Training Camp can be a very interesting time of the year. Big things can happen during exhibition games and practices, like injuries to key players: Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Jonathan Huberdeau (lacerated leg), surprise waiver moves (Pavelec and Parenteau), and of course early indications of line compositions. Some of the below opportunities could have been seen before fantasy draft day, but now they could look more obvious as puck drop on Wednesday night approaches. Whether you need to fill an extra spot on your roster, take a gamble on a rookie, or assemble your watchlist, the players below deserve consideration. Obviously the deeper your league, the more applicable each player will be.
Carter Hutton – STL – G – Yahoo Rank 242, 8% owned
In case you haven’t heard yet, Jake Allen was injured in St. Louis’s final pre-season game on Saturday. The extent of the injury is not yet known, so this could be a short-term pickup until Allen heals and is ready to resume the starter position. St. Louis plays on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday which will give you at least two starts with Hutton if the Blues decide to give Allen a few days to recover. Two spot starts on a strong St. Louis team could provide 2 wins with a decent save percentage and goals against average to boot. And in the event that Allen is out for a few weeks, Hutton will have huge value and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his % owned rocket up above 20%.
Charlie Coyle – MIN – C, RW – Yahoo Rank 279, 15% owned
The 24-year old is entering his 5th year in the NHL and has shown improvement every year. Last season he tallied 42 points in 82 games while playing 2nd and 3rd line minutes, ultimately averaging just over 17 minutes of ice time per game. The big catch this year is the early indication that Coyle will play on the first line with Zach Parise, the Wild’s best offensive player, and newcomer Eric Staal (getting old and declining, but still talented). Top quality linemates, higher minutes and time on the powerplay all translate to greater potential to achieve new career highs of 50+ points if Coyle can cement his spot on a line with Parise. Finally, in 3 exhibition games Coyle has come out to play with 2 goals and 1 assist in only 33 minutes of ice time. This could be the year that Coyle becomes a well-known name in the NHL.
Dmitry Orlov – WSH – D – Yahoo Rank 580, 6% owned
Dmitry Orlov has had some highlight reel plays in his 4 seasons with the Washington Capitals. It’s obvious that the 25-year old Russian has talent, but there is some maturing left to do before he is awarded with more ice time. What better way to mature than playing alongside John Carlson, the Capitals’ #1 offensive defenseman. If this pairing sticks, Orlov will benefit greatly and improve on last year’s career high 29 points. And if Orlov can adapt into the role of the lead point man on the 2nd powerplay, his totals could bump up even higher. Keep an eye out for Orlov or take a chance on him if you are in a deep league.
Nathan Beaulieu – MON – D – Yahoo Rank 589, 6% owned
Remember when Roman Josi was a random young kid who played with Shea Weber? Now Josi is a top-10 fantasy defenseman. Weber’s new partner on the blueline in Montreal might very well end up being the youngster Beaulieu. This will allow Beaulieu to focus on the offensive aspect of the game while Weber provides the dependable shutdown role. Further, with Subban gone, there’s opportunity for someone to fill the gap in the offensive one – a gap that even Weber can’t fill all on his own. Although the pre-season isn’t often the best indicator of success for the 82 game regular season, Beaulieu got off to a red hot start by notching 8 points in 5 games to lead all NHL players in exhibition scoring. He won’t get anywhere near a point per game through the entire year but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
Damon Severson – NJD – D – Yahoo Rank 598, 3% owned
Another young offensive talent is the 22-year-old Damon Severson who led all New Jersey defenseman last year with 21 points in 72 games last season. That doesn’t sound great – and let’s be honest it isn’t – but there are a few reasons why this will improve in 2016/17. (1) Schlemko was the number one powerplay defenseman last year. He is gone now. So is Larsson. Adam Greene blocks shots, Severson moves the puck around and therefore he should now be the number one powerplay quarterback. (2) Severson averaged only 18 minutes of ice time last season. This year it looks like he’ll find himself on the first line alongside Greene and will likely average between 21 and 22 minutes. More ice time = more stat production. (3) New Jersey was dead last in Goals For/Game Played last season at 2.22. Adding Taylor Hall to the mix will certainly boost the Devils’ offense. (4) Damon is young and is getting better and better every year while gaining more trust from the coaching staff. Who else on the defensive roster is there to step up? Lovejoy? Quincey? John Moore? Steven Santini (who?)?
Nikita Zaitsev – TOR – D – Yahoo Rank 1114, 9% owned
After spending three seasons in the KHL where he scored 70 points in 136 games, Zaitsev has made the move to North America and is expected to make the Leafs’ roster this season. Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are primary fixtures on Toronto’s backend but the rest of the blueline talent isn’t anything to write home about, therefore a spot should be Zaitsev’s to lose. However, despite the potential, be aware of a weak +/- that will likely plague most Maple Leafs this coming season as the team is just beginning their rebuild mode. Take a chance on Zaitsev, he could be a sleeper in deep leagues.
Matthew Tkachuk – CGY – LW – Yahoo Rank 1493, 13% owned
Nothing is guaranteed yet, but it looks like the Calgary Flames’ 6th overall draft pick in 2016 will make the season opening roster. Not only that, Tkachuk is poised to play on the 2nd line alongside Brouwer and fellow youngster, and former 4th overall draft pick, Sam Bennett. It’s also possible that Tkachuk finds a permanent home on a line with fantasy studs Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, assuming the Flames sign Gaudreau and Tkachuk is able to utilize his big frame and soft hands at the NHL level. Last year in the OHL Tkachuk amassed 107 points in 57 games with the London Knights – the kid clearly has talent and potential.
Ivan Provorov – PHI – D – Yahoo Rank 1503, 14% owned
Newcomer and rookie Ivan Provorov has made Philly’s opening game roster and will attempt to follow in the very successful footsteps of Shane Gostisbehere. No one expects Provorov to make strides nearly as large as Gostisbehere did last year, but the potential is definitely there for the newest Flyer’s rookie who scored 73 points in 62 WHL games last season. Additionally, with Mark Streit on the steady decline, there could be an open opportunity for the quarterback position on the 2nd powerplay unit. Similar situation as Orlov, both teams have good offensive potential, and young dynamic defensemen could reap the benefit for your fantasy team as your #5 defenseman.
Artemin Panarin – CHI – LW – Yahoo Rank 27, 100% owned
Panarin had a huge season last year in his rookie campaign where he won the Calder trophy while playing alongside Patrick Kane (who also had the best season of his career). Previously I wrote about Panarin being overvalued with a high likelihood (in my opinion) that he would not be able to repeat last year’s performance. One of the reasons I had stated that Panarin might not be so successful this year was if he was no longer paired with Kane. I put this at a low probability compared to the other reasons. However, the Blackhawks have announced that they will be splitting Kane and Panarin to begin the season in hopes to spread out their offensive production. This could be an opportunity for those who own Panarin to sell while league competitors are still optimistic about Panarin’s sophomore season. This could also be an opportunity to acquire Panarin if the manager in your league that owns him is panicking and you think his value is not dependent on former linemate Patrick Kane. I wouldn’t have even drafted him, so I’m in the “sell” camp.
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