It’s time for another breakdown of the past week in the world of fantasy hockey. We’re a full month into the season now and things are starting to solidify. The cream is rising to the top, as they say. In case you missed last week’s impressions, you can find them here. Let’s dive into Week 5.
Week 5 Fantasy Hockey Impressions
For the second straight week, the Vancouver Canucks earn a spot in Who’s Hot in fantasy hockey. Everything is going right for these guys. Elias Pettersson is scoring like crazy. In four games this past week, the sophomore sensation exploded for nine points. Four came on the power play. Brock Boeser had seven points, with four goals and three assists. Four points as well on the man advantage. Quinn Hughes continues to look like a Calder-winner in the making, notching three more power-play assists this week. All told, five players had at least four points.
Took a little longer than expected, but Carolina Hurricanes star Sebastian Aho looks good-to-go. He’s up to five goals and five assists on the year, getting most of that production in the past five games. Andrei Svechnikov scored three goals and tallied two assists this past week, and that’s now five goals in his past four games. Helping out in the banger categories as well, with 12 hits in his past five. Maybe the biggest surprise is defenceman Jaccob Slavin, who has two goals and eight assists so far. But he’s filling out all the categories – 30 shots, 16 hits, and 27 blocks. Zero power play points, however. Slavin is owned in 57% of Yahoo leagues.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils aren’t exactly hot, but they’re scoring a lot more goals. No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes is playing much better hockey after a very slow start to his career. Hughes has points in five of his last six games, but his peripherals are so low he’s only useful in the deepest of points leagues. Five Devils had at least four points in the past three games. Kyle Palmieri scored a hat trick Wednesday, giving him three goals and three assists for Week 5. He also got smacked with 19 PIMs, making him the best overall player of the week in banger leagues that count penalty minutes.
Washington Capitals forward Jakub Vrana has five goals in his past two games. He dropped two on Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, then three more against the Calgary Flames on Sunday night. Vrana started the season hot with three points in the first three games, leading to a rush to snatch him off the wire. But after that, he went on an eight-game stretch where he recorded only one goal and one assist. The 23-year-old is hot again, riding a five-game point streak. Vrana is on the waiver wire in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues at the time of writing.
Calle Jarnkrok is worth a mention again this week given his two-goal effort Thursday, but the real standout for the Nashville Predators is centre Nick Bonino. The 31-year-old veteran had all three Predators goals on Tuesday, adding nine shots on goal. Following that up, he scored another goal Thursday. He’s up to a team-best seven goals now. There’s not any real long-term fantasy hockey appeal here, but he does have a good amount of blocks for a forward.
Florida Panthers star centre Aleksander Barkov ended the week with a pair of two-point games, scoring his first two goals of the season in the process. That’s now two goals and 15 assists for him. Barkov’s shooting percentage is low at the moment, so expect more goals to come. The power-play production isn’t anything to write home about so far, but he’s at a cool 100-point pace, which would be a career-high, four points higher than his 2018-19 totals.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils offence may be clicking, but that’s no thanks to former KHL wizard Nikita Gusev. Maybe it’s a telling sign that once he sat, things got better. Gusev was a healthy scratch for all three games this week. His minutes had been slipping for weeks due to his awful possession metrics. The skill is there, but it’s becoming clear that the transition to the NHL is a much steeper hill than the Devils would have liked. Stash him away in keeper leagues, but he’s not worth a roster spot whatsoever in redrafts.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Like last year, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is off to a relatively slow start. There’s no need to worry about him of course, but it has to be said that he’s not living up to his pedigree. Kucherov scored a goal this week, but he has only three points in his past seven. If you could pull it off, buy low on him. Probably no one’s selling, though.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Well, it turns out maybe there was something to worry about after all. The arrival of defenceman Tyson Barrie to the Toronto Maple Leafs backline had fantasy owners scrambling over which to target first, but it was almost unanimous that both would see a dip in stock. Morgan Rielly has been great, while Barrie has gone almost completely invisible throughout the course of the season so far. Sure, he had four assists in his first three games. Since then? He has one single assist in his last 12 games. His power-play time is spotty at best. Rielly is racking up the assists, with 12 in 15 games. His spot as the top power-play unit point man is his to lose, and it’s not looking like that’s ever going to happen.
For fantasy hockey purposes, Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane was probably the most coveted right-winger not named Kucherov. Last year was a career year for Kane, with 44 goals and 66 assists. It was only the second time he’s scored 40 goals and had 100 points, and it was the first time he had more than 300 shots. This year, the American has four goals and eight assists in 13 games. Not too shabby, but a stark drop from last year’s pace.
Centre Jonathan Toews is also coming off a career year, and he’s been terrible. Two goals and three assists in 13 games – that’s a 32-point pace. Defenceman Erik Gustafsson might not be worth a roster spot at this point. Four points in 12 games, and he was scratched Saturday. He played again Sunday, but did nothing other than get one shot and commit a penalty in a little over 14 minutes of ice time. Gustafsson broke out last year for 60 points and excellent banger contributions. There’s still time to turn it around, but Adam Boqvist is in the mix now, and he scored Sunday night in his second career game. And he logged more minutes.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are not playing like Stanley Cup contenders by any stretch. Evander Kane has been the multi-category monster we expected, and Kevin Labanc is finally producing more consistently, but that’s about it. Timo Meier has been especially unproductive, carrying a six-game pointless streak. Meier has four points in 15 games, but at least the shots and hits have been steady. The past couple seasons, he’s averaged an 11 percent shooting rate, and this season it’s under five percent. Sooner or later the scoring should pick up.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was the only goalie potentially worthy of a first-round fantasy hockey draft pick entering the season. Forty-something wins and elite numbers were almost a given. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and that’s why it’s risky taking a goalie so early. The wins will come, but for now, he’s only got five in nine starts. His 3.12 goals-against-average is atrocious, and his .904 save percentage isn’t much better. Ride out the storm, Vasilevskiy owners. Smoother waters are ahead. Probably.
Last week, Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Elliott shot himself into fantasy consideration with four effective appearances. This week, he may have played himself back out of consideration. Letting in nine goals in two games won’t make any fantasy owners happy, especially with no wins to show for it. The Flyers have lost three of their last four, and neither goalie is screaming fantasy stardom right now. Carter Hart is the future of the franchise, but it’s been an ugly sophomore season up to this point.
Once again, the New York Islanders are sporting the best goalie tandem in the NHL. Last season, Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner stopped nearly everything, and Lehner was named a Vezina finalist. Greiss now shares the crease with Semyon Varlamov, who was a popular bounce-back pick. So far at least, Varlamov is doing just that. The Islanders are 10-3-0, good for second in the Metropolitan Division. Greiss is 5-1-0, with a 2.15 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage. Varlamov is nearly identical, with a 5-2 record, 2.14 goals-against-average, and a .929 save percentage. It wasn’t a bad idea to draft these two this season given coach Barry Trotz’s style, and it’s making you look even smarter if you did.
Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith has turned back the clock. What a season this guy is having. In two starts this past week, Smith stopped 74 of 76 shots, earning two wins. At 37 years young, his record improved to 5-3-1, with a 2.12 goals-against-average and a shiny .931 save percentage. The Pittsburgh Penguins threw everything at him Saturday, but he stopped 51 of 52 shots.
Like many predicted, it seems the Devils are leaning more toward MacKenzie Blackwood lately rather than Cory Schneider. That’s not to say Blackwood is killing it, because he isn’t. But at least he’s getting the majority of the starts. Schneider has allowed 13 goals in his past two starts, which have been spaced apart. Blackwood has started five of the last six, and he’s been okay – he’s let in fewer goals in that span than Schneider has in his past two.
Saturday was a shutout fest. Varlamov, David Rittich, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Darcy Kuemper all had one. Thatcher Demko carried a shutout late into Saturday’s game but was unable to hang on. Pekka Rinne did it again this week, blanking the slumping Blackhawks Tuesday. But then he got shelled for six goals in his next start. Still, overall, Rinne is playing like his old self after a disappointing 2018-19 season.
Schedule Highlights (Nov. 4 – Nov. 10)
Here are the most and least games by teams this week. If your fantasy hockey league locks lineups weekly, consider sitting all but the very best players who will only play once or even twice. For streaming purposes, focus on the four-game guys, or at least guys who play off-nights. Heavy nights are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Off-nights are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Arizona, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, New Jersey, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, Vegas.
Whew, what a crop of four-gamers this week. Vancouver had four last week and will have four more this week. Let’s see if Pettersson and company can keep it up. Detroit and Edmonton have all four games on off-nights. Owners of Ottawa players breathe easier this week after only one lacklustre game this past week.
Anaheim, Buffalo, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Washington.
Interstingly, Buffalo and Tampa Bay play two games apiece this week, and they’re against each other. Back to back, two games in Sweden as apart of the NHL Global Series. That’s a recipe for some tired hockey come Saturday – both games are in the afternoon.
No one-game teams this week.
Highlight(s) of the Week
In fantasy hockey, all goals are equal. This week, it was impossible to narrow down the best real-life goal to just one.
We had a first-of-its-kind goal in the NHL with Carolina’s Svechnikov pulling off “The Michigan.”
— NHL (@NHL) October 30, 2019
Matthew Tkachuk later scored an unbelievable, buzzer-beating, between-the-legs snapshot in overtime.
— NHL (@NHL) November 1, 2019