Eastern Edge: Players to buy low

by Brennan Des on October 22, 2019

 

A mere $100 investment in Apple stock in 2002 would have grown into more than $13,000 today. A small investment into any of the players below might yield a fantasy hockey championship in a few months. In this week’s Eastern Edge, we take a look at a few players in the Eastern Conference whose fantasy stock is bound to increase as the season progresses. If you’re looking to buy low, there are plenty of names in New Jersey, Florida and Philadelphia to check out. Follow me on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza to share your thoughts and ask any questions!

 

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk35. That’s how many shots he’s taken without scoring a goal – the highest total among players who are still looking for their first tally. Considering there haven’t been any drastic changes to his deployment, you wouldn’t expect anything less that the 55-60-point pace he’s maintained each season throughout his career.  He plays on the power play for about three minutes a night and sees about 17 minutes of total ice-time each game, but he has somehow failed to record a single point through seven contests. That fact is made even more shocking when you consider he’s seen exposure to talented players like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek – but I guess they’re off to slow starts as well. I’ll remind you that JVR scored 27 goals in 66 games last year, scoring on 16 percent of his shots in the process. While that shooting percentage is a bit high, he’s always been an efficient shooter and should have at least a couple of goals by now. At the moment he’s available in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues, but his ownership is bound to increase when he eventually gets the monkey off his back. I advise you to invest while his fantasy stock is at its lowest.

 

Claude GirouxThe Flyers captain is so valuable in fantasy hockey leagues because of his triple position eligibility, allowing you to slot him in the center, left-wing, or right-wing position and maximize your starts on any given night. His value is currently lower than usual as he’s still looking for his first goal of the 2019-2020 campaign despite directing 24 shots on net. He has just four assists through seven games, but all it takes is one big outing for him to become a point-per-game player on the season. Like a lot of the Flyers forwards (including the aforementioned JVR) Giroux’s slow start might be explained by Philadelphia’s whacky schedule to start the year. They played their first game against the Blackhawks in Prague, after which they had four days of rest before hosting the Devils. Now that they’ve had a few games to adjust to the regular season schedule, they can finally get into a rhythm. While Giroux’s point production should improve as the year progresses, it is important to note that his ice-time is currently down a full two minutes from last season (21:27 to 19:23).

 

Jake DeBruskThe 23-year-old has just two points through eight games this year. Many of us were expecting a breakout campaign from DeBrusk after watching him put up a 50-point pace in his first two NHL seasons. His ice-time has remained pretty much the same, but the quality of his line mates may have decreased as his usual center David Krejci has missed a few games due to injury. Coach Bruce Cassidy has expressed frustration with his team’s lack of scoring beyond the top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Expectations are high for DeBrusk as he probably has the greatest offensive abilities outside of the big three. The Bruins need more production from DeBrusk if they’re going to be successful in the long term, so he’s going to get every opportunity to succeed – Cassidy might even break up the first line in an attempt to spark DeBrusk. Considering he’s just sitting on the waiver wire in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on him and scoop him up once/if he gets going.

 

Steven StamkosOkay, so he has nine points in eight games and might not belong on this list as much as some other guys. With that being said, he was just granted dual position eligibility in Yahoo leagues and his fantasy value increases now that he’s a left-winger and center as opposed to just a center. You might not be buying low, but I think you should reach out to the Stamkos owner in your league and see what the acquisition cost might be.

 

Sebastian AhoThree points in nine games is way below what you’d expect from Aho but that’s partially explained by his insanely low 5-on-5 shooting percentage which currently sits at 3.39. He’s also getting a point on just one in three goals scored while he’s on the ice, when he typically records a point on at least two of every three goals.

 

Nino NiederreiterExpectations were high for Niederreiter after he put up 30 points in 36 games with the Hurricanes last year. He has just three assists through nine games this season and isn’t seeing as much ice-time as you’d like. However, he continues to play with Sebastian Aho and once Aho gets going, Nino’s fantasy stock will rise. He’s still looking for his first goal as all 20 of his shots have been stopped, but as long as he keeps shooting, he’s going to start scoring.

 

Taylor HallWith just one goal on 32 shots, Hall has scored on just 3 percent of his attempts when his shooting percentage typically hovers around 11%. The Devils roster has changed a lot since last year with the additions of Nikita Gusev, Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds. It’s no surprise that New Jersey has struggled out of the gate as old players adjust to new players and new players adjust to a new system.  After losing their first six games, it looks like the team has turned the corner with back-to-back wins against the Rangers and Canucks. Considering New Jersey plays just one game this week, I think Hall’s fantasy value is the lowest it’s going to be this season. The 27-year-old is just one season removed from a 93-point campaign and is going to perform well this year as he looks to secure a new contract. Contact the Hall owner in your league and take advantage of their impatience. You could probably buy low on any of New Jersey’s top-six forwards at this point, including Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev.

 

Defensemen

Keith YandleEight games in and he’s still looking for his first even-strength point, as all three of his points came while playing with the man advantage. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 4.17 is quite low and should increase over the course of the season. As that number rises, he should get the even-strength production he needs to be a 50-point defenseman. With that being said, his overall ice-time is down four and a half minutes from last season as he’s playing just 18 minutes a night. He’s still seeing four minutes of power-play time per game, so he’ll still have opportunities to put up points. Keep an eye on Aaron Ekblad who has five points (all at even-strength) through eight games. If Ekblad keeps this up, his emergence could be bad news for Yandle.

 

Goalies

Sergei BobrovskyThrough six games he has a 4.07 GAA and .872 save percentage. That’s certainly not what you’re expecting from one of the first goalies taken off the board in fantasy drafts. Sure, those numbers look bad, but let me give you some perspective. In his six games, Bob faced Tampa (twice), Carolina, Buffalo (off to a 7-1-1 start), New Jersey and Colorado. Aside from New Jersey, each of those teams have posted outstanding offensive numbers to start the season. Carolina has scored 3.22 goals per game, Tampa has scored 3.50/game, Buffalo has scored 3.67/game and Colorado has scored 4.00/game. Obviously, you expect a goalie of Bobrovsky’s caliber to perform well no matter who the opponent is, but you also have to remember that he’s typically a slow starter and has been slowed down even further as both he and the team adjust to a new system under coach Joel Quenneville. October has been Bob’s worst month throughout his career as he sports a 2.91 GAA and .904 SV% through 67 games.

 

Month

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

SV%

October

67

31

32

3

2.91

.904

November

79

48

22

8

2.27

.924

December

65

40

15

6

2.49

.919

January

60

31

26

2

2.78

.910

February

56

24

25

7

2.64

.909

March

97

60

25

8

2.05

.933

April

39

23

10

5

2.55

.917

 

Carter Hart – After a brilliant rookie campaign that saw him post a 16-13-1 record and .917 SV%, Hart has a much less impressive .890 SV% through five games this year. Some Hart owners might be panicking as Brian Elliot has been excellent in his last two starts – posting a .946 SV% in a 3-1 loss to the Flames and a .943 SV% in a 6-2 win against the Golden Knights. However, it’s important to realize that Hart’s poor overall numbers are a result of just two bad outings. If a goalie has two bad games in the middle of the season, do we bat an eye? Probably not. However, with only a five-game sample, the .714 SV% he put up against the Oilers and .800 SV% he put up against the Stars become more pronounced. Those two bad performances overshadow the three good showings he had against the Blackhawks, Devils and Canucks in his first three games. If the Hart owner in your league is just looking at his overall save percentage and believes a 34-year-old injury-prone Brian Elliot is going to steal starts from Hart long term, then it’s time to barter for Carter.

 

Andrei VasilevskiyA 3.15 GAA and .899 SV% isn’t exactly what you’d expect from someone who’s often in the conversation for the league’s best goalie. It’s unlikely that the Vasilevskiy owner in your league is willing to sell low considering the high draft pick they spent on the netminder, but it never hurts to ask.