With much of Eastern Canada and United States recently experienced or still enduring a deep freeze, I thought it would be nice to look at who, from the Eastern Conference, might be heating up and if they might be available to help your fantasy roster.
The Blue Jackets are blessed with two young, talented blueliners. The one I’m going to talk about today is Seth Jones. After breaking out for a career year with 12 goals and 42 points last season, Jones is currently on pace for 14 goals and 53 points. He’s also on pace to smash his shots on goal best (157) by nearly 100 and he only needs four more power-play points to set a new career high (14).
Jones has been scoring at nearly a point-per game pace since December 2. He has 18 points in 20 games, recording at least one point in 15 of those 20 contests. Seven of those 18 points have been with the man advantage. Jones is averaging 2:29 minutes on the power play, good for fifth on the team and the second best amongst Blue Jacket defenders.
Can he continue to put up points at this torrid pace for the balance of the season? Not likely, but my money says he doesn’t fall far off this pace. He’s playing with an increased confidence and that’s often all it takes to take it to the next level.
One of my favourite players is seemingly back. Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson started the season with nine points in his first 22 matches. He followed that up with 26 points in the next 21 contests. That helps make this Lightning team more than just Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. Johnson spends the majority of his even-strength shifts with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point. He also receives the sixth most power play minutes.
After two sub-par seasons that saw Johnson record 45 and 38 points in 66 and 69 games respectively, the 27-year-old is on pace for 30 goals and 66 points. That would put him in the vicinity of his career best 29 goals and 72 points set back in the 2014-15 campaign.
While it’s hard to imagine Johnson staying healthy enough to challenge his career best this season, it’s believable that he finishes very close to the 60-point mark. He is still available in 36 per cent of Yahoo leagues.
The Capitals Lars Eller has been heating up with six points over his last seven games, including a goal in his each of his last four contests. The 28-year-old Dane is having his best season to date, on pace for 17 goals and 39 points, which would better his previous highs of 16 goals and 30 points.
Of late, Eller has been lining up with T.J. Oshie and Brett Connolly while continuing to receive mop up power play minutes. He is about to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If you’re in a deep league, where you need a short-term substitute, there are worse pickups than Eller out there.
Another one of my favourite players to own in fantasy leagues is the Panthers' Vincent Trocheck. He is tied for 25th in league scoring with Jack Eichel, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Brad Marchand, some pretty heady company.
After recording 54 points last season and 53 points the year before, Trocheck is on pace for a career best 32-goal, 77-point campaign. He has been shooting more this season and is on pace for 288 shots on goal, which would better his previous high of 228 set last year.
Trocheck has been very consistent throughout the season so far, recording 11 points in 11 October contests, 12 points in 13 November games, 13 points over 14 matches in December and five points in five games so far in January. It doesn’t get much more consistent than that. A 70-point season is looking like a lock.
The worst team in the Eastern Conference has a few players heating up as the weather gets frigid. After opening the season with one point in his first nine contests, Kyle Okposo has recorded 23 points over his next 33 games, a 57-point pace. That is exactly the same pace he recorded last season.
Over his last 10 games, Okposo has spent the majority of his even-strength ice time with Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane, two pretty decent offensive players. He also has 10 points in those 10 games. Interestingly, Okposo is only owned in 20 per cent of Yahoo leagues. He’s proven that he can score at nearly a 60-point pace. If he’s available in your league, I’d be all over this guy.
The other Sabre I’d like to discuss is Ryan O’Reilly. Sure, Jack Eichel is someone all of us would rather have, but he’s owned in 98 per cent of Yahoo leagues. O’Reilly is only owned in half of those leagues.
While he is on pace for 57 points on the season, O’Reilly has nine points in his last nine games. He also leads the league in face-off wins with 639 and has won 20 face-offs in a game eight times so far this year. Sidney Crosby is second in face-off wins with 583. In his last six seasons, O’Reilly has scored between 55 and 64 points, although that does include one season in which he had 20 points in 29 games (56 points pro-rated). This guy has been very consistent, and we can count on another 55-60 -point season. I like my fantasy players to be predictable.
Thanks for reading.