Loading scores...
The Week Ahead

We're Back!!

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

We’re back!!!  The NHL season starts on Wednesday and hopefully everyone will have had their drafts by then and just settle in for plenty of NHL action.

 

The NHL is considering expansion and there are a lot of people who feel that the NHL needs to expand to two Western cities to balance the East and West with 16 franchises apiece.

 

I don’t think that is the best solution.  If Las Vegas and Quebec City get expansion franchises, this is the divisional breakdown I propose.

 

Canadian Division: Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

 

Southern Division: Florida, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Arizona, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.

 

Eastern Division: New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina and Boston.

 

Mid-West Division: Colorado, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville and Buffalo.

 

I realize it’s not perfect as Colorado could certainly go into a Western division with St. Louis and allow Florida and Tampa Bay to play in the Mid-West, but I think it’s the best possible arrangement.

 

With four teams from each division making the playoffs, then the Canadian networks will be thrilled with two rounds of playoffs and one team making the semi-finals.

 

Each team would play one home-and-away series against the 24 teams not in their division with the other 34 games within their division. That would make each team play five games against their divisional opponents, save for one team in which they only play four times.  As far as travel goes, Florida and Tampa Bay would only have to make one extra trip to the West Coast, if the schedule maker co-operates.

 

Let’s hear some feedback as it is unlikely that there will be two expansion teams coming from Western cities.

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @mfinewaxhockey on Twitter.

 

 

Now to The Week Ahead.

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 7-11

 

 

3 Games – Chicago, Montreal, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto

 

 

2 Games – Arizona, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Winnipeg

 

1 Game - Anaheim, Florida, Washington

 

Montreal plays all three games on the road.

 

INJURIES

 

Thomas Hickey is out four weeks with an upper body injury. (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

Note: A tired team is one that has played the day or night before and is going against a team that did not play the previous day or night. The reverse is true for a rested team.

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ San Jose

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Ducks only play once this week. It looks like the Ducks will split up Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, at least at the start of the season to prevent teams from playing their best defensive line against the duo. Therefore the Ducks will go with a top-nine rather than a top six with Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan Kesler each taking charge of a line. Perry and Getzlaf will play together on the first power play. Even though the Ducks inked goaltender John Gibson to a three-year/$6.9 million deal, do not be surprised to see him in the minors to start the season. Frederik Andersen will be the starter and the Ducks want Gibson to get in playing time, so it’s off to the AHL for the youngster with Anton Khudobin getting the backup job. If Andersen gets hurt, expect to see Gibson with the Ducks and starting.

 

 

ARIZONA

 

Games this week

@ Los Angeles, vs. Pittsburgh

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Mike Smith had a terrible season last year but was good (well, much better) in the second half. He allowed only one goal, stopping 23 shots on Monday, so he could be a sleeper pick. Dylan Strome, the Coyotes first pick and third overall in the 2015 Draft, has made a huge impression and could stick around for nine games. The Coyotes would be best off letting him dominate once again in junior hockey, but he is worth taking in keeper leagues. Max Domi should make the squad and he is another who should be looked at in keeper leagues. Oliver Ekman-Larsson should be the first Coyote off the board in re-draft leagues.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, vs. Montreal

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Brett Connolly has been making a nice impression in training camp as a third liner alongside Jimmy Hayes and Ryan Spooner. He potted a couple of goals on Wednesday and could be a nice waiver wire pick up. Zdeno Chara (upper body) looks like he will be ready to start the season barring any setbacks. There certainly seems to be a loss of love for Tuukka Rask in many of the pre-season rankings but I still think he’s a top-five fantasy goalie. Brandon Carlo signed an entry-level deal before he was sent back to the WHL. David Krejci is going way too low in fantasy pools. He will surprise many this season.

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

vs. Ottawa, vs. Tampa Bay

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Rookie Jack Eichel has been very impressive in exhibition games and the Buffalo faithful have to be very encouraged about the future of the franchise with Eichel aboard. Cody Franson was a great signing and he should quarterback the power play. If you are looking for a defenseman late in your draft, you could do far worse than the former Predator and Maple Leaf. Evander Kane is ready to show that his 30 goal, 57 point effort four seasons ago, was not an anomaly. Tyler Ennis should have a good year. The Sabres are betting that Robin Lehner is a top-notch NHL goalie. We shall see.

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

vs. Vancouver, @ Vancouver

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Flames play both their games against the Canucks in a home-and-home series so there may be fisticuffs. If so, look for Brandon Bollig to put up some penalty minutes. It’s hard to imagine Jiri Hudler coming close to his 76 point performance of last season but if Tuesday’s two goal performance against the Avalanche is any indication, then look for similar numbers this season. Sam Bennett, the Flames first pick and fourth overall in 2014 will start the season at center. He was good last season in the playoffs at left wing but center is his natural position. Michael Frolik signed a big contract with Calgary in the off-season and should be a nice-mid-to-late round pick in re-draft leagues.  

 

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

@ Nashville, vs. Detroit

 

Rested Team: vs. Detroit (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

 Noah Hanifin looks like he’ll make the Hurricanes out of training camp. Don’t be surprised if he stays with Carolina the entire season. Jeff Skinner is only 23, but he has lost a lot of the shine as concussion woes along with an 18 goal season last year, has many people thinking he is just an average player at this time. Don’t be fooled as he could return to the 30 goal mark this season. Eddie Lack and Cam Ward are fighting it out for the starting job in net. Both are UFA’s at the end of the year so both have plenty to play for. I like Lack to start. Eric Staal is also in a contract year, so he may be worth looking at in redraft leagues.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

vs. New York Rangers, @ New York Islanders, vs. New York Islanders

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Blackhawks play three games in four nights so expect to see Scott Darling play once with Corey Crawford getting a couple of starts. Chicago has a home-and-home series against the Islanders and look for Andrew Shaw to partake in a fight or two. I was surprised that the Blackhawks released Lubomir Visnovsky. I wonder if someone will pick him up or is his NHL career over. Chicago inked Brent Seabrook to an eight-year contract. Patrick Kane should be an elite fantasy player this season. His off-season troubles could make him grow up faster and consequently he could have his best fantasy season of his career.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

vs. Minnesota, vs. Dallas

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The early word is that Nathan MacKinnon will be the third line center. He should be the best third line center in the NHL. Look for a big comeback season from him as well as Matt Duchene. Tyson Barrie is one of the top fantasy defensemen. Be thrilled if you get him as the 15th selected blueliner. I was a bit surprised that Andrej Meszaros couldn’t crack the Avs blueline. Reto Berra will back up Semyon Varlamov to start the season. I think Jarome Iginla has one last big season left in him. Joey Hishon, the Avs first pick in 2010 was put on waivers this week. It’s too bad he has had so many concussion issues.

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

vs. New York Rangers, @ New York Rangers

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Blue Jackets play the Rangers in a home-and-home series. Expect to see Jared Boll or Scott Hartnell get off to good starts in the penalty minute category. The Blue Jackets made a great off-season trade to acquire Brandon Saad from the Blackhawks. Look for big things from Saad this season in fantasy hockey as he will click nicely with Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen. Hartnell should also have a big year as he can contribute in all categories. Sergei Bobrovsky is poised to have a big season as he worked out in the off-season for the first time in his career. Sonny Milano, the Blue Jackets first round pick in 2014, was sent to the minors. He is worth selecting in keeper pools but do not expect anything fantasy-wise from him this season.

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

vs. Pittsburgh, @ Colorado

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The interesting battle during the pre-season is the competition between goaltenders Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. I think that Lehtonon will get 45-50 games with Niemi getting the remainder. They would be a good pair to handcuff in drafts. Valeri Nishkushin is slated to line up with Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp while Jamie Benn will play alongside Jason Spezza and likely Ales Hemsky, who underwent off-season hip surgery but should be back for the opener. Antoine Roussel should get plenty of penalty minutes along with 15 goals making him a nice fantasy pick late in the draft.  

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

vs. Toronto @ Carolina

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: @ Carolina (Saturday)

 

Notes

The big news is that the opener will pit former Detroit coach Mike Babcock against his successor and rookie head coach Jeff Blashill. It should be a dandy. Pavel Datsyuk will miss the first month of the season with an ankle injury. Mike Green is expected to quarterback the power play, taking over for the most part from Niklas Kronwall. Another goaltending battle could be in place as Petr Mrazek is expected to push Jimmy Howard. Luke Glendening could center Johan Franzen and Riley Sheahan to start the season. Danny DeKeyser could miss the start of the season with a lower leg injury.

 

EDMONTON

 

Games this week

@ St. Louis, @ Nashville

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

Notes    

The Oilers were dealt a blow with the shoulder injury to Jordan Eberle which should sideline him for four-six weeks. I was surprised by the demotion of Darnell Nurse but I guess the Oilers do not want to rush him. Look for Leon Draisaitl to get a great opportunity with the injury to Eberle. Anton Slepyshev has been a nice addition as he has four assists in five pre-season games. Connor McDavid has been the talk of training camp and rightly so. He should be drafted in the first round of all keeper leagues (if not first overall) and he should be taken by the fourth round in all redraft leagues.

 

FLORIDA

 

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Panthers play only once this week. Jonathan Huberdeau was outstanding in the final quarter of last season with six goals and 21 points in his final 20 games.  He was drafted eighth overall in 2011 and at age 22 should be a force in fantasy. I also think that this is the season that Aleksander Barkov takes his game to the next level. The Panthers have a bright future with Huberdeau and Barkov up front to go with Nick Bjugstad. They also have Aaron Ekblad on the blueline and that doesn’t hurt. Roberto Luongo should give them solid goaltending as the Panthers look to make the playoffs.

 

LOS ANGELES

 

Games this week

@  San Jose, vs. Arizona   

 

Rested Team: None  

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The loss of Slava Voynov would hurt more if the Kings didn’t sign Christian Ehrhoff in the off-season. Anze Kopitar led the Kings in points for the eighth straight season but the 64 points were his lowest total save for the 42 in 47 games he got in the lockout year of 2012-13. He should be flanked by Milan Lucic and that will help as Lucic is one of the best power forwards in the NHL. He will replace Justin Williams in the Kings lineup. Jonathan Quick should be a top-ten goalie in the NHL with the capability to be a top-five netminder. Martin Jones was dealt away so expect to see Jhonas Enroth as Quick’s backup.

 

MINNESOTA

 

Games this week

@ Colorado, vs. St. Louis

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Mikael Granlund is slated to center Zach Parise and Jason Pominville this season and that should lower the fantasy value of Mikko Koivu who lost the job last season. Erik Haula is out of action with a groin injury. Consider him day-to-day for now. While Devan Dubnyk was outstanding last season in leading the Wild to an unexpected playoff berth, don’t expect more of the same this season and you’ll probably be wise to handcuff him with Darcy Kuemper on your fantasy squad. Matt Dumba had a big night a week ago as the defenseman had a couple of goals and four points with a plus-six rating to lead Minnesota to a 6-1 win over the Jets. He is ready to take that next step in becoming a very good fantasy defenseman.

 

MONTREAL

           

Games this week

@ Toronto, @ Boston, @ Ottawa

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Canadiens play all three on the road this week and it’s likely that Dustin Tokarski could see action in one game. Alexander Semin is an interesting signing as he has the capability to be a good scorer. Max Pacioretty will be ready for the start of the NHL season after he was slated to miss 12 weeks with a knee injury suffered while training in July. He was named the captain of the Canadiens at the start of training camp and that has to be quite an honor. The Habs have the best goalie in the world in Carey Price and he will have to be just as good this season if the Canadiens hope to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

 

 NASHVILLE

 

Games this week

vs. Carolina, vs. Edmonton

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Steve Moses was sent to the minors but look for him to return shortly. The winger had 56 points in 60 KHL games and signed a one-way deal in the off-season. Barret Jackman could be the veteran presence that Seth Jones needs on the blueline. Nice move by coach Peter Laviolette to play them together. Cody Hodgson missed a lot of training camp with an upper body injury. He could get off to a slow start after a write-off of a season with Buffalo in 2014-15. Look for another great year from goaltender Pekka Rinne who carried the Predators into the playoffs on his back last season.

 

NEW JERSEY

 

Games this week

vs. Winnipeg, @ Washington

 

Rested Team: vs. Winnipeg (Friday)

Tired Team: @ Washington (Saturday)

 

Notes

 For the first time in 29 years the Devils will begin the season without Lou Lamiorello in the front office as he has taken his talents to Toronto. There have been trade rumors involving Travis Zajac to Toronto. Zajac has been in a scoring slump since the 2009-10 season when he had 25 goals and 67 points but he exploded for a couple of goals and four points in Wednesday’s exhibition game. Patrik Elias will likely start the season on the injured list with a knee injury. The Devils have a lot of young talent on the blueline including Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

 

Games this week

vs. Chicago, @ Chicago

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Islanders move to Brooklyn and start play with a home-and-home series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Look for Matt Martin and Travis Hamonic to lead the way in penalty minutes. The big training camp news was the demotion of former first round pick Joshua Ho-Sang to junior after he was late for the team’s first practice. Mathew Barzal, the team’s first round pick, is still with the Islanders while they returned Michael Dal Colle (fifth overall selection in the 2014 Draft) to the OHL.  Jaroslav Halak is day-to-day with an upper body injury but is expected to be fine for the opener.

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

 

Games this week

@ Chicago, @ Columbus, vs. Columbus

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Rangers play three times in four nights so look for Henrik Lundqvist to play twice with Antti Raanta playing once. The New Yorkers also play the Blue Jackets in a home-and-home series so look for Tanner Glass to pick up some penalty minutes due to fisticuffs, if he gets into the lineup. The Rangers are trying both Kevin Hayes and Dominic Moore on the wing after the duo were the third and fourth line centers for the Rangers last season. The Rangers would like to see J.T. Miller and Jarret Stoll take over the pivot spots on their depth charts. Mats Zuccarello finally returned to action this past week after suffering a brain contusion and skull fracture during the playoffs. He had a goal and a helper in his first game back.

 

OTTAWA     

 

Games this week

@ Buffalo, @ Toronto, vs. Montreal

 

Rested Team: @ Toronto (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Senators play three games in four nights so expect to see Andrew Hammond play once for Craig Anderson if Hammond has recovered from a groin injury.  As great as Hammond was at the end of last season to lead the Senators into a playoff spot look for Anderson to play 50 games if he can remain healthy. Mark Stone was outstanding as a rookie in 2014-15 with 26 goals and 64 points but expect a regression this season.  First round pick Thomas Chabot inked an entry level deal but should find himself back in the QMJHL as 18-year-old defensemen are a rarity in the NHL.

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

Games this week

@ Tampa Bay, @ Florida

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Flyers will spend the first week of the season in Florida as they take on the Lightning and the Panthers. Backup netminder Michal Neuvirth suffered a knee injury on Wednesday so expect to see Steve Mason in goal for both games. Jason LaBarbera will be recalled if Neuvirth is unable to go. Michael Raffl is someone to keep your eye on as he will likely see plenty of first line action this season with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Luke Schenn could be dealt as it appears there may not be a job ready for him in Philadelphia. Vincent Lecavalier and R.J. Umberger are apparently also being shopped around.

  

PITTSBURGH

 

Games this week

@ Dallas, @ Arizona

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

It should be a big year fantasy-wise for Phil Kessel as he moves from Toronto with Tyler Bozak as his center, to Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby in the middle. Kessel had a poor year (for him) last season with ‘only’ 25 goals and 61 points. Don’t forget that he was the only NHLer to place in the top ten of scoring in each of the previous three seasons. That’s hard to do. Even Sidney Crosby was unable to do that, although to be fair, the season he missed was an injury-plagued year in which he missed 60 games and still managed 37 points in 22 games. Keep an eye out for Sergei Plotnikov as he is still with the Penguins and playing alongside Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. Here’s hoping that Kris Letang can stay healthy for a full season.  

 

ST. LOUIS

 

Games this week

vs. Edmonton, @ Minnesota

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Blues still have an interesting goaltending battle going on between Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. The duo will likely split the net to start the season and the hot hand will eventually take over. Expect the two to each play one game this week. Paul Stastny had a poor season in 2014-15 but the Blues have faith in him and he will start the season on the top line with Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko is the Blues most talented player and should be drafted in the top two rounds of a redraft league and the first round in a keeper pool. I’m looking for a big year from Alex Pietrangelo who had seven goals and 46 points last season. I think he can hit the 55-60 point plateau.

 

SAN JOSE

 

Games this week

vs. Los Angeles, vs. Anaheim

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Sharks start a new regime with Peter DeBoer at the helm, replacing Todd McLellan who landed in Edmonton. San Jose will also have a new goaltender as Martin Jones is slated to be the starter with Alex Stalock as his backup. Antti Niemi also moved on as he will play in Dallas. I like Tomas Hertl to break out this season. Right now he will center the third line with Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto but expect him to be a top-six forward shortly. It’s nice to see Raffi Torres back in action after he missed almost two complete seasons with knee surgeries.

 

TAMPA BAY

 

Games this week

vs. Philadelphia, @ Buffalo

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

Nikita Kucherov suffered a lower body injury on Thursday and should be considered day-to-day. Jonathan Drouin is under the radar at this point of his career but do not forget that he was drafted third overall in 2013. He had only four goals and 32 points last season but look for a big break out season as he could be a top-six forward alongside Steve Stamkos. Speaking of Stamkos, the forward is in the final year of his contract and has yet to ink a new one, so do not be surprised if there are rumors all season that he will become a UFA at the end of the season. Of course, one way to stop the rumors will be to re-sign but that may not be in the cards. Stamkos should have a big season as he plays for a huge contract. Do not forget about the injured Andrei Vasilevskiy who had off-season vascular surgery. He will not play until November or December but is ultra-talented and could push Ben Bishop as early as next year for the starting job in net.

 

TORONTO

 

Games this week

vs. Montreal, @ Detroit, vs. Ottawa

 

Rested team:  None

Tired Team: vs. Ottawa (Saturday)

 

Notes

The Maple Leafs play three games in four nights to start the NHL schedule so expect to see Jonathan Bernier play twice between the pipes with James Reimer getting one start. There has been no clear-cut winner in the Bernier-Reimer battle so it will certainly continue in the early going. The Maple Leafs signed Brad Boyes to a contract after a good pre-season. He should line up on the top line to start the season. William Nylander, the Leafs first pick and eighth overall in the 2014 draft, has a chance to break training camp with the team but will be better served by playing most of the season with the Marlies and getting in plenty of ice time.  Martin Marincin is in line to be the team’s sixth or seventh defenseman. Look for Morgan Rielly to take a big step this season on his way to becoming an elite defenseman.

 

VANCOUVER

 

Games this week

@ Calgary, vs. Calgary

 

Rested Team: None

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Canucks open the season with a home-and-home series against the Calgary Flames. There could be some rough stuff so do not be surprised if Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust get off to quick starts in the penalty minute department. It should be an interesting year in Vancouver as the Sedin twins are now 35 years of age. There is also some concern in goal as Ryan Miller is 35 as well. If the trio do not age gracefully, it could be long year for the Canucks. They do have some nice young talent however as Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi and Chris Tanev are up and coming players who should form the future of the Canucks.

 

WASHINGTON

 

Games this week

vs. New Jersey

 

Rested team: vs. New Jersey (Saturday)

Tired Team: None

 

Notes

The Capitals have a top-notch goaltender in Braden Holtby who was a top-five netminder last season. Expect more of the same in 2015-16. Washington made an outstanding off-season trade for T.J. Oshie and he should fit in very well alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom will likely miss the start of the season after undergoing off-season hip surgery. There is no known return date. I like Andre Burakovsky this season. He has plenty of upside. Marcus Johansson has a nagging back injury and is iffy for the start of the season.

 

WINNIPEG

 

Games this week

@ Boston, @ New Jersey

 

Rested team: None

Tired Team: @ New Jersey (Friday)

 

Notes

The Jets will go with Ondrej Pavelec in goal and have Michael Hutchinson as his backup but look for Connor Hellebuyck to make his presence known this season as he is likely the Jets netminder of the future. Andrew Copp looks like he is going to grab the fourth line center spot coming out of training camp. He had an assist in his only NHL game last season but do not expect a lot offensively from the 21-year-old. I really like Nikolaj Ehlers. He is uber-talented and should provide a boost offensively for the Jets. He may not be fantasy relevant this season but take him in all keeper leagues.

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 15th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.