Eastern Edge: Strong Starts to 2022, Including Skinner, Haula, and Nyquist

Brennan Des


In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll look at players who have quietly had strong starts to 2022.

Jeff Skinner

Skinner has five goals and one assist through six appearances in 2022. During this stretch, he's spent most of his minutes beside Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch, who each have four points through four games in the calendar year. Despite creating fewer scoring chances and high danger opportunities than their opponents, the trio has outscored the opposition 3-1. Being out-chanced isn't a recipe for long-term success, but the sample size is still small as Skinner, Thompson and Tuch have played together for just 25 minutes at even-strength.

Each player possesses a fair amount of individual talent, but they often fly under the radar due to the market they play in. Being on a bad team essentially ensures they'll be undervalued in most fantasy formats (call it the plus-minus overreaction effect), but that also makes them easier to acquire, as all three players are still available in the majority of fantasy leagues. Fantasy playoff schedules have gotten more complicated with all the postponements in recent weeks, but the Sabres still seem like a good team to target during the home stretch. They play often in late-March/early-April, with numerous off-day matchups. Skinner, Thompson or Tuch could be the ace up your sleeve on your championship run this year. 

Erik Haula

The Bruins shuffled their lines to start 2022, splitting up the 'Perfection Line' in favour of two strong trios. The new-look lines feature Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand alongside Craig Smith, while Erik Haula centers Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak.

Since these new lines were put together, everyone's been raving about the chemistry between Hall and Pastrnak. The praise is justified because both players have played very well since being put together. However, the final member of that line hasn't received the same amount of recognition despite significant improvement in his offensive numbers.

Since joining forces with Hall and Pastrnak, Haula has seven points in nine appearances – which translates to 0.78 points per game. Earlier in the season, he spent most of his time in the bottom-six and posted just five points in 25 games (0.20 points/game). His ice time hasn't really changed, as he's hovered around the 15-minute mark during both stretches. Thus, it's fair to conclude that Haula's improved offensive output is a product of his upgraded line mates. That does concern me a bit because it suggests he needs good line mates to produce and isn't capable of driving offense himself. His spot between Hall and Pastrnak isn't set in stone, so falling off that line could cause a steep decline in production. With th