Ramblings: Duchene Returns, Guentzel Arrives (Nov 21)

by steve laidlaw on November 22, 2016

Ramblings: Duchene returns, Guentzel arrives, and more.

When news broke that both Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist were hurt, I wondered if Jake Guentzel would get an opportunity. Kunitz stuck around for another couple of games but is now week-to-week. Guentzel got the call and immediately made an impact with two goals, including one on his very first shift.

Guentzel is legit. He’s scored at a point-per-game rate at the AHL level and is skating alongside Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Only 35 seconds worth of power play time for Guentzel but he skated over 15 minutes anyhow.

The Penguins experimented with Conor Sheary and Nick Bonino on the top power play unit but I wouldn’t be shocked if Guentzel got some time in the coming games. Sheary isn’t really a fit and Bonino is in some kind of funk.

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What a track meet the Penguins and Rangers played.

Check out the Rangers’ lines with Mika Zibanejad out 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula:

19.44%EVHAYES,KEVIN – KREIDER,CHRIS – ZUCCARELLO,MATS

17.06%EVGRABNER,MICHAEL – NASH,RICK – STEPAN,DEREK

16.27%EVFAST,JESPER – JOORIS,JOSH – LINDBERG,OSCAR

15.87%EVMILLER,J.T. – PIRRI,BRANDON – VESEY,JIMMY

Kevin Hayes led all Ranger forwards with 17:28 of ice time. He still isn’t seeing regular power play time, which doesn’t bode well for long term production but right now this team cannot be kept off the scoreboard. Two more points for Hayes and two more for Michael Grabner who also isn’t seeing power play time. Ride ‘em till this dries up.

 

Looks like a couple more weeks of extended minutes for Grabner and Brandon Pirri.

The Rangers also claimed Matt Puempel off waivers from the Senators. Tough to see how he gets into this lineup but you can only assume he’ll start producing like a 30-goal scorer with the way the Rangers have been going.

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Brian Elliott made his return for the Flames against Buffalo, which would have been a good spot if the Flames weren’t intent on hanging him out to dry:

Tough break for Elliott who was already lacking confidence and losing his job to Chad Johnson. Presumably Johnson will draw back in. At some point, Elliott will have a run of relevance but I don’t see it coming on the horizon.

Signs of life from Dougie Hamilton with four assists in the past two games. He is quietly putting together a productive season with 10 points in 21 games. He also sits tied for third among defensemen in SOG with 55. Shot volume was a big reason I was high on Hamilton coming into the year, he has not disappointed in that regard.

It looks like the Michael Frolik/Mikael Backlund pairing might be putting together one of their hot streaks. Frolik has four points in the last four games. Backlund, meanwhile, has goals in the past two games. It’s also possible that these guys merely benefitted from playing a back-to-back against Detroit and Buffalo but we’ve seen them put together some hot four/five-game runs in the past. There’s value here in deeper leagues, especially with Frolik skating on the top PP unit in recent games.

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Some good news there for Ryan O’Reilly and the Sabres, although they didn’t need him last night.

Kyle Okposo got a pair of points but I like him so much more when O’Reilly is in the lineup. Sam Reinhart is a fine player but he is a better fit as a secondary winger. This first line center business is too much.

Taylor Fedun has four assists in three games for the Sabres. He is seeing secondary PP usage but this appears to be more aberration than sign of things to come. Rasmus Ristolainen is the only defenseman to own on this team. I know he is “struggling” but with an assist Ristolainen is up to nine points in 19 games. This is fine. We know that defensemen go through longer slumps than forwards because they score at different rates. I still think Ristolainen is in the conversation for a 50-point season.

Remember, we still haven’t seen the Sabres at full strength and Jack Eichel has been skating so we’ll see him soon enough. Only a matter of time before Ristolainen is popping. I say all this because Ristolainen was dropped in one of my leagues recently. I know it’s a shallow league, but come on. He isn’t even burying you with a bad plus/minus like he did last season.

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Ryan Ellis pokes the bear by interfering with JT Brown and gets the worst of it. This was likely retribution for Brown hitting Roman Josi up high earlier. Concussion spotters pulled Josi from the game but he is reportedly fine.

Huge game for Ellis assisting on all three Predator goals and then piling on these late penalty minutes. I still think it’s silly to reward PIM in fantasy leagues but it can be fun when things like this go in your favour.

Ellis is finally rounding into the big-time defenseman we always thought he would be. It took him longer than virtually any fantasy owner has patience for but here he is skating over 23 minutes a night on the top pairing for a Stanley Cup contender. A decent chunk of Ellis’ minutes come on the penalty kill, and his power play usage is more of the second unit variety, which limits his upside a little but he’s on pace for 40 points and there’s good reason to believe he can get there.

On a lot of other teams, Ellis would be more of a fantasy option because he’d see top unit PP time. Unfortunately for Ellis owners, he is locked up for two more years after this one and Josi and PK Subban will be around even longer. It’ll take a couple of injuries for him to become something more and at that point what are the Predators?

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Tyler Johnson extended his scoring streak to four games with a late goal. The Lightning have been mucking around with the lines a lot but in each of the past two games Johnson has ended up on a line with Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov for the third period. Just make it stick for my sanity!

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Shake up in Dallas:

#1           31.5%    BENN,JAMIE – EAKIN,CODY – SEGUIN,TYLER

#2           26%        EAVES,PATRICK – SHARP,PATRICK – SPEZZA,JASON

#3           19.6%    FAKSA,RADEK – RITCHIE,BRETT – ROUSSEL,ANTOINE

#4           15.5%    CRACKNELL,ADAM – KORPIKOSKI,LAURI – SHORE,DEVIN

Despite being split off from Tyler Seguin, Patrick Eaves still found an assist. It’s not like he’s in a bad spot alongside Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza. Eaves also remains an option on the Stars’ top PP unit.

Good spot for Cody Eakin if you want to take a flyer.

John Klingberg was made a healthy scratch after missing a team meeting. Julius Honka drew into the lineup and replaced Klingberg on the top PP unit. Good showing for the rookie defenseman as he recorded his first career point and landed five SOG in 18:33 of action. Lots of fantasy potential in Honka, although Klingberg is firmly in his path.

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Matt Duchene made his return for the Avalanche, while Gabriel Landeskog remains out. Check out the lines from last night:

#1           25.2%    MACKINNON,NATHAN – MARTINSEN,ANDREAS – RANTANEN,MIKKO

#2           19.1%    DUCHENE,MATT – GREER,AJ – SODERBERG,CARL

#3           18.7%    COMEAU,BLAKE – IGINLA,JAROME – MITCHELL,JOHN

#4           7.7%      BOURQUE,RENE – GRIGORENKO,MIKHAIL – MCLEOD,CODY

 

MacKinnon is heating up with five points in the last three games. Duchene, meanwhile scored a goal and an assist in his return. I think that MacKinnon is more talented than Duchene but based on usage I prefer Duchene for fantasy purposes. MacKinnon is still seeing too much defensive usage for my liking.

Another real life vs. fantasy battle taking place: Erik Johnson vs. Tyson Barrie. Johnson is the better full time guy but for fantasy purposes Barrie is still seeing better usage. Barrie is seeing almost a minute more of power play time, predominantly with the top unit.

Johnson is hot with six points in the past seven games but over the long haul Barrie is still your guy.

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Kris Russell, who knew?

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Tomas Hertl is out with a knee sprain. He had surgery but the Sharks have not released a timetable for his return.

With Hertl out, Patrick Marleau has been bumped onto the top line alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Marleau is fading as a fantasy asset and is off to a horrible start but he scored last night, which could spark him.

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Kyle Palmieri was producing rather poorly as it was. Probably safe to dump him in shallower leagues.

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This call up is almost irrelevant with the way Cam Ward is playing. Eddie Lack was never going to sniff the crease. *

As if there was any doubt. Dzingel looks like a 40-point guy who could go for more with the right breaks.

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More ice time for Ryan Sproul then. I like it.

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With Nick Bjugstad on his way back to the lineup Jared McCann has been sent down to the minors. I am curious to see where Bjugstad lines up and what impact he can have. He seems fairly buried as the #3 centerman but he has received PP minutes from that spot all the same. This is Bjugstad’s fourth year but it doesn’t look like the dominos are lined up for a breakout.

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Last night, I made an appearance on the NHL On the Ice show to talk some fantasy hockey. I have to admit they stumped me with their prospect questions. I’m just not up on prospects until they get drafted and most of my exposure comes at the World Juniors. It’s why I usually direct most questions to our DobberProspects gang. Definitely an area for improvement!

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Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.