Let’s get this out of the way. Gritty is the best thing to happen to the NHL since Connor McDavid. That may not affect your fantasy roster whatsoever but it sure makes you feel good about life. After all, it is Thanksgiving. On a weekly basis, I’ll be offering you trends, statistics and information to keep you up to date in the fantasy hockey world.
1. And the NHL’s 102nd season is off to a flying start.
The Edmonton Oilers will have tons of time to dwell on their putrid performance in Sweden to start the season. As a result of taking part in the NHL Global Series, neither the Oilers nor their opponents, the New Jersey Devils, will be busy in the early going. Each squad has just three games in the first 11 days of the season.
Lots of time for Fortnite. Maybe not so much for the Oilers.
2. Sadly, fantasy owners will have to be patient when it comes to finding out if the Nugent-Hopkins/McDavid/Rattie trio is for real. The central focus: 25-year-old Ty Rattie. Before a late-season recall by Edmonton, the right-winger had just 35 games of NHL experience to his name.
Perhaps he’s a late bloomer? The former Western Hockey League star potted five goals and nine points in 14 games to wrap up last season with the Oilers. All he did in this year’s pre-season was lead the entire NHL with eight goals. Playing with that McDavid guy must be really fun.
3. Not a bad start for the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals. That includes captain Alex Ovechkin who’s showing no signs of a hangover so far. (2 GP: 2 G, 1 A, 3 P)
What’s the key to being one of the most prolific goal scorers in NHL history? Well, it appears it’s all about getting off to a hot start.
Look at the last five years for Ovechkin. The fountain enthusiast continues to be a fantasy hockey beast.
17/18: 9 goals in first 5 games
16/17: 4 goals in first 6 games
15/16: 5 goals in first 5 games
14/15: 5 goals in first 4 games
13/14: 6 goals in first 6 games
4. Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension opens up a pretty significant role on the right side with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. It appears Brett Connolly will get the first crack at that seat. Don’t be surprised if Devante Smith-Pelly gets a look on that line eventually too. I’d monitor this situation but don’t act just yet.
5. Speaking of the Capitals – it’ll be interesting to see how goalie guru Mitch Korn fairs with the New York Islanders. Keeping the puck out of the net has been a big-time issue for that organization over the last several years. If Barry Trotz can get some defensive buy-in, Thomas Greiss and or Robin Lehner may become fantasy relevant. That’s a gigantic “if.”
6. My goodness – the Anaheim Ducks may soon be holding open tryouts. Ryan Getzlaf was the latest Duck to go down, leaving their 1-0 shutout victory versus Arizona Saturday night. Anaheim is already without Corey Perry (knee), Nick Ritchie (RFA standoff), Patrick Eaves (shoulder) and Ondrej Kase (concussion).
Fortunately for them, John Gibson has been tremendous and the kids have been holding their own as well. You should be all over the waiver wire looking at the likes of Maxime Comtois, Troy Terry and Sam Steel – all of whom may be in a top-six role soon depending on Getzlaf’s status. I’d strongly recommend Adam Henrique too.
7. The Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets are each trying to get by right now without a top-flight defenceman due to injury.
Torey Krug has an ankle issue and is likely to miss at least a month. Seth Jones isn’t expected back until mid-November due to a knee problem.
Fortunately, each organization has a blue chipper who’s more than able to fill the void. Enter Charlie McAvoy and Zach Werenski. Both are in contract years and are poised to hit the jackpot pending a dominant season. If you don’t own these two, look to acquire them before the price is insanely high.
8. Coming off a 28-goal bounce-back season, Kings winger Dustin Brown started the year on the IR with a broken finger. Sophomore Alex Iafallo has been bumped up to the top line to play with Anze Kopitar and Ilya Kovalchuk for the time being. Don’t expect much from Iafallo.
9. Suffice it to say, Scott Darling is looking for a better second season with the Hurricanes. This is not how he envisioned his season starting. The 29-year-old will be sidelined for multiple weeks due to a lower-body ailment.
That opens the door for newcomer Petr Mrazek to grab the crease in Raleigh. He’ll get most of the starts with waiver claim Curtis McElhinney providing some insurance.
Mrazek is worth a flier with the Canes playing some inspired hockey under new head coach Rod Brind’Amour to start the season.
10. Similar to Darling, New Jersey’s Cory Schneider is looking to get his career back on track. The 32-year-old continues to recover from off-season hip surgery but is not expected to miss a lot of time. Despite Keith Kinkaid’s brilliance last year, look for Devils head coach John Hynes to give Schneider every opportunity to take his No. 1 job back. Schneider may prove to be one of the biggest draft day steals of the fantasy season.
11. Everything’s sunny in Philadelphia’s crease until Brian Elliott’s first shaky start. Much to the chagrin of fans and intrigued fantasy owners, the Flyers elected to send phenom netminder Carter Hart to the American Hockey League to begin the season.
It was an unpopular decision but it was the right one. The 20-year-old will continue to gain pro experience and develop in Lehigh Valley. His play will dictate if/when he’s summoned to the NHL. You should already own him in keeper leagues.
12. Jump to the wire right now and pick up James Reimer. Roberto Luongo went down on Saturday night and given his age and injury history, he may miss a decent amount of time.
13. Everyone’s constantly looking for that can’t-miss sleeper goalie. This year, Coyotes tender Antti Raanta fits the bill. In ’17-18, Arizona was 21-17-6 in games he started and 8-24-6 in ones he did not.
Granted it’s just two games, but the Coyotes are off to another suspect start. As long as they don’t replicate last year’s 1-11-1 October, they should be OK though.
14. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville is optimistically targeting an Oct. 18 return for goaltender Corey Crawford.
Full health is obviously paramount but in 28 games last season, the 33-year-old posted a 2.27 GAA along with a .929 save percentage. To the surprise of no one, Chicago fell off the face of the earth after the veteran came out of the lineup.
Newcomer Cam Ward will try to keep Chicago afloat as Crawford continues to work his way back. I’m big on Crawford.
15. Newly named Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber is surely worth a pickup and a stash on your IR. The veteran is expected to miss at least the first month of the season recovering from off-season knee surgery.
Weber is still extremely fantasy relevant. In 110 career games with Montreal, the B.C. native has potted 24 goals (14 PP) and 61 points.
16. This year’s Calder watch will be fascinating. Many in June had Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin as the easy front-runner. It’s been three seasons since a defenceman took home the rookie of the year honours (Aaron Ekblad).
Unfortunately for Dahlin, his biggest competition may turn out to be another Swede – Elias Petterson. Less than a week in and construction in Vancouver is already underway for his statue. How Petterson is owned in only 60 per cent of Yahoo leagues right now is beyond me.
My wild card for the award, however, is Boston’s Ryan Donato who already had 15 games of NHL experience coming into the season. He’s 22, playing for a new contract and supremely talented. Need I say more?
17. The Montreal Canadiens will be cautious with Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His Corsi numbers were encouraging in his first couple of games. That was not a joke.
Keep close tabs on Nashville’s Eeli Tolvanen. He’ll become a significant fantasy option with the Predators sooner rather than later.
Then there’s Dallas’s Miro Heiskanen. Go and watch his second shift as an NHLer and life will become clearer to you.
18. In the sensational sophomore department. How about Thomas Chabot in Toronto Saturday night? The 21-year-old potted two goals and an assist with five shots on goal while accruing a plus-4 in a 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs. With no Erik Karlsson in front of him on Ottawa’s blue line, Chabot will improve upon last year’s 25-point display. Don’t sit around – grab him!
19. Make sure to sign up and set your lineups for Sportsnet’s Fantasy Hockey Pool for a chance to win some fantastic prizes!
The key for the upcoming week (Oct. 8–14) is to stack your rosters with players from Anaheim, San Jose and the Vegas Golden Knights. Those Pacific Division powerhouses will be busy with four games in seven days.
With 30 points to spend, consider selecting one or more of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg (PV: 1), San Jose’s Timo Meier (PV: 1) and Golden Knights sniper Max Pacioretty (PV: 2). That’s terrific value and would allow you to spend big elsewhere.
20. Additionally, it would be beneficial to steer clear of the following 11 teams: ARI, CHI, DAL, FLA, MIN, MTL, NJD, NYI, NYR, PIT, TBL. They have just two games on the docket.
Similar to Edmonton and New Jersey, the Lightning and Panthers have very quiet schedules to start the season.