The Blue Jackets were without Zach Werenski due to an injury described as day-to-day. I guess we wait and see. Seth Jones stepped up in his absence with a goal and an assist, including a power-play point.
Don’t look now, but the Blue Jackets have scored a power-play marker in three of the last four games going 3/13 in that stretch. This isn’t yet a trend, but any signs of life are worth getting excited about.
Alexander Wennberg is streaking with points in four straight games. Amazingly this scoring streak has come without getting in on any of those recent PP goals. Check out his snipe:
Do my eyes deceive me or did Wennberg just shoot the puck? pic.twitter.com/aLmsZn23ko— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) December 21, 2017
More of that, please.
Mitch Marner appears to be heating up with goals in back-to-back games including this gem:
Mitch Marner may be heating up: pic.twitter.com/bZQtYURjbc— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) December 21, 2017
Talk about having the puck on a string.
Nazem Kadri has gone nine straight games without a point. It could be a good time to make a pitch for his services. He remains a high-end shot producer with 29 SOG in this scoreless stretch and he surely won’t stay quiet forever. It is worth mentioning that his PIM production is way down after being an elite PIM producer the past couple of seasons, so some of his peripheral fantasy value is down.
The Flyers’ power play hasn’t been quite as effective as in past seasons, but they’ve still got some magic in them:
Giroux-Voracek-Simmonds on the PP, I've seen this before, but it never stops being BEAUTIFUL pic.twitter.com/Ji7mAiRikb— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) December 21, 2017
I was recently offered Sean Couturier for Vladislav Namestnikov. I wasn’t willing to do the deal straight up. Namestnikov is more valuable if for no other reason than his winger eligibility. Both players have slowed down of late, each with 10 points in the last 15 games, and are the least accomplished fantasy options on their lines so I wouldn’t be shocked if either one slowed down entirely. I think Namestnikov is safer, however. The Lightning are simply more prolific, especially on the power play.
I remain unconvinced that Couturier’s spot on the Flyer power play is safe. He has NEVER been a big-time producer in this phase and has not matched what Brayden Schenn offered as a bumper option. Maybe he’ll grow more comfortable with added reps, but I could see him losing out.
I know that you are thinking, “Aren’t you Mr. Scott Darling?”
Yes, and I remain a true believer, but I also had Talbot ranked ahead of Darling pre-season, so this still fits the bill. I am notoriously slow to change my take on goalies, so what you won’t see me do is sell Darling for a goalie I ranked lower like Tuukka Rask, Brian Elliott or Mike Smith, especially not while downgrading at another position.
Henrik Zetterberg is back in the hot zone with eight points in his last five games. That’s nice, use him if you can, especially in daily fantasy, but I’ll remain interested in only Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha for season-long value. Mike Green too, I suppose.
Green has three points in the last two games after just one point in the previous 13, but defensemen are going to be more volatile. With Green producing at least 2.0 SOG per game you can afford to be a bit more patient with him.
The Flames busted out a brand-new power play look last night rolling out the following for their top unit:
I have already ragged on TJ Brodie a few times over the past couple of weeks and for good reason. He is mired in a stretch where he has scored just three points in 16 games, including going scoreless in eight games before grabbing a secondary assist last night. If that cold stretch wasn’t the nail in the coffin surely getting dumped to the second power play unit will be. He remains owned in 49% of Yahoo leagues, but I think that could be pushed down to 25%, considering some highly intrigued low ownership options like Shea Theodore, Jeff Petry, and Alex Edler are all sitting below 20% ownership.
None of those four may be valuable for the entirety of the season, but dropping Brodie won’t hurt too many fantasy teams, and the alternatives listed should help in the short-term.
Micheal Ferland has been trending downward over the past few weeks. He’ll still get you exposure to Gaudreau and Monahan at even strength, but dropping to PP2 will eat away at some of his fantasy value. My comp for him has always been Patrick Maroon so your expectations shouldn’t have been sky high.
I expect Ferland will get back on that top PP unit at some point, because the Flames don’t have much in the way of net-front options, although Tkachuk may have a future there. Brodie has obvious replacements in both Giordano and Dougie Hamilton, which is why I have no issue burying Brodie after one game off the top unit.
Giordano has picked up a little steam with six points in the last nine games. He also has 31 SOG in that stretch. More top unit PP time will only help his cause. Of course, he is near universal ownership, but it could be the time to buy before his stock rises and I’m not just saying that because I am trying to sell him in a keeper league. A healthy Giordano should get you at least 40 points.
The Flames lost Travis Hamonic to a lower-body injury. He isn’t of particular fantasy relevance, but his play had improved of late. Foisting Michael Stone into his slot to play 20+ minutes a night isn’t ideal for Mike Smith or the Flames.
With Hamonic out I hope we get to see Rasmus Andersson given a shot at the NHL level. Perhaps he won’t get the PP time necessary to be fantasy relevant, but he has done quite well in the AHL with 16 points in 22 games.
Alex Pietrangelo is trending in the wrong direction. He has just three points in the last 10 games, missed a couple of games due to injury and has lost his spot on the top power play unit to the capable Colton Parayko.
We’ll see how long this run on the top PP unit lasts for Parayko. The Blues have been experimenting with combinations over the past month in which they have gone 7/48 with the man-advantage. They have some tent-pole options in Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn so they should be fine, but there is opportunity for fantasy value to swing depending on who is in that lone defenseman role once they do start having success again.
We also have to consider that the Blues are missing Jaden Schwartz and will continue to be for the next month, which lowers their offensive ceiling. Since Schwartz went down they have scored seven goals in six games.
Carter Hutton took the loss, but was solid stopping 31 of 33. I scooped him off the waiver wire for a spot start as soon as he was announced. After Andrei Vasilevskiy got beat up in Vegas I needed someone who could turn the goalie categories in my direction. His career numbers don’t suggest that you should have much faith, but he has been outstanding this season. With the Flames’ offense struggling, this was a good spot to take a swing.
Time to get giddy about a return for Ryan Ellis:
As others have mentioned, Ryan Ellis is practicing again today, but doing so without the “non-contact” jersey he had been wearing for the past couple weeks.— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) December 20, 2017
The Preds have torched teams without Ellis, so it will be interesting to see where he slots in. Roman Josi and PK Subban are locked in as fantasy relevant options, but Mattias Ekholm has continued momentum from his playoff breakout. However, there is only room for three defensemen to get power play time in Nashville. Could Ellis be iced upon his return or will Ekholm get bounced?
Nashville has surprised boasting an elite PP after struggling last season. They currently rank second in the league in efficiency clicking on 26.8% of their chances. It would be awfully hard to cut down on Ekholm’s PP time given how he has produced four PP goals and 10 PP points already. Why mess with success?
I fear Ellis may have missed the boat.
The gang at DobberProspects has done a bang-up job of previewing the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships. Here’s a look at some of Sweden’s top prospects heading into the tournament. The latest prospect ramblings offer up some more goodies. Here are a few “lesser-known” prospects to target in keeper leagues prior to the tournament with links to their DobberProspects profiles:
Fox should already be on the radar after putting up four points in seven games at this tournament last year, as well as putting up 49 points in 45 games through his first two college seasons. He forecasts to be the top offensive defenseman for the US in this tournament, which sets him up nicely for a star-making performance. The Flames boast three of Dobber’s top-50 defensemen prospects, but Fox is not yet among them. I bet Fox gives them a fourth come January. He has the highest fantasy upside of Calgary’s talented blueline prospects.
There’s a decent chance that a Leaf fan in your pool has already snapped up this prospect and is touting him as a future hall-of-famer. I don’t find much appealing about his numbers at the college level, including a save percentage below .900, but he showed flashes of brilliance at this tournament last year.
Jake Oettinger is the man expected to carry the US in goal, but the first-rounder has had struggles of his own. Goalies are unpredictable in short samples. If Oettinger falters and Woll steals the starting gig, his stock will soar.
The Finns are loaded with talented scores, which sets up pretty nicely for Heponiemi who leads the WHL in assists (52) and points (71) in just 29 games. He’ll probably lose those leads while away at this tournament, but this is a chance to get some big stage exposure for a player eviscerating junior hockey.
Most of Sweden’s big names are either former first-rounders, or pending first-rounders. As a second-rounder, Boqvist comes in with a little less hype, but I am intrigued by any prospect who can put up points in Sweden’s top league as a 17-year-old. He should fit somewhere into Sweden’s top-six forwards, which would provide an excellent opportunity to raise his stock.
Finland is known as a goalie factory, but the position is arguably the weakest spot in this tournament. Luukkonen should be the starter for a team heavily in the mix to win it all. A strong showing behind a loaded squad would create some hype around the Sabres’ prospect.
Size is no longer a concern, so get the 5’9” prospect on your radar. He has torched the QMJHL for three years running and even flashed in a four-game cameo in the AHL last spring scoring four points. Most of Russia’s top prospects in this tournament are 17 or 18, so the 19-year-old is in a prime spot to be a leader for the perennial contender.
Thanks for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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