With the season set to begin, here are some notes for fantasy hockey players this year.
The “fantasy hockey cheat sheet: 2021” is a fantasy hockey cheat sheet that helps you manage your team during the upcoming season. It includes player rankings, projected lines, and more.
It’s been a challenging week. The Calgary Flames have been on the bench since last Saturday, with 18 players under COVID-19 protocol. The Carolina Hurricanes (whose own game against the Minnesota Wild was postponed this week), Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and others have struggled to field healthy, competitive teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators have been told to play in half-full venues until further notice by the province of Ontario. The Montreal Canadiens, in probably the most surprising action of the week, closed their doors to all spectators at the last minute before of Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Montreal’s Saturday game against Boston has been postponed by the league since then. Never mind that the NHL’s chances of competing in the future Olympics are dwindling. Aside from that, no one has been critically sick as a result of COVID, which is a relief since things have been grim.
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So, for a little while, how about we concentrate on some positive news? Despite all of the fear and uncertainty, the NHL season (which has yet to be suspended) continues to be entertaining. Alex Ovechkin is scoring like he’s in a trance. Steven Stamkos is making recent injuries feel like they happened a long time ago. The Minnesota Wild are proven that a well-coordinated team effort can result in a victory more often than not. Other clubs and players are also going above and above, which deserves our attention. For a change of pace, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the NHL right now – a positive news report, if you will – and the fantasy implications.
Ducks of Anaheim: How about those Ducks? So much for waiting for Anaheim’s fabled house of cards to fall. Dallas Eakins’ team is 17-9-5 and leads the Pacific Division more than a third of the way through the season. I was initially concerned about the perceived lack of secondary scoring behind a top line consisting of Troy Terry and Ryan Getzlaf (and usually Adam Henrique, who is currently injured), but I’ve since become confident that the Trevor Zegras/Sonny Milano/Rickard Rakell trio will provide adequate support. (Do you know who this Zegras child is? He’s said to be amusing.) After a brief hiatus, the second line remounted the scoring horse in Wednesday’s victory against the Kraken. Rakell (22 percent) and Zegras (39.2% of ESPN.com standard leagues) are generally accessible in ESPN.com leagues and shouldn’t be. In deeper leagues, Milano (14.5 percent) has a role to play.
While Cam Fowler (58.2%) is a perplexingly under-rostered regular on Anaheim’s blue line, the most fascinating fantasy drama is occurring in net. John Gibson is currently out due to a hamstring injury. We don’t know how terrible it is or how long it will last. In comes backup Anthony Stolarz (11.4 percent), who has performed well in Gibson’s absence. This season’s analytics favorite, Stolarz also has a.932 save percentage and 2.13 GAA to go along with his stellar conventional stats. In four recent outings, he’s allowed three total goals, including one partial and one complete shutout, while winning all three of his starts. If you’re looking for a temporary streaming alternative in the coming days, Anaheim’s No. 2 may be ideal. Before the Christmas break, the Ducks will play the Coyotes, Oilers, Flames (fingers crossed), and Canucks.
Vancouver Canucks: Under new head coach Bruce Boudreau, the Canucks are hitting 1.000. Since December 6, the team has gone 6-0, conceding just 1.67 goals per game while scoring 3.17. The power play is at 31.3 percent, and the penalty kill is also much better. A streak of excellence that will soon come to an end. (Perhaps against the Maple Leafs, who come to town on Saturday.)
However, just as the club isn’t as invincible as its current run indicates, it’s also not as dreadful as it was before to Boudreau’s arrival. Individually and as a group. Brock Boeser has regained his scoring touch, with five goals and two assists in ten days (and, not coincidentally, sense of confidence). Boeser should be evaluated as a possible asset as soon as he becomes available in more than 25% of ESPN.com leagues. The fact that the winger gets irritated when questioned about the team’s recent success under their new bench coach further compounds his fantasy woes. It’s possible that being testy is a positive thing. With two goals and an assist in his last three games, forward Elias Pettersson is showing signs of rekindling his scoring career. While Pettersson is unlikely to be available in your ESPN.com league, linemate Conor Garland may be. Garland should be considered in deeper fantasy leagues, as I believe his greatest days are ahead of him.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson hasn’t had much time to adjust to his new coach on the blue line, since he’s missed a few games due to injury. However, the former Coyotes’ top defenceman has returned and has been assigned to the secondary power play. Ekman-Larsson has been underperforming so far, with just five points in 28 games. Quinn Hughes should be contributing at a much higher rate even if he is getting more quality minutes with the additional skater. I like the sixth-overall draft pick (2009) as a fantasy asset with a start date in early 2022.
Thatcher Demko (81.5 percent) should be mentioned throughout the fantasy landscape immediately, and not just because he’s averaging 8.28 points per game in ESPN.com standard leagues since Boudreau’s arrival. Demko will still make mistakes, but not nearly as often as he did in the games coming up to December 5. Plus, and this is significant in my opinion, incoming president of hockey operations/interim general manager Jim Rutherford is dissatisfied with the Canucks’ present structure. Rutherford looks to be in win-now mindset, focusing on fixing holes before the season’s trade deadline. Such adjustments should only increase Demko’s value as a goalkeeper with a better chance of winning every night. When given the opportunity to give Vancouver’s starter a night off, backup Jaroslav Halak, a Daily Fantasy asset, takes it.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Despite missing Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Evgeni Malkin since the start of the 2021-22 season, the Penguins are still fourth in the Metropolitan Division, having won five consecutive games. Evan Rodrigues (16.4 percent), who has been filling in for Rust on the left side of Sidney Crosby, has been a revelation of late, scoring a goal and five assists in four games, including three points in Monday’s victory against the Canadiens. E-Rod, as he’s been dubbed by teammates and coaches, is shooting more than ever before and enjoying the results. While Guentzel’s return will have no impact on Rodrigues’ job, Rust’s return to health may. But we haven’t arrived yet. Crosby’s current left winger, in the meanwhile, is a good streaming option for any fantasy club with injury-related deficiencies.
Every night throughout the season, Barry Melrose and Linda Cohn will provide a postgame analysis and highlight program. ESPN+ is the place to be.
In other good news for the Penguins, Malkin’s season debut could not be too far away. According to coach Mike Sullivan, the team’s other productive center is “coming closer.” Malkin might return to play shortly after the Christmas break if he travels and practices with the team (in a non-contact position). The experienced scorer is still available in around a fifth of ESPN.com leagues, which may be of interest to fantasy managers.
Finally, as a streaming or daily fantasy asset, don’t overlook backup Casey DeSmith (1.7 percent). Despite playing second fiddle to Tristan Jarry in recent starts, the Penguins’ No. 2 has been outstanding, including a 33-save shutout against the Ducks. In the next seven days, Pittsburgh will play the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils (twice), and Philadelphia Flyers in four games. I’m willing to bet the backup enters at least one of those very winnable bouts.
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The “tsn fantasy hockey” is a web site that provides news, scores, and analysis for the NHL. The site was created in 1998 and has been updated daily since then.
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