Connor McDavid and Patrick Laine Making an Impact Early this Season
When we talk about young superstars in the NHL this season, most of the discussion has been about this year’s first overall draft pick, Auston Matthews or last year’s first overall pick, Connor McDavid. Matthews has six goals in 13 games so far, but only two of those tallies have come in his last 12 games. McDavid is one of the best players in the game now with speed that can be matched by few, if any other NHL players. When it comes to McDavid on a defender, if he’s even, he’s leaving. Most NHL players are very fast and fluid skaters, but most also lose some of that speed when they have the puck on their stick. McDavid does not.
Another young player we should be talking about is Patrick Laine of the Winnipeg Jets. He was the second overall pick in this year’s draft and Tuesday he scored the second hat trick of his rookie season. He has 11 goals in 14 games. No, he’s not going to keep up this pace, but 35-40 goals look to be on the horizon. Unlike Matthews, he plays with quite a few good young players, which will help take some of the defensive pressure off of him.
Thomas Vanek was placed on long-term IR with a hip injury. This is a shame, as he was starting to look like the type of player who could win you a Fantasy league -- A bottom of the barrel draft pick or waiver wire claim who vastly outperforms what was expected. Vanek had four goals (two on the power play) in seven games before the injury. That doesn’t mean he was going to score 40 goals this year, but maybe a return to 25-30 was in the cards. Vanek should be back in about a month; but will he pick up where he left off? He seemed to have instant chemistry with his fourth team in three years. It could’ve been nothing but a hot start, but it was encouraging all the same.
The Rangers are averaging a ridiculous 4.3 goals a game. That may not sound like much, but in today’s NHL that is pretty incredible. They won’t keep up this pace, so you may want to consider dealing several of their forwards while they are valuable (sell high). Kevin Hayes (6G, 7A), J.T. Miller (5G, 8A), Mika Zibanejad (3G, 7A), Michael Grabner (7G, 3A), Derek Stepan (1G, 9A), Jimmy Vesey (6G, 4A), Brandon Pirri (4G, 5A), and Mats Zuccarello (6G, 3A), are all players who could fit this mold. They won’t all fall off pace, but won’t all keep up their level of production either.
If you’re a Marc-Andre Fleury owner, you can’t be happy about the return of Matt Murray. What looked like a possible committee in net between the two is starting to look like Murray’s job to lose. He has started three of the past four games since recovering from his hand injury and has won each start. Perhaps we should’ve expected this, as he did lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship last season. I’m not giving up on MAF yet, but that time is coming, and coming quickly.
WAIVER WIRE PICKUPS
Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers: I left him off the list of other Rangers, but only because he’s getting more hype than the others. It took a couple of weeks for the Russian rookie to get going but he’s earned the trust of the coaching staff and should see his minutes increase accordingly.
Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets: He just signed a two-year bridge contract and could play in his first game. He’s not a D1 for Fantasy purposes, not even a D2, but he could add valuable depth to your defensive bench.
Peter Budaj, Los Angeles Kings: Maybe the Kings shouldn’t be so quick to look to the trade market to replace Jonathan Quick. Budaj was the third string goaltender to start the season but after injuries too Quick and Jeff Zatkoff he is now the starter and with a GAA of 1.86 and save percentage of .919.
Follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
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