Ramblings: Connor McHockey Saves Fantasy Teams (March 25)

by Ian Gooding on March 25, 2018

Connor McDavid is your new NHL scoring leader, thanks to two goals on Saturday. That gives him 38 goals and 96 points on the season. There may be a debate as to who the NHL’s most valuable player is, given how much certain players have had to do with the fortunes of their teams. Hockey’s best player is clearly McDavid, though. He’s 30 points clear of the Oilers’ next-highest scorer. Only Anze Kopitar and Taylor Hall have a larger gap on their respective teams. Could we still not make a Hart Trophy argument for McDavid, even with the Oils missing the playoffs? Think about where they would be without him. Wow.
 


This is incredible if you’re an advanced stats kind of person. Maybe not so much in multicategory fantasy leagues, as it also means that McDavid isn’t elite when it comes to power-play points. As in 16 PPP, which is barely inside the top 100. The Oilers’ 14.3 percent power play (dead last in the NHL) might have something to do with that. More on that further down.  

You’ll know that it is no fun if you are facing McDavid in a head-to-head playoff battle right now. That’s the situation I’m in right now, where I am losing by a small margin to a McDavid owner. The guy also owns Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, and Nico Hischier thanks to last-place (or near-last place) finishes the last several seasons, along with trades for more top draft picks. It’s basically been a five-year rebuild for this team, and it’s just coming to fruition now. So if he can hold off my late-week charge, hats off to him for sticking through the rebuild.

So in that head-to-head match it was his first period McDavid goal, followed by my Jeff Carter assist less than a minute later. Then in the second period his McDavid goal, followed by my Jeff Carter goal just over two minutes later. Life happens quickly.

Speaking of which, Carter has been scoring at a near point-per-game pace (13 points in 15 games) since his return from injury. Carter’s return has also boosted Tanner Pearson, who has five goals and three assists in 12 games this month.

They may not be household names in most fantasy leagues, but Pontus Aberg and Ethan Bear are both receiving first-unit power-play minutes in Edmonton. It’s understandable that they are there for the Oilers, who at this point should be experimenting with anything to ensure next season’s power play is a vast improvement over this season’s. Aberg is a speedy talent who just couldn’t find room on a deep Nashville roster, while the rookie Bear’s shot from the point could prove to be an asset going forward.

By the way, Aberg has seven points (2g-5a) and a plus-5 over his last four games. So there’s some sneaky good value if you’re looking for it.

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Evander Kane’s fantasy value was falling as the season went on in Buffalo, so his fantasy owners should be relieved with his trade to San Jose. Kane continues to be a great fit for the Sharks, scoring another two goals with 11 penalty minutes on Saturday. That gives him seven goals and 12 points in 12 games with his new team. Kane has also been shooting a ton with the Sharks, averaging over four shots a game since the trade.

Before the trade, things weren’t trending in the right direction for E-Kane with just six points in 23 games over January and February with the Sabres. Even though he had racked up over 200 shots before the trade, Kane had averaged one shot less per game with the Sabres than he is now with the Sharks. It will be interesting to see where Kane lands in the offseason, but his keeper owners have to be pulling for a return to the Bay Area.

Brenden Dillon has been in the NHL long enough that we know that he’s not in the lineup for his offense. But it’s worth mentioning that with a goal and an assist on Saturday, he now has eight points over his last seven games. That puts him at a career high of 20 points. None of those points have been on the power play, so you shouldn’t ever be targeting him in pure points leagues. But he consistently reaches 60+ penalty minutes and 150+ hits, so he might be worth a look in those leagues while he’s hot.

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The Flames will have to play out the string on a disappointing season without Sean Monahan, their second-leading scorer. So how does Monahan’s absence affect the Flames’ line combinations?

17.63%  EV           GLASS,TANNER – HATHAWAY,GARNET – SHORE,NICK

16.99%  EV           BENNETT,SAM – GAUDREAU,JOHNNY – LAZAR,CURTIS

15.71%  EV           BACKLUND,MIKAEL – BROUWER,TROY – FROLIK,MICHAEL

14.74%  EV           FERLAND,MICHEAL – JANKOWSKI,MARK – STEWART,CHRIS

As expected Sam Bennett moved up to Johnny Gaudreau’s line, while Mikael Backlund moved up to the first-unit power play. It didn’t help either player, as both were held without a point and were minuses (Backlund was a minus-3). Backlund has been without a point in his last nine games, while Bennett is without a point in his last seven games. Not much to see in Calgary, so it’s probably best to move along.

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In his return to the Senators’ lineup after losing his unborn son, Erik Karlsson recorded an assist in 24:45 of icetime. Karlsson missed two games after the unfortunate news. Given the Senators’ situation, I would have thought Karlsson would decide shut it down instead. There shouldn’t be any precedent when something like this happens, though, as everyone handles grief differently. Jordan Staal missed a similar amount of time after losing his infant daughter, so maybe playing through after a short grieving period can be therapeutic for some. Best wishes to both Karlsson and Staal.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov returned to the Capitals’ lineup after missing the past week with an upper-body injury, scoring two goals. As we found out with Taylor Hall, streaks aren’t really streaks if they’re interrupted by injury. So to word it correctly, Kuznetsov has recorded multiple points in each of the last four games he has played in. That’s a total of nine points over his last four games.

Nicklas Backstrom recorded four assists on a depleted Habs team. After a stretch of six games without a point during February, Backstrom has been helping your team in March with 15 points (4g-11a) in his last 11 games.

Tom Wilson has reached must-own status in leagues that count penalty minutes. Wilson is second in the NHL with 181 penalty minutes, quite a distance from third-place Antoine Roussel and his 121 penalty minutes (the league leader is Micheal Haley with 203 penalty minutes, but just nine points). With two goals on Saturday, Wilson is up to 13 goals and 33 points, which nearly holds his own scoring-wise in medium-sized leagues.

How high will you rank Carey Price in your fantasy drafts next season? He could potentially be all over the map.
 


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One more injury return: Marc-Andre Fleury returned earlier than I had expected after taking a shot to his mask earlier in the week. He stopped 29 of 30 shots in what eventually became a shootout loss to the Avalanche.

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How’s this for a turnaround: Jake Allen has wins in five consecutive games and seven of his last eight games. Sometimes it helps to wait it out, as I had seen Allen banished to the waiver wire in at least one of my leagues. The turnaround was driven at least partially out of necessity, as Carter Hutton has been sidelined since early March, forcing the Blues to turn to Allen.

Compare his splits over the past three months:

January: 0-2-0, 4.93 GAA, .871 SV%

February: 1-5-0, 3.32 GAA, .877 SV%

March: 7-2-0, 2.00 GAA, .927 SV%

You would have struck gold if you picked him up at exactly the right time. I know firsthand that he was a significant reason that my season ended in one head-to-head league as my opponent (he will know who he is if he’s reading, and you may know who he is if you follow my timeline since he’s well-known in fantasy circles) did exactly that.

Allen and the Blues snapped Columbus’ ten-game win streak. No relief to those facing Cam Atkinson in head-to-head playoffs, though. Atkinson scored again, giving him six goals over his last six games. Because he won’t come close to reaching his 35 goals and 62 points from last season, Atkinson should fall a ways in single-season drafts next season. That could make him a great rebound candidate and value pick. Dobber would agree.

Since being acquired by the Blue Jackets, Thomas Vanek has nine points (4g-5a) and a plus-9 in 13 games. Playing for his 17th and 18th NHL teams this season (okay, I’m slightly exaggerating), Vanek has quietly put together another 20-goal and 50-point season. That’s inexpensive production, as he’s only 15 percent owned in Yahoo leagues.

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After a stretch of 13 games without a goal, William Nylander has scored three goals in his last four games. A considerable portion of that slump was without Auston Matthews in the lineup, so any future Matthews injuries should be viewed as a resulting hit to Nylander’s value.

Here’s a nice goal that involved the two young Leafs.

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It’s all or nothing with Jimmy Vesey in March. From mid-February to mid-March, Vesey recorded just one point in 13 games. Then on March 12 he posted a hat trick. Then four more games without a point. Then Saturday when he scored two goals and added an assist. Among players who have at least 17 goals (which Vesey has), only Michael Grabner has fewer assists than Vesey’s eight assists. But with a minus-22, 16 penalty minutes, and just one power-play point, Vesey isn’t going to help your team beyond the goal department.

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The Coyotes had a 2-0 lead on the Panthers after two periods. Then Vincent Trocheck took over, scoring two goals and adding an assist. Trocheck continues to get better and better, as he has now reached 30 goals and is on the verge of reaching 70 points. Trocheck does so much for his real-life team with over 21 minutes of icetime per game, which is top 5 among forwards. He has also been providing for his fantasy teams, as he is a near top-10 option in shots on goal and a top-20 option in power-play points. He won’t come nearly as cheap in fantasy drafts next season, as his average draft position was 168 in Yahoo leagues – yes, that's correct!

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