Plenty of game action on the last Saturday before Christmas. Let’s dive right in.

Jack Eichel returned to the Buffalo lineup after a one-game absence, recording a point in his 18th consecutive game. But don’t call it a point streak, I guess.

Eichel’s linemate Victor Olofsson scored the goal that Eichel assisted on, extending his point streak to six games. If you go back to November 8, Olofsson has been producing at over a point per game with 24 points (10g-14a) in 22 games. With all the talk about super rookie d-men Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, Olofsson now leads the rookie scoring race with 16 goals and 34 points. At least you can say he’s been the top rookie forward so far, and it’s not even close.

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Right after I brought up the goalie rotation in the Friday Ramblings, Barry Trotz decided to break it and gave Semyon Varlamov two consecutive starts. The game against Anaheim had all the makings of a goaltending battle between Varlamov and John Gibson, but it went the completely opposite way. In fact, Islanders goalies had their second really bad start of the week.

Nick Leddy scored a goal and added two assists. The goal was his first since October 25, a span of 16 games without a goal.

Rickard Rakell played very little in the third period and not at all in overtime. Since the Ducks recalled Daniel Sprong after the game, it appears that Rakell is dealing with some sort of injury or illness. Rakell’s status for Sunday is uncertain.

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Connor Hellebuyck was on his game on Saturday, stopping all 31 shots he faced in the Jets’ 6-0 win over Minnesota. After a strong start to the season, Hellebuyck had allowed at least three goals in each of his previous four starts, so this was a much-needed start for his fantasy owners.

Patrik Laine led the charge for the Jets, scoring twice on six shots on goal. Fantasy owners might have been worried about a potential extended slump like last season, but so far Laine has been worth the risk, producing at a point-per-game pace (34 points in 34 games). He’s also scored four goals over his last five games.

Laine also doesn’t deliver your typical hockey interview.
 


Josh Morrissey assisted on both of Laine’s goals and totaled three assists in this game while logging a team high 24:53.   

Still worried about Blake Wheeler? Over the past month (since November 23) Wheeler has registered 18 points in 13 games. This after a mediocre 12 points in 23 games to start the season. He’s also now the Jets/Thrashers all-time leader in scoring with 616 points. While reflecting back on the past decade, it’s worth mentioning that since 2010-11, Wheeler is ninth in overall league scoring with 643 points in 733 games. Yet he did not appear in an All-Star Game until 2018. Underrated fantasy option of the decade IMO.

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The NHL named David Pastrnak, Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Ovechkin, and Connor McDavid as captains of their divisions for this season’s All-Star Game.

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Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews did the damage for the Leafs on Saturday, each scoring two goals and an assist with a plus-3 in the Leafs’ 4-1 win over Detroit. Matthews is doing his thing right now with multiple points in three consecutive games, along with four goals over that span.

Michael Hutchinson wasn’t such a risky spot start on Saturday, stopping 29 of 30 shots for his first win of the season. This was also the first win by a backup goalie for the Leafs this season.

Anthony Mantha isn’t expected to be in the Detroit lineup on Sunday after being thrown to the ice by Jake Muzzin. Mantha appears to hit his head on the ice quite hard, so hoping for the best here.

Jonathan Bernier also left this game, although much earlier (in the first period). Calvin Pickard entered in relief and allowed four goals on 20 shots. Owning any Red Wings goalie while the team is this bad isn’t going to help your fantasy team.

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John Carlson is still the runaway leader in scoring among defensemen. However, Roman Josi has been making quite a charge recently. Josi scored a pair of goals on Saturday, which gives him goals in four consecutive games. Josi is also finding a way to shoot the puck, as he has taken six shots in back-to-back games. His four multi-goal games also lead all defensemen.

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Jeff Petry filled his fantasy owner’s stockings on Saturday with a shorthanded goal, two assists, and seven shots on goal. He had not recorded a point in his previous four games.

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With two goals on Saturday against Ottawa, James van Riemsdyk now has two goals in back-to-back games. As I mentioned on Friday, he’s been hot and cold all year. I guess this is the time to make sure he’s in your starting lineup, as he’s hot again. Over the past two weeks, JVR has six goals and nine points in seven games.

Anthony Duclair scored again on Saturday, so he’s now up to 21 goals. That’s goals in three consecutive games and 11 goals over his past nine games. No, that’s not a typo. I wrote about Duclair two days ago, so you can read more about him here.

Like Duclair, but to a lesser extent, Tyler Ennis is another one of those castoff players who is taking advantage of a Senators team that needs warm bodies while in rebuild mode. With 21 points in 37 games, Ennis has already surpassed last season’s point total in fewer games. His average icetime is up a full five minutes per game, and he’s been receiving first-unit power-play minutes. On December, Ennis has been a point-per-game player (10 points in 10 games), which includes his two goals and assist on Saturday. He’s only 1 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, but yes, deeper leagues could take a flier on him given this opportunity and recent production.

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Following up on Noel Acciari (see more from yesterday)… he scored again on Saturday, although if you were expecting a third hat trick this week, you were sorely disappointed. To summarize: In case you think he’s now gotten all his goals out of the way this season, he’s on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Vincent Trocheck. That type of opportunity could lead to more goals. He’s the kind of player I would add in a deep league and nothing more. If he moves back down to the bottom 6, there goes his value.

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Lias Andersson has requested a trade from the Rangers. The seventh overall pick in 2017 has been in AHL Hartford for the past month, but hasn’t been overly productive while there (five points in 13 games). See his Dobber Prospects profile for more – he’s probably projecting to be more second-line forward than first-line forward, but he’s still only 21, so there’s plenty of time.

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Good news/bad news for Oliver Bjorkstrand. He scored twice on Saturday, but then left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury. If he misses any time, Bjorkstrand will be a significant loss for the Jackets. Over the past month, he’s been on a tear with 17 points in his last 17 games. You may remember in the Fantasy Guide that Dobber predicted a solid sleeper season based on the offseason departure of players like Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene. He’s been receiving that opportunity: an increase of five minutes in overall icetime, including a one-minute increase in power-play time.

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It’s taking some time, but Jake Virtanen is evolving into a player. With a power-play goal on Saturday, Virtanen is up to 10 goals, which puts him on pace for his first 20-goal season. Eight of his 10 goals have been even-strength markers, which should make him a candidate for increased icetime and power-play time – both have fallen this season with the increased scoring depth the Canucks have. The 20-goal total might not be a slam dunk for Shotgun Jake, as some of his advanced stats (for example, shooting percentage) suggest there could be some regression. Although Virtanen may not ever produce at the level expected of a high first-round pick, it looks like he’ll still have a solid NHL career.  

For those Canucks fans wanting to know… no, I haven’t shotgunned a beer yet after one of his goals. But I think I might (or at least try) if he reaches 20.  

Matt Murray allowed four goals on just 14 shots. That won’t do him any favors in his goaltending battle with Tristan Jarry, who had started each of the Pens’ previous five games. It’s not looking good for Murray right now. I have a hard time thinking that Murray will only start once every six games going forward, but why wouldn’t a team want to ride the hot hand in net? Murray owners will probably just have to bench him for now, as regular reliable starters aren’t easy to find on the waiver wire.

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Jonathan Toews scored a goal and added two assists in the Blackhawks’ come-from-behind win over Colorado. Yeah, I had him on my bench in the league I own him. That’s how it goes. He seems to be the first name that comes to mind for overrated fantasy option of the past decade. Yet if so many have identified him as overrated, and push him down their pre-draft rankings as a result, is he really still overrated? Questions that keep me up at night.

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Just when you were ready to write off Jake Allen as ever being a decent goalie…
 


I’ll also mention that Allen has now started back-to-back games for the Blues. No, Jordan Binnington isn’t in a slump, as he won his previous three starts. Allen has now won both of his to give the Blues a five-game winning streak. Binnington is still the man in St. Louis because he led his team to the Stanley Cup and has done nothing to lose his job since then. I’d simply take this as Allen reinventing himself from an ineffective starting goalie to an effective spot starting backup goalie.

With a goal and two assists on Saturday, Jaden Schwartz now has a three-game point streak.

Alex Pietrangelo scored twice on Saturday, which gives him nine goals and 26 points on the season. Pietrangelo is on pace for 58 points, which would be a significant improvement on his 41 points from last season. Remember that this is a contract year.

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Finally, this is my last Ramblings before Christmas Day, so I’d like wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the time you have with family and/or friends, but feel free to check your fantasy team and also Dobber Hockey if you need a break from all of that. We’re 365 days a year here, so thanks for taking the time to visit.  

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For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.