It’s officially the midway point of the regular season in fantasy hockey (at least by Yahoo! standard league scheduling). As we look ahead to the second half, things will be a tad different with Impressions from here on out. In an effort to cover more player trends, analysis won’t be as in-depth as in the past. Be sure to reach out to me on Twitter (@jkj0787) if you would like a deeper take on any player(s). Last week’s impressions are here. Let’s look back at the week that was.
Note: For the sake of consistency, Yahoo! standard leagues are the baseline for all rankings and ownership rates.
Week 11 Fantasy Hockey Impressions
A Pair of Sens
Maybe the hottest pro athlete in the world right now is Ottawa Senators winger Anthony Duclair. Going from not knowing how to play hockey to scoring 25 points in 33 games (18 goals, seven assists), Duclair has been a waiver steal for owners thus far. The 24-year-old went off for five goals this week and has eight in his last five games. His ownership rate jumped 34 percent over the weekend and is up to 48 percent. Time’s running out if you can add him to your roster. Goals, shots, and flirting with a hit per game.
Brady Tkachuk continues to play at a freakish pace. If things keep up, he’ll finish the season with 311 shots and hits. The sophomore standout has 125 of each at the moment, not to mention his 11 goals and eight assists. That’s a 27-goal pace paired with insane shots and hits. What’s even crazier is he’s not even reaching his full potential. Tkachuk’s 11 goals are almost six goals lower than what he should have, according to Charting Hockey (“Goals vs expectation” tab, then sort by Ottawa). Tkachuk is making a claim as one of the best multi-category banger options at left wing.
A Pair of Avs
It defies logic, but Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin is still going strong. Nine points in his last 12 games, including three goals in his last four. As the Avs have gotten healthier, Nichushkin’s ice time has dipped back down to the 11-14 minute range. One would think his production would slip, but he had a point in each of his three games in Week 11. Continue to ride the heatwave, or sell high if you’re able. Maybe someone isn’t paying attention to those dwindling minutes. He’s only nine percent owned.
Another Avalanche player is storming into the fantasy hockey scene. Defenceman Ryan Graves is blossoming into a category king before our very eyes. The former fourth-round pick has six points in his last nine games, but his real value comes from the banger categories., especially if your league counts PIMs. Graves has 29 PIMs to go along with 47 hits and 70 blocks. Alexander Edler is the only other player with at least 20 PIMs, 40 hits, and 70 blocks. Power-play production is the only area Graves is sorely lacking – goose egg in that department.
Nashville Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok is thriving in the absence of Viktor Arvidsson. Jarnkrok has five points in his last five games, and he’s up to 11 goals and 11 assists on the season. The Swede is seeing top-line action and top power-play deployment of late. Nashville isn’t blowing any defences apart lately, but anyone getting that deployment is worthy of a look. Jarnkrok is only 14 percent owned as of now.
Rasmus Dahlin started the season on fire, but the Buffalo Sabres defenceman went into a long funk there for a while. Maybe the time on the sidelines gave him time to reevaluate because lately he’s been looking like himself again. The sophomore slump was delayed for Dahlin – in his first 10 games, he registered 10 points; in his next 11, he registered three. But has five in his last five games now. He even unloaded six shots and dealt six hits on Saturday while clocking a season-high 24:02 time on ice.
Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust missed three games recently and was scoreless in his first two since coming back. Rust got back on track in Week 11, dropping three goals and two assists. Two of those points came on the power play, and he added 17 shots for good measure. Just about everyone expected a decrease in production, but the 27-year-old keeps doing it. He’s sporting a career-high 3.8 points-per-60 and 11.8 shots-per-60. Oh, and he’s adding 1.6 hits per game. What a season so far.
Detroit Red Wings
Last but certainly not least for the hotties, Robby Fabbri continues to shine in red and white. The Detroit Red Wings forward has five goals and two assists in his last seven games, with a three-point effort on Thursday. Fabbri is under-owned at only 19 percent. Sure, the Red Wings are awful, but Fabbri skates alongside Dylan Larkin and is on the top power-play squad.
One of the biggest busts of the season so far is Minnesota Wild defenceman Mathew Dumba. At this point last season, Dumba had 12 goals and 10 assists. Right now he has three and six, respectively. Currently, he has 74 shots compared to 93 at this point last year. Dumba went down with a season-ending injury at this exact point, so many fantasy hockey owners drafted him later hoping for a repeat. Yet, Dumba is fifth among defencemen on the team in points. His pointless streak sits at 13 games.
A Pair of Blues
Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues seems to be in the midst of his annual cold spells. One of the streakier players in fantasy hockey, Schwartz can either dazzle or go missing. For the year, he has nine goals and 14 assists. Lately, however, he’s got one goal in his past five games. The past month has been so-so, with only seven points in his past 14 games. His deployment is just fine, but the numbers have slipped significantly since October and early November.
Linemate Brayden Schenn hasn’t fared much better. Schenn has only two points in his last seven games. He started the year with one of the best runs he’s ever had – 10 goals in the first 14 games. In the 20 games since that run, he has eight assists and only four goals. Schenn is still providing the banger value at least – he’s on pace for 135 hits.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander is ice cold. He only has two points in his last eight games and is a minus-nine over that span. It’s been a somewhat underwhelming season for the popular bounce-back pick. Through 34 games, Nylander is pacing for 55 points. Compared to last season’s 41-point pace that’s an improvement, but no doubt many hoped for even better considering his teammates. Only three goals and four assists in his last 14 games is a tough pill to swallow.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Through December 5, Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Mikhail Sergachev was on pace for exactly 50 points. Going scoreless in his last five has dropped that to a pace of 42. That would still be a big step up from last year’s total of 32, but it’s still worth mentioning how he’s been a non-factor as of late. Sergachev has a minus-eight over his last five, with only five shots on goal as well. His last power-play point was November 25.
Four shutouts this week, but in a way, there were more. The real shutouts belonged to Ben Bishop, James Reimer, Jacob Markstrom, and Tristan Jarry (again). However, if not for an equipment issue, Laurent Brossoit may have had a shutout: he stopped all 15 shots he faced but missed 1:09 of game time. Also, Joonas Korpisalo and Petr Mrazek each carried shutouts into overtime only to give up the winning goals.
Carolina Hurricanes goalie James Reimer is playing some good hockey lately. In addition to pitching a shutout Saturday, he also got the nod back on Tuesday. He stopped 33 of 36, earning the win. Reimer is 5-1-0 in his last six, allowing only 10 goals over that span and sporting a .948 save percentage. Plus two shutouts.
At least for the foreseeable future, Linus Ullmark is the starting goalie for Buffalo. Ullmark won two of his three starts this week, with the loss coming in overtime against the New York Islanders. The 26-year-old has appeared in 12 of Buffalo’s last 16 games, posting a 7-3-2 record. Over his last six, Ullmark is 4-1-1 with a .924 save percentage. The Sabres are winning more lately thanks to a resurging offence and Ullmark’s play.
Probably no one at all in fantasy hockey played him given his team, but Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier went two-for-two this week. He faced 71 shots in those two games and only allowed three goals in total. Bernier’s overall numbers are not good by any stretch, but at least for this week, he was on his game.
Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz is doing everything in his power to at least earn an even split in time moving forward. With Philipp Grubauer not able to start, Francouz got the nod in all three games. Game one was bad – he let in five goals in an overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. After that, though, Francouz allowed just one goal in each outing, stopping 69 shots total. He won those last two, improving his record to 9-2-1 in 14 appearances. The 29-year-old has a 2.26 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage.
Still aces for Islanders tandem Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss. Varlamov won both his starts, allowing three total goals on 67 shots. Greiss made just one appearance but shined with a 32-save performance in a 3-1 win against the Florida Panthers. Both goalies now have 11 wins on the season, and both are elite fantasy hockey options.
The Not So Good
Vancouver Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom got a rare four starts this week but only had one win to show for it. Markstrom shut the deadly Hurricanes out on Thursday but allowed 10 goals combined in his other three starts. Sunday night was pretty ugly, getting peppered for five goals on 39 shots.
Rough week for Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. Things looked great Saturday against the Blues, but everything fell apart in the final frame. All four goals against came in the third, three of them within the last 13 minutes. His other start of the week was a five-goal nightmare at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Earlier in the season, it looked like Pekka Rinne was back to his old self. The Predators are playing mediocre hockey these days, and Rinne has been worse than that. He made only one start this past week and allowed four goals on only 22 shots. Over his past three starts, he’s allowed 11 goals. Despite three shutouts (tied with Jarry for the league lead), Rinne’s save percentage is sub-.900 at the moment. We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of a storied career.
Week 12 Schedule Highlights (Dec. 16 – Dec. 22)
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.
Anaheim, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Nashville, Ottawa.
Other Schedule Notes
Everyone not listed above plays three games.
The Dallas Stars and New York Rangers have the coveted Friday-Sunday split, which is ideal for streaming. For Dallas, Roope Hintz is only 37 percent owned and getting excellent deployment. Esa Lindell has assists in back-to-back games. For the Rangers, Brady Skjei is a solid option in category banger leagues that count PIMs. Same for Brendan Lemieux, but he has decent point upside as well being on the second power-play unit.
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