Every week, PHT will provide its readers with some fantasy hockey advice. This column will continue to look at the top players available on the waiver wire (players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues) and ones that are owned in 50 more than 50 percent of leagues that can be cut.
If you could add just one player this week, it should be Boeser. The Canucks winger has been lights out, as he has five goals and 13 points in just 10 games. Over the weekend, Boeser put up a hat trick and an assist in a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mathew Barzal-C-New York Islanders (owned in 17 percent of leagues)
Barzal is coming off a five-assist game against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday. The 20-year-old has now collected at least one point in each of his last five contests. He’s up to 13 points in 14 games this season.
Horvat and Boeser have a couple of things in common. First, they both play for the Canucks, and second, they both had four-point performances against the Penguins on Saturday night (Horvat had a goal and three assists). Horvat scored 20 goals and 52 points for Vancouver last season, so don’t be surprised if he betters those numbers this year. He has 11 points in 13 contests this season.
The Oilers have been desperate for secondary scoring this season, and finally, Nugent-Hopkins has provided them with some. He saw his four-game point streak come to an end on Sunday, but he’s still managed to collect six points in his last five contests.
Lindholm missed the start of the year because of offseason shoulder surgery, but he’s back and playing pretty well. He’s accumulated two goals (one on the power play) and two assists in seven games. He’s also averaging almost 23 minutes per game, which means he’ll continue to see plenty of ice time.
The Swedish defenseman is only in his second year in North America, but he’s always been regarded as an offensive blue liner. Heed had 14 goals and 56 points in 55 AHL games last season and he’s continued to produce in his first full NHL season. In San Jose, he’s up to two goals and five assists in 11 contests. That’s some very interesting production from a defender.
The Blues have gotten a good amount of offensive production from their blue liners this season. Edmundson, who’s in his third season, had three goals in 69 games last year. This season, he’s already up to four goals in 15 contests. Edmundson is on pace to 22 times in 2017-18, but there’s an excellent chance that he won’t come close to that. Still, he could be worth an add in leagues that award more points for goals.
Spezza has been a productive NHLer, but it’s time for his fantasy owners to cut ties with him at this point. He’s put up just five assists in 14 games and his ice time is also taking a pounding (he’s averaging under 13 minutes per game). There are too many solid options on most waiver wires to hang on to Spezza.
It’s surprising to see that Lucic is still owned in this many leagues. The Oilers forward has just two goals and four assists in 13 games. He will only provide steady value in leagues that award points for penalty minutes (he’s racked up 14 PIM in 2017-18).
On the surface, Sheary’s six goals in 16 games are an impressive amount. But there are a few things to keep in mind. First, three of those goals came in the first five games of the season. Also, he’s found the back of the net just once in his last five contests. Sheary also carries a minus-9 rating, so if you’re playing that category, he’s been hurting you. There are better options on the waiver wire.
With nine points in nine games so far this season, 20-year-old Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser couldn’t keep this up.
It turns out he decided to pick up that pace at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ expense. Boeser generated a hat trick and an assist in the Canucks’ 4-2 win, and he actually probably robbed himself of a fourth goal when he selflessly tried to set someone else up for an empty-netter.
Boeser isn’t the only member of the Canucks’ kids line (does it have an agreed-upon nickname yet?) who stood out on Saturday. Bo Horvat, the more established member, scored a goal and three assists. While Horvat is 22, Sven Baertschi is the grumpy old man of the trio at 25. Baertschi collected a trio of helpers himself.
So, Boeser is now at 13 points, Horvat has 11, and Baertschi also has 11 over 10 games. They were involved in all four of Vancouver’s goals tonight. They’re a huge part of the Canucks improving to 7-4-2, while Jacob Markstrom helped to curb the Penguins’ push to get back into the game.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this dominant performance was that it came against stars like Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang:
Crosby and Letang on the ice for all four goals against. Not a road trip to remember for either man.
This continues a passing of the torch in Vancouver, as consider this: Daniel and Henrik Sedin received less than 10 minutes of ice time apiece on Saturday. This was all-youth, and a brave decision by head coach Travis Green, who seems to be accelerating the Canucks’ ascent toward credibility.
Now at 8-6-2, you could see Crosby’s frustration, and not just due to a missed call late in the game. The Penguins mercifully end a five-game road trip with a 1-3-1 record.
Speaking of being on the road a lot, the Canucks will face a serious test this month. Vancouver will deal with 10 of its next 14 games away from home:
Mon, Nov 6 vs Detroit
Tue, Nov 7 @ Calgary
Thu, Nov 9 @ Anaheim
Sat, Nov 11 @ San Jose
Tue, Nov 14 @ Los Angeles
Thu, Nov 16 vs Vegas
Sat, Nov 18 vs St. Louis
Tue, Nov 21 @ Philadelphia
Wed, Nov 22 @ Pittsburgh
Fri, Nov 24 @ New Jersey
Sun, Nov 26 @ NY Rangers
Tue, Nov 28 @ NY Islanders
Thu, Nov 30 @ Nashville
The Canucks are off to a shockingly solid start, but we’ll get an even better idea of this team through that run.
Nights like these might be frustrating for the Penguins and a beautiful one for the Canucks, particularly their rising top trio of forwards. Time will tell if Vancouver can keep it going and if Pittsburgh can shrug off these early peaks and valleys.
Besides, it’s a long season, so Penguins fans should enjoy some comic relief:
Last season, Baertschi was a bright spot for a dismal Vancouver Canucks team, generating new career-highs in goals (18) and points (35) in 68 regular-season games.
The 25-year-old carried over some of that momentum early on, generating three points in seven games, but they were all assists. Sunday marked his best moment of 2017-18, as Baertschi scored his first two goals of the campaign (giving him five points in eight contests).
Bo Horvat is the honorable mention in the Canucks’ 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings, collecting his first two assists of the season. Jake Virtanen also found the net for his first goal of the season.
(As an aside, Derek Dorsett somehow has five goals already in 2017-18. Dorsett’s career-high is 12 goals, but he’s already in range of tying his second-best mark of seven.)
Highlight of the Night: Why not go with Baertschi’s two goals?
Factoid of the Night: This marks the fourth straight loss for the Red Wings, dropping them to 4-4-1 after a promising 4-1-0 start. But the hits could keep coming.
Beginning with Tuesday’s game against the Sabres in Buffalo, Detroit will play three straight road games and seven of their next eight away from home. The bright side is that they’ll enjoy a ton of contests at their expensive new pad starting in mid-November, but the next few weeks could really dim whatever optimism the Red Wings built up early on.
(For pro-tanking Red Wings fans, this might not be such a bad thing.)
Teams haven’t yet figured out how to play defense, goaltenders can be a little rusty, goal scoring briefly spikes and the season is still so young that we can’t really get a firm grasp on what teams are going to look like.
Which team off to a fast start is for real? Which slumping team is truly doomed? Should we pay attention to any of this so far because the early season results can lie to us.
That’s what we attempt to look at in our first installment of the PHT Power Rankings: Which teams are as good as they look, which teams are as bad as they look, and which teams have played better than their early terrible records.
At the top of the rankings we have the Toronto Maple Leafs, winners of four out of their first five and the highest scoring team in the league. Is Mike Babcock satisfied with the fact they are giving up nearly as many goals and chances as they score? Probably not. But these young kids can flat out fly and once they get turned loose there are not many defenses in the league that can slow them down.
From there, we break the 31 NHL teams down into four tiers: Teams as good as they look, teams likely to fall, teams likely to rise, and the teams at the bottom that are exactly what they look like.
As good as they look
1. Toronto Maple Leafs —Auston Matthews is better than the pre-draft hype. We knew he was a slam-dunk No. 1 pick. We knew he had All-Star potential. He is still better. And not by a little, either. Five goals and eight points in his first five games to start the season and a 58.6 percent Corsi mark. Just a dominant, dominant, dominant player.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning — Injuries, especially the season-ending one to Steven Stamkos, decimated this team a year ago. Fully healthy this is still a Stanley Cup contender.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets —Artemi Panarin is showing that he doesn’t need Patrick Kane next to him to produce and that is great news for the Blue Jackets. They needed a game-breaking forward up front, and now they have one.
4. Chicago Blackhawks — It has been the Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad show in Chicago this year. Just when you think the Blackhawks might start to slow down or that their run as one of the NHL’s top dogs was starting to come to an end, they find a way to stick around.
5. Los Angeles Kings — Is it possible that they just needed a new voice, a new system and a new approach? I have my doubts, but it is hard to argue with the results thus far … both the record and the underlying numbers.
6. Calgary Flames — If Mike Smith can give them competent goaltending (and so far he has!) this team could be a serious threat in the Western Conference, especially with that top-four on defense.
Fast start, but not as good as they look (Teams likely to fall)
7. St. Louis Blues — Pretty amazing start given the injury situation, but they have been absolutely crushed on the shot chart and you have to wonder how long they can withstand that.
8. New Jersey Devils —Nico Hischier gets all of the headlines as the No. 1 overall pick, but don’t sleep on defenseman Will Butcher. He already has eight assists in his first five games. An improved team for sure, but probably not one that is as good as its early record.
9. Ottawa Senators — The most confusing team in the league? Their run to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago was a shock. They were a double-overtime Game 7 on the road away from being in the Stanley Cup Final, but it wasn’t really a team that made you think they could do it again. Now, they have started the season with eight out of a possible 10 points without getting a single minute of play from Erik Karlsson. Stunning. They also have the second worst shot attempt numbers in the league. Not an encouraging sign for future play.
10. Detroit Red Wings — After missing the playoffs for the first time in more than two decades expectations were near an all-time low for the Red Wings this season. They are off to a great start, but this roster is still problematic.
11. Colorado Avalanche — That defense will not hold up. It just won’t. Have to be encouraged by Nail Yakupov’s start up front though.
12. Vegas Golden Knights — One of the best starts ever by an expansion team, but how long is it going to last? The best thing about James Neal’s start is what it is doing to his trade value for the deadline.
Slow start, but better than they look (Teams likely to rise)
13. Edmonton Oilers — Making them one of the odds on favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season is premature. Also premature? Writing them off after a slow start. They are the top possession team in the NHL and they still have Connor McDavid.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins — After dropping their first two games (where they gave up 15 goals!) they have won three out of their next four and seem to be starting to get back on track a little. They still need to make another move or two to fix that center depth.
15. Washington Capitals — Are they going to win the Presidents’ Trophy again? No. But they have three of the top offensive players in the NHL and Alex Ovechkin is still the best pure goal scorer in the league.
16. Nashville Predators —Filip Forsberg looks like he is well on his way to another 30-goal season and Scott Hartnell has looked like a steal of a pickup.
17. Montreal Canadiens — They have some question marks, but they have played significantly better than their early season record indicates. A true test of process vs. results. If the same process continues, the better results are going to come.
18. Minnesota Wild — They have earned at least one point in three of their first four games and Nino Niederreiter, arguably their best two-way player, has yet to hit the score sheet. He will be fine and so will they.
19. Boston Bruins — They are a top-heavy team, but the guys at the top of the roster can be some of the best in the league. Let’s see how they look when Patrice Bergeron and David Backes get back in the lineup.
20. Philadelphia Flyers — There is a lot of young talent on this team and they can be really good, really fast … if they get the goaltending.
21. Florida Panthers — Their possession numbers look fantastic so far and having a full season of a healthy Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov will be game-changing for them. Last season might have been the fluke.
22. Carolina Hurricanes — Only three games to go by at this point, but the roster looks good, the young talent seems to be for real. If they do not contend for a playoff spot this season something is very, very wrong.
23. San Jose Sharks — Four games into the season and Brent Burns and Joe Thornton have combined for only two assists. That will not continue.
24. New York Rangers — The results (1-5-0) are lousy, but like Montreal and Edmonton ahead of them they have played much better than that record indicates. Mika Zibanejad has been a real bright spot so far, already scoring five goals.
25. Anaheim Ducks — I know, they were in the Western Conference Finals. They have had back-to-back 100-point seasons. But they have just looked lousy so far. That can not continue, can it?
Exactly what they look like
26. Dallas Stars — Still not entirely sold on this team, even after another offseason of blockbuster moves. Sometimes you need to actually just win.
27. New York Islanders — Once John Tavares starts to get going things will get better, and Joshua Ho-Sang can be a fascinating player if they turn him loose. But after that it’s a pretty dull team.
28. Winnipeg Jets — This should be a good team. This looks like a good team on paper. They have great individual talent up and down the lineup But it never materializes on the ice.
29. Vancouver Canucks — Rebuilding team that isn’t really rebuilding and doesn’t have anybody that is truly exciting as a long-term building block. Bo Horvat is good, but with all due respect to him and his ability if he is your player and top scorer that is probably not a good situation to be in.
30. Buffalo Sabres — Five games into the season and an eight-year contract and Jack Eichel is already frustrated with losing. That is not a promising start.
31. Arizona Coyotes — Better days are ahead, but when you have a team with his many young players and so many new faces there are going to be some pretty fierce growing pains along the way. The Coyotes are experiencing that so far this season. First-year coach Rick Tocchet already had to apologize to the fans.
The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.
The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.