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Fantasy buzz: Top-line players making early impact

Couturier, Dadonov, Lindholm worth adding off waiver wire

by James Harding / NHL.com Fantasy Correspondent

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.

 

5 p.m.
Lundqvist, Price look to bounce back after rough start

The lone game in the NHL on Sunday is between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, MSG+, RDS, NHL.TV). Each team is playing the second game of a back-to-back set and will rely heavily on its starting goalie. 

Henrik Lundqvist lasted one period against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, allowing five goals on 17 shots faced. He was replaced by backup Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 21 of 24 shots over the final two periods in an 8-5 loss. Lundqvist has an .810 save percentage and 6.13 goals against average, having allowed eight goals against in two starts. Pavelec was originally scheduled to start Sunday, but will instead be on the bench. The Rangers rank 30th in the NHL with a 6.00 GAA.

The Canadiens were also forced to make a goalie change mid-game on Saturday against the Washington Capitals, pulling Carey Price after he allowed four goals against on 14 shots in the first period. Backup goalie Al Montoya replaced him for the final two periods and allowed two goals on nine shots faced. Through two starts, Price is 1-1-0 and has allowed six goals against the Buffalo Sabres and Capitals. Price will start Sunday against the Rangers.

NHL.com's preview has projected lineups and more notes on the Canadiens-Rangers game.

 

Schmaltz injured Saturday, games this week in doubt

Chicago Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz sustained an upper-body injury Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He did return to the bench later in the game before leaving again and not returning. Schmaltz (C/LW) is currently 26 percent owned in Yahoo leagues and had three points in a 10-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday before playing 34 seconds against the Blue Jackets. 

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said that Schmaltz likely would not go on the upcoming road trip on Monday and Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, but could return on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild. Center Artem Anisimov (17 percent owned) could be moved up from his third-line center role to fill that spot until Schmaltz returns after he saw some time with Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman on Saturday. Rookie forward Alex DeBrincat did play with Kane and Hartman as well. Any replacement for Schmaltz should be more of a DFS play until he returns to the lineup.

2 p.m.
Vrana and Hartman excelling early in top roles 

The Washington Capitals offense is off to a roaring start with Alex Ovechkin scoring a league-leading seven goals through his first two games. Fantasy owners know what with they have with Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has assisted on each of the seven goals. 

It is Jakub Vrana (LW/RW eligible), the rookie who is skating with the high-powered pair, who owners should be targeting. He currently is only owned in 42 percent of Yahoo leagues and has three assists and six shots on goal through two games. He is also skating on the Capitals second power-play unit. As long as he remains in the Capitals top-six forward rotation and maintains his dual-position eligibility, Vrana is bordering on a must-own in all formats.

Another top-line winger who is excelling in a new role is Ryan Hartman of the Chicago Blackhawks. Hartman, only 27 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, is skating on the second line with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz. 

Video: PIT@CHI: Hartman goes top shelf to beat Niemi

Hartman is tied with Kane for the team lead with six points. He has one goal, five assists and four shots on goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. Hartman scored an NHL career-high 31 points and had 170 SOG in 76 games last season, numbers that could easily be surpassed as long as he remains on this line. 

 
Golden Knights start stronger than expected

The Vegas Golden Knights have started the season strong and have a few fantasy commodities that owners and daily fantasy sports players should be keeping an eye on. The top line of James Neal, Cody Eakin and David Perron should be on fantasy radars, especially Perron and Eakin. Neal (82 percent owned) is an established fantasy asset from his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. He has three of the Golden Knights four goals through two games. 

Perron (19 percent owned) and Eakin (1 percent owned) should be targets for fantasy owners at the moment, especially in DFS contests, while being given this early-season look on the top line. Each player has one assist through two games, and Perron has 10 SOG. 

Defenseman Nate Schmidt, selected in the NHL Expansion Draft, has started the season strong as well. Schmidt (2 percent owned) has one goal and two assists in his first two games and has the third-most ice time on the team. For leagues and DFS contests that count blocked shots as a stat category, Schmidt could be a good choice (six blocked shots).

 
Brown, Kopitar have big night for Kings

Two Los Angeles Kings looking for bounce-back seasons are center Anze Kopitar and wing Dustin Brown. Kopitar had a full-season NHL career-low 52 points in 2016-17 and had the lowest shooting percentage (8.0) of his career. Brown (LW/RW) has not broken the 40-point mark in a full season in five years. 

Video: LAK@SJS: Kopitar pots wrist shot from the high slot

The duo has been partnered together on the Kings top line to start the season and had a big night for Los Angeles on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks. Kopitar scored twice with five shots on goal and had an assist on Brown's goal. Brown had two points. Kopitar and Brown are each averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game through two games, about three minutes more than any other Kings forward.

 
11 a.m.
Couturier thriving on Flyers road trip

Sean Couturier has enjoyed the early season opportunity to slot in as the Philadelphia Flyers top-line center on their season-opening West Coast road trip between Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek at even strength. Couturier (8 percent owned in Yahoo) is also skating on the wing of the Flyers second power-play unit with Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Jordan Weal and Ivan Provorov. 

He opened his season with an assist and played 19:02 of ice time in the Flyers opener against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. Couturier scored his first goal of the season and had an assist on Wayne Simmonds' game-winner on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks and has one goal, two assists, 10 shots on goal and is plus-5 through the first three games. 

Video: PHI@ANA: Couturier finishes Voracek's crafty feed

 

Dadonov fitting in nicely with Panthers the second time around

Evgenii Dadonov was a known offensive talent in Russia, scoring 158 points in his past 165 games in the Kontinental Hockey League, but there was concern about how his game would translate back to the NHL after five years abroad. The transition so far has been seamless and with his low level of ownership he should be targeted in all league formats immediately. 

Dadonov is currently owned in only 31 percent of Yahoo leagues despite opening the season in Jaromir Jagr's old spot on the wing of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Dadonov had a multi-point game on Saturday, scoring his first goal of the season and had an assist on Nick Bjugstad's goal in the second period. He has one goal, two assists and three SOG through two games.

Video: TBL@FLA: Dadonov knocks home rebound for PPG

 

Aho, Lindholm have big game in season debut for Carolina

A pair of young Carolina Hurricanes helped power them to a 5-4 shootout win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Forwards Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm started their season strong, each with two third-period assists. Aho (LW/RW eligible) is a known fantasy commodity (90 percent owned in Yahoo) after his breakout rookie season (49 points). If Aho is available in your league, he should be picked up.

Lindholm however, is not as widely regarded as a fantasy asset despite scoring an NHL career-high 45 points last season, playing in only 72 games. Lindholm (C/RW) is currently only 19 percent owned but his dual eligibility makes him a great fantasy target. Aho and Lindholm are skating on the top line with center Jordan Staal, and with Justin Faulk and Teuvo Teravainen on the first power-play unit. 

 

Kane becoming elite DFS option

Evander Kane (82 percent owned in Yahoo) has been a fantasy beast in the Buffalo Sabres' first two games of the season especially in leagues that count hits and PIMs. 

Through Buffalo's first two games Kane, who has been skating on the first line with Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville, is tied with Tyler Seguin for the NHL lead with 19 SOG. He has two goals, two assists and is plus-3 in games against the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders and is coming off a three-point game against the Islanders in which he had two short-handed goals and eight SOG. 

Kane, a former 30-goal scorer, has five seasons in his eight-season career with at least 230 SOG. He scored 28 goals last season on 260 SOG, meaning his full-season exposure to Eichel and a similar output could easily be translate to another 30-goal season. Kane's goals, SOG and penalty killing will make him a must-target all season long is both standard leagues and DFS contests.

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