Looking Ahead: Week 17 (2015-16)

by Mike Schmidt on January 22, 2016

Looking Ahead: Ryan Spooner and the Bruins have an excellent upcoming schedule.

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)

 

Ryan Spooner, C/LW, Boston (Available in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues) – This 23-year-old Bruins forward entered the 2015-16 season with 29 career points as an NHL player. He has exceeded that total by registering 33 in 45 games played this year, thus making him a pretty useful player for fantasy purposes in the first half of the current campaign. Spooner’s uptick in production is partially due to the upper-body injury sustained by teammate and fellow Boston forward David Krejci (who missed almost a month). It remains to be seen if he can keep up his solid pace of production (especially since Krejci returned to the lineup Thursday), but Spooner is a worthwhile short-term add due to his steady production and his squad’s advantageous upcoming schedule.

 

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

 

Marcus Johansson, C/LW/RW, Washington (Available in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues) – A solid NHL forward, MJ90 is enjoying the spoils that come along with playing a prominent role on a team that is wildly effective at scoring goals. Johansson has long been an unexceptional (but decent) player who puts up 40-ish points annually, but his production has been on the rise this year, and it’s largely due to seeing action on a top power-play unit that includes some guys named Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie. It’s also because he’s been taking more shots on goal. After averaging a little more than one shot per game for much of his career, he’s taking almost two per contest in 2015-16. Pick him up. Plug him into the lineup. Watch him rack up the points. It’s as simple as that.

 

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

 

David Backes, C/RW, St. Louis (Owned in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Backes has been a tremendous two-way forward and valuable fantasy asset (especially in multi-category leagues that count hits and PIM) for what seems like forever. However, he’s not putting up the scoring numbers he, and it’s hardly a given (barring an unforeseen hot streak) that he’ll break 50 this season. Once a great all-around forward capable of scoring enough points to be valuable in fantasy, Backes is now a respectable all-around forward capable of scoring at a rate that poolies normally expect from an elite defenseman. That’s not a compliment. While it’s possible he picks up the pace at some point, Backes isn’t a must-start option right now (especially because his squad sees such little action in the coming days). Just make sure to keep an eye out for a turnaround for the better from him. He’s still got a ton of ability, and his supporting cast is pretty fantastic.

 

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

 

Niklas Kronwall, D, Detroit (Owned in 56 percent of Yahoo leagues) – What has happened to Kronwall? After three straight banner campaigns, this veteran defenseman has been pretty unspectacular in 2015-16 (despite seeing more time on the man advantage than any other Red Wings player up until this time in the year). Consider the following:

 

  • His points-per-game average is on pace to drop for the third consecutive season. At this point, he’ll be lucky to break the 35-point barrier given the decline.
  • His ice time per game is on pace to drop for the fourth straight year, and it’s down about a minute and a half from his career high of 24 minutes, 19 seconds that he registered in 2013-14.
  • His shots-per-game average is on pace to be the lowest of his career. It would be a major surprise if he hit 100 shots on the year, which is something he has done in every full season he’s played in the NHL.

 

To make matters worse, Kronwall is out for 2-4 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Fantasy owners need to look elsewhere for help on the blueline for the immediate future, and it’s reasonable to question Kronwall’s fantasy value moving forward this season.

 

By taking some time to analyze the upcoming NHL schedule (and how the upcoming NHL All-Star Game factors into it), 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)

 

Los Angeles – Unlike many teams, the Kings actually play more than one or two games in the final days of January. Also, the matchups (at Arizona, at San Jose and versus Colorado) aren’t very imposing.

 

Boston Tuukka Rask and Co. play three games to close out the month. Two of them are at home. ‘Nough said.

 

Washington – So this team is playing pretty well right now. The Caps appear to be running away with the Metropolitan Division, and they are the lone squad in the league with fewer than 10 losses on the season. Oh… They end the month of January with three straight at home. Continue to roll with any and all fantasy-relevant Washington players (just in case any poolie in the world isn’t doing so),

 

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

 

Edmonton – The Oilers will play host to the Nashville Predators on Saturday, Jan. 23. After that game, they won’t hit the ice again until Tuesday, Feb. 2.

 

St. Louis – The Blues will be on the road for a pair of road tilts on Friday, Jan. 22 (at Colorado) and Sunday, Jan. 24 (at Chicago). After that? St. Louis doesn’t see action again until Tuesday, Feb. 2.

 

Detroit – Sure, the Red Wings play three games in four days between Friday, Jan. 22 and Monday, Jan. 25. But two of those contests are on the road for the team, and then the squad doesn’t play again until Wednesday, Feb 3.

Friday, January 22 to Thursday, January 28

Best Bets

Colorado 3.90 – four games – STL, DAL, SJS and LAK

Los Angeles 3.34 – three games – ARI, SJS and COL

New York Islanders 3.26 – three games – two at home

Ottawa 3.26 – three games – all at home

Florida 3.20 – three games – all at home

Steer Clear

Edmonton 1.00 – one game – NSH

New Jersey 1.81 – two games – both on road

St. Louis 1.90 – two games – both on road

Vancouver 1.90 – two games – PIT and NSH

Dallas 2.21 – two games – COL and CGY

Saturday, January 23 to Friday, January 29

Best Bets

Los Angeles 3.34 – three games – ARI, SJS and COL

Pittsburgh 3.11 – three games – two at home

Montreal 3.09 – three games – TOR and CBJx2

San Jose 2.99 – three games – all at home

Boston 2.99 – three games – two at home

Steer Clear

St. Louis 0.86 – one game – CHI on road

Edmonton 1.00 – one game – NSH

New Jersey 1.81 – two games – both on road

Detroit 1.84 – two games – ANA and NYI

Buffalo 1.85 – two games – both on road

Sunday, January 24 to Saturday, January 30

Best Bets

Calgary 2.95 – three games – CAR, DAL and NSH

Ottawa 2.21 – two games – both at home

Los Angeles 2.20 – two games – SJS and COL

New York Rangers 2.16 – two games – OTT and BUF

Washington 2.15 – two games – both at home

Steer Clear

Edmonton 0.00 – zero games – N/A

St. Louis 0.86 – one game – CHI on road

New Jersey 0.90 – one game – PIT on road

Anaheim 0.95 – one game – BOS on road

Detroit 0.95 – one game – NYI on road

Monday, January 25 to Sunday, January 31

Best Bets

Montreal 2.00  – two games – CBJx2

Toronto 2.00 – two games – FLA and TBL

Calgary 2.00 – two games – DAL and NSH

Nashville 1.95 – two games – VAN and CGY

Boston 1.94 – two games – PHI and ANA

Steer Clear

Edmonton 0.00 – zero games – N/A

St. Louis 0.00 – zero games – N/A

New Jersey 0.90 – one game – PIT on road

Carolina 0.95 – one game – CHI

Anaheim 0.95 – one game – BOS on road

Tuesday, January 26 to Monday, February 1

Best Bets

Toronto 2.00 – two games – FLA and TBL

Nashville 1.95 – two games – VAN and CGY

Colorado 1.90 – two games – SJS and LAK

Winnipeg 1.26 – one game – ARI

Tampa Bay 1.21 – one game – TOR

Steer Clear

Dallas 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Detroit 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Edmonton 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Minnesota 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Colorado 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Wednesday, January 27 to Tuesday, February 2

Best Bets

Washington 2.31 – two games – both at home

Los Angeles 2.30 – two games – COL and ARI

Nashville 1.95 – two games – CGY and STL

Toronto 1.90 – two games – TBL and BOS

Colorado 1.80 – two games -LAK and CHI

Steer Clear

Buffalo 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Carolina 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Detroit 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Vancouver 0.00 – zero games – N/A

San Jose 0.81 – one game – ANA on road

Thursday, January 28 to Wednesday, February 3

Best Bets

Montreal 2.25 – two games – PHI and BUF

Boston 1.21 – one game – TOR at home

Washington 1.16 – one game – FLA at home

Tampa Bay 1.16 – one game – DET at home

Anaheim 1.16 – one game – SJS at home

Steer Clear

Vancouver 0.00 – zero games – N/A

Buffalo 0.76 – one game – MTL on road

San Jose 0.81 – one game – ANA on road

Philadelphia 0.84 – one game – MTL

Florida 0.86 – one game – WAS on road