Viva Las Vegas! Plus Bratt and Boeser and more…
There were a few firsts on Tuesday. These included first goals for Nolan Patrick and Alex Debrincat, and of course the first-ever home game for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Vegas Golden Knights held a moment of silence for 58 seconds in honor of the 58 victims of the Vegas shooting. pic.twitter.com/VR9g053bPR
— ESPN (@espn) October 11, 2017
The 2-0 (now 3-0) Golden Knights were fueled by the energy of the T-Mobile Arena crowd on what was a bittersweet home opener, erupting for four goals in the first 10 minutes. That wasn’t good news for Antti Raanta owners, thinking they might have an easy start against an expansion team. Raanta was pulled after allowing three goals on just five shots.
James Neal has been the real deal in Vegas, scoring two more goals to give him five in just three games as a Golden Knight. Hey, I’ll admit I was wrong about him being a potential bust. But I’ll turn around and say now might be a great time to sell high to an owner that thinks he’s worth his weight in gold. This is, after all, an expansion team.
And of course props to the Golden Knights for becoming the first expansion team in the 100-year history of the NHL to win its first three games. Vadim who? As long as they’re winning the lineup isn’t changing. That’s how it works in hockey. Sorry to Shea Theodore owners as well.
It’s fair to say that VGK’s best players have been its best players, because Marc-Andre Fleury has won each of his first three games of the season. Flower has allowed just four goals over those three games to go with a .973 SV%. That’s better than you expected, even if two of the first three games were against the Coyotes. The Knights’ next game is a Friday home game against the Wings, so at this point you’re starting Fleury with confidence.
During the offseason, the jury was out as to whether Sonny Milano would be able to crack a deep Blue Jackets’ roster. But thanks to the Boone Jenner injury and the Josh Anderson preseason holdout, the former first-round pick was able to find a spot on the Jackets’ opening-night roster. Since then, he has delivered.
With two goals on Tuesday, including the overtime winner, Milano has scored four goals in just three games. So not only has he made the team, he has been placed on a solid second line with Nick Foligno and Oliver Bjorkstrand. The Jackets are overflowing with young scoring talent. Once Jenner returns they will be able to send out three legitimate scoring lines.
Now that Milano has quickly established himself, he appears to be in the NHL to stay. The only concern I’d have is icetime, since the Jackets have numerous other scoring options should he fall into a slump. If you’ve stuck with him this entire time in your keeper league, your patience is finally being rewarded. Unfortunately I wasn’t patient enough, since I shipped him for Kevin Labanc a few months ago to help shore up my lack of depth at right wing.
Next, here are a few players who haven’t left your fantasy team empty-handed in any game early in the season.
With a goal on Tuesday, Mika Zibanejad now has five goals this season, including goals in all four games. Even better for multicategory leaguers: four of those five goals have been on the power-play. Hopefully you didn’t let Zibanejad slip down your rankings too far because he missed 26 games due to injury last season. He is clicking on a line with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich at the moment. This trio has combined for 11 points over the Rangers’ first four games.
Hopefully you took Rick’s advice on Alex Pietrangelo. (I did, although he’s been on my keeper team for years now.) The Blues are 4-0 to start the season in no small part to their captain. With an assist on Tuesday, Pietrangelo now has points in all four games and six points (2G, 4A) over that span. He has also been on the ice for no less than 25 minutes per game. Top 10 defenseman in fantasy? Yep, I can see it happening.
Then there’s Jaden Schwartz, who seemed to fall in fantasy drafts for some reason (Yahoo ADP: 112), maybe because of the injury-prone label? Weird, because he played 78 games last season. Schwartz has also provided points in each of his first four games, including a goal and an assist on Tuesday to give him two goals and five assists and a plus-6 on the season.
Some goaltending standouts on Tuesday:
Corey Crawford: 41 SV, 1 GA
Sergei Bobrovsky: 37 SV, 1 GA
The Predators/Flyers game was a rollercoaster ride for fans of both teams. After the Preds took a 3-0 lead, the Flyers scored five unanswered goals. Then the Preds scored three in the third period, including two goals and an assist from Filip Forsberg. You shouldn’t have to worry about an early-season goal-scoring drought from Forsberg, who now has three goals. Forsberg owners from last season may remember that he didn’t score his third goal until December 13.
I briefly mentioned Jesper Bratt the last time I wrote the Ramblings, which was Sunday. Since that time, Bratt added two goals and an assist on Monday to give him five points in two games. A friend of mine who is a Devils’ fan is a believer that Bratt has the offensive tools to be more than a flash in the pan, so I thought I’d investigate.
Bratt is a rare commodity because he wasn’t a high pick (6th round) yet he is already in the NHL at age 19. Because of his age, he is still eligible to return to the London Knights, who hold his junior rights. According to his Dobber Prospects profile, one knock on him seems to be his defensive play. Yet the fact that he is being used in all situations – not only the power play but also on the penalty kill – should at least mean that he is a strong bet to stick around all season.
Of course he won’t be able to post two points per game going forward, and he is at a disadvantage with his lack of size (5’10”, 172 lbs.) But a strong camp has earned him icetime with Taylor Hall, which he has taken full advantage of. We know that the Devils aren’t bursting with offensive options, although Bratt could be bumped from top-6 duty once Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford return from injury.
For now, feel free to take a flier on Bratt in single-season leagues while he holds the sizzling stick. The bigger takeaway, however, is that we have a very recent sixth-rounder that has suddenly emerged and should thus at least be in the keeper conversation.
The Brock Boeser watch continues in Vancouver, as the young sniper was a healthy scratch again on Tuesday against Ottawa. This quote from Travis Green is telling about how the Canucks may deploy Boeser and Jake Virtanen this season, and it’s not exactly music to the ears of Boeser owners.
Green has already acknowledged that in a tough division and conference and with a brutal travel schedule, Virtanen and Boeser may only play between 50-60 games. They need to get acclimated to the grind of the NHL season…
Boeser owners in shallower leagues will want to look for another option because of the uncertainty of his situation. But if Boeser can score at the same pace that he did late last season (four goals in nine games), then Green will have no choice but to keep him in the lineup. That is assuming that he is not sent to the AHL because he can’t get back into the lineup.
Confirmed goalie starts for Wednesday at the time of writing, as per Goalie Post:
Mike Smith, CGY (@LA): Worried about Smith? Don’t be. He enters the game with two wins in three starts with a 1.68 GAA and .957 SV% and 1 SO. Not what we’ve become accustomed to with Smith over the past few seasons.
Finally, here’s Steve’s debut Fantasy Stock Market piece for Sportsnet. It’s a simple three-up, three-down format that you can check out once a week over there.
For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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