Hey folks, don’t forget that the Midseason Guide will be available one week from now (January 11). Inside you’ll find second-half projections, sleepers, advanced stats, historical trends, prospects you need to know, and more!
As I mentioned before, I’m handling the goaltending piece. Of course, as I’m working on it, a trade is announced between the Canucks and Senators that involves two goalies. The main takeaways of the trade are that Anders Nilsson will start some games in Ottawa while Craig Anderson is sidelined with a concussion, and top goalie prospect Thatcher Demko will be called up (Mike McKenna has been placed on waivers). Demko is definitely more exciting for fantasy owners, although Jacob Markstrom’s recent exceptional play (9-2-0, 1.82 GAA, .938 SV% since December 6) should result in the Canucks limiting Demko’s workload to begin. I’ll guess that the division of labor will be closer to 50-50 next season.
If you’re unsure whether Demko is ready, consider that he has more AHL games (over 100) and better AHL numbers than MacKenzie Blackwood, Cal Petersen, Carter Hart, and Adin Hill – all rookie goalies who have made positive contributions to fantasy teams at various points throughout the season. At least partially driven by injuries and poor play, teams are now bringing in prospect goalies at a younger age. Did I mention that in the Midseason Guide, you’ll get to read about a few AHL goalies that are potential injury replacements?
Can I say that I’ve had enough of injuries already? A day after being named to the Pacific Division All-Star team, Elias Pettersson left Thursday’s game against Montreal with a lower-body injury. Pettersson got his legs tangled up with those of Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Here’s what happened (take a deep breath, Canucks fans).
At first glance I thought it seemed like a fairly innocent play. You can see Pettersson’s leg bend in a way that it shouldn’t. But then you can also see Kotkaniemi pulling Pettersson to the ice while getting his legs in the way. It should have been a two-minute penalty, but whatever. As a Canucks’ fan, I will say optics-wise that I’m not as angry about this incident as I was about the Mike Matheson chokeslam that cost the Panthers’ defenseman two games and sidelined Petey with a concussion. As long as Pettersson is embarrassing opponents, he’s going to have a target on his back for some physical payback.
For what it’s worth, Travis Green said that he doesn’t expect Pettersson to be out very long, although he thought he would miss Saturday’s game against Toronto. So let’s all be calm about this and move on like sane, rational individuals, while hoping Pettersson doesn’t miss much time. Can we do that?
The Pettersson injury overshadowed the return of Carey Price, who stopped all 33 shots he faced in a 2-0 shutout win. Price has now won three consecutive games dating back to December 20 and 22. The Habs will need a healthy Price if they are going to make the playoffs.
I didn’t mention Collin Delia during the last Ramblings I wrote, so I’ll take care of it this time around, seeing as how he’s definitely deserving of a mention after his Thursday effort. Delia didn’t earn the win (OT loss in fact), but he stopped 47 of 50 shots he faced in keeping the Blackhawks in this one. I didn’t mention Delia in the above group of goalies, as his AHL numbers are very comparable to Demko’s (in less than half as many games, mind you). Delia entered Thursday’s contest having won all three of his previous games. He’s owned in just 22 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment, but that number will grow as more fantasy leaguers become aware of him.
By the way, Delia was also named to the AHL All-Star Game. If you’re at all interested, you can check out the rosters here.
I should also mention the goalie at the other end of the ice in this game. Robin Lehner has now won six games in a row, allowing just five goals over that span. He’s also posted eight quality starts over his last nine games. Health is key, but he should be in your starting lineup while he’s locked in like this. I should also mention that among goalies with a minimum of 12 appearances, Lehner has the top goals-against average (2.13) and the second-best save percentage (.929). Call this the Barry Trotz/Mitch Korn effect.
And I can’t get away from this game without mentioning the exploits of Mathew Barzal. The Isles’ first-line center scored another two goals on Thursday, giving him eight goals and 11 points over his last six games. Barzal has been firing the puck a lot more recently – even more so on Thursday, when he took a season-high eight shots.
With Jack Eichel out of the lineup on Thursday, Jeff Skinner didn’t miss a beat. Skinner scored twice, leading the Sabres to a 4-3 win over Florida. Skinner is now second in the NHL with 28 goals, just two back of Alex Ovechkin (who scored his 30th on Thursday).
If you’re curious, no Eichel on the top line meant that Evan Rodrigues moved up to play alongside Skinner and Sam Reinhart. The promotion hasn’t been enough to get Rodrigues going, as he was held without a point on Thursday and has just one point (an assist) over his last nine games. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but Rodrigues could be a cheap daily play on Saturday if he stays on this line, as Eichel is expected to be out at least one more game.
I referenced earlier that I was sick and tired of injuries, so here’s what’s adding to my frustration. On one of my teams my usual starting goalies are Frederik Andersen and Semyon Varlamov. Both are day-to-day (Andersen was just moved to IR.) So I add Garret Sparks to try to stop the bleeding. Guess what? He goes to concussion protocol after taking a shot off the mask during practice. When it gets to that point, I wonder if I said or did something that pissed off the fantasy hockey gods.
So with Andersen and Sparks out, Michael Hutchinson was immediately recalled and started Thursday afternoon’s game against Minnesota. He stopped 30 of 34 shots in a 4-3 loss for the Leafs. The injuries to both Andersen and Sparks don’t “sound” long-term, but the Hutchinson trade was much-needed for the Leafs. No word on who will start Saturday’s game against the Canucks, but you could always make a pre-emptive move to add Hutchinson if you are hunting for goaltending wins.
For the Wild in that game, Jared Spurgeon scored a goal and added two assists. Spurgeon had been held without a point in his previous seven games. Yet he’s been seeing increased overall icetime since Matt Dumba’s injury. Before the injury, Spurgeon had averaged 22:04 per game; while following the injury, he has averaged 26:21 per game – an increase of over four minutes per game. His power-play time is down for some reason, though (2:25 before to 1:13 after).
Teuvo Teravainen scored two goals and added an assist in the Hurricanes’ 5-3 win over the Flyers. Teravainen has been scoring in bunches lately, as he scored four points on December 23, then went without a point for three games after.
Dougie Hamilton, nice to finally see you in the boxscore. Hamilton scored a goal and an assist, his first points since (looks way down the game log) December 5. That’s 11 games without a point. Even with the point drought coming to an end, there were still signs that it’s not going to happen for Hamilton in Carolina. He’s still on the second-unit power play behind Justin Faulk. Also, Hamilton played just 14:22 overall in this game – clearly on the third pairing with Trevor van Riemsdyk.
I know there are plenty of defensemen with good offensive numbers that play less than 20 minutes per game, but from a fantasy perspective he’s simply not being used enough by the Canes to be effective in points leagues relative to other options. Yes, I can see that he had comparable icetime numbers in Calgary, but minutes and opportunities matter if you’re looking for reasons that his production is way down.
If you want to look for positives, though, he’s still in the top 5 among defensemen with 128 shots on goal (empty shots, since he has only four goals). His shooting percentage is also down (currently at 8.2% when it was at 15.3% during his 50-point season), so perhaps a few of those many shots will start to trickle in. I know I’ve banged the drum on Hamilton in the past, but I’m currently in sell mode when it comes to his stock, having just traded him away in one single-season league.
In the late game, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos made easy work of the hapless Kings. Kucherov scored a goal and added three assists, while Stamkos scored a goal and added two assists. Over his last five games, Kucherov has 17 points. From October 30 until January 3, Kucherov has also been scoring at very nearly a two point per game pace (60 points in 31 games). That’s astounding! With 69 points, Kucherov is now seven points clear of former scoring leader Mikko Rantanen. Will Kucherov run away with the scoring lead?
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.