After a small holiday hiatus, Last Word on Hockey is back with your weekly rundown of all things fantasy hockey. Rather than try to pack two weeks into one piece, this will just be a look back at Week 14 for the most part. We’ve officially entered the “20” part of the 2019-20 season, so let’s dive into what that means so far in the world of fantasy hockey. If you’re interested in a blast from the recent past, here are impressions from Week 12.
Note: For the sake of consistency, Yahoo! standard leagues are the baseline for all rankings and ownership rates.
Week 14 Fantasy Hockey Impressions
One of the hottest players in the NHL right now is Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander. Big expectations were in store before the season began, and now it’s safe to say he’s met them – in his last nine games, Nylander has eight goals and seven assists. Five of those 15 points have been on the power play. Saturday’s game snapped his five-game goal streak. The 23-year-old has a career-best 3.0 points-per-60 right now. For reference, that’s better than John Carlson, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin.
It’s been the Cale Makar show for the Colorado Avalanche all season long, but lately Samuel Girard is making a lot of noise from the blue line. Makar’s return from injury hasn’t cooled Girard off one bit. Girard has at least two assists in three straight games, with eight total in that span. Over his last 11 games, he has 12 assists. Half coming on the power play. Only 16 percent owned and Colorado is firing on all cylinders right now.
Another defenceman on a roll is Columbus Blue Jackets youngster Zach Werenski. The 22-year-old has missed some time this season, but the goals are piling up since his return. He had five goals this week, has seven in his last nine, and now has 13 on the season. In 35 games, that’s a 30-goal pace; however, Werenski is shooting at a 14.1 percent rate. That is way above his career average and way high for a defender. Sell high!
Why not, let’s talk about yet another defenceman on a tear. This time it’s Neal Pionk for the Winnipeg Jets. Entering the season, Pionk had pretty low fantasy stock. He only had 26 points last year, and that was a career high. This year he got off to bit of a slow start, but lately he’s been a machine – 16 points over his last 18 games, with a staggering 11 of those on the power play. He hits a ton too, with 15 in the past week and 93 already for the campaign.
Pittsburgh Penguins oft-injured forward Patric Hornqvist has been a nice fantasy hockey option since getting back in action. He has six points in six games and a boatload of shots (30). Hornqvist is a streaky player, but he might be out there for you – the veteran is only 53 percent owned if you’re in need of some winger help.
After a hot start, Dallas Stars forward Roope Hintz has cooled off quite a bit. Injury may be partly to blame for that. But at any rate, he’s been a steady producer lately and is only 33 percent owned. Hintz has two goals and four assists over his last six games, adding eight shots and 10 hits in that span. Four of those six points were on the man advantage. Solid all-around contribution.
Those of you in need of a category filler need look no further than Blake Coleman of the New Jersey Devils. Logging top-six minutes, Coleman has racked up the peripherals in his past eight games – four goals, 37 shots, 25 hits, and six blocks. He’s a decent PIM contributor as well. Only 40 percent of Yahoo! owners are taking advantage of what Coleman has to offer, and you can slot him in either wing position.
Montreal Canadiens centre Phillip Danault has had a solid season with 30 points in 42 games. The past four games, though, haven’t done his fantasy owners many favours. Danault has a decent hit output over that span, but he has exactly zero points and only nine shots. The Habs have some health issues at the moment, so that undoubtedly has an impact. Danault owners may just have to weather the storm until the big guns work their way back in.
A Duo of Panthers
Aaron Ekblad has never been the true fantasy hockey stud his 2014-15 Calder-winning season gave hope for. This season has been much better for the Florida Panthers veteran, as he’s currently pacing for 47 points, which would be a career high. That’s despite the fact he hasn’t gotten a point since December 23, at which point he was pacing for 54. Given his career trajectory, it might be time to sell while you can.
Fellow Panther Keith Yandle is in a bit of a funk as well. Aside from a two-assist game on Thursday, Yandle has no points in his other six games dating back to December 21. The veteran is shooting at a solid rate at least over that span, but plus-minus is in the red and the assists aren’t there. There’s no reason to believe he can’t bounce back, but it’s never fun watching your stud defender put up goose eggs.
It seems Pionk has taken all fantasy value from Josh Morrissey. Most of the spotlight was on the latter entering the season, but Pionk has fully run away with the status as the Jets defender to have on your roster. Morrissey has the top spot at even strength, but Pionk is the top power-play unit quarterback. The former has no points in six games, and very little peripherals as well. He does still have 20 assists, but he’s trending in the opposite direction quickly.
Brady Tkachuk doesn’t have a point in his last four games. The Ottawa Senators sophomore is still seeing big-time minutes and hitting everyone with a pulse, but no points and a dip in shots isn’t exactly inspiring. If your league counts plus-minus, he’s gutting you there as well (minus-seven in the past three games). Tkachuk is still flirting with the possibility of 50 points and 300 shots and hits. Don’t panic.
Stars defenceman Miro Heiskanen also has a pointless streak ongoing – currently, it sits at five games. There have been times this season Heiskanen has looked like the best young defenceman not named Makar, and other times he struggles to produce. The youngster has practically alternated between appearing in “Who’s Hot” and “Who’s Not.” Heiskanen may not be ready for rock-star status in redraft leagues, but in keeper and dynasty leagues his value is through the roof.
Since we skipped Week 13 and there have only been four shutouts in the past couple weeks, let’s cover them all: Devan Dubnyk, Jonathan Bernier, Michael Hutchinson, and Jaroslav Halak. Dubnyk earned his first of the season, stopping all 22 shots he saw. Bernier’s first was a 34-save effort. Hutchinson earned his first win not long ago, and followed it up with two more wins since, including his 33-save shutout. And finally, superstar backup Halak earned his third of the season with 26 saves.
Things are trending up for Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. It hasn’t always been pretty, but Vasilevskiy is riding a five-game win streak. Three of those games he’s only allowed a single goal, but the other two he allowed four. His week started with an ugly 6-4 win against Buffalo, but his last two starts were great – he stopped 38 of 39 against Montreal and then 28 of 29 against Carolina.
Pretty much every single night you’ll find MacKenzie Blackwood between the pipes for the Devils. He’s started 14 games since December started, posting a 6-4-2 record and a .920 save percentage. Those numbers aren’t bad at all considering the team he plays for – a team which has coincidentally performed better since dealing Taylor Hall. Blackwood is officially a workhorse goalie now and is only 45 percent owned. He was one of only four goalies to win three games in Week 14. Jump on him if he’s out there.
Stars backup Anton Khudobin is making a case for top backup in both real hockey and fantasy hockey. Khudobin is earning more playing time, starting five of the last nine for Dallas. On the year, Khudobin is 10-5-1, posting a 2.20 goals-against-average and a .931 save percentage. Over those last five, he’s been even better: a 4-0-0 record and a .949 save percentage.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are aboslutely riddled with injuries right now, and starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo is among them. Filling in is Elvis Merzlikins, who has frankly been terrible in his first season in the NHL. That is, until recently. Since taking over as the main man, Merzlikins is 2-1-0 with a .945 save percentage, beating two potent lineups in the process (Boston and Florida). In our breakouts coverage, he was touted as a potential star in the making. It’s been a rough transition to the NHL, but it’s looking like he’s finding his rhythm getting regular starts.
The Not So Good
The super tandem for the New York Islanders looks to be a one-man show now, at least for the time being – Thomas Greiss has sat four games in a row after going winless in his last three. Greiss has lost five of his last six in fact, hurting his fantasy hockey owners by allowing 18 goals and posting an .894 save percentage in that time.
Bad defence had to catch up with Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck at some point. His Vezina-calibre season has taken a hit over his last 10 games. Since December 12, Hellebuyck has gone 3-5-2, with an .886 save percentage. In six of those 10 he’s allowed four or more goals. There is still almost no chance whatsoever he loses starts, but the magical season has taken a turn for the worse in a hurry. His numbers have worsened to a 2.71 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage.
Carey Price isn’t playing all that well either, lately. Price hasn’t won a game in his last four outings, and he’s allowed 16 goals in that span. Price now owns a 3.00 goals-against-average. His save percentage is barely hovering over .900. Price also is among the worst in goals save above expectation for starting netminders. In short, it’s been a rough season.
St. Louis Blues starter Jordan Binnington hasn’t been bad by any means, but he only got one start in Week 14 and it was utterly abysmal. Backup Jake Allen allowed seven goals this past week, but in two starts; Binnington allowed seven in just one. Neither goalie won a game. The Blues play lesser teams next week, so expect both goalies to bounce back.
Week 15 Schedule Highlights (Jan. 6 – Jan. 12)
Here are the most and least games by teams this week. If your fantasy hockey league locks lineups weekly, consider sitting all but the very best players who will only play once or even twice. For streaming purposes, focus on the four-game guys, or at least guys who play off-nights. Heavy nights are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Off-nights are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Arizona, Columbus, Los Angeles, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, Winnipeg.
Winnipeg has three off-night games in Week 15. Los Angeles has two. The Jets don’t have much to offer in the way of streamers since the big guns do all the heavy lifting. The Kings, though, have plenty. Take a look at Tyler Toffoli, Alex Iafallo, and Jeff Carter. All are barely owned, can score, get power-play time, and can rack up some shots. The only thing is it’s a toss-up any given night who it’ll be.
Odds are you don’t rely on anyone from this team to do the bulk of your scoring. The Wild offer some good streaming options usually, but this week you should avoid them unless you have a transaction or two to burn come Sunday.
Aside from the those mentioned above, here are some streamers to check out this week in fantasy hockey.
The only goalie worth mentioning is Khudobin, who should play either Los Angeles or Anaheim. Given how well he’s been playing, he may even get the nod against San Jose as well. All three of those are good matchups for any goalie these days.
Arizona, Detroit, and Pittsburgh each play Friday and Sunday, which is the ideal split for streaming. The Coyotes have guys like Lawson Crouse, Conor Garland, Christian Dvorak, Carl Soderberg, and Derek Stepan – all of those guys can contribute offensively and are at most 20 percent owned.
Pittsburgh is banged up, so Dominik Kahun saw top-line action Sunday and is only two percent owned. If you need hits, look at Brandon Tanev. He shoots and can score, too. John Marino is a solid option at defence, and he gets some power-play exposure.