The NHL is back, and like most seasons, the early games are glorious. Offense feels ahead of defense; coaches will eventually try to ruin that, but let’s enjoy the firewagon hockey while it lasts. And of course, let’s try to be proactive with trends and possible player spikes; the most impactful move you make is something you recognize early.
Here are some of my early observations and fantasy takeaways.
An emerging player for the Bruins?
The Bruins suggested all during camp that Matt Grzelcyk would be on the first-team power play (taking the Torey Krug spot), not Charlie McAvoy, and that’s how it played at New Jersey. Grzelcyk tallied six shots — as always, we follow the shots — and picked up a power-play assist. Welcome to personal dictionary spell-check, Grzelcyk. And welcome to a lot of Yahoo rosters, though he was still slightly below 50 percent by the end of the night. This is your last call.
A pair of Coyotes make an impact
Often we have to be patient with pedigree defensemen, especially when they come into the league at a tender age. That’s the story with Jakob Chychrun, now a five-year vet into his age-23 season. He bagged 12 goals last year and showed a powerful shot from the point, and he was impactful in the overtime loss to San Jose on Thursday — six shots, two assists, one power-play point. He was overlooked most of draft season, trading at a modest 16 percent.
Conor Garland was another Coyote doing things Thursday (1-1-2), and another former first-round pick to monitor. He might be more power forward than true offensive dervish, but he is coming off a reasonable 22-17-39 year. We need to know the unsexy teams just as much as the Cup contenders and the Original Six. Garland’s roster tag is under 10 percent.
Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov passes eye test
It’s too late to snag rookie Kirill Kaprizov in any competitive league, but let’s give him a stick salute for a three-point debut at Los Angeles, including the game-winner in overtime. The walk-off shot was more a fluke than anything else, but the goal was set up by Kaprizov’s anticipation and acceleration. If I’m going to bet on a rookie, give me someone who’s already 23 — and someone who found a way to win two scoring titles in the defense-first KHL. Minnesota might not have a perfect center fit for Kaprizov, but I’m not sure it matters. Welcome to the NHL, Kirill the Thrill.
Decent way to score your first NHL goal. Kirill Kaprizov howww are yaaaa pic.twitter.com/czcNNFtjNw
— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) January 15, 2021
Good luck against stacked Golden Knights defense
Vegas parlayed a dominant third period into a fairly-easy 5-2 win over Anaheim, but this could have been even more lopsided. Both of the Anaheim goals were fortuitous, and the Ducks did little to challenge in the final period.
The Golden Knights have three professional defensive pairs (they actually ran five blueliners Thursday), perhaps the deepest blue line in the league. Alex Pietrangelo looks like he’s been there for 10 years. Shea Theodore has been mentioned as a potential Norris contender. Up front, this looks like a team that should get plenty of balanced scoring. The C looks good on Mark Stone, one of those players who never seems to make a bad decision.
Detroit outclassed by Carolina, as expected
No one projected the Red Wings to be any good, but they were particularly lifeless in a 3-0 loss to Carolina, a game that was more lopsided than the score suggests. The Hurricanes fired 42 shots, Detroit had just 14. Thomas Greiss kept this game cosmetically close. We’ll be stacking against Detroit for four months.
The example of Joel Farabee
Joel Farabee was the big winner from Wednesday night (1-3-4), quickly chasing up to 39-percent rostered. He’s into his second season, turns 21 next month, was the 14th pick in the 2018 draft class. He picked up some second-unit power-play time, and Kevin Hayes and Claude Giroux are solid teammates on Philly’s second line. It’s might be too late to scoop Farabee in your league, but this is the type of situation you want to act on quickly — when pedigree, opportunity, production, and even experience level tell the same story, stop asking questions.
Alexander Romanov already in Circle of Trust
Romanov was a buzzy player in Montreal’s training camp, and the team quickly put him to work in Wednesday’s overtime loss at Toronto. Romanov logged 21:30 of ice time, third-most on the team, and was one of 10 players who received regular power-play work. His pretty outlet pass led to a goal from Tomas Tatar, and Romanov wasn’t on the ice for any of Toronto’s five goals (Arpon Basu of The Athletic called Romanov’s game “a near perfect debut.”). I was already interested in Romanov’s future, but maybe he’s someone who can help us in the present. He’s currently rostered at 17-percent.