20 Fantasy Thoughts: How to navigate through ‘reading week’

Ilya Kovalchuk of the Montreal Canadiens. (Graham Hughes/CP)

It’s that time of year again where NHL players are trading in their skates for a pair of flip flops and a brisk beverage.

From a fantasy scope, the bye week doesn’t play nearly as big of a factor as it initially did. Intertwining the mandated five-day break with all-star weekend has certainly helped to make it a level playing field for all 31 NHL clubs.

Breaking down the schedule: 17 teams will have their “reading week” leading up to next weekend’s festivities in St. Louis. In the meantime, the other 14 will have their fun in the sun following the Jan. 24-26 event from Enterprise Center.

NHL Bye Weeks      
ANA: Jan. 18-26 CBJ: Jan. 23-31 NSH: Jan. 19-26 STL: Jan. 19-26
ARI: Jan. 19-28 DAL: Jan. 19-26 NJD: Jan. 19-26 TBL: Jan. 18-26
BOS: Jan. 22-30 DET: Jan. 23-30 NYI: Jan. 22-31 TOR: Jan. 19-26
BUF: Jan. 19-27 EDM: Jan. 19-26 NYR: Jan. 22-30 VAN: Jan. 19-26
CGY: Jan. 19-27 FLA: Jan. 22-31 OTT: Jan. 19-26 VGK: Jan. 22-30
CAR: Jan. 22-30 LAK: Jan. 19-28 PHI: Jan. 22-30 WSH: Jan. 19-26
CHI: Jan. 22-31 MIN: Jan. 23-31 PIT: Jan. 22-30 WPG: Jan. 23-30
COL: Jan. 21-31 MTL: Jan. 19-26 SJS: Jan. 19-26

Due to the shortage in game volume, it’s important to note that Yahoo! standard league matchups will span two weeks in length.

Additionally, the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool has broken it up into two separate weeks (Jan. 20–22 and Jan. 27–Feb. 2) so, be cognizant of how to construct two separate rosters. Adjust accordingly.

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1. Firstly, steer clear of any depth additions from Chicago, Colorado and the Islanders. They have the fewest games over the next two weeks, suiting up just twice.

2. Conversely, there are 10 prime teams to target: Anaheim, Detroit, Montreal, Nashville, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg will play a league-high four times.

3. Jan. 20 to Feb. 2 features a total of 50 games. Because the schedule is so light, it would be wise to stack your rosters with as many players from the aforementioned 10 teams. Use the schedule to your advantage.

4. Can’t make sense of the Gerard Gallant firing in Vegas? You’re not alone. Besides the obvious expectation that Marc-Andre Fleury will pick up his play, Jonathan Marchessault is the player I’m most curious about. There’s no doubt he’s underperformed to date, but perhaps a new voice behind the bench can ignite him.

5. With William Karlsson down, veteran Paul Stastny and Sin City newcomer Chandler Stephenson should once again draw your ire. They’ve been thrusted into the first and second-line centre roles by new bench boss Pete DeBoer:

Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
Marchessault-Stephenson-Smith

6. As for external Karlsson replacements, have a look at Jared McCann, Roope Hintz, Eric Staal and Jack Hughes

7. In the meantime, he’s off until Jan. 27, but I’d jump on Lightning centre Anthony Cirelli as quickly as possible. Skating with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson on Tampa’s second line, the 22-year-old Woodbridge, Ont., native potted three goals and six points in three games before his bye week. Twenty goals and 60 points isn’t out of the question this season for the underrated forward.

8. Also, out since Nov. 15 after undergoing wrist surgery, keep tabs on Montreal’s Jonathan Drouin. The 24-year-old is expected to return to the Canadiens lineup sometime after the all-star break. Before the injury, the Quebec native was hovering around a point-per-game pace (19 games played, 15 points). That’s pretty good waiver value if you ask me, especially at this time of year.

9. Staying in La Belle Province, go out and claim Ilya Kovalchuk immediately. With eight points in eight games so far for the Canadiens, the 36-year-old has earned a spot on my fantasy roster.

10. Both Jake Gardiner and Brett Pesce will see an uptick in fantasy value in Raleigh now that Dougie Hamilton (broken fibula) is essentially done for the year. For what it’s worth, Gardiner is getting the first crack at running Carolina’s first power-play unit. Monitor closely.

11. In Toronto, Rasmus Sandin is worth a streamer play in the right scenario with Morgan Rielly on the shelf. That said, it’s fair to limit your fantasy expectations when it comes to Sandin.

12. Additionally, Ryan Graves, Mike Matheson, Dmitry Orlov and Filip Hronek are four other blueliners to target on waivers for short-term relief purposes.

13. Scoop up Brian Elliott. The veteran will see the brunt of the action for the Flyers with Carter Hart sidelined for two to three weeks due to an abdominal strain.

14. Searching for Tuukka Rask replacements? Anton Khudobin is always a phenomenal streamer option.

15. The time is nigh if you want in on some Corey Crawford ownership. The veteran Blackhawks netminder has surrendered two goals or less in four of his last five outings.

16. Staying in the Windy City, keep Brandon Saad on your watch list. The 27-year-old potted a goal in his return from injury on Saturday night in Toronto. Leading up to the Feb. 24 deadline, the Pittsburgh native could emerge as a trade candidate for the streaking Blackhawks.

17. Hit the waiver wire and add Alex Steen. Quietly, the dual eligible winger has been on fire for the Blues with four goals and eight points over his last seven outings. Ride that hot streak!

18. Ditto for New Jersey’s Blake Coleman. The speedster has eight goals since Dec. 31.

19. With Cam Atkinson back in the mix, don’t sleep on the plethora of daily fantasy value right now for the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets. Almost sneakily, Gustav Nyquist, Emil Bemstrom and Alex Wennberg could provide you with short-term gains currently.

20. This won’t be popular advice, but I’d sell high on Elvis Merzlikins as soon as you can. There’s no way he can keep up this ridiculous pace. Maximize that value. Joonas Korpisalo will likely assume his No. 1 role once he’s ready to return.

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