Fantasy Nuggets Week 10

Jack Eichel is in the sixth season of his career. When he’s healthy, he’ll be playing for his fourth NHL head coach. He’s never played in a playoff game. The closest he came was in 2019-20 and even that was only because the NHL expanded its playoff format to 24 teams. The Sabres narrowly fell short of meeting those extremely lax standards to participate in the return to play.

In the offseason, they added Taylor Hall, Cody Eakin, and Eric Staal in an effort to finally make the playoffs – or failing that at least have a competitive season. The result you already know. Buffalo is having a humiliating season and people certainly haven’t been shy about discussing it. You gotta feel for Eichel and wonder what they’re telling him now. Don’t worry, THIS TIME it will be different. That argument has to be getting old to Eichel in his sixth season and Sabres fans, who are watching their 10th straight campaign of playoff-less hockey.

They’ll get a good draft pick at least, but they’ve had good draft picks. Sam Reinhart, Eichel, and Rasmus Dahlin were all first or second overall picks from the 2014 draft onward. They’ve gotten a top-10 pick in every draft from 2013 to present. Building through the draft has merit as part of a strategy towards success, but as the Sabres have shown, it alone does not guarantee results. Who knows though, maybe this time will be different? If you keep saying that, someday it has to be right. After all, a franchise can’t stay bad forever, can it?

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Moving on to a far brighter topic, the Vegas Golden Knights got Robin Lehner back from a concussion. Marc-Andre Fleury has been amazing so far with a 16-5-0 record, 1.87 GAA, and .933 save percentage in 21 starts, but the workload they’ve given him lately just doesn’t seem sustainable, especially at his age. His start on Wednesday was his fifth in eight days. That’s the condensed schedule for you and it’s not about to get any easier. Vegas has a stretch of three games in four days starting on Friday, but this time Fleury will almost certainly get a breather.

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The only question is: How much will Lehner do beyond giving Fleury some strategic games off? When the season started, Lehner was regarded as the number one goaltender in Vegas. Presumably that’s changed now, but that doesn’t mean Lehner is the clear backup. Will Vegas adopt a 1A/1B system they’ll alternate between their starters? Will it be strictly “What have you done for me lately?” system where a strong start earns you another and a poor start means getting a game off? Or will Fleury be the clear starter with Lehner getting a start about once a week to keep Fleury fresh?

A lot of that’s going to depend on how Lehner and Fleury perform of course, but this next week’s worth of games will be valuable in learning about coach Peter DeBoer’s intent. How DeBoer utilizes Lehner in the near term will probably tell us what he intends to do if all else stays equal. One things for sure though: Having two strong goalie options is a great luxury for Vegas to have in the second half of the season.

Another fun storyline to keep in the back of your head is Alex Ovechkin’s climb up the goal scoring leaderboard list. He’s at 718 career goals now, which puts him in sixth place ahead of Phil Esposito. The next on the list is Marcel Dionne at 731, so Ovechkin won’t be surpassing him in the near term, but if he gets hot he could end up ahead of him by the end of the season. Although Ovechkin is 35-years-old, he’s still playing at an elite level. He has 12 goals and 23 points in 25 contests this season.

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Ovechkin is also 176 goals from the ultimate prize – Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894. That’s still a big gap to close, but you can’t rule it out. It’s a question of how many years Ovechkin has left in him at this level. Let’s assume he gets 15 more goals this season and thus finishes with 733. If he plays another five years after 2020-21 – into his early 40s – he would need to average 32.2 goals per season to reach the record. That’s doable given his history, but staying at an elite level for that long is unlikely even for him, so there would probably be a drop off at some point during that span which would drag that average down. If we assume though that he’ll stay in the league for another seven seasons after this one then he only needs an average of 23 goals per season. That would mean playing well into his 40s, but as long as he stays healthy, that’s far from unimaginable – if he wants to do that. Would he want to stay in the NHL that long though? Ovechkin would like to finish his career in the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow, so for him it’s not just a question of playing in the NHL until he can’t anymore – he also might want to leave while he has something left in the tank to round out his career where his pro tenure started. Ovechkin played for Moscow Dynamo before coming to the Washington Capitals and when the NHL was going through its lockout during 2012-13, he spent time back with Moscow Dynamo, so he has a special connection there.

At the same time though, if he’s close to closing into the record, would he opt to stick in the NHL to close that gap, even if it means delaying his return to the KHL further than he’d otherwise like or even putting his KHL return at risk? How important would getting the record be to Ovechkin?

Back in November, Ovechkin said this per Sportsnet, “It is clear, in two, three, four years, maybe five, I will end my career in Washington. I want to end on a beautiful note – to play my last match for Dynamo Moscow.”

If five years is the upper-limit for how long Ovechkin plans to remain in the NHL, then as we’ve gone over, it would be tough for him to capture the record. But let’s say after five more years with Washington, Ovechkin is sitting at 860 goals or more. That would be tantalizingly close to the record, provided he’s still able to score at an okay pace at that point. What will he do then?

We’ll see if that scenario ever plays out, but one things for sure: It’s rare to see a talent this good, so it’s best to enjoy watching Ovechkin’s pursuit of the goal scoring record while we can. Because, as the Sabres hope, eventually things change.

Published: 2021-03-18 18:53:16

Tags: #Fantasy #Nuggets #Week

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