20 Fantasy Thoughts: Don’t trust Sandin as a Rielly replacement

Rasmus Sandin can expect to take on a bigger role on the Maple Leafs blueline with Morgan Rielly sidelined by injury. (Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty)

Charlie McAvoy was worth the wait.

After being drafted and stashed on rosters early in the season, the Boston Bruins defender has returned with a vengeance, to the tune of 10 points in eight games. McAvoy is a great example of why stashing a player can be a shrewd strategy, though it can just as easily go wrong. His former Bruins teammate Tuukka Rask is an example of the latter, when he was stashed for a huge chunk of the year in 2021-22 and only returned for four games before retiring.

There’s no guarantee when and how a player will return from injury, so you could be using a roster or injured reserve spot for no reason if things don’t pan out. The likes of Tom Wilson and Gabriel Landeskog are others being stashed this season, in the hopes they will return healthy and productive in time for the fantasy playoffs. Those players can be huge difference makers if all goes to plan.

You just have to be willing to take the risk.

1. Speaking of stashing, Max Pacioretty has begun skating, though a return isn’t imminent. He’s only 44% rostered and he could easily be a major asset down the stretch. There is an obvious need in the Carolina Hurricanes top six, as despite being a really strong team, the Canes rank just 28th in goals for. Pacioretty figures to get first line minutes and a spot on the top power play when he’s healthy.

2. Part of the reason the Hurricanes are struggling mightily offensively, is the fact that Jesperi Kotkaniemi has only five points this season. He simply hasn’t worked out as a second line centre and can’t seem to produce anything offensively, even though he’s played quite a bit with Andrei Svechnikov. It seems inevitable Carolina is really going to regret giving him that contract. Kotkaniemi simply isn’t worth rostering at the moment.

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3. Jakob Chychrun finally returned to the ice this week and he’s off to a really strong start. He’s notched three points, 18 shots and 10 hits in just three games. Chychrun is already a good option as it stands now, but he has similar upside to that of a Patrick Kane or Bo Horvat in the event he gets dealt. It seems like Chychrun is the safest bet to get traded among those rumoured to be moved and his value will jump if he ends up on a better team.

4. The Edmonton Oilers gave Stuart Skinner a real shot to claim the job recently with four straight starts, but wins have been hard to come by. Skinner’s numbers were solid overall during that stretch, though he managed only two wins and is now just 4-5-0 on the season. As bad as Jack Campbell has been, there may be a bigger issue at play with the Oilers. Edmonton ranks 27th in shots allowed and the loss of Evander Kane is making a team that’s not very deep that much thinner. If the Oilers don’t pick it up, neither Campbell or Skinner are going to be ideal options.

5. On the plus side, Evan Bouchard scored his first two goals of the season Saturday. He’s also posted two power play points in his past three games, while Tyson Barrie has been held off the scoresheet in five straight. The key to Bouchard unlocking his fantasy value is overtaking Barrie on the top power play unit.

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6. Is there a more fun team in fantasy right now than the Buffalo Sabres? Jeff Skinner notched seven points in two games this week, Tage Thompson’s shot volume is through the roof, and Rasmus Dahlin is closing in on elite status. Don’t forget about Dylan Cozens, though. He’s not as flashy as the others I mentioned, but he fills a ton of categories. He has 12 points in his past 16 games and is great for faceoff wins and shots, too. Cozens is widely available and would be a good boost for your forward group.

7. Rasmus Sandin seems like an obvious pickup with Morgan Rielly sidelined, but I’m not overly confident in that investment. Sandin hasn’t been great this year and hasn’t found the scoresheet since Rielly’s been out, while managing just a pair of shots in those three games. The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be morphing into a team that’s more defensively sound, rather than trying to push forward offensively and outscore their problems. Even if Sandin can hold onto his spot on the first power play unit, I don’t see him producing enough points to make him a better option than some external candidates.

8. One thing I’m learning this season is to not start a goalie in a game involving the San Jose Sharks. In the past 12 Sharks games, there have been a combined seven goals scored nine times, and in three of those games there’s been more than 10 combined goals. High-event games are not good for goalies in fantasy.

9. Maybe one of the more bizarre stats this season is Vancouver Canucks backup Spencer Martin being 6-1-1. Despite how bad things have been for Thatcher Demko and the Canucks, Martin has actually been a solid resource for spot starts.

10. Brock Boeser is flying under the radar right now with a nine-game point streak. Given Vancouver’s awful start and an early season injury, Boeser’s campaign could have easily been derailed. I though there was a chance he could hit 30 goals for the first time this year and even if that may be a longshot at this point, Boeser is at least making you not regret using a draft pick on him.

11. I’m having trouble understanding why David Krejci is only 19% rostered. Sure, his hit numbers are non-existent, but he’s up to six goals in his past five games and should cruise to a 60-point season in the Boston Bruins’ top six if he remains healthy.

12. It sounds like Linus Ullmark’s injury isn’t going to keep him out long term. Still, it should be Jeremy Swayman for a few games here on a team that’s starting to look like a juggernaut. Holding 1Bs on strong teams is a good strategy if you can swing it with your roster, as an injury to the starter will see their value skyrocket.

13. Akira Schmid has been a nice little find for spot starts while Mackenzie Blackwood has been out. The New Jersey Devils are leaning heavily on Vitek Vanecek, but with games coming up over the next week or so against Nashville, Chicago and Philadelphia, keep an eye out for a favourable matchup for Schmid.

14. Very quietly, Anaheim Ducks defender Cam Fowler recently recorded eight points during a five-game point streak, while taking advantage of some time on the top power play. Fowler isn’t a huge point producer, as he had just a single point in 15 games prior to this run, but maybe you can capture lightning in a bottle with Fowler until he cools off.

15. Tough luck if you were rostering the likes of Roman Josi or Juuse Saros this week. The Nashville Predators had to cancel a pair of games because of a water main break at their arena. Sure, those games will be made up eventually, but that doesn’t help you if you were banking on some key Preds players to help you win your matchup this week. You can do as much research and planning as you want in fantasy hockey, but you can’t prepare for everything.

16. Philipp Grubauer returned to action Friday and had a strong outing. That’s going to put more pressure on Martin Jones to keep playing well to hold onto the starting job for the Seattle Kraken.

17. I’m not sure what’s gotten into Filip Hronek, but he’s exploded for 10 points in his past six games. Normally Hronek’s main value is for hits and blocks, though suddenly he’s already up to 18 points after never eclipsing 38 in a season before. He’s also sitting at plus-10 after coming into the 2022-23 campaign a career minus-95. With four games next week, Hronek is certainly worth a look if he’s still kicking around in your league.

18. Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter hasn’t exactly followed through with his plan to start Dan Vladar once a week. Vladar went 13 days without playing before picking up a pair of quality starts this week. The Flames play Arizona and Columbus over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye on Vladar for spot starts their if he gets the call for those friendly matchups.

19. Tristan Jarry has won his past four starts with a .950 save percentage over that span. A great sign if you bought low.

20. From late October into early November, Sidney Crosby managed just a single point over five games, as the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the midst of a lengthy losing streak. Many were asking what was wrong with Crosby and what they should do with him. Since then, Crosby has 17 points in 11 games and at age 35, he’s on pace for 108 points, which would be his most productive season since 2009-10. Never bet against Sidney Crosby.

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