Ramblings: Fancy Fiala (Nov 21)

by steve laidlaw on November 21, 2017

My past few waiver wire grabs have ripped up the scoresheet with Jason Zucker, Micheal Ferland and Sebastian Aho all offering tremendous value over the past couple of weeks. This week my big add was Kevin Fiala, who got things going with a goal and an assist.

Since I can already picture the question rolling in, I like Aho the most of that group, but you should be able to guess that based on my principles, which favour things like opportunity and shot volume. He might also be the most skilled of the bunch and is the best spot as a top line/top PP option who pumps more rubber than a porno shoot.

I’d rank them as such for the ROS:





I’d swap Ferland and Zucker in a multi-category setting, however. Ferland brings enough in the PIM/Hits categories to gamble on him sticking on the Flames’ top line. Ferland, by the way, had his six-game scoring streak snapped but has 10 points in the last 10 games.

Back to Fiala, look at this dynamite move:

Also note the beautiful slap pass by PK Subban. The Preds are fun.

Fiala has six points in five games since Kyle Turris joined the Predators. Their offense had started to take off before Turris arrived, but the impact of the Turris/Fiala combo has been notable. That pair has combined for four goals and 11 points, giving Nashville not only a vicious second scoring line, but have kicked up their second power play unit as well.

That second unit has gone nutty with Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm on the points. Ekholm has goals in four straight, three of which have come on the power play. He is demanding our attention. Dating back to the playoffs, Ekholm has five goals and 24 points in his last 42 games. That’s roughly a 10-goal/45-point pace, which would be relevant in every league.

I am open to using Ekholm, especially while Ryan Ellis is out, but I do not believe Ekholm is going to remain relevant all season. Ekholm has had hot runs like this in the past. Used in a similar spot on the Predators’ second PP unit, Ekholm’s second quarter featured a run with 11 points in 22 games. He also scored just 12 points in the season’s remaining 60 games. It’s a no-brainer, but Ekholm becomes irrelevant without PP time.

Eventually, Ellis is going to return and it’s clear that he represents a much more dynamic option than Ekholm. With the forward additions the Preds have made, there may not be room for four defensemen to see PP time. Ekholm is probably the odd man out. As good as his shot is, Ekholm probably isn’t going to keep shooting 15.6%. More over, Ekholm isn’t exactly piling up shot volume. He is pace for just 131 SOG, and that is with maximal usage. His shot volume drops if he gets bounced from the top PP unit as well.

Anyways, enjoy the run from Ekholm, he offers a ton of value right now. Try to sell him if you can get someone who should stick in your lineup for the full 82. Otherwise, ride out the hot streak until he cools off and then use someone else. This is how you can maximize the limited roster spots that you have.


We should probably discuss how the Predators lost Phil Housley as an assistant coach and watched their power play jump from 16th at 18.9% to 3rd (24.1%), while the Sabres added Housley as their head coach and watched their PP fall from 1st (24.5%) to 28th (14.9%). Housley was a wicked offensive defenseman in his day, but are we sure he runs a nice PP?

Sample size is a factor here. Remember, the Ducks and Blue Jackets stormed the league with their special teams play through the first half of last season before collapsing in the second half. The script could flip, but we also know that coaching is important. The Lightning added Todd Richards to run their PP, lost Steven Stamkos for the majority of last season and improved their man-advantage play.

The impact of the Preds/Sabres flipping PP efficiency is only magnified by the fact that Nashville is among the top teams in drawing penalties, while the Sabres are one of the worst. Buffalo is not a team that could afford lose the ability to finish the few power plays they do get.

The fallout is that Jack Eichel has no power-play goals and just one power-play point through 21 games. He also has 17 points through those 21 games, a 66-point pace. I think he’ll be just fine and encourage you to make a pitch to the Eichel owner in your league. Even if the Sabres’ PP never gets it together, Eichel is going to score more than the four PPP he is on pace for. I feel comfortable suggesting he’ll still finish in the high teens for PPP even if the Sabres’ PP continues to click at it’s current rate. That would get Eichel on track for a point-per-game season. Indeed, I am buying.

It would help if the Sabres got Rasmus Ristolainen back into the lineup, but he should still be out for a few weeks. Marco Scandella has two points in eight games filling in as the #1 option for the Sabres.


Speaking of Scandella, watch him get juked by Artemi Panarin:

That’s three goals in the last four games for Panarin. Starting to heat up!

Despite the Blue Jackets’ awful power play, Zach Werenski continues to produce at a reasonable rate. I do have some concerns that Seth Jones is stealing his PP time. Werenski has been dropped from the top unit these past couple of games, skating just one minute of PP time across these two games. If these experiments continue, they might find a combination that works leaving Werenski on the outside looking in. Something to monitor.


Mathieu Perreault continues his outrageous run with four goals in three games since returning from injury. What’s so amazing is that he’s been buried on the fourth line in these games skating with, I shit you not, Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia.

Perreault has skated 13:00, 11:11 and 10:45 in these games respectively. He remains one of the most efficient per-minute scorers and looms as an option to bump Kyle Connor out of the top six. However, Connor continues to be modestly productive, so he should be safe.

Perreault does see second unit PP time and gives that unit a boost, but he won’t remain a point-per-game option with this deployment. He has been an excellent daily fantasy play, however.


Someone breakup the Coyotes, winners of three in a row.

A slumping Clayton Keller picked up a pair of PP assists, but even with those tallies he has only five points in the past 10 games. It won’t be as easy as it appeared through the first 15-or-so games, but he’ll continue to be fantasy relevant.

The Coyotes have been scrambling their PP units a little bit but closed the game with this combo quarterbacked by Oliver Ekman-Larsson:


This mix certainly helps Max Domi who had gone eight straight without a point, and 21-straight without a goal. Domi scored just his second goal of the season. It took an empty-netter but perhaps this gets him going.

Ekman-Larsson had a classic game with a power-play goal and seven shots. He’s on pace for 50 points and 239 SOG. Whatever he was dealing with last season is in the rear-view mirror. The stud is back.


The Leafs had the game-tying goal waived off with a couple of minutes left:

Mitch Marner racked up his ninth point in the last eight games. He was one of my feature players in my fantasy stock market column this week.


Pavel Zacha drew back into the Devils’ lineup but skated just 9:40. The AHL beckons.

Will Butcher saw just 14:28 in an overtime affair, but scored a goal for the second straight game. I remain dubious of Butcher’s minutes. He is averaging just 15:57 per game, and can get shutout late in games when the Devils are protecting a lead. He’s a power-play specialist, however, which will keep him relevant. I am not stoked about Butcher’s shot volume either. 22 SOG through 20 games is not very good.


Make it 19 points for Johnny Gaudreau on his 10-game scoring streak. The past three games have been on the road, so this isn’t just some home-ice binge. Indeed, he has now merged with the Phoenix Force.

Some concerns about the Flames’ secondary options. With Gaudreau and Co. scorching earth, the secondary options are losing opportunities. Dougie Hamilton, stuck on that second unit, is on pace for 41 points. He should be fine because he has never been all that dependant on PP scoring. He’s also on pace for 279 SOG, which keeps him relevant, while we wait for the scoring to jump up a clip.

Mark Giordano is more concerning. His PK usage continues to expand, which is draining and makes him vulnerable to injury. Meanwhile, his PP minutes are down. His shot volume has improved from last season but is still in decline from his 200+ peak. He clawed out 39 points last season, but that’s roughly his peak based on current usage. That still has value in a lot of leagues, but doesn’t hit my measurements for ownership in your standard 10-/12-team league.


Charlie Coyle returned to the Wild lineup, check out their lines:





That’s not a great spot for Coyle, though he did see a bunch of minutes down the stretch as Minnesota scrambled their lines while seeking to tie it up late. Coyle also saw use on the second power play unit. Minnesota is one of those egalitarian teams where power play time is split evenly between the two units so numbering them has less meaning. Coyle was on the non-Granlund unit, which is what matters in the long run.

Mikael Granlund went off for two goals and three points. He now has points in four straight games and 12 in 15 overall. I still have serious questions about Granlund’s ability to be a shooting percentage driver. Indeed, he did seem to hit another level after shifting to wing last season, but his shooting percentage jumped from 8.1% to 14.7%. He’s back down at 7.9% this season. I feel more comfortable pegging him as a below-average shooter.

Granlund’s current pace has him scoring 62 points this season, right around where I had him pegged. He should be Minnesota’s top scorer but that doesn’t necessarily make him a 70-point guy year-in, year-out.


Word is out that Joe Pavelski has been battling an injury this season. That would help to explain his early struggles. Everything you want to see in terms of minutes, opportunity and shot volume are there. He is simply suffering through an abysmal run of shooting misfortune with an on-ice shooting percentage of just 5.1%. Maybe the injury is helping to cause that misfortune. I’d wager it is bit of both worlds.

The million-dollar question is whether Pavelski, who never misses time, eventually gets healthy or if this dogs him all the way to a disappointing 50-point season. Hell, he could eventually be forced from the lineup entirely. I’m in no position to speculate on the impact of a non-specific injury. Everything in the numbers indicates that Pavelski should improve, which is what I’m betting on.

Of course, every decision you make regarding buy/sell/drop/hold options is relative to your league and the options available. Find me a shallow eight-team league and I can buy the notion of dropping Pavelski, there might be some really juicy options on the waiver wire in that scenario. Pavelski should be held in most leagues, however.

For those in DEEP leagues, Daniel O’Regan is back in the big leagues and has two points in two games. He’s skating fourth-line minutes, but with secondary PP time. His AHL numbers are off the charts with 70 points in 75 games at that level.


The Ducks have their full cast of characters on defense now that Cam Fowler is back. Fowler skated over 21 minutes in an overtime affair. He saw some secondary PP time but did not bump either Sami Vatanen or Brandon Montour off the top unit. Good news for Montour who notched assists on both Anaheim goals. Give it some time for Fowler to get fully up to speed, but the early indications are positive for Montour owners.



Jay Bouwmeester is set to return for the Blues tonight. It’s fair to question if they are better off without the veteran defenseman. In a predominantly defensive role, Bouwmeester has spent much of the past few seasons as the Blues’ worst defenseman by shot metrics. Thus far, the Blues have steamrolled opponents in the possession game with only Carl Gunnarson (again in a highly defensive role) on the negative side of the ledger.

Every team needs defensive depth, so there is little doubt that Bouwmeester can serve in some role. Perhaps he can flip the script if deployed to a lesser degree. Alex Pietrangelo has flourished without Bouwmeester, his most common partner from the past few seasons. The pairing of Joel Edmundson and Pietrangelo has done quite well both in terms of scoring and in terms of possession metrics. Pushing Bouwmeester down the lineup could make the Blues a deeper and more intriguing team. If he’s back over 22 minutes a night, I wonder if that hurts more than it helps.

That’s what the fantasy impact of Bouwmeester amounts to, however, as he stopped being relevant as an asset years ago. Bouwmeester’s return could be especially damaging if he displaces rookie defenseman Vince Dunn, who has done well in third-pairing minutes.


It appears that Anton Rodin and the Vancouver Canucks are parting ways, thus ending the Rodin experiment. There was potential for Rodin to click on a bad Canuck team last season, but injuries derailed that. Since then they added enough talent to keep him out of the mix. It’s possible Rodin was never going to make it. Whatever the case, we can likely write him off.


Kari Lehtonen is on indefinite leave to deal with a personal matter. The Stars called up journeyman Mike McKenna to fill in as backup. As always, anything can happen but McKenna’s career 0.912 save percentage at the AHL level leaves a lot to be desired.

With the Stars staring down a back-to-back tonight and tomorrow we just might see McKenna in net. I wouldn’t be shocked if Ben Bishop starts both halves, but the veteran has been inconsistent at best.

Tread carefully!

The Stars will also be without Marc Methot for 4-6 weeks following a knee scope, and Martin Hanzal is out for a week with a hand injury.


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