This week we’ll take a look at how some lines have been performing in the past 10 games. From the most productive trios to those we expect more from in the future. I also included a few notable line changes that might help you make your weekly pick-up.
With how hot Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have been this season, you can probably guess that they sit first and second in points respectively. Who holds the third spot you ask? Johnny Gaudreau. In his last ten games, the Flame has been red-hot, totalling 19 points. That includes five straight games with two or more points. At first glance, his 16.1% shooting percentage seems high when compared to last year’s 9.9%. But then you realize Gaudreau had surgery on a fractured finger in 2016-2017 and probably wasn’t shooting with the same power.
After a chance to recuperate in the offseason, Johnny Hockey seems primed to have a career year. (Did somebody say fourth year breakout?) Monahan has been no slouch either, currently producing over a point per game and shooting more than he has in previous seasons (on pace for 237 shots, compared to 199 last season). His 20% shooting percentage should see some regression as the season continues, but playing beside a healthy Gaudreau could see him flirt with the 70-point mark for the first time in his career.
While Monahan and Gaudreau are a duo we have become familiar with, Ferland is the new face that completes this line. Monahan himself spoke of Ferland as someone who creates room with his physical presence, but also went on to say, “he’s actually got really good hands” and the offensive instincts to make plays in tight.
After a 49-point rookie season, many were expecting big things from Sebastian Aho. Then the season began and he managed only four assists in his first nine games, failing to record a goal. Fast forward to the present and the sophomore has nine points in his last four games, currently riding a four-game goal streak. Despite those crazy numbers, Aho hasn’t even been the most productive member of this line! That honour goes to the first star of the week: Teuvo Teravainen.
With 10 points in his last four games, Teravainen improves his season total to 19 points in 19 games. However, his shooting percentage is cause for concern (18.6%), as it is much higher than his career average of 9.6%. Teravainen’s triple position eligibility makes him easy to integrate into your fantasy roster, even if it’s just for the short term.
Jordan Staal has never been considered much of an offensive threat since his days in Pittsburgh but maybe he too can provide short term value in the fantasy hockey world. He’s currently on pace for 194 shots, which would be his highest total on Carolina (165 currently the highest), and makes a 20-goal season very realistic. Staal seems to have the least upside of the three, as we already have a large sample size of his career production. He’s track record indicates a 50-point player at best, with 40 being a more attainable number.
When Matt Duchene got traded to Ottawa, it seemed like a great thing for his fantasy owners. Duchene went from an uncomfortable rebuild that he didn’t want to be a part of, to a contender than clearly wanted to make use of his talent. While his time on ice seems to have seen a slight increase, Duchene has nothing to show for it through five games with his new team. But a lack of effort is not behind his lack of production. In those same five games with the Senators, he has fired 21 shots on net!
Since Duchene wasn’t seeing time beside Mackinnon or Landeskog in Colorado, being a part of Ottawa’s top six is a sizeable upgrade from Alexander Kerfoot and Nail Yakupov. While he debuted alongside Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan is currently Duchene’s most notable linemate.
A broken finger caused Ryan to miss eight games of the season so far (has injured hand/finger three times in the past year), so maybe he’s still not firing on all cylinders. Ryan seems to have the tools to be a 60-point player when healthy, but his 16 shots in 11 games definitely isn’t a good sign. Any injury to the hand can have a big impact on a player’s season as we mentioned before with Gaudreau, so maybe a guy like Hoffman provides a better spark to this line right now than Bobby.
Ryan Dzingel hasn’t really been a fantasy asset this season, but including him speaks more to coach Guy Boucher’s line shuffling this season. While Duchene and Ryan seem to be forming a bit of chemistry together, the final member of this line hasn’t been decided as even Tom Pyatt has skated beside them.
Great hockey players have a way of making their line mates better. That philosophy drives fantasy hockey strategy as we constantly scramble to pick up whoever is skating alongside a superstar. Today maybe we call it the McDavid Effect, but before Connor McDavid was old enough to sit in the front seat (12 in Canada), it was the Crosby Effect. It’s no secret that Crosby’s start to the 2017-2018 campaign has been underwhelming. 16 points in 22 games simply isn’t good enough for one of the most talented players in the league. I do remember the Hockey Night in Canada panel recently pointing out that the Penguins have played the most games in the past couple of years with back to back Stanley Cup runs. Combine that with the most back-to-back games in the league (19), and maybe fatigue justifies Crosby’s poor production, but I don’t buy that. Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin are in similar situations, and have been extremely good to start this season.
So, is Crosby not an elite talent anymore? No. This is a guy who hasn’t finished a season below a point per game pace in his entire career (12 seasons!), so obviously things are going to turn around. His 8.7% shooting percentage is almost half of his career 14.6%, so that’s definitely going to rise as the season progresses. His 5on5 SH% sits at 4.17% (was 8.73% last season), with a 927 PDO (1013 last season). Plain and simply, the numbers point to improvement and we shouldn’t get lost in narratives like his injury history when the team hasn’t given us any reason to. Although the purpose of this article is to focus on how lines are performing around the NHL, I believe this line lives and dies with Crosby. Sure, Guentzel possesses his fair share of talent, but he isn’t the one driving offense, and neither is Rust. I know Guentzel’s 11 points in 22 games are a huge letdown from the 33 he amassed in 40 games last season, but as Crosby’s numbers improve so will his. Right now this line is a bit Rust-y, but it’s going to get a lot more Crosby.
Interesting Line Changes
If you want to see a team’s line combinations in their most recent game check it out over here. I’ll try to point out some notable shake ups every week that impact your fantasy roster. Keep in mind sometimes these lines are thrown together by a coach in desperation to turn a game around and aren’t set in stone. A good example would be Mike Babcock playing Marner and Matthews together as the team struggled in Monday’s loss to the Coyotes.
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