Getting closer to full health, the Colorado Avalanche are going to be a tough out for opponents. If they can manage to acquire Taylor Hall, then they have to be on the short list of favorites to win the Stanley Cup. And if Nathan MacKinnon decides to sign again for less than his market value, then the Avalanche will hold a competitive advantage for years to come.
The present also looks bright for Colorado, as both Gabriel Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky returned for the Avs on Thursday against Montreal. Landeskog, who was out of the lineup for over a month, scored a goal in Colorado’s 3-2 win.
Unfortunately, the Avs aren’t back to full health, as Nazem Kadri missed the game with a lower-body injury. So here are how the line combinations stacked up on Thursday:
#1 24.6% BELLEMARE,PIERRE-EDOUARD – CALVERT,MATT – NICHUSHKIN,VALERI
#2 24.2% DONSKOI,JOONAS – MACKINNON,NATHAN – RANTANEN,MIKKO
#3 17.3% BURAKOVSKY,ANDRE – COMPHER,J.T. – LANDESKOG,GABRIEL
#4 6.9% JOST,TYSON – NIETO,MATT – TYNAN,T.J.
#5 4% LANDESKOG,GABRIEL – MACKINNON,NATHAN – RANTANEN,MIKKO
Joonas Donskoi owners can breathe a sigh of relief (at least for now), as Landeskog was moved to the second line with Burakovsky and J.T. Compher. I’d assume that Kadri would bump Compher out of that spot once he returns, although line combinations change all the time. Although spreading out the scoring keeps the Avs from being a one-line team, it won’t do wonders for Landeskog’s short-term value. While MacKinnon and Rantanen (when he’s been healthy) have exploded, Landeskog has underwhelmed (eight points in 12 games).
Keep in mind that Donskoi may be bumped off PP1 once Kadri returns. But for the time being, continue to run with Donskoi, who has eight points (3g-5a) over his last six games and overall has exceeded expectations during his first season with Colorado.
MacKinnon’s eight-game point streak was snapped on Thursday. He managed to rack up 18 points (7g-11a) over those eight games.
Cayden Primeau started his first NHL game on Thursday, stopping 32 of 35 shots he faced in the 3-2 loss (Dobber Prospects profile). With the Habs playing back-to-backs, Primeau was given the slightly tougher Thursday start against Colorado, while the struggling Carey Price should be back between the pipes on Friday against the Rangers. For now, Primeau can be left on the waiver wire in non-keeper leagues.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi falls awkwardly after being taken out by Nikita Zadorov pic.twitter.com/OYE8slqaKL
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 6, 2019
Widely (or wildly) considered to be a team that would miss the playoffs, the Minnesota Wild have now won five games in a row. They currently have an identical record to the Vancouver Canucks, who are widely considered to be an improved team. Filling in for Devan Dubnyk, the duo of Alex Stalock and Kaapo Kahkonen have been steady between the pipes. Stalock has won each of his last three starts, including a 30-save 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday. Kahkonen has won both of his two career starts as well. With Dubnyk out indefinitely while his wife battles an unknown medical illness, Stalock is worth an add for next week since the Wild play four games, including three at home.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I didn’t have much interest in Mats Zuccarello as a fantasy option this season. Well, it was Zuccarello leading the way for the Wild on Thursday, scoring a goal while adding two assists. Zuccarello might be barely on a 50-point pace, but he now has points in three of his last four games while playing on the closest thing the Wild have to a scoring line (Eric Staal and Jason Zucker).
There might be some post-hype sleeper in Kevin Fiala. With an assist on Thursday, Fiala now has seven points over his last seven games after an ice-cold start to the season (just one point in October). Fiala has been shooting the puck more as well, with two 8-shot games during this seven-game span. He’s also formed chemistry with Zach Parise, who had his own five-game point streak snapped on Thursday. Fiala will need to continue to shoot the puck, as some of his advanced stats (9.63 5-on-5 SH%, 2.7 PTS/60, 1046 PDO) suggest a minor regression.
Alex Killorn returned to the Tampa lineup on Thursday after missing the past two games, scoring a goal. This matters because Killorn was placed back on the Lightning’s first power-play unit. Even though the Lightning aren’t even holding a playoff spot at the moment, the team’s power play is still third in the NHL (29.1 PP%). At just 12 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, Killorn could be a sneaky add, particularly in leagues that count power-play points.
I don’t think anyone assumed Phil Kessel would match his Pittsburgh scoring totals over the past two seasons (average 30 goals and 87 points) with the move to Arizona. I’m sure some owners even had Kessel on their Do Not Draft lists entering the season. And with Kessel now on pace for a mediocre 46 points, that would all make sense. Yet if you’ve been patient with Phil this whole time, he rewarded you with two power-play goals on Thursday. Given his current numbers and the lack of high-end scoring talent in the desert, a significant scoring decrease is pretty much a sure thing at this point. And unless he is traded back to a high-scoring team, don’t expect him to match his Pittsburgh numbers ever again.
This might go against your gut feeling, but there might be a buy-low opportunity on Kessel. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage (4.66%) is significantly lower than expected, while his 960 PDO is also low. So if you’re thinking of dropping or trading Phil the Thrill, you might as well hang onto him. It’s ironic that one of the least defensively oriented players plays for one of the most defensively oriented teams, yet sometimes life takes an interesting turn. Despite all of that, Kessel is still a top-50 power-play scoring option on a Coyotes power play that is surprisingly in the league’s top 10.
In his first game against the Blue Jackets since leaving them for the Rangers in the offseason, Artemi Panarin scored the game-winning goal while taking five shots. Teams often don’t receive their money’s worth with July 1 signings, but so far Panarin has delivered. The Bread Man sits in the top 10 in both points (34) and points per game (1.26).
With his assist on Thursday, Patrik Laine now has as many assists in 27 games this season (20) as he had all of last season. Becoming a more complete player has also improved Laine’s fantasy value, even if his goal total is projected to be slightly down from last season. Laine is on pace to smash his career high of 28 assists, while his current assist total places him in the top 20 in that category. That’s not something you would have expected when you drafted Laine.
It wasn’t a big night for big point totals, so let’s give props to some veterans who broke some big slumps.
If you still have Corey Perry on your roster, you’re probably not paying attention. Perry broke a six-game stretch without a point with an assist on Thursday. The one-time 50-goal scorer still hasn’t scored a goal in eight games, though.
Milan Lucic scored his first goal as a Flame in his 28th game as a Flame. Banger stats would have to be super important in order for you to make room for Lucic on your team. Lucic is in the top 15 in the league in penalty minutes (34) and in the top 25 in hits (75). I guess there’s that second-unit power-play time as well, if you want to build a further case. And hey, there’s this.
Goals in December:
Milan Lucic: 1
James Neal: 0
— The Win Column (@wincolumnblog) December 6, 2019
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.