Lindholm could probably have more relevance, but he’s stuck behind Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour for power play time. He does have some value in leagues scoring hits and blocked shots because he’s capable of netting 30 points and piling up big peripherals in a shutdown role.
Montour had an excellent bounce-back after being a healthy scratch on Tuesday night. He notched an assist and fired eight SOG. I’m not sure there’s room for Montour to have universal relevance with Fowler eating up the top minutes, but he remains a dynamic offensive talent. He has proven a capable #1 option and is absolutely the guy any time that Fowler is absent.
Ryan Getlaf has run his scoring streak to five games, peaking with last night’s four-assist performance. I don’t think you need me to tell you that he is a stud, but it’s amazing that he isn’t universally owned. I know that Getzlaf has been limited because of injuries, but he’s got point-per-game talent so even after missing 20+ games he has value in season-long leagues.
A flu riddled Bruins squad clawed out a 2-1 shootout win over the Jets to continue Tuukka Rask’s hot run. He has allowed just 15 goals in his last 10 starts, an incredible run. Rask’s game has really taken off since the Bruins were able to reunite the line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. That line has folded the opposition to an extreme degree.
Marchand was questionable to play with that flu bug, but managed to suit up. Both Ryan Spooner and Riley Nash were held out. This is something to watch for on Saturday, when every team in the league, but Calgary, plays. No sense in taking a chance on a maybe in your lineup when you’ll have other options.
Those injuries saw the return of Frank Vatrano to the Bruin lineup. Remember him?
Vatrano has scarcely played despite the opportunities that have been afforded to youngsters throughout Boston’s lineup. This is a testament to how well Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork have performed, but it is also damning of Vatrano. The once promising youngster is drowning with just two points in 20 games and has been unable to scratch out more than 10 minutes per game when he has played. He is venturing into that tweener zone that precedes full on bust status.
We’re less than two seasons removed from Vatrano scoring 36 goals in 36 games at the AHL level and following that up with eight points in 10 games for the US at the World Championship. It feels impossible given that pedigree that Vatrano hasn’t translated into an NHL regular. He is still only 23, but I wonder if he needs a fresh start on a rebuilder or if last season’s injury is still impacting him.
The Blue Jackets have now scored a power-play goal in four of the last five games, a stretch in which they are 4/17. Keep an eye on this heading into the second half. If they are even run-of-the-mill bad instead of completely impotent they’ll have some players emerge as useful fantasy options. Columbus has settled into the following group as their top unit:
This has come without Zach Werenski for the past two games due to injury. He looms as a threat to bump Jones or one of the forwards, but given the Blue Jacket PP woes Werenski has not been guaranteed top unit minutes. Werenski’s good enough to maintain relevance without top unit time, but it would cap him out at roughly 40 points, which is a far cry from our expectations after his breakout rookie season.
I am growing smitten with Dubois who is centering what has been an elite top line for Columbus with Panarin and Josh Anderson. Dubois getting top unit PP time with it actually clicking is icing on the cake. He has 12 points in his last 13 games. He is trending towards being a second-half star. If you don’t have room for him yet, keep him on the watch list.
Patric Hornqvist did indeed return for Pittsburgh after a game off due to injury. He skated just 14:04 on the third line, but was back as the net-front man on the top PP unit.
Conor Sheary has completely vanished from relevance with just three points in the last 15 games. It would take a few hurdles for Sheary to jump back into relevance. He’d need to get back into the top-six consistently AND the Penguins would have to get their act together at 5-on-5.
On the plus side, the Penguins are currently sitting outside the playoffs, which puts them in position to need a big second half. This is not dissimilar from the situation for the Lightning when they rode Nikita Kucherov down the stretch in an effort to make the post-season. This will benefit Pittsburgh’s best, and Sheary could potentially see some trickledown from that if on the right line. I have much more confidence in Jake Guentzel and Hornqvist than Sheary as far as secondary options on Pittsburgh go.
Some lineup shuffling for New Jersey with Jesper Bratt sitting out with an injury and Marcus Johansson returning from injury. Check out the lines:
#1 23.7% GIBBONS,BRIAN – JOHANSSON,MARCUS – ZAJAC,TRAVIS
#2 22.3% HALL,TAYLOR – HISCHIER,NICO – PALMIERI,KYLE
#3 18.6% BOYLE,BRIAN – COLEMAN,BLAKE – NOESEN,STEFAN
#4 16.3% STAFFORD,DREW – WOOD,MILES – ZACHA,PAVEL
You have to figure that Bratt will bump Brian Gibbons back to the fourth line when he returns, giving the Devils two juicy scoring lines. Obviously, the place to be is on that top line with Taylor Hall. Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri are locked in there.
Palmieri notched a pair of assists and will be an awesome fantasy option if he can stay healthy, which has been an issue throughout his career. He is getting you exposure to Hall at even strength AND on the top PP unit and is a bonafide 30-goal-scorer himself. A lot to like with Palmieri.
Hischier notched an assist to end a six-game scoring slump, but the overall trend here is downward. Without top unit PP time he will struggle to sustain relevance.
Mika Zibanejad has been held off the board in two games since returning from injury, but he is back in his top line spot, as well as being back on the top power play unit. All of the ingredients are there for Zibanejad to get back to near point-per-game production. He is available in over 40% of Yahoo leagues, and is a must-own if available.
I am more than happy to share Dobber’s thoughts on Cam Talbot:
Six straight wins for Cam Talbot. Looks like I jumped the gun making him the cover player on my Midseason Guide as a "Can they bounce back?" question…— Dobber (@DobberHockey) December 22, 2017
I mentioned a counter-offer I made in one of my leagues yesterday and it was accepted. I landed Talbot and Sean Couturier for Scott Darling and Vladislav Namestnikov. Suffice it to say that I am very pleased to be landing Talbot. I had him as one of four top tier goaltenders. With the Oilers pushing to get back into the playoff picture he could be in for a huge second half. I think the buy-low window is still open.
Over the last few weeks Jason Spezza has shown flickers of returning to relevance. Last night he was back on the top power play unit, where he has been used sparingly this season, but more frequently over the past few weeks. His PPP was his first since November 18. He has five points in 11 games this month. We aren’t at a point where we should get him back onto our teams, but the flashes are there.
Tyler Seguin ended an eight-game goal scoring slump with a pair of goals. He has been shooting like crazy, on pace for 349 SOG. With that kind of shot volume, he’s a threat for 40 goals, even with Ken Hitchcock tightening the reins. It helps that Seguin’s shooting percentage has bounced back after scoring on just 8.6% of his shots.
After a scorching November, Alex DeBrincat has come crashing back to earth. He has just one goal and four points in nine games this month. A slowdown was inevitable considering he has not been seeing top unit PP time, or anything in the way of exposure to Patrick Kane.
DeBrincat had seen his minutes bumped into the 16-17 -minute range while skating alongside Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, but he has been limited to below 15 minutes in each of the past two games. With DeBrincat failing to click alongside Toews and Saad he could be shuffled back down the lineup.
Saad, by the way, has spent the past few weeks punted off the Blackhawks’ top PP unit. He is still a threat to score 50 points, but that is rapidly becoming his ceiling after a slow start. Increased PP usage should have helped Saad break out to 60+ points, but instead he has struggled to score in all phases. He still provides enough shot volume to have relevance in a lot of leagues, but he’s turned into waiver fodder for me in 10-/12-team leagues.
Brent Seabrook has gobbled up top PP minutes over the past couple of weeks, but simply has not clicked. His last PP point came back in October. He still has use in multi-cat leagues, but cannot be counted on for any reasonable amount of points.
The Hurricanes handed the reins over to their second PP unit for last night’s game giving Jeff Skinner and Co. the bulk of the minutes. The result: a 2/6 performance for a team desperate to kickstart a bottom-five power play. I doubt that this is a long-term option for Carolina, but it also isn’t a terrible idea to get Skinner more time with the man-advantage. It’s crazy that Skinner is a perennial 30-goal threat despite this being the fourth straight season of him seeing only secondary PP time. The only reason I trust Skinner to remain relevant with this sort of deployment is that he has proven he can do it.
Noah Hanifin had a big three-point performance that should alert you to his emergence as a relevant option. Hanifin is far from universal relevance. He is skating only 18:25 per game, with usage on that same #2 PP unit as Skinner. He is being used in favourable situations with almost two thirds of his shifts starting in the offensive zone. He has taken advantage piling up big shot totals.
Despite the secondary usage, Hanifin is on pace for 17 goals, 46 points and 191 SOG. Those totals would be relevant in every fantasy league, but I am skeptical that he’ll keep shooting 8.9%. He came into the season with a 3.5% career average. I will never tell you not to use a player who is producing well, but I don’t think that what Hanifin has done is particularly sustainable, despite his obvious talent.
Justin Faulk, as snake-bitten as he has been, represents the better option going forward. His assist ended a 12-game scoreless drought. He has just eight points in 34 games and is shooting just 1.1%. The career 6.6% shooter should certainly improve. Faulk is accustomed to getting points on roughly half of all the goals with him on the ice, but has instead scored on just 23% of said goals. Every single metric screams regression, but I understand why you’d have dropped him by now. Games 1-34 Hanifin has clearly been the better option, but I’d still bet on Faulk producing more in games 35-82.
Craig Smith was held out of the Predator lineup due to a lower-body injury. No timeline for Smith, but this could derail what has been an excellent run for him ever since Kyle Turris arrived in Nashville. The trio of Smith, Turris and Kevin Fiala have all scored at a point-per-game clip for over a month now.
Scott Hartnell took Smith’s spot on that line and on the top PP unit alongside Filip Forsberg et al. Smith’s absence was not enough to slow down Kevin Fiala who has scored a goal in five straight games and eight of the last nine. With this kind of run, Fiala is plug and play, no matter your format. I suspect he’ll slow down at some point because of reduced minutes, but you cannot ignore this hot run from an extremely talented player.
Aaron Dell stole away another start from Martin Jones. He wasn’t overly impressive conceding four goals on 40 shots, but did enough to win his fifth straight. I discussed Dell’s threat to Jones in Tuesday’s ramblings, so I won’t reiterate that, but this will only help Dell to chip away at Jones’ starting gig.
San Jose’s power play has gone absolutely bonkers over the past couple of weeks. They have scored on the PP in seven straight games going 12/33 in that stretch. With this run of excellence, the Sharks have climbed into the top-10 in PP efficiency at 22.2%. Crazy what a couple of weeks can do.
For the most part it’s been the usual suspects getting it done for San Jose. Brent Burns has led the way with 11 points in these seven games, eight of those coming with the man-advantage, but there has been plenty of offense to go around. Joe Thornton has nine points in these seven games, demanding to be scooped back up after being left for dead a month ago. We have also seen Kevin Labanc and Tomas Hertl get in on the action, especially with Logan Couture out with a concussion.
Labanc had a four-point night, including scoring the overtime winner. He has nine points of his own over the past seven games, with four coming on the power play. If this keeps up, his spot on that top unit is safe.
As fantasy players you’ll love this one from Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts:
29. Wanted to empty the Derek Dorsett notebook from our conversation with him. First, he confirmed Ryan Johansen’s hilarious story about the penalty-minutes race from 2011–12. Dorsett entered game 82 of the season in second place, nine minutes behind Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo. Johansen said Dorsett told him to start a scrum, so the latter could “come in hot” and pass Rinaldo. Dorsett, however, said he got only seven minutes out of it and needed more mayhem. The opponent that day was the New York Islanders, and Matt Martin understood what was going on. One fight later, Dorsett owned the crown.
I’m not a huge fan of PIM as a fantasy stat. Generally speaking, PIM are a negative stat. That being said, I have always enjoyed the strategy of streaming in an enforcer to try and steal away the PIM category. It’s hilarious to know the NHLers get up to these shenanigans in the real games.
Check out Ian Gooding’s latest Finding Fantasy Value column.
I am overjoyed that we will again be bringing you a Mid-Season Guide this season. Look for it to drop on January 12. The best way you can support the site – AND YOUR FANTASY TEAMS – is to pickup the guide. Let us help push you over the top in the second half.
Merry Christmas! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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