1. Nazem Kadri has gone 10 straight games without a point. It could be a good time to make a pitch for his services. He remains a high-end shot producer with 34 SOG in this scoreless stretch and he surely won’t stay quiet forever. It is worth mentioning that his PIM production is way down after being an elite PIM producer the past couple of seasons, so some of his peripheral fantasy value is down.
2. Should John Tavares skip town after this season, Mathew Barzal should be fine inheriting the No.1 centre role and maybe someone like Brock Nelson would slide in as the number two centre. But it would be interesting to see how wingers like Jordan Eberle, Andrew Ladd, Josh Bailey, and Anders Lee are affected. I know I’m putting the cart before the horse here but we never know what next season will hold. With the league’s second-ranked offence (3.56 GF/GP), the Isles’ offence is worth riding whenever possible in the here and now.
3. Some people may be disappointed with Dmitry Orlov this year, and I get it. He averaged 31 points over the previous two seasons and was in line for a huge ice time jump (which he’s received).
I think dynasty owners would be wise to exercise patience here. Remember that John Carlson is probably gone in the off-season, which should mean an even bigger role for Orlov. Now, to keep continuity, I assume Matt Niskanen gets top power play duties next year (barring them bringing in a superior offensive defenceman, which I doubt) but Orlov will likely see more minutes. We saw that flashy goal he scored a few nights ago and that’s just a taste of his offensive upside. Don’t give up yet.
4. Has Clayton Keller hit a ‘rookie wall’? Maybe. I don’t think it’s entirely of his making, though. Arizona is pretty bare of top-end talent up front, and if he’s trying to carry lesser players, as a rookie, it’s a tough ask. I wouldn’t give up on him this year, while keeper/dynasty owners should be happy. However, unless they reunite their top line, him returning to early-season success seems unlikely.
5. Flames fans may have been hoping for more when Mark Jankowski was originally drafted, but the lanky pivot is on pace for nearly 20 goals and now playing more than 15 minutes a night on the third line. For a guy that took five years to make his NHL debut, it wasn’t always certain he’d pan out. If he could be a middle-sixer for the next decade, that is a huge win for this franchise. By the way, he has given some sparse top PP minutes with the Johnny Hockey line. If that can continue, he could be a viable fantasy option in most leagues. Jankowski was recalled by the Flames from Stockton of the AHL at the club’s nine-game mark this season.
6. I’ve been a fan of Michael Matheson’s for a couple years but I wonder if he ever has a full-fledged breakout while in Florida. There is enough offensive talent up front for that to happen but his being stuck behind Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad is an impediment. Those two are locked up for five more years after this one, so unless one is traded or has their role severely diminished, maybe that Matheson breakout never comes. It’s a shame because he profiles as a guy that could run a power play and be a solid fantasy asset.
Unless Matheson’s path to playing time gets a little less cluttered, I’m not sure he’ll ever fulfill his fantasy potential. He’s kind of stuck in that Alec Martinez role, which can be fine as a deep/bench option but never becomes a top-of-the-depth-chart type of fantasy asset.
7. After a scorching November, Alex DeBrincat has come crashing back to earth. He has just one goal and four points in 10 games this month. A slowdown was inevitable considering he has not been seeing top unit PP time, or anything in the way of exposure to Patrick Kane.
DeBrincat had seen his minutes bumped into the 16-17 -minute range while skating alongside Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, but he has been limited to below 15 minutes in each of the past three games. With DeBrincat failing to click alongside Toews and Saad, he could be shuffled back down the lineup.
8. I am growing smitten with Pierre-Luc Dubois, who is centering what has been an elite top line for Columbus with Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson. Dubois getting top unit PP time with it actually clicking is icing on the cake. He has 12 points in his last 14 games. He is trending towards being a second-half star. If you don’t have room for him yet, keep him on the watch list.
9. The Predators have torched teams without Ryan Ellis, so it will be interesting to see where he slots in once he returns from injury. Roman Josi and PK Subban are locked in as fantasy relevant options but Mattias Ekholm has continued momentum from his playoff breakout. However, there is only room for three defensemen to get power play time in Nashville. Could Ellis be iced upon his return or will Ekholm get bounced?
Nashville has surprised boasting an elite PP after struggling last season. It would be awfully hard to cut down on Ekholm’s PP time given how he has produced four PP goals and 10 PP points already. Why mess with success? I fear Ellis may have missed the boat.
10. Alex Pietrangelo is trending in the wrong direction. He has just four points in the last 12 games, missed a couple of games due to injury, and has lost power play time to the capable Colton Parayko.
We’ll see how long this run on the top PP unit lasts for Parayko. The Blues have been experimenting with combinations over the past month. They have some tent-pole options in Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn so they should be fine, but there is opportunity for fantasy value to swing depending on who is in that lone defenceman role once they do start having success again.
We also have to consider that the Blues are missing Jaden Schwartz and will continue to be for the next month, which lowers their offensive ceiling.
11. I was recently offered Sean Couturier for Vladislav Namestnikov. I wasn’t willing to do the deal straight up. Namestnikov is more valuable if for no other reason than his winger eligibility. Both players have slowed down a bit of late. They are the least accomplished fantasy options on their lines, so I wouldn’t be shocked if either one slowed down entirely. I think Namestnikov is safer, however. The Lightning are simply more prolific, especially on the power play.
I remain unconvinced that Couturier’s spot on the Flyer power play is safe. He has NEVER been a big-time producer in this phase and has not matched what Brayden Schenn offered as a bumper option. Maybe he’ll grow more comfortable with added reps but I could see him losing out.
12. After starting the season in the AHL, much to the dismay of fantasy owners everywhere, Shea Theodore is finally safe and secure on the VGK blueline and logging first-unit power-play minutes. What now, he’s only owned in 14 percent of Yahoo leagues? He passes my simple test of whether he should be owned, as he is scoring at just about a 0.5 point per game pace now (10 points in 19 games).
13. Paul Byron is on pace for another 20-goal season. Watching the speedy Byron, I’m kind of surprised that he doesn’t have more goals. Here’s an interesting number for you: Byron is a career 18.3 percent shooter. In fact, his current 18.15 percent accuracy is actually lower than the 22-23% of his previous two seasons. So, he’s great at converting. So, what’s holding him back? A lack of top-6 minutes throughout his career and a lack of shots — he has never taken 100 SOG in a season.
14. Thomas Vanek scores in bunches. Always has, always will. If you’ve ever owned him, you know that there’s long stretches of nothing followed by explosive production, which eventually makes his season-by-season production appear consistent. Another example: Vanek had gone six games without a point before recording a hat trick and an assist last Tuesday night. The hat trick was the 10th of his career and his 54th career multi-goal game. Vanek has 10 goals and is on pace for his 11th career 20-goal season. If you can handle all that, he’s only owned in six percent of Yahoo leagues.
15. It made sense to peg Scott Darling as a preseason sleeper, given his solid numbers as Chicago’s backup and his new role as the starter for an up-and-coming team. Yet, with more losses than wins, a goals-against average close to 3.00 and a save percentage below .900, the Canes’ starter has been anything but a darling for fantasy teams. Bench Darling for now, or at least pick and choose his matchups.
Cam Ward may be starting more often than we expected. In fact, Ward has now started back-to-back games and four of the last six games. Over that stretch he has a 2.18 GAA and .922 SV%, better than what you’d expect from Ward (and what Ward’s season numbers really are). He’s owned in only 10 percent of Yahoo leagues.
16. I keep wondering when Daniel Sprong is going to get a call-up by the Penguins. He made the NHL for 18 games as an 18-year-old then vanished back to junior for a couple of years and is now shredding the AHL as a 20-year-old. He has 15 goals and 22 points in 27 AHL games, a great rate of scoring. He warrants a look at the next level but there aren’t many minutes to around with the Penguins loaded on the wing.
I wonder if there isn’t a deal to be made to bring in a centreman and move out a winger using Sprong or Dominik Simon (who is currently up) to fill the void. Of course, depth is hugely important so perhaps Simon and Sprong are merely fated to be black aces this spring and waiting to get their chance next season. With those two on the cusp, the Penguins have a nice succession plan on the wing which would allow them to move on from Patric Hornqvist (an unrestricted free agent) this summer.
17. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the point where Tyler Toffoli consistently gets top unit run but a goal-scorer of his calibre could breakout with consistent use in that phase. We’ve seen Toffoli put together a 31-goal/58-point season with irregular PP time but there is more meat on the bone. A full season of 3:00-plus minutes per game with the man-advantage could yield a 70-point season. Dare to dream, I suppose.
18. It might be time to see what Alex Kerfoot can fetch in a trade. Back after sitting a few because of a foot injury, he’s averaging under one shot on goal per game (seriously, he has 31 in 32 contests). All his numbers are going to regress over the final 50 games of the season and it could be severe. Anyone that took the chance on him with a late-round flyer in September should be looking to trade him now. You got as much value as you could have hoped for. It’s time to move on.
19. Anyone else find it kind of weird that two years ago, Calgary had three defencemen — Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie — all manage at least 43 points and yet, as of the Holiday break, not one is on pace for at least 40 points. Brodie is the closest with 39.
Granted, I don’t follow the offensive systems year to year that Calgary has been running, and with the season the top line is having, maybe the points are just going elsewhere. It is still a letdown for fantasy owners. Second-half turnaround, maybe?
20. Patrick Kane is on pace for 35 goals and a point per game. This is pretty much the Kane fantasy owners have come to expect, outside of his career year in 2015-16. He and Artemi Panarin undoubtedly had great chemistry but we’re seeing a return to normalcy for Kane with Panarin in Columbus. It’s no coincidence his two highest five-on-five on-ice shooting percentage seasons came with the talented Russian on his left wing, so expecting Kane to pass 100 points again is asking too much. He’s undoubtedly one of the elite offensive talents in the NHL but he can’t do it all himself.