Here are 10 fantasy hockey takeaways from a wildly eventful past week in the NHL.
1) New York Islanders’ second power-play unit is lighting it up
Over the last 14 days, the New York Islanders own the ninth-best power play in the NHL, clicking at an impressive 33.3 percent. The only source of success the team has had on the man advantage lately comes from the second unit as it’s five members: Oliver Wahlstrom (4 power-play points), Nick Leddy (4), Josh Bailey (3), Brock Nelson (2) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (2) have combined for all 15 of the Isles’ PP points over the last nine games.
In Yahoo fantasy hockey, all members of the unit are rostered in under 60% of leagues. The three members worth targeting if available are Pageau (55% rostered on Yahoo), Leddy (45%) and Wahlstrom (6%). Pageau is a great add if he’s still kicking around your waiver because of his face-off expertise and his ability to rack up the hits and blocked shots. Leddy is worth adding as he’s demonstrated in the past that he can be a solid offensive contributor, posting three-straight 40-plus point seasons from 2015-2018. Wahlstrom is certainly the most intriguing member of the group, as the 2018 11th-overall pick is a lethal scoring threat with a wicked shot. Even though he’s playing limited minutes, he has the pedigree and skills to earn more ice-time as the season rolls on.
2) LW/RW Max Comtois (32% rostered on Yahoo) has been the Anaheim Ducks’ best forward
Trevor Zegras has commanded a lot of attention since being called up by the Anaheim Ducks, but 22-year-old Max Comtois has emerged as the most consistent offensive player on the team. Since the start of February, Comtois’ six goals, 11 points and plus-six rating all lead the squad. The 2017 second-round pick has been able to establish himself as a physical presence, too, as his 48 hits this season are third-most on the Ducks.
An impressive stat to note about Comtois is that all of his nine goals have come at 5-on-5. He’s tied with Joel Farabee, Patrick Kane, Tyler Toffoli and Logan Couture for the second-most goals at full strength across the league. Anaheim has a lot of exciting young talent on the current roster and coming in the near future, but Comtois shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s been excellent and should be rostered in more leagues.
3) LW Alexis Lafreniere (33% rostered on Yahoo) is heating up
Alexis Lafreniere did not start his rookie campaign the way many expected. Through the first 15 games of the season, the 2020 first-overall pick recorded just one goal and no assists. Over the last four games, however, the former Rimouski Oceanic has potted two goals and five points, making him one of the best high-upside adds in fantasy hockey.
It’s kind of hard to ignore that his breakout coincides with winger Artemi Panarin’s absence from the lineup. Playing on the New York Rangers’ first line over the last five games, Lafreniere’s 47.73 Corsi For percentage (CF%) is the third-highest mark on the team and his six high-danger chances for (HDCF) are second, With Panarin’s return to the lineup Lafreniere seems like a lock to remain in New York’s top-six, which makes him fantasy viable.
4) Barry Trotz and I want to see more of G Ilya Sorokin (34% rostered on Yahoo)
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Ilya Sorokin will play more the rest of the season after the Russian netminder picked up his second shutout in as many starts on Sunday, Trotz gave Sorokin the nod in Thursday’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres and the 25-year-old rewarded his bench boss by picking up a 16-save, 5-2 win.
Sorokin has started in just six games this season while veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov has started in 17 contests. Based on Trotz’s recent comments and actions, I expect that gap to close. Varlamov will still likely remain the 1A, but Sorokin has proven that he’s a worthy 1B. This year, Sorokin’s 0.014 save percentage above expected is ahead of Varlamov’s 0.000. Sorokin is an extremely intriguing goalie prospect given his strong KHL resume. Across eight seasons with Metallurg Novokuznetsk and CSKA Moskva, he earned an impressive .930 save percentage. If you’re in need of a goalie, he’s likely the best one available on your waiver wire.
5) C Paul Stastny (17% rostered on Yahoo) is in Winnipeg paradise
There are few slots in NHL with more potential fantasy value than the one alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Paul Stastny has replaced Pierre-Luc Dubois on the team’s top forward unit over the last couple of games and the results have been great. The 35-year-old has potted three goals over the last two contests and he’s put a healthy six shots on goal.
Since being promoted, Stastny also leads the Jets in scoring chances with seven and high-danger chances with six. The veteran forward is talented enough to be a reliable fantasy producer when in a great situation like this one. Additionally, Stastny currently centres the squad’s top power-play unit so he will see some excellent looks on the man advantage, too. Winnipeg plays three games against the Toronto Maple Leafs next week.
6) The Carter Hart (95% rostered on Yahoo) conundrum
Carter Hart was someone I expected to take a leap into the truly elite goalie tier this season. His early-season efforts are a great example of how growth isn’t always linear, however, as the Philadelphia Flyers’ netminder owns a sub-par .893 save percentage and an equally concerning 3.43 goals-against average.
One thing to note about Hart is that his stark home-road splits have continued. During the 2019-20 campaign, Hart earned a .943 save percentage in 25 starts at Wells Fargo Center and a .857 mark in 18 contests at other buildings. This year, Hart has played his way to a .908 save percentage in six games at home and a concerning .881 road save percentage across seven contests. The 22-year-old will have to figure this out before he’s considered one of the elite, but fantasy managers would be wise to buy-low on the struggling puckstopper. I still believe in his talent and on a Flyers team that is starting to get healthier, I think he’ll turn it around sooner than later.
7) The fall of LW Taylor Hall? (83% rostered on Yahoo)
Since Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy during the 2017-18 campaign, we really haven’t seen the winger fill the stat sheet at an elite level over the course of an entire season. This year, Hall has struggled to produce for the Buffalo Sabres as the 29-year-old has scored just two goals and 13 points through 21 games.
Hall is typically one of the more noticeable offensive threats for Buffalo and the underlying number suggest the same. His 56.07 5-on-5 CF% is the highest mark of any forward on the team and his 6.48 all-strengths individual expected goals for (ixG) lead the Sabres. Rocking an unsustainably low 3.6 percent shooting percentage, the former first-overall pick has dealt with some unfortunate puck luck this season. In fantasy hockey, it makes sense to target him in trades. I can’t imagine his value plummeting any further than it already has.
8) Drop LW/RW Kevin Fiala (58% rostered on Yahoo) at your own risk
After scoring 23 goals and 54 points through 64 games during the 2019-20 season, I thought Kevin Fiala was going to continue his breakout this year. That hasn’t been the case early on as the Swiss-born forward has just six goals and nine points to his name.
With the excitement rookie sensation Kirill Kaprizov has generated since arriving to the Minnesota Wild, Fiala has been overlooked, but he continues to be one of the team’s best all-around players. The 2014 first-round pick’s 60.83 all-strengths CF% is the highest mark of any player on the team and his 6.63 all-strengths ixG is second on the Wild behind Joel Eriksson Ek. Fiala’s rostered percentage has been in steady decline for a little while as he has just two points over his last six contests, but his play and the underlying numbers suggest some positive production is on the horizon.
9) Trading D Alex Pietrangelo (94% rostered on Yahoo) isn’t a bad idea
The move to the Vegas Golden Knights hasn’t done much to bolster Alex Pietrangelo’s fantasy hockey value as the former St. Louis Blues’ captain has taken a backseat to Shea Theodore on the team’s top power play unit. Over the last five games, Pietrangelo has recorded four points, which may be enough of a boost in offensive production to get someone in your league to bite on a trade.
Playing on a defensive pairing alongside Theodore, there’s not as much emphasis on Pietrangelo to supply offense in Vegas. Theodore is noticeably assuming more of the offensive responsibilities and having a reliable defensive partner in Pietrangelo has allowed him to do so. If trading Pietrangelo, I’d try to target blueliners like Thomas Chabot or Charlie McAvoy.
10) D Ryan Lindgren (2% rostered on Yahoo) is a great blueliner to add
The New York Rangers have one of the greenest blue lines in the NHL and the team has seen pretty good play from it’s crop of youngsters. Ryan Lindgren is one of the tantalizing rearguards that is making an impact on the team this season and his recent unexpected offensive success is worth adding for a trial run in fantasy hockey leagues.
Over the last six games, Lindgren has registered six assists. He’s not a high-volume shooter as he has just 16 shots across 21 contests this season, but he can supply solid defensive category coverage. Over the last 14 days Lindgren has thrown 14 body checks while blocking 10 shots. The 2016 Boston Bruins’ second-round pick is a respectable plus-seven on the season and still has two games scheduled for this week.
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