20 Fantasy Thoughts: Quick looking like a must-add after taking over the net in Vegas

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Jonathan Quick prepares prior to an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens, Sunday, March 5, 2023, in Las Vegas. (Lucas Peltier/AP)

Injuries always come at the worst times.

That’s especially true with Kirill Kaprizov, both for the Minnesota Wild and if you’re rostering him. Kaprizov is going to be sidelined for three-to-four weeks, putting a hamper on Minnesota’s post-season push and likely leaving a hole on your roster for the fantasy playoffs.

Unless you’re in a roto league, Kaprizov has probably played his last game for you this year.

The loss of Kaprizov is obviously a huge one, but there is a ripple effect as well. How will this hurt Mats Zuccarello? How much will the Wild’s power play suffer? Will Filip Gustavsson’s chance at wins drop significantly? When a player of this magnitude goes down, everyone feels it.

Hopefully, your team is deep enough to withstand the loss because the trade deadline has likely passed in your league and there’s nobody close to Kaprizov’s ability sitting there on waivers.

If you’ve been playing fantasy hockey long enough, though, you’re probably used to curveballs like this by now. You just have to make the best of a bad situation.

1. After a quiet January, Jack Eichel is flying again. He’s up to 16 points in his past 14 games and better yet, he’s elevating his teammates. Ivan Barbashev was the benefactor of playing with Eichel after arriving at the deadline, notching five points in his first four games in Vegas. The Eichel, Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone line was one of the best in the first half of the season, but Eichel’s production plummeted as soon as Stone went down with an injury. Eichel has found his game again, though, and just in time for the fantasy playoffs.

2. Jonathan Quick has stumbled into quite an opportunity. Logan Thompson, Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit are all injured right now, leaving Quick to run with the ball for the time being. I didn’t love Quick as an option when he was first dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights, but I should’ve known better. Bruce Cassidy is a very goalie-friendly coach and it’s paid big dividends for Quick already. He’s got a 3-0-0 record, a shutout, and a .939 save percentage with his new team. The opportunity to grab a difference-making goalie this late in the season doesn’t come around too often, so pounce on Quick if he’s still available and you need help between the pipes.

3. Word came down this week that Pavel Francouz isn’t back on the ice yet and there is no timeline for his return. That’s not ideal if you were stashing him for the fantasy playoffs. If your IR spots are jammed, you might have to make a tough call where Francouz is concerned.

4. Dawson Mercer’s rostered percentage is skyrocketing and rightfully so. Mercer has 11 goals and 20 points in his past 12 games. After being widely available in most leagues just a couple of weeks ago, he’s now up to almost 70 per cent rostered. Mercer looks like he’s going to be a star, and he deserves keeper consideration beyond this season in deep leagues.

5. The addition of John Klingberg has essentially put an end to Calen Addison’s value this season. Addison has been scratched for four straight games now, as Klingberg has taken over the quarterbacking duties on Minnesota’s top power-play unit. Addison should be safe to drop at this point.

6. Part of the reason Addison can’t get back into the lineup at the moment is because the Wild are playing incredible defensively and that isn’t his strong suit. Minnesota has allowed just 10 goals in its past 10 games, aiding both Gustavsson and Marc-Andre Fleury to solid performances of late. I know some were considering dropping Fleury due to the emergence of Gustavsson but these numbers and the fact they continue to rotate starts are reasons why I wouldn’t recommend moving on from Fleury.

7. Don’t look now, but Jason Zucker has eight goals in his past seven games. Zucker has pretty good value in leagues with hits, as he’s proficient there, too. He’s not a huge overall points guy, but goals, shots and hits are a pretty good combo. Anyone sitting on waivers that can help you in three categories right now is worth considering.

8. Hopefully you did not stream Eric Comrie on Thursday night. The Buffalo Sabres shockingly left him in for all 10 goals against the Dallas Stars, no doubt destroying a number of fantasy teams’ goalie stats in the process. There’s just no coming back from a performance like that.

9. In better Sabres news, Jordan Greenway received a promotion to the top line with Tage Thompson and Jeff Skinner recently and scored a goal in the aforementioned game against the Stars. I’d put Greenway on your watch list to see if these Buffalo line combos stick. He could end up being a key short-term add at some point if he remains on the first line.

10. Pyotr Kochetkov is back up with the Carolina Hurricanes and wasted no time getting back into the good graces of fantasy enthusiasts with a shutout in his first game. I must say, I’m tempering my expectations with this Kochetkov callup because Frederik Andersen remains healthy. It’s possible Andersen still gets the bulk of the starts and the fantasy playoffs are fast approaching. If you look at next week’s schedule for instance, Kochetkov could potentially get just one start next week. Also, we’ve talked a bit about how challenging it can be for goalies on teams that don’t give up a lot of shots and the Canes allow the fewest in the league. Kochetkov’s shutout the other night came on just 19 shots, had he given up just two goals in that game his save percentage would have been .894. There’s little room for error in the Carolina net to post good fantasy numbers and even in a best-case scenario, you don’t get a ton of saves. We’re also not exactly sure how long Antti Raanta will be out. Kochetkov is definitely a good short-term add if you’re desperate for help in net, just don’t invest all your stock into the young goaltender right now.

11. One of the most underrated stats in fantasy hockey is ice time. Finding a player that sees a surge in minutes can sometimes give you a major edge over your competition. Someone who has caught my eye recently is Owen Tippett, as he seems to be one of the few Philadelphia Flyers forwards on John Tortorella’s good side. Tippett is averaging almost 24 minutes per game in March and is great for volume categories like shots and blocks. As a forward, he’s had eight games this season with at least three blocks. You don’t often see that type of block production from the forward position.

12. It’s been an unusually quiet stretch for Rasmus Andersson. He’s managed just one point in five games and only one shot in his past two. He’s usually great for category coverage, but it appears Calgary’s inconsistent play has also spread to Andersson at a less-than-ideal time.

13. It took a while, but the new faces in the New York Rangers top six are starting to find their game. Vladimir Tarasenko has five points in his past five games and Patrick Kane has three points in his past two. Artemi Panarin also looks re-energized, notching three assists on Thursday. I know there were concerns from some about the slow starts from Kane and Tarasenko when they arrived in the Big Apple but sometimes it takes time for players to gel with their new squads.

14. Mads Sogaard owns the net right now for the Ottawa Senators. Cam Talbot is going to be out for a few weeks, so Sogaard will get a chance to run with things as the Sens make their playoff push. He had a very strong February, but Sogaard has come back down to earth in his past three outings. Still, he’s won four of his past six starts and you might be able to catch lightning in a bottle with Sogaard in a short-term scenario. It’s always good to have as many options as possible to call upon on the waiver wire at this time of year.

15. Tough luck for Ryan O’Reilly after he suffered an injury that will likely keep him out for the rest of the fantasy hockey season. I don’t really see an obvious add to replace him, as the Toronto Maple Leafs have been juggling their lines quite a bit of late. Alex Kerfoot has moved up into the top six but hasn’t scored in 20 games. You’re better off looking at external candidates to try and replace O’Reilly.

16. Shayne Gostisbehere is a bit of a boom-or-bust option right now. He barely played 14 minutes the other night and is on the Hurricanes third pair, but he’s also proven to be very effective on the power play since arriving in Carolina. In his first two games with his new club, he notched four points with the man advantage only to follow that up by being held off the scoresheet in the past three.

17. I continue to be impressed with Akira Schmid. He has a .953 save percentage in six games since his recent callup, as Vitek Vanecek continues to struggle mightily. Vanecek has allowed at least four goals in four of his past five starts. With the New Jersey Devils fighting for the Metro division title with Carolina, could we see Schmid get a few starts down the stretch here? If so, it’s not an ideal time to grab him, as the Devils play the Tampa Bay Lightning three times next week. That’s a nightmare schedule.

18. It’s been quite a fall for Brandon Hagel. He finally scored for the first time in a month Saturday, which was only his second point in eight games. The Tampa Bay Lightning have loaded up their top line, bumping Hagel down, and he’s also off the top power-play unit. Maybe he will get pushed back up if Steven Stamkos’ injury is significant but if something doesn’t change quickly, Hagel is going to be tough to carry into the fantasy playoffs.

19. Eetu Luostarinen is becoming an interesting add to consider with 14 points in his past 15 games. It would be tough to roster him next week because the Florida Panthers play just twice, but then they have four games in each of the final two playoff weeks. Luostarinen might be someone to consider if you have earned a bye next week, as you could stash him and then take advantage when the Panthers’ schedule gets better.

20. Finally, a big bounce-back performance from Connor Hellebuyck on Saturday night. Hellebuyck hadn’t had a save percentage over .865 in the five previous starts and had managed just one win over that stretch. Hellebuyck is typically Mr. Reliable, so the last thing those rostering him needed was a major slump heading into the fantasy playoffs.

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