Looking Ahead: Navigating the Holiday Break

by Adam Daly-Frey on December 21, 2018


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 Wednesday, December 19

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

Cam Ward, G, Chicago Blackhawks (Available in 85 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Nothing about Ward’s stat line this year screams “GRAB HIM” – Ward has a dismal 0.888 SV%, 3.95 GAA and only five wins in 13 starts – but with another concussion to Corey Crawford, it’ll be Ward’s net for the foreseeable future. The interesting thing about the ugly GAA is that Ward has been peppered with pucks (good for leagues that track raw saves) and has only had two “really bad starts” where his save percentage was below 85%.

He’s proven in the past to be a competent starter, and is a fine stop-gap for Crawford owners or fantasy owners in deep leagues where goalies are as scarce as hen’s teeth.

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

Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders (Available in 64 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – The way this section of the article usually gets written is sorting all players on Yahoo! by ownership, and then scrolling down until everyone is below 50%; the reason that’s mentioned is because of the absolute shock when I saw Ryan Pulock only 36% owned. While his 14 points (2G-12A) aren’t jaw-dropping, Pulock’s ownership is half of Aaron Ekblad’s, which is absurd – Pulock is playing 22:54 per game, and is picking up 3.4 combined hits/blocks per game, 2.15 shots per game and getting PP2 time. If you’re in a league where Pulock is available, jump on that now and right this wrong.

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

David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins (Owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – If you picked up Krejci while Patrice Bergeron was injured, job well done, congratulations! Unfortunately, he can be benched for the next little while, as Patrice Bergeron is due back this week and Krejci’s role as first-line centre between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak will come to an end. A total of 14 of Krejci’s 29 points this season have been attached to either Marchand or Pastrnak, and he plays the bulk of his minutes away from those two when Bergeron is in the lineup.

If you can shop him in a 2-for-1 trade, now would be the time to do it, but otherwise he can sit on the bench until Jake DeBrusk gets back or get dropped entirely.

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

Mikhail Sergachev, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (Owned in 56 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Sergachev has been a big disappointment this year as he’s picked up zero goals and twelve assists in 35 games so far, and Thursday night found himself in the press box. There’s no question that Sergachev is an offensive talent and will produce closer to the 9G-31A in 79 games that he put up last year, but behind Victor Hedman and now Ryan McDonagh in both ice time and special teams roles, it may not be for a while yet.

His name still has value and Tampa Bay is a very good team, so he could probably fetch a strong return in keeper leagues or leagues that track plus/minus (although he’s sitting at only +6 on the season.)

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

Colorado – If you’re lucky enough to own one or more of MacKinnon / Rantanen / Landeskog, you’re licking your lips at the Avs’ upcoming games: Colorado plays six times between December 21 and January 2, including Chicago twice, Los Angeles and San Jose (all at home) as well as playing Vegas and Arizona on the road. Colorado continues to be a one-line team, but the depth scoring in Tyson Jost/JT Compher can knock in the odd goal as well.

Arizona – Their scoring has dried up over the past couple games, but Arizona will squeeze in six games in this period, and get to face some woeful defensive opponents in Edmonton, Los Angeles and Anaheim. The ‘Yotes are at home for the game against the Oilers as well as facing Vegas and Colorado at home, and will do the California road trip against the Kings, Ducks and Sharks.

Boston – There are teams with more games in this stretch than the Bruins have, but Boston gets the advantage of playing against Carolina, Buffalo and Chicago – all on the road – as well as home games against Nashville and New Jersey. Boston should be back to almost full strength, with the return of Patrice Bergeron imminent and Zdeno Chara not too far behind.

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

Minnesota – The Wild will be without the services of Matt Dumba for a while, and have a tough schedule ahead with only four games going to January 2. Minnesota’s had a lot of trouble scoring of late: in their last ten games, the Wild scored three or less eight times, but exploded for games of seven goals and five goals, which makes their overall rank of 17th feel a bit fraudulent. The Wild will split two road games (Chicago, Winnipeg) and two home games (Dallas, Pittsburgh.)

NY Islanders – A major surprise defensively – the Islanders rank fourth in goals against on the season – but a major disappointment offensively, don’t look for much out of the Islanders over the holidays; while a home game against Ottawa is always good for offensive production, road games against Dallas, Toronto, and Buffalo aren’t as appealing.

Montreal – Montreal’s schedule is as bleak as the Wild and Islanders, but even worse for the Habs is that all four games come on the road. The Habs get to spend New Year’s Eve in Dallas, and also face Vegas, Florida and Tampa – with the game against the Lightning the second half of a back-to-back.

(Editor’s note: No games are scheduled between Monday, December 24, and Wednesday, December 26)

December 21 to December 27

Best Bets

WSH 3.46 – Away OTT – Home BUF CAR

BOS 3.1875 – Away CAR – Home NSH NJD

VGK 3.15 – Away – Home MTL LAK COL

COL 3.055 – Away ARI VGK- Home CHI

NJD 2.9975 – Away BOS- Home OTT CBJ

Steer Clear

MTL 0.95 – Away VGK – Home

NYI 0.9975 – Away DAL – Home

OTT 1.9425 – Away NJD – Home WSH

VAN 1.9475 – Away EDM- Home WPG

CGY 1.9525 – Away WPG- Home STL

December 22 to December 28

Best Bets

CBJ 4.0425 – Away PHI NJD NYR – Home TOR

FLA 3.2925 – Away DET CHI – Home MTL

BOS 3.1875 – Away CAR – Home NSH NJD

TOR 3.17 – Away CBJ- Home NYR DET

VGK 3.15 – Away – Home MTL LAK COL

Steer Clear

NJD 1.8425 – Away BOS – Home CBJ

COL 1.9 – Away ARI VGK – Home

MTL 1.9 – Away VGK FLA- Home

OTT 1.9425 – Away NYI- Home WSH

BUF 1.9475 – Away STL – Home ANH

December 23 to December 29

Best Bets

BOS 3.2875 – Away CAR BUF- Home NJD

FLA 3.25 – Away CHI – Home MTL PHI

DAL 3.165 – Away NSH – Home NYI DET

TOR 3.1175 – Away CBJ – Home DET NYI

NYI 3.1025 – Away DAL TOR- Home OTT

Steer Clear

MTL 1.805 – Away FLA TBL- Home

VAN 1.9 – Away EDM CGY- Home

OTT 1.9425 – Away NYI – Home WSH

MIN 1.9475 – Away CHI WPG- Home

WPG 1.995 – Away – Home CGY MIN

December 24 to December 30

Best Bets

VGK 2.86 – Away LAK ARI- Home COL

ARI 2.76 – Away LAK ANH – Home VGK

WSH 2.305 – Away OTT – Home CAR

NSH 2.2575 – Away – Home DAL NYR

EDM 2.2575 – Away – Home VAN SJS

Steer Clear

PHI 1.805 – Away TBL FLA – Home

NYR 1.7475 – Away NSH – Home CBJ

CAR 1.8525 – Away WSH NJD – Home

MTL 1.805 – Away FLA TBL – Home

DET 1.8525 – Away PIT DAL – Home

December 25 to December 31

Best Bets

NJD 3.4175 – Away BOS – Home CAR VAN

STL 3.255 – Away – Home BUF PIT NYR

EDM 3.255 – Away – Home VAN SJS WPG

FLA 3.2975 – Away DET- Home MTL PHI

WSH 3.25 – Away OTT – Home CAR NSH

Steer Clear

TOR 1.91 – Away CBJ – Home NYI

CHI 1.9425 – Away COL – Home MIN

BOS 2.1475 – Away BUF – Home NJD

NYR 2.6975 – Away NSH STL- Home CBJ

OTT 2.75 – Away NYI CBJ- Home WSH

December 26 to January 1

Best Bets

NSH 4.1625 – Away WSH – Home DAL NYR PHI

LAK 4.0475 – Away COL VGK- Home ARI VGK

PHI 3.8 – Away TBL FLA CAR NSH- Home

VGK 3.7525 – Away LAK ARI – Home COL LAK

NJD 3.4175 – Away BOS – Home CAR VAN

Steer Clear

TOR 1.91 – Away CBJ – Home NYI

NYR 2.6975 – Away NSH STL – Home CBJ

OTT 2.75 – Away NYI CBJ – Home WSH

ARI 2.76 – Away LAK ANH – Home VGK

MTL 2.8025 – Away FLA TBL DAL – Home

December 27 to January 2

Best Bets

NJD 4.415 – Away BOS DAL- Home CAR VAN

DAL 4.32 – Away NSH – Home DET MTL NJD

CGY 4.2525 – Away WPG DET- Home VAN SJS

EDM 4.205 – Away ARI- Home VAN SJS WPG

NSH 4.1625 – Away WSH – Home DAL NYR PHI

Steer Clear

TOR 1.91 – Away CBJ – Home NYI

MTL 2.8025 – Away FLA TBL DAL – Home

MIN 2.8925 – Away CHI WPG – Home PIT

CAR 2.9025 – Away WSH NJD – Home PHI

ANH 2.945 – Away SJS – Home ARI TBL