PHT on Fantasy Hockey: Add them while you still can
We’re still early in the 2018-19 season, which means that fantasy hockey owners continue to wrestle with conflicting thoughts: “Am I overreacting?” versus “Am I being too slow to react?”
There are a wide variety of fantasy league formats, so it’s essentially impossible to cover every base in one add/drop-style column. With apologies to those in aberrant leagues or in expert-heavy pools where you already need to keep an eye on AHL call-ups, this list is intended for those in the lighter range. Here’s hoping that this could be a useful read even for the types who bring spreadsheets and laptops to fantasy drafts.
• Micheal Ferland, LW/RW, 65-percent owned
Ferland is taken in about two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, so this likely is only useful for a small section of fantasy owners. Still, the people who could actually land Ferland probably need to make a decision soon. As in: open a new tab and add him if this section convinces you he’s worthy.
The former Flames forward isn’t going to sustain his current scoring pace (four goals and seven points in seven games). After all, Ferland was limited to 21 goals and 41 points last season (a career-high) with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan as his primary linemates. The good news is that Ferland is once again riding with strong linemates in Carolina, as he’s played almost every even-strength minute alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. That’s awesome, yet it’s also important to temper expectations; he’s not likely to maintain a point-per-game pace this season after scoring a point every other game in 2017-18.
Ferland’s averaging an extra minute of ice time per contest so far, but he’s not on the top power-play unit, so ... again, just pencil him in for ... say, a 50-point potential.
Such scoring ability is easy to praise when you consider Ferland’s peripheral output. The 26-year-old has 18 hits so far in seven games, while he’s delivered 612 over 257 NHL games. Ferland’s been sending a ton of pucks on net so far this season (26, close to four per game), so if he’s going to flirt with three per night overall, that’s a heck of a jump from his two per game that’s been a general career trend.
So, Ferland’s bound to regress, yet he’s worth your time as long as he’s a regular on the top line.
• Brady Tkachuk, LW, 34%
Now, you might be asking, “But Brady Tkachuk is on IR?” My answer: exactly.
This is a bit of an off-the-beaten-path strategy, but if you are planning on doing an add/drop anyway (and have free IR spots), why not drop your player, add Tkachuk, place him on IR, and then add someone else? Again, this plan hinges on your team not already being bitten by the injury bug; there’s also the worry that Ottawa might opt to avoid burning a year off of Tkachuk’s rookie contract once he does come back.
But ... overall, Tkachuk could be really intriguing, and worth keeping on your IR to at least monitor the situation. Worst-case scenario, you can just drop him if things don’t work out.
• Tomas Tatar, LW/RW, 50% / Brendan Gallagher, RW, 61% / Jeff Petry, D, 25%
I’ve said this once, I’ll say it again: the Montreal Canadiens are going to slow down.
Still, even (potential) cellar dwellers need someone to score, and the Habs feature some interesting choices. These three stand out as players who are a) off to hot starts, b) play prominent roles, and c) figure to at least remain important for the Canadiens.
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Gallagher isn’t much more fantasy-available than Ferland, and he’s the most obvious choice among these players, so I’ll move on beyond stating that Gallagher is a clear first-line-caliber winger who’s worth your time. (His modest career PIM totals are a bit surprising, considering his ability to agitate.)
Tatar is solid enough, albeit with a not-so-exciting ceiling. He’s not a great peripheral option, yet his LW/RW eligibility might put things over the top in deeper leagues. At worst, I’d consider watch-listing Tatar.
Petry might, honestly, be the most intriguing ... although he’s most interesting in deeper leagues.
Since coming to Montreal - I have to admit, I didn’t realize this was already his fifth season with the Canadiens - Petry’s averaged 22:28 TOI per game, with his totals going over 23 minutes per night since last season.
So far in 2018-19, Petry’s topped all Montreal skaters with an average of 4:53 of power-play TOI. With just one PPP, he hasn’t exactly been killing it from that perspective, but Petry should rack up a ton of reps until Shea Weber returns. (And, considering Weber’s mileage, there’s the possibility that a Weber return would be short-lived, anyway.)
Even once Weber is back, I’d expect Petry to carry a heavy workload. Would that be enough for him to be roster-worthy? Cross that bridge when you come to it, because he’s a nice defensive workhorse at this very moment.
• Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C/LW, 75%
Look, I’m not going to belabor the point with this one, as “The Nuge” is mostly scooped up. Still, 25-percent-availability is enough to at least mention him here, with faint hopes that you might actually grab him.
More than Ty Rattie, Nugent-Hopkins is super-appealing as Connor McDavid’s fire hydrant-er, linemate. RNH can also score at a respectable level on his own, but the “don’t think, just add him” feeling comes from his current role. It doesn’t hurt that you can place him as a LW, either.
• Henri Jokiharju, D, 47%
The 29th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft might end up being a comparable steal to Eeli Tolvanen, the guy who Nashville selected one pick later.
Jokiharju has made quite an impact over his first six NHL games, collecting five assists, largely playing on the top pairing alongside Duncan Keith, and - maybe most impressively - earning praise from Coach Q.
Is he going to sustain all of this enough to remain fantasy-relevant? That I don’t know. He’s not currently on the top PP unit, and his ice time (21:18 average) is outstanding for a rookie, but not at the high-end of defensemen overall.
That said, the Blackhawks need right-handed defensemen, and Joker (I assume people call him that?) fits that bill. Your interest here might just rise or fall according to how viable you expect Chicago to be. If you add him, I’d recommend being liberal with add/drops if he slips.
Honestly, his greatest value probably comes in Daily Fantasy formats, as he’s been dirt-cheap in that regard.
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- Antti Raanta, 69-percent owned:
Consider me a proponent for Raanta.
I know the Coyotes got off to a rough start, and “run support” could be a weak point during multiple stretches this season. That said, Raanta’s body of work (a dazzling .922 career save percentage) indicates that he could be legit, and I’d expect him to rack up a lot of starts if he can stay healthy. Raanta stands as a nice second goalie, and could be a game-changer if it makes sense for you to carry three.
- Keith Kinkaid, 68%
How is this happening?
Will it continue to? I’d wager not, but if you’re hurting for a goalie, you could do worse than to find out.
- Robin Lehner, 42%
Meh. The combination of questionable team (Kings blowout or not) and substantial competition from Thomas Greiss scares me away. Lehner is fighting for his career, however, so at least motivation is a plus. I’d probably only add Lehner on a weekend where you hope to steal a goalie stat or two on a Sunday in a weekly head-to-head match, or something like that. Mostly meh here, gang.
- Chris Kreider, LW, 49% - A heck of a player who boosts his value by being a nice source of PIM and hits. He’d be extra valuable if “running goalies” was a category, especially since Corey Perry’s on the shelf.
- Kevin Labanc, LW/RW, 22% - Easy to like that he’s currently on the Sharks’ top line, yet he’s not getting much ice time. Eyeball him in DFS, but I’d wait to see if he gets more reps before adding him in all but the deepest leagues.
- Zach Parise, LW, 40% - It’s easy for a player to eat far too much criticism when they’re carrying a big contract ... but hey, you’re not shelling out his checks, right? Parise’s getting significant ice time, firing a nice volume of pucks on net, and is scoring at a nice rate. He’s one of the safer options for a depth LW.
- Hampus Lindholm, D, 49% - One of those “better in reality than fantasy” defensemen, Lindholm gets a lot more interesting if your stat categories go deeper, as he averages more than a hit and blocked shot per game during his NHL career (380 hits, 459 bs in 378 GP, and he’s upped those numbers in recent years of heavier usage). His solid-but-unspectacular points totals are frustrating at times - again, because Lindholm is just so good; Marc-Edouard Vlasic fans can relate - yet Lindholm does a little of everything.