By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
Welcome to The One-Timer, the repository for major hockey issues and how they relate to fantasy. Sometimes, it’ll be one “hot topic,” while other editions may cover multiple subjects or rankings.
So far, the main theme in the NHL has been related to surprises and disappointments. Viewers have been wowed by Vegas and impressed with New Jersey. Vancouver has pleasantly shocked everyone and Colorado seems to be falling back to expectation. On the flip side, the Rangers have been horrendous. Ditto for Montreal, but we all knew it would have problems scoring. And don’t worry too much about Edmonton, as it’s starting to figure it out — the last thing the league needs is to have one of its marquee players stuck on a team that isn’t contending.
For this installment, let’s look at two of the biggest overachievers and assess the short and long-term fantasy outlooks for some of their players.
Vegas Golden Knights
Everything’s coming up Golden in the Silver State. Vegas’s outlook heading into the season was more positive compared to previous expansion teams, but no one could’ve predicted an 8-1-0 start. In a city known for its lights, many are wondering when the Golden Knights’ bright beginning will eventually flame out.
Up front, Vegas has been led by proven performers James Neal (10 points), Reilly Smith (seven), and David Perron (seven). Neal is the top forward selection, with Jonathan Marchessault (three goals, one assist in six games) as the next best option. And after plenty of preseason hype, it appears the brief Vadim Shipachyov experiment (one goal in three appearances) is approaching a conclusion with the Russian center asking to be shipped out.
Luca Sbisa and Nate Schmidt lead all Vegas D-men with six points, while Colin Miller and Brad Hunt have combined for seven power-play points. If we were to rank these four in terms of fantasy desirability, Schmidt would qualify as the top choice with Miller a close second.
Losing both Marc-Andre Fleury (3-1-0, 2.48 GAA, .925 SV%) and Malcolm Subban (2-0-0, 2.06 GAA, .936 SV%) hasn’t hurt Vegas’s fortunes, as Oscar Dansk (3-0, 1.35 GAA, .960 SV%) has stepped in as the savior. Fleury should receive the bulk of the starts once healthy.
Down the Road
William Karlsson and Cody Eakin (with five points apiece) have produced at a respectable rate, but that can’t continue for long. Keep an eye on the progress of Alex Tuch at the NHL level (three points in five contests), and if you’re looking further ahead, blue-chip first-round selections Cody Glass (21 in 13) and Nick Suzuki (26 in 14) continue to thrive in the junior ranks. Nikita Gusev – Shipachyov’s KHL teammate – opted to stay in Russia for at least two more years, but he’s proven to be a high-level scoring talent (192 points over his last 196 games).
Shea Theodore is your best long-term blue-line choice and will assume top power-play quarterback duties once he finishes tearing up the AHL (11 points in eight outings). Don’t expect either 2017 draftees Erik Brannstrom or Nicolas Hague to appear in a Golden Knights uniform anytime soon, though recent signing Dylan Coghlan could make the jump to the pros this season thanks to some excellent early stats (15 in 15 in the WHL).
Subban was acquired via waivers because management believes he will eventually take over (which is why Calvin Pickard was subsequently dealt). Dansk will have to prove himself over a longer stretch if he ever wants to enter the top goalie conversation, but that probably won’t happen once Fleury returns.
Following a campaign where the Canucks finished 29th in league standings, fans were under the impression their club would continue to suffer. The atmosphere surrounding the organization was so bleak that the Sedins posted an open letter to the city assuring residents they would not be leaving. Fortunately, Vancouver has played well en route to a 6-3-1 record thus far.
The twins have served as the face of the franchise since arriving in 2000 and will continue to do so until their retirement. However, their offensive roles have diminished (combined seven points), with young stars Brock Boeser (nine, including five on the power play) and Bo Horvat (seven) leading the charge. Now in his third year with the club, Sven Baertschi (eight) looks comfortable enough to take the next step in his offensive development. Veterans Thomas Vanek (four goals, one assist) and Sam Gagner (three assists) are chipping in, while Derek Dorsett (team-leading six goals) is doing way more than providing physicality (44 PIM).
With both Alexander Edler and Troy Stecher sidelined, Michael Del Zotto (five assists) and Chris Tanev are shouldering the defensive scoring load. Ben Hutton has been getting plenty of ice time (averaging 22 minutes) but can’t find the score sheet (one assist), while Derrick Pouliot (three assists in seven games) has excelled in fewer minutes.
Vancouver’s newest Flavor of the Month between the pipes is Anders Nilsson, who – in consecutive starts – posted a shutout in Minnesota and stopped 25 of 27 shots versus Washington. And Jacob Markstrom (2.48 GAA, .908 SV% in seven appearances) isn’t exactly struggling, as the 6-foot-6 Swede hasn’t lost in regulation in three straight games.
Down the Road
Dorsett can’t possibly continue this pace offensively and should revert to a life of truculence. Expect former 30-goal scorer Loui Eriksson to push out Gagner from relevance after his knee heals. If Jake Virtanen (two goals since being promoted to the Sedin line) can remain in the top six, then the 2014 sixth overall pick should be a serviceable fantasy selection. Markus Granlund is receiving enough opportunities, so the numbers (three points) will eventually catch up. Nikolay Goldobin (10 points in seven games) and Reid Boucher (nine in seven) will bide their time in the minors, while Jonathan Dahlen (eight in six) and 2017 fifth overall pick Elias Pettersson (15 in 13) will keep impressing in Sweden until they’re deemed ready for NHL action.
Hutton has to get back on track. Edler will be back in December and resume his reduced role, while Stecher will try to build off a successful freshman campaign. Del Zotto’s defensive deficiencies will eventually earn him a cushy seat in the press box. Olli Juolevi opted to earn a living in Finland, but his offensive skills (84 combined points over two OHL seasons) are too good to keep him away from North America for long.
Ryan Miller’s departure may have opened the door for Markstrom, but the team is simply waiting for Thatcher Demko to assume the starting job. The former Boston College standout (2015-16 Hobey Baker finalist) has fit in nicely during his brief AHL stint and could end up sticking with the big club come spring.