The Fantasy Hockey season is both long and, more this year than ever, gruelling. The best managers are taking advantage of this tumultuous time and staying on top of their teams – maximizing their roster moves to make up for the revolving door of players on and off injured reserve. The best managers are also two steps ahead of the competition. Here’s a look at five fantasy hockey storylines to watch for in 2022.
Five Fantasy Hockey Storylines In 2022
The Vegas Golden Knights and Jack Eichel
Jack Eichel was constantly in the news in 2021. Between the surgery he wanted and the trade request that finally landed him in Vegas, it’s clear that hockey is better when Eichel is on the ice. We’re going to see it sometime near the end of February, meaning Eichel should be owned in most fantasy leagues. It’s exciting to think about his potential around an established group of players who have achieved both personal and team success. The latter is something Eichel has never had, which pushes his point ceiling even higher. Two seasons ago, Eichel had a career-high 1.15 points/game. Over a full 82-game season, that equates to a 94-point season. Despite being an elite player, that pace may be too much to expect from someone who hasn’t played a game in nearly a year, but a point-per-game is reasonable. Eichel is going to be a star in Vegas.
The anticipation of Eichel comes with a downside. We’ll spare you the salary cap talk, but the fact is Eichel isn’t cheap and assuming the Golden Knights stay healthy, someone will need to be sent out the door. The recent Max Pacioretty injury news could change this. If not, the likeliest of candidates is Reilly Smith, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him five million dollars per season. Luckily for Vegas brass, there may be some suiters for the 30-year-old, who’s in the midst of a great season with 26 points in 33 games. If he is indeed the odd man out, he’s not likely to continue this level of production on his new team, so owners should consider selling high before it’s too late.
The Goaltending Situation in Boston
Tuukka Rask’s involvement in Bruins’ practices has been well documented. Although he’s still without a contract, Rask could be ready to play games within a few weeks. The likeliest of scenarios would see the soon-to-be 35-year-old sign a one-year contract, effectively meaning the Bruins current tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman will be their answer in the crease next season. For this season though, Rask should be owned in all formats and Swayman should be traded as soon as possible. He’s able to be sent to the minors without clearing waivers, which is exactly what is expected to happen. Act now before it’s too late. The Bruins have played a league-low 26 games and based on Rask’s track record, can very well climb up the Atlantic division standings.
Malkin’s Future in Pittsburgh
Evgeni Malkin is roughly a week away from making his 2021-2022 season debut. Even at 35 years of age, there’s no doubt that a healthy Malkin is a productive one. He always seems to be one of the biggest fantasy hockey storylines because his presence is predictably unpredictable. If you’ve followed us at the Fantasy Hockey Bros, you’re well aware of our thoughts (specifically this writer’s) as it pertains to Malkin and fantasy hockey. Simply put, he’s not worth the headache. Malkin hasn’t played every game in a season since 08-09. Since then, he’s missed a total of 247 games.
All that said, if there is any time to ignore that history, it’s now. Malkin is in the final year of an eight-year deal that pays him 9.5 million per season. A good, healthy start to 2022 can mean big things for the superstar Russian as the trade deadline approaches. Maybe he remains a Penguin then and next season, maybe not. Either way, with his age and injury-riddled past, these next few months will be the last time he’s considered an elite fantasy player. Proceed with caution.
The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline
Malkin’s contract status is a great segue into the next fantasy hockey storyline – the trade deadline. Navigating the NHL’s deadline can sometimes be tricky in fantasy. Generally, if you own a productive player with an expiring contract on an underperforming team, you’re in a good spot. Either the player stays with the team and continues helping your fantasy squad, or they go to a contender and are surrounded by more talent. On the other end of that trade is a good player on a great one going to a poor one. Each case is different, as roles and opportunity can change. Take the Anthony Mantha for Jakub Vrana trade from last season. Mantha had eight points in 14 games last season while Vrana had 11 in 11.
This year’s trade bait board features fantasy-relevant players like Tomas Hertl, Phil Kessel, Evander Kane and Jake DeBrusk. All players, given the right opportunity could get a big boost in value by the end of deadline day. Come back here on March 22 and we’ll walk you through the biggest winners and losers of the day.
Changes Coming in Colorado
Speaking of the deadline, the Avalanche are likely to be very active on the big day. They have valuable forwards like Nazem Kadri (fourth in league scoring with 38 points), Andre Burakovsky (21 points in 25 games) and Valeri Nichushkin (16 points in 18 games) on expiring contracts. Both of their goaltenders, Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz, are also set to become Unrestricted Free Agents at the end of the season. All the while, Avalanche brass need to consider the raise Nathan MacKinnon to due next season.
Point is, things are going to change for Colorado in 2022. How does this pertain to fantasy hockey? Someone like Burakovsky could feel the squeeze and be this years’ Vrana. Kuemper could end up on another team or wind up as the backup. Kadri’s contract status could be driving his career-best season at 31-years-old. On the flip side, their cap space this season will allow them to load up, potentially pushing some of these players into lesser roles. Consider these Avs and others’ contract situations to help with fantasy hockey decisions.
Do you have some other fantasy hockey storylines for 2022? Drop them in the comments below!