20 Fantasy Thoughts: Have faith in Canadiens’ Price, Penguins’ Murray


Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price makes a save. (Graham Hughes/CP)

Tough week for the NHL coaching fraternity. Joel Quenneville and John Stevens each were handed pink slips.

Not sure this is what general managers Stan Bowman and Rob Blake envisioned. The Blackhawks and Kings are a combined 1-4-0 since the firings. If that keeps up, the finger may be pointed up top if you catch my drift.

Struggles aside, never underestimate what introducing a new voice behind the bench can do for the mindset of a player and a dressing room.

1. I wonder if new Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton can get more out of Brandon Saad going forward. The 26-year-old is on pace for 21 goals and 41 points, a far cry from the three consecutive 50-plus point seasons he notched from 2014 to 2017.

In Los Angeles, can Willie Desjardins be the magic elixir for Tanner Pearson? Just two years removed from a 24-goal showing, the 26-year-old is mired in a 16-game goalless drought to start the season.

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Keep a close eye on both players, the latter has already been bandied about heavily in trade speculation. Big changes could be coming for both teams.

2. Dustin Brown can provide you with some under-the-radar multi-category coverage. Early on, the 34-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down after last year’s 28-goal, 61-point revelation. Brown is only 39 per cent owned in Yahoo! Leagues.

3. With John Klingberg shelved in Dallas for at least the next four weeks, Miro Heiskanen suddenly becomes a person of interest again in the fantasy world. The rookie defender will surely be elevated into many of Klingberg’s responsibilities. Pick him up before it’s too late.

4. Victor Hedman’s return to the Tampa lineup doesn’t bode well for Ryan McDonagh’s fantasy value. The former Rangers captain was tremendous offensively in Hedman’s absence. Throw McDonagh on the trade market and see if you can land a bigger fish on the back-end like Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Columbus’ Zach Werenski.

5. It’s a good time to go bargain hunting on Erik Karlsson. I’m sure there are plenty of agitated owners out there looking to make a move. You pounce on that and laugh hysterically once Karlsson inevitably gets going.

6. Looking for a sleeper defenceman to nab off the waiver wire? Keep Vegas’ Nate Schmidt in mind, who is eligible to return from his 20-game PED suspension on Nov. 18 against Edmonton.

In 76 games last year, the 27-year-old broke out with five goals and 36 points, 11 of which came on the power play. Aside from the last couple of games, the Golden Knights have struggled with the man advantage.

7. Hurry up and obtain Vladimir Tarasenko before he really catches fire. I still consider the four-time 30-plus goal scorer to be a buy-low possibility right now. I had Tarasenko ranked inside my top-20 in my preseason forecast and I’m sticking with those prognostications. Find a way to land him.

8. It’s time to seriously consider owning Blues goalie Chad Johnson. Given Jake Allen’s heinous start to the season, St. Louis’ crease is wide open to anyone capable of making a save. Try Johnson out.

9. Still in St. Louis, Robby Fabbri has propelled himself into a top-six role. The 22-year-old is skating on the second line with veteran David Perron and rookie Robert Thomas, who deserves a waiver look as he continues to fill in effectively for the injured Brayden Schenn. Sleeper, for sure.

10. Don’t be shocked to see the Penguins run with Casey DeSmith for the next little while. Again, Matt Murray is trying to find his game. Be patient. Murray is way too talented to have this continue for the duration of the season.

11. I’m not worried at all about Carey Price. He won’t be losing playing time to Antti Niemi anytime soon. Similar to Murray, I have faith in Price going forward and you should too.

12. Good news for Philadelphia’s 28th ranked power play (13.8 per cent): James van Riemsdyk is nearing a return from his lower-body injury. Roughly one-third of the 29-year-old’s production each season comes via the man advantage. Can’t get enough of that net front presence! You can probably acquire him for dirt cheap right now as well.

13. Despite his slow start – one goal in 16 games – I still think Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter is poised for a bounce-back year. As long as he can stay healthy, it’s fair to expect numbers close to those of 2016-17 (25 G, 32 A). If you’re looking for sneaky productivity, look no further than the 2010 first rounder.

14. And another one. Mathieu Joseph is starting to get me giddy. The Lightning continue to be ridiculous at turning around prospects. The 21-year-old rookie has four goals and one assist in the last five games and should definitely be on your radar. He’s currently on Tampa’s third line with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

15. Jaroslav Halak has reached must-own territory (10 games played: 1.86 goals against average, .941 save percentage, 2 shutouts). Great gamble signing by the Bruins. Even before Tuukka Rask left the team, Halak had stolen the starting job.

Additionally, don’t lose hope on Rask. Remember – he didn’t find his game until late November last season.

16. Sneakily, Colin White is off to an Uber good start for the Ottawa Senators. See what I did there? In 17 games, the 21-year-old has six goals and 11 points. Pay attention here. White looks like he’s here to stay in the NHL.

17. How about Loui Eriksson seizing the opportunity in Vancouver with Brock Boeser down with a groin injury. The dual eligible winger (LW, RW) is currently riding a mini four-game point streak (4 goals, 3 assists, plus-3, 10 shots on goal). Ride him while he’s hot.

18. Despite continuing to be in and out of David Quinn’s doghouse, I’m still a believer in this contract year for Pavel Buchnevich (5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, 26.3 shot percentage). Once he can demonstrate consistency to his new bench boss, it’ll be game over. Monitor this situation with hawk eyes.

19. Get familiar with the name Drake Batherson. The first-year pro is off to a scorching start with Ottawa’s farm club, the Belleville Senators (14 games played: 7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points, plus-2). The 20-year-old was featured in my rookie report before the season.

20. Here’s the scoop on the upcoming week as you construct your Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool roster.

Six teams have four games. (Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, Vancouver) Value names to keep in mind: Samuel Girard, Zach Parise, Ryan Ellis and Will Butcher.

I wouldn’t touch Anaheim and Chicago right now.

Meantime, try to avoid Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg. Each has just two games this week.

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