Looking Ahead: Week Two (2016-17)

by Mike Schmidt on October 14, 2016

Looking ahead at the Rangers favourable schedule and other teams to focus on for your fantasy hockey squad.

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)

 

Derek Stepan, C, New York Rangers (Available in 59 percent of Yahoo leagues) – It seems as if the 26-year-old Rangers centerman has been around forever. I guess it makes sense, given that Stepan broke into the NHL at the outset of the 2010-11 campaign at the tender age of 20. Two years later, he broke out in a big way. Stepan registered a whopping 44 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, bolstered by a career-best .167 shooting percentage and an incredibly fortunate PDO of 103.6. It eventually became clear to the fantasy community that, while Stepan is a good player, he’s most certainly not a point-per-game player. The longtime Rangers forward is, however, someone who is firmly entrenched in his squad’s top six and will be relied on to play a significant role on his team’s power play. In fact, only one Rangers centerman averaged more time on a per-game average than Stepan did last year, and he’s no longer on the team. Considering his track record of production, his projected role with his team, as well as the fact that he’s in the prime of his career, Stepan looks like an attractive plug-and-play option when needed in shallow leagues. In deeper formats, he should be a fixture in lineups. Fifty points is pretty much a lock over a full season for Stepan.

 

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

 

Mika Zibanejad, C/RW, New York Rangers (Available in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues) – From one Rangers forward to another… Zibanejad is an intriguing young talent who became an ultra-desirable late-round fantasy option after being traded by Ottawa to the New York Rangers this past July. At just 23 years of age, he already has one 50-point campaign on his resume and has managed to increase his point total in each year he’s been in the league since debuting in 2011-12. Now he’s on the Rangers, he’ll be one of his squad’s top two centerman and he’s reaching the age where he should (at least theoretically) start putting up the best numbers of his career. He only just started seeing a decent amount of ice time, as last season was the first year in which he exceeded 17 minutes per game and only the second season in which he averaged more than two minutes of ice time on the man advantage per contest. Simply stated, Zibanejad just keeps getting better and continues to be afforded greater opportunities to produce. Being employed by the Rangers instead of the Senators should only help him this year, and 60 points is very much in play. Pick him up or trade for him. Whatever it takes, acquire him.

 

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

 

Robin Lehner, G, Buffalo (Owned in 67 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Here’s what’s known:

  • The 25-year-old netminder is the No. 1 option in goal for the Sabres right now.
  • Lehner has registered a respectable .914 save percentage in 86 games played and 76 starts heading into the 2016-17 campaign.
  • The one-time Senators goalie has never made more than 30 starts in any season, despite making his debut way back in 2010-11.

 

So what should fantasy owners make of Lehner? Well, the opportunities will be there in the short term, but Lehner has yet to prove himself as a workhorse between the pipes. Also, he plays for a middling Buffalo squad that will spend much of this campaign struggling to compete on a consistent basis. In addition, as noted below, Buffalo’s schedule will do Lehner no favors in the season’s opening weeks. He’s fine to utilize if needed, but the chances are of him being a reliable fantasy contributor early on are not great.

 

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

 

Hampus Lindholm, D, Anaheim (Owned in 64 percent of Yahoo leagues) – His inclusion in this portion of the article is not an indictment of Lindholm’s ability to man the blueline in the NHL. In fact, he’s already a very, very good player. The 23-year-old Ducks d-man just isn’t  very useful for fantasy purposes, and it’s mostly due to how he’s employed on the ice. No Anaheim blueliner saw more shorthanded ice time than Lindholm did a season ago, and a whopping 64 NHL defensemen saw more action on the man advantage per game than he did (including such luminaries as Vancouver’s Ben Hutton and Buffalo’s Cody Franson). Lindholm is a shutdown defenseman in the truest sense of those words, and it’s difficult to imagine his role will change significantly in 2016-17. He’s only been in the league for three seasons, but in all three he’s managed to see action in around 80 games and has registered around 30 points. That’s not anything to scoff at, but it’s not really what fantasy owners are looking for from a defenseman. Lindholm is fine to own, but don’t expect much more than what he has already provided during his time in the league. Oh, and he’s still a restricted free agent that hasn’t signed a new contract with the Ducks.

 

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 hurt fantasy owners in the coming week or so.

 

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

 

New York Rangers – This has been covered in past articles, but this is a team that opens with eight of its first 11 at home.  Expect a fast start from the aforementioned Stepan and Zibanejad.

 

Detroit – Who needs Pavel Datsyuk when the NHL schedule affords your team three of four at home between Monday, Oct.17 and Saturday, Oct. 22? Play any and all Red Wings in the short term.

 

Vancouver – It’s difficult to argue against the fact that Vancouver opens the year with five of its first seven games at home. No, the matchups aren’t great. But the volume and home-ice advantage sure help.

 

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

 

Anaheim – Uhh… Five straight on the road to open the season? Even for a playoff contender like the Ducks, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

 

Columbus – The Blue Jackets will host visiting San Jose on Saturday Oct. 15. Then, Seth Jones and Co. will not hit the ice again until Friday, Oct. 21. Look elsewhere for help right now.

 

Buffalo Jack Eichel is hurt. The Sabres don’t play much in the season’s first few days. It’s not looking good for this team right now.

 

Friday, October 14 to Thursday, October 20

Best Bets

Calgary 4.55 – four games – three at home

Vancouver 4.41 – four games – all at home

Edmonton 4.30 – four games – three at home

Pittsburgh 3.85 – four games – three at home

San Jose 3.75 – four games – CBJ, NYR, NYI and PIT

Steer Clear

Columbus 1.00 – one game – SJS

New York Islanders 2.65 – three games – WAS, ANA and SJS

Dallas 2.74 – three games – two on road

Florida 2.84 – three games – DET, TBL and WAS

New Jersey 2.84 – three games – two on road

Saturday, October 15 to Friday, October 21

Best Bets

Vancouver 4.41 – four games – all at home

Detroit 3.96 – four games -FLA, OTT, NYR and NSH

Arizona 3.95 – four games – PHI, OTT, MTL and NYI

New York Islanders 3.91- four games – three at home

Pittsburgh 3.85 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Los Angeles 1.85 – two games – both on road

Columbus 1.94 – two games – SJS and CHI

Dallas 2.74 – three games – two on road

Florida 2.84 – three games – two on road

New Jersey 2.84 – three games – two on the road

Sunday, October 16 to Saturday, October 22

Best Bets

Carolina 4.18 – four games – VAN, EDM, CGY and PHI

Detroit 4.10 – four games – three at home

Vancouver 4.02 – four games – three at home

Pittsburgh 3.82 – four games – COL, MTL, SJS and NSH

San Jose 3.66 – four games – NYR, NYI, PIT and DET

Steer Clear

Columbus 1.99 – two games – CHI and DAL

Toronto 2.71 – three games – all on road

Toronto 2.71 – three games – all on road

New Jersey 2.78 – three games – ANA, BOS and MIN

New York Rangers 2.81 – three games – SJS, DET and WAS

Monday, October 17 to Sunday, October 23

Best Bets

Detroit 4.10 – four games – three at home

New York Rangers 4.07 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 3.85 – four games – LAK, TOR, NJD and NYI

Pittsburgh 3.82 – four games – COL, MTL, SJS and NSH

Arizona 3.80 – four games – OTT, MTL, NYI and NYR

Steer Clear

Toronto 2.71 – three games – all on road

Columbus – 1.99 – two games – CHI and DAL

New Jersey 2.78 – three games – ANA, BOS and MIN

Buffalo 2.19 – two games – CGY and VAN

Dallas 2.85 – three games – NSH, LAK and CBJ

Tuesday, October 18 to Monday, October 24

Best Bets

Chicago 4.46 – four games – three at home

Calgary 4.11 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 3.85 – four games – LAK, TOR, NJD and NYI

Montreal 4.25 – four games – three at home

Arizona 3.80 – four games – OTT, MTL, NYI and NYR

Steer Clear

Boston 1.89 – two games – NJD and MTL

Columbus 1.99 – two games – CHI and DAL

Buffalo 2.19 – two games – both on road

Winnipeg 2.26 – two games – TOR and EDM

Ottawa 2.31 – two games – ARI and TBL

Wednesday, October 19 to Tuesday, October 25

Best Bets

Detroit 4.05 – four games – three at home

Philadelphia 4.01 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.01 – four games – TOR, NJD, NYI and BOS

Vancouver 3.93 – four games – BUF, LAK, ANA and OTT

Calgary 3.81 – four games – CAR, STLx2 and CHI

Steer Clear

Colorado 1.81 – two games – both on road

Nashville 1.84 – two games – DET and PIT

Washington 1.91 – two games – FLA and NYR

Edmonton 1.99 – two games – STL and WPG

Buffalo 2.14 – two games – both on road

Thursday, October 20 to Wednesday, October 26

Best Bets

Montreal 4.31 – four games – ARI, BOS, PHI and NYI

Anaheim 4.11 – four games – PHI, VAN, SJS and NSH

Philadelphia 4.01 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.01 – four games – TOR, NJD, NYI and BOS

Vancouver 3.93 – four games – BUF, LAK, ANA and OTT

Steer Clear

Colorado 1.81 – two games – both on road

Buffalo 2.14 – two games – both on road

Winnipeg 2.15 – two games – EDM and DAL

Ottawa 2.19 – two games – TBL and VAN

Nashville 2.65 – three games – two on road