Looking Ahead: February 28 – March 11

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 26th

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

Sonny Milano, W, Anaheim Ducks (Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – After getting moved from the Blue Jackets at the deadline, Sonny Milano has gone from a third-liner/healthy scratch on a stingy Columbus team to a plum top-line role in Anaheim that plays a more wide-open style, and he was rewarded immediately with two goals in his first game. While two goals/game won't be the norm for Milano, the increase in minutes – he played 14:42 his first game versus his season average of 12:38 in Columbus – as well as playing with better line mates (Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell, both at even strength and the power play) means success should come easily.

Milano's previously shown a scoring touch, averaging 1.36 pts/game in the OHL and 0.69 pts/game in the AHL, but getting buried on a John Tortorella-coached team sewered his fantasy value. Milano's scoring rate in the NHL from 2017-18 to this season is 142nd overall of qualified forwards (min. 500 minutes), which doesn't sound great but is ahead of players like Anders Lee, T.J. Oshie, and Max Pacioretty.

With the Ducks' great upcoming schedule (see below, it is GREAT) and Milano being a free piece, he should be picked up immediately and will be a much better asset than the other post-deadline pieces who've been added at high rates such as Tyler Ennis and Conor Sheary.


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

Jordan Eberle, W, New York Islanders (Available in 80 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Eberle's year on the whole doesn't look like anything too special – 14 goals, 22 assists in 52 games – but it took a long time for Eberle to build up coach Barry Trotz' trust this season: he topped 18 minutes in only six of his first 30 games (20% of games), but has hit that mark in 14 of his next 22 (63%) which is clearly a massive improvement. In fact, Eberle's last five games have all been above the 20-minute mark including 24:01 against Arizona a couple weeks ago.

It's no surprise that Eberle's scoring has improved compared to earlier in the season, given the massive shift in ice time; he's scored 11 goals and eight assists in his last 22 (a 0.86 pt/game clip) vs. three goals and 14 assists in his first 30 (a 0.56 pt/game clip). A large part of the scoring is that Eberle has cemented his spot on the Islanders' top line again, which means playing primary minutes with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee, but Eberle has also been brought back on to the top power play.

There isn't much in the way of peripheral production from the Islander, around one combined hit/block per game, but he's good for two shots/game at a bare minimum and has topped that number in 12 of his past 22 games. He's an asset for his point production only.


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

Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Columbus Blue Jackets (Owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Even with all the injuries to the Columbus Blue Jackets recently, Pierre-Luc Dubois has seen his role shift from first-line center (with Gustav Nyquist and formerly Oliver Bjorkstrand) all the way down to a third/fourth-line checking role which has decimated Dubois' value. He has one goal and three assists in his past ten games, even as he plays ~20 minutes/game, which says something both about his offensive potential as well as his job for Columbus.

Dubois has a fine 18G-28A line on the season while adding over one hit per game, over two shots per game, and just under one block per game, so he's got fine peripherals. Unfortunately, 27 of his 46 total points this year have come on goals by/goals assisted by one of Seth Jones, Alexandre Texier, Oliver Bjorkstrand or Cam Atkinson – none of whom are currently playing; Dubois' game doesn't fit as a natural scorer, so playing minutes with Emil Bemstrom and Nathan Gerbe is a real hit to his potential.

In leagues that count all the peripherals, Dubois can still offer value and probably isn't worth getting dropped quite yet, but don't expect much if any point production until Atkinson comes back. Jones, Texier and Bjorkstrand's fantasy seasons are finished, and while Atkinson's most likely is, the possibility means Dubois could maybe return some value eventually. Shallow leagues, he can be dropped.


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

Alexander Radulov, W, Dallas Stars (Owned in 77 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – All of these statements about Alexander Radulov are true: Radulov starts in the offensive zone 61 percent of the time, plays on the Stars' top power play with Tyler Seguin and company, offers small contributions in peripheral categories, and is a career double-digit shooting percentage player.

Those facts should point to a very valuable winger, but the reality for Radulov (and his owners) is much more bleak: Radulov is taking 0.8 shots/game less than last season and 0.5 shots/game less than the year prior, he's skating a full THREE MINUTES less per game this year, and instead of spending his 5v5 time in key minutes with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, Radulov is relegated to third/fourth-line minutes with Mattias Janmark and a rotating cast of centers. He's blocking less shots per game than he has since coming to Dallas (0.67), isn't as impactful in plus-minus thanks to losing top-line status (+22 vs. +10), and even while shooting 12.4 percent has only put up 33 points on the year.

Trade deadlines have most likely come and gone, but if there's a possibility of getting rid of Radulov based on his name and the idea that he's more of a contributor than he actually is, pounce on it. In the 19 games since the calendar hit 2020, Radulov has only put up four goals and three assists, which is his new normal.


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

This period runs from February 28th to March 11th

Anaheim – Due to the emergency with Jay Bouwmeester earlier this year, the Ducks had to reschedule their game against the Blues which means they play eight games during this stretch – one more than they're supposed to, per the CBA; because Bouwmeester is okay, it doesn't feel gross to take advantage of, so stock up on Ducks! They play plus matchups against the Devils, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs and Senators, as well as games against the Pens, Avs, Wild and Blues.

Pittsburgh – After re-vamping at the trade deadline and picking up Patrick Marleau, Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues, the Penguins have a great roster from top-to-bottom and although they've struggled very recently (11 goals in their past five games), their upcoming schedule looks great: they play seven times which includes games against the Sharks, Sens, Sabres, Caps and Devils. Their remaining games come against the Hurricanes and Ducks, but look for Pittsburgh to take advantage of some goal-scoring opportunities.

Chicago – The Blackhawks have cemented their top-9 lines and power play units recently, and although they keep losing games (only three wins in 12 February games), they've scored 13 in their past five on a massive 179 shots on goal; that's a drop on their season shooting percentage of 9.2, so if they keep shooting at those rates, the goals will start to flow. Chicago will get to play Florida, Edmonton, Detroit and San Jose, as well as tougher games against the Ducks and Blues.


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

Arizona – With only four games between Feb. 28th and March 11th, the Coyotes have far-and-away the worst schedule this period and should be avoided at all costs. While two of those games will be helpful (vs. Sabres and at the Jets), the Coyotes have only scored more than three goals in a game five times since the year hit 2020 – which includes two games ago against the Lightning which broke up a string of 15 straight games with three goals or less.

Winnipeg – Two of the Jets' next five games come against the Oilers which should be helpful, and they'll also play the Sabres, but based on volume it's hard to trust Winnipeg this period; Winnipeg plays only five times, with their two remaining games coming against the Golden Knights and Coyotes. The Jets recently lost Josh Morrissey, still don't have Mathieu Perreault or Adam Lowry, and keep shuffling their top-9 which means it's hard to count on anyone outside of Mark Scheifele or Blake Wheeler.

Detroit – By this point, hopefully no one is counting on fantasy production from Red Wings players, but for lucky players still in the hunt while rostering Wings, it's time to level expectations as Detroit plays only five times this stretch. Going in Detroit's favour are games against the Sens and Blackhawks, but Detroit will also face the Lightning, Avalanche and Hurricanes.


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