Trending: The Stretch Run (Western Conference Part 1)
Which players are trending up and which players are trending down (ANA, ARI, CGY, CHI, COL, DAL, EDM)?
As the season winds down and the trade deadline approaches this week focuses on eight players trending up and six players trending down from Anaheim to Edmonton. These are players who can have a big impact on the stretch run by raising or sinking the level of a team depending on how they finish the season. Picking the right players to keep, acquire or sell can have a major on how fantasy teams finish both their regular seasons and playoffs.
Up: Rickard Rakell
Rickard Rakell has nailed down a spot in the Ducks’ top six centering a line featuring Corey Perry and most recently Nick Ritchie. With the Kesler-Silfverberg-Cogliano line functioning as an effective shutdown line that leaves ample offensive-centric minutes for the Rakell and Getzlaf lines. With the move into the top six Rakell has seen a significant spike in his shot rate, averaging between 2.5 and 3.5 since December. In the last two months he has 18 points in 22 games, buoyed somewhat by a heightened shooting percentage in February.
Up: Mikkel Boedker
Boedker has scored once in his last 21 games despite taking 50 shots over that span. This is a player with a career shooting percentage of 11.3% who has seen his in-season shooting percentage to just over nine percent. This drop in shooting percentage has occurred despite his shot and scoring chance rates remaining. He has slipped to three minutes of power play time per game, which is significant reduction but still leaves him with a good chunk of time with the man advantage.
Down: Tobias Rieder
Rieder has seen an even more significant reduction to his power play time in the month of February as he has gone from averaging around three minutes per game earlier in the season to just under a minute this month. Those power play minutes have been replaced with a significant increase to his short-handed minutes. Not surprisingly Rieder is having his worst month of the season in February with only three points in nine games. Furthermore, his shooting percentage has fallen for the third straight month, and while it will likely rebound, it has come in concert with a reduced shot rate.
Up: Dougie Hamilton
Hamilton’s start to the season was a disaster but he has turned the season around and is now getting first unit minutes on the Flames’ power play. In February Hamilton is taking close to three shots per game, which is in no small part due to him now getting more than three minutes per game on the power play, and finally breaking 20 minutes per game overall. As a result of these factors Hamilton has seven points in his last 10 games in what will undoubtedly be his best of the season to date.
Down: TJ Brodie
Brodie has not necessarily lost power play time to Hamilton but he has gone from being a major piece of the first unit to picking up the scraps at the end of the power play. Therefore, while his overall minutes have not been reduced the quality of them has. The saving grace for Brodie is that he still gets even-strength minutes, primarily with Giordano, and 25 minutes overall. He is on pace for 55 points over a full season but he will be hard pressed to continue that pace given his current usage.
Up: Andrew Shaw
Marian Hossa’s injury leaves a major vacancy on the Blackhaws’ top line. Shaw was already getting significant minutes with Toews and Hossa before the injury and that will no doubt continue now that more minutes are available. With the better minutes Shaw is now receiving he is already close to having his best month in only nine games. Not surprisingly Shaw is also seeing more power play minutes in February, which will undoubtedly help with his improved production.
Grigorenko has received a lot of love in this column but he may be finally starting to live up to the love. It helps that he has recently been getting even-strength minutes with Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla as well as two and a half minutes per game on the power play. He is getting the most minutes per game he has received at any point this season and finally with linemates that are not Cody McLeod, Andreas Martinsen or Jack Skille on a consistent basis. Grigorenko has five points in 10 games thus far this month but has been very impressive lately with four points in his last five games. As long as he is playing with other skilled players a half point per game to finish the season is reasonable.
Down: Francois Beauchemin
Beauchemin was scoring at a half point per game pace through December, which was very unlikely to continue for a player whose career high is 32 points. The plug has been pulled on Beauchemin as he has only six points in his last 24 games. A large part of the reason for Beauchemin’s drop-off is his shooting percentage has fallen precipitously from over 10% in November and December to just over five percent in January and February. It does not help that his shot rate has fallen along with his shooting percentage but this basically just the harsh sting of regression.
Up: John Klingberg
Klingberg was never going to maintain his point per game pace over the whole season. The drop in production should come as no surprise but just as he is not a point per game defenseman he was at the beginning of the season he is not the half point per game defenseman he was in December and January. With Seguin and Benn struggling last month it is no surprise that Klingberg struggled to produce as well. With the terrible twosome picking it up again this month Klingberg has seen an increase in his production as well. Something close to three points every four games to close out the season is realistic.
Down: Jason Spezza
Spezza has seen a massive reduction in his shot rate, as he was taking more than three shots per game the first three months of the season but is down to one shot per game over the last two months. The saving grace for his last two months has been Spezza’s new-found ability to score on one of every four shots he takes. As long as this career 13% shooter continues to score at twice his career rate he will be fine with the miniscule shot totals he has posted in January and February. Look for 15 points down the stretch.
Up: Jordan Eberle and Benoit Poliot
The winners of Connor McDavid return from injury have clearly been Pouliot and Eberle. Pouliot should have been expected after the success he had to start the season with McDavid and Yakupov, while Eberle no doubt moved in front of Yakupov with the injury to Nugent-Hopkins. The net result , regardless of who was expected to slot in alongside McDavid, has been over a point per game pace for both of McDavid’s linemates. Each of them have 13 points in February as McDavid has looked dominant in his return to the Oilers lineup. Pouliot has not seen a significant rise in his shot rate but Eberle has nearly doubled his rate from January. It can also only help matters that both are receiving a full minute more game on the power play than they got in January. With all the positive factors working in favour of the two McDavid lottery winners look for 15 to 20 points from each of them down the stretch.
The once dominant Hall-Purcell-Draisaitl line has not only ground to a halt but has in recent games been split up. It has gotten so bas that Hall, the driving force behind the line has occasionally seen time on fourth line. If there was ever any doubt about who was driving this line to succeed one must only look at Hall’s number in January and February to figure out why the other two are no longer scoring. Hall is taking half as many shots as he was when the line was hot, meaning that his drop in shooting percentage has been all the more damaging to his production. To see the effect this has had look at Draisaitl who has somehow managed to maintain a shooting percentage above 15% in January and February but is no longer getting much in the way of assists. With the struggles all three members of the line have seen their ice-time cut by two minutes per game. As Hall has the better chance to rebound regardless of who he plays with it is a lot more likely that these two continue to struggle as opposed to him.
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