Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames (C): Maybe he didn’t get enough love at draft time because he plays in western Canada. Maybe it’s because the Flames have been a subpar team for what seems like a decade, or perhaps it’s the overall depth at the position. He’s averaged over 28 goals and over 32 assists the past three seasons and is on his way to bettering both numbers this year. What is even more impressive is that he already has seven power play goals and looks like he will obliterate his career best (10) set in 2014-15. The Flames are a better offensive team than people think, although they may be top heavy. He’s a keeper.
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets (C): This is another player from whom we probably should’ve seen this coming. He is on pace to set career highs in goals, power play goals, power play assists, and plus/minus. If he was on a more well-known team, he might actually be an MVP candidate. One word of caution. Scheifele only has 48 shots on goal this season. That means his shooting percentage is currently at 25-percent. That is an unsustainable number. If he doesn’t start to shoot more, his goal totals will fall.
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues (LW): I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why Philadelphia ever dealt Schenn to St. Louis during the off-season. It’s not that he was a superstar with Philly, but he was scoring 25-plus goals a season and not always playing on a line with Claude Giroux. Sure, the Flyers received a decent haul in return for Schenn, but to trade an established player for future prospects and picks is as risky as it gets. Schenn looks immensely more comfortable in St. Louis and is likely to set career numbers across the board in all categories with the exception of power play goals and assists.
Evander Kane, Buffalo Sabres (W): Kane has almost always been an enigma wherever he played (Atlanta, Winnipeg, Buffalo). He has the talent to be one of the better power wings in the game, but something always seems to happen to pull him down. This season may not end differently but right now you can’t ignore that he is on pace to score close to 40 goals this season. The problem is that there are strong rumors that Kane could be dealt before the trade deadline in late February. I’m not sure I would trust him on a new team in new surroundings, even though that team would likely be a better one offensively.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (G): The Lightning took a big chance when they traded Ben Bishop at the trade deadline last season. Vasilevskiy struggled at times when Bishop was out of the lineup with injury and after being traded. Tampa needed to move Bishop to get under the salary cap to sign start such stars as Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Well, everything has come up roses so far, as Vasilevskiy has looked like one of the better young goaltenders in the game this season with a 2.19 GAA and a .933 save percentage. He is a big reason why the Lightning are considered to be one of the top Stanley Cup contenders this year, but his story won’t be completely written until we see how he performs in the playoffs.
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