Early returns on the North Division: defence optional. After Thursday night’s slate of games, the seven teams north of the border continue to grossly outscore the rest of the NHL. That’s good news for fantasy owners, not so much for coaching staffs. For my money, especially in the midst of one of the most unpredictable seasons in NHL history, it’s never too early to start tracking the Rocket Richard race. Not for anything, but early season trends suggest that there could be plenty of contenders in Canada this season. In fact, 11 players from Canadian squads have already potted at least six goals. And yes, I fully comprehend the fact that there are plenty of games to be made up south of the border. That said, numbers are numbers. NHL Goals Leaders Through Feb. 4 Tyler Toffoli (MTL): 9 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Auston Matthews (TOR): 8 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 4Connor McDavid (EDM): 8 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 4Brock Boeser (VAN): 8 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Mikko Rantanen (COL): 7 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 3Joe Pavelski (DAL): 7 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 1Leon Draisaitl (EDM): 7 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 4Josh Anderson (MTL): 7 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 1Kyle Connor (WPG): 7 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 3Andrei Svechnikov (CAR): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 3Brayden Schenn (STL): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Patrick Kane (CHI): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 4Christian Dvorak (ARI): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 1Bo Horvat (VAN): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Nikolaj Ehlers (WPG) 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Brad Marchand (BOS): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 4Patrice Bergeron (BOS): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 3Filip Forsberg (NSH): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Kevin Hayes (PHI): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Joel Farabee (PHI): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 1Johnny Gaudreau (CGY): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 2Max Pacioretty (VGK): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 3Mitch Marner (TOR): 6 goals | SN Fantasy Value: 3 And don’t forget, throwing some of these players on your weekly roster for the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool could prove to be a very smart play. That’s because, under the revised scoring system for this year’s game, goals are now worth three points. As you can see above, there’s tons of value to be found. Now to your questions: Indisputably, despite how good he’s been for fantasy owners so far, exploring a sell high on Toffoli is the only logical thing to do. The 28-year-old has been a beast for Montreal, especially against his former mates –eight of his nine goals have come against the Vancouver Canucks. The winger has provided extensive category coverage too, specifically in goals (6), points (8) and shots (33). While the numbers are great, the former Kings sniper has long been known for his streakiness. Simply put, I’m in the world of maximizing fantasy value, so dealing away Toffoli is the right play right now. I’m somewhere in the middle on Pavelski. As I’ve been documenting a lot lately on Twitter, the 36-year-old has been on fire ever since Dallas’ bubble run got underway last August. While it would be smart to gauge the market on him, you should feel comfortable holding onto the veteran if you can’t fetch an offer that’s worth pulling the trigger on. Any way you slice it, Pavelski has the track record, resume and pedigree to continue along at a consistent pace. Who is this McDavid guy you speak of? I’m not sure “believe” is the word, but I’d definitely contemplate taking a flier right now. For now, I view Puljujarvi as a decent DFS value play, provided he’s skating with Connor McDavid, of course. In order for me to roster him full-time, I need to see long-term consistency. Let’s see what happens. Yeah, cut bait. You can always revisit Murray later if he starts to heat up. It’s not like fantasy owners are lining up to own Ottawa Senators right now anyways. There will be pain. Unequivocally, the answer is yes, especially in these uncertain times. Whether we like it or not, the NHL is trending towards being a tandem-heavy league, which adds substantial value to owning bonafide No. 1 goalies. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been utilizing a three-goalie system in fantasy hockey and have found decent success in doing so. Seems to be trending that way, doesn’t it? I would definitely take a flier on Ritchie right now. The 25-year-old has picked up least one point in six of his past seven outings, registering a total of three goals, five assists and eight points in that time frame. Not only is he skating on line two with David Krejci, but he’s with the big boys on the first power-play unit as well. Grab him! Just taking it in stride. It is what it is, right? We all knew this would be an unusual fantasy season. Preach! As a fantasy owner, not much you can do right now either. Just sit tight and hope for the best. That East Division is tough, I tell you. Depending on how desperate you are for contributions, I’d still give it a couple more weeks before dropping Alexis Lafreniere. Collectively, it’s been a subpar start for the Rangers. Outside of Artemi Panarin, the rest of the marquee fantasy talent around him has failed to live up to expectation thus far. And that goes for Lafreniere too, who has struggled to make much of an impact early-on in his NHL career. The rookie has averaged just 11:29 of ice over the past two games this week, both of which were New York victories. Growing pains. Considering his average draft position (Yahoo! – 10th round, 112nd) and number of games played so far, I’d say it’s a tad premature to contemplate jumping out on the Fiala file. Honestly, from a fantasy perspective, I think there’s sneaky value in Minnesota this season. While Fiala has struggled to start the season, I do like what’s been going on around him, especially when it comes to Kirill Kaprizov and Jordan Greenway. Be patient and hold.
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