20 Fantasy Thoughts: Buy low on Oilers’ Talbot if possible

Head coach of the Edmonton Oilers Todd McLellan spoke with the media following their victory over the Minnesota Wild. He touched on the return of Cam Talbot and the recent play of Milan Lucic.

Every Sunday during the regular season, we’ll share 20 Fantasy Thoughts from our writers at DobberHockey. These thoughts are curated from the past week’s “Daily Ramblings.”

1. Cam Talbot returned to the Oilers lineup on Saturday afternoon, playing his first game since late November. Talbot stopped 29 of 31 shots in a 3-2 win. As much as fantasy owners have been down on Talbot this season, he did win three games in a row before his injury. In each of his four consecutive wins, he has allowed just two goals in each start. There’s still a buy-low opportunity here.

2. T.J. Brodie has gone ice cold with just two points in the last 14 games. He is still skating on the top PP unit, giving you exposure to Calgary’s best offensive weapons, but with PP chances going down so too will his production. He is now on pace for 40 points and 117 shots on goal. That makes for waiver fodder in your average league.

Brodie has value and will finish among the top 40 or so in defenceman scoring. It’s just that of those top scoring defencemen, typically only 25-30 are worth actually keeping on your roster for the full 82 games. Brodie’s 40 projected points don’t offer enough value above replacement to be worth keeping around all year. Use him while he is hot and then cycle him out when he is not. If someone else decides to grab him and hold on for all 82, that’s an advantage to you.

Assuming you have enough moves, you’d get a lot more out of this roster spot bouncing from hot option to hot option. Matt Dumba, for instance, offered fantasy owners a ton of value over the past couple of weeks with Jared Spurgeon on the shelf. Take advantage of enough of these injury fillers and you could turn that Brodie slot into a 55-point player, rather than settling for his 40.

3. Drop of the week recommendation: Mikko Koivu, has now gone 10 consecutive games without a point and 23 consecutive games without a goal. Koivu is normally very reliable (at least for assists) but there are probably more productive options at a deep centre position on your league’s waiver wire at the moment.

4. With all his injuries, it’s surprising Marian Gaborik made it to his 1,000th game on Friday. He should probably be happy with the output, as he scored a goal and also added an assist. A late start to the season has held Gaborik to 12 games, but he’s still been fantasy-worthy with five goals and three assists. Feel free to add him in deeper leagues.

5. Juuse Saros remains one of the most intriguing backups in the league, but there are a few hiccups in his fantasy stock. He is barely playing averaging a start once every couple of weeks. Sure, they have had him racking up the miles going back and forth between Nashville and the AHL club in Milwaukee to keep fresh, but those AHL starts can’t help your fantasy team. He has also been bad.

Heading into Thursday night’s action (a 4-0 win over the Oilers), his save percentage was below .900 in both the NHL and AHL. His 46-save shutout certainly cured that issue at the NHL level. If you knew you could get more starts out of him, Saros would likely be of great value. However, they have only one back-to-back between now and the start of February.

6. Andre Burakovsky has languished on the Capitals third line since returning from injury with one point in five games. He has skated less than 15 minutes with only secondary PP time in each game. No doubt some of this is due to getting back up to speed coming off of injury, but it’s not a good situation for folks hoping for a breakout.

Burakovsky hasn’t had much in the way of puck luck, so we should still consider him a strong producer on a per-minute basis, but we may have to wait a little longer for him to get the minutes actually required for consistent fantasy relevance.

There’s also reason to be worried about Burakovsky’s shot volume. It’s going to be really hard for him to breakout if he doesn’t become a willing shooter. The top two centremen on the Capitals are both extreme playmakers. They need players to shoot because they won’t do it themselves. There’s no doubt Burakovsky could play effectively with Nicklas Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov, but it may not result in as many goals as putting shooters on the wings of those players would. Burakovsky may be stuck as a third-liner without more shot volume.

Finally, Burakovsky’s never going to get a bite of the top power play unit unless there’s an injury to Backstrom or Kuznetsov. Keep these factors in mind when projecting him forward.

7. Nico Hischier is starting to slip from relevance. It wouldn’t take much to have him pop back up, but he is mired in a funk with no points in four straight and only six points in the last 14 games. He still isn’t consistently being used on the Devils top power play unit, even after Adam Henrique was traded.

Hischier is still on pace for 51 points thanks to a hot start to the season, but those hot starts can force managers to hang onto players for too long. Each league is different, but a 50-55-point centreman is waiver fodder in a lot of leagues, especially with his shot volume unlikely to reach into the 200 range.

8. Jason Spezza seeing more ice time on the power play, thus more exposure to Dallas’s better forwards, is awfully interesting. Esa Lindell could also probably score at a 40-point pace with more exposure to Dallas’s best. No chance he unseats
John Klingberg as the No. 1 guy, though.

9. The Islanders’ two best offence drivers are Mathew Barzal and John Tavares. The team has never used those two together at even strength. They are optimally dispersing the talent in their lineup. We have seen an experimentation phase with the Jordan Eberle/Tavares combo failing early. They have made out better with Tavares lifting complementary guys in Josh Bailey and Anders Lee. Lee and Bailey would likely crash and burn away from Tavares, so there is little to gain from breaking that line up.

10. We know that Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad connect, but we should also mention that Alex DeBrincat’s fantasy stock is on the up and up as long as he’s on that line. If you go back to his hat trick on Nov. 27, DeBrincat has 10 points (five goals and five assists) over his last 10 games. He’s also a top-five rookie scorer in both goals and points. Plus, he’s fun to watch.

DeBrincat’s presence on this line has made Richard Panik obsolete for fantasy purposes. Panik was a healthy scratch twice this week. He has not scored a goal in 21 games and has not recorded a point in his last seven games. Panik is still owned in 30 per cent of Yahoo leagues, so you can probably find a better option if you’re still one of those owners.

11. Although Taylor Hall (knee) has stayed relatively healthy over the past two seasons, he has averaged less than 70 games played over the six full non-lockout campaigns he has played in. Hall has been driving the bus for the Devils as a point-per-game player this season. So, any loss due to injury would be felt by both his fantasy owners and his linemates, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt.

12. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Victor Mete returned to London of the OHL after the world junior tournament. He’s barely been playing. Mete is a good prospect, but doesn’t have much fantasy relevance.

The Flyers not making Nolan Patrick available makes less sense, but they would have a better idea of what is best for the player’s development. Patrick is a rookie clinging to a roster spot in the NHL, skating 12 minutes per game.

13. Ryan O’Reilly snapped a 12-game goalless drought this week. O’Reilly’s point total (21 in 33 games) isn’t even that bad. He is on pace for 52 points. Considering the Sabres power play has vanished, this is a solid pace. It would take much for him to get back into the 55-60 range we have come to expect, though.

14. It’s getting harder to have any faith the power play will turn things around. Hang in there with Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Rasmus Ristolainen. No one else, though. Kane should not be dropped, but is a guy worth shopping.
No guarantee his trade destination has him skating 20-plus minutes a night.

It’s going to be extremely interesting to see where Kane lands. It’s hard to see him getting a better opportunity than the one he has riding shotgun with Eichel. Whatever team gets him will likely use him as more of a second- or third-line offensive
specialist in order to limit the damage he can inflict defensively, which could mean he’d go back to playing 14-15 minutes per game, hindering his fantasy value.

Of course, it’s possible Kane could remain in Buffalo all season, or perhaps find himself on a team where he could continue to chew up big minutes. These scenarios seem less likely. Do consider selling high on Kane while he’s pacing for 77 points and 343 shots.

15. Tristan Jarry has acquitted himself quite well. Had the Matt Murray injury lingered longer we might have seen Jarry stake out a larger claim to the crease. As it stands now, the Penguins will likely continue shopping for a veteran backup in order to allow Jarry to get more work in the minors.

16. Shout out to a breakout year (so far) for Darnell Nurse. Earlier this week, Nurse was one of the only d-men with at least 10 points (he currently has 12), 2.6 shots per game (now 2.6), and 20 penalty minutes (he has 32). For those in leagues with extra peripheral stats, he’s a plus-7 with more than 100 combined hits and blocked shots. He could be an absolute stats monster even if he only puts up around 25 points this year.

This is great news for the Oilers as they need both Nurse and Jesse Puljujarvi to become stars. It’s also great news for dynasty owners, as Nurse seemed to struggle a bit through his first couple of seasons, but has really started to live up to expectations. Now, with Oscar Klefbom eating top PP minutes, and Andrej Sekera on his way back, Nurse could be hard-pressed to really be a big points producer in the near-term but in roto leagues, he’ll carry good value as long as he keeps playing the way he has.

17. Jacob Trouba has spent much of the season used in a shutdown role barely seeing any power play time. Now, with Dustin Byfuglien’s injury, we are going to see Trouba stretched into a role where he can be productive. He is widely owned so you may not be able to pounce on this opportunity, but those hanging onto him are in for a big-time boost.

Trouba has double-digit goal potential and the skills to score at least 50 points. It’s worth mentioning that the Jets are not having their defencemen as active in the rush this season, so perhaps lower your expectations for all of them, including Byfuglien when he returns. However, assists should flow considering their loaded set of forwards.

18. Scoring has been an issue for the Sharks most of the season, but not necessarily for the second-line duo of Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. Hertl, specifically, is having a solid season. He’s on pace for a career-best 48 points and 204 shots on goal. His biggest impact may yet to be seen, though.

Hertl has been added to the top PP of late and it’s looked a lot better. Keep in mind, it’s still a tiny sample, so there’s nothing to really glean other than Hertl is being given PP time. If that power play can right itself, and the winger’s shooting percentage starts climbing, Hertl could be in line for a very solid final 50 games or so.

19. Jaden Schwartz will be out until the end of January after blocking a shot with his foot. He was on pace for 39 goals and 96 points this year; both would have been career highs by a wide margin. Unfortunately, for the fourth straight year, he’ll fail to reach 80 games played.

Ivan Barbashev was recalled from the AHL. This could be a rotating situation, with no single player lining up in Schwartz’s spot for more than a few games at a time. Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, and Dmitrij Jaskin are all in the mix, but I think the best way to approach it is to see who is in the top-six on a given day and pick up a player for that day, rather than rostering one guy for weeks.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn will probably be fine, but this is bad news for everyone else on the roster fantasy-wise. There really isn’t much for scoring among their left-wing depth unless Alex Steen finds his offensive touch from a few years ago.

20. It looks like we’re at the point of the season where we can start eating some crow on preseason predictions. We didn’t think Brayden Schenn would have anywhere near as good a season as he’s having, believing his average draft position (which was roughly anywhere from 75 to 90) was too high in non-real-time stats leagues.

We have seen others like Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund struggle at times to play with Schwartz and Tarasenko, but Schenn has fit like a glove. Even with some regression, he’ll smash his previous career-best marks in goals, assists, and shots. For everyone that believed in him, good on you.

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