Looking Ahead: A Wild Time

by Adam Daly-Frey on February 15, 2019


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.

Most stats updated through Wednesday, February 14

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

Troy Stecher, D, Vancouver Canucks (Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The Vancouver schedule isn’t anything to write home about, but with all the injuries Vancouver’s seen recently – most importantly Alex Edler and Chris TanevTroy Stecher has immediate fantasy relevance and should be picked up in every league.

It’s Stecher and not Ben Hutton that’s taken the top spot on the Canucks’ top power play with Edler on the shelf, and in the past five games he’s played 25:45, 22:49, 26:16, 22:14 and a whopping 29:04 (although Tanev got hurt mid-game). That hasn’t translated to much in the way of points yet, but he managed to put up 8G-21A in 43 games in his junior year at North Dakota. Stecher is 16th of qualified defensemen (500+ minutes) in 5v5 Assists/60.

On the year, Stecher has put up only 1G-17A in 54 games, but he’s added two assists in the past five games and his two SOG/game in those games are a huge jump over what he’d been doing previously (1.10 SOG/game). With no fear of getting shipped out, the only concern for Stecher is the status of Edler.

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

Luke Kunin, W, Minnesota Wild (Available in 99 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Over his last five games, Kunin has been a force on the third line for the Wild: 3G-4A with 12 SOG and three hits. This wasn’t *as much* of a surprise given how strong the sophomore looked earlier in the season in his previous call-up, but it’s still surprising given his ice time and lack of power-play production.

Kunin was just over a point-per-game in college with the University of Wisconsin (where he was also the captain) with 70pts in 69 nice games, and his 0.59PPG in the AHL doesn’t scream elite production, but he should be good through the rest of the season at a 0.65-0.7pt/game pace. From a fancy-stats perspective, Kunin is 49th in 5v5 Pts/60, ahead of players like Elias Lindholm, Brendan Gallagher and Mark Stone, and he’s a plus-possession player even alongside Marcus Foligno and Joel Eriksson-Ek.

With Mikko Koivu gone for the year and Eric Staal possibly getting shipped out, Charlie Coyle at centre is a real possibility, which means the possibility of a top-6 spot opening up as well as some power play time. Either way, Kunin is worth picking up and speculating on through the summer for keeper leagues, and worth picking up in one-year leagues thanks to his strong point rates.

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

Bo Horvat, C, Vancouver Canucks (Owned in 64 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Horvat is the perfect example of the difference between fantasy hockey and real-life hockey. In fantasy, Horvat is a decent asset, with 20G-24A on the year with good peripheral stats thrown in. In real life, Horvat is a dream number-one centre who can contribute as much defensively as he can offensively.

Unfortunately, “defensive prowess” isn’t a category for fantasy owners, and Horvat has been suffering thanks to his usage in Vancouver. Consistently matched against top lines at home – which was Brandon Sutter’s role last year – Horvat is taking 40.4% offensive zone faceoffs, 8% less than he was taking last year; playing alongside Antoine Roussel is a far cry from Brock Boeser and Sven Baertschi, who were his linemates last season.

He’s managed to still put up points, but Horvat has only added 3G-7A since Christmas (19 games) with only one of those points coming on the power play. The combination of his role on the team, his recent struggles, and the poor schedule upcoming for Vancouver makes him someone to put on hold for now. With the trade deadline coming up, he could be moved to rebuilding teams in keeper leagues for an upgrade.

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

Patric Hornqvist, W, Pittsburgh Penguins (Owned in 53 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Have I written about how Hornqvist should be dropped already? Probably.)

After suffering multiple concussions this season, Hornqvist has only managed to play in 44 games so far, which is about normal for the gritty winger – he’s only played a full season once, and since coming to Pittsburgh has played 64, 82, 70 and 70 games. On its surface that would be a minor concern as his missed games should be expected, but as the Penguins have built depth up, Hornqvist missing games means he’s also losing his role and getting Wally Pipp’ed.

Hornqvist has been stuck on the third line for most of this season but has recently found himself on the fourth line, even as he does get PP1 time. His average time on ice this season is at 15:19 – a minute and a half less than his average since getting to Pittsburgh – and since February started, he’s topped 15 minutes only once (seven games.)

He’s still a volume shooter – he has 121 shots in 44 games (2.75/gm) – and puts up points on the power play, with six of his 26 points coming with the man advantage, but there are better players available on the waiver wire in most leagues. Shop him around and see if someone who doesn’t pay attention would be interested on the name alone (“he plays with Crosby, right?”), but if you can’t move him, he can be dropped – especially in cap leagues.

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

Minnesota – The Wild have their share of injury problems, but they also have a very enticing upcoming schedule with games against the Devils, Ducks, Rangers and Red Wings as highlights. They’ll also play the Blues twice – which could be good for Wild players if Jake Allen starts either of them – as well as a game in Winnipeg.

Pittsburgh – With six games in this period (Feb 15 – 27), the Penguins don’t have the most games, but they do have some soft competition: the Flames and Rangers at home and the Devils and Flyers on the road should see a ton of goals from the Pittsburgh side of the slate. Beyond that, Pittsburgh also plays Columbus (on the road) and San Jose (at home.)

St. Louis – Is there any team hotter than the Blues right now? Eight wins in a row including the game last night, with 33 goals for in those eight games (4.125/game) while allowing two or less in six of those games. Their nice schedule continues through the rest of February as they jam seven games in: Road games against the Avs, Wild, Stars and Wild (again), and home games against Toronto, Boston and Nashville. While there are some tough matchups in there, the Blues sit fourth in 5v5 GF/60 as a team over the last 25 games, and should continue to score in bunches.

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

Vancouver – Vancouver gets to finish the month with games against San Jose (in California), at home against Arizona, the Islanders and Anaheim, and then head on the road against Colorado. With scoring only coming from two players (Elias Pettersson and Boeser), you won’t want to take fliers on many other Canucks beyond the previously mentioned Stecher.

Winnipeg – There’s a giant caveat with the Jets being listed as a Leave ‘Em, even with Winnipeg playing only five times during this period: they’re one of the teams that could wind up with Mark Stone. While that would be an obvious plus for Winnipeg and would probably see ownership jump up on Jets’ secondary scoring, the lack of volume when almost every other team plays six times is too much to overcome. Winnipeg plays Ottawa and Minnesota at home, and Colorado, Vegas and Arizona on the road.

Dallas – The Stars have actually been playing well of late – 18 goals in six games in February after just 19 in 10 games in January – but face some tough defensive competition through the end of the month. Dallas will face Nashville, St. Louis and Carolina at home, and Carolina, Chicago and Vegas on the road. The game against Chicago is the second half of a home-road split, which means tired legs in the most fantasy-relevant game.

February 15 to February 21

Best Bets

PHI 4.29 – Away DET MTL- Home DET TBL

EDM 4.29 – Away CAR NYI – Home ARI NYI

CAR 4.2575 – Away FLA- Home EDM DAL NYR

PIT 4.2525 – Away NJD – Home CGY NYR SJS

MIN 4.195 – Away NYR- Home NJD STL ANH

Steer Clear

VAN 2 – Away SJS – Home ARI

WPG 2.1525 – Away COL – Home OTT

WSH 2.66 – Away ANH LAK TOR- Home

NSH 2.84 – Away VGK DAL – Home LAK

TOR 2.845 – Away ARI STL – Home WSH

February 16 to February 22

Best Bets

PHI 4.29 – Away DET MTL – Home DET TBL

PIT 4.2525 – Away NJD – Home CGY NYR SJS

CHI 4.2425 – Away DET – Home CBJ OTT COL

MIN 4.185 – Away NYR DET- Home STL ANH

COL 4.1425 – Away CHI- Home STL VGK WPG

Steer Clear

VAN 2 – Away SJS – Home ARI

WSH 2.66 – Away ANH LAK TOR – Home

BOS 2.7075 – Away LAK SJS VGK – Home

ANH 2.75 – Away MIN CGY- Home WSH

BUF 2.8025 – Away NJD FLA TBL – Home

February 17 to February 23

Best Bets

FLA 4.4625 – – Home MTL BUF CAR LAK

NJD 4.3 – Away NYR- Home BUF PIT OTT

MIN 4.185 – Away NYR DET – Home STL ANH

PIT 4.1525 – Away NJD PHI- Home NYR SJS

CBJ 4.085 – Away MTL OTT – Home TBL SJS

Steer Clear

WPG 1.9475 – Away COL VGK – Home

VAN 2.1525 – Away – Home ARI NYI

SJS 2.7125 – Away PIT CBJ- Home BOS

LAK 2.75 – Away NSH FLA- Home WSH

BOS 2.85 – Away SJS VGK STL- Home

February 18 to February 24

Best Bets

CHI 4.4525 – Away DET – Home OTT COL DAL

DAL 4.3 – Away CHI- Home NSH STL CAR

CGY 4.195 – Away OTT- Home ARI NYI ANH

MIN 4.185 – Away NYR DET – Home ANH STL

CBJ 4.085 – Away MTL OTT – Home TBL SJS

Steer Clear

LAK 2.75 – Away NSH FLA – Home WSH

VAN 2.1525 – Away – Home ARI NYI

ANH 2.755 – Away MIN CGY EDM – Home

BUF 2.75 – Away FLA TBL – Home WSH

BOS 2.85 – Away SJS VGK STL – Home

February 19 to February 25

Best Bets

FLA 4.305 – Away COL- Home BUF CAR LAK

DAL 4.3 – Away CHI – Home NSH STL CAR

TOR 4.205 – Away STL – Home WSH MTL BUF

NJD 4.3 – Away NYR – Home PIT OTT MTL

MIN 4.185 – Away NYR DET – Home ANH STL

Steer Clear

BOS 1.9 – Away VGK STL – Home

VGK 2.0475 – Away – Home BOS WPG

LAK 2.66 – Away NSH FLA TBL- Home

SJS 2.755 – Away PIT CBJ DET – Home

WPG 2.8975 – Away COL VGK ARI – Home

February 20 to February 26

Best Bets

WSH 4.305 – Away TOR BUF – Home NYR OTT

DET 4.305 – Home CHI MIN SJS MTL

DAL 4.305 – Away CHI VGK- Home STL CAR

CGY 4.1425 – Away OTT NYI- Home NYI ANH

FLA 4.1 – Away COL ARI- Home CAR LAK

Steer Clear

TBL 2.0475 – Away – Home BUF LAK

PIT 2.8075 – Away PHI CBJ- Home SJS

CAR 2.84 – Away FLA DAL – Home LAK

NYR 2.9025 – Away WSH – Home MIN NJD

BOS 2.95 – Away VGK STL – Home SJS

February 21 to February 27

Best Bets

NJD 4.405 – Away NYR – Home OTT MTL CGY

WSH 4.305 – Away TOR BUF – Home NYR OTT

TOR 4.305 – Away – Home WSH MTL BUF EDM

DAL 4.305 – Away CHI VGK – Home STL CAR

COL 4.1575 – Away CHI NSH – Home FLA VAN

Steer Clear

BOS 2 – Away STL – Home SJS

VGK 2.1 – Away – Home WPG DAL

PIT 2.8075 – Away PHI CBJ – Home SJS

CAR 2.84 – Away FLA DAL – Home LAK

WPG 2.845 – Away VGK ARI – Home MIN

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