The 2021 fantasy hockey season promises to be one like no other.
From the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade request in Columbus to the Keith Yandle soap opera in Sunrise, there’s been no shortage of drama to keep us uniquely entertained during these difficult times.
Every Sunday, I’ll share my 20 Fantasy Thoughts; weekly musings curated from the latest news and developments in the NHL world. Front and centre, of course, is the reality we continue to live with on a daily basis -- a global pandemic. Not even a week into play, there’s been numerous schedule changes due to COVID-19. And expect that trend to continue, too.
It won’t be easy, but I’ll try my best to navigate you all through these unpredictable times.
1. Almost sheepishly, it might be wise to acquire and/or obtain players from the Dallas Stars. Due to a training camp outbreak (17 of 27 players tested positive for coronavirus), Dallas won’t -- fingers crossed -- drop the puck until Friday Jan. 22. If all goes according to plan, they’ll play 56 games in 107 days. Stock up.
2. The condensed scheduling should bode well for current Stars backup goalie Jake Oettinger. With Ben Bishop on the shelf and plenty of back to backs ahead, the 2017 first-rounder should see ample opportunity over the next little while. Stream away!
3. File Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee (LW/RW) under the ‘it’s too early to make a long-term fantasy assessment’ column. After a four-point opener -- one goal and three assists -- the dual eligible winger was held off the scoresheet in game two. I want to see more. For now, contemplate taking a flier on the Flyer.
4. Speaking of which, scoop up Nolan Patrick. The 22-year-old likely stands to gain a promotion up the lineup following the news of Sean Couturier’s rib injury.
Meantime, Anthony Cirelli, Brock Nelson and Dylan Strome are three quality external pivot options who could help fill the void as well.
5. Unequivocally, now’s the time to execute a buy-low on Florida’s Keith Yandle. If you haven’t been tuned in, the Panthers have tried nearly every pressure tactic in the book to encourage the 34-year-old to waive his no-trade clause. They’ve even floated the idea of ending his incredible ironman streak (866 games).
Regardless of Yandle’s defensive ineptitudes, there’s no question he still has plenty to give offensively -- the Massachusetts native hasn’t notched less than 40 points in a season since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. I’m buying.
6. As long as he’s in Columbus, I want nothing to do with Pierre-Luc Dubois. Despite inking a two-year bridge contract before the season, the 22-year-old has reiterated his
desire to play elsewhere. From all reports, Columbus will be patient with this request. In two games so far this season, Dubois is pointless and a dash-three. I can’t see this situation getting any better from here. I’m out.
7. On the other hand, I’m Team Patrik Laine all-day. While it’s no secret that the Finnish sniper also wants out, I view that situation as a win-win -- provided everything stays kosher, of course. If Laine plays up to snuff, not only will the Jets find team success, but it’ll help boost Laine’s trade value as well.
8. Ilya Sorokin should already be rostered, but if he’s not, make sure to grab him immediately. The Islanders rookie goalie was thrown into the fire on Saturday night against the rival Rangers after Semyon Varlamov took a puck off the neck in warmups. At this point, the 32-year-old is considered day-to-day.
9. It’s very early, but both Minnesota’s Cam Talbot and Ottawa’s Matt Murray have impressed so far with their new teams. There’s sneaky value to be found here.
10. As crazy as it is to say, at least this early on, keep a close eye on Toronto’s crease. Staying true to script, Frederik Andersen has struggled to begin the season.
Jack Campbell made 17 saves in a 3-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday night. As Andersen looks to find his game, the backup Campbell could see a couple extra starts over the next week or so. Be mindful.
11. Tough start for first-time No. 1 Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh too -- the 25-year-old has surrendered nine goals on 31 shots to kick things off. Casey DeSmith could be in-line for additional playing time. No need to panic.
12. If you’re desperate for goalie starts, pick up Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen. That said, you’re flirting with disaster -- Saturday’s game against Montreal being a prime example of that.
With Mike Smith sidelined for at least the next two weeks and journeymen Troy Grosenick currently in quarantine, Koskinen won’t be leaving the Oilers’ crease anytime soon. Buyer beware.
13. In case you missed it, Devils sophomore forward Jack Hughes was featured on my pre-season top-five sleeper list. Granted it’s been just two games, but the 19-year-old looks like a different player this season -- he has three assists thus far. Don’t wait around, go out and get him!
14. Hope you took my advice on drafting Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov. While the Rangers do possess not one but two strong candidates for the award, the Calder Trophy could skate through the state of hockey this season if you know what I’m saying. The 23-year-old has a goal and three helpers through two games.
15. Speaking of which, here are some deep sleeper freshmen to keep on your radar moving forward: the Sharks' John Leonard (LW), the Canucks' Nils Hoglander (LW), the Senators' Josh Norris (C), the Canadiens' Alex Romanov (D) and the Devils' Ty Smith (D).
16. In need of a blue liner? Pick up Chicago sophomore Adam Boqvist. The 20-year-old has two assists in two games to start the season. He’s quarterbacking the top power play unit for the Blackhawks. I like him a lot.
17. If you’re keeping score at home, through two games, Jack Studnicka, Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle have all taken spins on Boston's top-line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Bottom line: the fantasy world misses you, David Pastrnak. There’s some daily fantasy value to find somewhere here, right?
18. Don’t part with a long-term roster piece to add Joe Thornton. For now, I strictly view the 41-year-old as strictly a solid daily play/streamer option. It’s imperative to temper expectations here.
19. The week ahead in the NHL is tentatively scheduled to feature 45 games.
Monday: 10 Games
Tuesday: 8 Games
Wednesday: 5 Games
Thursday: 7 Games
Friday: 8 Games
Saturday: 6 Games
Sunday: 11 Games
Stay away from Calgary -- they only play once.
20. Conversely, be sure to hop aboard the Winnipeg Jets express. Paul Maurice’s squad is slated to play five times in seven days.
Winnipeg Jets: Mon (@TOR), Tues (@OTT), Thurs (@OTT), Sat (OTT), Sun (EDM)
Waiver Looks: Josh Morrissey, Paul Stastny, Laurent Brossoit
SN Fantasy Pool: Patrik Laine 3, Kyle Connor 3, WPG Goaltending 3
In addition to that, 18 teams are scheduled to play four times. (ANA, ARI, BUF, CAR, COL, CBJ, DET, EDM, LAK, MIN, MTL, NSH, PHI, SJS, STL, TOR, VGK, VAN)
There’s tons of fantasy value to be found with these three teams:
Carolina Hurricanes: Mon (NSH), Tues (@NSH), Thurs (FLA), Sat (@FLA)
Waiver Looks: Vincent Trocheck, Martin Necas, James Reimer
SN Fantasy Pool: Sebastian Aho 4, Andrei Svechnikov 3, CAR Goaltending 3
Colorado Avalanche: Tues (@LAK), Thurs (@LAK), Fri (@ANA), Sun (@ANA)
Waiver Looks: Brandon Saad, Devon Toews, Pavel Francouz
SN Fantasy Pool: Nathan MacKinnon 4, Cale Makar 2, COL Goaltending 4
Vegas Golden Knights: Mon (ARI), Wed (ARI), Fri (@ARI), Sun (@ARI)
Waiver Looks: Chandler Stephenson, Cody Glass, Alex Tuch
SN Fantasy Pool: Mark Stone, Shea Theodore, VGK Goaltending 4