The NHL is back from the All-Star Break and teams are ready for the final stretch run with about 40 percent of the schedule remaining. Let’s take a spin around the league and see what’s cooking.
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Patric Hornqvist returned from his month-long absence due to a lower body injury Tuesday and promptly scored a goal while registering three shots on goal, as he’s prone to do. Interestingly, recent standout David Perron also found the back of the net and pitched in an assist in the contest. I stand by my statement that both Hornqvist and Perron can remain productive at that same time, but fantasy players should keep an eye on how power play ice time is deployed for the Penguins once Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin return from their respective ailments. Considering both superstars were absent against the Jets, it’s difficult to get a read on how they will be used going forward.
I can’t promise that Kari Lehtonen will be a top five or even top 10 fantasy netminder the rest of the way, but I do expect that he’ll get all the work he can handle down the stretch. The Finnish goalkeeper does have a history of soft tissue injuries that his owners should be aware of, but provided he remains healthy, I don’t see the Stars using backup Anders Lindback in any meaningful contests. If you’re in a league with games limits and have goalie games to spare, his added workload could make him more attractive than, say, Michael Hutchinson, who should provide better ratios in fewer appearances.
Based on the fact he has started all four games since Pekka Rinne was injured, Carter Hutton seems to be the goaltender of choice for Peter Laviolette despite mediocre peripheral stats. Marek Mazanec continues to lurk in the background, but Hutton should be a useful fantasy asset for as long as he retains playing time thanks to the solid supporting cast around him.
In their first game without winger Kyle Okposo (shoulder), the Islanders iced a top line of John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Mikhail Grabovski in a 4-1 win over the Rangers Tuesday night and the trio combined for two goals in the victory. Grabovski wasn’t the first player I would have guessed would be bumped to the top line, but it’s clear the team didn’t want to mess with the chemistry on its other two units so the veteran got the call. I would advise against rushing to the waiver wire to pick up the former Maple Leaf since he wasn’t assigned much power play time against the Blueshirts and will see his upside limited by this fact.
Don’t look now, but all those of you who jumped off the Aleksander Barkov bandwagon early in the season might want to see if you can get back on before it fills up. Perhaps it’s the result of a New Year’s resolution, but Barkov has recorded eight points in as many games so far in 2015 after he infamously notched just six points in his first 26 contests of the year, which caused him to become available on many a waiver wire in December. If he’s still out there in your league (he’s available in 95 percent of Yahoo pools), you should consider picking him up. My expectations for him down the stretch are no different than my pre-season projections.
I’m not sure why his price remains deflated, but I can’t think of a good reason for P.K. Subban to be so cheap in FanDuel. Because of the sky-high expectations for him prior to the year, I suppose some in the fantasy community are disappointed by what they’re getting, but his price tag of $5,100 is a downright bargain when you consider the well-rounded stat line he offers on most nights. He’s the rare fantasy player who offers a high floor as well as the potential for a high ceiling.
If you can find someone in your league to take Matt Niskanen off your hands now that he has put together four points in his last five games, you should do so immediately. It’s not that I don’t like Niskanen, but he’s behind John Carlson and Mike Green on my pecking order of Washington blueliners and I still think he’s trading on last year’s season, which was never going to be repeated. His name value outweighs his production level.
A quick look at the NHL shots on goal leaders reveals that despite his struggles in the goal department, Nathan MacKinnon continues to generate scoring opportunities for the struggling Avalanche. I find it hard to believe that he would be available in your league at much of a discount, but on the off-chance there’s a disgruntled owner I might fire an offer his way. Feel free to play up the fact he has only scored nine times and laugh all the way to the bank.
Like MacKinnon, another player in the “bad puck luck” group this season has been Chicago’s Marian Hossa, whose ice time and shots on goal figures look strikingly similar to last season, however his shooting percentage is a measly 6.8 percent compared to a career rate of 12.6 percent. A player with his level of skill on a roster as talented as Chicago’s can only be held back for so long. I think he’s due for a major second half improvement.
Bargain Bin Finds
As always, this space is reserved to highlight players owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Stephen Weiss (2 percent) – Yes, Weiss is a player I steered well clear of prior to the season, based partially on his injury history, but also because I didn’t trust that he would be an integral part of Detroit’s offense. I was right about his inability to remain in the lineup, but I’m surprised to see how well he has performed when healthy. He’s not worth rostering in shallow leagues, but you could do much worse in deeper formats. Just be ready to cut bait the next time he comes up limping.
Josh Bailey (8 percent) – As I mentioned earlier, Bailey has been playing on the Islanders top line with superstar John Tavares and has been taking advantage to the tune of nine points over his last seven games. It seems like a lifetime ago, but let’s not forget that Bailey was selected ninth overall by these same Isles in the 2008 draft so there should be no questioning his talent.
Cam Atkinson (9 percent) – You didn’t think I had forgotten about our #goldenboy, did you? Admittedly, Atkinson has been working his way through a dreadful stretch, but he broke out with two points in Tuesday’s win over Washington after he bumped up to the top line alongside All-Star Ryan Johansen. Atkinson definitely has the talent to capitalize on such an opportunity and would be a nice add in deep leagues.