Now that we’re getting to the short strokes of the 2017-18 campaign, with only a handful of games remaining, we have a number of “season-ending” injuries playing havoc with our fantasy rosters. This week’s fantasy focus player has been known to miss a game or two dozen in his short career.
Mika Zibanejad has already set a new career best in goals with 27 and shots on goal with 197. He is on pace to finish with 30 goals and 51 points, which would tie his career best in points, but in only 72 games.
At the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship, Zibanejad scored the golden goal in overtime to give the Swedes their first world junior title in 31 years. Overall, he had five points in six contests. He also had 13 points in 26 SHL matches that year.
In 2012-13, he recorded 11 points in 23 AHL games and 20 points in 42 NHL matches. The next year was nearly a full NHL campaign where he notched 33 points in 69 games. He also saw action in the AHL for the last time, scoring seven points in six matches.
The following two seasons with the Senators saw Zibanejad score 46 and 51 points. Last year was his first on Broadway, recording 37 points in 56 contests. The 2017-18 season got off to a fantastic start with 22 points in as many games, but then he had only nine points in his next 32 matches while missing time with an injury. He has 15 points over his last 11 contests and was riding a seven-game point streak heading into last nights match.
Zibanejad will be 25 years old at the start of next season and barring injury, he will set new career highs in both goals and points as his ice time and power play minutes continue to rise.
Team by Team Quick Hits by Conference
When the Bruins get some of their injured players back, specifically Jake DeBrusk, it may have a negative impact on newcomer Ryan Donato. The Harvard stand out had a brilliant big-league debut with a goal and two helpers in his first NHL contest and followed that with another goal in his second match. He’s gone pointless in his other two games and his ice time has steadily decreased in each of his four NHL contests. He better perform or he will find himself moving down the depth chart.
Heading into last nights match, Buffalo had six wins over their last 18 contests and were averaging 2.06 goals scored per game. Their minus-74 goal differential on the season was by far the worst in the league.
For the first 40 games of 2017-18, Dylan Larkin scored at a 70-point pace. He faded over the next 35 games, scoring at a 47-point pace. This was his first season as a center and I like his chances to set new career highs next year.
Aleksander Barkov had 38 points in the first 44 games of the season. He registered 37 points in the 29 contests that followed, and he leads all NHL forwards in average time on ice at 22:13 minutes per game.
I know things don’t look very good for Carey Price and the Canadiens, but if Price’s current owner is selling at a discount, I’m a buyer. I might even consider it in a salary cap league, depending on my goaltending situation. In the previous four seasons, his goals-against averages were 2.23, 2.06, 1.96 and 2.32. His save percentages were 0.923, 0.934, 0.933 and 0.927. He’ll be 31 years of age at the start of next season.
One Lightning player to watch is Ondrej Palat. He has two points in his three games since returning from injury. Watch for him to continue to get better as his timing returns.
Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly has had a yo-yo year. In October, he had 10 points in 12 games, then seven points in the next 15 contests and 11 points in 13 December matches. He followed that by recording nine points over his next 20 games and has 11 points in nine games so far this month.
Sebastian Aho has a nine-game point streak on the go with 12 points over that stretch. After a 49-point rookie campaign, the 20-year-old scoffed at the prospect of a sophomore slump and has a good shot at finishing with 30 goals and 70 points.
It has been a disappointing season for Cam Atkinson who was coming off of career highs of 35 goals and 62 points. He is on pace to record 21 goals and 42 points in 66 games but has only been held off the scoresheet three times over his last 15 contests, notching 17 points.
Devils “backup” goaltender, Keith Kinkaid has 11 wins in his last 14 starts and in nine of those games, he recorded a 0.929 save percentage or better.
Since February 19, the Islanders have only two wins encompassing 16 games. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to help entice upcoming unrestricted free agent John Tavares decide to re-sign with the Islanders.
Reformed crease crasher, Chris Kreider has 10 points over his last five matches (not including last nights action). He’s meshing well with Mika Zibanejad as well as getting first unit power play minutes.
Evgeni Malkin could realize his fourth 100-point campaign and first since 2011-12. It’s no coincidence that he has also played more than 69 games in a season for the first time in six years.
Veteran pivot Nicklas Backstrom is on pace to finish with less than 70 points for the first time since the last lockout in the 2012-13 campaign, although he did finish that season with 48 points in as many games. Heading into last nights contest, he had 16 points in his last dozen games.
I really like what the New York Rangers have done turning aging veterans into draft picks. The Rangers have seven picks in the first three rounds of this year’s entry draft, including three firsts.
Assuming they re-sign all of their restricted free agents, they have reasonably decent potential for their top six forwards, with all but Mats Zuccarello under 30 years of age. On defence, they have an interesting mix of youth and experience, but the question is how long does the King have left in his reign?
The team hopes that the 36-year-old Henrik Lundqvist can hold the fort until they see what they have in a highly touted young Russian goaltender named Igor Shestyorkin. He won’t come over to North America until at least the 2019-20 season. The timing could work out very well for the Rangers.
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