Saros a Must-Start, Power-Play Options on D, plus much more…
Jeff Skinner entered Saturday afternoon’s game against LA with just one goal in his first seven games as a Sabre, mainly playing on a line with rookie Casey Mittelstadt and veteran Kyle Okposo. But on Saturday, Skinner found himself on a line with Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville and produced exactly what the Sabres hoped he would when they acquired him from Carolina, scoring three goals in a 5-1 win. In fact, his entire line combined for nine points in this game. Eichel recorded three assists, while Pominville scored a goal and added two assists.
Eichel’s previous linemates Sam Reinhart and Conor Sheary found themselves centered by Vladimir Sobotka, which is obviously a significant downgrade from Eichel. Reinhart has yet to score a goal in eight games, while both Reinhart and Sheary have been held without points in their last three games. Obviously lines are constantly in a state of flux, but as an owner of both Reinhart and Sheary in separate leagues, I’m not thrilled about the deployment at least in the short term.
How quickly things can change. In my last Ramblings I mentioned the solid recent play of Semyon Varlamov. Since then, Jared Bednar has decided to turn to Philipp Grubauer not once, but twice. Grubauer made Bednar’s decision look smart on Saturday, making 42 saves in a 3-1 win. This is shaping up to be an all-out competition in the Colorado net, with both goalies playing extremely well. In spite of facing an average of 35 shots per game (one of the highest in the league), the Avalanche hold one of the league’s highest team save percentages.
So even with Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko available, you may be surprised to learn that Vince Dunn has been receiving first-unit power-play minutes for the Blues. This won’t help Pietrangelo, who finally recorded his first point of the season in his seventh game (shoutout to Dobber’s theory on Pietrangelo’s new triplets affecting his production). Dunn played over five minutes on the man advantage on Wednesday against Montreal and finished slightly behind Pietrangelo for power-play minutes on Saturday. Dunn is only 4 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, so he could be a deep league option.
For the first time in his career, Jay Bouwmeester was a healthy scratch on Saturday. Obviously J-Bo shouldn’t be on anyone’s fantasy radar anymore, but it’s worth mentioning here because he’s a d-man who has played over 1100 games in his career. He’s been a regular partner for both Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko, but we may need to expect a reduced role going forward.
After years of being a source of many dominant fantasy teams, the Red Wings don’t have much for fantasy owners to get excited about anymore. But one early sleeper from the Wings is rookie blueliner Dennis Cholowski, who leads the team in both power-play minutes and total minutes (21:48/GP). Cholowski scored a goal and added an assist while taking five shots on Saturday to give him five points in six games, including four power-play points. He could easily hit a rookie wall at some point, but he’s owned in just 7 percent in Yahoo leagues. That’s surprisingly low ownership for a player earning first-unit power-play minutes, even if it is for a likely lottery-bound team.
Mark Stone scored two goals and added an assist in the Senators’ 4-3 overtime win over Montreal. His second goal was the overtime winner, which was a serious one-timer. The only thing that could top it was this call from the retiring Bob Cole.
I don’t expect this to become a regular thing for Chris Tierney, but it could be a sign that his fantasy value improved with his trade to Ottawa. With his assist on Saturday, Tierney has recorded at least one point in each of his seven games as a Senator. He also logged 21 minutes of icetime as Stone’s linemate on Saturday.
More players who have a point in each of their first eight games: Mikko Rantanen and Sebastian Aho. I thought this one was a poll over at the Dobber Sports Facebook page, but I guess not. Maybe it will at some point?
An encouraging start for Corey Crawford, who stopped 37 of 38 shots he faced in earning his first win since December of last year. This was just his second start since returning from a lengthy concussion absence.
With a goal on Saturday, Alex DeBrincat now has points in all seven of his games this season. With seven goals and 11 points over that span, he’s appearing to be the real deal. He’s making those teams that passed on him during the 2016 draft because of his size look foolish.
The Predators have placed Pekka Rinne on injured reserve, which makes Juuse Saros a must-add if he’s still available in your league (47 percent owned in Yahoo leagues at the time of this writing). Saros strongly stated his case for increased ownership in stopping all 31 shots he faced in the Preds’ 3-0 win in Edmonton. Saros has played in four games this season, and all have resulted in wins.
If Saros is still unowned in your league, I can’t stress enough how you need to go add him now. Go directly to the waiver wire. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. And even when Rinne returns, you should try to find a way to retain Saros given the Preds’ status as one of the league’s top teams. Remember that Rinne is on the final year of his contract, so a phase-in could be in the works. Even if Saros is pushed to the bench when Rinne returns, owning a strong backup is in many ways better for your fantasy team than owning a weak starter.
With Ty Rattie out for Saturday’s game with a mid-body muscle injury, Kailer Yamamoto was promoted to the Connor McDavid line. Much ado about nothing if you added Yamamoto for that reason because of the aforementioned shutout. Should Rattie miss more time, though, the small yet skilled Yamamoto is worth taking a flier on. Up until Saturday, though, Yamamoto had been used in a limited role.
On a related note, there was a discussion on the CBC panel about whether Leon Draisaitl should be paired up with McDavid again. The consensus seemed to be that Draisaitl shouldn’t need McDavid to prop him up and that pairing them up shouldn’t be used as more than a short-term move. With all this young scoring talent on the Oilers, it still seems strange that we’re still talking about McDavid having to carry this team.
Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller were both sidelined for Saturday’s game in Vancouver. Add in Torey Krug’s ankle injury and it was Matt Grzelcyk receiving first-unit power-play time in this game. Grzelcyk (man, that’s a hard name to spell) has recorded assists in back-to-back games. He’ll most likely be bumped down the pecking order once both Krug and McAvoy return, but I was happy to add him about a week ago given the Bruins’ relatively strong schedule this week. He’s still worth a short-term add if some of the other options on defense I mentioned earlier aren’t available.
Because of the injury situation, the Bruins had to call up 2017 first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen on an emergency basis (Dobber Prospects profile here). Vaakanainen played an AHL game on the US east coast on Friday night and jetted in right after for Saturday night’s game in Vancouver, logging 12 minutes. As mentioned in the Dobber Prospects profile, Vaakanainen projects to be better for real-life teams than fantasy teams.
Jaroslav Halak was handed his second consecutive start on Saturday, stopping 20 of 22 shots in the B’s 2-1 overtime loss to Vancouver. Halak currently has a 1.74 GAA and .933 SV% compared to Tuukka Rask’s 4.08 GAA and .875 SV%. I’m not overly concerned about Halak taking the starting job from Rask and view this only as Bruce Cassidy running with the hot goalie. Halak proved incapable of handling the Isles’ starting job, while Rask has both this season and last been a slow starter. Halak could cut into Rask’s workload more than we thought, though.
Ryan Getzlaf returned to the Ducks’ lineup on Saturday, recording an assist while recording six hits in 17 minutes of icetime. Getzlaf played on a line with Rickard Rakell and Isac Lundestrom (Dobber Prospects profile here).
In case you’ve never heard of Lundestrom, he was the Ducks’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in the most recent entry draft who very quietly earned a roster spot on the Ducks. Lundestrom has just one assist in six games, but he would be a player to watch should this line arrangement stick for anything longer than the short term, which would mean he would hang around past his nine-game trial.
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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