We're just days away from the start of the season, so it's time for our first weekly installment of the Fantasy Planner. Depending on your league, week 1 may be very short, or very long, since the first games are on a Thursday. We'll combine the games from this week, along with the full next week for this edition (10/7 to 10/17).
Week 1 Matchups
Teams with 3 Games: Boston, NY Rangers, San Jose
Teams with 6 Games: Anaheim, Buffalo, Chicago, New Jersey, Pittsburgh
Teams playing in Europe: Carolina, Minnesota, Columbus, San Jose, Boston, Phoenix
6 games versus 3 can make a big difference when piling on the points and wins, so pay close attention to games played this week more than any other this season. It's also worth noting the teams who play in Europe. All of those teams will play back-to-back contests, which means, the goalies will likely splits starts for those games. So, if you're banking on Niemi or Rask (assuming Thomas is healthy) for week 1, don't count on more than 2 starts. On the other hand, if you're holding Niemi, starts against Columbus and Atlanta may be all you need for a decent week's stats.
On the other extreme, players from Chicago and Anaheim should have a head start, as both teams have 3 home games and 3 away games to start the season. The Penguins also have a favorable 6-game schedule with some light-weight opposition thrown in. Crosby, Kane, or Perry should be leading the league in scoring after the extended week 1 (Getzlaf traditionally gets off to a slow start, or I'd pick him in there).
Caution: Starting in week 2, we'll feature who's hot and who's cold based on actual games played. For this edition, all we have to go on is the pre-season, for what it's worth…
Phil Kessel (O - TOR)
If the early signs are any indication, Kessel is primed for a monster season. He tallied up 6 goals and 4 assists in 6 pre-season games.
Kari Lehtonen (G - DAL)
It's about health here, as the numbers look pretty. .75 GAA, .974 save % and a 2-0 record in 3 games played.
Tomas Plekanec (O - MON)
You never know what to expect with Plekanec, but Habs fans hope his pre-season trend continues. He matched Kessel's 6 goals and 4 assists, but only needed 4 games to get there.
Again, it's pre-season, so don't go changing your roster too much. But just for jollies, here is a handful of stars that failed to score a goal in the pre-season so far:
• Alex Ovechkin (WAS)
• Mike Richards (PHI)
• Brad Richards (DAL)
• Eric Staal (CAR)
• John Tavares (NYI)
Here are a couple guys who went largely undrafted that you ought to keep a close eye on to start the season:
Lee Stempniak (O - PHO)
Still no love coming Stempniak's way despite the number he put up after arriving in Phoenix last spring. If he can return to any where near the pace he finished the season at, he'll be gone in a week from your league.
Michal Neuvirth (G - WAS)
With Varlamov's health now somewhat in question, Neuvirth kicks off the season with some guaranteed starts coming his way. Should be off the board in most league by mid-October.
Recent Injury Notes
• Brian Campbell (D-CHI) - out at least 4 weeks with a knee sprain. Bench for sure. Consider dropping him.
• Michael Leighton (G-PHI) - out at least a month. You can probably find a safer bet for your bench than Leighton for this season.
• Jordan Staal (O-PIT) - Best case has him out 2 weeks. Plan for much more. Definitely still worth holding on to.
• Kyle Okposo (O-NYI) - Shoulder surgery has him out until December. Not worth holding up a spot at this point.
Rebound Players to Watch Early On
Michael Cammalleri (O - MON)
After an injury filled campaign last season, Cammalleri only managed 50 points. I've been surprised to see how many people are passing on him in drafts, and how undervalued he is on most cheat sheets out there. I see him potentially finishing top 10 in goals this season and have him ranked 25th overall among forwards.
Brent Burns (D - MIN)
Burns has become an afterthought in fantasy hockey, after showing tremendous promise earlier in his career. His last two seasons have been written off, mostly due to injuries. If he can put together a healthy season, he should rebound to 40+ points and be a major factor come next year's draft. Keep an eye on him this season.
Marty Turco (G - DAL)
The obvious choice at goaltender to put together a comeback campaign. He hasn't played on a team this stacked before and has every opportunity to put up some career numbers with Chicago. That said, I don't expect his stay on top in Chicago to last more than a year or so, as Crawford will be worked into the role soon.
Here are a few other names who should rebound from injury, poor performance, or KHL exile this season:
• Jiri Hudler (O - DET)
• David Booth (O - FLA)
• Martin Havlat (O - MIN)
• Paul Martin (D - PIT)
• Steve Mason (G - COB)
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