NHL Fantasy: Key pick ups for the week ahead

Frans Nielsen. Wilfredo Lee/AP

Here are some key players to look for both this week and long-term to add your fantasy teams as we enter February.


Frans Nielsen (NY Islanders) – Owned in 22.1 per cent of ESPN leagues, 17 per cent of Yahoo leagues

Fairly quietly, Nielsen is going to push for 20 power play points this year. Twelve 12 of Nielsen’s 27 points on the season have come with the man advantage.

With Kyle Okposo out of the lineup, lines have been shuffled a bit, and Nielsen is on the top power play unit with John Tavares and Brock Nelson. The Islanders have both Philadelphia and Buffalo this week, two of the three worst penalty killing teams in the league.
With Nielsen fairly cheap, and with four games and two very good power play matchups, Nielsen is a solid play this week.

Cedric Paquette (Tampa Bay) – Owned in 2 per cent of ESPN leagues, 2 per cent of Yahoo

I have written about the decline in production from the second line in Tampa Bay. This is still a very talented offensive group as a whole, and that market share of production lost by the Tyler Johnson line could, in part, be picked up by the third line, and Paquette.

Paquette doesn’t get power play time yet, and that hurts his value. However, with the easier in-game matchups, he and line mate Jonathan Drouin control over 61 per cent of five-on-five shot attempts. Easy matchups or not, that’s an elite number.

Left Wing

Jason Zucker (Minnesota) – Owned in 6.6 per cent of ESPN leagues, 4 per cent of Yahoo

The Minnesota lines underwent some changes about a week ago, and that put Zucker on the second line with Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville. The nice thing is that Zucker gets a lot of offensive zone starts, so maybe plus-minus isn’t too much of a concern here.

Zucker’s splits are really something: With Koivu and Zucker on the ice together, the Wild control nearly 60 per cent of five-on-five shot attempts, and take over 21 shot attempts themselves per 60 minutes. With Zucker on the ice without Koivu, that number drops to 45.6 per cent. As long as those two are together, Zucker brings solid roto value. Minnesota has just two games next week, but its schedule for the rest of February after that is very soft. Add Zucker now if injuries are piling up.

Alex Killorn (Tampa Bay) – Owned in 4.4 per cent of ESPN leagues, 7 per cent Yahoo

Killorn is one of the line mates of Paquette (along with Drouin). In that sense, a lot that can be said of Paquette can also be said for Killorn. The one big difference is that Killorn gets power play time where Paquette does not. If I had to add one of the two, it would be Killorn.

Don’t forget to look for the first set of matchups to be released tomorrow for Sportsnet’s Pick ‘n Play here on Sportsnet.ca.

Right Wing

Matt Nieto (San Jose) – Owned in 0.6 per cent of ESPN leagues, 1 per cent of Yahoo

Nieto had been seeing some time on the third line in San Jose, but has been moved back into the top six with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. Like Paquette, though, he still doesn’t get power play time.

I’ve mentioned it before, but Nieto has been among the elite in the NHL in producing good underlying five-on-five numbers. In a small sample with Couture this year, Nieto and the Sharks have produced over 23 shot attempts for per 60 minutes; for reference, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are at 21.7, and Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov are just under 23. Nieto has some good matchups this week with Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver on the schedule.


Lubomir Visnovsky (NY Islanders) – Owned in 11.2 per cent of ESPN leagues, 5 per cent of Yahoo

With Okposo out, the power play lines have looked a bit different in recent games. In Saturday night’s game, Visnovsky was paired on the power play with Johnny Boychuk.

This is simply a play for this week. There’s no telling how long these units stay together, but the Islanders have a lot of good special teams match ups this week.


Malcolm Subban (Boston) – P.K.’s brother was called up in lieu of Niklas Svedberg, and the Bruins have a back to back on the weekend with the Canadiens and Islanders.

Dustin Tokarski (Montreal) – The Habs have back-to-back games this weekend against the Bruins and Devils. Hopefully Tokarski gets the Devils.

Thomas Greiss (Pittsburgh) – Pittsburgh is going on a Western Canada road trip, including a back to back with Calgary and Vancouver on the weekend.

Chad Johnson (NY Islanders) – On the weekend, the Islanders have a back to back with Boston and Buffalo. Expect Johnson in net against the Sabres.

*Some stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis, Hockey Reference, ESPN, and Yahoo.

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