For some, including myself, it seemed as though the idea of hockey this NHL season was completely out of the question. Now one week into the season, it’s almost as if the lockout never happened. A gift from the heavens some would call it. All I can really say is I am beyond excited to finally watch hockey this year and take part in the fantasy leagues that usually consume my free time between the months of October to April.
With the first week now behind us, it’s nice to see the league take form and the stars of old and new lighting up the score boards. This year, the NHL offers something never seen before. A condensed season. With a handful of more games every given week, it adds new unforeseen elements to both stat watching and fantasy leagues that could make things very interesting. In addition to the condensed season, fewer games will add to the intensity of the playoff race. I’m predicting that the last few weeks of this season will be one of the closest and most fierce playoff hunts of the modern hockey era.
If you’re a hockey fan and not in a fantasy league, you’re truly missing out. I believe fantasy leagues open up doors for understanding and getting to know players and teams that you would normally overlook. When you pick a player, you kind of learn to love them. Depending on the season they have, you sort of develop a relationship with that player that you carry with you throughout their career. Especially in the case of rookie players.
So far this season, there are some players that are really standing out. For those of you that don’t know, Patrick Marleau has started off this season in record breaking form. In his first four games, he’s tallied 8 goals and 3 assists, scoring exactly 2 goals in every game. This has tied the NHL record for most consecutive multi-goal games to start a season. A feat that even The Great Wayne Gretzky never accomplished. If you happen to have Marleau on your fantasy team, consider trading him. I think it’s safe to say that his trade value will never be higher.
In fantasy hockey, the thing that often makes or breaks your team is the draft picks that come out in the later rounds. Capitalizing on breakout players and rookies is the key to winning championships. One rookie that has really impressed me is Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues. As of right now, Tarasenko has posted 4 goals and 3 assists and is standing at plus-4 after just five NHL starts. Remember the name, because I believe this kid is a superstar. I would recommend fishing for Tarasenko with a trade in hopes that someone will overlook his fantasy value.
Another young gun who I believe to have great waiver wire value is Zack Kassian of the Vancouver Canucks. While Kassian’s stats aren’t that impressive yet (3G, 0A), he was recently moved to a line with the Sedin twins and should start putting up some impressive numbers. Kassian is available in most leagues as of right now but his window is quickly closing.
Forward Daniel Winnik of Anaheim is also on the verge of a breakout season. So far, Winnik has posted 6 points (5G, 1A), and is plus-6 during his first four games with the Ducks. Last season, Winnik only scored 5 goals in 63 game appearances with Colorado. Like Kassian, Winnik is still available in most leagues.
One player that has really impressed me with his determination this season is Chicago Blackhawks standout Patrick Kane. After a controversial trip to Mifflin Street in Madison, Wisconsin, Kane vouched to cut out the offseason shenanigans and dedicate himself to the game. So far he has started the season extremely motivated and is currently tied for the third most points in the league with nine (2G, 7A). With their stars preforming well on the ice, the Blackhawks have started the season red hot with a 5-0-0 record.
One of the biggest disappointments in the league comes out of our nations capital. Former two time Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin has only posted one assist in his first four games as the Washington Capitals skid to a 0-3-1 start. While his production is bound to rise, this may be a good time to reach for Ovechkin via a trade.
Last but not least would be Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise. With the big expectations in Minnesota this season to do something great, I wasn’t sure if Parise would be as productive along side other star forwards like Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley. To my surprise, Parise has lived up to his name and his contract by posting 6 points in his first four games (3G, 3A). As this team figures things out and begins to mesh more on the power play, I only anticipate these numbers to rise.