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Fantasy buzz: Rookies continue to steal spotlight

Vrana thrives with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov; Bruins, Red Wings worth monitoring

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff will have you covered with daily lineup news, production trends and injury notes from around the League. We will identify how these developments affect fantasy owners in year-long (Yahoo) and daily (DraftKings) formats.

 

6 p.m.
Neal in Golden Knights lineup; Shipachyov, Theodore out

Vegas Golden Knights right wing James Neal (hand) will play in their season opener against the Dallas Stars on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-SW, SN360, TVAS).

Neal is expected to line up next to center Cody Eakin and left wing David Perron on the Golden Knights' second line. Their top line will include forwards Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Oscar Lindberg.

But what about Vegas' projected top-line center, Vadim Shipachyov, and first power-play defenseman, Shea Theodore? Unfortunately for fantasy owners, each remains assigned to the American Hockey League because the Golden Knights do not have enough waiver-exempt players.

Neal ($5,100 in DraftKings) and Eakin ($3,700) are an against-the-grain line stack on the road against the Stars. Eakin faces his former team and had a strong preseason (five points in four games).

 

5 p.m.
Daily fantasy advice for Friday

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy staff will provide daily picks for DraftKings NHL contests. The below article includes expensive and value plays and can be used as a basis for your roster decision-making.

READ: DFS picks: Seguin, Bishop solid chalk plays vs. VGK | Projected goalies

 

4:45 p.m.
Pickard traded to Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired goaltender Calvin Pickard from the Vegas Golden Knights for a prospect and a pick on Friday.

If Pickard (2 percent owned in Yahoo) emerges over Curtis McElhinney as Toronto's backup behind starter Frederik Andersen, he could take advantage of the Maple Leafs' 13 sets of back-to-back games. He's not worth owning at the moment but could end up being a viable streaming option over the course of the season.

For Andersen owners, he's a deep-league handcuff option if your league allows you to roster four goaltenders and gains value compared to if he remained with the expansion Golden Knights.

Video: LAK@VGK: Pickard makes a pair of strong saves

 

1:45 p.m.
Ho-Sang scratched for Islanders opener

New York Islanders rookie forward Joshua Ho-Sang will not play in their season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday (7 p.m. ET; FS-O, MSG+).

Ho-Sang, 21, was expected to play in the top-nine role he held for much of the preseason, but will be replaced in the lineup by veteran forward Jason Chimera.

Fantasy owners should not drop Ho-Sang (RW, 29 percent owned in Yahoo) just yet, but rather wait to see if he re-enters the lineup for the Islanders' home opener against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. He scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 21 NHL games last season and had a Yahoo average draft position of 173.3.

 

1:30 p.m.
Blackhawks look just fine after offseason overhaul

The Chicago Blackhawks stunned the hockey world by scoring 10 goals (all at even strength) in their 10-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. As you can imagine, there are plenty of fantasy implications from this offensive outburst.

It almost made you forget that they ever lost Artemi Panarin (traded to Columbus Blue Jackets), Marian Hossa (skin condition; out for season) and Niklas Hjarlmarsson (traded to Arizona Coyotes), among others.

Outside of the obvious names and their ridiculous production (Patrick Kane had four points; Brandon Saad scored a hat trick) to kick off the new season, fantasy owners need to jump on the current Blackhawks' top-liners before it's too late.

Forward Nick Schmaltz, touted as a preseason sleeper by NHL.com, burst out for three points (two goals, one assist) and Ryan Hartman was even better with five points (one goal, four assists). Schmaltz (C/LW, 21 percent owned in Yahoo) is an absolute must-add player who probably already should have been drafted considering he played the entire preseason alongside Kane. Hartman comes with more risk because there's a chance he could be moved around with Patrick Sharp and Alex DeBrincat waiting to get another top-line trial.

Video: PIT@CHI: Saad finishes great pass for hat trick 

 

1 p.m.
Rookies making immediate impact

Six rookies scored goals in the season openers for their respective teams Thursday: Arizona Coyotes forwards Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer, Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and forward Jake DeBrusk, Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek and Detroit Red Wings forward Martin Frk.

Given the fantasy relevance and depth of last season's rookie class (e.g. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Mitchell Marner, Zach Werenski, William Nylander, Jake Guentzel), fantasy owners would be wise to take notice of this similar early-season trend.

Video: ARI@ANA: Keller buries loose puck for first NHL goal

 

Boston University products as good as advertised

The Coyotes blew a three-goal lead and lost 5-4 at the Anaheim Ducks, but Keller (C/LW, 33 percent owned in Yahoo) scored a goal on six shots on goal -- the most SOG by a rookie over the first two days of this season. In addition to his strong performance in Arizona's opener, Keller also had a brilliant preseason (eight points in four games) and NHL stint last spring (two assists in three games) and continues to solidify himself as a prime Calder Trophy candidate.

The 19-year-old played on the top line with Max Domi and Derek Stepan and first power-play unit with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and is worth owning in most formats. The Coyotes' second line is comprised of Anthony Duclair, Christian Dvorak and Tobias Rieder, so fantasy owners should hold off on Fischer, who's playing on Arizona's third line, unless you're in a deeper league.

McAvoy, another rookie out of Boston University who paid DFS dividends based on NHL.com's picks, had one goal and one assist to carry over the momentum from his strong Stanley Cup Playoff showing. With Torey Krug (fractured jaw) sidelined, McAvoy was playing on Boston's first power-play unit and assisted on a man-advantage goal by forward David Pastrnak. Even more than Keller because of position scarcity, McAvoy (71 percent owned) is worth owning in all fantasy formats.

 

Vrana emerges on Capitals' top trio

One under-the-radar rookie to consider adding in a standard format is Washington Capitals rookie Jakub Vrana (LW/RW, 37 percent owned).

Vrana, 21, had two assists, five SOG and was plus-3 in his season debut on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov (three assists) and Alex Ovechkin (hat trick), a line that was instrumental in the Capitals rallying for a 5-4 win at the Ottawa Senators. Vrana played most of the preseason in that spot, so seeing tangible results in the regular season was a great sign for his deep sleeper appeal. He was barely drafted on average in Yahoo (ADP: 166.4).

Video: WSH@MTL: Vrana tallies on deflection in front for PPG

 

Other lineup trends involving rookies

Frk (RW, 1 percent owned) had one goal, one power-play assist and two SOG in the Red Wings' 4-2 win against the Wild. Frk played with breakout candidate Anthony Mantha (one goal, two assists) and bounce-back hopeful Dylan Larkin (one goal) on Detroit's second line at even strength and also with them on the second power-play unit with defenseman Mike Green (four assists, two PPP).

We'll see if Detroit can keep up anything close to this level of offensive productivity, but the opener certainly instills more confidence in low-ownership players like Mantha (LW/RW, 28 percent owned) and Green (26 percent). For some reason, Larkin (C/RW, 58 percent owned) is owned in nearly twice as many leagues as Mantha, who was a beast at even strength last season and is primed for an expanded role. Green is a two-time 70-point defenseman, but has significantly declined ever since.

Another situation worth monitoring is the Bruins' top-six forward group, which features a rookie on each line. DeBrusk (LW, 2 percent owned) played alongside David Krejci and Pastrnak, and fellow rookie Anders Bjork (LW, 8 percent owned) flanked Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner. Top-line center Patrice Bergeron (lower body) missed Boston's opener. If either DeBrusk or Bjork can stick in his current spot for any length of time, fantasy owners in deeper leagues could benefit from the potential splash effect.

Bjork and DeBrusk played together on the second power-play unit with Krejci and Frank Vatrano, with Riley Nash and Spooner filling in on the primary unit with Marchand, Pastrnak and McAvoy. DeBrusk had one goal, one assist and was plus-2 with four SOG, and Bjork had one assist and was also plus-2.

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