Roman Josi

Getty

What fantasy hockey players should be grateful for

5 Comments

Ah, Thanksgiving. A time when families come together to overeat, try to ignore the more problematic elements of the holiday’s roots, watch lopsided football games, and get into arguments.

Not great, honestly, but kudos to my family specifically for at least adding pierogies to the mix.

With the American version of the holiday upon us (it’s in October in Canada … weird!), it seems wise to share gratitude for the players who are powering our fantasy hockey teams to greatness, or at least to help us avoid total mockery at the water cooler.*

Going for seconds, thirds

So far, 2017-18 has been The Year of The Top Lines. It can be seen mostly blatantly in noting that Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are battling for the top scoring spot in the NHL, while Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Jaden Schwartz are also in the top 10.

Much like the satisfaction of eating homemade sides instead of canned vegetables, the real winners have been the less-obvious members of lines who have been incredible values, and some of whom might deliver for a full season.

Schenn is an obvious example, with his 30 points in 22 games (not to mention 20 PIM and +19 rating) making him a blistering steal. His Yahoo pre-season ranking was 85th, and he likely went lower depending upon your given draft.

Sean Couturier might be the most delirious example so far, though. His yahoo ranking was 262, yet he’s ranked 18th by the same standards, as it’s clear that he’s taken the bull by the horns when it comes to getting an increased offensive role with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on his wings. Vladislav Namestnikov has been glorious, and it sure seems likely that’ll he remain with Stamkos and Kucherov as long as he’s healthy.

Micheal Ferland might spell his name in a funny way, but you’ll make fun of him less often if he’s on your team and manages to stay with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan over the long haul.

On that note, there are still some things to sort out. Will Kyle Connor be the guy that gets to play with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele more often than not? Can the Stars get a consistent third player (aside: we need a third [blank] to go with “second banana”) to dunk in opportunities from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, at least with Alex Radulov seemingly not being the right fit?

[Rotoworld: Breaking down the first quarter]

Really, the questions about duos makes you appreciate stable trios that much more, especially if you have one or both of them on your teams. You don’t see reasonable answers to the glorious combo of the Dany Heatley – Jason Spezza – Daniel Alfredsson very often in the salary cap era, after all.

Hopefully most of those top lines can at least maintain some of this ridiculous energy, as the dog days of the season will probably cause at least some regression. Sorry, didn’t mean to ruin the holiday spirit.

Trading goods

I can’t really go too long without thanking GM David Poile and others for spicing up the season with some trades. Don’t scoff at this being mentioned in fantasy, as trades can make the process more exciting *and* create new gems.

[The Rotoworld Hockey Podcast]

In six games with the Nashville Predators, Kyle Turris has five points, but I’m most thankful – and intrigued – to see gains from Kevin Fiala (six points in his past five games) and Craig Smith (six in his past six). Fiala and Smith will probably be more worthy of adds in deeper leagues, but it’s a situation to watch, preferably with popcorn.

Turris could also boost guys like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi in a delightful domino effect, so again, a nod of gratitude to Poile.

Big saves

Quite a few goalies are saving their teams’ bacon (or honey-baked ham, to fit the theme?), with Corey Crawford, John Gibson, and Mike Smith coming to mind, in particular. Imagine where the Anaheim Ducks would be without Gibson?

Also: thanks to Braden Holtby, who’s navigating the Capitals’ struggles to remain the new Henrik Lundqvist as far as reliable fantasy hockey star goalies go.

Avoiding turkeys

Finally, all but one owner in each league can be happy to avoid Brent Burns, an awesome, caveman-looking scoring sensation who’s been on a puzzling scoring slump. Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good, even beyond getting a piece of those red-hot lines.

(And hey, maybe you’ll be thankful when you trade for Burns at a discount rate, only to see him bounce back?)

* – For those who grumble about this being a lame gimmick for a fantasy hockey column, allow me to respond with this hex: I hope your Crazy Uncle shares extra ridiculous, patently offensive theories this time around.

And, if *you* are in the crazy uncle role, I hope that a know-it-all nephew totally schools you, to the point that even like-minded family members are giggling at your stammering responses.

Yeah, that’s right. I went there. Maybe all the gravy is making me edgy.

Enjoy the holiday, hockey fans.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

How Duchene, Turris are doing with new teams

Getty
2 Comments

If Matt Duchene wanted immediate revenge against the Colorado Avalanche, he couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

In his first two games as a member of the Ottawa Senators, Duchene faced his former team in a back-to-back set against the Avalanche. Funny how things work out, right?

Well, when you dig deeper, the situation is a little less scripted. He didn’t face his former teammates once in Ottawa and once in Colorado; instead, the two teams went all the way to Sweden for overseas games in November. One can imagine that this experience cut down on some of that awkwardness – that “first game in Colorado in the road locker room” will have to wait – but it also made it less-than-perfect.

Still, you might be wondering how it went for Duchene.

In his case, it’s something of a good news/bad news situation.

The Good

Duchene’s team won in both cases. The Senators took Friday’s contest 4-3 in OT and 4-3 on Saturday.

After going even (7-7) in the faceoff dot on Friday, Duchene reminded that he has quietly become one of the better guys at winning draws, going 11-3 during Saturday’s win. That second contest also gave the impression that he’s starting to settle in with the Sens, as he fired eight shots on goal in 16 minutes and 19 seconds of ice time.

Following the win – and also considering the travel – Duchene joked that he might “sleep for five days” when he gets home:

So far, it looks like Duchene is lining up with Alex Burrows and Mike Hoffman. Considering the amount of space Duchene could open up with his speed and the shooting talent of Hoffman, that duo is particularly intriguing for the Sens.

The Bad

Duchene wasn’t able to score a goal or an assist in either of the two games. If you’re the type who seeks instant gratification (or gambled on him big in Daily Fantasy), then that has to have been frustrating.

Plus/minus is a borderline obnoxious stat at times, but some will harp on his combined minus -3 in the two games against the Avalanche in Sweden.

On a personal note, he looks kind of weird as number 95. Agree/disagree?

***

While Duchene’s duo of debut games were a mixed bag, Kyle Turris enjoyed a more straightforward good time during his first game with the Nashville Predators.

Turris was named the first star of the Predators’ 5-4 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it wasn’t just because locals are so excited about how Turris can boost scoring. The 28-year-old scored a goal and an assist in that high-scoring, exciting game in Nashville.

Peter Laviolette wasn’t shy about deploying Turris. While overtime naturally enhances his ice time, it’s worth noting that Turris logged 21:38 TOI. About the only bummer was that he only received 1:18 of his time on the power play, and he might not be on the top unit for a while. (That could change if Laviolette decides to go with a four forward setup on the PP, but that would make for the bold move of choosing one of P.K. Subban or Roman Josi.)

Here’s the first goal of Turris’ Nashville tour:

A second line of Turris, Craig Smith, and Kevin Fiala seems awfully intriguing. Both Smith and Fiala could really benefit from Turris’ presence, as each guy already generates chances. Turris might just be able to add that “finishing touch” to their games.

***

The beauty of the Turris – Duchene – Avalanche trade is that everyone, to an extent, came out a “winner” on paper. Just considering the bouquet of futures Colorado GM Joe Sakic managed under all that duress.

Still, the big names involved will be judged by both individual and team factors. Each showed signs of doing well on a personal level, and their teams must have been delighted to go 3-for-3 so far.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Samuel Girard logged big minutes in his first two games with the Avalanche, collecting an assist.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Duchene owners win biggest in Turris trade, fantasy-wise

Getty

Let’s all take a moment to toast Nashville Predators GM David Poile.

When it comes to league-changing trades, Poile is on top of the NHL, and no one is even all that close. OK, Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin are up there, but while Poile wears a college graduate’s hat, those two sometimes don dunce caps.

Poile doesn’t just make trades, he generates headlines and injects some much-needed buzz into a league that lacks the movement of the NBA, where seismic shifts happen often enough to spoil hoops fans. Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. Some dented cans of vegetables for Filip Forsberg. And now this move, which nets the Predators Kyle Turris and delivers Matt Duchene from misery in Colorado to (insert question marks and happy faces) in Ottawa.

This post takes an early look at the fantasy dominoes that may fall/have fallen from this trade, but giving Poile a digital pat on the back was only the right thing to do first. Thanks Dave!

[Rotoworld on Clayton Keller’s Calder push]

Need for speed

Duchene ranked as one of my favorite sleepers coming into 2017-18 for three reasons: 1) his numbers, in my opinion, were bound to rebound after an unusually repugnant season, 2) he’s dual eligible, something that always gains my approval, and 3) it was reasonable to assume that he’d head for greener pastures.

In the case of playing with Senators speed demon Erik Karlsson, green means go for Duchene.

Imagine this scenario, something that will keep defensive-minded coaches up at night: Karlsson zips down the ice, getting the opposition off balance, and then sends a perfect set-up to Duchene, who can keep up. Then a lot of bad things happen to the other team, especially the opposing goalie.

Considering how hard the Senators went after Duchene, I’d wager he’ll inherit a lot of the big minutes and opportunities Turris received. Via Left Wing Lock, it looks like Duchene’s early linemates will be Zack Smith and, most enticingly, sniper Mike Hoffman.

Actually, scratch that; the most enticing element is still Duchene and Karlsson sharing the same ice.

One other thing to realize is that Duchene hasn’t been getting the best opportunities in Colorado for a while now. That was especially clear in 2017-18, as he ranked sixth among Avs forwards in power-play ice time, on average.

A mild loss for Turris, but a boost for Nashville

Early on, Turris’ linemates look quite intriguing with the Predators:

Still, Turris was logging 19:41 minutes per night with Ottawa, second only to all-around dynamo Mark Stone. With Ryan Johansen carrying that big contract and chemistry with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson, Turris slides into a(n appropriate) role as a second-line center. There might be some losses, although the upside is that he might face lesser competition.

[The Rotoworld NHL podcast]

Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala are both intriguing, as Turris could open opportunities for Smith (a solid sniper who could use a boost) and Fiala (an intriguing young player who showed signs of a breakthrough before suffering a grisly leg injury in the playoffs).

Nashville’s talented defensemen P.K. Subban and Roman Josi could enjoy a subtle bump, while the Preds might be able to give more goal support to goalies such as Pekka Rinne.

Avalanche questions

We’ll have to see if Samuel Girard figures into much of anything for the Avalanche, at least early on. Over the long-term, he’s quite interesting. (That said, Left Wing Lock lists him on a top pairing with Erik Johnson, so you never know; maybe the kid will continue his strong work from early looks with the Preds right away.)

Other Colorado players face interesting challenges and opportunities. Duchene’s presence was a boon for Nail Yakupov, so can the struggling former top pick maintain that resurgence without him?

Keep an eye on the likes of Sven Andrighetto, as even with Duchene’s influence being a little muted, someone will be asked to step into a heightened role. It’s plausible that they’ll replace Duchene by committee.

***

Trades like these really spice things up, both in fantasy and reality.

Let’s hope that there will be other moves to break down as this season goes along, especially as we start to approach the “dog days.” Other NHL GMs, feel free to pitch in a bit. As impressive as Poile’s run has been, he doesn’t have to be the only person on the dance floor.

Now picture Poile dancing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Turris trade shows Predators are going all-in for Stanley Cup

Getty
10 Comments

If there was any doubt, acquiring and then extending Kyle Turris made this clear: the Nashville Predators are going all-in to win a Stanley Cup. Parting ways with two very promising prospects is just part of why they’re in win-now mode (or something close to it).

The tantalizing thing for Nashville is that they now boast arguably the most complete roster in the NHL, at least with a healthy Ryan Ellis and Nick Bonino.

  • The quartet of Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm probably still stands as the class of the league. If not, they’re so close you have to squint to see the difference against who’s better.
  • Suddenly, the Predators look deep at forward, especially at center.

Predators GM David Poile might be right when he calls Turris “one of the best two-way centers” in the NHL. Peter Laviolette must be getting his mad science lab ready for this – or at least cleaning out his line blender? – as Turris generates a domino effect that could help other forwards.

Ryan Johansen gets some support, which shouldn’t be underrated as his numbers have suffered a bit this season, even as his line with Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson remains lethal.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

Turris can make a second line more dangerous with the likes of Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith, or perhaps Laviolette gets even more experimental than that? Either way, when healthy, Bonino seems like a much better fit as a third-line center. Other teams might have more dynamic forward groups, but the Predators no longer lack that necessary punch to win games.

Honestly, if I were David Poile, I’d consider trying to sign pending RFA Saros to a bargain extension, possibly allowing Saros to become the Matt Murray to Rinne’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

Big decisions coming (and big bargains going away)

With Turris in tow, the Predators are locked into several players for at least four years: Turris, Johansen, Forsberg, Arvidsson, Bonino, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm and Calle Jarnkrok. According to Cap Friendly, the Predators have $53.1M going to 12 players in 2019-20 and $43.1M to just eight in 2020-21.

Some of those contracts are outright steals, but even so, those commitments may force others out, eventually. There are some key choices coming soon, making it that much more obvious for Nashville to go win-now.

Significant names expiring after 2018-19: Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis, and Kevin Fiala (Fiala will be an RFA).

With a $2.5M cap hit, Ryan Ellis ranks as one of the NHL’s most staggering bargains. These are the types of deals that give you an edge, but it’s ending soon, and you can’t begrudge Ellis if he wants to get paid what he’s worth. That might end up being too much for Nashville.

Then again, Rinne’s $7M expires in the same summer of 2019. Poile must determine what to do with Saros and Rinne, and those net deadlines aren’t far away.

Key deals expiring after 2019-20: Roman Josi and Craig Smith.

Much like Ellis, Josi is a bargain at $4M, but that goes away in three seasons.

Maybe Poile is just planning to move money from the likes of Rinne and Smith to the likes of Ellis, Josi, and Saros? Even if that works out, the point is that Nashville would possibly need to go top-heavy, losing some of the edge they have now.

Poile is pushing the right buttons

The overall point is not that the Predators can only complete for a title between now and 2018-19 or 2019-20.

We’ve seen teams enjoy deep runs when it seemed like their peaks passed; it’s easy to forget that the 2015-16 San Jose Sharks were far from a favorite to represent the West when they did.

Still, the Predators can look to other champions to see some examples of small windows of bargains paying off. When their rival the Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in decades, they did it as rookie contracts were expiring for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Poile seems shrewd enough to keep his Predators in the thick of things for a while, but from here, the next few years represent Nashville’s biggest window to win it all. From there, their ceiling could get shorter.

MORE: Turris on Ottawa contract talks: ‘very apparent things weren’t going to work out’

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: McDavid leads Oilers; Rinne celebrates birthday with win

Getty Images
3 Comments

Player of the Night: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers captain registered an assist in all three periods helping Edmonton to a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. After starting the night tied for 30th in NHL scoring, he now sits tied for fifth. According to the NHL, McDavid has now recorded at least three points in a game 17 times since the 2015-16 season.

Highlight of the Night:

Taylor Hall came this close to scoring an own goal in his return to Edmonton:

MISC:

• During their Hockey Fights Cancer night, the Oilers invited Brian Boyle to take part in the ceremonial puck drop before their game:

• The Oilers won 44 of 66 face-offs.

Adam Larsson‘s stat line: 1 assist, 3 SOG, 13 hits, 6 blocked shots, 23:07 TOI.

• Before he almost scored in his own net, Hall tallied his first goal against his old team:

• Five different Nashville Predators scored as they held off the Anaheim Ducks during a 5-3 victory. Pekka Rinne made 35 stops and assisted on P.K. Subban‘s empty netter to help celebrate his 35th birthday.

Scott Hartnell, who scored Nashville’s opening goal, suited up for the 1,200th game of his NHL career.

John Gibson had no chance on this Roman Josi laser:

• Nifty primary assist here by Derek Grant:

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Edmonton 6, New Jersey 3
Nashville 5, Anaheim 3

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.