We’ve addressed many players in our Fantasy Focus series over the past six weeks but there are still some key questions to ask. Let’s take a look at those to conclude our series for this year with the Habs Fantasy Mailbag.
Which Montreal forward would you take first?
Many are hopeful about Alexander Radulov becoming a top liner with the Habs or are bullish about Alex Galchenyuk’s chances for a big season so many would lean towards one of them. I wouldn’t though. I like stability and consistency with my top picks which is why I’d go with Max Pacioretty. In the last five seasons, he’s tied for 20th in the NHL in total points and is 5th in goals. (And it’s not like he has benefitted from being on high scoring Montreal teams.) He’s not the most exciting of picks but he should be a safe bet for 60+ points if he stays healthy. I’m optimistic the other two could get there but there are more question marks with them than there are with Pacioretty so I’d lean towards the captain as the first forward pick.
Will there be an added boost early in the season for those who are playing in the World Cup?
If the pre-tournament contests are any indication, the games are going to be played at a level well beyond your typical NHL preseason snoozer. From that standpoint, it’s easy to be optimistic that those players will be in fine form to start the season. Despite that, I don’t think there’s going to be much of a carryover. Most players will be finished two weeks or more before the regular season starts and they’re not going to hold that extra intensity or focus the entire time before real games begin in mid-October. I wouldn’t be making a point to bump up players who play in this tournament in my rankings.
With Tomas Plekanec likely to be the 2nd line centre, how will that affect his output?
Plekanec has played a 50+ point pace or greater in six of the last seven years and at times has had to deal with less than stellar players on his wings. It’s now likely that he won’t spend as much time with Pacioretty but he should have one of Radulov or Brendan Gallagher with him regularly and neither of those players are offensive slouches. I don’t see him pushing towards 60 points again this year (a mark he hit two years ago and had a shot at until late last season) but I could see him reaching 50 once again which would be very good production from a second line centre if he does indeed wind up behind Galchenyuk at even strength.
Should Carey Price be the first goalie off the board?
While there’s a strong case to be made that Price is the NHL’s top netminder, I wouldn’t pick him first among goalies. The Habs plan to limit his starts closer to 60 (we’ll see if that actually happens as the season goes along) which means you’re leaving some saves and potential wins on the table. Then there’s the fact that Montreal isn’t exactly a high end contender. Wins can rule the day in most leagues so if I’m picking a goalie early enough that he’s the first one off the board (which will never happen), I’m looking for someone that’s guaranteed lots of games that’s on a contender. That’s Washington’s Braden Holtby. Price may wind up ahead of him in the World Cup pecking order but he’s not the #1 fantasy goalie option.
Are there any legitimate sleeper picks from the Canadiens this season?
The closest that the Habs have to a potential sleeper is Nathan Beaulieu. While he has underwhelmed thus far in his NHL career – especially in terms of point production – the stars are aligning for him to have a big year. He’s likely to have a bigger role which should mean more power play time and he may be the best fit alongside Shea Weber which would be huge for him. If Beaulieu needs more motivation, he’s also entering a contract year and a big season could potentially set him up for a long-term deal. 30 points with some PP production shouldn’t be out of the question which would make for a nice addition in most leagues.
What will the fantasy impact of the Subban-Weber trade be for Weber?
I don’t really expect much to change. Weber has been a top-10 fantasy defender for a long time now and should be in that area again this season. Yes, he’s coming from a more offensive-oriented team in Nashville based on last year but back when Barry Trotz was around, the Preds weren’t a high flying offence and played a much more rigid system. He still put up strong numbers in that situation so why wouldn’t he in a similar one with Montreal? There is a probable decline in his play down the road but that still should be a few years away at least. He should safely put up 40+ points again (I’d have him closer to the high 40 mark) with lots of shots, hits, and blocks which should make him a strong #1 fantasy blueliner once again.