Ramblings: Thoughts on Atkinson, Drouin, Vatanen and Bruins Reinforcements (Dec 23)

steve laidlaw


Sell high on Atkinson? Drouin stepping up. Bruins get reinforcements and more.


Holy mackerel did the Blue Jackets ever take it to the Penguins last night. They won 7-1 chasing Matt Murray early in the third period. No one goes for the throat the way the Blue Jackets do, which is perhaps the most impressive quality about them. You have to respect what the Penguins helped to do for the game by winning the Cup with a team that rolled four lines with speed. You can see that influence in lineups across the league. How great would it be if a team like Columbus, that has put teams away by staying aggressive with the lead, won the Cup?

This is all just a pipe dream I am concocting to create scenarios that might see scoring increase on its own. We all know that it won’t happen until they make the nets bigger.

Still, it’s a good time to be a Blue Jacket fan, tied for first in points, with four games in hand and the league’s best goal differential. And sure, we all see them slowing down at some point but they appear dialed into a playoff spot despite playing in the impossibly difficult Metro division.

What was great about their win last night was how most of the offense came from down the depth chart. They got just one power-play goal while scoring six at even strength, including a hat-trick by Scott Hartnell.

Other unusual customers to light the lamp: Boone Jenner and William Karlsson.

We know that these guys have talent. Both Hartnell and Jenner have 30-goal seasons under their belts but on this team they are depth players. Hartnell skates on the fourth line and second PP unit, while Jenner is on the second line and second PP unit. It’s hard to be more than a 40-point guy with that kind of deployment. We’ve seen some players hit other levels with mere secondary PP time but it takes otherworldly talent. Hartnell and Jenner are always going to be reliant on the talents of others to help get pucks to them in dirty areas and that is easier with #1 PP duties.

Of course, Hartnell displayed some decent wheels and great hands in scoring his first of the night:

That’s Derrick Pouliot that Hartnell burns. Is it too early to stick the bust label on Pouliot? I’d say so. You only need to look at the example of Justin Schultz as a reason not to give up on a defenseman prospect. Pouliot turns 23 next month and has 82 NHL games under his belt across three pro seasons. We are nearing the point in time where he needs a fresh start somewhere else.

If you are looking for someone not seeing top unit PP time but still has fantasy relevance, look no further than Brandon Saad. Two more points for Saad, giving him 27 on the season, with just one coming on the PP. He’s on pace for 71 points but I would expect him to finish closer to 60.

There were questions about Cam Atkinson playing last night due to an ankle injury. He played and scored a power-play marker. Atkinson has 12 points in his last seven games and is now on pace for a 90-point season but I wouldn’t be shocked if he came up short of 70. With 51 games left on the schedule that would mean Atkinson scores 35 points or less. That’s basically last season’s pace the rest of the way, assuming he doesn’t miss any games. Not inconceivably.

There are many things working in Atkinson’s favour but the top of the list has to be the increased PP time. With 16 PPP he has already surpassed his previous career high of 10. Continued top PP minutes would be a good reason why he continues to exceed last season’s pace the rest of the way.

I am an advocate for selling high where possible. The following is one such option:

Because it is a keeper this deal makes sense. It’s much easier to sell high in a keeper, unless your player is 30-years-old, then he might as well be 90. That fallacy is something to be exploited but that’s a conversation for another day.

I expect Atkinson will score more than Ehlers this season and he may even outscore him over what's left of the season. But I expect it will be close and that Ehlers will be a better option in future years.


After a tough first period, Andrei Vasilevskiy settled in for a win over the Blues. He didn’t stop enough pucks for an official quality start. The last time he had one of those was November 23. See yesterday’s ramblings for more on what I expect from Vasilevskiy.

I also listed the top 10 net front players in yesterday’s ramblings. Brian Boyle could probably make the list if used there consistently. He has three goals and five points in the last five games and has seen his minutes jump to 17+ in each contest with top unit PP time in each game.

Jonathan Drouin continues to play his best hockey when the Lightning need it most. Three points for him last night gives him 13 in his last nine. The ultimate question is whether Drouin has done enough to hang onto a large role once the Lightning get healthy. The answer is probably in the middle. He has clearly shown an ability to produce on the power play and was frequently used on the same unit as Nikita Kucherov, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, it also likely shakes out that Drouin gets put on the third line to help “spread out” the offense. He’s on pace for 50 points and through the hot and cold streaks that’s probably where he finishes up.


How many of you had the guile to start Cory Schneider against the potent Flyers? I did in one league because it’s a points league where you even get points for losses so there was little reason to not use him. In another league where I had a safe lead in goal, I left Schneider on the bench. I am happy to see Schneider get an easy one but the larger trend is still ugly. He has allowed three goals or more in 10 of his last 13 starts. The Flyers no-showed firing just 16 SOG. By no means is Schneider out of the woods.


With Paul Stastny out the Blues recalled Wade Megan who scored his first career goal on his first shot (and only) shot. Megan skated only 9:40 so I wouldn’t go bananas in trying to add him. Stastny is expected back next week:


Big happenings for the Bruins. First of all, they got David Pastrnak back a week after elbow surgery. He missed just two games.

The Bruins also welcomed Frank Vatrano back to the lineup. He scored a goal in 13:22 of action. I would only recommend Vatrano in deeper settings unless we see him bumped onto a line with David Krejci.

With some reinforcements, Claude Julien saw fit to go back to even splitting time between his first and second PP units. I suppose it makes sense, the Bruins’ power play has not achieved at the level it did last season and could use a shakeup. It does mean that top unit guys like Krejci, Ryan Spooner, Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Torey Krug take a hit. That will only help to drive Bergeron owners into more of a panic but low and behold, Bergeron scored a power-play goal last night, with an assist from Krug and Spooner. The situation isn’t all that dire. The difference is maybe three or four points over the rest of the season.

Check out the PP combos:



Krug skated with the second group while Colin Miller was with the first. Miller led the team with 3:12 on the power play but skated only 13:13 overall. Still, he’ll have some fantasy relevance if the units split time evenly.

Other winners from this even split: Brad Marchand, Pastrnak and Vatrano.

Now we’ll have to spend the next few weeks monitoring to see if this sticks.


Jaromir Jagr has officially passed Mark Messier for #2 all-time in points. He also has eight points in the past nine games, which coincides with Aleksander Barkov’s run of hot play. I still wouldn’t buy Jagr in any leagues but I’d take him for free off the waiver wire, which I in fact did in dropping Viktor Arvidsson in order to get an extra man-game as I am in a tough battle this week.

James Reimer made the start for the Panthers and Mike McKenna had to be recalled on an emergency basis because Roberto Luongo couldn’t go for an undisclosed reason. Luongo was scheduled to start tonight but we’ll see if he is able to go.


After a couple of games in the press box, Shea Theodore returned to the Ducks’ lineup skating 18:35 with 3:26 on the top PP unit. Theodore is killing Sami Vatanen who is being pushed to the second unit.

A year ago, I was clamoring for the Ducks to keep Theodore up to pair with Vatanen on the top unit. Well he’s staying up but because of Cam Fowler’s breakout it’s Vatanen getting iced. Vatanen is young, right-handed and signed to a reasonable deal so I wouldn’t expect him to go anywhere but that reasonable deal could also be what helps the Ducks fetch a big return via trade.

Real trades rarely happen, especially not mid-season so talking trade potential is silly. Bottom line, Vatanen is trending towards fantasy irrelevance because Theodore (who hasn’t been productive) is pushing him into a lesser role.


Oh my goodness the Avalanche are a tire fire. They are unintentionally tanking to a degree reminiscent of the Sabres at the height of the McDavid sweepstakes. Because they aren’t actually trying to tank (as far as we know), this could swing in a positive direction or they could take it as a cue to tank and this could get even more negative.

The problem with that idea is that the players most likely to be voided from the lineup are veterans like Jarome Iginla or Francois Beauchemin who aren’t pulling their weight anyhow. However, the Avalanche don’t have much on the farm ready to come up. They have already used the Mikko Rantanen bullet, which hasn’t moved the needle.

Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard are droppable, although I would point out that at some point one (or both) will put together a run of decency. It’s the NHL. No team is Cleveland Browns terrible. Even at the peak of their tanking the Sabres still found a way to have some decent goalies. Remember when the Sabres traded Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth for playing too well only to watch Anders Lindback post a .924 save percentage?

As for their struggling forwards, I still think Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene can be 60-point guys. Gabriel Landeskog probably isn’t more than a 50-point guy without help and since he has already missed 10 games, we should set our rights lower. Rantanen should score 45. I don’t think we’ve seen everything he can offer. The rest are duds and the sooner the Avalanche can move Iginla and stop using him on the top PP unit the better. I want a four-forward look featuring the four mentioned above.  


Tyler Toffoli missed last night's action but is only listed as day-to-day.


Some Blackhawk injury updates:

Look for Jonathan Toews skating with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. Good spot for the captain to get out of his scoring slump.


That’s all for today. Thanks for reading. I am looking for content for the weekly mailbag tomorrow so fire me your questions on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


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