20 Fantasy Thoughts: Leafs’ Bertuzzi heating up at the perfect time

Watch as Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bertuzzi celebrates his 29th birthday in style, completing his hat trick with a go-ahead goal late in the third against the Colorado Avalanche to become the first Leaf ever to record a birthday hatty.

It’s been a tale of two seasons for Matt Boldy.

The Minnesota Wild forward started the year with just one goal in his first 12 games, but the coaching change appears to have benefited Boldy more than anyone. Since John Hynes took over, Boldy has scored 22 times and is averaging a point per game under his new coach. His shot volume has also gone through the roof. Boldy has at least three shots in eight straight and has a decent chance to exceed 250 shots on the season.

One of the things that’s really aided Boldy is Hynes’ willingness to juggle the lines. The trio of Boldy, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kirill Kaprizov have been incredible together, something former coach Dean Evason was always hesitant to try. Kaprizov often played with Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman under Evason, which made sense at times to balance out the scoring, but also felt like the Wild weren’t maximizing the talents of Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek and Boldy. Now that the top line seems like a staple, it’s raised the value of all three considerably and made Minnesota a much more dynamic team.

It also feels like Boldy is only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of.

1. Speaking of Eriksson Ek, if you’re a frequent reader of my work, you probably know I can’t go more than a couple of weeks without heaping praise on him. It was another incredible performance for Eriksson Ek this week when the Wild beat the Vancouver Canucks 10-7 as he notched three goals, three assists, three power-play points, two penalty minutes, four shots, 14 faceoff wins and a hit. He simply does it all. Eriksson Ek has gone from underrated to very appreciated to a borderline must-keeper. He’s on pace for 76 points and given his ability to fill all the other categories, how can you afford to let him go this summer?

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2. Corey Perry took full advantage of a brief cameo on the Edmonton Oilers‘ top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He recently had three goals and four points during a four-game stretch to go along with 16 penalty minutes. He’ll be 39 in a few months and doesn’t really have the foot speed to play with McDavid and Draisaitl regularly, though I could see the Oilers using him in the top six here and there because of his offensive background. Just don’t expect Perry to hold that role long-term.

3. McDavid has not scored in nine straight games now, although he does have 21 assists over this stretch. I guess we’ll give him a pass.

4. It’s possible Thomas Harley could hit the 20-goal mark this year. He’s already up to 14 and Harley seems very comfortable playing on the Dallas Stars‘ top pair with Miro Heiskanen and is skating more than 20 minutes a night. I think he has an outside chance at 200 shots, too. It’s going to be interesting to see if Harley goes ahead of Heiskanen in drafts this September.

5. Jake Neighbours is developing into a very streaky player. He recently had four goals and seven points in four games but now hasn’t recorded a point in his last four outings. The St. Louis Blues forward was a trendy pickup back in November during another hot streak but quickly went cold soon after. I think Neighbours is valuable as a streamer if you can catch lightning in a bottle, just don’t get too attached to him.

6. Ottawa Senators defenceman Jake Sanderson is starting to slow down some. He has just three points in 12 games, and his shot volume is becoming hit-and-miss. Sanderson’s minutes are still good, and he’s still on the first power play, but he certainly isn’t giving the impression he’s in for a strong finish. I don’t think he’s a drop necessarily, though it’s possible there are more effective options out there on waivers or via a trade right now.

7. What a breakout season Carolina Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis is having. He’s currently on a run of 18 points in 17 games to put him on pace for around a 65-to-70-point season. Given he had an ADP of 165, Jarvis has been one of the biggest steals this year. The fact that he’s a bit of a Swiss Army knife and has dual eligibility doesn’t hurt either.

8. So far so good for Sean Monahan in Winnipeg. I was concerned Monahan’s numbers might take a hit since the Jets had been struggling to score and Monahan might see a reduction in minutes, but he’s notched five goals in his past four games. His shot volume has remained very steady as well and he’s secured a spot on the first power-play unit. If this continues, I don’t see anything wrong with holding Monahan.

9. Alex Ovechkin is officially back. He’s up to 22 points in his past 20 games and eight goals in his last 10 contests. Kudos to you if you bought low or if you held on, but it does bring up an interesting conundrum if you do currently have Ovechkin. Do you believe what the Washington Capitals forward is doing is sustainable? Or do you try to move him for a bigger trade package now that his value is high again?

In a one-year league, I would probably just keep him and take advantage of this hot streak, but in a keeper situation, it’s not that simple. Ovechkin will be 39 next season and at some point, what he went through earlier this year is going to be commonplace. It’s always better to move on from a player a bit too early when you can still get something solid in return for them, rather than when it’s too late.

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10. Just when I’m convinced it’s time to drop someone, they go off. A tale as old as time. That’s exactly what’s happening with Florida Panthers defenceman Brandon Montour and his seven points in four games. I know some saying Montour was due, but given how quiet he was for so long, it was essentially the equivalent of saying the Washington Generals were due. Maybe this is the time when the dam finally breaks for Montour.

11. Don’t look now, but Cam Talbot has delivered back-to-back quality starts for the Los Angeles Kings. I talked about this a few weeks ago that we’ve seen goalies like Stuart Skinner and Ilya Samsonov completely fall apart only to make a comeback and have major value. The same thing could easily happen with Talbot. Goalies have a lot of ups and downs and wild swings of play.

12. Stars forward Logan Stankoven could be a dark horse pickup with Tyler Seguin sidelined. Stankoven has 57 points in 47 AHL games and even if he gets sent back down, he could be a good stash option if your league has an NA slot. It’s a low-risk, high-reward move.

13. A Mark Stone injury was always inevitable. The fact that he played the first 56 games without missing time meant you were playing with house money if you were rostering him. Hopefully, he isn’t out long because Stone was scoring at a near-point-per-game pace. The main concern would be the Vegas Golden Knights keeping him out of the lineup until the playoffs to use his cap space to add a player at the deadline. That would essentially make Stone irrelevant for the remainder of the fantasy calendar.

14. New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff made some interesting comments about Jack Hughes following Thursday night’s embarrassing loss to the New York Rangers. He revealed Hughes isn’t 100 per cent healthy and I’m not really surprised, to be honest. Even with 10 shots and a goal against the Rangers, Hughes doesn’t quite look like himself or as explosive as he was at the beginning of the season. He’s only had one multi-point game since returning from this latest ailment.

That’s the major challenge with injuries in fantasy. Often you can survive losing a key player from your lineup for a stretch, but often the injury can derail their momentum and sometimes it’s hard to recapture it. Hughes was scoring at an incredible rate to start the year and that just isn’t happening anymore. He’s still producing and has strong shot volume, but you may not be able to rely on him for that elite-level production the rest of the way.

15. The Devils could solve a lot of their problems with better goaltending. Nico Daws has come back down to earth in a big way, posting a save percentage well below .800 in two of his past three starts. It feels like a trade for a netminder could be coming soon.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jack Roslovic has been playing better of late. He’s taking advantage of some time with Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau, notching five points in five games. He’s also had six shots in two of those contests. Roslovic’s minutes are way up, too. He’s averaging more than 18 minutes over this stretch.

17. I really like the Stars’ schedule next week. They play four times, including games against the New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks, who give up a lot of goals. Wyatt Johnston might be a good player to circle back on. He’s been shuffled up and down the lineup but continues to produce fairly consistently.

Max Pacioretty might also be worth considering. The Capitals have four games as well, including games on Monday, Friday and Sunday, and Pacioretty has points in three of his past four. His name has also been out there in trade rumours and he may end up being worth holding onto if he lands on a stronger team.

As far as drops go, you could probably move on from Philipp Kurashev. I recommended grabbing Kurashev for this week because of Chicago’s excellent schedule and his recent point streak, but next week the Blackhawks play just twice. Plus, that includes a tough matchup against Colorado. There are probably better streamers out there.

18. Anthony Cirelli had a brief promotion to the Tampa Bay Lightning first line and the top power-play unit, but he wasn’t able to do much with it. Unless your league has faceoffs, I usually shy away from Cirelli. He’s a very effective player for the Lightning, though not one that’s particularly helpful in fantasy hockey.

19. I’m not sure how sustainable Bobby McMann’s recent scoring surge of seven goals and 10 points in seven games is, but he does find himself playing with John Tavares. Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe appears to be starting to trust him more, too. McMann isn’t the worst option as a streamer right now.

20. If you’ve been holding onto Tyler Bertuzzi throughout this entire season, you’re probably one of the most loyal people out there. After scoring just once in 32 games, Bertuzzi has notched four in the past week, thanks to a hat trick Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche.

I don’t think those rostering Bertuzzi are popping the Champagne just yet, but there are definitely some encouraging signs for a player who was producing well below expectations this year. The first is Bertuzzi’s power-play time is up lately, and he notched two of his goals with the man advantage against the Avs. Not to mention all three of his goals Saturday came with Bertuzzi right on the edge of the blue paint. That’s where Bertuzzi is at his best. If he’s going to continue scoring, that’s where he has to play.

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The Leafs have also juggled their lines, leaving Bertuzzi with William Nylander and Max Domi, as Tavares has moved off that unit. That may seem like a bad thing but this new trio appears to have much more chemistry and is better suited to Bertuzzi’s skillset.

With Bertuzzi doing next to nothing earlier in the year with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and then not much better with Nylander and Tavares, who could blame you for giving up on him? Bertuzzi, though, is now widely available on waivers and seems like he has a real chance to salvage a season that once seemed destined for disaster. Just in time for the fantasy playoffs, too. Better late than never.

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