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 upcoming schedule.
Stats updated through Wednesday, January 9th
The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)
Devon Toews, D, New York Islanders (Available in 98 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Having made the jump from the AHL – where he scored 5G-14A in 24 games – Toews has been a fantasy force over his first seven games for the Isle. The rookie is averaging 17:40 a night, but he plays PP2 and is trusted enough to get the call during 3v3 overtime; Toews has so far amassed 2G-1A with 18SOG, which is a fine number for a mid-season call-up with the talent to take over PP1 if called upon.
With the Islanders having a phenomenal schedule (see below), Toews is a solid pickup through the All-Star Break and is (practically) guaranteed to be available.
The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)
Joonas Donskoi, W, San Jose Sharks (Available in 87 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Although he’s only seeing 14 minutes a night and no power play time, Donskoi offers tremendous upside in San Jose as they run three balanced lines; Donskoi has put up 13G-11A through 45 games and is well on pace to pass his career high in all points categories.
With his most common winger being Evander Kane, Donskoi and Kane have crushed possession and goal share, to the tune of 55.57% CF and 55.81% GF (a GF rate of 3.44/60), while playing 418 minutes together. It doesn’t quite matter who the centre between those two is, but with Tomas Hertl currently playing that role, Donskoi has managed six goals in his last five games on 11 shots.
Donskoi is a perfect addition in cap leagues as his AAV is so low ($1.9MM), and he picks up a combined ~1 hit/block per game which isn’t a lot but is a nice bonus for a low-cost – both in cap hit and acquisition cost if he’s already owned – scoring winger.
The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)
William Nylander, W, Toronto Maple Leafs (Owned in 78 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – If you’re living in Canada, you’re well aware of Nylander’s performance – or lack thereof – as every media member will bring it up with no end in sight now that he’s signed. With 14 games under his belt since signing, Nylander’s 1G-2A on 26 shots is an incredibly ugly line, and the production shouldn’t be expected to pick up any time soon given Nylander’s new role on the team.
At 5v5, Nylander skates alongside Nazem Kadri and the Ghost of Patrick Marleau which is a tremendous drop-off from skating with Auston Matthews – who was a part of 32 of Nylander’s 61 points last year. Nylander has also been relegated to the second power-play unit and is seeing just 15 minutes a game, picking up no peripherals. He’s obviously talented and the scoring will come eventually, but he’s an asset contending teams should move to make a championship push, and otherwise sat down.
The Anchors (They’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)
Yanni Gourde, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (Owned in 74 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – If fantasy leagues were about strong defensive numbers – Gourde’s a plus-possession player who starts more shifts in the d-zone – then Yanni Gourde would be a top-50 player in the league. Unfortunately for Gourde owners, point production (and peripherals if that applies) are the name of the game, and while his 28 points in 43 games look okay on paper, 20 of those points came before November 18th. In the 23 games since, Gourde has managed only eight points while getting shifted down to the third line and seeing his ice time cut by 2-3 minutes a night.
Putting up 64 points in 82 games last year put Gourde on the map, and he got a deserved contract out of it, but as Tampa’s solidified their lineup over the past month, he’s on the outside looking in production-wise. He can safely be shopped or dropped.
Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)
Calgary – With the hottest line in the league in Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm, sitting second in overall Goals For and a power play sitting above 21%, you’d be rolling your Flames regardless of their schedule. Luckily, their schedule is great! The Flames play six times during this period, with only one road game (against Edmonton on a road back-to-back), and home games against Florida, Arizona, Buffalo, Detroit and Carolina. Feel free to roll any piece of the Calgary power play with ease, and even the secondary scoring in Backlund/Frolik/Bennett have some value.
Montreal – The Habs play six times in this period, and there are at least three (arguably four) good matchups for the Quebec team: home games against Florida, Philadelphia and Arizona are the highlights along with a home game against Colorado, and road games against Columbus and Boston fill out the schedule. They do have one back-to-back, going from Ohio back home to Montreal to face the Flyers, but it’s a good time to count on production from the Habs’ best.
NY Islanders – Far and away the best schedule this period belongs to the Islanders, who get to play seven times between the 11th and 23rd, and the Brooklyn/Long Island team have been scoring well with three or more in every game since Christmas. The real highlights for the Islanders are home games against the Rangers, Devils, Blues and Ducks – as well as a road game against Chicago – to go with tougher games against Tampa and Washington (in DC.)
Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)
With tens teams starting their bye weeks near the end of this period, there are lots of areas of concern. Bye weeks start on the 20th, and the affected teams are: Boston, Buffalo, Columbus, Dallas, New Jersey, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg.
Vancouver – The Canucks make another appearance this week, as their weak schedule seems them play five times leading up to the 23rd. With no Elias Pettersson, the Canucks have been shut out in three of their past five games, so they’re already in tough to create offence, although their opponents are on the easier side: Florida, Edmonton, Buffalo, Detroit and Carolina all at home.
Ottawa – Ottawa will also play five games during this stretch, only two of which come at home, and they’ll be without Matt Duchene for one of those five (against the Sharks.) Coach Guy Boucher continues to mix line combinations at will, and without Thomas Chabot the Sens’ power play has all but dried up. Their upcoming opponents are San Jose, Carolina and St. Louis (second half of a b2b) all on the road, and Colorado and Arizona at home.
Vegas – Beyond a game against Nashville – which thankfully for Vegas owners will come at home – and Winnipeg, the Golden Knights have a relatively easy schedule with games against Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Chicago. Unfortunately for Vegas, those are the only five games they play between the 11th and 23rd, and the two tough matchups make Vegas a Leave ‘Em.