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Fantasy Hockey: Goalies and other risky picks for 2018-19

So far, PHT highlighted sleepers and players due for rebounds in fantasy hockey. Between those two lists, you’ll find quite a few strong value propositions.

Pushing people up the ladder naturally means that someone must go down a few rungs, and that’s where this post comes in.

Before we dive in, please note: none of this is to say that these players are “bad.” Fantasy hockey is ultimately about value, which means making educated guesses about players who are being drafted too soon or being passed up by too many people.

Such a list, then, could be even more vulnerable to changes than the more optimistic sleepers and bounce-back years. After all, “reaching” for a goalie is a lot more reasonable if, say, there are five skater stats and five goalie stats in your league.

[More Fantasy: Pick up the Rotoworld Draft Guide]

Hopefully these general guidelines can help you in just about any format. At worst, it’s a good idea to question things rather than just defaulting to whoever is ranked higher in your draft app.

Reasonable choices, but just too high for goalies

Look, if you make a couple of picks and then decide you just CANNOT DEAL with a lack of goalies, I understand. Just realize that, ultimately, I personally only view there being two semi-reliable “premium” netminders: Andrei Vasilevskiy and Sergei Bobrovsky.

There’s a lot to like with those choices, yet there are issues. Rinne’s struggled many times during his career, and now he must fend off a fantastic backup/goalie-of-the-future in Juuse Saros. Hellebuyck was fantastic, yet has a limited track record, and no longer enjoys contract year motivation. Rask stumbled last season, Andersen plays behind an up-and-down defense, and Gibson’s dealt with injuries and might need to overcome a dicey Ducks team.

Personally, I’d feel comfortable going with a skater in that range, instead. As two examples, Rinne’s ADP lands him right before Blake Wheeler and Brent Burns, while you can grab Johnny Gaudreau, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Artemi Panarin instead of, say, Hellebuyck.

[More Fantasy: Rotoworld’s DFS Toolkit]

I like Martin Jones’ situation, and he’s fine, but I’m not blown away by him, either. If you’re considering a goalie with such a prominent pick, you need to think that he could very well win the Vezina.

Sound the alarms

In a way, it’s comforting that hockey fans still hold Price in a high regard, as it resists some of the “What have you done for me lately?” culture of sports. There’s also the chance that Montreal could exceed expectations amid another dour offseason of dismal moves by Marc Bergevin.

The overall picture of Price is too risky for a top-50 pick, as Price hasn’t performed that well and/or has dealt with striking injury concerns lately.

Quick had a great season in 2017-18, and if healthy, should provide volume, if nothing else. Still, this Kings team could regress out of the playoffs, and Quick’s track record of providing quality along with all that quantity is suspect at best. At least when we’re talking about premium picks. You could get a premium center like Jack Eichel or Mark Scheifele in that range.

“MAF” was absolutely dazzling last season, carrying over an honestly incredible regular season to an almost uniformly impeccable playoff run. (Sure, he struggled a bit against Washington, but Fleury was outstanding overall. As close to heroic as you can get … you know, stopping pucks.)

Still, MAF is 33, rounding out a group of older goalies (Quick is 32, Price is 31). With increased age comes increased risks for injuries and physical decline. Also, the Golden Knights could stink like they were expected to last season, for all we know.

Goalies are already dangerous to draft early, but this trio worries me the most of the top 50 ADP.

Skaters, maybe another goalie or two

In Yahoo formats, Nashville’s first-line forward seems to settle into the 30 range (36 ADP), which seems more or less fine. I’d be a bit more excited about the ceiling of, say, Eichel or Scheifele, but we’re talking slight difference here.

The sticker shock happens in ESPN, however, as I’ve seen him ranked 16th. Sorry, but I’d much rather have Jamie Benn, Steven Stamkos, or Taylor Hall in that range.

At this point, people bash “Wild Bill” for being overrated so often, I now believe that he’s underrated. Karlsson has talent, and if he can stick with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, a 20-goal season is reasonable.

But he’s being drafted as if he can at least parallel his breakout(of nowhere) 43-goal, 78-point campaign, as his ADP is 61.3. Judging by other players drafted around him, instead of rolling the dice in true Vegas fashion, I’d recommend that you make sure you get at least one elite defenseman in this range, if you haven’t already. I wouldn’t be stunned if Shayne Gostisbehere (67.6) or John Klingberg (69.1) ended up being the top fantasy hockey defensemen of 2018-19, honestly, and they’d be much safer bets than Karlsson. Just saying.

I don’t totally dismiss the possibility that Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers are due for positive regression this season. The problem is that, much like with Carey Price, too-large bets are being made that Talbot will rebound, as his ADP is 75.

My guess is that a lot of people witness a rush on goalies, panic, and settle upon Talbot. Honestly, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if Antti Raanta (a sleeper pick) has a better season, and his ADP is 135.7.

Now, if you’re confident about the Oilers and Talbot’s available around pick, say, 100? Sure, why not.

Lightning round of misgivings and worthy notes

  • Patrik Laine (6.8) – Is there some Winnipeg edict to try to get value out of players while also keeping opportunities down while they’re not under long-term contracts? If so, that’s cagey, kind of evil, and sort of impressive.

Laine is awesome, and he could easily justify being a top-10 pick, but the Jets give him limited ice time (his reps actually went down from his rookie workload by about a minute-and-a-half per night). Yes, Winnipeg boasts a bounty of talented forwards, yet it still feels weird that Laine gets the short straw.

Anyway, when you’re talking about your top picks, being sure is pretty important. Maybe he’ll take off CURIOUSLY after signing an extension? Hmmm …

  • Evgeni Malkin (13.9) – Strictly an injury concern here.
  • Patrice Bergeron (41.5) – Like Malkin, Bergeron was snubbed from “The NHL 100” list, in my opinion. Both are great players, yet they’ve taken their lumps. Bergeron missed 18 games last season and already enters 2018-19 with lingering issues.
  • Brock Boeser, Mikko Rantanen, Mathew Barzal – All three are very, very good young players. Dazzling even. Still, they’re going very high in drafts, and there are slight concerns about them stumbling in encore performances.

I’m not saying don’t draft either one of the three, but maybe wait a little while.

  • Ilya Kovalchuk (77.8) – If you’re like me, you’re jazzed that Kovalchuk is back. It’s like a good friend moving back into town, only without those glances at your larger belly.

That said, Kovalchuk is 35. I’d rather let someone else fit the bill in case he doesn’t really “have it” as much any longer, at least in such a lofty range. Otherwise, you might get the same feeling with Kovalchuk as you do when you realize that you’ve grown apart from your old pal.

(Sheesh, this got sad all of a sudden.)

  • Corey Perry, Seth Jones, other recent injury worries – As always, be careful about injuries. Sometimes a player can have a Yahoo note next to their name that amounts to them having a broken nail. Other times, they could miss a ton of time. How much of a loss does Jones suffer for missing at least one month? That’s up to you to decide, but my feeling is “quite a bit,” especially since he might be nagged by the injury even once he plays.

***

Anyway, that’s enough mild negativity for now. Are there any “reaches” that really stand out to you in fantasy drafts, or rankings? Feel free to share your tidbits in the comments.

MORE:
Sleepers, bargains for 2018-19
2018-19 bounce back candidates

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.

PHT’s 2018-19 Central Division Preview

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(The 2018-19 NHL season is almost here. This week Pro Hockey Talk will be previewing all four divisions looking at strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

Atlantic Division Preview
Metropolitan Division Preview
Pacific Division Preview

It’s been widely regarded as the toughest (and arguably the most talented) division in the NHL, and the Central Division certainly lived up to that moniker last season, sporting the top two teams league-wide in the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets, finishing with 117 and 114 points, respectively. The division doesn’t look like it will take a step back this season, either.

It’s one of the most interesting arms races in the NHL and there are no signs of that slowing down.

What will the division look like this year? Let’s take a look:

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: 

Better or Worse: This one depends on how the Corey Crawford situation plays out. It appears he’s getting close to returning, but it takes one puck or one bump in the crease to send Chicago’s season into a spiral again. Cam Ward is a serviceable backup, if not still a fringe starter in the NHL, so Chicago has that going for them at the moment.

The ‘Hawks are only getting older. See: Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, etc. Jonathan Toews’ production is slipping. Patrick Kane is likely still going to put in work, but I’m not certain it will be enough.

Strengths: Goaltending, if Crawford plays. His numbers last season were otherworldly until injuries derailed his bid for the Vezina. Ward, as mentioned above, should be a solid backup that could allow Crawford to rest a little more throughout the season but Crawford needs to play for the Blackhawks to have a shot.

Weaknesses: Defense. Keith and Seabrook at the team’s top defensive pairing and aren’t getting younger and are playing more minutes than what would be considered optimal. Both are overworked and it showed last year. Adding Brandon Manning over the summer offers some depth on the back end, but it’s simply not what it used to be in Chicago.

2017-18 Highlight: One name: Scott Foster.

MVP Candidate: Patrick Kane. He’s still one of the best playing the game currently, a point-per-game player that can put the Blackhawks on his back on any given night.

Playoffs or Lottery: Lottery. The Central Division is simply too good to allow mediocre teams into the playoffs.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: 

Better or Worse: Was it a fluke? A team that was dismal a year prior went on to make the playoffs with their last possible chance on the final day of the regular season and then looked pretty darn good against the Nashville Predators at times in the first round.

They added depth in Matt Calvert and Ian Cole and made things interesting in the crease after acquiring Philipp Grubauer via trade. Can they build off last season, or will they experience the bumps young teams do as they grow together? There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Strengths: Special teams were a tremendous asset to the Avalanche last season. They finished eighth on the power play at 21.9 percent and fourth on the penalty kill at 83.3 percent. Those are some solid numbers from a young team like the Avs.

Weaknesses: The expectation that Nathan MacKinnon (and his line) needs to do it all. We saw it last year, and the Avalanche made the playoffs (barely) because of it. But that can’t be the expectation going forward. They’re still a team rebuilding, so the expectation is that will be cured with time.

2017-18 Highlight: Clinching a playoff berth in Game 82. (Don’t miss Landeskog getting mauled by his teammates after the clinching empty-netter.)

MVP Candidate: Nathan MacKinnon. Some say he got robbed of the Hart last year. He put the team on his back on the way to a playoff spot.

Playoffs or Lottery: Unfortunately, a couple teams have gotten better around them and that’s pushed the Avalanche out of the playoff spot and into the lottery.

DALLAS STARS:

Better or Worse: It has to get better, right? A new coaching style courtesy of Jim Montgomery might just do wonders for this team. It’s not like the talent isn’t there. They have one of the best top lines in all of hockey. Simply, if the Stars can score more, they have the rest of the tools to be a playoff team. A top 10 defense and solid goaltending are in place. Score. More. Goals.

Strengths: Defense. This seems to be a theme in this division. Dallas, despite their inability to score outside of their top line, was consistent on the backend, allowing the sixth fewest goals against in the league. Part of that is John Klingberg and Co. The other part is Ben Bishop. They had a decent penalty kill and allowed the fourth fewest number of shots per game.

Weaknesses: The Stars simply need more goals. It was their burden last season. They simply couldn’t find the back of the next enough to win hockey games. The teams’ top power-play unit needs to be better than their 19th ranking last season.

2017-18 Highlight: Here’s Jordie Benn hitting brother Jamie while their parents were in the stands to watch their sons play. Classic.

MVP Candidate: Tyler Seguin. No contract worries to think about. Just a sheet of ice and a swath of opportunities for goals.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs. I simply don’t believe the Stars were as bad as their record showed last season. The switch of Hitchcock to Montgomery is a big one. And, to harp on the goals again, the Stars are a few more of those away from being a playoff team given their defense and goaltending.

MINNESOTA WILD:

Better or Worse: Better because Ryan Suter will be healthy. Better because they will start the season with Zach Parise.

Suter was ruled out for the rest of the season on March 31 and could only watch as the Winnipeg Jets decimated the Wild in the playoffs. Suter’s return is big for the team that added some depth in the offseason. The Wild dealt with a litany of injuries last season to top players such as Parise (who missed many games due to offseason back surgery), Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle. While Eric Staal may not score 42 goals again, a healthy Wild team is a dangerous Wild team.

Strengths: Devan Dubnyk has been rock solid in goal, and couple that with the Wild’s stingy defense, and there’s no reason to think he won’t have another great year again. The Wild are a good defensive team that can also score a pile of goals.

Weaknesses: The Wild are their own worst enemy. Minnesota is a good team that just can’t figure it out in the postseason. They finished 11th in goals for last season but only scored nine in five playoff games against the Jets. You can only shoot yourself in the foot so many times before it falls off. Calling on Bruce Boudreau to figure that out — it’s his job.

2017-18 Highlight: Eric Staal was sensational last season. Here’s a five-point night that included a hat trick for good measure.

MVP Candidate: Matt Dumba. A workhorse defenseman who anchors the power play and can score. He achieved career highs in goals with 14 and points with 34 last season and could take another step toward that elite plateau this year.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs. They showed even without star players for various lengths last season, they had the depth to find a way in the back door. The Wild are a great team that shouldn’t have an issue making the playoffs.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS:

Better or Worse: They added a veteran presence on the backend in Dan Hamuis and have Eeli Tolvanen to look forward to upfront. They’re basically the same team that was in the Cup Final two years ago and have all that experience to lean on once again this season. They’re better through experience and a couple of added pieces that could finally fit this puzzle together.

Strengths: There’s still no better defensive core in hockey, right? Josi. Subban. Ellis. Ekholm – their top four is the envy of the NHL. They added third-pairing depth in veteran defenseman Dan Hamhuis, too. It heads into the regular season as the best back end in hockey (with San Jose hot on their heels).

Weaknesses: The Predators are one of those teams with few flaws. Adept at scoring, solid at defense and proficient at goaltending. Where’s the weakness? It could come from Pekka Rinne. I know, the Vezina winner from this past season? He’s set to turn 36 and struggled in the playoffs when the Predators needed him the most. Juuse Saros should help reduce the workload. That’s good, because if the Predators are going to win in their current window, they need Rinne at his very best at the most important time of the year.

2017-18 Highlight: The Knob Save (Josh Morrissey caught some mean whiplash on the play).

Bonus round: Viktor Arvidsson’s pre-game marriage proposal win.

MVP Candidate: Filip Forsberg. Became a point-per-game player last season even after missing time due to injury, and set a career high in assists.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs, a no-brainer. They’re one of two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the Central Divison.

ST. LOUIS BLUES:

Better or Worse: The Blues were in upgrade mode all summer, adding the likes of Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon, while welcoming back David Perron after his year in Vegas.

The Blues were on the bubble last season, and may have made the playoffs if they sort of give up around the trade deadline and deal Paul Stastny away. The Blues added scoring in the offseason, which will help their bottom-third showing in goals-for, and should help equate to more wins.

Strengths: Undeniably, it’s St. Louis’ defense. On a team with a starting goaltender that had a .906 save percentage, the Blue still gave the sixth-fewest number of goals last season. That’s no small feat, given the struggles Allen achieved last season.

Weaknesses: It has to be in goal. Jake Allen is the ultimate Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde goaltender. There are days where he appears elite and days where he belongs in the American Hockey League. If Allen can be steady, the Blues are going to be a playoff team. If not, welcome to the lottery.

2017-18 Highlight: Brayden Schenn‘s remarkable season.

MVP Candidate: Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s time for him to hit 40 goals again.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs. Despite the question of Allen, the Blues just look like a solid team in front of him, one that can potentially make up for any shortcomings their goaltending may have.

WINNIPEG JETS:

Better or Worse:  Better by virtue of the team getting one year old and coming into this season armed with the knowledge of what it takes to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and then what it takes to make a deep run, as the Jets did last season.

And it should be noted that their Western Conference Final elimination should serve in the growth department. Learning to lose and learning from losing can be just as important. They lost Paul Stastny, but were a good team prior to Stasny’s arrival at the trade deadline last season.

Strengths: Winnipeg’s offense was one of the best in the NHL last season and there’s no reason that should change, barring catastrophic injuries to the likes of Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. Laine could easily top 50 this season, and Wheeler and Scheifele are point-per-game players.

Winnipeg’s power play is lethal and they found secondary scoring in abundance last season. Their projected fourth line (or third, depending on how you look at it) was one of the top 10 lines in the league in terms of puck possession, goals-for percentage and expected goals-for percentage.

Weaknesses: The Jets have few faults, which is what you’d expect from a team that won 52 games last season. That said, questions marks on defense have dominated training camp. The team is trying Tyler Myers out on the left side with Dustin Byfuglien and early impressions aren’t favorable. The loss of Toby Enstrom, who the Jets couldn’t afford to re-sign, has created a hole that needs filling.

2017-18 Highlight: Winning Game 7 in emphatic fashion in the second round against the Nashville Predators to book a trip to the Western Conference Final.

MVP Candidate: Mark Scheifele. A 16-game absence robbed him from a solid run at the Hart last season. Wheeler will be in the mix, too, but Scheifele seems poised for a season that could creep close to the century mark in terms of points.

Playoffs or Lottery: Playoffs, and perhaps an improvement on their trip to the Western Final last year. They’re a Stanley Cup contender.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seguin becomes Stars’ highest-paid player, gets Super Mario tribute

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The Dallas Stars signed Tyler Seguin to a contract extension on Thursday, which is already fantastic news. The way they did it – and some of the details – make it even better.

Especially greedy (and honestly, probably unrealistic) Stars fans would’ve hoped that Seguin would sign at or below Jamie Benn‘s $9.5 million cap hit. That didn’t happen, yet Seguin isn’t the Stars’ most expensive signing by much. The team announced that it’s an eight-year extension that carries a $9.85M AAV.

“It was a process, a learning process this summer — learning the whole side of business negotiations,” Seguin said. “But at the end of the day, I knew where I wanted to be, I knew where home was and that was here in Dallas.”

Honestly, the best part really might be the way they announced it. The team did an extended riff on NES-era Super Mario, with the key exception being that His Extension Is Not At Another Castle.

Bravo, Stars.

(You may ask: “Bravo for the terms of the deal or the presentation?” The answer, of course, is both.)

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman notes that Seguin’s contract features a full no-movement clause:

Seguin becomes a key part of some significant long-term investments in Dallas:

Seguin, 26 ($9.85M through 2026-27)
Benn, 29: ($9.5M through 2024-25)
Alexander Radulov, 32 ($6.25M through 2021-22)
Ben Bishop, 31 ($4.917M through 2022-23)
John Klingberg, 26 ($4.25M through 2021-22)

The Stars saw Benn’s bargain $5.25M cap hit end after 2016-17, while Seguin will enter 2017-18 on the final year of his own steal of a $5.75M cap hit. With that, the last remaining super-deal is that of Klingberg, who’s essentially an $8-9M defenseman making $4.25M in AAV.

Can the Stars finally deliver on their immense potential now that (almost) everyone’s gotten paid? That’s the burning question, but at least Dallas doesn’t have to worry about a John Tavares situation, or anything like what the Columbus Blue Jackets are dealing with regarding Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Want an extra helping of joy, Stars fans? Let’s end with Seguin and puppies:

via Getty

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.

PHT Power Rankings: Non-playoff teams most likely to make postseason return

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It is the summer and with no games being played at the moment it is awfully difficult to rank the NHL’s 31 teams on a weekly basis. So the PHT Power Rankings will spend the next month taking a look back at some of the best (and worst) developments in the NHL, both past and present. Best trades. Worst trades. Best all-time teams. Any other random things we feel like ranking. This week we look at which of the NHL’s non-playoff teams from this past season that are most likely to make a return to the playoffs.

There were 15 teams in the NHL that missed the playoffs during the 2017-18 NHL season and you can guarantee that at least one or two from that group will bounce back and make the postseason this year. There were five such teams a year ago with the Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Winnipeg Jets all making a return to the playoffs, with the Jets going all the way to the Western Conference Final.

In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we rank all 15 non-playoff teams from a year ago in order of which one of them is most likely to see a similar turnaround.

1. St. Louis Blues — The Blues were right there in 2017-18, falling just one point short of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference even after trading Paul Stastny at the deadline. They bolstered their lineup this offseason by trading for a great two-way center in Ryan O'Reilly, bringing back David Perron off a career year in Vegas for yet another stint, and signing Tyler Bozak in free agency. That is suddenly a pretty good looking offensive lineup to go with a team that was sixth in the league in goals against last season. Honestly, it would probably be a surprise if this team did not make the playoffs in 2018-19.

2. Florida Panthers –– The Panthers were one of the best teams in the league over the second half of last season, finishing on a 25-8-2 run over their final 35 games, and like the Blues, ended up falling just a single point short of the second wild card spot in their conference. With Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Aaron Ekblad, they have a really good young core in place, while Evgenii Dadonov proved to be an outstanding pickup last summer. They added another top-six winger to the mix with the trade for Mike Hoffman. Whether that is enough to close the gap on the top-three in the Atlantic Division remains to be seen (all of Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston were at least nine points ahead of Florida in the standings last year), but they should be right in the thick of the wild card chase. They’re not going to maintain the pace they played at over the second half of the season, but they’re also probably not as bad as they were in the first half.

3. Carolina Hurricanes — Trading Jeff Skinner is going to hurt the offense, but they have high hopes for 19-year-old Martin Necas and No. 2 overall draft pick Andrei Svechnikov. The real hope for optimism here though is on defense, a unit that looks to be absolutely loaded on paper after the offseason additions of Dougie Hamilton and Calvin de Haan, while still (for now) holding on to Justin Faulk. The Hurricanes were already one of the best shot suppression teams in the league and just need to figure out a way to get respectable goaltending (and let’s be honest, Scott Darling can not possibly struggle more than he did a year ago). Yes, we say this stuff about them every year, but one of these years it finally has to happen.

4. Dallas Stars — Even though the Stars did not make a big splash move during the offseason (they are, however, one of the teams rumored to have had interest in Erik Karlsson) they still made a pretty significant change to the team when they brought in Jim Montgomery to replace Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. The Stars have been one of the league’s most consistently disappointing teams given the high-end talent they have at the top of the roster (currently with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Klingberg, and Alexander Radulov) and the blockbuster moves they make every offseason. Yet every year they always seem to just settle in around the playoff bubble as a 90-92 point team. They are always so close, yet seemingly so far.

5. Chicago Blackhawks — The success or failure of the 2018-19 Chicago Blackhawks likely hinges on whether or not starting goalie Corey Crawford is healthy and able to play. When he was in the lineup last season, the Blackhawks were pretty good. When he went out of the lineup with a still mysterious upper-body injury they were of the worst teams in the league. Given the decline of the Blackhawks’ defense and their forward depth they are going to have to rely on goaltending quite a bit to carry them. A healthy Crawford might be able to do that. Their Plan B in net may not be able to.

6. Edmonton Oilers — It is stunning that the team with the most dominant offensive player in the world missed the playoffs by nearly 20 points last season. Also stunning that we are still not sure if they are good enough to be a playoff team this season. While it was the special teams units that mostly sunk the Oilers’ chances in 2017-18, this was still a pretty mediocre 5-on-5 team and they really didn’t make any significant changes to that roster. Given what has happened in previous years when they tried to make significant changes (Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson; signing Milan Lucic; Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome) maybe that is a good thing. Flawed as this team is, they do still have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl at the top of the lineup and there is always a chance they could go off and carry the team back to the playoffs.

[Related: 10 NHL people that need to have a better season in 2018-19]

7. Calgary Flames — The 2017-18 season was a giant disappointment for the Flames after there were such high preseason hopes. They were bringing back a really good young core with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk, and spent a ton of money and assets to bring in Travis Hamonic and Mike Smith to shore up the back end. Even though the three young forwards all played well (and Gaudreau was fantastic) everything else just kind of fell flat. James Neal is a nice addition up front, but trading Hamilton is a big blow to the defense even with Noan Hanifin and Elias Lindholm coming back in return. Smith was okay in his first year as their starting goaltender, but he is entering his age 36 season and just being “okay” may not be good enough.

8. Arizona Coyotes — The Coyotes finished with the worst record in the Western Conference and the third worst record overall, but they finished really strong, beat a lot of really good teams, and have a ton of young talent in place. When healthy, Antti Raanta was as good as any goalie in the NHL last season and if he can come close to duplicating that performance over a full year he could be a game-changer for the Coyotes. Another potential game-changer: Dylan Strome, the third overall pick from 2015. After dominating the OHL and AHL the past couple of years he showed some of that ability at the NHL level down the stretch run of the regular season. He is still a big-time talent. They also have what should be a strong 1-2 punch down the middle with Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk. They are not all the way there yet, but if a few things break their way (Raanta being as good as he showed last year; Strome taking a big step forward) they could be a big surprise team in the Western Conference.

9. Buffalo Sabres — A lot was made over their return for O’Reilly, but other than Tage Thompson, that was very much a quantity over quality deal and is not something that is likely to change for the fortunes of the team anytime soon. If anything, it made them a little worse. Fortunately, that was not the only trade they made over the summer. Conor Sheary will not have Sidney Crosby next to him in Buffalo so he remains sort of a mystery, but they ended up getting Skinner from Carolina for a really good price. In the end, they lost one big-time player, picked up another, and have a bunch of question marks including Carter Hutton, their new starting goalie. Jack Eichel will still be great, though. So, honestly, probably expect more of the same.

10. New York Rangers — The rebuild is well underway and it is very likely that even more veterans will get moved before the trade deadline this season (Mats Zuccarello? Kevin Hayes?). Playing in a division that is absolutely loaded at the top it just seems like the playoffs are a real long shot, even with Henrik Lundqvist in net.

11. Montreal Canadiens — Their best and probably only hope is that Carey Price plays like the 2014-15 version Carey Price. Since that is still always a possibility that probably puts them ahead of a few other teams in the league that do not have Carey Price.

12. Vancouver Canucks — Vancouver spent the offseason acting like a team that is a playoff contender by spending big money on its bottom-six. This is not a playoff contender. Brock Boeser looks great, Bo Horvat is pretty good, they have some intriguing prospects, but it is still not a very good team overall. And something that seems to get overlooked is that Henrik and Daniel Sedin were still pretty solid last season (two of their top-three scorers), and they are not coming back.

13. Detroit Red Wings — They got a gift in the draft when Filip Zadina fell to them at No. 6 overall, but this situation is still very bleak as they are spending a ton of money on a team that is just not very good. They accumulated a lot of draft picks, but this is going to be a long, painful rebuild.

14. New York Islanders — They lost their best player (John Tavares) in free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs and spent the entire offseason replacing him with fourth-liners to go with all of the other fourth-liners they already had. Mathew Barzal is a worthy franchise cornerstone, but he will not be able to do it all by himself.

15. Ottawa Senators — There is absolutely nothing to be excited about here This was one of the worst teams in the league a year ago, has already lost one of its top scorers this offseason, and it only seems to be a matter of when, and not if, Erik Karlsson gets traded. Matt Duchene and Mark Stone are also entering the final year of their contracts so they, too, could be on the move at some point. This looks like a lottery team.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Lindros backpedals; Karlsson betting on himself

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Summer is for pre-season rankings. Here’s every NHL starting goaltender ranked from one to 31. (The Hockey News)

• Eric Lindros recants, clarifies comments about taking body checking out of hockey completely. (The Province)

• It appears the end of the road is coming for Niklas Kronwall. (Sportsnet)

• Another chapter in the saga of Erik Karlsson: If the Sens commit to him, would others commit to the Sens? (Sporting News)

• In moves that won’t make the Oilers better, Edmonton signs Scottie Upshall to a professional tryout contract (The Score)

John Klingberg appears to like new head coach Jim Montgomery. (NHL.com)

• Do the Arizona Coyotes have the best roster in the NHL? (Hockey Buzz)

• Nine ways the injury to Andrej Sekera has changed the Edmonton Oilers’ game plan. (Edmonton Journal)

William Karlsson, scorer of many goals, is betting on himself after signing a one-year extension in Vegas. (Sportsnet)

• It’s the most debated bit in hockey these days: analytics. (The Sports Daily)

• Renaissance in Motor City being led by Dylan Larkin. (The Detroit News)

• Jeff Blashill needs to improve to warrant a contract extension. (Octopus Thrower)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck