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, October 9th
The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)
Ilya Kovalchuk, W, Los Angeles Kings (Available in 90 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Last year’s trash is this year’s treasure thanks to a coaching change in California, as Kovalchuk has seen his role increase already this year and has some stellar production through the first three games.
With 1G-3A on five shots – two of those assists of the power play variety – Kovy’s showing what could have been last season when he was an off-season darling for fantasy players. He’s seen a slight uptick in time on ice (+30 seconds/game although that’s in a very small sample), but it’s more his role as a second-line winger and power play skater that make him so enticing. At 5v5 he’s been skating with Jeff Carter and Adrian Kempe, and he stays with Carter on the second PP unit.
Given the Kings’ strong schedule this month, now’s the time to pick him up.
The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)
Colin Miller, D, Buffalo Sabres (Available in 86 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – At first glance, Miller doesn’t jump out as a tangible asset going forward; he’s not on the first power play unit, his competition for ice time includes the Rasmuses Dahlin and Ristolainen, and he’s currently playing two minutes per games less than when he was in Vegas.
All that being said though, the second PP unit runs through him, which has led to three assists (two on the PP) in his first four games in the royal blue. Miller’s also got a huge slapshot – part of the reason why Miller was used as the extra man with the net empty when the Sabres played Columbus – and he’s not afraid to use it, with seven shots on goal so far on twelve shot attempts. He’s currently at 4PIM-6Hit-4Blk so he provides decent peripherals there, and on with all the trade rumours around Rasmus Ristolainen it’s only a matter of time until Miller gets more ice time. He’s a free stash that’s worth hanging on to.
The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)
Kaapo Kakko, W, New York Rangers (Owned in 76 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The superstar rookie has great long-term value and could be a great asset as the season wears on, but for the rest of October he’s definitely someone to worry about. He’s playing on the second line at even strength – with Ryan Strome and Chris Kreider – and stuck to the second power play unit, which seems fair given the quality of teammate taking up those spots.
Kakko should be expected to eventually take over Pavel Buchnevich’s spot on both the first line at evens and the top PP unit – his brief time there in the pre-season was electric and successful – but for the time being, getting three shots on goal in two games and playing 15:31 and 13:54 in those games just isn’t anywhere close to expectation. He’s worth holding on to in leagues with deep benches, but in a pinch he can be tossed aside for someone on the wire.
The Anchors (They’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)
Ryan McDonagh, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (Owned in 55 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – With the Kevin Shattenkirk signing this summer, Ryan McDonagh’s value plummeted even in leagues that track peripherals, even with McDonagh playing 21+ minutes a game. McDonagh’s fully lost any power play time he had as Shattenkirk has replaced him on the second unit, and McDonagh’s never been an offensive dynamo at 5v5 as his career-high in points is 46 (9G-37A) which he hit last year.
Even as the Lightning project to be the highest-scoring team in the league which means McDonagh will manage to get points by attrition, his IPP% last year was 41.38% which is unsustainably high, so expect that number to drop and his points to top out in the mid-to-high 30s.
In leagues that track all the peripherals, McDonagh’s combined hits+blks average just around three per game. With his point totals dropping, there’s better replacements available on the waiver wire.
Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)
Los Angeles – Between October 11th and 23rd, the Kings have six games and all but one come at home. They do have one back-to-back to contend with (Nashville followed by Vegas) but games against Carolina, Buffalo and Calgary in the STAPLES Center should see some good fantasy production. Their remaining game is on the road in Winnipeg who’ve had their defensive lapses this season, so more Kings’ scoring should be expected.
Calgary – The Flames have a fantastic schedule in terms of volume – seven games this period – although not every opponent is juicy; games against the Knights, Flyers and Ducks could see the Calgary scorers get neutralized by good goaltending (or defensive matchups), but the Flames’ remaining games are appealing as they come against the Sharks, Red Wings, Kings and Capitals.
Vegas – With 12 goals through their first three games and scoring coming from their entire top-9, there aren’t many teams scarier than the Golden Knights this October. They play a mix of weak Eastern Conference teams (home vs. Ottawa, on the road in Pittsburgh and Philly) as well as games against the Flames, Predators, Kings and Blackhawks. There are two back-to-backs in this stretch which means tired legs and some Malcolm Subban games, but Vegas skaters should still pile up points.
Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)
Arizona – Arizona’s never been a high-event hockey team and while that may change thanks to the addition of Phil Kessel, that hasn’t yet translated to goals on the board (even as the ‘Yotes have topped 30 SOG in their first two games). The Coyotes only have five games in this period so even though games against Winnipeg, Ottawa and the Rangers could see some fireworks, Arizona players are better left on the side. The remaining two games come at Colorado and home to Nashville.
NY Rangers – Continuing their horribly light opening schedule and making back-to-back appearances in the Leave ‘Em column, the Rangers play only five times between the 11th and 23rd which means they’ll only have seven games in the books come the 23rd. While the upcoming games come against defensive tire fires in Vancouver, New Jersey and Edmonton, they also have two low-event games (against the Caps and Coyotes).
Boston – Finally playing their home opener this coming Saturday, the Bruins get to bang out three home games in a row (vs. NJ, ANA, TB) before playing a road-home series against Toronto (split over three days). Games against the Devils and Toronto are always great for fantasy production, but the stingy Ducks and Lightning combined with the lack of games make Boston a dicey proposition.