The Flyers and Blues are surging while the Maple Leafs and Jets are falling. It’s been another busy week in the NHL and there is no shortage of topics to discuss. Let’s dive right in.
The news that St. Louis blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk requires abdominal surgery and is expected to miss multiple weeks is a crushing blow for those that have rostered the high-scoring rearguard. As is always the case, his absence creates an opportunity for some of his teammates to see their stock rise in the short term. The first, most obvious beneficiary of this is Alex Pietrangelo, who will get a chance to get back onto the top power play unit – a role that Shattenkirk had pilfered earlier in the year. In the Blues’ first game post-Shattenkirk on Tuesday, Pietrangelo unsurprisingly served as the lone defenseman on the top unit that also includes forwards Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes. His move up from the second unit also had a ripple effect which allowed Dimitrij Jaskin to garner some power play time of his own, but he’s not roster-worthy in anything but really deep leagues.
I’m viewing the Evander Kane fiasco on Tuesday as an opportunity to buy-low on a player with more talent than all but a small group of NHLers. Yes, he has shown a propensity to anger his coaches in the past and yes, there’s a chance he never gets out of Paul Maurice’s doghouse, but I think it’s more likely that this becomes a positive development for his fantasy value. The way I see it, either Kane will respond to his benching by raising his game or the Jets will tire of his antics so much that he will be dealt prior to the trade deadline. In either scenario, his value goes up. Now is the time to make his owner an offer.
Jimmy Hayes of the Panthers and Anders Lee of the Islanders each scored a pair of goals on Tuesday night and both have posted similar, goal-heavy stat lines this season. In points-only leagues, neither of these players racks up enough assists to be difference-makers and their main value in rotisserie formats is to teams looking to make a move in that particular category. I’d love to tell you that one or both of them will develop into a well-rounded fantasy commodity, but I think the best course of action right now is to try selling them on the strength of their shiny goal totals.
Maybe it’s just me, but before I took a close look at his statistics, I was under the impression Semyon Varlamov was struggling through a difficult season. Not true. Despite the travails of his team as a whole, which everybody with a computer predicted prior to the year, the Russian netminder has been solid, posting a 14-10-7 record. This mark is accompanied by a respectable 2.59 GAA and an impressive .923 save percentage. I think everything that could have gone wrong for the Avalanche has gone wrong thus far and frankly it can’t get much worse. Varlamov is a great candidate to deliver substantial fantasy value over the remainder of the year.
When it comes to the recent hot streak experienced by Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Drouin, I don’t have a strong sense of whether it’s a sign of a coming breakout or a small sample anomaly. On one hand, Drouin still does not receive a significant amount of ice time and has not registered many shots on goal during his current four-game point streak (five shots). Then again, a good chunk of the young phenom’s ice time has come with the man advantage lately, which is evidence of how he is viewed by the Lightning coaching staff. The key to winning fantasy is identifying trends before your leaguemates do so I’m willing to buy some Drouin stock now because of the massive upside potential it comes with.
It’s probably time for us to begin talking about Roman Josi as one of the better fantasy blueliners in the game. Thanks to a recent five game stretch in which he has amassed two goals, four assists, a plus-4 rating and 14 shots on goal, the Swiss rearguard is on pace for 56 points and yet he’s owned in just 77 percent of Yahoo leagues. This is unbelievable to me when we consider that less productive players (with better name recognition) such as Alex Pietrangelo, Keith Yandle and Niklas Kronwall are owned in 95 percent or more. This might just be another example of the small-market bias at work, but it’s clear that Josi isn’t properly regarded as the superstar he has become.
Bargain Bin Finds
As always, this space is reserved to highlight players owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Michael Del Zotto (19 percent) – His track record is littered with bursts of offensive greatness, often followed by spurts of unreliability, but Del Zotto is riding a hot streak at the moment and is still available in 81 percent of leagues.
Simon Despres (11 percent) – The concussion-like symptoms experienced by Christian Ehrhoff have been lingering and as a result, Despres has seen his role with the Penguins grow. The young blueliner scored an overtime winner in a 2-1 victory overNew Jersey last week ans could make a solid addition to your squad in deeper formats.
David Desharnais (10 percent) – Davey is back on a line with his muse, Max Pacioretty and he recorded a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s loss to the Sabres. If points are what you’re after, Desharnais is one of the cheaper sources of scoring around. Just don’t expect too much in the way of shots on goal or penalty minutes and you won’t be disappointed.