Looking Ahead: Now’s the Time to Grab Nichushkin

Adam Daly-Frey


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, February 5

The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)

Valeri Nichushkin, W, Colorado Avalanche (Available in 97 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The Avalanche’s reclamation project has been a dynamite acquisition this season in scoring 9G-12A in 46 games this season. While those numbers on the surface don’t scream “must-add”, Nichushkin was relegated to a fourth-line role for the first two months of the season and had all of one assist prior to late-November. Once Nichushkin scored his first goal on November 23, everything clicked: all nine of his goals and 11 of his assists came from that point forward, which puts him at a pace of 20 points in 29 games (0.68pt/game).

Beyond re-finding his scoring touch, Nichushkin has also been blessed with a tremendous opportunity thanks to an unfortunate concussion to Joonas Donskoi. Nich has been moved all the way up to a second line with Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky, and in a small sample this year (67m) they’ve been electric with nine goals at 5v5. With the Avs’ great upcoming schedule, now’s the time to grab Nichushkin if he’s available.

The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)

Pavel Buchnevich, W, New York Rangers (Available in 86 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – There’s a stigma around Buchnevich that’s never been his fault, but has helped repress his value for fantasy owners, and that stigma has been “playing for David Quinn”. Coach Quinn is notoriously hard on younger players in terms of role and minutes – see Kaapo Kakko, Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil – and Buch was no stranger to that, jumping between the first line, fourth line and the press box at times this season.

Luckily for the 14% of owners who still believed and the 86% who are lucky enough to be in leagues where Buchnevich is still available, that seems to have finally changed, with Buchnevich sticking on the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad for the bulk of the season (including all of January). Since January, Buch has picked up five goals (13 games) and five assists, and taken 35 shots (3.1/game); he’s topped 18 minutes in five of those games which is very impressive given he doesn’t play on the penalty kill.

Even if Chris Kreider leaves at the deadline, Buchnevich should be picked up immediately. He even provides value in the hits department!

The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)

Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks (Owned in 99 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Obviously, Erik Karlsson is an elite defenseman – his 5G-32A line in 53 games is proof of that – but he’s taken a big step back since moving from Ottawa to San Jose, and has been worse this year than last. Last season, Karlsson played 53 games (which is coincidentally where he is today) and put up 3G-42A with 169 shots; this season he’s down eight points and has taken 59(!) shots less.

Given how much ice time Karlsson skates every game (24:38), he’ll remain a valuable piece for fantasy owners and shouldn’t be dropped, but the outlook for San Jose’s season is B L E A K without Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, to say nothing of the off-season departures of Joonas Donskoi and Joe Pavelski. The Sharks’ power play is sitting at 15.86% on the season and they’re 28th in goals for, and that won’t be improving any time soon. With the Sharks’ light upcoming schedule and the total lack of goals, don’t count on Karlsson to produce anywhere near the levels he was probably drafted at.

The Anchors (They’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)

Jeff Skinner, W, Buffalo Sabres (Owned in 49 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – On a team where the wingers include Jimmy Vesey, Conor Sheary and Michael Frolik – AS THE BEST OPTIONS outside of Sam ReinhartJeff Skinner somehow can’t find a home on the top line. What that means for Skinner is playing alongside the likes of Evan Rodrigues and Curtis Lazar at 5v5, instead of playing with Jack Eichel where last season Skinner scored 40G-23A.

Skinner’s numbers on the season aren’t horrible in that he has 11G-8A in 43 games, but that’s easily replaceable in fantasy hockey. His shot numbers remain very strong, and he’d top 250 if he hadn’t missed time to injury, but he doesn’t collect any other peripherals and because he plays on the Sabres is consistently a minus. The return of Victor Olofsson is also looming, which means there’s no bright future ahead for Skinner outside of maybe picking up the odd shift with Eichel.

Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)

Colorado – The Avs have a tremendous schedule this period (Feb. 7 to Feb. 19), playing the maximum seven games, which includes one off-day (Sunday). Colorado’s been scoring at a tremendous rate with 24 goals in their past five games – although the competition wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row – and will get to face Ottawa, Washington, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles at home. Their other games come against Columbus and Minnesota on the road.

Toronto – Another team with the full seven-game schedule, the Maple Leafs have been a mixed bag since coming out of the All-Star Break, scoring 18 goals in five games but allowing 16 and losing twice. Toronto gets to feast on the weak Eastern Conference teams, playing at Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, as well as home games against Arizona, Anaheim and Dallas.

Columbus – For the second week in a row, the Blue Jackets make the Love ‘Em list, because their schedule is unbelievable: they play seven times, mostly on off-days (Friday, Monday, Friday, Sunday), and they play the bad Eastern teams as well. The Jackets will play home games against Detroit, Colorado, Tampa Bay and the Rangers, and road games against the Sabres, Devils and Flyers.

Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)

San Jose – The Sharks only play four games this period, against the Flames and Panthers at home and the Jets and Wild on the road. San Jose is obviously going through it right now, with Barclay Goodrow as their ostensible top-line centre, and have only hit four goals in a game twice since the calendar turned to 2020. Avoid wherever possible.

Vegas – A pre-season favourite loaded with top-line talent, Vegas has been a disappointment both in real life and in fantasy leagues (outside of Max Pacioretty) this season. Their recent games have seen them score 15 times in their past five, and their upcoming opponents won’t help much as they play the defensive-minded Hurricanes, Wild, Blues and Islanders, as well as a game against the Capitals.

Carolina – With five games this period and three of them on the road, the ‘Canes are the last team to worry about; they’ll travel to play the Knights, Stars and Preds, and play home games against the Devils and Oilers. Carolina’s been playing with jumbled lines and have had pretty balanced scoring, so outside of Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho, it’s tough to count on any Carolina players.

February 7 to February 13

Best Bets

MIN 4.3 – Away DAL – Home COL VGK NY Rangers

CBJ 4.3 – Away BUF- Home DET COL TBL

BUF 4.2525 – Away NY Rangers – Home ANH DET CBJ

TOR 4.2 – Away MTL – Home ANH ARI DAL

ANH 4.09 – Away TOR BUF – Home STL CGY

Steer Clear

SJS 1.05 – Away – Home CGY

PIT 1.895 – Away FLA – Home TBL

CAR 1.995 – Away VGK DAL – Home

VGK 2.9025 – Away MIN – Home CAR STL

OTT 2.95 – Away WPG COL – Home ARI

February 8 to February 14

Best Bets

WPG 4.515 – – Home OTT CHI NY Rangers SJS

CBJ 4.195 – Away BUF – Home COL TBL NY Rangers

NJD 4.1525 – Away CAR- Home LAK FLA DET

TBL 4.01 – Away CBJ PIT – Home NY Islanders EDM

COL 4.01 – Away CBJ MIN – Home OTT WSH

Steer Clear

SJS 1.9525 – Away WPG- Home CGY

VGK 2.9025 – Away MIN – Home CAR STL

DAL 2.95 – Away STL TOR – Home CAR

OTT 2.95 – Away WPG COL – Home ARI

DET 2.9925 – Away BUF NJD – Home BOS

February 9 to February 15

Best Bets

MIN 4.305 – – Home COL VGK NY Rangers SJS

FLA 4.105 – Away PHI NJD – Home PHI EDM

ARI 4.085 – Away MTL TOR OTT – Home WSH

TBL 4.01 – Away CBJ PIT – Home EDM PHI

COL 4.005 – Away MIN – Home OTT WSH LAK

Steer Clear

PIT 2.0475 – Away – Home TBL MTL

CAR 2.095 – Away DAL – Home NJD

VAN 2.1525 – Away – Home NSH CHI

SJS 2.8075 – Away WPG MIN- Home CGY

STL 2.85 – Away ANH VGK – Home NSH

February 10 to February 16

Best Bets

TOR 4.3425 – Away OTT BUF- Home ARI DAL

OTT 4.305 – Away COL – Home ARI TOR DAL

NJD 4.2575 – Away CAR – Home FLA DET CBJ

DAL 4.1375 – Away TOR MTL OTT- Home CAR

FLA 4.105 – Away PHI NJD – Home PHI EDM

Steer Clear

VGK 2.9025 – Away MIN – Home STL NY Islanders

LAK 2.0475 – Away COL – Home CGY

WSH 2.9975 – Away COL ARI – Home NY Islanders

SJS 2.8075 – Away WPG MIN – Home CGY

ANH 3.14 – Away VAN- Home STL CGY

February 11 to February 17

Best Bets

TOR 4.3425 – Away OTT BUF – Home ARI DAL

NJD 4.2575 – Away CAR – Home FLA DET CBJ

ARI 4.1375 – Away TOR OTT – Home WSH NY Islanders

OTT 4.305 – Away COL – Home ARI TOR DAL

DAL 4.1375 – Away TOR MTL OTT – Home CAR

Steer Clear

LAK 2.0475 – Away COL – Home CGY

VAN 2.1525 – Away – Home CHI ANH

PHI 2.755 – Away NY Islanders FLA TBL – Home

SJS 2.8075 – Away WPG MIN – Home FLA

WSH 2.8975 – Away COL ARI VGK- Home

February 12 to February 18

Best Bets

OTT 4.4625 – – Home ARI TOR DAL BUF

TOR 4.1475 – Away OTT BUF PIT- Home DAL

NJD 4.11 – Away CAR STL- Home DET CBJ

CBJ 4.0475 – Away BUF NJD PHI- Home NY Rangers

MTL 4.005 – Away BOS PIT DET- Home DAL

Steer Clear

MIN 2.1525 – Away – Home NY Rangers SJS

VAN 2.1525 – Away – Home CHI ANH

EDM 2.755 – Away TBL FLA CAR – Home

NYI 2.8025 – Away NSH VGK ARI – Home

NYR 2.8025 – Away MIN CBJ – Home BOS

February 13 to February 19

Best Bets

OTT 4.4625 – – Home ARI TOR DAL BUF

ARI 4.185 – Away OTT DAL- Home WSH NY Islanders

TOR 4.1475 – Away OTT BUF PIT – Home DAL

ANH 4.1425 – Away VAN CGY – Home CGY FLA

DAL 4.1375 – Away TOR MTL OTT – Home ARI

Steer Clear

LAK 1.9 – Away COL WPG – Home

VAN 1.9425 – Away – Home ANH MIN

SJS 2.8075 – Away WPG MIN – Home FLA

PHI 2.855 – Away FLA TBL – Home CBJ

WSH 2.8975 – Away COL ARI VGK – Home



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  Players Team GP G A P
JAMIE BENN DAL 19 8 10 18


  Frequency T.B Players