Artemi Panarin is adjusting to life on his new team with new linemates.
This week we take a couple of lines that have been hot in their past three games and another with the potential to improve as the season progresses.
Last season saw Cam Atkinson and Alex Wennberg put their names on the map in Columbus, and with a new season we have new names looking to take that place. Pierre-Luc Dubois was drafted third overall in 2016 after totalling 199 points in 164 QMJHL games. At first glance, his 11 points in 27 games this season don’t seem too impressive, but then you realize he has six points in his last four games. What’s the cause of this increased production? Increased ice time. In his first four games, Dubois averaged 13:46 of time on ice. Fast forward to his most recent four game stretch and you’ll see he averaged 19:14 of ice time. As with all rookies, we have no past production to make sound judgements on sustainability, but nothing about his shooting percentage screams regression.
Josh Anderson is also making a name for himself in Columbus as he sits second in team scoring, behind only Artemi Panarin. Last season was Anderson’s first real one, and he was limited to a bottom-six role alongside William Karlsson and Matthew Calvert. Needless to say, first line minutes beside Panarin is a much better situation to be in. Last year Anderson was on a 0.37 point per game pace while averaging 12 minutes of ice time, so it makes sense that as his ice time has risen to an average of 17:15 this season, so has his scoring pace (0.68). His shooting rate has also improved as it took him a whole season to total 119 shots in 2016-2017, but in just 25 games this year he already has 81! He’s on track to have 259 by the end of the season! Now I don’t get a chance to watch a lot of Blue Jackets’ hockey, so I’ll let Aaron Portzline who covers the Blue Jackets give you an idea of Anderson’s style with a comparison to a younger Rick Nash.
As we mentioned earlier, Artemi Panarin leads the Blue Jackets in scoring, but he’s doing so with a modest 20 points in 27 games. Now obviously expectations need to be lowered for a player once they stop playing with Patrick Kane, but at least Panarin has shown he wasn’t completely piggybacking off of Kane’s production in Chicago. While it’s encouraging that Panarin is on pace for more shots than he had in Chicago (231 vs. 211 and 187), his is seeing less starts in the offensive zone. On a Blackhawks team that boasted the defensive ability of Jonathan Toews, Panarin was seeing 75.37% (2015-2016) and 80.51% (2016-2017) of his starts in the offensive zone. Stepping into a more well-rounded role in Columbus has seen that number drop to 64.03%. This trio currently sports the highest Corsi For % in the league at 67.82%, so they are certainly driving offense!
Since being acquired from the Ottawa Senators, Kyle Turris has 10 points in 12 games with the Predators. That’s quite a bit better than Matt Duchene’s two points in 11 games for the Senators, but more time needs to pass before we make our final judgements. While Duchene has moved up and down the line up in an attempt to find chemistry with his teammates, Turris seems to have immediately clicked with Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith as this line has spent most of its time together since Turris’ arrival. Although Turris’ current 0.83 point per game pace is higher than we’re used to (0.67 average in last five seasons), none of the underlying numbers point to impending doom, so breaking the 60-point barrier seems realistic for the Predators’ forward.
Kevin Fiala was drafted 11th overall in 2014 and got his first real taste of NHL action in the 54 games he played last season. His average time on ice has gone up a minute since last season (13:31 to 14:32), and he is finally seeing playing time with the man advantage. With 17 points in 26 games so far this season (10 points in 12 games since Turris came to Nashville), he’s beginning to develop into an offensive threat.
Last season, it took Craig Smith 78 games to score 12 goals. This season he already has 11 goals in just 27 games. While he is on pace for just under 200 shots, his 17.2% shooting percentage is almost double his career average of 9.6%, so regression is coming! Like Fiala, his ice time has increased since last season (from 13:49 to 15:11) and he is seeing more time on the power play.
This trio’s value is found in their streaming potential with such low ownership in Yahoo leagues (Turris – 63%, Fiala – 6%, Smith 18%). Keep in mind that their Corsi For % as a line is not among the league’s best, so they haven’t been driving offense as much as we’d like.
The Detroit Red Wings are currently on a seven-game losing streak after suffering a 10-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. While their defensive flaws have been exposed through the 36 goals they’ve allowed during this slide, their offense has only managed 14 goals in the same span. Although everyone on Detroit’s roster can be better, this particular line is sporting a Corsi For % of 45.37%, and needs to be spending more time scoring than defending if this team is going to win games.
At the tender age of 37, Henrik Zetterberg’s years of elite production seem to be in the rear-view mirror. Despite surprising the hockey world with 68 points in 82 games last year, his current total of 15 points in 27 games seems to be closer to what we should expect of him going forward. That being said, Zetterberg also had a poor start to last season (14 points in the first 22 games) before finishing the campaign of with 54 points in his final 60 games. His shot volume and ice time are right around what they’ve been in the past, so perhaps the Red Wing captain makes for a good buy-low option. As time passes, Zetterberg’s experience makes him a good leader that helps guys like Nyquist, Mantha, and even Dylan Larkin develop into better players.
After breaking out with 48 points in 57 games of the 2013-2014 season, expectations were high for Gustav Nyquist. Unfortunately, he’s never been able to match that rate of production and the 60-point mark continues to elude him. While his 12 points in 27 games so far this season don’t leave much room for optimism, he did have a slow start last season as well (20 points in his first 42 games, 26 in final 34). It’s encouraging to see him on pace for what would be a career-high 219 shots, but as we mentioned earlier, this line needs to get better at driving offense before Nyquist can start producing again.
After years of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg hockey, Anthony Mantha is in line to be the future of the Detroit Red Wings. Despite modest point totals (36 points in 60 games), Mantha had a chance to get accustomed to the NHL level of play in his rookie season. With 22 points in 27 games this year, it seems he is developing into the player the Red Wings thought he would be when they drafted him 20th overall in 2013. While his shooting percentage of 16.7% seems a bit high, he could just be an efficient shooter. Only time will tell.
While times have been tough recently for the Red Wings, there’s a good chance they take flight in the second half of the season.
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.
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