Aaron Ekblad declared himself 100 percent healthy last week, which is a huge positive for the Panthers. Despite Florida's surprising lack of offseason additions to its forward ranks, the defense corps is impressive. That blue line is paired with a solid goalie tandem, so the Cats should show improvement this season.
Ekblad is obviously also in position to rebound after a career-worst 2016-17 campaign that began and ended with injuries. He was limited to only 68 games because of a concussion that cost him the final 10 games of the regular season, and the defenseman posted just 10 goals and 21 assists with a crippling minus-23 rating.
It's important to note that Keith Yandle's addition didn't impact Ekblad's ice time last year -- both at even strength and with the man advantage. And Ekblad actually recorded a career-high 225 shots even while playing fewer games, so it wasn't all doom and gloom.
Entering his fourth NHL season at just 21 years of age, this is a ripe buy-low spot for Ekblad. He's going to be available well into the middle rounds of drafts and sets up as a solid third or fourth fantasy blue liner with the potential to be a serviceable No. 2 for your club.
Here's a telling read about why Alexander Nylander wasn't at the World Junior Summer Showcase this past week. In short, it's because he's playing for Buffalo and isn't expected to be available to Sweden over the holidays for the World Junior Championships.
It's easy to overlook Nylander, and he's not a lock to see a significant role out of the gate. While he's noted in the Dobber Guide as a potential Calder Trophy candidate, his point projection is just three over 10 games. Dobber is typically very conservative, but that has to be Nylander's basement and not his floor.
His floor is probably 55 games and 20 points, and the rookie's ceiling is much higher. The Sabres beefed up their wings to make Nylander's outlook much more difficult to project, but he still has a lot of positives working in his favor. Nylander might already be the most offensively gifted winger on the roster, and most of his peers on the flanks are either low-upside veterans or have battled injuries over the past couple of seasons.
There's always the possibility that Nylander lands in a top-six role during camp, shows excellent chemistry immediately and never looks back, too.
Here are a handful more deep dives on relevant fantasy assets that'll be drafted this fall.
The 27-year-old winger has topped 25 goals in each of the past three seasons with consecutive point increases. He received a career-high 3:11 of power-play ice time per game last year and exploded for 26 points -- 13 goals -- with the man advantage. His points per 60 minutes at five-on-five dropped to its lowest mark (1.9) of the past three seasons, but it's still encouraging to see Hoffman receive the prime offensive minutes to shine. He boasts high-end speed and a sniper's shooting arsenal, so now that he's locked into a role to succeed under Guy Boucher, another rock-solid showing is well within reach for Hoffman.
A popular breakout candidate entering the 2016-17 campaign, Scheifele posted a 32-goal, 82-point showing with an elite 67 points at even strength. He capped off the season on an absolute tear with seven tallies and 22 helpers through the final 24 games of the campaign, and the 24-year-old pivot is just entering his offensive prime. The Jets are stocked with talented wingers, and Schiefele has solidified himself as Winnipeg's No. 1 offensive center. After averaging a career-high 20:34 of ice time per game (3:06 with the man advantage), it's also encouraging that Paul Maurice is willing to lean on Scheifele. It'll be difficult to top last season's numbers, but more of the same keeps Scheifele in the conversation as one of the best fantasy options up the middle.
Simmonds turned in another monster fantasy showing with strong cross-category coverage. He topped the 30-goal mark for the second consecutive year and supported his 32 tallies with 54 points, 224 shots, 122 PIM and 162 hits. His 25 points with the man advantage were also a career-best mark. Unfortunately, Simmonds' minus-18 rating was crippling, and it's also worth noting that he cooled off considerably after recording 16 goals and 29 points through the first 32 games of the season. Still, the 28-year-old winger is locked into a go-to role for the Flyers at even strength and with the man advantage, so his fantasy floor is high. He also receives a huge virtual boost in formats including hits and PIM, and it wouldn't be surprising to see improvement in the plus-minus column this season.
The Montreal captain is one of just two players in the league with at least 30 goals, 60 points and 250 shots through the past four seasons -- the other is Alex Ovechkin. Pacioretty has established himself as high-floor, high-ceiling fantasy asset, and he enters 2017-18 locked into the same go-to role for the Canadiens. The veteran logged 19:25 of ice time per game with 2:31 on the power play through 23 games under head coach Claude Julien, after all. It's worth noting that Pacioretty showed excellent chemistry with Alex Galchenyuk last season, as the duo combined for 3.86 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five. If Julien utilizes Pacioretty and Galchenyuk on the same line, it would be a significant fantasy boost for both.
After Kevin Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington, Pietrangelo posted five goals, 22 points and 84 shots on goal while averaging 27:10 of ice time (3:18 with the man advantage) through the final 31 games of the season, including the playoffs. Those are elite fantasy numbers, and while Colton Parayko projects to have a major role alongside Pietrangelo, it was clear last spring that Pietrangelo was the go-to offensive defenseman. Additionally, the 27-year-old veteran has already established himself as a high-end fantasy asset in the past with multiple 50-point campaigns. Pietrangelo's stock is pointing straight up heading into 2017-18.
The 33-year-old veteran posted a career-best 32 goals and 51 points, and parlayed the effort into a three-year contract with the Ducks. Everything went right for Eaves last season. He played the most games of his career (79 games), excelled on Dallas' No. 1 power-play unit and logged big minutes alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Then after Eaves was traded to Anaheim, he clicked immediately with Ryan Getzlaf. While his 15.3 shooting percentage will definitely be difficult to repeat, and staying healthy will be critical to Eaves having a solid follow up to his career year, he could easily turn in another solid fantasy showing flanking Getzlaf and logging ripe minutes with the man advantage. Additionally, Eaves posted a 13.9 shooting percentage through his 160 career games with Dallas, so his shooting efficiency appears more to be more skill than luck considering his established track record.
Thanks for stopping by, Dobberheads.
- Ramblings: Jonathan Bernier? (Jan 16)
- Ramblings: Spezza Strikes Back, Sizzling Saros (Jan 17)
- Third Degree Burns: Valuing the A-holes (NSFW)
- Running Down the Hottest Options in the Eastern Conference
- The Sharks' Second Line Offers Intriguing Potential
- Flames’ Forwards at the Bye
- Injury Ward: Crawford Out For Season?
- Cage Match: Has Brad Marchand Surpassed Jamie Benn?