Benoit Pouliot and Jason Pominville; they improved the blue line a bit with the additions of Marco Scandella and Nathan Beaulieu. This team is rounding into form, and they need Eichel to be a superior talent at five-on-five to take the next step.
Cap league owners should have been prepared for the salary jump next year. It’s a lot to take in, but I can’t imagine there are cap leaguers out there who honestly told themselves that Eichel could come in at $7-$8M. There are two ways to go about this: trade him now, giving the trade partner one year at a cheap hit, or keep him and hope Eichel fulfills his potential.
Just keep in mind that there’s a difference in fantasy value and real-life value. Even if he’s not worth the cap hit for the Sabres in terms of goals above replacement, as long as he can manage 25-35 power-play points and 80 total points, with his shot volume, he can be worth the contract in fantasy leagues. This season will tell us a lot about where his career is headed.
Winnipeg locked up one of their own young stars, agreeing to a seven-year deal with Nikolaj Ehlers, carrying an average annual value of $6 million. This is in line with other top young wingers signing post-ELC deals over the last year or so like David Pastrnak and Filip Forbserg.
Ehlers has 40 goals and 102 points in 154 career games.
One of the breakout stars of 2016-17, Ehlers will be worth every penny the Jets are paying him. His primary points per 60 minutes at five-on-five is top-30 in the league over the last two years, and keep in mind he spent a couple months of his rookie season playing in Winnipeg’s bottom-six. Whenever a 19- and 20-year old can compare favourably to other established wingers on elite offensive teams in production like TJ Oshie and Phil Kessel, you have a good idea of how productive Ehlers has been and can be.
I’m not sure Ehlers will ever be a point-per-game player, but it’s worth noting that he managed 64 points last year with only 12 power-play points. If he can regularly be used in prime power-play minutes, he has 70-point seasons ahead of him. He won’t stuff real-time stats, but he’ll be solid everywhere else.
This is a great signing for the Jets, and a good contract for cap league owners. Realistically, with another 60-point season likely on the horizon, he wasn’t going to come in with a lower AAV. There is no reason to trade him in cap leagues unless your team has a serious impending cap crunch coming, and just enjoy the production for the better part of the next decade.
In Elliotte Friedman’s ’30 Thoughts’ column on Wednesday, there was this:
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) October 4, 2017
For those who haven’t noticed, Eeli Tolvanen has 10 goals and 18 points through his first 14 games in the KHL as an 18-year old. There was always offensive upside to his game – you can read about him here – but this is absurd.
Anyway, if teams are inquiring for Tolvanen, the Preds should be aiming high. I always find things like this humourous because the Preds are looking for a scorer, and they have one of the top offensive talents in the KHL at the moment. It seems like that’s a pretty straight line to draw, but I digress.
All the best to Bryan Bickell, who signed a one-day contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in order to retire as a Blackhawk from the NHL. He leaves the league with 395 career games and three Stanley Cups to his name.
For anyone unaware, Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a little under a year ago, effectively ending his NHL career. He returned for a handful of games at the end of the year, but it seemed inevitable he would have to walk away from the game.
As a hockey player, Bickell will be best remembered for the game-tying goal in Game Six of the 2013 Cup Final, which led the way for Dave Bolland’s heroics to win the game. It was a special moment for the team, its fans, and I’m sure the player himself.
He will have a different post-playing career than I’m sure he expected, but he’s always been a tough player and I’m sure he’ll approach this battle as he has every other. All the best to Bickell and his family moving forward.
A few injury and lineup notes from around the league:
- Both Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are questionable for their opening game this season. Ryan Spooner practiced on the top line with Brad Marchand, while Frank Vatrano slid onto the third line in Backes’ spot. We’ll know more when game-day skates hit, but be prepared to bench those two players tonight.
- Derick Brassard is expected to play tonight for the Sens, which is huge for them because this is a team that can ill-afford more players missing time.
- Jakub Vrana is indeed lining up on Washington’s second line (top line?) with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Let’s hope he gets a handful of games to prove himself because he is a player with a lot of offensive upside that the team will need to perform if they want to repeat last year’s regular season performance.
- Ryan Hartman is starting the year on a line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane, it appears. Though Alex DeBrincat would have been nice to have, Hartman is a high-volume shooter who knows how to get himself into soft areas. That should mesh well with Kane. I’m excited to see if this can last because Hartman has good offensive upside if given a chance.
- Kevin Labanc was given first crack on San Jose’s top line. How long it lasts is different, but I’m still holding out hope for Tomas Hertl being a regular with the Joes and on the top PP. Labanc did responed with a couple goals (when this was posted at 1:30 AM local time).
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