20 Fantasy Thoughts: Triplets line clicking in Tampa Bay

Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov scored in a shootout and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday night.

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.

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1. Tampa Bay is tilting its lineup in a way that has to be very exciting for fantasy owners. They are giving the Triplets line all the minutes they can handle. That’s how you get maximum production out of a specific few individuals. If you’ve got Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and/or Ondrej Palat, you are going to cash in over the next few weeks.

Johnson and Palat kill penalties, so it’s easier for them to get up to that 20-minute plateau. For Kucherov, it takes some double-shifting on the power play, which is even more exciting. This line doesn’t work without Kucherov turning into a superstar but he has hit that level.

Now, loading up one line doesn’t work if a team can shut it down but that hasn’t happened recently. Kucherov is up to 14 points in the last six games. Johnson has 10 points in his last eight games – finally producing at the level we thought he might. Palat is coming along a little slower but has seven points in the last nine games.

2. Some fantasy owners refuse to own Evgeni Malkin because of his recent injury history. But when Malkin is healthy, boy are they missing out. Malkin scored two goals and added an assist on Friday, which puts him at 65 points in 56 games. That’s 1.16 points per game, which is only surpassed by Sidney Crosby (1.21 P/GP) and Stamkos (1.18 P/GP over just 17 games). If Malkin can stay healthy the rest of the way, he’s a threat to win the Art Ross Trophy. But that’s always a big if, and a big gamble for those fantasy owners who acquire his services.

3. So, Nikolay Goldobin plays his first game, scores a goal, and receives less than six minutes of ice time? That’s even less than Jayson Megna and Michael Chaput. Your team is all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Why not see what you have with this kid? Willie Desjardins’ roster deployment decisions often leave me puzzled.

4. If only Jonathan Huberdeau was around for the entire season. With a goal on Saturday, Huberdeau is now up to 12 points (5g-7a) in 13 games. Plan for that 60+ points breakout next season.

5. Drew Stafford made his Bruins debut on Saturday, playing on a line with Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner. It was a pretty good night for the newest Bruin, who assisted on Spooner’s game winner while firing seven shots on goal. Stafford also had a goal disallowed because of goalie interference. Spooner and Vatrano are underrated options, so it’s possible that this could be a sneaky-good line over the last quarter of the season.

6. Starting Jonathan Bernier on Friday took a leap of faith for the Ducks, considering that he’s been brutal for much of the season and the opposing Leafs are now one of the league’s highest-scoring teams. Yet Bernier impressed against his former team, who was playing its second of back-to-back games in the Pacific Time zone. He stopped 37 of 39 shots in the Ducks’ 5-2 win.

If the Ducks knew John Gibson (lower body) wouldn’t be ready after their bye week, I’m surprised that they weren’t all-in on pursuing Ryan Miller, although Miller’s contract was probably the reason a trade didn’t happen. Assuming Gibson isn’t back Sunday, Bernier’s next start will come against Miller’s Canucks on Sunday. Vancouver’s current state and Bernier’s strong start against the Leafs should make him a decent play that day.

7. Mathieu Perreault now has a six-game point streak with 10 points (3g-7a) and a plus-7 over that span. In other words, playing alongside Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele seems to agree with him. From the short time we’ve seen Laine, we can see he is proficient at scoring goals. And Scheifele is an absolute assists machine right now.

8. After making his NHL debut on Thursday, Joshua Ho-Sang played again on Friday. So far the rookie has not recorded a point, playing on a line with Andrew Ladd and Brock Nelson while being given second-line power-play time. I would suggest for fantasy purposes waiting until he shows something in the NHL before pressing the add button. He was recalled on an emergency basis, so he could be back in the AHL in short order anyway. Ho-Sang has scored 36 points in 48 games at the AHL level in his first pro season. That’s a good start.

9. Valtteri Filppula with Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek. Great spot for Filppula. Ultimately, he isn’t going to see top unit PP time and this team isn’t worth much at 5-on-5, so we can’t think of Filppula gaining relevance beyond deep formats. Also, he may have been better off in Tampa Bay skating a bunch of shifts with Jonathan Drouin but Schenn and Voracek are solid linemates. And maybe, just maybe, Filppula can provide the kick that Philadelphia needs to start scoring at even strength.

10. Since the all-star break, Ryan Strome has 14 points in 15 games, which is awesome, but over the past eight games, the scoring has been erratic. He has two three-point efforts mixed in with six goose eggs. That’s classic unreliability. If Strome were so good that you were willing to ride out these fits and starts then it would be fine, but we’re approaching fantasy playoffs and Strome is likely on your waiver wire or he’s the last guy on your bench. By all means, scoop him up if you need a spark, especially against a friendly matchup like the Stars but I’d try to avoid using him as a lineup regular. I don’t trust him.

11. Radek Faksa is an awesome player. Definitely coming into his own in his second year in the league. He was highly-touted in his draft year, eventually going as a lottery pick. Faksa isn’t fantasy relevant now but he’s challenging for 40 points as a 23-year-old sophomore. I wonder if he can challenge for 60 by his fourth season. Worth keeping an eye on.

12. There are indications that Roberto Luongo’s injury is related to one he has been nursing for a while. Alarm bells! Lots of them. Not only is backup James Reimer playing better than Luongo but he is much younger and is not nursing year-long hip ailments. You know who carries injuries over for extended periods of time? Old people. Luongo turns 38 in a month. Hmmm…

In one-year leagues, you should be safe but you should also have the Reimer handcuff because he’s been really good and gets enough starts to be valuable in his own right but also for the insurance policy. Reimer is still available in 61% of leagues. He could be an upgrade for teams in a lot of them. Whether you’re a Luongo owner or not, Reimer should be considered. He could be the only option in net for the first week or two of fantasy playoffs.

13. It seems like Steve Mason will be hitting unrestricted free agency this summer. Mason has been bad this season but has been good for much of his career. He could definitely be a cheap option for a team looking for change at the goaltending position or perhaps he’ll move to a team with an entrenched starter the way that Reimer joined Florida this summer. I am still a Mason believer despite his poor play this year.

14. Goaltending will easily be the most intriguing part of the free agent market this summer. Check out some of the options set to hit unrestricted free agency: Miller, Mason, Scott Darling, Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, Chad Johnson, Mike Condon.

There’s enough talent there for a team to remake the look of their crease. The Carolina Hurricanes perhaps? The Flyers? Flames? Avalanche?

15. It was awfully interesting to see Teuvo Teravainen’s name pop up in trade rumours this past week. Has Carolina soured on him that fast? Teravainen has had a reasonable season for a third-year guy leaving a contending Blackhawks team and joining the offence-starved Hurricanes and putting up similar numbers. Teravainen is just five points shy of matching last season’s total and should surpass it.

Perhaps his name got out there in rumours as part of a package for a big fish or perhaps there is some real heat to this. Teravainen has slowed down recently with just two points in the last 10 games.

16. I don’t know what more to say about Mikael Granlund. Talk about coming into his own. And this guy started the year with nine points in 17 games? Since then he has 50 points in 45 games. He’s made Mikko Koivu fantasy relevant again when Koivu was on the precipice of being waiver fodder. I can remember in the summer, shortly after he was hired, Bruce Boudreau was raving about how he wanted to try Granlund on the wing with Koivu and thought it could really work well. Do you think it did?

17. My goodness the Capitals are loaded after trading for Kevin Shattenkirk. The defence looks absolutely silly at this point with Shattenkirk, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov. Any one of those four could conceivably be a 50-point guy if deployed as a #1, although Carlson is the only one among them to have actually done it, and he’s only done it once.

The possibilities for PP combinations are endless but I would plop Shattenkirk onto the top unit. He’s the second-best PP producer in the league behind only Nicklas Backstrom, at least on a per-minute basis. He offers a shooting dynamic that the other guys don’t offer.

18. The bigger end of the Shattenkirk deal is the fallout in St. Louis where it may be time for Colton Parayko to emerge. I’m not ruling out the possibility that they give the #1 PP gig to Alex Pietrangelo but we’ll see what Mike Yeo prefers. Long-term, Parayko has to be the guy.

19. One lost piece in the Shattenkirk deal: Zach Sanford getting dealt to St. Louis means that Jakub Vrana has a lineup spot alongside Brett Connolly and Lars Eller. Not the best spot, but he can make the most of it on this team, especially with secondary PP time.

Whenever Andre Burakovsky returns, Vrana will probably be back out of the lineup but it’s amazing that the Capitals have him as an ace up their sleeve. I bet Vrana scores a big goal for them at some point during the playoffs.

It’ll likely be a couple of years before Vrana is fantasy relevant, unless he can leap past Burakovsky in the pecking order to fill in for Justin Williams (or T.J. Oshie) who will presumably be gone this summer. Someone worth keeping an eye on.

20. Welp, the Senators traded intriguing prospect Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows. As per usual, the Senators added a player with a back-diving deal paying him less than his cap hit. Even when adding they look to pinch pennies. They also gave Burrows a two-year extension, even though he turns 36 this spring. This deal is looking bad!

Some folks are comparing it to the Filip Forsberg/Martin Erat swap. I think that’s a little over the top but there’s no question that Burrows is on the way out and Dahlen is a good prospect.

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