While you may be an avid fan of a particular NHL team — and keep up to date on all the news and rumors regarding that franchise — there are 29 others playing in 2016-17. As a fantasy owner, it can be a bit daunting to keep tabs on everything. That’
Nov 3, 2016
While you may be an avid fan of a particular NHL team — and keep up to date on all the news and rumors regarding that franchise — there are 29 others playing in 2016-17.
As a fantasy owner, it can be a bit daunting to keep tabs on everything.
That’s where the Fantasy 30 comes in — a rundown of the most fantasy-relevant updates on every team. Here’s what’s happening around the NHL this week.
Anaheim Ducks: The diplomatic wheels driving international labor relations churn slowly at times. Armed with a new six-year deal, but still awaiting his work visa, Hampus Lindholm is targeting next week to make his season debut. Maybe Wednesday in Columbus? Once legal, the 22-year-old defenseman is expected to claim his spot among the team’s top pairing and power-play unit.
Arizona Coyotes: Those who have followed the centerman’s career closely could tell you it was just a matter of time. An imposing, effective presence when healthy — and arguably not consistently healthy enough — Martin Hanzal is “questionable” for the game against the Predators. Suffering an undisclosed injury outside of game action, the 29-year-old pulled himself after the first period of Tuesday’s eventual 3-2 victory over the Sharks. If Hanzal — who had been centering a line with Max Domi and Radim Vrbata — isn’t good to go Thursday, look for fellow veteran Brad Richardson to, once again, chew up additional minutes down the middle. In fact, after scoring against the Sharks, and collecting two goals and two assists in his past three contests altogether, Richardson could serve as a useful and inexpensive asset in DFS play.
Boston Bruins: Sidelined with an elbow injury since early last week, David Backes could rejoin the Bruins Saturday. That means youngster Austin Czarnik gets at least one more turn on a second scoring line alongside center David Krejci. Also, David Pastrnak returns to the B’s lineup Thursday in Tampa — presumably alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand — following his two-game suspension.
Buffalo Sabres: Suffering a sprained knee earlier this week, defenseman Zach Bogosian is expected to miss approximately a month for the Sabres, according to media reports. After playing in the club’s opener, 24-year-old Casey Nelson has been recalled from Rochester to plug the top-four void. Nelson collected four assists and eight PIM in seven games with Buffalo last season.
Calgary Flames: Will he stay or will he go? The wide-ranging consensus is that rookie Matthew Tkachuk has done enough to stick with the Flames past his nine-game tryout. The 18-year-old has performed well on a line with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, notching a goal and three assists. He’s also seeing minutes with the secondary power play.
Carolina Hurricanes: Making his NHL debut Tuesday, a recovered Ryan Murphy (lower-body injury) didn’t much rattle the fantasy order of things on the Hurricanes’ blue line. A once promising threat, the former first-round draft pick (12th overall, 2011) quietly sits fourth on the team in prominence — behind Justin Faulk, Noah Hanifin and Jaccob Slavin — in most standard leagues.
Chicago Blackhawks: Contract talks appear to be stagnant between Artemi Panarin and the Blackhawks. Hardly astonishing, since the $6 million per year demand from the restricted free agent doesn’t easily squeeze in under Chicago’s projected 2017-18 salary cap. However, fantasy folk shouldn’t sweat this inert state of affairs at all — in fact, Panarin will only feel additionally motivated in playing for his next (large) payout. After a minor hiccup to start 2016-17, last season’s Calder Trophy winner is picking up where he left off, potting four goals and six helpers in his past seven games.
Colorado Avalanche: We’re not tossing out a specific date, but don’t be surprised if Calvin Pickard takes over as the Avalanche’s No. 1 at some point this season. As discussed by Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, Pickard’s future with the club appears more secure than that of his goaltending colleague. “There’s a chance the Avs protect Calvin Pickard instead of Semyon Varlamov [in the upcoming expansion draft] … because that might be the only way to get out of Varlamov’s $5.9 million cap hit through 2018-19.” And while Varlamov is considered the Avs’ top banana right now, that could change. And as it turns out, Pickard — owned in only 2.7 percent of ESPN leagues — has been the better netminder for Colorado to date.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Cementing himself in as a fixture on the Blue Jackets’ top power-play unit, Sam Gagner is quickly emerging as a pleasant surprise in Columbus. With three goals — including two with the extra skater — on 10 shots in his past two games, the 27-year-old is a candidate to move up John Tortorella’s even-strength depth chart as well. Possessing a streaky reputation, Gagner deserves a short-term look (at least) in deeper leagues and DFS competition at present.
Dallas Stars: Sought for his penchant for penalty minutes, forward Antoine Roussel sports extra fantasy shine as a front-of-net presence on the Stars’ top power-play unit. Skating on a second scoring line with Jason Spezza at even strength, the feisty France native has 40 goals and 480 PIM in his past three seasons in Dallas.
Detroit Red Wings: While Peter Mrazek (3.07 goals-against average, .908 save percentage) is pigeonholed as Detroit’s No. 1 this season and beyond, veteran Jimmy Howard (0.86 GAA, .973 save percentage) has been significantly better for the Red Wings in fewer starts. However, with six regulation wins after 11 games, the club will turn to the veteran more often if this trend continues. Fantasy owners with a need for quality goaltending should give Howard a long look if available.
Edmonton Oilers: While Jesse Puljujarvi isn’t immune from seeing action in the AHL altogether this campaign, he’s building a strong case for hanging around Edmonton at present. Playing what many consider his best NHL game yet against the Maple Leafs Tuesday, the 18-year-old even experienced some action on a line with Connor McDavid. Might we see more of that combo in the near future? Puljujarvi’s fantasy owners should hope so. Owned in less than 10 percent of ESPN leagues, this guy is an obvious speculative grab in all but the shallowest leagues.
Florida Panthers: Checking in with Florida’s infirmary, both Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad are expected back sometime next week. So, competing in Jokinen’s spot on a second scoring line with Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith, Colton Sceviour has another couple of games, at minimum, to give coach Gerard Gallant second thoughts about resuming the status quo. The former Dallas forward netted a hat trick from that slot earlier this week.
Los Angeles Kings: By placing Jonathan Quick on long-term injured reserve, the Kings have a greater amount of salary cap space (an additional $5,697,380) with which to temporarily improve their goaltending situation. We can’t believe the club is content with coasting a Peter Budaj/Jeff Zatkoff (once healthy) tandem into the new year — not in light of the latest implosion from the former. The Islanders’ trade block-dwelling Jaroslav Halak — and his $4.5 million cap hit — is the most obvious candidate to move out West. Free agent-wise, there are no obvious idle gems. Stay tuned.
Which NHL players have exceeded expectations the most this season? Here is our starting lineup for the all-surprise team, along with what to expect from them for the remainder of the season.
Ready to make a change to your fantasy hockey roster? Here are the best players that are available in the majority of ESPN leagues, along with highly owned players that should be dropped.
When considering every NHL team’s microcore (No. 1 center, No. 1 defenseman, goalie), who comes out on top? Our panel ranks the entire league.
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens are reportedly actively shopping for a top-four defenseman. Winnipeg holdout Jacob Trouba certainly fits the bill, as does Anaheim’s rumored trade candidate Cam Fowler. Depending on what deal ultimately goes down — if any, of course — all but Shea Weber could take a fantasy-value hit on the Habs’ blue line. That includes Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu and Jeff Petry. Fantasy owners with a connected horse should keep a close ear.
Minnesota Wild: Forward Jason Zucker is the most cutting-edge candidate to fill in for an injured Zach Parise on the Wild’s top line aside center Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle, replacing recent substitute Nino Niederreiter. Spoken for in only 5 percent of ESPN leagues, and a cheapo asset in DFS, the 24-year-old Zucker scored 21 goals in only 51 games two seasons ago.
Nashville Predators: If able, boot Mike Fisher out of your lineup for the next game or two; the Predators’ captain is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Our best guess is veteran Mike Ribeiro moves up to center the line with Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson.
New Jersey Devils: The good news for fantasy owners invested in Pavel Zacha is the rookie projects to steer clear of Albany and remain up with the NHL Devils. The slightly dull lining is the 19-year-old has tumbled from centering star winger Taylor Hall to a third-line role. However, Zacha is still seeing quality minutes with the man advantage, and coach John Hynes hasn’t offered any hint he’s ready to shelve the lineup blender yet. For the record, Hall is currently skating with center Travis Zajac and winger Michael Cammalleri.
New York Islanders: According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, NHL teams aren’t exactly clamoring over one another to trade for Isles goalie Jaroslav Halak. However, the veteran netminder gets another shot at self-promotion with Thursday’s start against the Flyers. Mind you, weighing the Islanders’ struggles as a whole, you might shy away from unleashing Halak in fantasy play until the squad improves, or the 31-year-old is shipped elsewhere. Dallas and Los Angeles are loosely rumored to be in the mix.
New York Rangers: If one is on the fence about Kevin Hayes as fantasy asset, know that the forward has impressed teammate Rick Nash most to launch 2016-17: “He lost 20 pounds and looks a lot faster,” Nash said, per Elliotte Friedman. No doubt that extra gear helps Hayes in keeping up with new speedy linemate Michael Grabner, along with J.T. Miller. That inspired trio has combined for five goals and six assists in the Rangers’ past two games. And both Hayes and Grabner are retained in far less than 10 percent of ESPN leagues.
Ottawa Senators: Look for new acquisition Mike Condon to fill in between the pipes while Craig Anderson takes some time off. Perfect (seven saves) in his 20-minute taste with the Penguins this autumn, Condon was hit and miss for the Canadiens in 2015-16, his first NHL season.
Philadelphia Flyers: Recovering from an abdominal injury, Michael Raffl is expected to return Thursday after an eight-game absence. Prematurely projected to skate on a third line with Matt Read and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Raffl is likely to eventually bump rookie Travis Konecny from the second-line left wing spot aside Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Konecny hasn’t made enough of that rich opportunity in recent games.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is pegged to start Thursday’s contest versus the Kings after Matt Murray stopped 32 of 33 shots in Wednesday’s victory over the Ducks — the latter’s season debut. Until one stumbles, Fleury and Murray are poised to split goaltending duties for Pens coach Mike Sullivan. DFS aficionados, in particular, should check in regularly.
San Jose Sharks: You can’t fault backup Aaron Dell for feeling bored in San Jose. Despite running warm and cool through the first mini-leg of the campaign, No. 1 goalie Martin Jones is pegged to start his seventh-straight game when the Sharks play the Flames Thursday. And the Sharks don’t face their next back-to-back set until the end of the month.
St. Louis Blues: Following coach Ken Hitchcock’s latest line shuffling, Dmitri Jaskin ascends to a spot alongside center Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri, while Nail Yakupov falls to the fourth line. The Blues have scored two goals in their past three games, so fair enough. It’s also worth noting that Jori Lehtera is back at center, between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The trend of starting Andrei Vasilevskiy every third game continues, as the backup to Ben Bishop is tapped to take the crease versus Boston on Thursday. Both DFS competitors and conventional fantasy owners should comfortably enlist the services of the 22-year-old against a Bruins squad that has scored only five goals in four recent contests. Also, forward Jonathan Drouin is ruled out for Thursday’s action in Tampa with a head injury.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Young Nikita Soshnikov made a positive impression in his season debut for the Maple Leafs against the Oilers earlier this week, collecting a (beauty) assist on three shots, and earning praise from coach Mike Babcock. During Tuesday’s broadcast of the game, TSN analyst Dave Poulin echoed our earlier sentiments in suggesting Soshnikov might flourish further on a spirited line with Nazem Kadri — with whom he saw limited action last season. While Babcock might shy away from splitting up the effective trio of Connor Brown/Kadri/Leo Komarov now, this is a long season. And dynasty fantasy owners with an eye on the long game might give Soshnikov careful consideration before others jump on board.
Vancouver Canucks: According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Canucks are actively looking to trade for a 20-goal scorer. But LeBrun also points out that such a move is “easier said than done,” and they “won’t force a trade if it doesn’t make any sense.” All things considered, including the fact that such a player has been on Vancouver’s wish-list since spring, such a transaction feels improbable in the immediate future. Don’t be surprised if Loui Eriksson gets another shot — and soon — on a line with the Sedin twins. Having scored only 16 goals in 10 games (by comparison, the Rangers have scored 40), the club has little to lose in giving the Swedish Connection another shot to jell. Despite a sluggish four-assist start to the season for Eriksson, a little patience may pay off handsomely for his fantasy owners.
Washington Capitals: Coach Barry Trotz appears to like what he sees from Justin Williams on the right side of Alex Ovechkin and centerman Nicklas Backstrom — the veteran winger remains in that slot for Thursday’s second of a home-and-home with the Jets. Despite the one lonely goal to date, Williams can be relied on to contribute with regularity soon enough, especially if he remains on the Capitals’ top scoring line.
Winnipeg Jets: The odds of seeing Jacob Trouba in another NHL sweater this season appear to be shrinking daily, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger:
“As for the chances of Trouba getting traded, I still feel like they’re slim and I have no reason to believe that’s going to change. I don’t think that the resolve of Winnipeg Jets ownership and management has changed even a little bit since last we spoke. And I doubt very much that it’s going to change, even though they’re going through some tough times — more injury-related than anything else. … So for me, if there’s change, change is going to be executed by Jacob Trouba. And as much pressure as fans and those on the outside might think Winnipeg as a team is feeling, I believe Jacob Trouba is feeling 10 times more pressure. Because the notion of blowing off a full NHL season at his age at this point in his career — I can’t for the life of me believe he wants to do it.”
A six-year deal worth $5.5 million in average annual value from the Jets is reportedly there for the signing, if/when Trouba concedes that getting paid to play hockey even in Winnipeg is better than not playing pro hockey at all. For what it’s worth, the Canadiens, Red Wings and Bruins are believed to lead a substantial pack of interested parties. So we can safely assume the trade price for the right-handed 22-year-old must be mammoth.