My condolences to anyone in a head-to-head league who squared off against a fantasy opponent featuring any high-profile Toronto Maple Leafs. That wasn’t a good time.
We’re not even two weeks into the NHL season and already fantasy owners are stressing and filled with anger. From injuries to line juggling to healthy scratches, it’s been a fascinating rollercoaster of emotions thus far.
Here are 20 fantasy thoughts:
1. At this rate, Auston Matthews might command $20-million a season. One thing is for certain – GQ’s newest model sure loves playing in October. In 29 career games, the Arizona native has potted 25 goals and 39 points. But, seriously. He might hit 50 by mid-November.
2. Lost in the hoopla of the dominance of the Big 3 (Auston Matthews, John Tavares & Mitch Marner), Morgan Rielly (6 GP: 3 G, 10 A, 13 P) is having a start for the ages. I guess Brian Burke knew what he was doing when he took Rielly fifth overall in the 2012 Draft.
3. You almost forget that William Nylander is a member of the Maple Leafs. It’s way too early to even consider dropping him as he continues to work with Leafs brass on a new contract. You can’t trade him either because you won’t get fair market value. Be patient.
4. Evander Kane has been a great story in San Jose so far. In 31 career games with the Sharks, the 27-year-old has buried 17 goals. Full credit to Sharks general manager Doug Wilson for that acquisition at last year’s trade deadline. It sure came with some risk attached. Kane’s fantasy value is probably the highest it’ll ever be right now. I’d consider trying to sell high.
5. The goaltender position has always been a volatile one. This season is no different. In the last week alone, Jonathan Quick, Matt Murray and Roberto Luongo all went down. That’s four Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe and three Jennings Trophies worth of netminding.
6. Jack Campbell has been terrific for Los Angeles. James Reimer’s first start for the Panthers wasn’t pretty. Meanwhile, it appears the Penguins will go with Casey DeSmith for the time being. It sounds like Murray isn’t expected to miss much time.
All three netminders come with significant risk.
7. Philadelphia’s home opener performance this past week against San Jose was anything but Gritty. The Flyers were without James van Riemsdyk due to a lower-body injury he sustained during a game versus Colorado on Oct. 6th. The winger is expected to be out until sometime in November.
8. Look for the JVR development to have a positive impact on Wayne Simmonds’ fantasy value. The UFA-to-be is off to a hot start with three goals and four points in the first four games of the season. Expect Simmonds to do significant damage in front of the net on the power play. He’s going to get paid! Trade for him.
9. Nathan MacKinnon (5 GP: 6 G, 1 A, 7 P) and Mikko Rantanen (5 GP: 1 G, 7 A, 8 P) haven’t skipped a beat. The fantasy world was wondering if that dynamic duo would do it again. They’ve silenced the critics so far.
10. How is Elias Petterrson still owned in only 72 per cent of Yahoo! Leagues? People must be sleeping. Wake up.
11. The rookie forward no one’s talking about is Carolina’s Warren Foegele. The 22-year-old has five goals and two assists in seven career NHL games. It’s early but the makeshift Foegele, Jordan Staal and Justin Williams line has been efficient to say the least.
12. In general, the Hurricanes are off to a good start. A lot of that has to do with the budding chemistry between Sebastian Aho and newcomer Micheal Ferland. Teuvo Teravainen is the right-winger on that line. Those three have accounted for eight of Carolina’s 22 goals so far.
13. More help may be coming, too. Keep tabs on Nicolas Roy. Carolina’s 2015 fourth-rounder is off to a good start with the Charlotte Checkers in the American Hockey League with six points in four games. He made his NHL debut last season and isn’t far away.
14. Rasmus Dahlin finally notched his first NHL point – an assist – on Thursday night in Buffalo’s embarrassing 6-1 loss to Colorado on home ice. Miro Heiskanen has just one helper as well for Dallas.
That being said, it’s been a trio of waiver plays that have turned the heads of many in terms of rookie defenders. Try Chicago’s Henri Jokiharju (43 per cent owned), Detroit’s Dennis Cholowski (INJ – nine per cent owned) or Ottawa’s Maxime Lajoie (12 per cent owned) on for size. For a variety of reasons, all three are unlikely to be long-term plays.
15. At this point in his career, Joe Thornton isn’t more than a waiver stream. The 39-year-old is back on injured reserve after experiencing swelling in his surgically repaired knee. He’s currently owned in 26 per cent of Yahoo! Leagues and even that is mostly nostalgia-based.
16. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has been playing like a man possessed to start the new season. The 30-year-old is noticeably quicker and it’s showing early. His 26.3 shooting percentage would make even William Karlsson laugh. To put that into context, Toews fired at just a 9.5 per cent clip last season, hitting single digits for the first time in his career. I’m buying what he’s selling.
17. Speaking of bounce-back options, Kevin Shattenkirk had a quite the scenic view for Thursday night’s encounter with San Jose – the press box. That’s expensive popcorn. I’d hold off on dropping Shattenkirk for the time being. He should respond.
18. Keep an eye on Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler. After returning to the lineup sooner than expected, the 34-year-old actually scored in his season debut. He’s not much more than a waiver add right now. If the veteran displays some long-term consistency and demonstrates the ability to stay healthy, his fantasy value will skyrocket. Kesler is currently playing with Rickard Rakell. Stream!
19. A reminder to sign up for Sportsnet’s Fantasy Hockey Pool for a chance to win some wicked prizes!
Looking ahead to the upcoming week (Oct. 15 – 21), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to filter in some Sabres, Wild and Lightning players. Those three squads have four games. Consider Buffalo’s Conor Sheary (PV – 1), Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek (PV – 1) and Tampa’s Brayden Point (PV – 3).
20. On the other side of the spectrum, the following eight teams play just twice so be cognizant of that when constructing your roster. CAR, CBJ, OTT, PIT, SJS, STL, VGK, WSH.