Fantasy 30: Consider Eaves, Maroon, Hagelin
While you may be an avid fan of a particular NHL team — and keep up to date on all the news and rumors regarding that franchise — there are 29 others playing in 2016-17.
As a fantasy owner, it can be a bit daunting to keep tabs on everything.
That’s where the Fantasy 30 comes in — a rundown of the most fantasy-relevant updates on every team. Here’s what’s happening around the NHL this week.
Anaheim Ducks: Either Randy Carlyle hasn’t yet figured out exactly how he wants to utilize Rickard Rakell, or the Ducks’ head coach is simply enjoying the freedom of shifting the winger up and down the lineup at his leisure. After starting Wednesday’s tilt in Columbus aside center Antoine Vermette and Joseph Cramarossa, Rakell also saw valuable minutes on a top unit with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Owned in less than 55 percent of ESPN leagues, the 23-year-old has surged since his early-November debut, collecting four goals and three assists in five games.
Arizona Coyotes: Look for prospect Tony DeAngelo to get — at minimum — another whirl on the big stage in the desert. With Michael Stone still recuperating from an upper-body issue, the 21-year-old first-round draft pick (2014, by Tampa Bay) is tapped to face the Jets Thursday as a top-four blueliner at even strength and secondary power-play asset. Recognized for his offensive upside, DeAngelo already has seven points in eight contests with the AHL Roadrunners this season. Oh, and he scored a goal while logging more than 20 minutes in his NHL debut against the Avalanche on Tuesday. Good start.
Boston Bruins: The Bruins’ second scoring line could merit additional fantasy attention for the foreseeable future. Center David Krejci — a notoriously streaky performer — finally scored his first goal of the season against the Sabres on Monday. That’ll help crack open the gates. Anticipate more from the David Backes-Krejci-Ryan Spooner trio, beginning Thursday versus a Columbus team playing their second game of a back-to-back.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres’ run of bad injury luck limps on. Just as the club gets Evander Kane (ribs) back, it loses top center Ryan O’Reilly to an unspecified upper-body injury. If O’Reilly isn’t healed by Friday’s contest against the Devils, look for Kane to, again, flank center Sam Reinhart and winger Kyle Okposo on the top line. Also, forward Tyler Ennis is anticipated to miss the next two to three weeks with a midbody issue.
Calgary Flames: Rookie Matthew Tkachuk is having quite the week. Relishing his first multigoal game this past Thursday — after having learned he was to stick past the allotted nine-game tryout — the 18-year-old then “enjoyed” his first NHL fight on Sunday. Unfortunately, Tkachuk is in danger of sitting out Thursday’s affair against the visiting Stars after hurting his wrist in practice. While head coach Glen Gulutzan isn’t said to be too worried, it merits a lineup check before puck drop if you’re in a daily lineup league (or considering him for DFS).
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes will be without their top defenseman for a spell. Considered week-to-week, Justin Faulk is projected to miss “some games” with an upper-body injury. As a result, sophomore Brett Pesce — owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN leagues — ascends to Carolina’s top pairing, and secondary power play. The 21-year-old skated more than 24 minutes in Tuesday’s shootout loss to New Jersey, contributing an assist with the man advantage.
Chicago Blackhawks: Coach Joel Quenneville might have a hefty hole to fill down the middle after Wednesday’s overtime win in St. Louis. Sustaining what’s believed to be an upper-body injury in the second period, Artem Anisimov is considered day-to-day. If the second-line center isn’t recovered by Friday’s tilt against the Capitals, Marcus Kruger is on a short list of candidates to sub in alongside a red-hot Artemi Panarin and Marian Hossa.
Colorado Avalanche: No doubt Tyson Barrie snaps out of his early-season funk eventually, but for now, Erik Johnson leapfrogs the 25-year-old on the Avalanche’s fantasy depth chart. Tied with Barrie in points (a modest five), Johnson is seeing a greater share of quality ice time, including with the squad’s top power play. And the former first-overall draft selection (2006) sits fifth in the league with blocked shots (34). Friday’s tete-a-tete with the relatively porous Jets (3.07 goals-against average) could set the stage for a decent DFS showing from the reasonably priced 28-year-old.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Rumored to be press box-bound as a healthy scratch Wednesday, Brandon Saad made the most of his alleged last-minute reprieve — by way of Brandon Dubinsky falling hurt in practice — with a solid two-point performance in Wednesday’s win over the Ducks. On a top line with center Alexander Wennberg and Nick Foligno, Saad is in admirable position to add to his current run of nine points in seven games.
Dallas Stars: Enjoy Patrick Eaves‘ inflated fantasy potential while it lasts; Stars reporter Mike Heika suggests Cody Eakin is favored to bump the 32-year-old winger from Dallas’ top line, once the younger center recovers from his knee injury. Anticipated to make his season debut in the next couple of weeks, Eakin collected 35 goals as part of a 75-point total in his past two regular seasons in Dallas.
Detroit Red Wings: Remember when the Red Wings insisted Petr Mrazek was their undisputed No. 1 netminder? Well, Jimmy Howard is confirmed to start his third straight game for Detroit on Thursday. And no wonder, in light of how well Howard has performed since the season’s start (1.26 goals-against average, .958 save percentage). Make sure he’s active in league play, with the struggling Canucks in town.
Edmonton Oilers: Another goal and assist Tuesday — bringing his recent total to three goals and two helpers in four games — secures Patrick Maroon the top-line left wing slot, alongside Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle, for the time being. As long as he’s filling that role in place of Milan Lucic, the big winger merits ownership well above his 10 percent holding in ESPN leagues.
Florida Panthers: We expect to see Jussi Jokinen back in the mix for the Panthers Thursday night. After missing nine games with a knee injury, the veteran winger practiced on a line with center Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith, knocking Colton Sceviour out of the top six.
Los Angeles Kings: Goalie Jeff Zatkoff is reportedly back feeling 100 percent following his groin issue. With the Kings having back-to-back road games, Zatkoff is likely to see action Thursday or Friday. However, Peter Budaj remains the undisputed top monarch in the Kings’ crease — while Jonathan Quick recovers — with two-straight shutout victories, and impressive numbers overall.
Montreal Canadiens: After Tuesday’s goal/assist, plus-two showing versus the Bruins, you can bet Paul Byron will earn at least one more turn on a Canadiens’ scoring line — instead of Brendan Gallagher — with Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk. Exploit this shift to your full advantage before it expires.
“After Reilly got extensive playing time in the rugged AHL, [coach Bruce] Boudreau is hopeful he can inject some life into the power play. The Wild has scored five power-play goals on 34 chances, ranking 22nd in the league; on the road, it is last in the standings with a single goal in 20 opportunities.”
If in need of an inexpensive, dark-horse asset in DFS, Reilly could fit the bill in Pittsburgh Thursday.
Nashville Predators: The Predators anticipate having Mike Fisher back soon — perhaps as early as Thursday against the Blues. Fellow veteran center Mike Ribeiro likely drops from the second-line slot once Fisher is ready to go.
New Jersey Devils: Rookie Pavel Zacha is, again, inching his way up the Devils’ lineup. Coach John Hynes confirms the 19-year-old will suit up for a second straight game Friday on the left side of Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri:
“We feel like he’s benefited from it,” Hynes said. “Whether it’s managing his minutes, playing a little bit on the penalty kill, a little bit on the power play. We know he’s a center. He can play left wing. Not necessarily that you have to compete any less on left wing but there is less responsibility, whether it’s faceoffs or down-low coverage. He’s playing with Palmieri and Henrique, who are two very good players. I thought they played well together the other night. It’s more about trying to continue to develop Pav and have him be a versatile player for us and also put him in situations where we can use his offensive abilities.”
New York Islanders: Brock Nelson appears to be fine. Suffering a leg injury in Monday’s game, the third-line center is projected to play in Tampa. Additional (more interesting) Islanders note: Cal Clutterbuck remains fixed on a top line with John Tavares for Thursday’s contest with the Lightning. You know what to do.
New York Rangers: Seasoned Rangers reporter Larry Brooks suggests the latest shuffling from coach Alain Vigneault could result in forward Pavel Buchnevich competing on a top-six unit with Chris Kreider and center Mika Zibanejad, perhaps as reward for the rookie’s three-game goal streak (five points). If that’s how the cookie crumbles, look to see where Jimmy Vesey lands; the 23-year-old may tumble out of the top six after failing to find the back of the net in four straight games. Regardless, both first-year lads merit ownership in nearly all deep and/or dynasty leagues.
Ottawa Senators: Only Kyle Turris has more goals (six) for the Senators than the surprising Ryan Dzingel (five) — including this gem from Dzingel in Wednesday’s affair in Buffalo — and yet the sophomore forward is spoken for in only 5.6 of ESPN leagues. While we’re not counting on 30 goals from the 24-year-old before spring, Dzingel is doing enough now — often as a top-six forward — to merit ownership in deeper leagues, and consideration in DFS play, depending on strength of matchup.
Philadelphia Flyers: Following a solid performance in Tuesday’s shootout loss to Detroit, Steve Mason is poised to start Friday’s matchup with the Maple Leafs. Really though, we’re not keen on enlisting either Mason or Philly’s 1B, Michal Neuvirth, until one of them strings together a few decent appearances.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The most recent player to earn a shot on Sidney Crosby‘s left side, Carl Hagelin is fitting in well, amassing a goal and three assists in his past two games. You might like to know that the speedy winger is available in 60 percent of ESPN leagues. He probably won’t set you back much in Thursday’s DFS action, either.
San Jose Sharks: Two Joes and a Joel make up the Sharks’ top scoring line, leading up to Thursday’s tilt in Florida. The third, temporary piece — Joel Ward — is most intriguing for fantasy owners looking for a short-term edge. Alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, Ward earned an assist in more than 18 minutes of ice time in Washington Tuesday.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues may turn to Carter Hutton in their second of back-to-back games, in Nashville on Thursday. Excellent in his last start for St. Louis (Nov. 5), Jake Allen‘s understudy might oblige as a solid DFS investment versus his former team.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jonathan Drouin might have a concussion, meaning the young winger could be out a while yet. Hard to determine, considering the lack of details offered by the Lightning, but coach Jon Cooper’s use of the word “gradually” in describing Drouin’s progress is mildly worrying.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite Tuesday’s gruesome 7-0 loss to the Kings, coach Mike Babcock is choosing to leave his lines alone ahead of Friday’s contest versus Philly. Following Wednesday’s darkened bag skate (thanks to both a power outage and Babcock’s mood), we’re counting on a more inspired performance from the Blue and White altogether. While Nazem Kadri has been the Leafs’ most explosive contributor — on the scoreboard and otherwise — three goals and a helper in two games (preceding Tuesday’s disaster) from Mitch Marner are also worth a mention.
Vancouver Canucks: Don Cherry spent part of last Saturday’s CBC segment insisting (loudly, as usual) the Canucks must “live and die” with new acquisition Loui Eriksson on the Sedins’ top line. One unspecified upper-body injury to Jannik Hansen later, and the Canadian broadcasting heavyweight is getting his way. But Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman outlines why this new trio may take a while to jell:
“One of the reasons the Canucks haven’t used Eriksson with the Sedins too often? With Daniel and Henrik down low, you’re playing with fire by having a third forward in that area, since the responsibility is to stay higher and protect against odd-man rushes. But Eriksson likes to play in front of the net, so he’s not able to go where he’s comfortable. At some point, Vancouver is going to have to commit to a long run of trying to make it work, but it’s hard to do that when you need wins.”
Washington Capitals: As you may have suspected, the Capitals are proactively monitoring minutes played by Alex Ovechkin in 2016-17. Glass half-empty take: Ovi’s fantasy owners will no longer benefit from the heftier chunks of playing time, enjoyed in seasons gone by. Half-full: Maybe the slightly lighter workload does result in more production from the superstar, particular later in the season.
Winnipeg Jets: Now that the Jacob Trouba drama has been amicably resolved, we can focus solely on the far less riveting trade chatter regarding Alex Burmistrov. A near perennial bust since his eighth-overall selection in 2010, the 25-year-old would undoubtedly benefit from a change in scenery. One that translates into an uptick from his near negligible fantasy value, perhaps?