With so few games played, not much can be gleaned from any counting statistic that might be tallied in your fantasy hockey league. The percentages will take some time to even out, naturally. Meaningful analysis can be made, however, on player usage.
It is always a bit dangerous to draw conclusions on lines and usage from preseason, for several reasons. Chief among them is the meaninglessness of the games, but in addition, a coach may not want to show his hand fully. Still, just a week into the season, here are some observations about some players that serve to raise or lower their stock in fantasy hockey.
Jussi Jokinen, PIT
A good example of the counting stats not matching true value, Jokinen gets an upgrade thanks to James Neal's lingering injury worry and Dan Bylsma's upgrade of him to Evgeni Malkin's line. Furthermore, he has been receiving top power play minutes as the "fourth forward" alongside the Crosby-Malkin-Kunitz trio. Definitely ride him until James Neal returns, and even then, look to see who sticks among he and Beau Bennett.
Brendan Gallagher, MTL
Lars Eller, MTL
Alex Galchenyuk, MTL
This line is absolutely electric, but what stands out the most to me is that their early season success has not come through overwhelmingly favorable deployment. Gallagher has the highest offensive zone start rate of the trio (at 54.5%), but he trails six other Canadiens forwards in this regard. Their skill should continue to shine through on the power play, as well.
Tom Gilbert, FLA
Maybe your home league is like mine. That is to say, maybe you have dropped plus/minus as a category because you are analytically inclined and realize its utter uselessness. When it comes to Florida, Brian Campbell stands out as an obvious beneficiary of this plan, but watch out for Tom Gilbert, who apparently will be a power play stalwart alongside Campbell for the Panthers. Even if your league counts plus/minus, Gilbert should be a cheap source of power play production from the blueline.
Tomas Hertl, SJS
Apparently, I did not go far enough when recommending Hertl last week. He looks absolutely locked in as Joe Thornton's winger, and he should be universally owned in every league. Keep in mind that Thornton recorded over 12 Passes per 60 minutes last season in what was regarded as a "down year." The former Bruin can still pass the puck. Hertl and Brent Burns (who has the added bonus of being eligible at defenseman in some leagues) are cheap top-six options, who like the Canadiens trio, have not been fueled by advantageous zone starts. Make the add.
Steve Downie, COL
Nathan MacKinnon, COL
After two games, it is clear that Downie is a Patrick Roy-type of player, which should be a sentence that intuitively makes sense if you watched Roy's outburst in game one, followed by Downie's in game two. Not to advocate dirty play, but Downie is going to rack up PIMs and hits, and more importantly, it appears as if he will score too, as he has been used on the top power play unit, a rare combination. MacKinnon gets a boost because the plan to play him alongside Downie and Jamie McGinn on the third line has apparently been scrapped. MacKinnon is a lot more desirable playing alongside P.A. Parenteau.
Craig Smith, NSH
Nashville's forward lines have been remarkably balanced in terms of time on ice, and without a true number one line, it is anyone's guess who will emerge as the scoring leader on this team. Still, for deep leaguers, Rob Vollman's Offensive Profile charts in Hockey Prospectus 2013-14 suggested that Smith was unlucky given his Shots/Passes output last season, and his offensive zone start usage is encouraging.
Ryan Malone, TBL
I cannot imagine it will last long, but Malone has been riding shotgun alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in the early going. Much like Zack Kassian had a hot turn alongside the Sedins last season, Malone gets an upgrade as long as he lasts alongside #91.
Derick Brassard, NYR
I like Brassard's game, but not his situation right now with the Rangers. In the team's first game, without Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, Brassard was sandwiched between Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello, and more surprisingly, he did not get top power play time. Callahan's return should help, but I fear that Hagelin will be used in a defensive role under zone start maestro Alain Vigneault (in other words, not on Brassard's line), and until I see the former Blue Jacket regain top power play time, there are better options on the waiver wire.
Jordan Staal, CAR
Staal has rightly received accolades as a great defensive forward, but it is clear that Kirk Muller is going to use him in that role, which is not conducive to scoring or compiling fantasy numbers. No Carolina player had a more defensive role than Jordan in the team's first game against Detroit, where he was plugged between Patrick Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe. Elias Lindholm even received power play time over Staal, who has never really been an incredibly effective power play guy to begin with. If you can sell him off to someone who values the name brand here, I would do so in a heartbeat.
Nail Yakupov, EDM
Yakupov's usage is interesting: most frequently paired with Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu, suggesting a defensive role, his o-zone start percentage is far higher than those two players, fueled by a lack of overall defensive zone starts. This suggests that Yakupov is being used in an offensive role, but in a line shift that still pairs him with Gordon and Joensuu. Given the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Edmonton's supposed commitment to Mark Arcobello, this cannot bode well for Yakupov's fantasy prospects.