Fantasy Nuggets Week 6

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My favorite part about this time of the season is that the sample size is still small enough for players to be on some absurd paces but we’re deep enough in that the ‘What If?’ scenarios start to sound compelling. Like: What if Leon Draisaitl scores 50 goals in 50 games?

It seems almost impossible to imagine any player doing that in the modern era. The last player to officially score 50 in 50 (that is, by the team’s 50th game, not the 50th game that the player participated in) was Brett Hull all the way back in 1991-92. No player in the salary cap era has even come close to it. Even Alex Ovechkin in his height in 2007-08 when he had a 65-goal season was at 39 goals through 50 contests. Steven Stamkos is the only other player in the salary cap era to reach the 60-goal milestone and when he did so in 2011-12, he had 33 goals through 50 contests.

So yeah, we know the odds are heavily stacked against Draisaitl getting there. That even one slump could completely derail any 50 in 50 run, but at the same time he has 17 goals through 15 contests so…what if?

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The Edmonton Oilers’ other superstar is having nearly as impressive of a season. Connor McDavid is on a 15-game point streak to start the campaign. In case your wondering, Wayne Gretzky holds the record for the longest season-opening point streak ever because of course he does. Back in the 1983-84 campaign, Gretzky started the campaign with an unreal 51-game point streak, so even by ‘What if?’ standards, it’s hard to imagine McDavid reaching that level. That said, McDavid is climbing the list. He’s currently in a five-way tie for 13th on the all-time list. If he can record at least a point in two more games, then he’ll move into the top-10 and if he manages to push his season-opening point streak to at least 23 contests, then he’ll have the fifth best opener ever and the greatest of the salary cap era, surpassing Dany Heatley’s 22-game run in 2005-06.

McDavid also recently reached the 600-point milestone and it took him just 53 games to get from 500-to-600. He was so good when his career started and he’s only gotten better over time. If you want a more plausible ‘What If?’ then ask what if McDavid also hits the 700-point milestone before this season even ends. He hit the 600-point mark on Sunday and he’s already up to 603, so he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

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Moving on from optimistic news to something unfortunate, Ryan Ellis is projected to miss the next four-to-six weeks after his lower-body injury put him back on the sidelines. The Flyers acquiring Ryan Ellis from the Nashville Predators as part of a three-team trade over the summer was a potential steal for Philadelphia, but we’ve been seeing the downside of that deal so far. Ellis missed a lot of time in recent years due to injury and while he continues to be fantastic when healthy, it remains to be seen how often the Flyers will be able to enjoy his services. Keep in mind he comes with a $6.25 million cap hit through 2026-27 and he will turn 31 in January, so there’s some clear risk there with his contract in spite of his talent.

I haven’t touched on the Calder Trophy race so far this season in the Fantasy Nuggets, so let’s take an early look at how that battle is shaping up. So far, the Detroit Red Wings feature the two best players in the battle. Lucas Raymond is leading all rookies with seven goals and 18 points in 18 contests while defenseman Moritz Seider is also having a standout campaign with two goals and 13 points in 18 games while averaging 22:31 minutes. After that duo, there are only two other rookies with at least 10 points so far: New Jersey’s Dawson Mercer (11 points) and Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras (10).

Detroit went into the 2020 draft lottery with the best chance of getting the first overall pick but fell to fourth due to bad luck. The silver lining though is that so far, that draft lost has worked out for them. The first overall pick that year, Alexis Lafreniere, has struggled to find his way with the New York Rangers, the second overall pick, Quinton Byfield, had just an assist in six games with Los Angeles before unfortunately sustaining a left-ankle fracture that has sidelined him indefinitely, and the third overall pick, Tim Stutzle, is doing okay, but not great with 29 points as a rookie with the Ottawa Senators last season followed by six points in 15 contests so far in his sophomore season.

Granted it’s early in all those players careers so it’s way to premature to declare Raymond the best of the bunch, but at least so far, Detroit has to be happy with how things have played out.

As long as we’re talking about rookies, I have to close out by highlighting Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman. He got his first real taste of adversity at the NHL level on Oct. 20 when he allowed five goals on 24 shots, but to his credit he bounced right back. Through seven starts he’s 5-2-0 with a 2.16 GAA and .914 save percentage. The biggest question mark when it comes to his Calder Trophy bid might ultimately end up being his playing time. Linus Ullmark is getting about half the workload – although Swayman has outplayed him so far so that might change – and there is the X-Factor of Tuukka Rask, who remains unsigned, but might ink with the Bruins once he’s recovered from his hip surgery.

It will be very interesting to see how the Bruins’ goaltending situation shakes out over the course of the season, but certainly any conversation about Calder Trophy candidates wouldn’t be complete without including Swayman.