This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Auston Matthews stole the show Wednesday. And after the entertaining showing from Team North America during the World Cup of Hockey, it's safe to say the future is bright with a slew of fast and talented young players ready to take the reigns from the current regime of stars.
Still, most impressive from Matthews on Wednesday was the modest celebration on his third goal of the night – if it could even be called a celebration. The 19-year-old rookie turned immediately to Morgan Rielly and praised the defenseman's play. It further highlighted the stage isn't too big for Matthews, and that the trend of young stars making an immediate impact is underway again this season.
Connor McDavid's three-point night was a fitting follow-up.
Wednesday eased us back in with four games, but Thursday boasts a jam-packed, nine-game slate.
Capitals (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Penguins (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Braden Holtby (48-9-7, 2.2, .922), Marc-Andre Fleury (35-17-6, 2.29, .921)
Key Injuries:Sidney Crosby (concussion), Matt Murray (hand), Bryan Rust (undisclosed), Daniel Sprong (shoulder)
After ousting the Capitals in the second round of the playoffs last spring, look for Pittsburgh to have its hands full with Washington on Thursday. This is clearly the most intriguing game between Eastern Conference rivals. The Capitals are expected to pair Alex Ovechkin with Evgeny Kuznetsov to start the season, which is adrift from the Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom combo we've become accustomed to for nearly a decade. Line assignments are never etched in stone, but early on, the shuffle is a boost for Kuznetsov and slight hit to Backstrom.
While Pittsburgh will be without Sidney Crosby, the roster is still deep with Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and the Carl Hagelin-Nick Bonino-Phil Kessel trio offering plenty of firepower. However, this contest has the potential to a fantasy letdown with both clubs holding their cards close to their chests. Don't sit any high-end talents, but it isn't out of the question to fade the secondary pieces in seasonal leagues and daily contests.
Hurricanes (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Jets (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Cam Ward (23-17-10, 2.41, .909), Michael Hutchinson (9-15-3, 2.84, .907)
Key Injuries:Justin Faulk (lower body), Ryan Murphy (lower body), Shawn Matthias (upper body), Drew Stafford (upper body)
While potentially being a surprise inclusion in the featured matchups, there are plenty of fantasy implications to glean from the Carolina-Winnipeg tilt. To start, the Jets choosing to start Michael Hutchinson over Connor Hellebuyck is a head-scratcher. The latter remains the superior fantasy asset, and a rough outing from Hutchinson would only further solidify it. Looking at the Winnipeg forward corps, there is plenty to be excited about with Patrik Laine's debut and the return of the dominant Blake Wheeler-Mark Scheifele-Nikolaj Ehlers line. A number of Jets will be popular plays in daily contests.
Interestingly, the Hurricanes made their own questionable decision in goal by re-signing Cam Ward this offseason. His .907 save percentage over the past four seasons ranks second last among goalies with at least 110 starts, after all. There is an encouraging collection of young talents in Carolina, though. The Scandinavian line of Teuvo Teravainen, Elias Lindholm and Sebastian Aho boasts oodles of talent and fantasy upside. It's a trio to watch.
Ducks (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Stars (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 8:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:John Gibson (21-13-4, 2.07, .92), Kari Lehtonen (25-10-2, 2.76, .906)
Key Injuries:John Gibson (illness), Rickard Rakell (abdomen), Cody Eakin (knee), Ales Hemsky (groin), Mattias Janmark (knee), Jamie Oleksiak (strain), Tyler Seguin (heel)
Dallas is going to be a mainstay in this section because its offensive attack remains elite, and defensively, the Stars could be even more porous than last year. After registering the 24th-ranked save percentage (.904) during the 2015-16 campaign, the underwhelming goaltending duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi remains in tact. Up front, Jiri Hudler is a sneaky addition to the top-six group, as he's just a season removed from a top-10 season in the points column. Also, with Alex Goligoski gone, John Klingberg maintains an extremely high floor entering his third season.
Turning to Anaheim, there are plenty of question marks entering the season debut. Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell won't be in the lineup, and head coach Randy Carlyle will be behind the bench for the first time since January 2015. After spending most of the preseason separated, it appears Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will kick-start the season on the same line with Nick Ritchie as the third wheel. Ritchie's stock receives a nice boost for the duration of his stay atop the depth chart.
Canadiens (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Sabres (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Al Montoya (12-7-3, 2.18, .919), Robin Lehner (5-9-5, 2.47, .924)
Key Injuries:Zach Bogosian (groin), Jack Eichel (ankle), Ryan O'Reilly (back), Kyle Okposo (knee), Jeff Petry (leg), Carey Price (illness)
Bump Al Montoya up a tier in your cheat sheet for Thursday's daily contests, and Alexander Radulov also carries a price tag ripe for profit across the industry. This has the makings of Buffalo being white washed.
Islanders (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Rangers (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Jaroslav Halak (18-13-4, 2.3, .919), Henrik Lundqvist (35-21-7, 2.48, .92)
Key Injuries:Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Jaroslav Halak (illness), Anders Lee (foot), Shane Prince (lower body), Kevin Klein (back), Oscar Lindberg (hip)
Few garnered more offseason headlines than Jimmy Vesey, and now he's skating on the top line with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. Don't be surprised if Vesey's hype makes more noise than his fantasy production, though. Turning to the Islanders, trying to keep up with Jack Capuano's line combinations is a fool's errand. John Tavares' flanks will likely resemble a merry-go-round again this season.
Bruins (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Blue Jackets (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Tuukka Rask (31-22-8, 2.56, .915), Sergei Bobrovsky (15-19-1, 2.75, .908)
Key Injuries:Patrice Bergeron (lower body), Adam McQuaid (abdomen), Kevan Miller (hand), Frank Vatrano (foot), David Clarkson (back), Cody Goloubef (oblique)
Columbus is assembling an admirable young collection of defensemen, whereas the Boston blue line leaves a lot to be desired. No one should be shocked if both teams fail to make the playoffs again this season. As long as David Pastrnak is receiving top-line looks, he's an underrated commodity in all fantasy settings.
Red Wings (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Lightning (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Petr Mrazek (27-16-6, 2.33, .921), Ben Bishop (35-21-4, 2.06, .926)
Key Injuries:Tomas Jurco (back), Niklas Kronwall (knee), Brendan Smith (abdomen), Joe Vitale (concussion), Ryan Callahan (hip)
Nikita Kucherov is back, and Tyler Johnson checks out as a nice value in daily contests. The Red Wings have lost in the first round of the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, and this could be the first season they miss the postseason entirely since 1989-90.
Devils (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Panthers (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 7:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Cory Schneider (27-25-6, 2.15, .924), Roberto Luongo (35-19-6, 2.35, .922)
Key Injuries:Nick Bjugstad (hand), Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body), Sergey Kalinin (illness), Jon Merrill (finger), Kyle Quincey (lower body)
Jonathan Marchessault is an early favorite to grab the top-line look alongside Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, which makes Marchessault a speculative add in seasonal settings and a low-priced flier in daily contests until his price matches his opportunity. After a second glance at these two depth charts, Cory Schneider stealing this game isn't out of the question.
Wild (PP:N/A, PK:N/A) at Blues (PP:N/A, PK:N/A), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Devan Dubnyk (32-26-6, 2.33, .918), Carter Hutton (7-5-4, 2.33, .918)
Key Injuries:Victor Bartley (triceps), Jaden Schwartz (elbow)
St. Louis enters on the wrong end of back-to-back games, and the Wild boast an underappreciated group of two-way players throughout the lineup. Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle are both contrarian options with accommodating prices in daily contests, and Devan Dubnyk is an against-the-grain goalie. Teemu Pulkkinen skating with countrymen Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund is also an interesting line.
Mitch Marner, C, TOR – Hopefully, the freshman will earn winger eligibility sooner than later after registering six shots on 11 shot attempts and logging 4:17 of power-play time in his NHL debut. Sure, Auston Matthews stole the headlines and highlight reel, but Marner was also dangerous and aced the eye test. The offensive potential warrants a speculative grab, as intelligent players in scoring roles usually pay off over the long haul.