Fantasy Hockey News for Friday

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A fantasized look at Thursday night's NHL action.

It's been a while boys and girls, but hockey is finally back and I couldn't be happier to be writing my first piece in the better part of five months. For fantasy purposes, this is the best time of the season. No team is out of it no matter how bad of a draft you had or how many injuries you're already enduring. Your expectations are way too high and as you look at your teams, you use the word "if" far too often. Nevertheless, someone has gotta win. Why not you? Let's get this baby started...

On pace for 246 goals is the highly underrated Radim Vrbata with the hat trick last night. He's going to score goals as long as he's healthy. Prior to last season he fired 200 shots on goal in three straight seasons and last year he was well over 200 for his 82 game pace. Someone has to score for the Coyotes. Radim will be that guy more often than not.

It took three days but the season's first shutout goes to the flower himself, Marc-Andre Fleury. He turned away 27 on the way to his 24th career clean sheet. That's as many as he had all of last season. As a matter of fact, in his nine seasons the most he's had is 5 in one season. We'll forget the fact that it was against the Devils who are icing what has to be the worst team in the NHL. Fleury is no doubt feeling good about himself after this game, especially with Tomas Vokoun sitting on the shelf. He will do some early season stat padding as per the usual.

Tim Thomas made his return to the net and won his first regular season game in a year and a half. He stopped 25 of 27 shots and I hope this dude was on your sleeper lists. He's likely to get the lion's share of the starts and should turn in good numbers in return. If he's on your free agent list for some strange reason, go get him right now.

Speaking of goalie sleepers and returns to the NHL, Karri Ramo manned an NHL net for the first time in about four and a half years. I'm not as high on this dude as a lot of other people but that's likely a good thing for him. He gets mixed reviews in this one. The good: he stopped 35 shots of the 39 shots he saw through regulation and the five minute overtime. The bad: he couldn't hold a 4-1 lead and was beaten on both shootout attempts against him. I think he's looking at a lot of games like that this year. Facing a whole lot of shots and making a whole lot of saves...but not winning very often.

I guess I have to give the fantasy stat line of the night to Alex Ovechkin for his electric performance of 2+1=3, 11(!) shots, 2 PPP, 5 hits, and 2 PIM. So that's 4 PPP for him through the first two games and he doesn't appear to be missing Mike Ribeiro on the PP one bit. I considered taking John Tavares over him at the #4 slot in one of my drafts but decided against it. Currently, I'm feeling okay about that decision.

Anyone who drafted Braden Holtby to be their number one goaltender has to be panicking at this point. After allowing five goals in the season opener (albeit to the defending champion Blackhawks) and he couldn't make it out of the first period last night. He allowed 3 goals on 11 shots before being yanked. Michal Neuvirth played very well in relief, stopping 27 of 28 shots for the win. Hopefully you already drafted Neuvy as Holtby's crutch and if you didn't, pony up your FAAB for him. This could be an ugly situation for Holtby.

Probably on his way to about a 50 point season is Marcus Johansson. He had three assists last night in close to 18 minutes of ice time. I believe he's been instructed to never shoot the puck with just one SOG to his credit through two games. Good advice, Coach Oates.

After a pretty disastrous season, you could have gotten Mark Giordano real cheap at your draft this year. I took him 269th in an experts league draft. He did his best to make me look smart in the opener with two assists, two blocks, two hits, and four shots in a team-high 26:54 of ice time. They named Giordano the captain prior to this season and that certainly doesn't do anything in our fantasy land, but maybe it's the spark he needed. Deep leaguers should already own him. Shallow leaguers, put him on your watch list at the very least.

Aleksander Barkov played his first NHL game and potted his first NHL goal. He played 15:34 including 2:15 on the powerplay and was on a line with Brad Boyes and Jonathan Huberdeau. The Panthers look committed to giving him a shot and hoping he's worth the 2nd overall pick in the draft that they spent on him. He's certainly a Calder candidate.

If you frequent the FHS site, you know that most of us have an adoration for Dmitry Kulikov. We all seem very certain that a breakout is coming this season. But this was based mostly off of his scoring abilities. Last night, he contributed a bit different than we'd anticipated dropping the PIM bomb with 15. We all just wished he did it in the third period rather than the first so he could have played more than 3:07. Nevertheless, we'll take the 15 PIM. He even managed to get off 2 shots and 1 hit in those 3:07. Well done, Dmitry.

It was a good night to have taken a flyer on Martin Hanzal, for those of us who did. He rewarded his owners with 2 assists, 4 shots, 5 PIM, and plus-2. He dropped the mitts with Rick Nash for a pretty boring fight. If this guy can stay healthy, he's a good candidate to have a breakout season.

I'm big on Jonas Brodin this season and he started it off right notching a PPG and playing a generous amount of minutes (nearly 27 including 3:28 on the powerplay). It seems like 40+ points are well within reach.

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