Looking Ahead: Week 21 (2015-16)

by Mike Schmidt on February 19, 2016

Analyzing next week's NHL schedule (and why Seth Jones and Jackets are looking so good)…

 

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 them for the next several days)  

 

Cam Atkinson, RW, Carolina (Available in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues) – It feels like Atkinson’s been around forever, and it seems like he has been on the cusp of widespread relevance for just as long. After two straight almost identical campaigns in 2013-14 and 2014-15, this diminutive winger has taken a step forward this season. His ice time is up, his even strength scoring rate is up, and power play time is not a concern… He’s just been better. Fun fact: Atkinson led the Blue Jackets in shots on goal last season with 212, and he finished second on squad in that category in 2013-14 (behind former teammate Ryan Johansen). He’s been firing pucks on net for some time now, and now they are starting to go in with some semblance of regularity. Atkinson may lack for upside a bit, but the 26-year-old is a steady contributor that’s hitting his stride and in the prime of his career. Give him a look in the coming days, especially given his squad’s advantageous schedule.

 

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

 

Seth Jones, D, Columbus (Available in 57 percent of Yahoo leagues) Dobber predicted great things for the 21-year-old blueliner when he was acquired by the Blue Jackets in early January, and Jones has been a fantastic fantasy asset ever since. After scoring ONE point in the entire month of December (for his previous employer, the Nashville Predators), the budding star has registered a whopping 10 in 17 games for Columbus since the trade went down. It’s really no surprise as to why, either. There just wasn’t enough quality ice time to go around in Nashville, what with the likes of Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis on the blueline. The trade to the Blue Jackets instantly led to more (and better) opportunities for Jones. Consider the following:

 

  • Jones averaged 19 minutes, 39 seconds of ice time per game in 40 appearances for Nashville in 2015-16. In Columbus? 24:20.
  • He has yet to see less than 20 minutes of action in 17 games for the Blue Jackets.
  • Jones is showing great chemistry as one half of his team’s No. 1 pairing, which includes another stellar young defenseman in Ryan Murray.

 

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

 

Jaroslav Halak, G, New York Islanders (Available in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Being a goalie in the NHL is a tough gig. It has its “ups” and “downs.” However, Halak has been a pretty solid one for a long time. The 30-year-old netminder sports a career save percentage of .919, and he’s registered a respectable save percentage of .914 in 89 starts with the Islanders since the start of 2014-15. All that being said, this seasoned veteran has been struggling as of late. Halak has allowed three or more goals in four of his last five appearances. To make matters worse, New York has ended up on the losing end of nine of the last 13 games in which he has played. The poor play on his part has opened up the door a bit for fellow Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss (who is 16-6 with a .931 save percentage on the year) to see additional action. No, Greiss isn’t better than Halak. Greiss is playing better than Halak right now, and that’s something poolies need to take into consideration when evaluating lineup decisions as they relate to New York’s goaltending situation.

 

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

 

Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago (Owned in 69 percent of Yahoo leagues) Last week, I explained all of the reasons why the veteran Blackhawks forward is going to let down poolies who expect much from him over the NHL season’s final couple of months. Now Hossa is hurt, and he’s expected to miss a couple of weeks. Don’t drop him, but his outlook for the remainder of the season is looking pretty tenuous. Better have a Plan B (like, say, Cam Atkinson) in case Hossa can’t get back on track.

 

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)

 

Carolina – The action will be there for the Hurricanes. The team will play four times between Friday, Feb. 19 and Thursday, Feb. 25. In addition, three of those games will be at home. When it all is said and done, Carolina will have played six of seven in Raleigh, NC between Friday, Feb. 12 and Tuesday, Feb. 23.

 

Columbus – The Blue Jackets will not have more than two consecutive days off for the remainder of the month. After Monday, Feb. 22, the squad will not have more than one day off between then early March.  

 

Dallas – Nothing portends a good week ahead like playing the Arizona Coyotes once and the Winnipeg Jets (a squad that recently demoted its No. 1 goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck) twice.

 

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

 

New York Islanders – On Friday, Feb. 19, the Islanders will travel to New Jersey for a road matchup against the Devils. That will be the first of seven straight games away from the Big Apple for this team. New York’s next home game after that? It’s March 8 against Pittsburgh. Following the tilt against the Pens, the Islanders will promptly go on the road for five of their next six. Yikes…

 

Chicago – No volume to be found here… Between Thursday, Feb. 18 and Tuesday, March 1, the Blackhawks will play just three times.


Vancouver – In the coming week, the Canucks will have three consecutive nights off. The schedule isn’t imposing, but most squads play more than Vancouver in the coming days. Just something to think about…

 

 

Friday, February 19 to Thursday, February 25

Best Bets

Carolina 4.45 – four games – three at home

Columbus 4.36 – four games – BUF, BOS, DET and NJD

New Jersey 3.85 – four games – NYI, WAS, NYR and CBJ

Arizona 3.85 – four games – STL, WAS, TBL and FLA

Calgary 3.82 – four games – VAN, ANA, LAK and NYI

Steer Clear

Chicago 1.81 – two games – MIN and NSH

Anaheim 2.26 – two games – CGY and BUF

Florida 2.26 – two games – WPG and ARI

Buffalo 2.76 – three games – two on road

New York Islanders 2.80 – three games – all on road

 

Saturday, February 20 to Friday, February 26

Best Bets

Carolina 4.35 – four games – three at home

Tampa Bay 4.16 – four games – PIT, CAR, ARI and NJD

Washington 4.15 – four games – all at home

Boston 4.00 – four games – DAL, CBJ, PIT and CAR

Minnesota 3.90 – four games – CHI, NYI, PHI and WAS

Steer Clear

New York Islanders 1.76 – two games – both on road

Chicago 1.81 – two games – MIN and NSH

Montreal 1.85 – two games – WAS and NSH

Vancouver 2.21 – two games – COL and OTT

Florida 2.26 – two games – WPG and ARI

 

Sunday, February 21 to Saturday, February 27

Best Bets

Carolina 4.35 – four games – three at home

Columbus 4.31 – four games – BOS, DET, NJD and FLA

New York Rangers 4.10 – four games – DET, NJD, STL and DAL

Arizona 3.90 – four games – WAS, TBL, FLA and PHI

Minnesota 3.90 – four games – CHI, NYI, PHI and WAS

Steer Clear

New York Islanders 1.76 – two games – both on road

Chicago 1.81 – two games – MIN and NSH

Vancouver 2.21 – two games – COL and OTT

Florida 2.21 – two games – ARI and CBJ

Edmonton 2.71 – three games – two on road

 

Monday, February 22 to Sunday, February 28

Best Bets

Columbus 4.31 – four games – BOS, DET, NJD and FLA

Carolina 4.30 – four games – three at home

Los Angeles 4.17 – four games – three at home

San Jose 4.15 – four games – STL, COL, BUF and VAN

Minnesota 4.11 – four games – NYI, PHI, WAS and FLA

Steer Clear

Chicago 1.94 – two games – NSH and WAS

Pittsburgh 1.95 – two games – BOS and WPG

Detroit 2.10 – two games – CBJ and COL

Vancouver 2.21 – two games – OTT and SJS

Colorado 2.31 – two games – SJS and DET

 

Tuesday, February 23 to Monday, February 29

Best Bets

Tampa Bay 4.35 – four games – ARI, NJD, BOS and TOR

Carolina 4.30 – four games – three at home

Columbus 4.26 – four games – DET, NJD, FLA and NYR

Los Angeles 4.17 – four games – three at home

Philadelphia 4.15 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Chicago 1.94 – two games – NSH and WAS

Vancouver 2.21 – two games – OTT and SJS

Colorado 2.31 – two games – SJS and DET

Washington 2.59 – three games – MTL, MIN and CHI

Buffalo 2.71 – three games – all on road

 

Wednesday, February 24 to Tuesday, March 1

Best Bets

Minnesota 4.21 – four games – PHI, WAS, FLA and COL

Carolina 4.19 – four games – TOR, BOS, STL and NJD

Calgary 4.10 – four games – NYI, OTT, PHI and BOS

San Jose 4.09 – four games – COL, BUF, VAN and MTL

Dallas 4.05 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Chicago 1.94 – two games – NSH and WAS

Detroit 2.04 – two games – both on road

Washington 2.59 – three games – MTL, MIN and CHI

Toronto 2.86 – three games – CAR, MTL and TBL

New York Islanders 2.95 – three games – all on road

 

Thursday, February 25 to Wednesday, March 2

Best Bets

Minnesota 4.21 – four games – PHI, WAS, FLA and COL

Carolina 4.19 – four games – TOR, BOS, STL and NJD

Calgary 4.10 – four games – BYI, OTT, PHI and BOS

Dallas 4.05 – four games – three at home

Florida 3.92 – four games – ARI, CBJ, MIN and WPG

Steer Clear

Colorado 1.96 – two games – DET and MIN

Pittsburgh 2.26 – two games – WPG and ARI

Anaheim 2.89 – three games – EDM, LAK and MTL

New York Islanders 2.95 – three games – all on road

Ottawa 2.95 – three games – two on road