Ramblings: A Pre-Thanksgiving With All the Fixins

by steve laidlaw on November 23, 2017

Interesting scheduling quirk this week, as the NHL is going dark for American Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving to my friends south of the border! That pushed the entire league into action last night, well all but one with the Blues sitting out. Good riddance I say! I am facing a team in head-to-head with Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, Alex Steen, Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko. I got steamrolled as hard as the Oilers on Tuesday.

Anyhow, with all that action last night, let’s dive in.


The Oilers busted out some new lines in a bounce-back win over the Red Wings:





Milan Lucic notched an assist to run his scoring streak up to three games. Moving up with McDavid is certainly a bonus and the power forward is on pace for a not-too-shabby 56 points. However, we should note that Lucic was blanked for power play as Patrick Maroon has taken Lucic’s top unit minutes.

Overall, Lucic has two power-play points on the season. Last year he feasted on PPP with 11 goals and 24 points with the man-advantage. That’s the first time in his career that Lucic had ever been a big producer in that phase. Regression was likely.

What to make of Lucic’s 5-on-5 scoring receiving a bump? They’ve insulated him with 60% offensive zone starts. He’s also been skating alongside a productive Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. There is some secondary assist noise here with Lucic registering points on 71% of the Oilers’ goals with him on the ice. He hasn’t traditionally been that involved. I feel comfortable suggesting that if Lucic remains shutout of the power play, he won’t crack 50 points.

Maroon, by the way, hasn’t done much to take advantage of the spike in power play time. Maybe he needs more time, but he has never been much of a power-play producer either. It is telling that neither of the Oilers’ net-front men have scored a power-play goal through 22 games. There are some goals being left on the table. I’m not sure if either Maroon or Lucic will be the ones to take advantage, however.

Drake Caggiula has points in three straight, taking full advantage of being bumped up to play with McDavid in both phases.

Jesse Puljujarvi scored his second goal of the season, a beauty of a one-time blast:

Puljujarvi won’t be particularly relevant if he remains on the third line, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to use that shot in the Ovechkin spot on the Oilers’ top PP unit. It may not be this year, however, so don’t hold your breath.


Roberto Luongo continues to do his best impersonation of a wall. He has run off four wins in seven games since returning from injury, with five of those being quality starts. Relying on him is a terrifying proposition because of the rate at which the Panthers are giving up shots, but with Luongo in the zone, you would do well to ride him.

Henrik Haapala made his NHL debut, skating 13:58 with almost no power play time. He did notch an assist on the lone Panther goal and is in a decent spot alongside Vincent Trocheck and Nick Bjugstad.

I’m not sure if Haapala has staying power, but the Panthers are desperate for wing help, especially with Radim Vrbata out. I bet Haapala’s usage takes a dip when Vrbata returns. He’ll have relevance in deep leagues until then. Read more about Haapala here.


Frederik Andersen was also stunning in a goaltending battle, and like Luongo, he has been stellar of late. Andersen has run up his save percentage to 0.918, right in line with his career average. This comes after six straight quality starts. Andersen was one of my top goaltending targets for this season, so I am unsurprised to see him succeeding.

It is now William Nylander’s turn to struggle for the Leafs. He has just one point in the last six games and just five in the last 15. Similar to my stance on Mitch Marner, I am not remotely concerned.

I don’t think that Nylander has as much of a buffer in terms of PP production because he is firmly on the second unit, but he is seeing exactly the same number of PP minutes as he did last season, when he scored 27 PPP.

Maybe he won’t score as many PPP, Nylander should make up for it at even strength. Paired with Auston Matthews, pucks are flying into the opposing net at a high rate. Nylander’s IPP is at a mere 51.9% after being above 80% in his previous two seasons. He’s an offensive creator, so his IPP will climb above 70% at the least, which will get him back in your good graces.

Buying low is always relative, especially when it comes to Leaf players, but Nylander represents an obvious option to chase. Probably too obvious.


We’ve got a play-of-the-year candidate right here:

That’s positively Datsyukian control by John Tavares against a guy who belongs in the Selke conversation in Sean Couturier. Epic battle leading to an overtime winner. Obviously, it took some horrendous defensive coverage by Shayne Gostisbehere to leave Josh Bailey so open, but can you blame the defenseman for getting drawn in by that battle? The answer is yes, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the magnificence of Tavares.

Also, that gives Bailey 24 points in his last 16 games. As much as he is riding a PDO wave, we’re talking about a guy who was scoring at a 60-point pace from December on last season. The chemistry he has with Tavares and Anders Lee is well-defined. His only lull came at the start of the season, when they were trotting him out on Mathew Barzal’s wing. Since then, Bailey has been a flamethrower.

At some point he’ll regress, but Bailey isn’t likely to be a big enough name to suck anyone into a trade with. Plus, he should still score at a good rate even when the hot streak ends.

Nick Leddy remains in the hunt for the top scoring defenseman, just two back of Pietrangelo and John Klingberg with 18 points in 21 games. Points will come and go, especially for defensemen, but it’s thing like SOG and opportunity that I care about most. Leddy is entrenched as the defenseman on their top unit, and now that he’s effectively blasting the puck from the point, I’m no longer upset about his placement there. He’s on pace for 200 SOG, which will keep him relevant when the scoring dries up.

There isn’t much room for Josh Ho-Sang to be relevant skating 13:46 per game on the second line, but he has performed well enough with seven points in 11 games. What a luxury it is to have a dynamic offensive talent like that on the third line!


The Flyers have now dropped six in a row. They’ve had some injuries on defense, and Radko Gudas compounded that with his 10-game suspension, but this team is getting nothing out of their bottom-9 forwards.

Wayne Simmonds notched an assist for just his second point in the last seven games. No surprise that both of those points came on the PP. His continued use on that consistently effective power play, leaves Simmonds with a high floor, especially considering what he can do for you in hits/PIM categories. However, Simmonds is on pace for only 48 points. He could easily finish with that total without some help.

His most common centerman has been Valtteri Filppula. Last season he saw over 85% of his shifts with Brayden Schenn or Claude Giroux. As bad as Giroux was last season, Filppula is not an upgrade. Let’s not put this all on Filppula, however. Simmonds is 29, and exiting his prime, in an age when speed and skating are at a premium.

I do wonder if some line tinkering will come at some point. As good as they have been, the Flyers’ top line is no longer carrying them to victory. Splitting that group up would be dangerous and could kill some splendid fantasy value, but it seems plausible.


Kyle Palmieri’s cursed season continues as he is out 4-6 weeks with a broken foot. Mind you, Palmieri has always been a band-aid, so these injuries are part and parcel.

With Palmieri and Marcus Johansson out, Jesper Bratt is somewhat relevant again. He scored a goal in 19 minutes of action, the most ice time he had seen in almost three weeks. He saw a bunch of minutes with Taylor Hall at even strength and on the power play, which is the best spot to be in the Devil lineup. I wouldn’t chase Bratt in most leagues, but there’s value in deeper setups and keepers.

Brian Gibbons scored his 10th goal of the season. I am fairly certain that makes him this year’s Michael Grabner.


Anton Khudobin has now strung together three straight wins in relief of Tuukka Rask. We could certainly see Khudobin go on a nice little run here. My only trepidation is that we’re now four years past when Khudobin was one of the top backups in the league. I never rule out hot runs from goalies, but usually caution against extended runs from unproven options. After three straight seasons of sour performance, including a bad 32-start run for a very bad Carolina squad, I’d packed up my Khudobin love and left it for dead.

Rask is nowhere near immunized against a coup from Khudobin. He’s been horribly inconsistent for two years running. Two years ago, it was a slow start followed by a wicked second half. Last year, was the reverse. The cumulative effect was two seasons of a 0.915 save percentage, slightly below average, but if you owned him at the right time, he was dynamite.

Odds are, Rask is going to get back in net at some point, start 55 games, and likely go on some kind of run where he looks like an elite option again, but probably not enough to get his 0.897 save percentage up to league average.

Jake DeBrusk has quietly spun together four points in the last four games, with 14 SOG. He’s filling in decently for Brad Marchand, who remains out with an undisclosed injury.


Sergei Bobrovsky was half as busy as his counter-part on the other end stopping 22 shots for an overtime shutout victory over the Flames. He is the best goalie in fantasy hockey.

We aren’t coming close to relevance for Pierre-Luc Dubois in most one-year leagues, but take note, he skated a season high 19:14 last night, including some secondary PP time. PP time is almost meaningless for Columbus players, but it’s there anyhow.

Centering Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson, Dubois is in a good spot and has 10 SOG in the past two games. That line dished out more rubber than a college RA during frosh week piling up 13 combined SOG.

Anderson eventually scored the OT winner, giving him eight goals and 11 points through 20 games. Add in his SOG, hits and PIM contribution and Anderson has been a solid rotisserie contributor with fringe value even in your average league.


Johnny Gaudreau’s 10-game scoring streak was put to an end by Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets. This doesn’t affect Gaudreau’s value, but should impact the fringe guys surrounding him like TJ Brodie and Micheal Ferland.

That also makes two straight games without a point for Ferland. I’ve been making the Maroon comparison for Ferland since he got off to a hot streak. There are no guarantees that he sticks on the top line, but if he does we’re looking at a nice multi-category threat who should score around 50 points. 50 points leaves room for a lot of donuts. Do not overrate!

There is potential to drop Ferland for a hot option should he stay cold. The Flames have a back-to-back on the road this weekend before a four-game homestand next week. I could see at least benching Ferland on the dense slates this weekend.


Chalk up another 0-fer for the Sabre’s PP. The good news, Rasmus Ristolainen should be back shortly:

Mind you, Ristolainen is not an analytics friendly player, but he has kicked ass as a point man on the PP. There’s too much talent on this team for the PP to remain a complete disaster. Jack Eichel should drag them to competence at least, and with it himself to a point-per-game pace.

Sam Reinhart is looking frisky with three goals and five points in the last five games. I can’t totally support him as a fantasy option now that he has lost his net-front gig on the PP to Evander Kane. Not that it would make much difference at their current success rate, but projecting forward it’s not a good look. It’s also a negative that Reinhart has lost a minute of ice time compared with last season and is toiling on the third line. Scoring is a good way to get him bumped back up, however.


Nino Niederreiter is your latest streaking Wild winger with goals in five straight games. He stacks up as a slightly better option than Jason Zucker, but only because he has proven a higher level of scoring after his 57-point breakout. Based on current usage, and a track record of prolific 5-on-5 results (for both), I would put them in a similar bin. That Zucker is skating over two minutes more per game is an advantage, but again Niederreiter is more proven. I don’t like either guy for 60 points though.

The only “safe” 60-point option here seems to be Mikael Granlund who has gone off for four goals in the last two games and nine points in the last five. I remain skeptical that Granlund will push 70 points again, but he’s the best bet on this team.


The Brock Boes Monster has scored six goals on a four-game goal streak that has him up above a point-per-game pace, as well as on pace for 45 goals. He’s gonna fall well short by season’s end, but make no mistake, Boeser is a 40-goal threat. He’s still not seeing quite the usage you would hope for at just 16 minutes per game, but it is great to see the power play time tilting in his direction more and more. He and Bo Horvat probably aren’t good enough to take on the opponents’ best on a nightly basis, which is ultimately why their minutes sit in the suboptimal range. We’ll see if they get there, my bet is no for this season.

I’m not sure I can buy an Alex Edler resurgence. He’ll probably get hurt wiping his ass tomorrow. However, he is the point man on the top PP unit now featuring Horvat and Boeser. Edler has assists in two straight games and has 16 SOG in seven games since returning from his most recent injury. He’s probably just an intriguing Daily Fantasy option right now.


Evgeni Malkin is out with an upper-body injury and we do not have a timeline for his return. Malkin owners were prepared for this though, right? You better have been. The star centerman has missed 97 games over the past five seasons, nearly 20 games per.

These were the lines with Malkin out:



#3           15%        GUENTZEL,JAKE – KESSEL,PHIL – RUST,BRYAN


The most important change came on the PP though, where Jake Guentzel jumped back onto the top unit, skating over four minutes with the man-advantage. He scored both Penguin goals, both on the power play. He sees an immediate kick to his value wit this deployment. He’s up to five goals in the past eight games.


Some line juggling in Washington for last night’s action:




#4           18.7%    KUZNETSOV,EVGENY – OSHIE,T.J. – VRANA,JAKUB

Indeed, Nicklas Backstrom was back with Alexander Ovechkin, notching an assist. It’s been a tough month for Backstrom owners as the centerman has just four points in the last 14 games. Keep in mind, he’s still on pace for 60 points, despite the down month. With continued deployment on the top PP unit, and exposure to good talent at 5-on-5, he should be fine. I’d bet on him getting to 70 points once again.

We should acknowledge that the Caps are much weaker than in previous years and that Backstrom is being asked to do a lot more heavy-lifting at 5-on-5. Between his defensive responsibilities, and a weaker blueline group his 5-on-5 offense will likely be depressed to an extent. Especially with Andre Burakovsky out.

Evgeny Kuznetsov reaps the rewards of Backstrom’s hard work and cashed in with his new linemates. Jakub Vrana notched a pair of goals. Vrana’s going to be a spotty option all season, but he has talent to go off when put in a good spot.


In his first game since being recalled Thomas Chabot notched an assist. He also skated a season high 15:36. He has three assists in four games. The limited ice time is not as bad as it seems as Chabot has skated second unit PP time, but overall it makes it tough for him to be fantasy relevant. Mikhail Sergachev has managed it in Tampa Bay, but the Senators have nowhere near the fire power of the Lightning.

I typically poo-poo overreaction, but Matt Duchene is going on six games without a point in Ottawa. He got dumped to the second power play unit, skating just 1:53 with the man-advantage last night. He has 23 SOG through six games, which is an improvement over the 23 in 14 he had with Colorado previously. This is small consolation, however.

Keep an eye on Duchene’s minutes and PP usage. If the ice time starts drifting below 16 minutes a game, we’re in real disaster zone. Currently we’re at concerning.


I don’t know if Chris Kreider will ever be consistent enough to spin together a 60-point season, but he certainly has the talent and opportunity. With the Ranger power play now a genuine weapon, Kreider has his best chance to pick up some cheap points. His career high for PPP came last season with 13, but as one of the league’s better net-front men he could easily cash in 10 PPG and 20 PPP. That kind of performance could elevate him to the 30-goal and 60-point plateaus we all yearn for him to reach.

The Rangers were without Ryan McDonagh last night, and won’t have him for Friday’s action either, due to an abdominal strain. I don’t love the chatter surrounding this injury and how it has been lingering. McDonagh has been productive in spite of the injury, and in spite of losing PP time to Kevin Shattenkirk. I worry this might cost him some serious time if surgery is required.


The only positive for the Hurricanes was that the Teravainen-Aho combo kept their scoring streaks rolling, contributing on the lone Carolina goal. Meanwhile, Scott Darling was on the hook for six goals on 27 shots. He has yet to find any consistency in the Hurricane crease, but my model for Darling is Cam Talbot. If you recall, Talbot struggled through the first couple of months of his first season in Edmonton before settling in as a .920 goalie the rest of the way. Perhaps I’m just going to drown with this ship.


Some of the best goaltending performances of last night were turned in by the likes of Maxime Lagace, Jonathan Bernier, Steve Mason, and Antti Niemi. Maybe we just throw last night out and pretend it never happened.


John Gibson, plus some smoke and mirrors is keeping the Ducks competitive through their rash of injuries, but it wasn’t enough last night. 45 saves for Gibson, who has faced 40+ shots in three straight games.

Josh Manson has been feeling himself lately with some slick rushes the past couple of games:

The Ducks are loaded with gifted defensemen. Manson is maybe fifth on the pecking order, but I am impressed all the same.

The real question with Anaheim’s defensemen is which guys prevail out of Brandon Montour, Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen. Vatanen was clearly on the outside looking in with just 18 minutes of action last night. The power play combos were all over the map, though Fowler, a Randy Carlyle favourite was tops in this one. Both Montour and Fowler notched assists. I like Montour the most, but we’ll have to keep monitoring this situation.


Shea Theodore has logged over 20 minutes in each of his past three games. He even notched a power-play assist against his former team. I’ve not seen enough to jump back into bed with him, but it’s nice to see the talented youngster getting some burn.

I recently dealt David Perron in a keeper league, getting Oscar Klefbom in return. I took over a rebuild project going nowhere. This felt like a good sell high/buy low. I do suspect Perron will score 60 points this season, however. He’s got 11 points in the past eight games, a great run that has him relevant in most leagues.


I’ve officially hit burnout. I know I didn’t get to all the action, but this should hopefully satisfy your voracious appetites.

Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.