Ramblings: As good as it gets for your Jackets?

by Ian Gooding on December 28, 2016

Blue Jackets, E-Kane, Malkin, Jost, plus more…

In case you're wondering where Dobber is, I'm filling in for him today. Hope you had an enjoyable Christmas/holiday break that enabled you to get some much-needed downtime from your fantasy hockey team. Man, who am I kidding… let’s scratch that fantasy hockey itch…

With news from NHL teams finally surfacing today, fantasy owners were greeted with some unwanted presents, aka injuries. Marian Hossa is out all week. Justin Faulk is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Ryan O’Reilly is out indefinitely after undergoing an appendectomy. Jannik Hansen is out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. I might be missing someone here, but the first two stand out to me because I own both Hossa and Faulk. Of course, there’s also the death of Carrie Fisher, so 2016 can’t end soon enough.

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While I was between World Junior games today, I flipped to the Columbus/Boston game and saw a flurry of goals in the first period. The Jackets took a 3-0 lead in the first period before the Bruins quickly scored two and eventually tied the game. But Nick Foligno scored the eventual game-winner in the third period to ensure the Jackets would receive their 13th consecutive victory. Fire those cannons – the Columbus Blue Jackets are finally a force to be reckoned with after spending literally their entire existence as a cellar dweller.

Scott Hartnell was in on the first-period fun, scoring a goal and adding an assist. It’s like John Tortorella is trying to kill Hartnell’s fantasy value by severely limiting his icetime (average of 12:30/game), yet Hartnell’s offense won’t completely dry up. Hartnell is currently 17th in the NHL with 2.98 points/60 minutes (minimum 15 games played). To give you an idea of what kind of season the Jackets are having, that’s fifth on the team. Hartnell’s linemate Sam Gagner is third with 3.72 points/60, while Dobber’s favorite Cam Atkinson is fourth with 3.66 points/60.

Can the Jackets keep this up? If you believe in PDO, the Jackets are first in the NHL at 1.044. So it might not be a bad idea to sell high on players like Hartnell, Gagner, Foligno, Alexander Wennberg, and dare I say, Atkinson! (For the record, Atkinson did not record a point and was a minus-2 in this game.) Need proof? All of the players I just listed have a red SH% number on their Dobber profile, indicating that generally speaking it is time to sell.

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Yes folks, we’ve entered an alternate universe where a Blue Jackets-Wild game is must-see viewing as opposed to a cure for insomnia.

Charlie Coyle is having a scorching-hot December. Someone on the Forum seemed hesitant to drop Coyle at the start of the season, and now I can see why. With two assists on Tuesday, Coyle now has 14 points to go with a plus-10 in 12 games. That’s propelled him to 29 points in 34 games. It looks like a fifth-year breakout is really happening.

You probably didn’t go out of your way to draft Zach Parise this season, but he’s benefitting on the good times in Minnesota. With a goal on Tuesday, Parise has points in five of his last six games.

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Derek Stepan and Nick Holden each scored two goals for the Rangers on Tuesday. Both Rangers are on a nice little run, with Stepan posting four goals and three assists over his last four games, and Holden scoring two goals and two assists over his last four games.

Cody Ceci scored his first goal of the season in his 35th game. That to go with two assists and a minus-10 all season. Man was I wrong about him as a potential 35-point sleeper. But if your league counts icetime, he's at least cashing in that category with over 23 minutes per game. 

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Here are the Buffalo lines without O’Reilly in the lineup:

20.88%  EV           GIRGENSONS,ZEMGUS – OKPOSO,KYLE – REINHART,SAM

20.51%  EV           GIONTA,BRIAN – KANE,EVANDER – LARSSON,JOHAN

16.48%  EV           EICHEL,JACK – FOLIGNO,MARCUS – MOULSON,MATT

6.23%    EV           CARRIER,WILLIAM – DESLAURIERS,NICOLAS – GRANT,DEREK

These line combinations don’t look overly favorable for Evander Kane, but he managed to score two goals on Tuesday. If you’ve already given up on Kane, it’s worth mentioning that all eight of his goals this season have come in December. In fact, only three players (Sidney Crosby, Jeff Carter, Max Pacioretty) have more goals this month than Kane. I don’t know that I’d be rushing out to buy Kane stock because of the injuries and legal record, but he’s far from a writeoff in fantasy leagues.

The goalies in Buffalo’s game could have been your best and worst goalies of the night. To compare:

Robin Lehner: 40 S, 3 GA, W

Petr Mrazek: 18 S, 4 GA, L

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Speaking of players you may have given up on too early, Andrew Ladd also scored a pair of goals on Tuesday. That’s three goals in two games for Ladd. Right now he’s just one of those guys that you could add if you need an injury replacement, then hang onto if he somehow keeps up a decent pace. But expecting a 50-60-point pace is a bit much.

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Sidney Crosby has goals in four consecutive games. And Evgeni Malkin scored two more points to give him 800 on his fine career. Just Penguins doing Penguin things. In other news, the sky is blue.

Speaking of Malkin, I was asked on my appearance on the Fantasy Fix Podcast on SiriusXM (along with a host of other questions) whether I thought Malkin would end up as the league’s top scorer. You can listen to my answer, but the short version: Malkin hasn’t played 70 games since 2011-12. If Malkin can pull out a full season, he’s capable of carrying you to a fantasy victory (41 points in 36 games). But would you be willing to hold your breath to find out?

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Mikael Backlund and Johnny Gaudreau each scored two goals and added an assist for the Flames on Tuesday. Backlund picked up right where he left off before Christmas with his second consecutive three-point game. Backlund’s line with Michael Frolik and rookie Matthew Tkachuk has been an impressive two-way line, as Doran Libin mentioned in the Wild West recently. The fact that they are often used defensively may limit Backlund’s fantasy value, though.

As for Gaudreau, so much for him failing to perform on the road.
 

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The Ducks’ broadcasters described the Sharks’ power play as being like a five-forward attack. That’s actually four forwards plus Brent Burns, who scored the game-winner in overtime and added an assist. This won’t get discussed much outside of fantasy and maybe the true stats geeks, but Burns blocked six shots in this game, which was his second-highest single-game total this season. One more Burns stat:
 

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Finally, some World Junior thoughts. It’s nice to see some of the hockey powers lose (except for Canada, of course), even if it’s just for a day. So Denmark’s upset of Finland should be considered good for international hockey overall. Not because the defending champion Finns are now 0-2, but because there’s always discussion that this tournament should be a five or six-team tournament. Victories for countries like Denmark quiet that talk. Plus it’s probably better for the development of Denmark’s potential future NHLers to play against the top-tier nations anyway.  

For fantasy purposes one day, I have a feeling that Tyson Jost’s real-life game will be better than his fantasy game – similar to the value of Patrice Bergeron or Jonathan Toews, whom Jost models his game after. If you’re wondering how Jost dropped all the way to 10th overall, his draft stock probably couldn’t get much higher because his absurd numbers last season (104 points in 48 games) were in Junior A. In my keeper league’s entry draft, Jost fell to 12th (to me), probably for that reason.  

Keep in mind that three players from the league Jost played in last season (the BCHL) were drafted in the first round: Jost, Dante Fabbro, and Dennis Cholowski. The level of hockey in this league is not a huge dropoff from the WHL, and pursuing an NCAA scholarship is a wise choice (CHL players are ineligible for NCAA scholarships). I’m surprised more players don’t take this route with the fallback option that an education provides.

We will see whether Jost turns out to be one of the top players of the tournament. But one thing’s for sure: his mother deserves special recognition given the time and money investment required to put a child into competitive hockey every season. This is particularly challenging for a single parent. Watch the video from James Duthie of TSN.   

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Enjoy your Wednesday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.