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.
Stats updated through Thursday, December 27th
The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)
Brandon Pirri, W, Vegas Golden Knights (Available in 98 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The perennial Cy Young winner – when he’s in the NHL, at least – is back in the league and taking Max Pacioretty’s place on Vegas’ second line alongside Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch/Reilly Smith, and is an excellent stopgap pickup you can expect strong production from while he’s in the lineup. In his three games since coming up to the Knights, Pirri’s put up 3G-1A while firing nine shots on goal and averaging 15:03 with second-unit power play time; his scoring is no mirage either, as Pirri has put up 17G-24A in just 28 games in the AHL, and has performed well when put in the right spots previously in his career.
The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)
Andrei Svechnikov, W, Carolina Hurricanes (Available in 61 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The rookie that’s making a push for Elias Pettersson (or Brady Tkachuk)’s Calder Trophy has finally pushed his way up from the third line and has put up three points (2G-1A) in his last five games. His average ice time per game is starting to climb up from the 14:58/game overall, as Svech has bested that number in all but one of his last ten games. He continues to play on the first power play unit as he has for most of the year, but seeing ice alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen can only help his fantasy production and he should be closer to 80% owned.
The Odd Man Out (His short-term value is cause for concern)
Ivan Provorov, D, Philadelphia Flyers (Owned in 54 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Although the Flyers have a great upcoming schedule – see below – Provorov has been a major disappointment in his third season. He’s playing 24:42 a night on average but has only put up 3G-8A, and has zero power play points playing on the second unit of the Flyers. As Dobber has pointed out numerous times, there has to be an underlying reason – possible injury, perhaps? – for his poor start, but either way he can be sat for the time being until you see some progress. Don’t give up on him and move him for pennies on the dollar (especially with the good schedule,) but don’t expect much with him on your roster.
The Anchors (They’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)
Wayne Simmonds, W, Philadelphia Flyers (Owned in 68 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Another disappointing Flyer, Simmonds is on track for his worst season since joining the Flyers in 2011, as he’s picked up just 11G-5A in 35 games so far. He’s playing almost two full minutes fewer per game than in recent seasons as a second/third-line tweener, and is mostly playing on the second power play unit thanks to a combination of the addition of James vanRiemsdyk and increased usage of Travis Konecny. Simmonds is still shooting his career average – 13.4% this year and 13.3% over his career – and still attempting 2.3 shots per game so he’ll end up around the 25-goal mark yet again, but his lack of assists are the killer. He’s still a strong multi-cat performer, but he’ll be in tough to crack 40 points this season given his role in Philly.
Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)
Florida – The Panthers get six games during this period, with their toughest matchup coming on the road against the Penguins (who are strong offensively and average defensively.) Beyond the game against Pittsburgh, Florida gets to play Montreal (without Carey Price), Philadelphia and Columbus at home, and Detroit and Buffalo on the road. Feel free to roll out any Cats into the New Year.
Philadelphia – With seven games between Dec. 28th and Jan. 9th, the Flyer have by far the best schedule, and their new lines should allow spread out scoring a bit while having a (potentially) dangerous power play. Philadelphia heads into the New Year on the road against Florida, Carolina and Nashville, and then head back home for games against Carolina (again), Calgary and St. Louis – finishing off back on the road against Washington. While there are easier opponents out there, now’s the time to take advantage of a good schedule and either shop your Flyers or roll them out with impunity.
Calgary – The Flames also get seven games, but with four of those seven coming on the road, their schedule is marginally tougher than Philadelphia’s. The Flames get to face Vancouver, San Jose and Colorado at home, but have to travel east to face Detroit, Boston (second half of a b2b), Philadelphia and Chicago; the volume of games combined with some weaker opponents in Chicago and Philly makes the Flames extremely fantasy-relevant.
Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)
Winnipeg – The Jets play five times through December 28th and January 9th, against some tough opponents: Minnesota and Colorado (both at home) as well as on the road in Pittsburgh, in addition to easier games against Edmonton (road) and Dallas (home.) The lack of games makes them a disappointment into the New Year.
Vancouver – Although the bye weeks don’t start until late January, the Canucks have a scheduling oddity where they play five straight on the road between Dec. 28th and Jan. 5th, and then get five days off before their next game. With their inconsistent scoring, backing Canucks players in their road games against Calgary, New Jersey, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto will be a tough ask.
Anaheim – Currently ranked 28th in Goals For, the Ducks have had a hard time filling the net this year, and with only five games during this period they’ll be hard-pressed to put more up. All five games come at home, but against Arizona, Tampa Bay and Vegas, don’t expect any fantasy gold; the remaining two games should see some goals – they play Ottawa and Edmonton – but not enough to offset the short schedule and tough defensive matchups.
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