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, January 8th
The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)
Dominik Kubalik, W, Chicago Blackhawks (Available in 94 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – This is a bit of a cheater’s pick, since Kubalik has already been recommended as a pick-up this season, but given Chicago’s easy schedule (see below) and Kubalik’s role steadying into a consistent top-line winger, it’s time to recommend again (since no one seemed to take the advice the first time!)
On the season, Kubalik has a fairly modest point total of 13G-10A in 42 games, but since moving to the first line with Jonathan Toews and a combination of John Quenneville/Brandon Saad, Kubalik has picked up 7G-6A in 15 games on that top line. Since December 8th when he joined that line, the rookie forward is 19th in the league (forwards, min. 100 minutes of 5v5) in total points/60 with 3.21 – ahead of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, and a whole lot of incredible forwards. He’s also accomplished that with zero secondary assists, which is a good indicator that his talent is real.
The main reason Kubalik isn’t owned in 100 percent of leagues right now is the lack of ice time he gets with the top power play unit, which hurts a lot on the Blackhawks who have a very clear 75/25 split between the two units. On the year, he’s averaging only 13:14/game although he’s hit above 15:43 in three of his past five games, and his lack of PK time makes his low ice time look worse than it actually is. He’s getting a point on only 65.3 percent of the goals scored while he’s on the ice, which can partially be put down to playing with third- and fourth-line teammates earlier in the year, and even a slight bump in that percentage would go a long way for production.
The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)
Tyler Toffoli, C, Los Angeles Kings (Available in 88 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – After Dustin Brown missed some time (four games) around Christmas, Tyler Toffoli finally got the opportunity to play on the Kings’ top line after bouncing up-and-down through the lineup all season (including some healthy scratches) and he’s making the most of his opportunity: in the four games Brown missed, Toffoli played 19:49, 20:57, 20:59 and 15:54, was on the top power play, picked up two goals and one assist, and fired 14 shots on goal.
Since Brown has come back, Toffoli’s been kept on the top line – possibly to show him off since he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this season and trade deadline is fast approaching – and in those two games he’s added another assist and five shots on goal. Toffoli’s always been unafraid to fire the puck, topping 200 shots in four of his eight seasons with a career shooting rate of 9.88/60. That offers great upside in leagues with that category.
Toffoli’s not without his warts, as he rarely steps in front of a puck, takes penalties or hits, but he has a ton of upside in points-only leagues if he can keep his spot as a first-line winger.
The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C, Edmonton Oilers (Owned in 69 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – On the surface, RNH is having a fine year, with 9G-17A in 39 games with a whopping 14 of those points coming on the power play (which is great for PPP leagues). Unfortunately, he’s been very inconsistent this season – 22 games without a point, and 15 games with one shot on goal or less – and has had to pick up points in bunches to get to 26.
In leagues that track plus-minus, Nugent-Hopkins causes problems given the team he plays for (he’s at -5 this season and has only been a plus-player twice), and he doesn’t shoot, hit or block often enough to be of value in categories outside of points and PP points; he averages 2.25 shots/game and 1.2 combined hits and blocks/game.
For the season as a whole, there’s some injury concerns with RNH as he’s had seasons of 55 and 62 games in the past five years and has already been hurt this year, but that’s not a short-term concern. The short-term concern here outside of the inconsistency and lack of peripherals is that the Oilers’ schedule is horrendous (see below) and it’ll be impossible to count on production.
The Anchors (They’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)
Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks (Owned in 67 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Alex Edler is an incredibly consistent fantasy asset in that his points per game rate is usually solid for a defenseman – currently 0.61/game with a career average of 0.46 – but also that he won’t play a full season. Edler’s only played a full 82-game season once, in 2011-12, and didn’t even top 60 in two of the past four seasons; he’s already missed ten games this year and would be on pace to play 62. Edler has also been having his ice time managed recently, playing less than 23 minutes in four of the six games since coming back from injury.
One of the biggest reasons to be excited about Edler coming into this season was his role as the top power play quarterback on a unit that features Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, but this season in that role he managed only six PP points in the 23 games he was on that unit prior to getting hurt at the end of November. Edler got Wally Pipp’ed while he was hurt, with Quinn Hughes fully taking the PP1 role on the Canucks – which was happening eventually one way or the other – and Hughes’ 16 PP points almost match what Edler has on the season (4G-16A).
Peripheral leagues should still keep Edler where possible, as he’s a dynamite play in terms of shots/game (2.18), hits/game (1.96) and blocks/game (2.96). On the whole though, his long-term outlook is fairly bleak in points-only leagues, and his body can’t be trusted to be enough of an asset.
Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)
Carolina – Between January 10th and 22nd, Carolina plays the maximum number of possible games (seven) and also has the benefit of playing two Friday games and a Sunday game which is a great way to get those off-days filled up. The Canes rank second in the league in xGF/60 at 5v5 (although they’re 15th in converting those to actual goals) and will play home games against Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim, the Islanders and Winnipeg, and road games in Washington and Columbus.
Detroit – The Red Wings are the other team with the maximum seven games and although they remain a one-line team (or less, somehow?) with the returns of Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou not expected until after the All-Star Break, owners of Dylan Larkin, Robby Fabbri or Filip Zadina have to be salivating over Detroit’s schedule: home to Ottawa, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Florida, and road games in Colorado, Minnesota and on Long Island.
Chicago – With six games, Chicago doesn’t have the longest schedule or anything, but it’s the opponents that make a difference for the Hawks: they’ll play the Ducks at home but then get to travel east to play the Sens, Habs and Leafs, before heading home again to play the Jets and Panthers. Those teams rank 27th, 23rd, 10th, 20th, 29th and 26th in xGA/60 respectively and 19th, 27th, 22nd, 19th, 10th and 28th in actual GA/60 respectively. If the Hawks can’t score this period, they’re in worse shape than expected.
Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)
With bye weeks starting January 18th, it’s important to pay extra attention to scheduling this month.
Edmonton – The Oilers’ bye week runs from the 19th to 28th, and they end up only having three games this period (January 10th to 22nd). Two of the three are home games which is in the Oilers’ favour – the third is a Battle of Alberta game in Calgary – but they’ll have to face the Predators (great at shot suppression) and Coyotes (great at goal suppression). Count on Connor McDavid and maybe Oscar Klefbom, but nobody else is worth locking in given that low volume as long as Leon Draisaitl is separated from McDavid.
Anaheim – The Ducks’ bye starts the day before Edmonton, but Anaheim still manages to squeeze four games in this period – unfortunately all on the road – as they face Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and Carolina before getting a ten-day break. Anaheim’s had a middling season fantasy-wise, with no standouts outside of the now dinged-up Jakob Silfverberg, and immense struggles on the power play; if you’re saddled with any Ducks, definitely don’t roster them this month.
Los Angeles – Much like Anaheim, there isn’t much fantasy relevance in Los Angeles these days, but Anze Kopitar owners should be concerned this month, as the Kings play only four times through the 22nd. All four games come on the road – the team travels east before their bye week off – with games in Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida and Philadelphia; although three of those games are gettable, the Kings have scored five or more goals in only four games this year and have 24 in their past ten games.