Have you bought Dobber's updated Fantasy Guide and Draft List? Why exactly not? Buy it here and fix this gross oversight on your part.


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Its been a while since I last filled this space with spare thoughts, and I must say it's good to be back. Somehow it doesn't quite feel like hockey season to me just yet. But with the autumn chill returning to the air and preseason games beginning in earnest, I expect that will change soon.

 

 

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One thing I usually dread about the first few games of the season is having to pore over play-by-play sheets while counting scoring chances until timeonice.com gets updated (which always takes a while, if it happens at all). Luckily there's a new chance counting app for anyone who cares designed by Joshua Weissbrock. Check it out.

 

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I was traveling in Europe for much of the past few weeks so I missed the various rookie tournaments, and I have to say: I legitimately missed watching them.

 

Traverse, London and Penticton aren't the best places to evaluate prospects - the age gap between participants can be as big as six years and it's the first hockey of the new season for most of the players - but the games are fun, and it's a good way to dip your toes in, easing your way back into what promises to be a long, busy hockey season.

 

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From what little I did see at Penticton (two games total) I was pretty impressed with Jets prospect Josh Morrissey, Flames prospects Markus Granlund and Joni Ortio, and Canucks prospect Hunter Shinkaruk.

 

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Did you catch Taylor Hall's non-goal in the opening twenty-four seconds of Saturday night's Edmonton based split-squad game between the Oilers and the Flames? How about Alex Ovechkin taking a really scary stick in the face in the first period of the Kraft Hockeyville game in Belleville? Preseason hockey baby!


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Speaking of pre-season hockey, the Nation Network is hosting a Streakcred competition. It's free to sign up and you could win $200 before the start of the regular season!

 

Here's how you play: you pick teams you think will win every night and try to build a "streak." The owner of the longest streak when the regular season rolls around wins 200 dollars.

 

Sign up here!

 

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If you watched any of the preseason games on Saturday night you probably got a bit of a taste of the proposed hybrid icing rules. Just to recap in case you haven't paid close attention to this: the preseason will be played with Hybrid icing. Then before October 1st the NHLPA will vote on whether or not to keep the rule. If the players vote to institute hybrid icing, then the rule will be in place during the regular season.

 

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I'd be curious to hear some of your thoughts on this subject, but I can't stand "hybrid icing" frankly.

 

Now let me be clear: I think it's vastly preferable to touch icing, which too often puts defenseman in vulnerable positions. But I hate the redundant layer of subjectivity it adds to the game. It's significantly messier and more confusing than plain old no-touch icing, which is a better system anyway.

 

Hybrid icing is, in my view, fraught with potential for human error and makes the game as a whole more difficult for new fans to understand. Still if it can help protect defenseman from potentially devastating injuries, then it's certainly better than nothing.

 

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That Jared Cowen extension is a bit of a stunner. Over three million for four-years is a pretty steep price to pay for a player whose spent 90 games playing mostly on the third-pairing. Not to mention the fact that the Senators didn't purchase a single one of Cowen's UFA years with this contract...

 

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Like, in terms of track record Cowen's comparables really should've been the likes of Chris Tanev ($1.5 million, one-year) and Marco Scandella ($1.025 million, two-years). Instead the Senators priced Cowen as superior to Jared Spurgeon (by an additional year of term and 500k per season).

 

Here's the thing: Cowen has played fewer minutes per game than Spurgeon. He's also appeared in about 70 fewer games in his career. He has a more worrisome injury history. Cowen is less offensively productive than the young Wild defenseman too.

 

In other words, looking at unproven but talented blue-liners who were also restricted free-agents this off-season - Cowen's deal is the clear outlier. That will be triply true when and if Cody Franson caves and signs a $2 million contract with the Leafs...

 

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So yeah a bit of a baffling deal. But it's interesting how vociferously the Senators seemed to be against a "bridge deal" for the big defenseman. Senators management was reportedly pushing hard for an eight-year contract for Cowen! Max term for a defenceman who has performed somewhat unevenly over 90 career regular season NHL games!

 

It makes you wonder how Senators GM Bob Murray rates Habs GM Marc Bergevin's work with PK Subban last summer. I'd imagine he doesn't think too much of it.

 

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Is everyone in the world sleeping on the Coyotes? Again?

 

Phoenix is definitely my sleeper team this season. They're well coached, deep on the back-end, and very good down the middle. Mike Ribeiro, Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette aren't the sexiest group of centermen, but they're all solid.

 

The additions to Ribiero, possibly Max Domi, Brandon Gormley and assistant coach and power-play specialist Newell Brown will serve to punch up the moribund power-play of the 'Yotes. Mike Smith is still pretty good. Oliver Ekman-Larrson is an emerging star. Put it together and I think Phoenix has a good chance to  finish this upcoming season with more points than the Oilers and Ducks, frankly.

 

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In terms of fantasy impact: if Gormley makes the Coyotes out of training camp pick up him promptly on the waiver wire. I also think Newell Brown - who ran some pretty complicated entry sets through Alex Edler in Vancouver - will be a boon for Keith Yandle, who could see a spike in power-play production.

 

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It's the fall, which means Oilers fans have hope again for a few months. Hard not to like a lot of what MacTavish did this summer. David Perron, Andrew Ference, and Boyd Gordon are all useful pieces that will make Edmonton a bit more difficult to play against. MacTavish also built a pretty impressive stable of defensive depth, and didn't do anything stupid (like overpay for a goaltender). I really like the Eakins hire for Edmonton also.

 

Still, I don't look at Edmonton and think they're a playoff team yet. They'll probably be a top-five offensive team, but their lack of depth down the middle and their almost complete lack of above average top-four defencemen are fatal flaws.

 

Even if Hall and Yakupov take big steps forward this season (and I fully expect they will), I still see the Oil being hard-pressed to keep pace with Anaheim, San Jose, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Phoenix in the Pacific this upcoming season.

 

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Finally: I'm working at theScore as a hockey editor this season and I'm really excited about some of our new mobile offerings.

 

In particular if you go get the latest update for Android or your iPhone and turn on league alerts for the NHL (or for your favorite team or player) you'll receive breaking updates on all relevant transactions.

 

What do you think? Could having a starting goaltender push alert help out your fantasy team? How about being able to track an injured player's progress with the most up-to-date, rigorously updated health reports around?

 

Download theScore app and give the new digital news team a shot, I doubt you'll regret it!

 

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Thomas Drance is a news editor at theScore.


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