20 Fantasy Thoughts: Why now is the time to grab Michael Bunting

Toronto Maple Leafs' Michael Bunting (58) takes possession of the puck from Montreal Canadiens’ Alexander Romanov during the first period of their NHL preseason hockey game. (Jon Blacker/CP)

A lot can change in five short months. Just ask the Montreal Canadiens.

The Jeff Gorton era is officially underway and based on what we’ve seen thus far this season, the new executive vice-president has his work cut out for himself. First order of business: Hire a general manager.

Lucky for the future duo, this disastrous start isn’t a difficult one to unpack. Montreal currently ranks in the bottom-five in the league in arguably the four most crucial categories: goals-for, goals-against, power play and penalty kill. That’ll do it.

From a fantasy scope, the numbers have been just as disheartening. Cole Caufield was the pre-season betting favourite to win the Calder Trophy; he has one goal in 18 games. Jeff Petry has two assists in 25 contests. The list goes on and on.

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1. Put it this way, I wouldn’t be going out of my way to acquire any Canadiens right now. Having said that, despite the dreadful start, I’m still intrigued by Caufield. There’s no way he stays this cold all season long. For what it’s worth, the 20-year-old has compiled four assists over the past four contests. Baby steps, right?

2. If you’re looking for a cheap and affordable DFS play, Wayne Simmonds is your guy. With Mitch Marner out of the Toronto lineup on Saturday night, the Scarborough native was elevated to the top line to play with Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting.

Look out for Jason Spezza, too.

3. Speaking of Bunting, even though his five-game point streak came to an on Saturday night, the 26-year-old Leafs rookie has still notched three goals and 11 points in the past 10 games. The chemistry is starting to build with Matthews. Get him!

4. Meantime, Anthony Cirelli, Jesper Bratt, Robert Thomas and Mats Zuccarello are four excellent external replacement options for the banged-up Marner.

5. Take a flier on Kyle Okposo. The veteran Sabres winger has 11 points (3 G, 8 A) in the past 11 games. Not too shabby.

6. Put Alex Tuch on your watch list. The Sabres power forward, who was the key cog in the Eichel trade, has been upgraded to week-to-week. His team and season debut could come later this month.

7. With Evgeni Malkin stirring and seemingly on the mend, now’s the time to buy on some Pens stock. Given his early-season struggles, Kris Letang is the obvious name brand to target. I expect a strong second half for the puck-moving defenceman, he’s looking to get paid.

8. Release the Kraken. Yanni Gourde and Jared McCann have my attention, they should have yours, too. The latter has notched at least a point in six of seven, the former is on pace for 41 goals.

9. Pick up Alexandar Georgiev. The Bulgarian will have the Rangers net until Igor Shesterkin is good enough to return. The Vezina contender is expected to miss about a week with a lower-body injury.

10. Scoop up Ville Husso. The 26-year-old stands to start the majority of St. Louis’ games with Jordan Binnington on the Covid list. Monitor that situation closely.

11. With Darcy Kuemper dinged up and Jonas Johansson struggling to make a save, keep a keen eye out for Pavel Francouz. The 31-year-old Czech, who’s currently on a conditioning assignment in the AHL, is working his way back from an ankle injury he sustained in training camp. Surprise, surprise, Colorado has goalie problems.

12. Add Clayton Keller. The dual-eligible Coyotes winger has tallied three goals and seven helpers over the past eight games. Ride the hot streak!

13. Shop Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. At this juncture, a Tuukka Rask return seems inevitable. Be ahead of the game, start to do your due diligence.

14. Some Ryan Getzlaf injury replacements: Isac Lundestrom, Josh Norris, Nico Hischier and Seth Jarvis.

15. Pick up Nino Niederreiter. Playing with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on Saturday night, the 29-year-old picked up a goal and an assist. Niederreiter has averaged a point per game over the past five. By the way, Andrei Svechnikov is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

16. Viktor Arvidsson is another dual-eligible winger worth taking an extended look at right now. The L.A. forward is currently riding a modest four-game point streak (2 G, 4 A). Try him out.

17. Trade for Pavel Buchnevich. The 26-year-old has nine goals and 18 points in 21 games. He’s been skating with Jordan Kyrou and Brayden Schenn. That trio has been impressive lately.

18. Remember Duck Hunt for Nintendo? Great game. Anyways, it’s time to load up on Ducks this week. They possess the golden unicorn fantasy schedule of five games in seven days.

ANA: Mon (@WSH), Tues (@BUF), Thurs (@CBJ), Sat (@PIT), Sun (@STL)

Waiver Looks: Isac Lundestrom, Rickard Rakell

SN Fantasy Pool: Troy Terry 2, Trevor Zegras 1

19. Dec. 6 to 12 will tentatively feature 54 games in the NHL.

Monday: 6 Games

Tuesday: 10 Games

Wednesday: 4 Games

Thursday: 10 Games

Friday: 7 Games

Saturday: 12 Games

Sunday: 5 Games

20. In total, 10 teams have four-game weeks (CAR, COL, DAL, MIN, NSH, NJD, NYR, PHI, STL & VAN). Of those squads, I like these four schedules the most:

Colorado Avalanche: Mon (@PHI), Wed (@NYR), Fri (DET), Sun (FLA)

Waiver Looks: Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Newhook

SN Fantasy Pool: Nathan MacKinnon 4, Mikko Rantanen 4

Vancouver Canucks: Mon (LAK), Wed (BOS), Fri (WPG), Sun (CAR)

Waiver Looks: Nils Hoglander, Vasily Podkolozin

SN Fantasy Pool: J.T. Miller 2, Quinn Hughes 2

New Jersey Devils: Mon (OTT), Wed (PHI), Fri (NSH), Sat (@NYI)

Waiver Looks: Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier

SN Fantasy Pool: Jack Hughes, Dougie Hamilton

Philadelphia Flyers: Mon (COL), Thurs (@NJD), Fri (@VGK), Sat (@ARI)

Waiver Looks: Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny

SN Fantasy Pool: PHI Goalies 2, Claude Giroux 2

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