Well, here is the long promised, slow arriving third part to my N+N, Enjoy! (and FUNBA guys can stock through to the end for an update there as well)
The aquisition of Pearson-L P1 LA by the Barbarins is a nice pick up. Pearson has the holy prospect trifecta; he's young, already dressable, and his contract has lots of burn. Shame about the injury though.
Among the biggest delights this year has been the play of the 'Forgotten men' line in Tampa Bay; Palat, Kucherov, and Tyler Johnson have been unleashing hell on the rest of the league with their skill and skating. That line has one 2nd rounder, one late round draftee, and an undrafted free agent. Nice.
Calgary has something special going on, and one of the players with a nova bright future is TJ Brodie. A fantastic skater he has formed the leagues best defense tandem (with the more highly regarded Giordano). He's just 24 and entering his prime as the backbone of the Flames moving forward.
The Personal Vendetta had the leagues best RW (aside from The Edge and Knights Templar who both use two FPs at RW), but things have fallen apart of late. First Okposo got hurt, then Kessel went into a prolonged and pronounced funk. Nash is still killing it, but without the other two, the PV aren't as serious a threat as they were.
One of the questions Darrell will have to answer to himself for in exit interviews is 'Why didn't you make room via trade to promote Forsberg'? I'd argue he wasn't promoted for obvious reasons (Okposo, Kessel, Nash are all better), and I understand the reluctance to trade him (he's a homerun as a prospect), but the PV essentially wasted the young Pred's Calder season in favour of Phil Kessel.
As bad as the Giordano injury is for the Severed Heads, the Byfuglien injury is even worse for the PV. There is nobody on the PV roster who can step in to either the top LW spot, or the top TG spot and fill the (considerable) shoes Byfuglien's injury leaves behind.
Joe Pavelski is one of the more mysterious players for me. When lined up with Thornton he's a legit 40 goal sniper. When away from Thornton he can't seem to generate any offense, but is an excellent defensive center. Which is kinda weird? Innit?
Aaron Ekblad is going to score half as much as Forsberg, but is totally legit for being the Calder winner should that happen. That guy is a complete beast, at just 18. He's got size, speed, skill, and a bomb of a point shot. He's got future Norris trophies in his future and projects to be the Panther's 'Shea Weber' for the next 10 years.
I thought Martin St Louis should have been de-franchised 4 years ago. Yet, there he is. Still an FP.
There is good reason to have 'prospect envy' when reviewing the Scourge. Eichel is a future FP (he's got Malkin's toolkit, so book it), Draisaitl might not be FP worthy, but should be (at worst) the German Jason Allison, Sam Reinhart has a similar build and offensive skill set to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jacob Trouba is emerging as a two-way force on the Jets blue, and Nichushkin has buckets of 'Fear My Wingspan' to build his career on. That is 3 future starting pivots (at least one FP), a starting defender, and a likely #1 RW. All of which is why they are utterly calm about Lundqvist's injury and advancing age.
I'll be the first to say that much of this season has been a surprise for me. I certainly didn't expect to be in first place with a lead at Xmas, or that the lead would widen over the holidays, or that the 'Heads would move in to first place in week 6, and just stay there for another 4 months. If I had to point to one thing it would be 'health'. Unlike other occasions (like, say, last year when my top 3 picks were injured between draft day and start of the season), this year my guys have managed to avoid the hospital ward. Which is, you know, good. Just not replicable.
Along with health, the Severed Heads have had some outstanding performances from contracted players; Malkin and Backstrom are both top ten in scoring, Rinne (RFA), has been the best goalie in the league not named Carey Price, and super-pest Downie (RFA), had an absolutely incredible first 2/3rds of the year. But the happiest surprise is probably Johnny Gaudreau. Not only has he been excellent, he plays in Cgy ,and is an RFA! Expect to see more of this quintet next year.