Hard to believe December is already here. We’re two full months into the NHL season now, and fantasy hockey leagues have evolved into their individual identities. Some of you are pulling ahead, some of you are struggling. And some of you fighting to stay in the playoff race. There’s still time to fall apart or catch up. Each move made holds has repercussions that can’t be predicted, which is the beauty of fantasy sports. Let’s look back on the best and worst of Week 9. Last week’s impressions are here.
Note: For the sake of consistency, Yahoo! standard leagues are the baseline for all rankings and ownership rates.
Week 9 Fantasy Hockey Impressions
Who’s Hot – Forwards
Fantasy hockey owners worldwide were distraught at the extended absence of Colorado Avalanche superstar Mikko Rantanen. Before his injury, Rantanen looked poised to surpass last season’s totals, scoring at a pace of 109 points. He finally came back Saturday, picking up right where he left off. One goal and three assists in only 10:43 of ice time. Only once in 10 games has he not registered a point.
New York Rangers
Another long-awaited return was that of New York Rangers centre Mika Zibanejad. Didn’t take him long either to make an impact. Less than three minutes, in fact, when he scored in the first period on the power play. In three games since his return, Zibanejad has two goals and an assists. He scored a shorthanded goal and tallied a shorthanded assist in Saturday’s game. Three special teams points in three games back. Uncanny. He’s up to 14 points in 12 games, looking like a steal if you waited to draft him later on.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets veteran Nick Foligno isn’t exactly a household name in fantasy hockey circles, but he’s been as solid contributor over the past week or so. At the time of writing, Foligno sits as the ninth overall skater in Yahoo! leagues over the past seven days. He’s only on seven percent of rosters and could provide you with steady multiple-category coverage moving forward. In four Week 9 games, Foligno had three goals (one on the power play), 13 shots, and 17 hits.
A couple other Blue Jackets are doing well lately. Oliver Bjorkstrand was mentioned last week and earns another mention here. Three more points in Week 9, plus a few hits and solid number of shots. Veteran Gustav Nyquist erupted with a hat trick on Friday, and he had an assist in the game prior.
Calder hopeful Victor Olofsson is back to putting up points consistently for the Buffalo Sabres. Olofsson had three points this past week, with none of them coming on the power play. The Swede dominated headlines early on this season, scoring on the power play seemingly every night. Defences figured him out and cooled him off, but he’s made adjustments to his game after bouncing around the lineup some. For now, he’s back on the top line and pumping out the minutes like a board meeting secretary. He didn’t score in his most recent game, but over 22 minutes of ice time is serious business for a rookie forward. Things are looking much better for Olofsson owners.
Who’s Hot – Defencemen
Rantanen and Zibanejad weren’t the only two big names to return in Week 9. Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kris Letang made it back on the ice Monday. He didn’t score that night, but he totaled four points in the next three games, including a goal in each. Sadly, it’s been more of the same from Letang. When on the ice, he’s 100 percent elite. The fine print is he’s going to miss games. More often than not that means a lot of them. He hasn’t played a full 82 since 2010-11, but did get to 79 in 2017-18. Hopefully the health holds up from this point on. If his recent play is any indication, all systems are go.
New York Rangers
Adam Fox is doing all he can to insert himself in the Calder conversation. The New York Rangers defender added four points to his total this past week, netting two goals and two assists. Three of those four were power-play points. All 14 of his points this season have come in the last 18 games. Owners are finally starting to notice, but overall he’s still widely available for some reason. Only 26 percent owned right now. He’s getting the minutes and the power-play time and it’s all paying off very nicely.
San Jose Sharks
Give thanks, Erik Karlsson owners! The San Jose Sharks should-be mega star has struggled to live up to his standard thus far. Week 9 was great, however. In four games, Karlsson scored a goal and added four assists. To be fair, he’s still sporting 21 points in 27 games, but it feels like he hasn’t been doing much. The power-play numbers are very disappointing and the shot rate is at a career-low right now.
Philadelphia Flyers defender Ivan Provorov looks like a top-billed defenceman of late. Provorov is absolutely gobbling minutes. Three more points this week – one goal and two assists. Provorov is still firing off a good amount of shots for a defender, and he’s adding a little physicality as well. What has fantasy hockey owners especially excited is his power-play production. Ten of his 17 points are from the man advantage. Through his past 10 games, the still only 22-year-old has three goals and four assists. Might not be a bad idea to sell high if you’re in a redraft league. But stash this gem away in keepers and dynasties – he scored 17 goals two years and ago and is on pace for 18 this season.
Who’s Not – Forwards
Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov has been one of the worst overall players in fantasy hockey these days. After a blistering start to the season, his overall numbers are still very good, with 21 points to his credit. But it’s been six games without a goal, and in his last five games he’s only managed one assist. Playing on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov is bound to lead to success sooner or later. Don’t give up on Dadonov.
Vegas Golden Knights
William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights is another whose torrid pace to start the year has kept his total numbers looking good. Karlsson has 23 points on the season, but it’s been six straight games where he hasn’t been able to add any more. He went from an 86-point pace to his current 67-point pace. Nevertheless, 67 would be a significant jump from last season’s 56. Karlsson broke out with 78 points two seasons ago, so there’s still 70-point or so potential here. He isn’t scoring goals at the pace he was two years ago, but his primary assist rate is double what it was then (1.0 per 60 minutes, currently).
Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski hasn’t registered a point since November 14. Eight straight games now with nothing to show for it except a small amount of shots and hits. Most concerning of all is the fact that the Stars are finally winning and Pavelski has very little to do with it. The Stars were expected to contend for the Central crown but started the season terribly. They’ve won 13 of 18 since, including a stretch of 11 wins in 12 games. Pavelski is on pace for 35 points. The advanced stats say he’s due to improve at some point. The five-on-five shooting percentage of linemates is well below league average, and his personal shooting percentage is a little lower than usual.
Who’s Not – Defencemen
As many predicted, Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano isn’t the player he was last season. None of the Flames are, to be frank. But Giordano has been especially cold, eeking out only one assist in his past nine games. For the season, Giordano sits at four goals and 10 assists, or a 40-point pace. That’s not insignifcant for a defender, but anyone who drafted him hoping for another 60 or 70 points has since had the rose-colored glasses removed. There’s still hope Calgary gets things going again after a coaching change and renewed outlook, so don’t despair just yet.
San Jose Sharks
While teammate Erik Karlsson may be enjoying newfound success, Sharks stalwart Brent Burns has not. Burns didn’t tally any points in four games in Week 9, but is still on pace for another 60-point campaign. The bigger issue with Burns is his shot rate is rapidly declining. He’s fired 300 shots in each of the past four seasons, though this year he’s on pace for 219. Burns is worth of a first-round pick because of those crazy shot totals to go along with forward-esque points. Also, for the banger leagues, Burns has had at least 100 blocks in five straight seasons. This year he’s down to a pace of 88.
Seven games and counting since Mathew Dumba of the Minnesota Wild has scored a goal or even gotten an assist. The Wild have been much more fantasy relevant than anticipated. Unfortunately, the one guy on that roster everyone had an eye on hasn’t been able to do much. Dumba only has nine points on the season. Last year he led the NHL in goals by a defenceman before suffering an injury. Sneaky drafters hoped that version of Dumba would come to the fore, but at this rate he won’t even get in the double digits for goals. His shooting percentage is significantly lower than normal, so buying low could be a wise move.
Whole bunch of shutouts to list this week. Most notably, Panthers goalie Chris Driedger blanked the Nashville Predators in his first career start. Other shutouts belonged to Frederik Andersen, Connor Hellebuyck, Alexandar Georgiev, Pekka Rinne, John Gibson, Corey Crawford, and Joonas Korpisalo.
Sharks goalie Martin Jones usually gets talked about for his poor performances but good win totals. This week Jones earned a mention for all the right reasons. The veteran was the only three-game winner this past week, and he did so while posting a superb 1.98 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage. The Sharks offence is finding its groove – if they can get goaltending like this, too, then watch the Sharks climb the Pacific standings in a hurry.
Minnesota Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen made his first-ever NHL appearance on Tuesday, and what a debut it was. It’s not easy being a Wild goalie these days, but Kahkonen stopped 32 of 34 shots to beat the New Jersey Devils. Kahkonen’s AHL numbers are nothing to get excited about, but his first NHL gig was impressive.
In addition to his shutout, Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen had another excellent start this week. His shutout was a 25-save performance against the hapless Detroit Red Wings. Andersen followed that up by stopping 29 of 30 shots from the Buffalo Sabres. It’s been said time and time again, but the Leafs look like themselves again with Sheldon Keefe making the calls. Andersen looks primed to be the stud he was expected to be.
The Not So Good
What an awful, awful run of form for Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. Two straight weeks of abysmal numbers. Price allowed 13 goals in three starts this past week. Back-to-back five-goal hammerings, then three more Sunday. He has allowed at least five goals in four of his last six outings. The defence isn’t doing him any favors, as the Canadiens have lost eight straight, but fantasy hockey managers don’t care about that. Price has been liability for two weeks running now. There’s almost zero chance he loses playing time, at least. Things can only get better from here. He’s too good for this to keep up. Optimal buy low target.
Penguins netminder Matt Murray is struggling mightily as well. Murray has allowed at least four goals in four straight appearances. He only got two starts in Week 9 and still let in nine goals. Unlike Price’s situation, Tristan Jarry may take some playing time from the two-time Stanley Cup champion. Anyway, the Penguins are so injury-depleted it’s hard to have much confidence no matter who’s in net.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy continues to have an extremely underwhelming 2019-20 campaign. Vasilevskiy let in 10 goals in three starts in Week 9, and the Lightning don’t look nearly as electric this season. The Bolts have dropped three straight, albeit to quality opponents and all by just one goal. The Vezina finalist from a season ago has only nine wins on the season and is flirting with a 3.00 goals-against-average and sub-.900 save percentage.
Week 10 Schedule Highlights (Dec. 2 – Dec. 8)
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, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, San Jose, Vegas.
The Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers have three of their four games on off-nights, so there’s your best bet for streamers for Week 10. Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo stand out for the Kings. Adam Fox, Anthony DeAngelo, and potentially Pavel Buchnevich for the Rangers.
Calgary, Detroit, Nashville, Vancouver.
Never fun to see one of your players will only get to play twice in a week, but at least Detroit plays one off-night. Everyone else listed here has both games on heavy nights.
Highlight of the Week
St. Louis Blues forward Jacob de La Rose is by no means fantasy hockey relevant, but he did earn his first point as a Blue in spectacular fashion. Threading the needle to set up a goal, putting the game out of reach in the third period.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) December 1, 2019
TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 30: Buffalo Sabres Left Wing Victor Olofsson (68) in warmups prior to the regular season NHL game between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs on November 30, 2019 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)