The hottest goal scorer in the NHL this week is… Noel Acciari?
Acciari followed up his hat trick on Monday with another hat trick, this one a natural hat trick that included a penalty shot goal. Acciari also added an assist to give him a four-point game. That gives him 11 goals, already a career high in just 31 games. His recent success has a lot to do with him being placed on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck after the lines were recently juggled. I’m not suggesting he’ll continue to post hat tricks, but he might continue to produce above what we’ve expected from him if that line stays together. Suddenly he’s a hot commodity as the Panthers play the second of back-to-backs on Saturday in Carolina.
Speaking of Huberdeau, he’s actually the hottest point producer of the week. With a goal and three assists, Huby now has four points in back-to-back games. We’re more likely to expect this from Huberdeau, who is currently a top-10-point producer if you go all the way back to the beginning of last season (137 points in 116 games).
I was all set to write about how ice-cold Trocheck had been and how I decided to take a flier on him for a light schedule of Friday games. Let’s just say he exceeded my expectations with a goal and two assists in the Friday goal explosion from the Panthers. He’d entered Friday’s contest with just one point (an assist) in his last seven contests. Remember when he was a must-own in fantasy leagues? He’s currently down to 50 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues and hasn’t really gotten back on track after that ankle injury last season. It’s only one game, but I wonder if lining up with the Panthers’ top scorer provides the spark he needs.
Ben Bishop owners were expecting much better than being torched by the Panthers. Bishop was chased midway through the second period after allowing six of the Panthers’ seven goals. Even the strong defensive teams have nights like this. On Tuesday the Islanders got bombed for eight goals. On Thursday, the Coyotes allowed eight of their own. So Friday was the Stars’ turn. All three of those teams are in the top 5 in terms of lowest goals allowed per game. Not every game will be perfect.
In the Stars’ loss, Tyler Seguin scored twice, which gives him goals in three consecutive games and points in five consecutive games.
Another struggling player I decided to add recently was Joe Pavelski, who picked up an assist on one of Seguin’s goals. I think we’ve reached a point where we’ve significantly lowered expectations on Pavelski. Some of his advanced stats suggest that you could try to buy low, but we’d be talking quite low if he’s a player you’d like to target. Dallas’ defensive system is no doubt worse for his numbers than San Jose’s more wide-open style. As well, he simply hasn’t been able to find linemates that he can gel with like he had with the Sharks. It’s possible that age has finally caught up, although the Stars have two more years after this one invested and will have to continue to try to place him in a situation where he can succeed.
Alexander Radulov missed this game with a lower-body injury, meaning that Justin Dowling moved onto the Seguin – Jamie Benn top line. In spite of that bump, Dowling did not earn a point on Friday and has just one assist in his past six games.
I can’t really describe P.K. Subban’s situation any better than this:
With his secondary apple on Kyle Palmieri's PP goal, P.K. Subban's 21-game pointless drought has mercifully concluded.#NJDevils
— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) December 21, 2019
Yes, P.K. Subban recorded his first point since November 2 – over a month and a half. That gives Subban six points and a minus-12 in 34 games. He’s down to 67 percent ownership in Yahoo leagues, which to me still isn’t low enough. If you’ve been patient all this time, Subban did lead the Devils with 4:09 PPTOI on Friday, which as you might know hasn’t always happened this season. Yet if Subban is back on that first-unit power play, that doesn’t automatically warrant a pickup (with that logic, are you rushing to your waiver wire to add Brad Hunt?) If Subban has been dropped in your league and you’re debating picking him up, maybe wait another game or two to see if he can build on that secondary assist.
Despite that glimmer of hope from Subban, the Devils still lost 6-3 to Washington. Nicklas Backstrom scored two goals and added two assists to go with a plus-3. Backstrom continues to quietly get it done, posting points in seven of his last eight games and 12 points (4g-8a) over that span. I know that Alex Ovechkin will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but what about Backstrom? He’s been a near-point-per-game producer over his entire career (900 points in 923 games), yet he might not get the attention that he deserves. (I had this debate with a Capitals fan recently.)
Back to the Devils for a moment. Now that Taylor Hall has been traded, could someone like Kyle Palmieri be next, and could a trade help boost his value? It appears that the Devils want to build around Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier going forward, and Palmieri (signed to 2020-21 at $4.65 million per) could fetch another asset or two that could help with the rebuild. As much as Palmieri’s point total is down (he’s outside the top 100 in scoring), his goal total is fine. Although pure points leaguers might not be happy with Palmieri, particularly because of the low assist total, he should continue to be just fine in multicategory leagues as the Devils lean on him heavily.
Given the nature of the injury, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Darcy Kuemper is listed as week to week. It’s obviously not what his owners wanted to hear, as he has already posted 15 wins with dynamite ratios. While Kuemper is sidelined, Antti Raanta is a must-start playing in the Coyotes’ air-tight defensive system. Raanta’s been a great fantasy asset while he’s been in Arizona and while he hasn’t been injured. The Coyotes might be in some trouble if Raanta can’t stay healthy either.
Speaking of injuries, Jason Zucker is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks following surgery on his fractured fibula. This will be a hit to the Wild, as Zucker had seven points in his last seven games. The Zucker injury meant that Zach Parise moved into Zucker’s spot alongside Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello in what is effectively Minnesota’s top line.
Mitch Marner and William Nylander each scored twice in the Leafs’ 6-3 win over the Rangers. Nylander also recorded an assist for a three-point night. Marner now has a six-game point streak in which he has ten points (4g-6a). Yes, I realize I have to move him back up the Roto Rankings. I plan to do that for next month, unless a major injury or a scoring slump hits.
I love this goal celebration. “Guys, I scored. Where are you?”
Mitch Marner (@Marner93) scored when his line was changing…
Some celebrations just aren't the same. 😂 pic.twitter.com/7jmdDgVPyY
— NHL (@NHL) December 21, 2019
With two assists on Friday, Zach Aston-Reese snapped a nine-game streak without a point.
It wasn’t a great night for Mike Smith, as the Penguins get to him in both goals and general irritation.
Mike Smith is not happy with Evgeni Malkin pic.twitter.com/bTda9Cp40z
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 21, 2019
In case you’re still hanging onto Smith, he hasn’t won a game since November 23 and has allowed at least three goals in each of his four previous starts.
Goalie starts for Saturday, as per Goalie Post:
Jonathan Bernier (@ TOR)
Michael Hutchinson (vs. DET)
Backup goalies still haven’t won a single game for the Leafs this season. Although I don’t have a ton of faith in Hutchinson slamming the door on any team, the Wings are still the league’s worst team by a fair margin. With this game in Toronto, it’s not that crazy an idea to add Hutchinson if you simply need a win. One disadvantage for the Leafs is that they will be playing the second of back-to-backs, but I still like them to win here.
Braden Holtby (vs. TB)
The NHL’s point leaders from Washington will also be playing the second of back-to-backs here, and they face a Lightning team that can still score in spite of an underwhelming season. Start Holtby if you need the win here, as at least he’ll be fresh with Ilya Samsonov starting on Friday. However, don’t be surprised if this is a high-scoring game.
Martin Jones (vs. STL)
At least the Sharks are at home, but they face the conference leaders from St. Louis. Jones has had over a week to clear his head as new coach Bob Boughner has given Aaron Dell the previous two starts. Avoid Jones unless you need to catch up in wins in your head-to-head league. Dell will likely start Sunday’s game against Vegas.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.