Ramblings: Krejci Conundrum

by steve laidlaw on December 19, 2017

 

David Krejci was a late scratch for the Bruins with an upper-body injury. He is not expected to be available for tonight’s game either. He has now missed 13 games already. When healthy, he has produced at a 60-point rate, fantastic considering he isn’t getting top unit power play time, but these injuries are making him woefully unreliable.

Even without Krejci the Bruins laid the smackdown on the Blue Jackets putting up seven goals. Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk put up three points apiece. Heinen is of particular interest thanks to some recent usage on the top power play unit, but it appears that that has dried up with Ryan Spooner back.

All the same, Heinen has 21 points in 27 games, a 61-point pace. He has been particularly hot of late with nine points in his last seven games, including five power-play points. I’m not over the moon for this option, but there’s some short-term value if you are in a pinch.

Spooner, by the way, moved into Krejci’s spot as second line center. He has scored three points in two games since returning from injury. With exposure to Brad Marchand and the rest of the Bruins’ big guns on that top PP unit, he certainly has value. However, he has only 11 SOG in 12 games. I’m never going to fall head over heels for a guy with such limited shot volume.

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Sergei Bobrovsky has had a rough go of it in the month of December having allowed 29 goals in eight starts. He does have a shutout mixed in there, but six of his eight starts have seen him allow three goals or more. I don’t think this is reason for alarm, however if there was ever a time to make a pitch to the Bobrovsky owner it is surely now. You’d still pay through the nose to get him, but I don’t think you’d be automatically rebuffed if you made a great offer.

Alexander Wennberg has run his scoring streak to three games. That ain’t much, but it’s a darn good sign. I would prefer if they pushed all-in on the Pierre-Luc Dubois experience, but we may be a year or two away from a genuine breakout.

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Ryan Miller has not been lit up much this season, but the Devils sure did the trick last night. You may have figured that with Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri returning from injury that it was those big horses who got the job done, but instead it was Stefan Noesen, Miles Wood and Brian Boyle who led the way.

You have to give Boyle some credit as he has put up six points in the last two games, and 12 points in the past 13. He is seeing consistent minutes as the net-front man on the Devils’ top PP unit, and has banged in goals on 22% of his shots. I’m not prepared to use Boyle in most formats, but in a deep enough league there is serious value here.

Nico Hischier continues to trend downward. He has now run his scoreless drought to six games. Here’s what I wrote about him in my latest fantasy hockey stock market piece:

Hischier has been on a downward slide over the past month scoring just six points in the last 15 games. He is currently riding a five-game scoreless drought. Star linemate Taylor Hall should be returning soon, which will help Hischier plenty, but there are still reasons to be sour on the rookie. For whatever reason the Devils still are not using him on their top power-play unit, which has hurt his chances of racking up cheap points. Of his 20 points only four have come with the man advantage.

He needs to get bumped up to the top unit for a better chance of consistently producing points, but that hasn’t happened, not even after Adam Henrique was traded.

The good news for Hischier is that he centered both Hall and Palmieri at even strength.

Palmieri skated only 13:23 in his return to the lineup, so it may be a week or two before he is up and running at full clip.

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Adam Henrique had a big-time revenge game with a goal and an assist against his former team. He had gone three straight games without a point, but continues to be interesting thanks to use in all phases of the game including time on the Ducks’ top PP unit. His low for minutes with the Ducks is 17:36. There was a mass dropping of Henrique when news of Ryan Getzlaf’s return broke, but he has managed to stay relevant.

Rickard Rakell has now gone nine straight games without a goal dating back to before he was injured at the end of November. He has just three points in those nine games. His ownership on Yahoo has slipped to 71%. If he has been dropped in one of your pools, I advise scooping him up. He is good enough, shoots enough and has enough elite exposure to warrant some patience. Plus, I always favour Anaheim players thanks to an abundance of off-night games. If you have a Duck or two on your roster you can usually get an extra game every week simply because they don’t overlap as often with other players.

For instance, the fantasy playoffs in most of my leagues run from March 5 to March 25. Over that three-week stretch the Ducks play 10 games, with only two of them on the common Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays. Odds are, any Duck player you have is going to be usable for all 10 of those games, which is a great way to maximize a roster spot.

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After a hot start returning from injury Marian Gaborik is fading from relevance. He has just four points in the last nine games and has skated under 14 minutes in six of those nine games. He has drifted down to the third line and has started to concede top PP unit minutes. Last night he split duties with Tyler Toffoli on that top unit.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the point where Toffoli consistently gets top unit run, but a goal-scorer of his calibre could breakout with consistent use in that phase. We’ve seen Toffoli put together a 31-goal/58-point season with irregular PP time, but there is more meat on the bone. A full season of 3:00+ minutes per game with the man-advantage could yield a 70-point season. Dare to dream, I suppose.

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Patric Hornqvist was sent back to Pittsburgh with an upper-body injury. Their next three games are at home, so this doesn’t mean Hornqvist will miss much time. Keep an eye out for updates. Jake Guentzel steps into top unit PP time whenever Hornqvist is out so he is the main beneficiary.

I keep wondering when Daniel Sprong is going to get a call-up by the Penguins. He made the NHL for 18 games as an 18-year-old then vanished back to junior for a couple of years and is now shredding the AHL as a 20-year-old. He has 15 goals and 22 points in 25 AHL games, a great rate of scoring. He warrants a look at the next level, but there aren’t many minutes to around with the Penguins loaded on the wing.

I wonder if there isn’t a deal to be made to bring in a centerman and move out a winger using Sprong or Dominik Simon (who is currently up, but was out sick last night) to fill the void. Of course, depth is hugely important so perhaps Simon and Sprong are merely fated to be black aces this spring and waiting to get their chance next season. With those two on the cusp, the Penguins have a nice succession plan on the wing which would allow them to move on from Hornqvist (an unrestricted free agent) this summer.

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Sven Andrighetto notched a couple of points in just 14:29 of action. He has really fallen out of favour with just four points in the last 16 games. His ice time has been drifting into that 13-14 -minute range, which makes it awfully difficult to be productive even as he remains an efficient per-minute scorer.

Alexander Kerfoot was reunited with Tyson Jost and Nail Yakupov, but that line was held under 10 minutes across the board. Kerfoot is averaging 1.0 SOG per game and is shooting 30%. There isn’t a league out there where I think he has relevance despite his gaudy scoring pace. If he can scratch back onto the top PP unit, he’d resume value in deep leagues, but JT Compher was skating in that role last night.

I’m not sure that Compher is the answer here either, but he has shown some flashes of brilliance.

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It wasn’t pretty, but Cam Talbot stopped 18 of 21 for a win in his return to the Oilers’ lineup. The Oilers also got Adam Larsson back from injury. Larsson isn’t himself fantasy relevant, but was tops among Oiler defensemen in ice time last night. He’ll be an important piece of getting Talbot back to being a top-10 fantasy goalie, which I still think is possible.

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I think we’re trending into goalie controversy territory in San Jose. Martin Jones, never a goalie I have been fond of, has tanked in December allowing at least four goals in all six of his starts. To be clear, Jones is fine. He has been average or slightly below across two-and-a-third seasons as the Sharks’ starter receiving over 75% of the starts. That’s a safe baseline, but nothing earth shattering. Basically, he’s third goalie material, but most folks drafted him as their #1 or #2.

On the flip side, Aaron Dell, the Sharks’ backup, has won four straight games. In 26 starts and 32 appearances over the past two seasons he has a 17-11 record with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. Obviously, we are dealing with a small sample size here. He also benefits from poaching favourable starts and always being rested. However, Dell does have a track record of success boasting a save percentage above .920 in three seasons of AHL action, albeit never skating more than 40 games in any of those seasons.

Could Dell start syphoning starts from Jones? I wouldn’t be shocked if Dell started two of the four remaining games on the Sharks’ schedule this month. The Sharks then face four sets of back-to-backs in January, so there will be plenty of opportunity for Dell to see action over the next six weeks. I still view Jones as the starter, but Dell has already grabbed nine of 32 available starts, putting him on pace for 23. That would leave Jones with 59, assuming Dell doesn’t continue to grab starts at an elevated rate. If this starts trending into the 50/30 split range Dell would have SERIOUS fantasy value in all formats, and he is already a juicy option for spot starts, especially in rotisserie leagues with games-played limits.

If Jones can get back to playing average hockey, he will probably give you 60 starts and 30 wins once again. If not, Dell’s appeal widens. Can Dell continue to provide elite play in a larger sample? I’d bet against him sustaining a .930 save percentage, but I’d bet for him putting up better than league-average numbers.

I think you have to consider handcuffing Dell if you are a Jones owner in a deep league. We don’t want to blow a six-game sample out of the water, but if you share my opinion of Jones before he went on this cold run, then you shouldn’t have too much confidence in him. There is serious potential for Dell to steal starts.

Logan Couture sat out last night due to a concussion. We never know the timeline with concussions, but I wouldn’t expect to see him back until 2018.

Tomas Hertl, Kevin Labanc and Tim Heed all saw PP time with Couture out. Labanc had the most success so perhaps he continues to see run here, although there is room for two of these guys to get minutes.

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If you are looking for a replacement for Couture, do consider Mika Zibanejad who was dropped by many after a concussion of his own. Zibanejad is expected back in the Rangers’ tonight, and offers near point-per-game upside.

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The Canadiens are shutting Shea Weber down for “a bit” due to a foot injury. I think we can assume he is done until after Christmas, and potentially until 2018. They are on what would be a brutal road trip playing seven in a row away from Montreal, with three against Western Canada and followed by three in the Southeastern US, and have two sets of back-to-backs crammed in there. However, they also get three days off in between for Christmas (along with the rest of the league) so the schedule isn’t as daunting as it could be.

All this considered, now may not be the opportune time to jump on Habs players. If you want a direct replacement for Weber, Jeff Petry has been a tremendous option filling in during previous absences. He put up four points in six games the last time Weber was out, albeit against a much more favourable slate of games.

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TJ Oshie was back at practice experiencing full contact yesterday, so look for him to return to the lineup tonight. He skated alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana. Expect him to continue in that spot on the second line as well as in his usual place on the top power play unit.

It appears that Tom Wilson’s run on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin will continue.

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Brock Boeser owners rejoice:

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