Looking Ahead: January 13-25

Adam Daly-Frey

2021-01-08

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.

 

Because this is the first article of the season and games haven't been played yet, all stats are from 2019-20.

 

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

Joe Thornton, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (Available in 80 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Although Jumbo Joe may have been born in the 1970s – five decades ago! – and only put up 31 points last season in 70 games, Thornton has been assigned the cushiest spot on the Maple Leafs, riding shotgun on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Thornton's point production last year looks bad on paper, but he still put up 1.48pts/60 at 5v5 which was better than both 2016-17 and 2017-18 and it speaks more to his diminished role in San Jose than any real drop-off in his play. His power-play production dropped off last season (3.32pt/60 vs. 6+ the previous two seasons) but that was more a function of the Sharks' PP setup, with Thornton getting a point on less than 50% of the Sharks' PP goals. With his cushy role, the Leafs' great opening schedule (see below) and his low ownership, he could be picked up for quick production to open the year before getting dumped.

 

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

Robert Thomas, C/W, St. Louis Blues (Available in 84 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The Blues are deep on the wing – especially after grabbing Mike Hoffman – which means no matter which line Thomas slots into, he'll have scoring help on either side of him. To start the season, Thomas is looking at a second-line role alongside Jaden Schwartz and Hoffman, which means the sky's the limit in terms of scoring; the Blues love to match up Ryan O'Reilly against opposition's top lines, which means the second line gets much better scoring opportunities.

Averaging just 14:34 last season, Thomas put up a strong 42 points in 66 games (2.62pts/60) on 11.4% shooting, which is what right around what he shot in his rookie season so it doesn't seem out of the norm. Assuming a tick up of two minutes/game, Thomas should at minimum see another 40-point season this year (in ten fewer games) but playing with much better players than Tyler Bozak means there's really no cap on his potential. Thomas is still on the