Looking Ahead: Matthew Tkachuk Hitting His Stride

by Mike Schmidt on December 30, 2016

Tkachuk and the Flames have a great upcoming schedule, and other thoughts for the coming week.

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 team’s upcoming schedule. Without further ado…

 

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

 

Andrej Sekera, D, Edmonton (Available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues) – At various times during the past few NHL seasons, Sekera has been a solid, competent fantasy blueliner. This year, particularly as of late, he’s been quite productive as a member of the Oilers defense corps. Edmonton coach Todd McLellan has leaned on Sekara to play significant minutes on the power play, and the veteran defenseman has responded by tallying seven points in his last 11 games. While he’s never been known as a big-time scorer, Sekera does have a 44-point season on his resume, and he’s seeing more time on the man advantage than he has since that banner 2013-14 career campaign with the Carolina Hurricanes. Simply stated, Sekera is just interesting and productive enough to use in a pinch in the vast majority of leagues. And while his long-term fantasy value is not as bright, that doesn’t mean he can’t be of service in the short term. Give him a look.

 

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

 

Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Calgary (Available in 64 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Don’t look now, but Tkachuk has started to hit his stride in his inaugural season in the NHL. The sixth overall selection in this past year’s NHL Entry Draft, Tkachuk is blessed with the sort of skills and physicality every team is looking for in a top-line winger — and his production as of late shows it. With seven points in his last seven games, he’s starting to look like an intriguing high upside option in season-long leagues. At this point, only a lack of consistent opportunity stands in the way of his widespread fantasy relevance. Tkachuk is averaging just a little more than 14 minutes of ice time per game and a little less than two minutes of time on the man advantage per contest on the year. However, because he’s proven to be quite productive in recent days, poolies should hope first-year Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan will lean on him more in the season’s second half. Tkachuk is worth a speculative add in all but the most shallow of fantasy formats. The talent is there. He’s starting to put it all together. Now all the rookie forward needs is a chance to shine.

 

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

 

Marc Andre-Fleury, G, Pittsburgh (Owned in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues) – The first overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Penguins, Fleury spent the better part of a decade as the organization’s franchise netminder. Consider the following stat: He has made 60 or more appearances between the pipes in seven of his 12-plus seasons in the league, and at least 50 on two other occasions. His slightly underwhelming .912 career save percentage aside, Fleury has been a solid workhorse of a fantasy netminder for a long, long time. However, the presence of another viable No. 1 goaltender in Matt Murray on Pittsburgh’s roster has diminished Fleury’s fantasy value significantly. To make matters worse, Fleury’s play has been decidedly below average this year (.908 save percentage and 3.13 goals allowed average). While a recent lower-body injury to Murray will lead to more starts for Fleury over the course of the early part of January, Pittsburgh’s upcoming schedule leaves quite a bit to be desired. Temper expectations for what this veteran netminder can bring to the table in the short term. 

 

The Anchor (He’ll do nothing but disappoint, even over the long haul)

 

Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado (Owned in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues) –  A two-way winger blessed with a wide range of skills, Landeskog has been a very good player ever since he broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old in 2011-12. He established career highs in goals (26), assists (39) and points (65) two years later in 2013-14, but his overall production, per-game production and shots on goal have been on the decline ever since. Take a look:

 

 

Season

Points

Goals

Assists

Points Per Game

Goals Per Game

Assists Per Game

Shots On Goal

2013-14

65

26

39

0.8

0.32

0.48

222

2014-15

59

23

36

0.72

0.28

0.44

214

2015-16

53

20

33

0.71

0.27

0.44

169

 

This season? Landeskog’s numbers are on the decline again. Through 24 games played, he has taken just 47 shots on goal, and he’s averaging 0.25 goals, 0.21 assists and 0.46 points per game. He’s totaled just six goals and five helpers while also missing some time due to a nagging lower-body injury. On the plus side, his PDO is on the low side (95.2), suggesting he’s more than due for some positive regression in the season’s second half. However, fantasy owners can’t exactly plan for an imminent uptick in performance, especially since Colorado has been quite underwhelming offensively in 2016-17. It’s reasonable to suggest looking for an alternative option for scoring on the wing. At this point, Landeskog is better off as bench depth at the position on the vast majority of fantasy rosters.

 

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

 

Vancouver – The Canucks boast quite the advantageous schedule over the course of the next week or so. Vancouver plays SIX times between Friday, Dec. 30 and Saturday, Jan. 7. Give any and all fantasy-relevant Canucks a look and make sure to deploy anyone with the last name “Sedin” during the inaugural week of 2017.

 

Washington – The Caps open the new year with three straight games at home, and six of the squad’s first eight contests of the year will take place in the D.C. area. It’s difficult for poolies to argue with that sort of schedule.

 

Calgary – The Johnny Gaudreau-led Flames play four times between Saturday, Dec. 31 and Saturday, Jan. 7. Three of the games will be at home. One home game will see the hapless Arizona Coyotes come to town. Another home game will be against the struggling Colorado Avalanche. The third home game? Against the underwhelming Vancouver Canucks, who also host Calgary during the same week. Fantasy owners get the idea…

 

Edmonton – Starting Tuesday, Jan. 3, McDavid and Co. play at least every other day through Saturday, Jan. 21. The volume will be there for the Oilers during the initial weeks of January.

 

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

 

Pittsburgh – The Pens will close out 2016 against Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, Dec, 31. After said game, Pittsburgh will not play again until Sunday, Jan. 8. There’s not much else to say…

 

Ottawa – The Senators will ring in 2017 with a road matchup on Sunday, Jan. 1 against the always-tough Washington Capitals. Ottawa will then follow up the game with a whopping five consecutive days off.

 

Colorado – First and foremost, the Avs are not good. Not at all. Second, they open 2017 with two of three games on the road. Then, starting Saturday, Jan. 7, the team has four consecutive days off. Keep that in mind when looking at whether or not to activate Colorado players in the first couple of weeks of the month.

 

New York Rangers – This team will take to the ice just three times in the first 12 days of January, and two of those three games will take place away from Madison Square Garden. Not a ton of volume, and one home game for approximately two weeks to start 2017? No bueno.

 

Friday, December 30 Thursday, January 6

Best Bets

Washington 4.42 – four games – three at home

Vancouver 4.31 – four games – three at home

Carolina 3.75 – four games – CHI, TBL, NJD and STL

San Jose 3.60 – four games – three at home

Edmonton 3.30 – three games – VAN, CBJ and BOS

Steer Clear

Ottawa 0.76 – one game – WAS on road

Pittsburgh 0.89 – one game – MTL

New York Islanders 1.05 – one game – WPG on road

Toronto 1.81 – two games – DET and WAS

Dallas 1.84 – two games – FLA and MTL

Saturday, December 31 to Friday, January 6

Best Bets

Vancouver 4.57 – four games – three at home

Washington 4.42 – four games – three at home

Colorado 4.29 – four games – NYR, VAN, CGY and NYI

New Jersey 4.14 – four games – three at home

Carolina 3.66 – four games – TBL, NJD, STL and CHI

Steer Clear

Ottawa 0.76 – one game – WAS on road

Pittsburgh 0.89 – one game – MTL

Dallas 1.84 – two games – FLA and MTL

Philadelphia 1.86 – two games – ANA and NYI

Minnesota 2.06 – two games – CBJ and SJS

Sunday, January 1 to Saturday, January 7

Best Bets

Vancouver 4.62 – four games – three at home

Washington 4.61 – four games – three at home

New Jersey 4.41 – four games – three at home

Toronto 3.61 – four games – DET, WAS, NJD and MTL

Calgary 3.56 – three games – two at home

Steer Clear

Pittsburgh 0.00 – zero games

Ottawa 1.60 – two games – WASx2

Minnesota 1.66 – two games – both on road

Dallas 1.75 – two games – MTL and STL

New York Islanders 2.19 – two games – both on road

Monday, January 2 to Sunday, January 8

Best Bets

Vancouver 4.62 – four games – three at home

New Jersey 4.41 – four games – three at home

Chicago 4.11 – four games – three at home

Edmonton 4.04 – four games – CBJ, BOS, NJD and OTT

Columbus 4.02 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Ottawa 1.94 – two games – WAS and EDM

Pittsburgh 1.05 – one game – TBL

New York Islanders 2.19 – two games – both on road

Dallas 1.75 – two games – MTL and STL

Detroit 2.47 – three games – all on road

Tuesday, January 3 to Monday, January 9

Best Bets

Calgary 4.60 – four games – COL, VANx2 and WPG

Washington 4.21 – four games – TOR, CBJ, OTT and MTL

Florida 4.11 – four games – three at home

New Jersey 4.25 – four games – three at home

Edmonton 4.04 – four games – CBJ, BOS, NJD and OTT

Steer Clear

Pittsburgh 1.05 – one game – TBL

Ottawa 1.94 – two games – WAS and EDM

Colorado 2.10 – two games – CGY and NYI

New York Islanders 2.19 – two games – COL and ARI

St. Louis 2.31 – two games – CAR and DAL

Wednesday, January 4 to Tuesday, January 10

Best Bets

Calgary 4.60 – four games – COL, VANx2 and WPG

Anaheim 4.36 – four games – all at home

Vancouver 4.32 – four games – ARI, CGYx2 and NSH

Chicago 4.31 – four games – all at home

Philadelphia 4.19 – four games – NYR, TBL, CBJ and BUF

Steer Clear

Pittsburgh 1.05 – one game – TBL

Toronto 1.80 – two games – NJD and MTL

Ottawa 1.94 – two games – WAS and EDM

New York Rangers 2.04 – two games – both on road

Colorado 2.10 – two games – CGY and NYI

Thursday, January 5 to Wednesday, January 11

Best Bets

Calgary 4.44 – four games – VANx2, WPG and SJS

Chicago 4.31 – four games – all at home

Edmonton 3.99 – four games – BOS, NJD, OTT and SJS

San Jose 3.99 – four games – MIN, DET, EDM and CGY

Carolina 3.97 – four games – STL, CHI, BOS and CBJ

Steer Clear

New York Rangers 1.05 – one game – CBJ on road

Colorado 1.05 – one game – NYI

Toronto 1.80 – two games – NJD and MTL

Pittsburgh 1.81 – two games – TBL and WAS

Arizona 1.86 – two games – ANA and NYI