20 Fantasy Thoughts: Avalanche and Grubauer aren’t slowing down

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer looks on during a timeout against the Arizona Coyotes in the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 29, 2019, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Suddenly, the marathon has become a sprint. 1,214 games down, 57 to go.

Almost unbelievably, we’re now less than a week away from the conclusion of another NHL regular-season.

Before the final horn, there’s still lots to decide in the fantasy hockey world. Remarkably, the race for the Grand Prize (all-new RAM 1500) in the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool may come right down to the final day. Good luck to all involved!

Let’s take a look at the final week (Apr. 1 – 6):

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1. 51 contests through six days, culminating with a 15-game Saturday. The Anaheim Ducks are the lone team done on Friday. I’d stay clear of them; they have a league-low two games.

2. On the other side of the spectrum, the following teams should firmly be on your radar: CHI, COL, EDM, LAK, NYR, OTT, STL, TBL, TOR, and WPG. Those 10 have will play four times in six days to finish up. Manipulate that schedule!

3. Be mindful of ‘load management.’ To steal the NBA term, playoff destined squads may elect to rest some of their key players down the stretch, especially number one goalies. Expect plenty of Louis Domingue (TBL) and Garret Sparks (TOR), among others, down the stretch.

4. Still no Mikko Rantanen for the Avalanche but they did get Captain Gabriel Landeskog back on Friday night. J.T. Compher and Carl Soderberg stand to benefit greatly from this massive development. Have an eye.

5. Speaking of Colorado, the way he’s playing, Philipp Grubauer could take you all the way. The German goalie is a must-own entity at this point. He’s won six of his last seven starts and has shown zero signs of slowing down. Ride those red-hot Avs!

6. Easy call in between the pipes: pick up Anton Khudobin. Sadly, Ben Bishop is hurt again. Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure where the Stars would be without the 32-year-old Khudobin this season (15-16-5, 2.49, .925). He’s been huge for them.

7. Now’s the time for the San Jose Sharks to get hot again before their first-round matchup with Vegas. Despite their recent struggles, I’m still buying. Look for Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson to play some games before the Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway.

8. Can’t say I have as much faith in San Jose’s crease right now. Both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have disappointed this season. Look elsewhere unless you’re in an absolute pinch for goalie help.

9. Grab Canucks blue chip defender Quinn Hughes off waivers. He’s been so fun to watch so far. Now that they’ve been eliminated from postseason, I expect Vancouver to be careful with his utilization. You don’t want to give young players too much too soon. The future is bright for Hughes fantasy owners!

10. We’ll see what happens in the offseason, but Alexander Edler is having a strong conclusion to his contract year. If he re-signs in Vancouver, Hughes’ arrival only helps to boost the Edler fantasy file. Keep tabs.

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11. Attention fantasy owners: time to jump back in on Columbus’ offence. The Blue Jackets have outscored their opponents 20-4 during this pivotal four-game win streak. They’re finally living up to expectation. Great news all around!

12. I’m so fascinated by Oliver Bjorkstrand, who’s definitely worth a daily fantasy play right now. Consistency issues have plagued the 23-year-old forward for much of his early career but not recently. He’s currently riding a four-game goal streak and has scored at least once in six of the past seven games.

13. You can get ridiculous value out of the red-hot Detroit Red Wings right now, namely from bruising power forward Tyler Bertuzzi. The 24-year-old has three goals and seven points over the past three outings. Good to see the rebuilding Wings have a hot finish to the season. They’ve won four in a row.

14. No one seems to have the magic elixir for Toronto’s wavering power play. In recent games and practices, they’ve been tinkering with different allotments. Take a flier on Zach Hyman. Value deal!

15. Now that he’s back and healthy, I’ve got a good feeling about James Neal. There’s only one way to go from the start of his Calgary Flames tenure and that’s up. If the veteran sniper can regain any of his confidence, the Flames will be a tough out in the playoffs.

16. Eye brows were certainly raised league-wide on Saturday when the Coyotes extended Nick Schmaltz to a seven-year deal worth $5.85-million per season. Contract aside, I was already considering the former Blackhawks first rounder to be a solid sleeper pick for next season. In 17 games with the Coyotes before a knee injury ended his season, the 23-year-old tallied five goals and 14 points, playing predominantly with Clayton Keller. I like that and you should take note too.

17. Dustin Byfuglien’s return will positively impact the fantasy value of most Jets players, especially Connor Hellebuyck. Winnipeg is still in a heavyweight bout with Nashville and St. Louis for the Central Division crown.

18. With respect to the Predators, prized defenceman Dante Fabbro played just under 17 minutes in his NHL debut on Saturday night. The Boston University product has a high ceiling but considering Nashville’s depth on the back-end, don’t expect a quick translation to the fantasy world.

19. Shout out to Alex Ovechkin – year after year, the Washington Capitals captain just continues to be the model of consistency from a fantasy perspective. On Saturday night in Tampa, he became the third-oldest player in NHL history to score 50 goals. Something tells me he’s not done either.

20. Here’s my ‘it’s way too early’ top-five fantasy ranked players for the 2019/20 campaign: Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Ovechkin and Brad Marchand.

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