Fantasy Hockey Weekly: Auston Matthews Avoiding Sophomore Slump

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Teams like Colorado, Vegas, and New Jersey continue to score and win, making the NHL landscape just as confusing as a week ago. But instead of a seemingly endless supply of goals, now we find some interesting teams at the top of the standings. Fantasy managers are scrambling to pick up the hot hands on these forgotten and ignored teams. So let’s dive in and prepare for week three!

Fantasy Hockey Weekley: Week 2 Review

Auston Matthews Avoiding Sophomore Slump

Skaters

Jesper Bratt

Bratt was the most interesting rookie of the first week for a few reasons. Reason one; Nobody knew who he was. He seemingly came out of nowhere in training camp to find himself in New Jerseys top six and put up six points in his first three games. And reason two is that he now has three goals on five shots. So while he seemed like a surprise rookie standout, don’t rush to pick him up. After scoring points in his first three games, he has only one shot in his two games since and no points. The ship may have sailed, but maybe keep him on the radar as a potential streaming option if he heats up again.

Auston Matthews

As a club, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to prove they can score like the best of them. They lead the league in goals per game, averaging 5.2 after five games. Leading the way for the Leafs is Austin Matthews who has five goals and three assists over that five-game span. He has been exceptional for the Leafs and is becoming a clutch scorer with two overtime goals this week. The Nylander/Matthews duo continues to develop chemistry and is quickly becoming one of the best duos in the league.

Nikolaj Ehlers

Ehlers stepped up big time for Winnipeg this week. He scored five goals and two assists over the week. And it’s a good thing, as Winnipeg is still waiting for Laine to get back into last season’s form. Another young, talented duo who’s stock is quickly rising, Ehlers and Laine will score plenty this season and it’s only a matter of time. Ehlers is taking plenty of shots and is seeing lots of ice time, so keep riding this streak.

Goaltenders

Semyon Varlamov

One of the keys to Colorado’s early and unexpected success is Semyon Varlamov. After the Avs’ historically awful season last year, players from Colorado were avoided like the plague in drafts. However, a few players have stood out early this year, including Varlamov. In three games this week, he put up two wins, a shutout and made 82 saves. Colorado is averaging around 30 shots per game, which is actually in the top half of the league, but still plenty of rubber for a goalie. Varlamov owners may be interested in dangling him as a trade piece if they don’t believe in Colorado as a team. If the Avs begin to look more like the Avs of recent years, those W’s may begin to dry up and his value will too.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith offered owners what I believe to be a quick sample of the season ahead. He began his week with a fantastic 43 save shutout against Anaheim Monday night. He followed it up with a victory against Los Angeles Wednesday, making another 42 saves. But his streak was snapped Friday when he got lit up for five goals on 22 shots. However, he bounced back with another win Saturday night, allowing only two goals on 29 shots.

Smith has the potential to put up some great numbers on a Calgary team with some firepower and unmatched defensive depth. Still, Smith tends to drop the ball some nights and get burned a few nights a month. But if there is anything to take from this week, Smith will see plenty of starts and more than enough rubber. His stats should remain high as long as he shows up, even if the wins aren’t all there.

Tuukka Rask

The Boston Bruins continue to struggle, partially due to Rask’s rough start to the year. He is riding a three-game losing streak, with a .882SV% in four games. The Bruins haven’t been able to offer much offensive support, either, but Rask will have to improve if Boston is going to compete this season. They have a slow two-game week to hopefully try and get the train back on the rails. They play Vancouver and Buffalo, two teams they should beat, and two teams scoring less than 2.5 goals per game.

Scott Darling

Carolina has only played three games. However, they only have six goals in those three games. Darling was a popular sleeper at draft time this season. Managers thought he would be a good late pick on an up-and-coming Carolina team. Carolina has a tough schedule coming up which will offer owners a good look at what they can expect out of Darling and the ‘Canes this season. Carolina will likely go through some scoring droughts throughout the year, but a strong, young defense corp should help Darling put up some good numbers in net.

Watch Listers and Waiver Wire-ers

All of these early surprises mean there are plenty of players available on teams that keep on winning due to some surprise scorers. Colorado and New Jersey both find themselves in the top ten in league scoring. Jump on board while they’re hot, or find another diamond in the rough from around the league. Here are your pick-ups for the week.

Bryan Rust

Ownership – 19% in Yahoo, 32% in ESPN

Bryan Rust is the latest player to benefit from the “Penguins Effect”. He and a handful of others, Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist, will all likely see their fair share of time in the top six. Guentzel and Sheary were likely taken in the draft, while Hornqvist should see more time on the third line. This leaves Bryan Rust, who now has a goal and seven assists in six games so far. He was moved to Malkin’s line and should see some solid production there. If he is still available, jump on him for the time being. He could find himself just about anywhere on Pittsburgh’s top two lines this season.

Kailer Yamamoto

Ownership – 5% in Yahoo, 2.5% in ESPN

Perhaps the best potential pick of the list this week, Yamamoto finds himself in the most coveted position in the NHL. As Leon Draisaitl continues to suffer concussion symptoms, Kailer Yamamoto will be placed on Connor McDavid‘s wing. The undersized but shifty, playmaking rookie will have every opportunity to put up points, as he will be on McDavid’s wing for the foreseeable future. He has a very low ownership rate but jump on him quickly as he is surely going to be one of the most added players this week.

Malcolm Subban

Ownership – 23% in Yahoo, 7% in ESPN

An injury to the Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury has opened the door for Malcolm Subban. Subban was picked up by Vegas only a week ago, and now he finds himself the de facto starter. The Golden Knights are an early surprise and continue to hush the offseason critics, largely due to the play of Fleury. Now, the question is whether they can continue to win with Subban in net. He looked good in his first game on Sunday, making 21 saves and allowing one goal. If you are hard pressed for goaltenders, Subban is your best bet, as he will be seeing number one minutes on a streaking team.

Nikita Zaitsev

Ownership – 66% in Yahoo, 51% in ESPN

While many advanced stat-ers fawned over Jake Gardiner, and others hoped this would finally be “the year” for Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev has quietly stepped into the scoring defenseman role. He had three points last week and was +4. He also offers some peripheral value with a few hits and blocks per game. Zaitsev had 36 points last season, making him fantasy relevant in deeper leagues. Playing with Jake Gardiner could also help him put up a few more points this year, as they make quite the offensive duo.

Sven Andrighetto

Ownership – 14% in Yahoo, 12% in ESPN

There has been plenty of chatter about Nail Yakupov in Colorado. Whether he can continue to produce while playing limited minutes with Duchene remains to be seen. However, I would look to pick up Sven Andrighetto instead of Yakupov. With 16 points in 19 games to close last season, he has continued his strong play to start this season. While Yakupov has the first draft pick pedigree, Andrighetto may actually have a better history. I would trust Andrighetto over Yakupov to maintain his production longer.

Alex Killorn

Ownership – 15% in Yahoo, 35% in ESPN

A four-game week for Tampa means point potential for Killorn. Also, skating on the first powerplay unit, with Stamkos, Kucherov, and Hedman means point potential. He’s on their third line at even strength, but playing with Tyler Johnson, again, means point potential. Killorn could be a great weekly stream and is likely available in your league.

Andrew Cogliano

Ownership – 8% in Yahoo, 14% in ESPN

The Anaheim Ducks’ injury woes continue as Getzlaf and Eaves have been sidelined. Their absence has made room for Andrew Cogliano to climb the depth chart and plant himself on the top line with Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg. Cogliano actually leads the Ducks in scoring, with two goals and four assists through six games. Getzlaf and Eaves should return sometime soon, so Cogliano will find his rightful place lower in the lineup. But he offers an opportunity for some favorable ice time with some capable linemates until then.

Brendan Leipsic

Ownership – 0% in Yahoo, 1% in ESPN

I know what you’re thinking. “Who is Brendan Leipsic, exactly?” The Vegas second liner has a mediocre three assists through the Knights’ first five games. But with Vadim Shipachyov playing on the second line, Leipsic’s potential looks much better. A fast, dynamic winger, Leipsic is also seeing first line powerplay time. If you’re looking for a replacement in a deep league, or if you want to roll the dice and maybe hit on an early gamble, the potential is definitely there.

Schedules

Detroit, Vancouver, and Tampa lead the way this week with four games apiece. Plenty will only play two, but Anaheim only sees action once this week, so take that into consideration when making your pickups this week.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens have three games this week, including a back to back on Friday and Saturday. They see Florida Friday and Tampa Bay Saturday. We may see Anti Niemi return to the crease for one of these games. If you really need the start, hope he plays against the Panthers. Tampa Bay torched Niemi last week, so they may opt to have him play the Panthers this time around.

Detroit Red Wings

Another team who has punched above their weight so far is Detroit. With the help of some strong goaltending from Jimmy Howard, the Red Wings will find themselves in the middle of a battle for the top of the Atlantic this week. A busy week makes Detroit a nice option for pickups; Look for Anthony Mantha or Dylan Larkin. With four games this week, expect to see Petr Mrazek at some point, as well.

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks haven’t had a whole lot to cheer for so far this season. They take a three-game losing streak into week three. But they have a chance to turn their luck around with four games this week. They play Buffalo and Boston back to back, a good opportunity to pick up a win or two. As a team, they have struggled to score. Brock Boeser was called up last week and has two points in as many games. Look for him in your league, as he has been skating on the top line with Bo Horvat.

And that just about does it for week two of the NHL fantasy season. As we get closer to that 20 game mark, where teams begin to show their true colors, teams will continue to juggle around the standings as things settle down. But until then, find the streakers and ride them into the ground. We’ll come back next week and look at whether the early surprises are players or pumpkins.
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