Good evening everyone and welcome to the first of many Fantasy KHL updates. We will be doing these here and on The Hockey Writers as well. Keep an eye out for them and again please remember this is a league where points are fairly easy to come by if you have the right players. The biggest obstacle presented has been the end of the NHL Lockout. Honestly, there was a feeling it was going to come but the finality still leaves a sting when one has to scramble half their roster to just get their starters in. Granted, there are only six starting slots and three spots for the bench but again, it is a league not familiar to many which makes it a challenge.
For those wondering, the league is done completely by spreadsheets. It really was a labor of love when it started and the demand was unexpectedly high. In the end, we came up with a nice round 15 participants. The season did start a little late because of Hurricane Sandy but in the end, it has turned out to be quite the interesting experience.
Again here are the scoring rules:
1 point for an ES goal or assist
2 points for a special teams goal or assist (PS, SH, or PP)
1 point for a GWG.
3 points for a hat trick
Goalies lose a point for every loss -- shootout, OT, or regulation
Goalies get 1 point for a win and 1 point for a shutout.
Goalies get 1 point for 30+ saves
Goalies get 2 points for 40+ saves
Goalies get 3 points for 50+ saves
See? Those are pretty easy to keep up with. With a pretty modest amount of transactions, teams have been on the move all year but there are a few teams that have stood out all year. It was tough to narrow this down but there was a clear line between the have's and have not's. Let's finish this quickly while we list the top four teams in our fantasy league.
Team Wassel -- 132 pts
Team Parkinson -- 119 pts
Ak Bars Kent -- 94 pts
Team CSKA Slappy -- 84 pts
It was a league where several plans were definitely needed to be in place. It was not hard to figure out going with some ex-pats would be helping in high scoring numbers. Add in some NHL'ers that could be dropped later and not wasting time worrying about goaltending too much was a help. While some focused hard on goaltending and it has helped them some. Ultimately, this league comes down to consistent offense (especially of the special teams variety).
There are still a couple months left. Who will prevail? Don't worry. We will keep you updated as the finish line comes closer with the Fantasy KHL.
(Nikita Kucherov scores the first goal for Russia but goals were hard to come by for the medal favorites today).
It was not the way Russia had drawn it up needless to say but they did win today over Slovakia 3-2. Russia was favored by several goals and could only muster a one goal win. Needless to say, it was not the desired result for a team that looked like a middle of the road squad as opposed to a team who was picked by many to at least medal if not win gold. Yet there was Canada today, who looked every bit the favorite as they overcame a sluggish first period to club Germany by a 9-3 score. It was not a contest after the first as Canada bombed Germany with seven goals over the final two periods.
On the negative side of the ledger was Russia who only squeaked by and then there was Finland who looked ready to blow out the opposition then stopped scoring even though the spread was 4 1/2. Latvia provided very little opposition but their goaltender was able to hold the Finns off the scoreboard in the third period as the brake pedal was applied as opposed to the gas. Shots on goal were 44-12 Finland by the way. By all rights, this was a case where the bookies had the spreads right on the money today.
Sweden was favored by 2 1/2 goals and proceeded to win by three and in their "five slot", that was again a perfect fit for a wager. There are usually few upsets in the first two days of the World Juniors for a reason. The gap between the haves and have nots are pretty wide usually. This tournament is no exception where the top five teams are genuinely a good deal more talented than the bottom five units.
Tomorrow Team USA debuts and again this is a team that has medal potential, maybe even silver or gold if things break right. However, for a team that has had troubles scoring in the pre-tourneys, a spread of 5 1/2 does seem high. Then again, Canada did beat Germany by six goals and was absolutely shell shocked when Canada turned it up a notch. Can Team USA do the same? The talent is there but is the chemistry just yet? The answer seems to be NO and if it were to happen we'd have to question ourselves. There is no way the Americans can beat the Germans by six at this time. If this was a week from now, then maybe. It will be interesting to see how fast the American squad comes out tomorrow. Any nerves will be the cause of panic of course, much like what Russia felt today and never could fully get over.
It is going to be a fun day of action as Team USA plays its three games in four days stretch that will tell us a lot about this country's chances at a medal while setting some of the numbers for the bookies. Stay tuned and watch. This one is not going to be dull in the least.
Hello world....meet Seth Jones, potential #1 draft pick in this year's upcoming NHL Draft. At the very least he is a top five pick and not the quintessential defenseman. What he does provide is game changing ability from the blueline with the ability to be physical whenever needed. He is one of the anchors of Team USA and one very key reason why they very well could medal and maybe more in this tournament which starts Wednesday in Ufa, Russia.
Sweden is the defending champions from last year but honestly Canada is the favorite with Russia honestly much closer to Canada than anyone up in the Great White North would like you to think. People also want you to believe that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the best player in this tournament and that may not be true either honestly. This tournament will come down to goaltending as it always does and not the firepower of the five "superpower" teams.
First off, we are going to more than likely ultimately eliminate Sweden. Why? Sweden just does not quite have the firepower to match up with teams like Canada and Russia especially. They can pester and they can pull off an upset but the reality is they do not have that ability to sustain a run to the final game. Hampus Lindholm is a pretty darn good player but that is not going to be enough even with Elias Lindholm and his solid two way game. There is just not enough in the guns department to keep teams honest.
Finland is a real darkhorse here. They have more talent than most give them credit for and they have the ability to absolutely shut down teams like they did with Team USA and Canada. Both teams were very frustrated by the "Fighting Finns". Markus Granlund may just be a better skater and has the offensive skills that are almost comparable to his older brother, Mikael. The other player I like from Finland that is going to surprise people is Joonas Korpisalo. There is something about a goalie that can move as fluidly as Joonas. He is probably the third maybe even the second best goalie in this tournament. Your last line of defense can get you pretty far in the one and done round and add in the style of play and that is why Finland is no easy out.
Team USA has the potential to win silver or bronze and maybe more depending on how the team meshes. J.T. Miller has to absolutely score with Rocco Grimaldi and Johnny Gaudreau. It is not the first line for the Americans that has even their fans worried. It is the second line. Yes they have the talent no question but they have to produce for a team that may have scoring issues at times in this tournament. The defense with Seth Jones is pretty solid but again the first two pre-tourney games did see this team play a bit too far back as they had some issues with the international ice. That cannot happen once the tournament begins or they could flame out even. John Gibson is going to have to come up huge in the bigger matchups and he does have the ability. Can he and Team USA deliver? We will find out.
Canada is a team stocked with absolute studs from top to bottom at seemingly every turn but their issue is going to always be goaltending. If Malcolm Subban is going to be the guy, his glove hand MUST improve significantly. His athletic abilities are unquestioned but teams will continue to test that glove side with mid-range shots of various speed and angles. However, Canada has talent personified. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a man among boys in this but so is Jonathan Huberdeau to be honest. Huberdeau is the key to Canada's man advantage and an ultimate different maker in this tournament if they can stop taking a ton of penalties themselves. Add in Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, and Mark Scheifele to top it off and those are reasons why Canada is favored in this tournament. Add in they are motivated as hell to avenge their failures, including the heartbreaking loss to the Americans a couple years back. Their defensive depth and goaltending issues will be the only things holding them back when all is said and done. They will win either silver or gold.
Russia is the one team that has the firepower of Canada but has probably the most consistent goaltending in the tournament with the likes of Andrei Vasilevski. Is he a Tretiak? No. However, he has an elite compete level that supplants any other goaltender in this tournament. Mikhail Grigorenko and Nail Yakupov are going to anchor the team offensively. The most important benefit for Russia is the home cooking. That home cooking plus the cold weather plus the international ice may be the final game changer that Russia needs to not only medal but ultimately take home the gold. It will not be easy as Russia's defense is a little wet between the ears and very very young. The bottom line is a great goaltender stops an elite offense nine times out of every ten. It is why we have Russia ultimately taking home the gold medal during the first week of January.
We hope everyone enjoys the tournament but first and foremost, have a Merry Christmas from everyone here at The Program and THW Live.
Director Of The Program
And now I present the Fang Finger version of the 2013 WJC Preview.....enjoy.
Team Canada should win the tournament because of their incredible depth, skill and speed. The NHL lockout has allowed a number of players, who are NHL ready, to be able to play in the World Juniors Championship.
However, their major obstacle is the strength of their division. Russia and the United States are included, who are both major contenders to win it all.
In order to win each game, Canada has to play with discipline. They have to take a step back in their aggression and focus on plays they can make that won’t make the referees stick their hand up to call a penalty.
No doubt, Team Canada has great speed that will become effective, if they use it. Laziness cannot be shown or teams like Russia and USA will walk all over them, beating them to the puck like Finland did in their pre-tournament exhibition match in Helsinki.
Speed and discipline are the keys to winning games in the WJC, not just for Canada, but every team as well.
The Achilles heel for Team Canada this year is going to be goaltending. There are high expectations for Boston Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban, brother of P.K. for the Montreal Canadiens. Subban is expected to be the starter for Canada, but he isn’t prepared yet for the challenges to come.
Jordan Binnington and Jake Paterson plan to back him up throughout the tournament. All three goalies are notorious for giving up weak goals. They will either be the cause of being champion in the World Juniors, or be losers and finish eliminated in the first game of the medal round, like last year.
This appears to be an all-star team, front to back. That can be good, or bad. All of these players know they are skilled, but look for these first round draft picks be selfish in trying to score by themselves if they are frustrated or down late in a game.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, captain of Team Canada. CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntoshWith Team Canada’s stacked roster due to the lockout, it is hard to find just two people who would really make a difference with their play because, in all honesty, almost everyone on the roster could make a huge difference in the game. Captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Dougie Hamilton have an opportunity to shine while there isn’t an NHL season.
Nugent-Hopkins was named captain for his experience in the NHL. He will know how to handle tough situations. The Edmonton Oilers forward is known as a playmaker and won’t score many goals like a Steven Stamkos.
Boston Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton will be Canada’s number one defenseman in shutting down skilled lines. Hamilton will use his size—6’5”, 200 lbs.—to force players like Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk towards the outside, where they are least dangerous. The Canadian defenseman will be a key aspect in their team when the roster is filled with offensive defensemen.
Speaking of Nail Yakupov, he is a player to watch for on Team Russia. The Russian forward was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2012 Entry Draft. He is a goal scorer, fast and a playmaker—everything wanted in a player in the World Juniors. Yakupov has a good chance at being the leading scorer in the tournament. Teams will have to keep watch of his ice time to prepare good matchups in order to shut him down, which isn’t easy.
Going into Group A, Team Finland has a skilled forward by the name of Joel Armia. The Buffalo Sabres prospect has incredible stickhandling and even better playmaking. Don’t look for him to score many goals for Finland, but to give others the chance at scoring. Armia has good size for a forward and will use it throughout the tournament. He may be the most fun player to watch.
There are times where we just have a little fun here. Thanks to our many friends and sponsors for a nice 2012 despite the NHL Lockout. With the 2013 IIHF U-20 World Championships coming up, it has been nice to talk about some hockey that has that tournament feel. When there is all the pressure in the world, it adds a little to the table. During this tournament, we will have a mini daily Pick The Winner where we take a few of the notable games and throw our opinion out there as who will win.
On The Hockey Writers, we will even go a step further and unveil a not so mystery guest picker and their musings on why they make their picks. It is going to be a fun tournament during the holiday season and most importantly, we will all get to talk some hockey for a chance instead of the same old lockout jibber jabber. Our early favorite is actually Russia but as we all know Finland and Sweden can be very intriguing. As the pre-tourney scrimmages taught us, these two teams have a lot of fight in them as Canada and the USA found out in the hardest of ways.
Again from all of us here at The Program and also our friends from The Hockey Writers and GetRealOdds too, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Let's get to those picks and bring home the bacon!