20 Fantasy Thoughts: Bergeron among players turning the corner

Patrik Laine took a devastating hit while the Canadiens beat Toronto for the 13th straight time and Edmonton stayed hot with a big OT win.

Every Sunday this season, we’ll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from the writers at Dobber Hockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s “Daily Ramblings” on DobberHockey.com.

1. Jeff Carter keeps on keeping on, scoring another goal and adding two assists on Saturday. As I’ve said before, where would the Kings’ bottom-third offence be without Carter? Carter is second in the NHL in goals with 22. His 17 per cent shooting accuracy indicates that perhaps a regression is on the way, so selling high may be an option.

Coach Darryl Sutter tried Carter with the struggling Anze Kopitar in Friday’s practice, but it was simply so the power play could get some reps. Kopitar recorded an assist on Saturday, but he is still stuck on three goals. To put that into perspective, Nic Dowd, Dustin Brown, Dwight King and Trevor Lewis have all scored more than Kopitar. Another alarming stat on Kopitar: no power-play goals and only five power-play points. The Kings are 27th in the NHL with just 112 power-play opportunities, which is factoring into the lack of points with the man advantage.

2. James van Riemsdyk has been making it work with Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak lately. Van Riemsdyk scored a goal and added two assists Saturday, which gives him eight points during a five-game point streak. Linemate Marner recorded three assists of his own. With the Leafs seriously engaged in the playoff chase, it’s difficult to believe that they would be trading van Riemsdyk.

3. Players in the midst of turning the corner:
Filip Forsberg – six goals, eight points, 24 shots on goal (SOG) in his last nine games.
Ryan Johansen – one goal, eight points in his last eight games.
Patrice Bergeron – three goals, four points, 28 SOG in his last five games.
Evgeny Kuznetsov – seven assists, eight points, 18 SOG in his last seven games.
Justin Williams – nine goals, 16 points in his last 16 games.
Rasmus Ristolainen – three goals, 17 points in his last 17 games.

The only one of these I didn’t expect was Williams. I assumed that Andre Burakovsky had finally broken into the top six for good. Williams is back and riding high. I suspect he’s merely a short-term option but I wouldn’t rule out continued production the rest of the way.

4. I continue to be amazed by how strong the Flames second line of Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik and Matthew Tkachuk is playing. This is an elite, ice-tilting second unit.

Backlund has an astounding 11 points in his last seven games. He never used to be able to get this hot but in the past couple of seasons when he has gotten rolling, he has been as good as anyone. The problem has been when he hasn’t been productive, like the 15-game run in November when he scored just three points.

Of course, that’s the way it goes for 50-point guys. And that’s assuming that Backlund is even a 50-point guy. Last season’s 47 points was a career high. With how strong he is playing with Tkachuk and Frolik, this emergence feels legitimate.

5. Meanwhile, Tkachuk is riding a nine-game point streak and is making me jealous as an Oilers fan. I know there is a ton of development yet to take place but I would much rather have Tkachuk in the lineup than Jesse Puljujarvi right now.

6. In case it’s been awhile since you’ve checked up on Nail Yakupov, who has six points in 22 games with the Blues. He’s currently on the path of one day appearing in one of those articles listing the worst first overall picks in NHL history.

7. Bo Horvat is riding a seven-game point streak and continues to climb the rankings of fantasy hockey centres. I don’t think this is a full-on breakout but he is laying the groundwork for such an emergence next season. He just needs a running mate to help him get there and I’m not sure Sven Baertschi (as intriguing as he is) is the guy to get him there. It would also help if Horvat got top power-play minutes but that’s still the Sedins’ gig, for now.

8. Unless your league scores hits and blocked shots, I would bet against Jakob Chychrun having fantasy relevance and it could be a long time before he does. Anthony DeAngelo is a superior option but he doesn’t clear my bar of productivity where I’d be willing to give up any asset of significance for him.

9. Sergei Bobrovsky is the best goalie to own in fantasy hockey right now and it’s not even close. He has 25 wins, which is five more than the next guy on the list. He could go the rest of January without getting another win…and still very likely lead the NHL. He has played 33 of Columbus’s 38 games, a rate which is concerning for someone with an extensive injury history. Now that their streak is over, the Blue Jackets can focus on their backup. They’ve banked enough points they should be a lock for the playoffs.

Curtis McElhinney is probably a great guy but I don’t think anyone wants to see him starting a bunch of games. However, the Blue Jackets can work it so that they bring up Joonas Korpisalo (or Anton Forsberg), their excellent AHL goaltender that played well while Bob was hurt last season, to start the games Bob doesn’t. They are probably losing Korpisalo in the expansion draft, so they may as well use him while they still have him. Korpisalo is an interesting option for the second half.

10. Mikkel Boedker was a healthy scratch last Thursday and has been disappointing this year, to say the least. He is on pace for a six-goal, 18-point season with the San Jose Sharks. Yikes! Free agent signings are always risky but this one is looking particularly egregious. Boedker’s contract looks toxic with three more years at US$4 million per but I feel like there’s still a redeemable player here. At his current usage, Boedker should be able to produce at around a 40-point pace. He won’t get there this year, but 20 points during the second half could be achievable.

11. Thomas Vanek has scored three goals in his last two games and eight points over his last seven games. With 25 points in 29 games, Vanek is having what should be considered a rebound season. Maybe we were too quick to write him off. So far he’s been my best waiver-wire pickup in my deepest league.

12. As hot as Vanek has been, Anthony Mantha has been even hotter. Mantha has points in eight of his last nine games with 12 points over that span. As with most hot young players, Mantha will probably cool off. But he’s still available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues.

13. Since it’s desperation time in Detroit, we really ought to see more of Andreas Athanasiou. He returned from a healthy scratch to post a three-point night Thursday, and followed up with another two points on Saturday. He has that game-toppling speed/creativity. They need to ride out the hiccups and recognize he offers more good than ill. He could be their Michael Grabner and that’s setting the bar low.

14. Oh my goodness, the Colorado Avalanche are terrible. They are “someone is gonna get fired” terrible. The Avalanche have five players worth owning: Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Barrie. Anyone else should be nowhere near your fantasy hockey team. Rantanen is a questionable choice in one-year leagues and Landeskog is trending that way as well.

Of course, with Landeskog as the captain of this listless team, you could totally see him being the one to hang. Nothing would help his fantasy stock more than a trade. My advice is to hang on and see if you can’t capitalize on the hype if he gets dealt. Maybe you can even take advantage of the mere rumours of a trade.

15. Connor Hellebuyck has been horribly inconsistent posting a quality start in just 50 per cent of his outings. I’m a huge fan, but he doesn’t seem able to string more than a couple of good games together. The Jets seem incapable of it. I’d bet against them being one of the hot stretch-run teams but I can’t rule it out, either.

16. Frederik Gauthier doesn’t have much in the way of offensive upside, but he’s looked good out there (as if the Leafs needed another quality prospect). Did I just write those words? Apocalypse! Gauthier is listed at six foot five, but is it just me or does he look seven foot two? He’s a monster!

17. Henrik Lundqvist has had stronger second halves and salvaged some good end-of-season numbers, so perhaps now is the time to kick tires on him and see if you can’t pick him up.

18. The Ducks have been winning games. To this point, it’s been mostly the second line leading the charge – notably Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. The latter’s 50-point pace is a big step forward above his career high of 39. Still only 26 year old, I think there’s one more step yet.

19. The good thing about owning Shayne Gostisbehere during his sophomore slump season is that he’ll still pick up secondary assists. The Philadelphia Flyers are letting him work through it, putting him out there as much as possible, giving him all the power-play time and a lot in overtime. Even if he comes up blank, he’s still getting a few second assists. That will be enough to see him reach 40 points. Then he’ll bounce back next year and become that 50-plus star that we envisioned.

20. Ty Rattie made his Hurricane debut Thursday skating 12:59. He even debuted on the Hurricanes’ top line with Victor Rask and Jeff Skinner. No points and no power-play time for Rattie, but it’s a start.

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