20 Fantasy Thoughts: Flyers’ Hart proving to be a major draft steal

Philadelphia Flyers' Carter Hart blocks a shot during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

The Philadelphia Flyers were supposed to be major competitors in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes this season. Instead, they might be the biggest surprise so far.

Philly’s roster didn’t figure to be full of good fantasy options for 2022-23 and while it may be early, the Flyers have a number of players worth rostering at the moment. Carter Hart, who is coming off two disastrous campaigns, boasts a .949 save percentage and has won all four of his starts. New head coach John Tortorella and his attention to defensive details is no doubt helping Hart early on.

Travis Konecny is also on the march to a bounce-back season, with six points in five games. Even on weaker teams, someone has to play first line minutes and top power play time, and Konecny is certainly taking advantage of it thus far.

Even if the Flyers can’t sustain this for a significant part of the season, it’s an important lesson not to sleep on projected bad teams in fantasy. There is value to be had if you know where to look.

1. Those hoping to see a new and improved Oliver Wahlstrom under Lane Lambert have seemingly got their wish. Wahlstrom was on fire out of the gate, scoring three times in his first two games and he’s posted 14 total shots in four contests. Wahlstrom is earning more playing time, too, getting bumped up into the top six on Brock Nelson’s line for a stretch this week. At only 12 per cent rostered in Yahoo, Wahlstrom could be a good replacement for an injured forward on your squad.

2. What is going on with Roman Josi? He’s managed just one assist in seven games after pushing 100 points a season ago. After leading the league in secondary assists in 2021-22 and benefiting from a number of fellow Nashville Predators having inflated shooting percentages, a regression isn’t surprising, but the point pace he’s currently on is definitely concerning. Josi will have to pick up the production soon if he wants to even hit 80 points this season.

3. If you’re looking for someone to stream next week, Conor Sheary could be a good option. Sheary is taking advantage of a bump in deployment to Alexander Ovechkin’s line and has points in three of his past four games, with three goals already on the season.

4. It was quite the debut for Nick Robertson after being a cap casualty to start the season. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward scored twice Thursday night, including the overtime winner, and was arguably the best player on the ice. He seems to have a good hold on that second line role with John Tavares and William Nylander and finally looks like he belongs as an everyday NHLer. Robertson is definitely an add with a high ceiling that appears to be a threat to score every night. I think it’s safe to say Denis Malgin is droppable now.

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5. Michael Bunting’s production has been solid so far, but he’s been moved off the Matthews and Marner line in multiple games already. Bunting is a 60-point player if he’s on the top line but probably not worth rostering if he isn’t. Keep an eye out in case Bunting moving down the lineup starts becoming a trend.

6. The return of Brad Marchand seems imminent, as the Boston Bruins star took his non-contact sweater off in practice this week. Start preparing who you’re going to drop to activate him if you’ve been stashing Marchand.

7. Hard to justify holding onto Alex Killorn at this point. He scored his first goal in 34 games Saturday dating back to last season if you include playoffs. Killorn simply doesn’t appear to be the offensive threat he was in the early part of 2021-22 campaign.

8. There probably won’t be a better time to add Eric Comrie this season. The Buffalo Sabres netminder is coming off back-to-back road wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames with a .945 save percentage, and his upcoming schedule is very friendly. Buffalo plays Seattle, Montreal, Chicago and Detroit in its next four games.

9. Rasmus Dahlin has scored in all five games this season and is quickly becoming an elite defenceman, if he isn’t there already. I don’t think it’s too bold a claim to say he’ll win a Norris one day.

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10. One thing I’ll admit I didn’t see coming this season was a slow start from Evan Bouchard. The Oilers blueliner was a breakout choice by many, but he’s managed just a single assist in five games and is playing more than two minutes less per night than he did in 2022-23. It seemed inevitable Bouchard was going to unseat Tyson Barrie from the first power play unit, yet so far Barrie continues to cling to the job. Barrie, though, isn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard either, so if you’re patient, I think Bouchard will get his chance at some point.

11. Gabriel Vilardi’s incredible start to the season reminds me a lot of Troy Terry last year. Many people felt Terry would cool off sooner rather than later and it just never happened, and he ended up arguably being the best waiver wire pickup of 2021-22. I’m not saying the same thing is going to happen with Vilardi, but I’d happily take the chance to find out.

12. I’m not entirely sure what the thought process is behind the usage of Marco Rossi this year. He’s barely playing and was even scratched for a game, despite looking very impressive in the pre-season. The Minnesota Wild have struggled out of the gate and really don’t have anything to lose by giving Rossi more playing time. If he doesn’t get more of an opportunity soon, Rossi will be tough to continue rostering.

13. Gustav Forsling is the obvious add if you’re trying to replace Aaron Ekblad, but if he’s not available in your league, don’t forget about Brandon Montour. He returned to the lineup Friday and posted two assists, while logging more than 23 minutes of ice time. Montour is more widely available than Forsling and is a serviceable option with plenty of upside, as he’s now playing over five minutes a night on the power play.

14. We’re five games into the season for the Anaheim Ducks and it looks like it’s going to be another long year for John Gibson. He’s managed just one win and owns an .897 save percentage. That’s par for the course for what Gibson’s been able to produce over the past few seasons. I just don’t see the value there unless he’s traded out of Anaheim.

15. Jeff Petry appears to be turning into a great bounceback candidate for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s posted four points and 14 hits in just five games. It was a nightmare season for Petry a year ago in Montreal, so a change of scenery on a stronger team looks to be really helping his cause.

16. Lots of attention on all the additions the Ottawa Senators made in the top six this year, so it would be easy to forget about Shane Pinto. Pinto, though, now has goals in four-straight games and at only 5 per cent rostered, might be worth a look for an add next week. Josh Norris also suffered an injury Saturday, so Pinto could find himself getting a bump in the lineup.

17. One of the more interesting tidbits of information to come out of the first few weeks is that Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter plans to play Dan Vladar once a week this season. That would be a departure from 2021-22, where Jacob Markstrom ranked near the top of the league in appearances with 63. If Sutter holds true to his plan that might drop Markstrom down to around the 55-start mark and hurt his value a bit. If you have Markstrom, you could consider adding Vladar to give you a tandem on a strong team, and that will also account for the lost starts from Markstrom and then some.

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18. It took a few games, but Brayden Point is really starting to get going. Point now has three goals and an assist in his past two outings and is averaging a point per game for the season. After having a 92-point season three years ago, Point hasn’t eclipsed 64 points in a campaign since. With Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos also clicking at a great rate, if this trio can stay healthy, there’s no reason why Point can’t become an elite point producer once again.

19. J.T. Miller doesn’t have a point in his past three games and he’s only had more than two shots in a game once all season. He looks nothing like the dominant player he was a season ago.

20. Don’t look now, but Mackenzie Blackwood has started the past three games for the New Jersey Devils, going 3-0-0 with a .932 save percentage. Granted, those games have come against the Ducks, Islanders, and Sharks, but it’s an impressive run for a goalie that was somewhat of an afterthought in drafts this year.

Most people were more interested in what Vitek Vanecek could do on an improved Devils squad and now it appears he may be getting phased out of the net. Everyone is always searching the waiver wire for the next Ville Husso and while I’m not sure it’s Blackwood, if he steals the number one job and New Jersey is substantially better, he’ll be an asset either way.

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