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Fantasy hockey overachievers: Can James Neal keep scoring?

After last week’s poking and prodding of the current crop of underachievers, let’s check in with those on the opposite end of the fantasy spectrum: assets presently exceeding our preseason expectations. And, more pressingly, whether managers can count on them for much of the same moving forward. Included alongside each perceived overachiever is the percentage of ESPN.com leagues in which he’s rostered, current Player Rating, and Average Draft Position, according to fantasypros.com.

Anthony Mantha, RW/LW, Detroit Red Wings (Rostered in 91.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues, 8.86 Player Rating, #112 Average Draft Position): The overall numbers hold less appeal after noticing the singular goal and two assists in his past six games. As a solid winger, who skates with a gifted center (Dylan Larkin), on a not-so-great team, Mantha’s ceiling is only so high. In retrospect, I might have tried to trade him after the five-goal/two-assist flurry of the season’s first two games. Something to think about, if/when he goes on another mini-tear. Otherwise, invested fantasy managers better hope the 25-year-old forward doesn’t fall of Larkin’s top line for any significant period. If he avoids that fate, there’s 60-point potential here.

James Neal, RW, Edmonton Oilers (88.0 percent, 10.0 PR, #259 ADP ): No, he isn’t going to score 70-plus goals. As zoned-in as he is, there’s no sustaining anything near Neal’s current 31% shooting percentage. If he sticks on a scoring line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the Oilers’ top power play, the veteran sniper probably pots 40 for the first time since 2011-12 (Pittsburgh Penguins), but you can also bank on a few cold, dreary stretches before we get there. From my view, this is someone you move when the trading’s good. As long as the return is worthwhile.

Travis Konecny, RW, Philadelphia Flyers (87.7 percent, 5.93 PR, #233 ADP): They’re 22 and 23 years old, respectively, and just getting going. When competing together, the Konecny/Oskar Lindblom forward duo, flanking center Sean Couturier, has been Philly’s best story this fall – emphasized by the former’s eruption for four goals and six assists in only seven contests. Failing to dent the scorecard only once, Konecny is poised for a breakout season in showing zero signs of letting up. If nonetheless eager to throw him on the trade block, demand a ton in return for the 2015 first-round draft pick.

J.T. Miller, RW/LW, Vancouver Canucks (72.5 percent, 8.20 PR, #203 ADP ): While the 10 points in nine games (plus-six) strikes as impressive enough, even more promising is his recent promotion to a Canucks’ top line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser. The average of near 19 minutes per game and 63.3 percent Corsi For only adds that little extra shine. If Miller continues to hold his own alongside Pettersen and Boeser – so far, so good – he’ll collect 65-plus points this season, a good number of them goals. In fairness, the ESPN.com NHL fantasy department was reasonably optimistic about the 26-year-old’s potential productivity in joining the Canucks, so it’s nice to see him flourish as hoped. I’d hang on to him on my roster.

Jakob Silfverberg, RW/LW, Anaheim Ducks (41.5 percent, 5.8 PR, #264 ADP ): So far, the 29-year-old forward is keeping his implied preseason promise of producing more under new coach Dallas Eakins. Altogether, the Ducks are moving the puck much better, resulting in increased quality scoring opportunities. Leading the way is Silfverberg, with five goals and three assists (plus-nine) in his past eight games, skating big minutes on a top scoring line with Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique. He’s in for a career year and should be picked up wherever available.

Dougie Hamilton, D, Carolina Hurricanes (95.9 percent, 10.29 PR, #259 ADP): Don’t ever underestimate the value in Hamilton skating on a Hurricanes’ top pair with Jaccob Slavin. That union allows the shoot-happy blueliner a freedom not afforded most other offensive-defenseman. Which will likely result in Hamilton breaking the 60-point barrier for the first time. Truly comfortable in Carolina, the 26-year-old already sports five goals and five assists (plus-eight) on 29 shots through nine games. And he’s seeing more minutes all the time. Unless saddled with an exceptional crop of elite fantasy D, there’s no justification in moving the ‘Canes’ No. 1. Even then, look to deal someone else. Only Washington’s John Carlson is ranked higher on ESPN’s Player Rater.

Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville Predators (87.7 percent, 8.96 PR, #168 ADP): So far, he’s proved more than adequate in filling the void left by a departed P.K. Subban. Coupled with Roman Josi on the top pair, and quarterbacking the Predators’ secondary power play, Ellis has one goal and 11 assists (plus-eight) through nine games, while averaging more than 23 minutes. Even more encouragingly, and unlike in 2018-19, the 29-year-old offensive-defenseman is said to finally feel fit after enduring knee surgery two seasons ago. Ellis has never accrued 50 points in one NHL regular season. That changes this year.

Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (61.9 percent, 3.71 PR, #139 ADP ): Active fan of his or not, you can’t help but feel happy for the veteran defenseman. After last season’s desultory showing of only two goals and 26 assists for the Rangers, Shattenkirk is already four goals, three helpers and 27 shots on goal with his new club. As member of the Lightning’s secondary power play, he should be rostered for in more than 62% ESPN.com leagues.

Anders Nilsson, G, Ottawa Senators (2.5 percent, 1.59PR): We’ve got goalie drama brewing in Canada’s capital! Following just one, early ugly showing against the Blues, Nilsson has allowed only six goals on 133 shots through three games, all in the past week. That works out to an eye-widening .957 SV%, but only one win. So whether or not Nilsson continues to wrestle starts away from perceived No. 1 Craig Anderson, as he appears to be doing right now, there’s still great risk in relying on whoever’s in the crease for a Senators team that allows 40-plus shots per game. Only engage Nilsson as a bargain asset in Daily Fantasy competition when the match-up appears favorable and leave it at that.

The Buffalo Sabres: Have you yet enjoyed the opportunity to catch Jack Eichel in action this season, perhaps during Tuesday’s statement OT win over the Sharks? If so, you already realize Eichel is cranking it up a notch, dominating in every situation like a player possessed, and making all those around him better. Not that his entourage isn’t due its own credit, clearly buying into whatever new coach Ralph Krueger is selling. Never mind last year’s letdown, these aren’t your 2018-19 Sabres. As such, there’s reason to feel optimism about all those fantasy-relevant, from goalie Carter Hutton on out.

While I have your attention, some additional fantasy notes: Still no word on who will temporarily replace Mikko Rantanen on Colorado’s top line, aside Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. J.T. Compher may earn first go, if coach Jared Bednar prefers to leave Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi on a second unit with center Nazem Kadri. Expect a clearer look Friday. …. Veteran Brian Boyle is again tapped to fill in for Vincent Trocheck Thursday on a Panthers’ scoring line between Mike Hoffman and Brett Connelly. Trocheck is listed day-to-day with a lower-body injury. … A shuffling in the Big Apple sees center Mika Zibanejad moved away from Artemi Panarin to a unit with Kaapo Kakko and Chris Kreider. Zibanejad got off to a smoldering start with the Rangers and still leads the team with four goals and seven assists. New York hosts the Sabres Thursday.

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