20 Fantasy Thoughts: Time to be aggressive with roster moves for playoffs

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) saves the shot by Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown (28) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, January 23, 2021. (John Woods/CP)

For the first time in recent memory, the NHL Trade Deadline will coincide directly with the beginning of the fantasy playoffs —at least for some of you.

It’s not ideal, especially with all the quarantine rules, but let’s chalk it up to yet another obstacle to overcome in this insane fantasy season.

At this point, it’s time to throw patience out the window. Now’s a time for aggressiveness when it comes to moulding your roster for a run at a championship. Translation: If someone’s not performing, move on, no matter who they are.

With that mentality in mind, schedule manipulation is a wise strategy to implore this time of year. The hope is to beat the opponent with quantity, not necessarily quality. Generally speaking, the key is to identify players who not only play a lot but possess favourable lineup assignments as well. Currently, Boston’s Craig Smith should be considered a blueprint for what you should be after.

And yes, under this ideology, it’s okay to jump out on name brands. Be assertive.

1. Tentatively, this week’s upcoming schedule shakes out like this (Apr. 12-18):

Monday: 8 Games

Tuesday: 6 Games

Wednesday: 6 Games

Thursday: 9 Games

Friday: 6 Games

Saturday: 12 Games

Sunday: 6 Games

Total: 53 Games

2. From a roster manipulation standpoint, there are 15 four-game teams to zone in on (ANA, BOS, BUF, COL, LAK, MIN, MTL, NJD, NYR, PHI, SJS, TOR, VGK, WSH, WPG).

I like these three schedules the most:

Boston Bruins: Tues (BUF), Thurs (NYI), Fri (NYI), Sun (WSH)

Waiver Looks: David Krejci, Craig Smith

SN Fantasy Pool: BOS Goalies 4, Brad Marchand 4, Matt Grzelcyk 1

Colorado Avalanche: Mon (ARI), Wed (@STL), Fri (LAK), Sun (LAK)

Waiver Looks: Andre Burakovsky, Devan Dubnyk

SN Fantasy Pool: COL Goalies 4, Nathan MacKinnon 4, Cale Makar 2

Vegas Golden Knights: Mon (@LAK), Wed (@LAK), Fri (@ANA), Sun (@ANA)

Waiver Looks: Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith

SN Fantasy Pool: VGK Goalies 4, Max Pacioretty 3, Shea Theodore 2

3. Edmonton and Vancouver each play just twice, so steer clear of depth adds from those two teams.

4. Unless he’s receiving full-time five-on-five exposure to Mathew Barzal, I don’t see much appeal in owning new Isles forward Kyle Palmieri right now. If you’re looking for power-play production, maybe you’re a bit more intrigued. I’m not enthused. For now, just monitor that situation. Ditto for Travis Zajac.

5. In addition to Jack Hughes, I feel like there’s actually plenty of underlying DFS value to uncover in New Jersey for rest of season purposes. Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sheraganovich and soon-to-be returning captain Nico Hischier should be on your radar. Look for the Devils to play the role of spoiler to perfection down the stretch.

6. Grab Alex Goligoski; the perfect replacement option for Zach Werenski. The 35-year-old pending UFA defender, who actually could be on the move between now and the deadline, has nine points (1 G, 8 A, 3 PPP) over his past 10 outings for the Coyotes.

In-house for Columbus, Mikko Lehtonen could see an uptick in power play time, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t be in a rush to pick him up.

Externally, Colton Parayko, Jared Spurgeon and Justin Schultz are far better options to consider grabbing.

7. Finally, the time has come to jump back in on Rasmus Dahlin. The 20-year-old Sabres blueliner is currently riding a mini four-game point streak (1 G, 4 A), and considering how rough his season has been, it’s okay to be encouraged by these latest developments.

8. Staying in Buffalo: Place Casey Mittelstadt on your watch list. The 22-year-old, a pending RFA following the season, has four goals in the past six games. It’s a start but the forward certainly has caught my attention.

9. With Blake Wheeler sidelined for a couple of games, scoop up Paul Stastny. Under the radar, the veteran forward is having a very solid campaign for the Jets. Shoutout to Andrew Copp, too. Both have been money in the bank.

10. Believe it or not, Corey Perry is starting to emerge as a cheeky DFS look. Recently, he’s been skating with Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli. Be mindful, this isn’t a long-term play.

11. Undeniably, the Cole Caufield watch is officially on in Montreal, especially with Brendan Gallagher sidelined for the rest of the regular season. The Hobey Baker Award winner has three goals and one assist through two AHL games. Assuming he’s recalled at some point, the 20-year-old dangler could put your fantasy roster over the top.

For what it’s worth, I’ll give it less than two weeks before Caufield’s up —for good.

12. Purely speculation on my part but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Quinton Byfield make his NHL debut in the not-too-distant future for the Los Angeles Kings. In standard leagues, he’s definitely worth a flier, provided he gets the call-up.

13. Viktor Arvidsson Jaden Schwartz, Reilly Smith, Craig Smith and Connor Brown are five other winger options to contemplate adding. Of the bunch, the hottest might be Brown, who has seven goals in the past seven games for the Senators.

14. Here’s a deep sleeper play: Ross Colton, yet another Lightning prospect who’s making the NHL look easy. In 15 games this season for Tampa, the 24-year-old rookie forward has seven goals and 10 points. Steven Stamkos is day-to-day for the Bolts, maybe you take a peek behind the Colton curtain?

15. Additionally, Jack Hughes, Jared McCann, Kirby Dach, Jack Roslovic and Max Domi are five other Stamkos replacement options worth rostering to help fill the void.

16. The Blackhawks did well to receive a sweetener, 2016 first rounder Henrik Borgstrom, in exchange for essentially taking on Brett Connolly’s contract from Florida. The 23-year-old Borgstrom, who’s currently an unsigned RFA, has 11 goals and 19 points in 28 games in the Finnish Elite League this season for HIFK Helsinki.

File Borgstrom under potential breakout players for next season.

17. Don’t sleep on the Brandon Montour pickup by the Panthers. The 27-year-old, who effectively replaces the injured Aaron Ekblad, has legitimate offensive upside and should get ample opportunity to produce in Florida.

18. Pick up Jake Allen. The 30-year-old should see the majority of the playing time for the Canadiens as Carey Price nurses a lower-body injury.

Also, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cayden Primeau get a shot as well. In 14 AHL games so far this season, the sophomore owns a 2.07 goals-against and .911 save percentage.

He’s got a bright future.

19. Jake Oettinger, Brian Elliott and Jeremy Swayman are three other crease options to think about streaming.

20. Sadly, I think it’s time to part with Kaapo Kahkonen. The Wild rookie netminder has surrendered 18 goals over his past three appearances. Come playoff time, you can’t risk it. Move on.

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