The 2013-14 NHL Regular Season is underway and the cool chill of skates on ice sends goosebumps throughout Hockeyland Canada. With a frustratingly sparse schedule, our thirst for hockey is only so far, slightly quenched. Nonetheless, there are plenty of interesting developments in the infancy of this early season. Here are some story lines relevant to fantasy hockey that we are watching.
- Alex Ovechkin picked up right where he left off with 4 goals in his first 3 games. Dating back to the halfway mark of last season, Ovechkin is scoring at a goal-a-game clip. Seemingly unsustainable, Alex the Great Eight looks ready to return to the rarified air of a 60 goal season.
- Staying in Washington, former Toronto Maple Leafs castoff Mikhail Grabovski made a splash with his new club, registering a hat trick in the season opening loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. As second line center and on the top power-play unit, expect a career year from Mikhail.
- Lars Eller ready to break out? Certainly looks like it as he is imposing his will in each zone and gets the benefit of playing between super sophomores, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. With 5 points in just 2 games, Eller is the top line center in Montreal regardless of how head coach Michel Therrien writes up his lineup for the Canadiens.
- As decided before he was drafted, Nathan Mackinnon started his rookie year centering the Colorado Avalanche’s third line and looks to feast on weak D Men. Ben Lovejoy was feeling neither love nor joy when Mackinnon roughed him up, then proceeded to set up Jamie McGinn for his first two NHL points. Temperamental head coach Patrick Roy may move Mackinnon up his lineup sooner rather than later.
- In Alberta, the Edmonton Oilers once again stumbled out of the gate with a pair of losses. Supposed number one goaltender, Devan Dubnyk has let in a whopping 10 goals in just 92 minutes of action, with many being back breaking softies. If the Oilers are going anywhere this year, Dubnyk will have to adjust to the equipment changes overnight, or else Mac T will have to go shopping for a goaltender.
- Good news for Oilers fans is that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is slated to return Monday against the New Jersey Devils. Thankfully, the minus 5 center, Taylor Hall, will move back to his natural left wing position on the top line, and can restore the faith of poolies who drafted him in the early rounds.
- The other Alberta team, the Calgary Flames have surprisingly started well as they have gotten contributions from new captain Mark Giordano, and Calder hopeful, Sean Monahan. Beware of a potentially dreadful plus minus, but Giordano is proving he is ready to step up his offense. Monahan already has a goal and an assist, as he makes a case to stick with the big club. With Matt Stajan out with injury, Monahan’s chances just got better.
- After trading starts and wins, Jonathan Bernier came in to relieve James Reimer against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, and backstopped the Leafs to a comeback win. Spectacular so far with a 0.979 save %, it looks like Bernier already has his grasps on the starting job, and may never let it go.
- Still very early, Evgeni Malkin has started slowly and will have to do without line-mate, James Neal, for at least a few weeks. Look for Beau Bennett to assume the right wing slot in place of Neal, and if Geno wakes up, Beau could make waves. Another injured Pen, Kris Letang is back skating but remains out.
- Another slow starter, Claude Giroux has registered a big fat donut in his first 3 games, although the Flyers offense has been anemic all around. It may take a coaching change to turn things around in Philadelphia.
- The Winnipeg Jets have a pair of rookies who figure to stick with the big club, as Mark Scheifele is playing well between Devin Setoguchi and Evander Kane on the second line, and Jacob Trouba is already logging major minutes.
- Zemgus Girgensons has been the best Buffalo Sabres forward so far and will likely be competing for the rookie of year all year long.
- Despite not lining up in the top 6, Brandon Saad has been productive already with 4 points in his first 2 games. If he can produce like this on the third line, then he is a surefire fantasy starter regardless of his line-mates.
- Kyle Turris is hot out of the gates with 4 points in 2 games. With captain Jason Spezza still regaining his scoring touch from a season long absence, Turris is carrying the load offensively in Ottawa.
- Rookie Tomas Hertl is making the most of his top 6 role by notching 3 points through a pair of season opening 4-1 wins for the San Jose Sharks.
- With ten different goal scorers in just two games, an early favorite for the Stanley Cup, the St Louis Blues offense is in high gear already. You are going to want to get a piece of this offense, as sophomore Jaden Schwartz and late signing Brenden Morrow figure to be most widely available in fantasy pools.
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