It was a big day of news in the NHL on Monday but nothing bigger than the trade of Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes. This was a trade speculated for months now – even before the Devils got off to a terrible start.

With the Coyotes off to a great start at the top of the division, all that was really missing was a game-breaker. They hoped to get that in Phil Kessel, but he (predictably) hasn’t been Pittsburgh Phil. They definitely get it in Taylor Hall.

You can read Dobber’s take on the trade here.

I’m going to write more on Hall in a couple days, but this is what I’ll say for now: he dragged a bad team to the playoffs and won the MVP doing it. What’s he going to do going to a team that leads the division? I’m excited.

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The Los Angeles Kings have put Ilya Kovalchuk on unconditional waivers. That means if he clears, his contract is terminated and he’s free to sign anywhere. Of course, a team could pick him up and take his cap hit, but that seems unlikely.

It’ll be interesting to see where Kovalchuk lands. We know how good he used to be but there was nothing special about his tenure in Los Angeles. Of course, he wasn’t playing with much talent there, but some of his individual metrics, independent of line mates, weren’t good, either. Someone will sign him, I’m just dubious he’ll have much fantasy value without getting extremely lucky.

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Sabres general manager Jason Botterill expanded on sending down Casey Mittelstadt and you can read his thoughts here. One thing I do agree with: he needs to sharpen his skills and not worry about his line mates or his slotting. That’s what the AHL is for. I’m still dubious he becomes anything close to an impact player in the NHL, but it’s nice to see the team actually take the proper steps here.

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Tyson Barrie left Toronto’s game on Saturday night after blocking a shot but was back at practice on Monday. Crisis averted.

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Mathieu Perreault is in concussion protocol following the illegal check from Flyers forward Joel Farabee on Sunday. That would mean Perreault is out indefinitely. Farabee was suspended for three games on Monday for the hit.

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Tampa Bay has listed Nikita Kucherov as day-to-day, also because of a shot-blocking injury from the weekend. I suppose, as fantasy owners, we should be thankful that the injuries aren’t longer but it’d be nice if MVPs stopped blocking shots!

Tyler Johnson was back on the ice in a regular jersey though so look for him to be back in the lineup soon.

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Viktor Arvidsson was back skating with Nashville for their gameday skate on Monday. He’s not quite ready to return but it’s nice to see him at least back on the ice.

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Ottawa got pasted 6-1 by Florida on Monday night and leading the way for the Panthers was… Noel Acciari? The guy went into the game with 23 career goals and managed a hat trick by the mid-point of the second period. He was on a newly-formed line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck, the former having four assists.

Sergei Bobrovsky posted his sixth straight excellent start, saving 29 of 30 shots.

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A huge night from Roman Josi led the way for Nashville to land a 5-2 win over the Rangers. He had two goals, one assist, four shots, and a hit. Ryan Ellis also did his part from the blue line with one goal, one assist, two shots, five blocks, two penalty minutes, and a hit. That’s a pretty great night from that pairing.

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Joonas Korpisalo posted a 30-save shutout over Washington on Monday night in Columbus’s 3-0 win. Following an .886 save percentage in October, he’s managed a .924 save percentage since. Hopefully this has settled him into a long-term starter’s role with the Jackets.

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We’re getting to the mid-point of the NHL season as most teams sit around 34-35 games played. That means we’re reaching the point where it’s not too early to start looking towards the end of the season, and to the playoffs/awards.

To simplify things, we’re going to use just Yahoo! standard scoring: goals, assists, shots, plus/minus, power-play points, and hits. For goalies it’s save percentage, goals against average, wins, and shutouts.

 

Fantasy MVP

Darcy Kuemper (G-Arizona)

When it comes to most valuable player in fantasy leagues, it has to be tied into draft position. It might not be a consideration in the real world because teams don’t care how value is accumulated, but in fantasy, outside of some sort of keeper league, the only consideration for value is draft value. It’s not trades, or tryout slots, or signings. For that reason, it seems Kuemper is at least one of the top considerations. I would argue he’s the top player to have on your roster so far this year.

Looking at other top goalies, there are problems. For Tristan Jarry, it’s that his exceptional performances are in a condensed timeframe; for Connor Hellebuyck, it’s an elevated goals against average because of the number of shots his team allows. Kuemper has a .935 save percentage, GAA under 2.00, a pair of shutouts, and hasn’t gone more than two consecutive starts with a save percentage under .910, which means there hasn’t been an extended stretch of poor play. Add that he was probably taken as a late second, early third goalie and it’s clear he’s the fantasy MVP so far.

 

Top Defenceman

John Carlson (D-Washington)

Was there any other choice to make? I see the argument for Dougie Hamilton given the decided edge in a couple peripheral stats but we have a defenceman a week away from Christmas who is on pace for over 100 points. That alone makes him the top fantasy defenceman on the season.

Now, with that said, it should probably be obvious that he won’t be reaching 105 points or whatever. His individual points percentage (IPP, or the rate at which he garners a point when Washington scores) at 5-on-5 is 65.7 percent, by far a career high for him (54.1 percent in 2014-15). He had gone three straight years at 47 percent or less. (An IPP of 45 percent this year, which would be normal for him, rather than 65 percent, cuts seven points off his total.) He’s also shooting 12 percent individually, after never having shot higher than seven percent in any single season. A normal shooting percentage for him cuts about five goals off his total. All this is to say he should be roughly a point-per-game defenceman which, like, that’s still amazing? Just don’t expect over 100 points. It might not be what people want to hear, but no defenceman has 90 points in a quarter century. That would still be an unbelievable accomplishment for Carlson.

 

Top Rookie

Cale Maker (D-Colorado)

I think there’s an easy argument to be made for Victor Olofsson here if you include draft position. Not that Makar was a high pick at all – likely outside the top-125 picks in your non-keepers – but there’s a difference between drafting a guy in the 13th round among options like Chabot and Heiskanen, and drafting a guy in the 32nd round among options that are currently in the AHL. One includes a legitimate decision among players who could have great years and one is a lottery ticket. With Makar’s recent injury, Olofsson has caught up to him and they’re basically tied in total fantasy value right now.

The reason I edge it to Makar is he gives such an obvious leg up in the point department for where he was drafted. Even with the games missed, Makar is seventh in power-play points among defencemen with 12. He’s also sixth in assists. Those kinds of numbers from a rookie defenceman are clearly absurd.

Makar’s issue, aside from not being healthy, is that he doesn’t provide much for peripherals. On the year, he’s sitting at two shots per game and is on pace for about 50 hits if he returns to the lineup soon. Neither are really solid totals. (Olofsson puts up far fewer hits, fyi.)

 

Biggest Bust (So Far)

Brent Burns (D-San Jose)

Leaving aside injured players and goaltenders, there’s no doubt that Burns is the biggest disappointment in fantasy this year. I know that the downswing from age is inevitable for every player, but he has fallen off a cliff this year:

  • On pace for 12 goals, which would tie the lowest for him since 2012.
  • On pace for 38 assists, which would be the lowest for him since 2014.
  • On pace for 221 shots, the lowest for him since 2012.
  • Sits at minus-23 (thanks, goalies).
  • On pace for 21 power-play points, which would be the lowest for him since 2014.

It’s just a complete fail all around.

Burns’ is a case where a turnaround isn’t necessarily in the cards. Yes, there’s a new coach in town, and Burns has been mercifully returned to the top PP unit. (In fact, it looks like both he and Erik Karlsson are playing both units now.) That doesn’t make the team around him any younger or the goalies behind him any better.

Just as a small aside, it makes me wonder if there’s going to be any significant additions this year? It’s obvious the team is in win-now mode and this team is clearly not good enough to win now.

 

Biggest Letdown

P.K. Subban (D-New Jersey)

I’m delineating this from biggest bust because bust isn’t hard to figure out: find a guy who was drafted high and has done poorly. Rather, a letdown is a favourite among the fantasy community and yet has done little-to-nothing this year.

Just in general, New Jersey is probably the biggest letdown in the league this year, right? All their big off-season additions have done next to nothing and some have been actively detrimental to the team’s win probabilities this year.

All the same, Subban has five (!) points on the year, managing just a few more points than his first year in the league when he had two points in two games. While I do think he’s been very unluck this year in collecting points, he definitely hasn’t played well by underlying numbers. Whether that’s a function of the team, maybe playing injured, or just age-related decline, it doesn’t really matter to us. All that matters it that he’s playing poorly and there’s no reason to think there’s a big turnaround coming unless he gets really lucky.