It was a night of firsts for the slow-starting New Jersey Devils. They won their first game of the season on Thursday, a 5-2 win over the Rangers. P.K. Subban scored his first goal as a Devil, which he earned by firing nine shots on goal. Jack Hughes also earned his first NHL point, an assist on Miles Wood’s first goal of the season. With Nico Hischier out of the lineup, Hughes was elevated to the top line for much of this game (alongside Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri). Hughes had gone without a point over his first six NHL games.
A few lessons learned with Hughes’ slow start:
Be careful not to overvalue super rookies. Although their upside is considerable, their floor can also be very low. In Yahoo leagues, Hughes was drafted (on average) just ahead of centers such as Vincent Trocheck, Max Domi, Jonathan Toews, Mathew Barzal, and Matt Duchene. Answers may vary as to which players are better options than Hughes, but consider the type of production that these more established players bring. That’s your opportunity cost. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have drafted Hughes here – I’m only pointing out the kind of safe production that you were leaving on the table.
If you draft a rookie like Hughes, then you might want to surround him with a “safe” option or two that don’t usually deviate much in terms of overall production. Drafting Hughes with someone like Nikita Gusev is risky. Not necessarily because they play for the same team, but because their NHL track record is unknown. That means a high ceiling but also a low floor.
- If you own Hughes in a single-season league, now is not the time to drop him. (You know what to do in a keeper league.) As Cam pointed out a couple days ago in his most recent Ramblings, the offensive zone starts and scoring chances are there to indicate that the points will begin to flow in. Only shallow non-keeper leaguers should be considering dropping Hughes at this point. The rest should be hanging on (benching if needed) and could even consider buying at a cost that will be as low as it might ever be.
Another one that will probably be listed in the Injury Ward next week: John Tavares will miss at least two weeks with a broken finger. Tavares’ injury could mean that Alexander Kerfoot slides up the lineup. Kerfoot has had a decent start with four points (2g-2a) in eight games in spite of just 14 minutes per game. Kerfoot could be a decent short-term add in mid-sized to deeper leagues (14% owned in Yahoo). He’s also as versatile as any forward can be, as he’s eligible at all three forward positions in Yahoo.
More out of general interest than fantasy related, the Tavares injury could mean Jason Spezza spends less time in the press box. Spezza has been in and out of the lineup, having played just three of eight games this season.
If you’re wondering how long Tavares might really be out, here’s a medical opinion. I just started following this account, and so far he has provided some unique hockey injury takes, similar to what is out there for baseball and football.
Stayed in the game and scored a goal after this play which likely broke his finger
Broken finger won’t be healed in 2 weeks but he could still return then if Tavares can take draws, shoot etc. with the medical staff’s help to control pain and provide stability #LeafsForever https://t.co/hVqn34hAFS
— Dr. Harjas Grewal (@Harjas_Grewal) October 17, 2019
Is Minnesota the worst team in the Western Conference? Carey Price had an easy time with the Wild on Thursday, needing just 17 saves to earn his first shutout of the season. The Stars and Devils stand out for performing well below expectations early on, yet the Wild have won just once in seven games, with that win coming in a cupcake matchup against Ottawa.
Someone like Eric Staal is sure looking droppable with only one assist and a league-worst minus-10 so far. One-time keeper target Kevin Fiala was a healthy scratch against Toronto earlier this week. With just one assist in six games, Fiala is simply not worth rostering either.
If you were huge on Matt Dumba coming into this season, then you won’t want to look at his plus-minus either. Dumba’s scoring (two points in seven games) doesn’t scream fast start either. Will he rebound enough to maintain his place on the Top 100 Roto Rankings by this time next month?
Bruce Boudreau is definitely on the hot seat. Yet the roster construction issues are hardly his fault.
Back to the Habs for a moment: Nick Suzuki scored his first NHL goal (in his seventh game), as did Victor Mete (in his 127th game!)
When you go to the hot/cold players on Frozen Tools, you’ll see Connor McDavid at the top (not surprisingly). Right on his tail is David Pastrnak, who is now up to nine goals and 16 points in just eight games. As an encore for a four-goal performance on Monday, Pasta scored two goals and added an assist. Pasta now has four power-play goals over his last two games. We know he’s a stud and will continue to pile up the points, but keep in mind that he’s shooting an unsustainable 32.0 SH% on the season.
A tale of two new Canucks’ forwards:
After some worry that he might be used as a third-line center, J.T. Miller may have found a home on the Canucks’ top line. With a goal on Thursday, Miller now has four goals and seven points over his last four games. His willingness to drive to the net and not look out of place with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser on the Lotto Line (6-40-9 – only people in Canada might understand that one) has helped his fantasy value, at least in the short term.
Micheal Ferland was bumped from that top line and now finds himself in the bottom 6. No, the Canucks don’t have a top 9 like some other teams; they have a top 6 and a bottom 6. Skating on a line with Brandon Sutter and Jake Virtanen, Ferland scored his first goal as a Canuck on Thursday. Ferland has played around 10-11 minutes over each of the past few games, so pure scoring leaguers should probably look elsewhere. The good news for the Canucks is that he’s delivering hits for them and not against them anymore (in a Flames uniform), as he leads the team with 18 hits. So there’s still value in bangers leagues.
With two goals in the second period of Thursday’s win against Winnipeg, Mathew Barzal now has two points in back-to-back games. I decided to move Barzal out of the Top 100 Roto Rankings, although I may have to second-guess that move with his recent production. My rationale, though: Barzal is stronger in pure scoring leagues (where he would be a top 100 player for sure) than roto leagues. Barzal has never taken 200 shots in either of his two full NHL seasons, while his average of 23 hits per season isn’t much higher than Phil Kessel’s total. Plus he’s strictly a center in Yahoo leagues.
Speaking of Phil the Thrill, he scored his first two goals as a Coyote in his sixth game – both goals on the power play. I responded to a Forum thread last night about whether to claim him in one league where he’d recently been dropped. I noted that Kessel has at least still been taking about three shots per game, which leads the Coyotes. If you are considering dropping a slumping sniper, is that player still getting shots on net? If the answer is yes, then you might want to remain patient. Or buy low from an owner that isn’t.
Kessel is absolutely worth a pickup if he happens to have been dropped in your league, although you should be budgeting for a 60-70-point Arizona Kessel as opposed to an 80-90-point Pittsburgh Kessel. Even though the Coyotes are a darkhorse playoff pick, they are still a low-scoring team, having entered Thursday’s games with a 2.20 GF/GP. Kessel still might get his 30 goals, but he’s also dependent on the players around him.
Antti Raanta might finally be healthy, but Darcy Kuemper isn’t giving up the starter’s job in Arizona, at least not for the moment. He’s now allowed two or fewer goals over his last 12 starts, dating back to last season.
While we’re talking about surprise goalies, let’s give props to Carter Hutton. I drafted him as a third goalie in one league and so far he’s been dynamite. On Thursday Hutton stopped all 47 shots he faced in the Sabres’ 3-0 shutout win. Sure it’s only the Kings, but 47 shots is 47 shots. Hutton is now 5-0-0 with back-to-back shutouts this week. Hutton and Linus Ullmark have basically been splitting starts this season, but Hutton should clearly hold the upper hand in this goaltending battle. Dare we say that Hutton is must-start? At least I can say that I’m confident in rolling him out there right now.
Casey Mittelstadt, who had been held without a point in six previous games, scored two goals and added an assist with a plus-2. Mittelstadt’s linemate Conor Sheary returned to the lineup for this game, which may have provided a boost. I know that neither move the needle in single-season fantasy leagues, but I did mention the under-the-radar chemistry the two might have when Sheary scored two goals on the first game of the season.
The Senators might have lost again on Thursday, but don’t blame Anders Nilsson. The Sens’ goalie saved 52 of 54 Vegas shots before the Golden Knights prevailed in the shootout. Only one Vegas player (William Carrier) failed to take a shot on goal in this game.
Valentin Zykov has been suspended for 20 games for violating the Performance Enhancing Substances program. Kind of interesting as to how the Golden Knights are not supporting Zykov on this one, as GM George McPhee has stated that Zykov was taking the supplements without the team’s knowledge or approval.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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