If there's one team to pay attention to this season, the success of the Canucks has made them a team worth staying up late for. They lead the league in goals per game at 4.17. They're best in the Western Conference with a 32.4 percent conversion rate on the power play. They're actually a bit low with 29.2 shots per game -- inflated percentages are a concern, but there's also the opportunity for them to grow into their lofty numbers. I'd much rather see a team scoring at an unsustainable pace rather than getting unlucky. Sometimes, early misfortunes fester into negativity, whereas winning lucky can build a sense of belief, false or otherwise.
From an individual standpoint, the trio of J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes share the league lead with 28 points. Hughes is making a substantial case to be the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy, and the long-awaited regression of Miller appears unlikely to come this year. Thatcher Demko has also been among the best goalies in the league with a .926 save percentage over 12 games. The supporting cast -- players like Brock Boeser, Andrei Kuzmenko, Filip Hronek and Casey DeSmith -- have all outplayed even the most generous expectations.
Over the long term, playing at the extremes of success or failure is unsustainable. It all averages out in the middle. As a fantasy manager, you may be inclined to sell high on your Canucks, but it's worth it to ride the success as long as it lasts. The Pacific Division is still a little soft, and the Canucks have the talent -- and an improved system in Rick Tocchet's first full year behind the bench -- to run near the front all season.
Once a much-maligned part of the Canucks' defense, Tyler Myers has been much better this year. Nine points in 18 games is a good place to start, but he's also added a plus-9 rating with 27 hits and 32 blocked shots. He's got four assists over his last four contests. Myers is thriving with the less-is-more mantra -- his ice time is down 2:26 per game compared to last season, but it appears to have benefited all parties.
Eeli Tolvanen has parlayed a solid October into a strong November with two goals and eight assists over nine contests this month. The Kraken's offense has not played well with 2.63 goals per game, but Tolvanen has done just fine. His most frequent linemates are Yanni Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand -- they're the listed third line, but they see what amounts to top-six usage. In Tolvanen's case, he's also a power-play threat with a strong shot, though he's yet to score with the man advantage this season.
Full disclosure: I don't roster Radko Gudas and I have no plans to. That said, he's picked up four points, 18 hits and 11 blocked shots over his last five contests. The Ducks have started to cool off from their strong start, but a veteran like Gudas is a lock to see top-four minutes. He's always able to play his way into relevance in banger leagues -- he's reached 250 hits in four of the last five seasons. The offense will come and go, but that can be ignored if your defense corps is strong enough already. You know if he's the kind of player that will help you.
There hasn't been much to love about the Flames this season. Head coach Ryan Huska spent the first month of the season with the line blender on high -- you do what you have to when your team isn't winning. He's settled it down lately, finding some chemistry with a line consisting of Nazem Kadri centering rookies Martin Pospisil and Connor Zary.
From the start of November, Kadri has two goals and nine points in eight games, Pospisil has three goals and two assists in seven contests and Zary has three goals and eight points in eight outings. Kadri's a veteran, so his role is safe, but the strong play of Zary and Pospisil has been a pleasant surprise for a team that's long relied on established players. Zary's prospect pedigree is stronger, making it more likely he sticks around. Pospisil has impressed since his NHL arrival, and he also adds a little heaviness to help in formats that count hits. The play of the rookies has put players like Adam Ruzicka, Dillon Dube and Walker Duehr on notice.
While a trip to California saw Torey Krug come up with no points over three games, he had a goal and five assists over the previous four contests before the roadie. The Blues' biggest problem this season -- outside of general inconsistency that I highlighted last week -- is a terrible power play. Through 17 games, they're converting at a 7.7 percent clip. That was a big part of Krug's season-opening 10-game drought. You have to assume a team with a number of talented forwards will eventually figure it out with the man advantage, and that's where Krug typically thrives the most. He's on the second unit for now, but that could change if Scott Perunovich loses his place in the lineup.
Ross Colton has scored in three straight games, giving the Avalanche some much-needed depth offense. He's got four points in that span. Colton will rarely play more than a third-line role, but he's also seen some power-play time this year. With eight points in 16 outings, he's playing at a level that's acceptable for standard 12-team formats. Add in 40 shots on net, 26 hits and 23 PIM, and you've got a solid multi-category forward playing in a strong offense -- the Avalanche are averaging 3.81 goals per game.
Cole Perfetti was initially expected to center the second line for the Jets, but that's mostly been abandoned after the first week of the season. He started the year quietly, but he's now posted 10 points over his last nine games while settling in as the second-line left wing. Vladislav Namestnikov is not the ideal center for a scoring winger, but Perfetti also sees enough power-play time to make an impact there. He's at 14 points (three on the power play) and 35 shots on net through 17 contests overall. At just 21 years old, it's completely believable Perfetti could be in the midst of a breakout season.
After another two-assist game, Sean Walker is back on my radar. He's picked up a goal and five assists during his four-game point streak. The Flyers have been better than expected at 10-7-1 through 18 contests, and the 29-year-old Walker has been a large part of that. He's seeing 21:09 of ice time per game, the first time he's been a true top-four defenseman in his career. With 10 points, 28 hits, 31 blocked shots and a plus-6 rating, he's doing a little bit of everything to be useful. He had some potential with the Kings years ago, but Walker looks like exactly what the Flyers have needed for a while.
Since returning from a couple of injuries early in the season, Charlie Lindgren has won four straight starts with just a combined six goals allowed in November. The 29-year-old has shared the crease with Darcy Kuemper, who has also missed time with an injury recently. Lindgren probably can't wrestle the starting gig away, but with the Capitals playing competent hockey, he's a smart option to pair with Kuemper or add as even a third goalie in fantasy.
Sam Montembeault allowed five goals in his first outing in November, but has followed that up with just four total goals allowed over his last three appearances. The usual caveat applies here -- the Canadiens are rostering three goalies, and that makes playing time a scarce commodity. Montembeault's .908 save percentage on the year is a little better than league average, and just a tick above Jake Allen's .907. Cayden Primeau isn't a legitimate challenger to take over the No. 2 spot, but Montembeault can't be reliably counted on for more than one start per week. He's a solid streaming option when he starts, but you won't want to roster him without having a workhorse on your squad as well.
The thing that makes the NHL my favorite of the major North American sports is the unpredictability. Some attribute that to the loser point in overtime and shootout games -- two of those are worth one win, after all. The parity is impressive, and it's a fool's errand to think the league will live up to expectations. Looking at the league standings, there's a bunch of teams tightly packed near the top and middle of each conference. Only four or five teams look like they're truly out of it.
The best part of this parity is when a team makes a massive improvement. The Canucks have had scoring talent for years -- it's been leaky defense that has let them down. A large overhaul to the team's blue line has paid dividends, and it helps when a goalie like Demko is living up to his potential.
Fantasy can be the same way. Just because your team looks good on draft day doesn't mean it will stick. The response to that comes down to taking a Canucks-like approach -- address the problems and weaknesses and take decisive action to make changes. Mix things up this week, and let's see what the league gives us next Monday.