There was a welcome sight at Tampa’s gameday skate as Ondrej Palat joined the team. While he didn’t play in the game, it appears it’ll be just a matter of days before he returns.
The real question is what they do to the lineup. Going into Sunday’s game, the Lightning had scored four of five. Brayden Point’s line is humming along and the third line of Killorn-Cirelli-Joseph has been arguably the best third line in the league this year. It looks like one of Ondrej Palat or JT Miller could end up on the fourth line as Miller was earlier this season. Keep your eyes peeled on practice.
Without Viktor Arvidsson, without PK Subban, and now without Kyle Turris, that is what Nashville is up against right now as the team’s second-line centre was sent to the IR. Austin Watson was moved up to the top line with a second line of Fiala-Jarnkrok-Smith showing up.
There was a trade brewing between the Coyotes and Blackhawks very late Friday night (I'm writing this at midnight). It seemed to involve Dylan Strome and Nick Schmaltz, per Elliotte Friedman. The breakdown is available here from Ian Gooding.
Carolina recalled defenceman Jake Bean and forward Valentin Zykov.
People will be focused on Bean but for fantasy relevance, I’m not sure there’s much here. There are many, many defencemen ahead of him in the pecking order for any sort of ice time. His time will come, there just won’t be much of it right now.
The more interesting name for fantasy is Zykov. He had seen some top PP minutes at time before his demotion. Does he play in the top-9? Does he get PP minutes? We’ll see. They’re looking for scoring and Zykov has 35 goals in his last 68 AHL games. Maybe he can bring some.
The Los Angeles Kings have recalled Michael Amadio because Carl Hagelin has been moved to the injured reserve with a groin injury. Hagelin, having recently been traded for Tanner Pearson, had two assists in five games with the Kings.
Not sure there’s much fantasy relevance here, though the same could be said for most of the Los Angeles roster. Maybe Amadio shows something this time around?
Ducks defenceman Josh Mahura was sent down to the minors. It had been a decent stint for him with one PP assist, six shots, and six blocked shots in three games.
It’s a numbers game for the Ducks with their defence corps slowly getting healthy. Dynasty owners will have to wait another year (or a couple more injuries) before Mahura gets some consistent time with the big club.
Not much of note happened in the 6-1 drubbing for Calgary over Arizona on Sunday afternoon except for head coach Bill Peters. Calgary’s bench boss took a puck to the chin (literally) during the second period of the game. Tough guy that he is, he returned.
Both Mark Jankowski and Noah Hanifin scored a pair of goals in the game, the latter his first two of the year. TJ Brodie added his second goal of the season (to go with his assist) with Sean Monahan marking the other.
Mike Smith stopped 28 of 29 in the win, his first victory in over three weeks.
Tampa Bay laid the wood to New Jersey 5-1 largely thanks to the two-goal, three-point night from Brayden Point. Tyler Johnson also scored, giving him 10 goals on the year in just 23 games. He is shooting over 20 percent, though, so be wary of this level maintaining itself. If he can crack 30 goals it’ll be a very successful season.
This makes four regulation losses in five games for the Devils. The offence hasn’t been a huge issue in this slide – they still have 13 goals – but the lines were in a blender for much of the game as the team was clawing out of a big deficit early. Don’t be surprised to see new lines in their next practice, and that’ll be crucial for Nico Hischier’s value.
Nick Bonino had a huge hand in the Nashville 4-2 win on Sunday night. He had a goal and an assist, his first multi-point effort of the season. He’s now on a 40-point pace for the season. That adds some nice depth scoring the team has lacked in recent years. Austin Watson scored a hat trick, including one PP goal and one empty-netter. Don’t add him to your fantasy rosters.
Ondrej Kase was moved to the second line with Jakob Silfverberg being promoted to the top line for Anaheim. Though Kase scored for the Ducks, that’s a hit to his value as long as he remains off the top PP unit. Being on Getzlaf’s line is where he wants to be to maximize production potential in the fantasy game.
Kevin Fiala had an assist in the game but notably, he had four shots on goal. That makes 19 shots in his last six games. His shot rate had plummeted early in the year compared to last year as he managed just 1.7 shots per game through the team’s first 18 games. That is not nearly good enough. The goals haven’t started to come yet but if he keeps shooting like this and can earn back his ice time, they will. And they’ll come in bunches. Those in 12-team leagues or deeper should stash him on the bench if there is room and no need of the spot immediately.
Dustin Brown doubled his season goal output with a hat trick Sunday night at home in the Kings’ 5-2 win over Edmonton. Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists while Derek Forbort had a pair of helpers with three shots and two blocks for a stat-stuffing night.
Alex Chiasson replied with a pair of tallies for the Oilers. Of interest with Chiasson: after the game, coach Ken Hitchcock said we could soon see Chiasson on the top line at even strength with Connor McDavid. We’ll see if he actually does it.
Drew Doughty had an assist to extend his point streak to four games.
We’re a couple days shy of being eight weeks into the NHL season. There is always going to be lots of talk about hot/cold starts, buy high/sell low players, emerging players, and so on. Sometimes we need to just take a step back and appreciate the game while informing our decisions in the future.
The Vegas Fourth Line
It’s not very often we talk about fourth lines. The last one to get much notoriety might have been the Merlot Line in Boston during the 2011 Cup run. These guys typically play 10-12 minutes a night, don’t score very often, and frequently have some sort of hybrid energy/physicality role.
Some of those things are true about the Vegas fourth line of William Carrier, Ryan Reaves, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Not scoring isn’t one of them as they sit with 2.06 goals per 60 minutes together at 5v5. That’s not a high number in general, but it’s just fine for a fourth line, and they are currently enjoying a higher scoring rate than the old Wheeler-Scheifele-Connor trio, teammates Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith, and the typical Nashville second line of Fiala-Turris-Smith. Whenever you can get a fourth line to outscore lines of that stature for any stretch like we’ve seen for the first 20-ish games, it’s a huge bonus for the team.
It’s not smoke and mirrors, either, as among 47 line combinations with 100 5v5 minutes together, they sit 16th with 2.92 expected goals per 60 minutes, sandwiched between the second lines for Columbus and Montreal. Individually, Will Carrier is second in the league in individual expected goals per 60 minutes behind Carolina rookie Andrei Svechnikov.
With their hit totals, Ryan Reaves and William Carrier both deserve attention in leagues that count hits, especially the former as he’s garnering some PP minutes. That they’re playing so well together only means they should stick together and not be healthy scratched.
Lines have been in flux for the Ottawa Senators all year. There have been injuries, call ups, and general under-performance defensively being the reason. The line of Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Mark Stone haven’t played a lot together (just under 50 minutes), but when those three have been healthy since Tkachuk’s return, they’ve been skating together.
They’ve been good together, controlling 53 percent of the shots and 75 percent of the goals on the ice in their small sample. The quirk isn’t that they’re playing well, the quirk is how they’re playing.
The Sens as a team are on the ice for 121.3 shot attempts for and against (combined) per 60 minutes at 5v5, the third-highest paced team. When Tkachuk-Stone-White are on the ice, that pace plummets to 94.8. For reference on how slow that pace is, the slowest-paced team this year is the Dallas Stars at 108.3. A clearly talented line skating for the third-fastest paced team in the league is 14.3 percent slower than the lowest-paced team.
This is important for fantasy for two reasons. First, a slow pace offensively usually means a tough time scoring goals. Now, not all lines are created equal. We’ve seen slow-paced lines on fast-paced teams have a lot of success – they’re not slower with the same severity as Ottawa’s line, but the old Scheifele-Wheeler-Connor line played at a very slow pace last year. They seemed to do alright, but all three players are gifted offensively, especially Wheeler and Scheifele. Can we say the same about Ottawa? Maybe in a year or two, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that right now.
The second reason this is important is because the Sens are a favourite team to pick on. Playing DFS? Stack against Ottawa. Playing season-long? Stream players playing against Ottawa. They’re porous defensively at even strength and on the PK. That line, however, is not. So just freely picking on Ottawa isn’t really viable anymore. We need to be aware of who will be matched against that line, because they are good, even if they aren’t firing/allowing shots all the time.
Shots, Hits, and Blocked Shots
There are three peripherals that are very common both in season-long and daily fantasy hockey. Let’s look at pairs of combinations here and the weirdness therein: shots and hits, shots and blocked shots, hits and blocked shots.
Shots and Hits
Since Yahoo! did away with penalty minutes in the fantasy game, replacing them with hits, physicality is even more important. Shots and hits account for a good amount of peripheral counting in Yahoo! standard leagues.
The league leader in shots+hits per game? The aforementioned William Carrier at 6.88. He slightly edges out Alex Ovechkin at 6.87 with Micheal Ferland in third place at 6.39. They’re the only players over 6.00:
Two quirks here. First, the only defenceman in the top-10 is Rasmus Ristolainen. He’s always been a peripheral monster but the success of the team and introduction of Rasmus Dahlin hasn’t been able to slow that done. The second quirk is clearly Carrier. He leads the entire league in shots+hits per game and is doing so while playing 10:25 per game. For comparison, Ovechkin plays over 10 more minutes per game than Carrier, and yet trails in shots+hits per game. It’s astounding what the Vegas fourth liner is doing.
Shots and Blocked Shots
Keeping track of shots and blocked shots is very important for those playing daily fantasy hockey. They help build a floor upon which lineups are made. Those not keeping track are likely re-depositing after two weeks.
The introduction of blocked shots naturally means more defencemen near the top than when including just hits, and in fact we have just two forwards in the top-10 for shots+blocked shots. One of those names may surprise some people:
Over the summer, I wrote how Tyler Seguin can help in the hits category, which would be a benefit with Yahoo!’s new setup. I didn’t not anticipate him being more prevalent for shot blocking, though. He’s sitting with 15 through 24 games. Not a huge total, but he needs just 13 more to set the second-highest mark of his career and is on pace for 51, which would push him over 50 for the first time in his career. Once that shooting percentage turns around, he’ll be a monster in any format.
Laine is the name that sticks out. He’s sitting with 16 blocked shots in 22 games. That is a pace for 60 blocked shots. Only 31 forwards managed at least 60 blocked shots last year. Could we see Laine score 60 and block 60?
Hits and Blocked Shots
The cornerstone of most peripheral roto leagues are hits and blocked shots. They give value to a lot of players that would otherwise have none and vary the value of upper-tier scorers who may not do everything. They add an interesting element, even if their counting is unreliable.
Unsurprisingly, there are a number of defencemen at the top of the list, with just two forwards in the top-20 and none in the top-10. Here is the latter:
Seeing Noah Juulsen’s name at the top of the list is fascinating. Remember that he’s currently dealing with a facial injury, so we won’t see him on the ice in short order, but he had been averaging two blocked shots and three hits per game, the only player in the league to do so. He had been one of just five players to average two blocks and two hits per game, let alone three. His peripheral production had been incredible.
He’s still just 21 years old and finding his way in the league. There will be growing pains. If he can come around offensively, though, with this level of peripheral production, we’re talking about a star fantasy option. There is a huge gap between where he is now and where he needs to be, but that potential is brewing.
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