As the calendar rolls on to February, fantasy leagues are entering the stretch drive. It's time to think about tightening up your team and getting ready for the playoffs. In this column, we'll examine bangers league players worth targeting as the playoffs approach. Now, not all leagues have the same schedule. Yahoo leagues tend to run playoffs from Week 21 – 24, while some extend to Week 25, the very last week of the season.
In this column we are going to look at players who are useful for the playoff stretch. I've identified Colorado, Edmonton, and Vancouver as three teams with lots of games over the month of March and plenty of off-night matchups.
As an aside, if you are a league commissioner: make sure your league ends before Week 25. Teams who lock up their playoff spot start benching their studs. Look at Washington: four games in Week 25, but if they're locked into a playoff spot, Ovechkin might not see the ice. Blah.
Now, let's get into it: we'll start with our number one target and this Sunday's Geek of the Week.
Ryan Graves: Graves has been revelatory since coming over to Colorado last season. Long left to languish on a mediocre farm system in New York, the Rangers never gave him the chance to move up into the big leagues. This year, Graves made the big squad out of training camp and has been an absolute monster in peripheral categories.
Graves may not be a point producer, but the six-foot-five blueliner is currently pacing for 59 penalty minutes, 167 shots, 135 hits, and 183 blocks. This means more often than not you're going to come out of an Avalanche game with 2 shots, blocks and hits from Graves, in addition to a 50 percent likelihood of picking up some penalty minutes.
The piece that makes Graves an excellent playoff add is the Colorado schedule. The Avalanche have an elite-level fantasy schedule, with three weeks of Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday schedules. If you're familiar with the Stream Scheme podcast, that schedule is known as a Streamagami – an all off-day schedule. So it's unlikely you will have trouble fitting Graves into the lineup.
Given his skillset doesn't include high point totals, you shouldn't go crazy trying to get him on your team. But maybe target someone higher on the Graves owner's roster and then get him as a throw-in. Your back-end categories will look much stronger once the playoffs roll around.
Gabriel Landeskog: The Avs' captain has underperformed this year, to the tune of a 52-point pace ahead of Saturday's games. Despite the slow start, he's still hitting, and his shooting percentage and shot rate seem to mostly be in order. He's also still playing on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. The only thing not working out for Landeskog so far is his IPP, the percentage of goals scored while he's on the ice that he registers a point on. That number should regress upwards, and you'll want Landeskog on your squad when it does.
Nazem Kadri: The former Leafs center is in a great spot in Colorado, seeing top power-play minutes and still producing nice peripheral numbers. The best part about targeting Kadri is he's pacing for fewer than 60 points. His owners will likely be willing to give him up without needing to break the bank. And while the point numbers aren't over exciting, it doesn't really matter given he has the potential to fill so many categories week in and week out.
Zack Kassian: The Oilers' enforcer has clearly benefited from playing heavy minutes on Connor McDavid's wing, tying his career high of 29 points before his 50th game this year. However, we've since seen him switched off that top line. If he can get back on McDavid's wing over the next few weeks, the Oilers enforcer will be a must-add for his penalty minutes, hits, and of course point-upside on nights when he happens to get in on that McDavid magic.
Oscar Klefbom: Klefbom's spot on the top power play has never been guaranteed. It's always been more a function of not having a better offensive option. And yet, until this year the d-man had struggled to turn opportunity into useful point production. This season is the first Klefbom has ever paced above a half-point per game. Huge jumps in production can be expected when a d-man plays nearly four minutes per game on a power-play unit with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. In addition to having an excellent playoff schedule, and decent offensive upside, Klefbom is leading the league in blocks. That's multi-cat value for you.
Alex Edler: This ain't your grandfather's Alex Edler, the player who would put up gaudy peripheral totals while also anchoring the Canucks' top power-play unit. Quinn Hughes has been more than up to the task of helming that group, and Edler's point totals have certainly suffered. But the veteran bangers god is once again putting up elite block numbers to go along with excellent hit, shot and penalty minutes. The 33-year-old isn't done in fantasy circles just yet.