Look to Cam Atkinson and the Blue Jackets for help in the coming weeks.

All fantasy owners need help in the short term AND the long term. The Looking Ahead feature identifies one player to plug into lineups in the short term, a second to invest in for the long term, a third to bench for the coming week and a fourth who will struggle to meet expectations for some time. All players discussed are selected based on their team’s upcoming schedule. Without further ado…


The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use them for the next several days)


Alexander Wennberg, C, Columbus (Available in 62 percent of Yahoo leagues) – 15 points in 14 games? No one could have predicted such a hot start from Wennberg this season. The 14th overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft entered the 2016-17 campaign with about two full seasons of NHL experience on his resume, but he had yet to establish himself as anything but an unexceptional fantasy asset. While he did register 40 points in 69 games played for Columbus a year ago, he didn’t make for a very enticing selection in drafts this past offseason. Now Wennnberg’s a point-per-game player… but will it last? Probably not. Blue Jacket players are shooting .141 while the young forward is on the ice, which is pretty high and likely unsustainable (and also explains why Wennberg has 13 assists in 14 games played on the young season). In addition, Columbus netminders have registered a save percentage of.939 while Wennberg is on the ice. So, basically, everything is working in his favor right now. However, that doesn’t mean fantasy owners can’t benefit from employing Wennberg in the short term. He’s seeing a ton of action on the power play (including more than three minutes in six of his last nine games played), and he’s seeing action on the same line as productive NHLers Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad. There’s a lot to like here, so feel free to ride Wennberg’s hot streak in the short term. The upcoming schedule looks great, so it’s reasonable to expect some solid numbers for a little while longer.


The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)


Cam Atkinson, RW, Columbus (Available in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues) –  As Michael Clifford pointed out a couple of months back in an edition of the Ramblings, Atkinson was one of only 18 forwards who scored more than 25 goals, tallied more than 25 assists and registered 225 shots on goal during the 2015-16 campaign. It was a bit of a breakout for the long time Blue Jackets winger, and he’s picked right up where he left off in 2016-17. Atkinson has totaled an impressive 13 points in 14 games played on the year, largely because he’s seeing more than 17 minutes of ice time per game for the second consecutive season (and a ton of time on the man advantage).  For a couple of years, Atkinson provided a level of production that suggested he was a fringe fantasy asset. Then last season happened, and now the 27-year-old former sixth-rounder has evolved into a solid top-six forward that is worthy of being added and deployed in leagues of all types and sizes. It’s difficult to imagine Atkinson being anything but a steady player for the balance of the season, and poolies would be well advised to go out of their way to add him off the waiver wire or attempt to acquire him via trade. He’s underrated (for now).


The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)


Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis (Owned in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Not long ago, Pietrangelo was a 50-point defenseman and a Norris Trophy contender. Now? Not so much… He’s not a bad defenseman, or even an overrated one. For fantasy purposes, though, he’s a situational option who deserves to be benched in favor of alternative options. Here’s why:


  • He shoots less than he used to in years past — Pietrangelo took 202 shots in 2011-12, a season in which he totaled 51 points. That total has decreased in each of the full seasons he has played ever since.
  • His offensive zone start percentage continues to decrease with time — In that 51-point campaign of 2012, Pietrangelo took 53 percent of his faceoffs in the offensive zone. Last year, he took 47 percent of his faceoffs in the offensive zone.
  • He’s on with a couple of other intriguing fantasy blueliners — Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko — so advantageous ice time is a little tougher to come by now.


Furthermore, with a tough schedule coming up, Pietrangelo owners should consider looking for plug-and-play options to use instead of the veteran defenseman. Again, he’s a fine player. But using him in the near future will not pay dividends.


The Anchor (He’ll do nothing but disappoint, even over the long haul)


Jaroslav Halak, G, New York Islanders (Owned in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Once upon a time, Halak was a very good goaltender. He was even great for stretches of time. Not anymore, though. Ever since the veteran netminder joined the New York Islanders prior to the 2014-15 campaign, he’s been decidedly mediocre (or worse). Consider the following: His save percentage of .904 this year is 15 points lower than his career mark of .919, and he’s posted a goals-allowed average of 3.09. At least he’s seeing the lion’s share of starts in net for the Islanders. Thomas Greiss has seen action in six games (five starts), compared to Halak (12 games played and six starts). So that’s… uhh… something. Don’t expect a ton from this former No. 1 goaltender. He’s not what he used to be.


Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)


Boston – Volume, volume, VOLUME! Consider this: Boston plays five games between Tuesday, Nov. 22 and Tuesday, Nov. 29. What’s not to like about that schedule?


Columbus – The Blue Jackets will be quite busy during the final days of November. Between Friday, Nov. 18 and the end of the month, the squad will play seven times and will have more than one day off between games just once.


Ottawa – The Sens should feel good about how the rest of this month will play out. They will hit the ice at home four times in six games before Dec. 1.


Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)


New York Islanders – There’s nothing like a three-day break followed by a trio of road games… on the West Coast. That’s the Islanders’ schedule starting Friday, Nov. 18. This is a situation to avoid for now.


Los Angeles – Lack of volume is the problem here. The Kings have a a pair of two-day breaks and a three-day break between Saturday, Nov. 19 and the end of the month. That’s just not going to cut it for most fantasy owners.


St. Louis – The Blues close out the month with a few tough matchups: versus Nashville, at Boston, at Washington, versus Minnesota and versus Dallas. Simply stated, plenty of squads have it easier during that same stretch of time.


Friday, November 18 to Thursday, November 24

Best Bets

Montreal 4.56 – four games – three at home

Columbus 4.12 – four games – three at home

Chicago 4.09 – four games – CGY, VAN, EDM and SJS

Pittsburgh 4.00 – four games – NYI, BUF and NYRx2

Calgary 3.99 – four games – CHI, DET, BUF and CBJ

Steer Clear

Anaheim 1.89 – two games – LAK and NYI

Vancouver 2.09 – two games – CHI and ARI

Arizona 2.26 – two games – SJS and VAN

New York Islanders 2.46 – three games – two on road

St. Louis 2.70 – three games – two on road

Saturday, November 19 to Friday, November 25

Best Bets

Boston 4.35 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.25 – four games – three at home

Nashville 4.22 – four games – three at home

Edmonton 4.18 – four games – DAL, CHI, COL and ARI

San Jose 4.13 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

New York Islanders 2.47 – three games – all on road

St. Louis 2.70 – three games – two on road

Anaheim 2.84 – three games – LAK, NYI and CHI

Los Angeles 2.86 – three games – NJD, ANA and NYI

Ottawa 2.86 – three games – FLA, MTL and BOS

Sunday, November 20 to Saturday, November 26

Best Bets

Columbus 4.88 – five games – WAS, COL, CGY, TBL and FLA

Washington 4.30 – four games – three at home

Carolina 4.10 – four games – WPG, TOR, MTL and OTT

Calgary 4.04 – four games – DET, BUF, CBJ and BOS

Detroit 4.00 – four games – CGY, BUF, NJD and MTL

Steer Clear

Arizona 2.36 – two games – VAN and EDM

St. Louis 2.65 – three games – two on road

St. Louis 2.65 – three games – two on road

Winnipeg 2.71 – three games – all on road

Los Angeles 2.80 – three games – ANA, NYI and CHI

Monday, November 21 to Sunday, November 27

Best Bets

Nashville 4.41 – four games – three at home

Edmonton 4.39 – four games – CHI, COL and ARIx2

Boston 4.24 – four games – three at home

Columbus 4.12 – four games – COL, CGY, TBL and FLA

Tampa Bay 4.11 – four games – NSH, PHI, CBJ and BOS

Steer Clear

Winnipeg 2.61 – three games – two on road

Los Angeles – 2.00 – two games – NYI and CHI

St. Louis 2.65 – three games – two on road

New York Islanders 2.47 – three games – all on road

Detroit 2.84 – three games – two on road

Tuesday, November 22 to Monday, November 28

Best Bets

Boston 4.24 – four games – three at home

Philadelphia 4.01 – four games – FLA, TBL, NYR and CGY

Calgary 3.99 – four games – CBJ, BOS, PHI and NYI

Ottawa 4.02 – four games – MTL, BOS, CAR and NYR

Carolina 3.89 – four games – TOR, MTL, OTT and FLA

Steer Clear

Buffalo 1.81 – two games – DET and WAS

Los Angeles 2.00 – two games – NYI and CHI

Colorado 2.36 – two games – EDM and VAN

Chicago 2.47 – three games – all on road

Winnipeg 2.61 – three games – two on road

Wednesday, November 23 to Tuesday, November 29

Best Bets

Edmonton 4.60 – four games – COL, ARIx2 and TOR

Nashville 4.40 – four games – DAL, WPGx2 and COL

Ottawa 4.36 – four games – three at home

Tampa Bay 4.30 – four games – PHI, CBJx2 and BOS

Boston 4.30 – four games – OTT, CGY, TBL and PHI

Steer Clear

Los Angeles 2.00 – two games – NYI and CHI

Anaheim 2.74 – three games – WAS and CGY

Toronto 2.74 – three games – two on road

Pittsburgh 2.76 – three games – two on road

St. Louis 2.81 – three games – WAS, MIN and DAL

Thursday, November 24 to Wednesday, November 30

Best Bets

Ottawa 4.36 – four games – three at home

Boston 4.30 – four games – OTT, CGY, TBL and PHI

Calgary 4.10 – four games – BOS, PHI, NYR and TOR

San Jose 3.96 – four games – three at home

Carolina 3.86 – four games – MTL, OTT, FLA and NYR

Steer Clear

Buffalo 1.85 – two games – both on road

Los Angeles 1.94 – two games – CHI and SJS

St. Louis 2.05 – two games – MIN and DAL

Washington 2.20 – two games – BUF and TOR

Colorado 2.21 – two games – VAN and NSH