Thoughts on Koskinen, Parayko, Ovechkin, and more…
Of the four teams to make coaching changes this season, three are in a similar state to where they were before the coaching changes. Those three teams (St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles) currently occupy the three bottom slots in the Western Conference. The other team (Edmonton) has had a complete turnaround under its new head coach Ken Hitchcock, benefitting from the usual immediate impact that Hitch has on a team’s defensive system while leaping into a playoff spot.
No one player has likely benefitted more from Hitch’s system than Mikko Koskinen. Already on the verge of taking over as the starting goalie, Koskinen is as red hot as any goalie at the moment. Koskinen stopped 31 of 32 shots to keep him undefeated at home this season (7-0-0) and push his overall record to 11-3-1 and his save percentage to .930. That save percentage is even more impressive if you consider that save percentages are currently falling with the recent rise in scoring. If you’ve added Koskinen to your team, there’s a good chance you’re starting him over another goalie that you had higher hopes for but hasn’t panned out (my example is the injured Antti Raanta). With super goaltending increasingly hard to find, I’m holding on and starting with confidence as opposed to selling high.
I expected Koskinen to be a great potential add upon the Hitchcock hiring. What I didn’t expect was for the scoring to be as much of a threat as it has. Over their last five games, the Oilers have averaged over four goals per game. Sure, we know that Connor McDavid will do his thing, like he did on Friday (two goals and an assist). Same with Leon Draisaitl (three assists). But with another goal on Friday, Alex Chiasson now has a career-high 14 goals with five points over his last five games while riding shotgun on this top line. He is currently benefitting from a 30 percent shooting accuracy, but the goals may eventually turn into assists should he stay on this line. Keep in mind he’s only 15 percent owned while playing on a line with the NHL’s best player.
Hitchcock came out of coaching retirement to take the Oilers’ job, so there’s no telling how long he will last. Players may also eventually tune him out, as was believed to have happened in his other coaching stops. And for all we know, the Oilers may turn back into the pumpkin that has been the Oilers that we’ve been poking fun at for the last decade or so. But for now, the Oilers are a fantasy goldmine when it comes to both scoring goals and stopping them.
By the way, with the loss to the Oilers, Dave Hakstol in Philly might be the next coach to find himself out of a job.
Yes, I know that one of those other three coaching change teams that I mentioned above (St. Louis) won tonight. As Colton Parayko now appears at the top of Frank Seravalli’s TSN Trade Bait list, I’ve been thinking that as much as fantasy owners have drooled at Parayko’s size and shot, maybe it’s time to accept that what we’ve seen from Parayko is what we’re going to get, and nothing more. For all of that perceived upside, Parayko has never scored more than 35 points in a season, although he’s been remarkably consistent around that total over the past three seasons.
So Parayko scoring two goals while logging 28 minutes on Friday isn’t great timing for me to make my point. Since Alex Pietrangelo’s injury, Parayko has averaged nearly 26 minutes per game, even though he has scored only one point (another goal) over the previous five games that Petro has been out of the lineup. Both the skills and the opportunity are there, even if the Blues are as much of a mess as any team at the moment. Turning from fantasy to reality, I could see NHL teams engaging in a serious bidding war for Parayko’s services.
We’re over a week away from Christmas, and Alex Ovechkin is closing in on 30 goals. With a hat trick on Friday, Ovie has posted back-to-back hat tricks with goals in five consecutive games and 11 of his past 13 games. If you read the latest 31 Thoughts or listened to the 31 Thoughts Podcast, you probably have an opinion on whether Ovechkin can eventually catch Wayne Gretzky in career goals. Those who think he can are probably in the minority, but at the very least we can conclude that at age 33 there hasn’t been much slowdown.
Having said that, back-to-back hat tricks and goals in 11 of 13 games shouldn’t be the norm going forward. Ovie is riding a career-high 23 percent shooting accuracy, and it’s doubtful that his shot at age 33 is as hard as it was at age 23. But for now we can safely assume that another 50-goal season is well within reach, while he continues to pile on the goals, shots, and hits.
Tom Wilson returned to the Capitals’ lineup on Friday, scoring yet another goal. That gives him nine goals in 12 games. Get him back in your lineup ASAP.
In spite of his team being on the losing end to the Capitals, Sebastian Aho picked up another four points. He’s currently on a four-game point streak in which he has four goals and seven points as he continues to score at around a point per game.
With two goals on Friday, William Karlsson has four goals over his last three games. After a relatively slow start (five goals over his first 24 games), he’s scoring goals like the Wild Bill of last season with eight goals over his last ten games. 40+ goals wasn’t going to happen for the second year in a row, but it’s worth mentioning that Karlsson is on pace for 30 goals.
With all the Penguins’ scoring stars, the team’s leading scorer in their win on Friday turned out to be Zach Aston-Reese, who scored two goals and added an assist. Aston-Reese had the good fortune of playing on a line with Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin, although he didn’t score either of his goals while on the Kessel/Malkin line (one was shorthanded and the other into an empty net). For good measure, Aston-Reese also delivered nine hits. In spite of playing just 18 games, Aston-Reese leads all Pens’ forwards with 66 hits. So if he sticks with Kessel and Malkin, he might be worth an add, particularly in leagues that count hits.
Ruh roh… Kris Letang injury alert. The Band-Aid Boy blueliner left Friday’s game with a potential knee injury, with an update likely to come Saturday. So far Letang has missed only one game this season, which has to be a record (actually, he played all 82 games in 2010-11), though he missed only three games last season. So I guess as a Letang owner I should simply be happy he lasted this long. He would be difficult to replace for the Pens because remember that they are also down Justin Schultz until February. Jusso Riikola could be a name to remember if you’re looking for a Pens’ defenseman to watch.
Despite receiving a serious bump in icetime since Matt Duchene’s injury, Chris Tierney hasn’t exactly taken advantage of the situation, at least until Friday. Although Tierney hadn’t scored a goal over his previous ten games before Friday, he managed to score twice in over 20 minutes of icetime. With Duchene possibly returning as early as Monday, you’re probably not going to catch lightning in a bottle with Tierney.
Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith might be off your fantasy radar, but I’m getting knocked around in one of my head-to-head leagues this week because my opponent has both veteran Hawks. Toews scored two goals and added an assist on Friday, while Keith chipped in two assists. That gives Toews back-to-back three-point games with a plus-5, while Keith has four assists over his last three games and seven helpers over his last six games.
Something that’s hurting Keith’s value at the moment: very little power-play time. Over the last ten games, he’s seen six or fewer seconds seven times, including on Friday. Interestingly enough, Keith is being paired with early-season sensation Henri Jokiharju, although neither is receiving much power-play time at the moment.
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