Looking Ahead: Week 14 (2015-16)

by Mike Schmidt on January 1, 2016

Why Mikael Granlund makes a good pickup and other players with a favourable schedule this 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. Without further ado…

 

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

 

Victor Rask, C, Carolina (Available in 71 percent of Yahoo leagues) – This 2011 second rounder plays the game with a level of maturity that is surprising to see from someone 22 years of age, and he’s managed to work his way into a very prominent role on the Hurricanes in just his second season in the league. Rask is currently on pace to reach the 50-point barrier, and while it’s sort of asking a lot for him to actually get there, he is firmly entrenched as a key member of his squad’s power play at this point. Is he a must-own guy? Probably not. But Rask is a solid short-term add for poolies in need of a center who can take advantage of his squad’s favorable upcoming schedule by putting up respectable numbers.

 

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

 

Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota (Available in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Fantasy owners should always be on the lookout for when a talented young player earns a role that could lead to a jump in his fantasy-relevant numbers. Granlund, a gifted playmaker who has been on the cusp of widespread relevance in fantasy for the better part of two years now, has ascended to a prominent role in the Wild offense this season. He’s seeing almost a minute of time more on the man advantage this year than last, and he’s (still) seeing action on the same line as all-world winger Zach Parise. The numbers have been good and, at times, great. Sure, it’s frustrating that he doesn’t shoot the puck more. That being said, he has eight points in 13 games in December (all of which are assists) and has improved his statistical output with each passing month this season. Go get Granlund while the cost is still low. That could change once the calendar flips from 2015 to 2016.

 

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

 

Jordan Eberle, RW, Edmonton (Owned in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Eberle is coming off consecutive 60-plus point campaigns, but the 25-year-old winger has been anything but useful in fantasy this year (in what should very much be the prime of his already illustrious career). What is happening with this guy? Eberle has registered just 14 points in 25 games played in 2015-16. That’s craziness. He’s converting shots into goals (14 percent) that is almost completely in line with his career average (14.1 percent). He’s seeing only seven seconds less of time on the man-advantage this season than he did a year ago. There are issues elsewhere, though. Consider the following:

 

  • The Oilers are shooting just .065 when Eberle is on the ice, which is a far cry from the .093 the squad has shot while he’s been on the ice during his career.
  • Eberle’s PDO stands at just 94.4, which is incredibly far below 100 (which PDO tends to regress toward over time).
  • His overall ice time has dropped from a career high of 19 minutes, 33 seconds during the 2013-14 campaign to 18:11 this year.

 

Eberle’s down season is due to quite a bit of bad luck and a little bit of lost opportunity. Expect the former to change sooner rather than later, but it’s difficult to expect an increase in ice time or power play time with so many quality top-six forwards on Edmonton’s roster. Feel free to sit him until he improves on his mediocre stat line. Edmonton’s underwhelming schedule coming up offers the perfect opportunity for just that.

 

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

 

Tomas Plekanec, C, Montreal (Owned in 76 percent of Yahoo leagues) – This veteran centerman currently finds himself on the outside looking in at Montreal’s top power-play unit and playing on the same line as middling Habs forwards Sven Andrighetto and Tomas Fleischmann. Perhaps it’s unsurprising then that he has scored just one point over eight games since December 12. Meanwhile, fellow Montreal pivot Alex Galchenyuk has notched five points in as many games since Dec. 21 and looks every bit like the player the Habs wanted to acquire when the used the third overall pick in 2012 NHL Entry Draft on him. There’s a changing of the guard taking place in Montreal, and the 33-year-old Plekanec looks destined for a future as a supporting role in his team’s offensive attack. It’s difficult to expect much from him unless an injury or a trade opens up a role for him again.

 

By taking some time to analyze the upcoming NHL schedule, poolies can gain a significant and measurable edge over their opponents. Now let’s identify some teams that will help or hurt fantasy owners in the coming days.

 

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

 

Minnesota – The Wild play a ton during the first several days of 2016. They will take to the ice a whopping six times between Friday, Jan. 1 and Sunday, Jan. 10. What more do you need to know?

 

Chicago – Aside from playing five times in 10 days to open the New Year, the Blackhawks will be forced to leave the Windy City just once during that time (for a Tuesday, Jan. 5 matchup against host Pittsburgh). All in all, five of this team’s first six games of 2016 will be at home.

 

Carolina Justin Faulk owners (and future Victor Rask owners), rejoice! The Hurricanes play six times in the first 12 days of the year. Take the positive when you can get it with this team. After all, Carolina’s goaltenders are Cam Ward and Eddie Lack.

 

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

 

Montreal – Yes, Montreal rings in 2016 by playing in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. That being said, the Habs play just four times in the subsequent 13 days. No squad has it worse than this one during the first two weeks of that month.

 

New York Rangers – Uhhh… the Rangers have some difficult matchups coming up in January, Games versus the Dallas Stars, the Washington Capitals (with their gifted goalie Braden Holtby), the Boston Bruins (and their gifted goalie Tuukka Rask) and the New York Islanders are on tap. Temper your expectations for fantasy greatness from this team.

 

Edmonton – Between Tuesday, Jan. 5 and Sunday, Jan. 10, the Oilers play just twice. Simply stated, many other NHL squads play more during that same stretch of time.

Friday, January 1 to Thursday, January 7

Best Bets

Minnesota 4.10 – four games – TBL, FLA, CBJ and PHI

Florida 3.93 – four games – NYR, MIN, BUF and OTT

Dallas 3.90 – four games – NJD, NYI, NYR and WPG

Winnipeg 3.75 – four games – SJS, ANA, NSH and DAL

Los Angeles 3.41 – three games – two at home

Steer Clear

Boston 1.79 – two games – MTL and WAS

Columbus 1.84 – two games – WAS and MIN

Tampa Bay 1.84 – two games – MIN and CGY

Nashville 1.95 – two games – CAR and WPG

New York Rangers 2.15 – two games – FLA and DAL

Saturday, January 2 to Friday, January 8

Best Bets

Chicago 4.16 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.10 – four games – TBL, FLA, CBJ and PHI

New Jersey 4.07 – four games – three at home

Carolina 4.04 – four games – NSH, EDM, VAN and CBJ

St. Louis 4.00 – four games – TOR, OTT, COL and ANA

Steer Clear

Boston 1.99 – two games – WAS and NJD

New York Rangers 2.15 – two games – FLA and DAL

San Jose 2.15 – two games – WPG and DET

Montreal 2.20 – two games – PHI and NJD

Vancouver 2.31 – two games – ARI and CAR

Sunday, January 3 to Saturday, January 9

Best Bets

Chicago 4.26 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.15 – four games – FLA, CBJ, PHI and DAL

Carolina 4.00 – four games – EDM, VAN and CBJx2

Ottawa 3.96 – four games – CHI, STL, FLA and BOS

St. Louis 3.76 – four games – OTT, COL, ANA and LAK

Steer Clear

Buffalo 2.01 – two games – FLA and CHI

New York Rangers 2.05 – two games – DAL and WAS

Detroit 2.09 – two games – both on road

Edmonton 2.10 – two games – CAR and TBL

Calgary 2.31 – two games – TBL and ARI

Monday, January 4 to Sunday, January 10

Best Bets

Chicago 4.26  – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.26 – four games – CBJ, PHI, DAL and NJD

Carolina 4.00 – four games – EDM, VAN and CBJx2

Ottawa 3.96 – four games – STL, FLA, BOS and WAS

Washington 3.85 – four games – BOS, NYI, NYR and OTT

Steer Clear

New York Islanders 1.99 – two games – WAS and PHI

New York Rangers 2.05 – two games – DAL and WAS

Calgary 2.31- two games – TBL and ARI

San Jose 2.36 – two games – DET and TOR

Pittsburgh 2.56 – three games – two on road, both against CHI

Tuesday, January 5 to Monday, January 11

Best Bets

Chicago 4.26 – four games – PITx2, BUF and COL

Minnesota 4.26 – four games – CBJ, PHI, DAL and NJD

Florida 4.04 – four games – BUF, OTT, EDM and VAN

Washington 3.85 – four games – BOS, NYI, NYR and OTT

Boston 3.84 – four games – WAS, NJD, OTT and NYI

Steer Clear

Arizona 1.95 – two games – CGY and NSH

New York Islanders 1.99 – two games – WAS and PHI

Edmonton 2.21 – two games – TBL and FLA

Pittsburgh 2.56 – three games – two on road, both against CHI

New Jersey 2.62 – three games – two on road

Wednesday, January 6 to Tuesday, January 12

Best Bets

Minnesota 4.52 – four games – three at home

Chicago 4.36 – four games – all at home

San Jose 4.22 – four games – DET, TOR, CGY and WPG

Carolina 4.00 – four games – VAN, CBJx2 and PIT

Colorado 3.90 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Philadelphia 1.86 – two games – MIN and NYI

Dallas 1.89 – two games – WPG and MIN

New York Rangers 2.00 – two games – WAS and BOS

Montreal 2.15 – two games – NJD and PIT

Calgary 2.42 – two games – ARI and SJS

Thursday, January 7 to Wednesday, January 13

Best Bets

Minnesota 4.52 – four games – three at home

San Jose 4.22 – four games – DET, TOR, CGY and WPG

Columbus 4.04 – four games – CARx2, NYI and TOR

Boston 3.94 – four games – NJD, OTT, NYR and PHI

Florida 3.90 – four games – OTT, EDM, VAN and CGY

Steer Clear

Montreal 1.00 – one game – PIT

Pittsburgh 1.71 – two games – both on road

Dallas 1.89 – two games – WPG and MIN

New York Rangers 2.00 – two games – WAS and BOS

Vancouver 2.21 – two games – TBL and FLA