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Fantasy Hockey 2022-23 Week 3: Studs, Duds, and Sleepers

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Every Monday, Last Word on Hockey will survey the Fantasy Hockey landscape and select a handful of players to assist in your weekly match. We will attempt to select “Studs” who may be available in your league as opposed to who we know are already owned by other teams. The “Duds” will most certainly be taken and will serve as a warning when you have “who do I start/sit” questions. The “Sleepers” will be almost exclusively available in most leagues. We will also attempt to have a mix of players that will apply to traditional leagues as well as banger leagues. All ownership numbers are based on Sunday research and may be slightly different at the time of publication. Here are our selections for Week 3:


Alex Tuch

Tuch is on an absolute tear to start the 2022-23 season, as are the Buffalo Sabres as a whole. In three games last week, Tuch notched five goals, one on the power play, a game-winning goal, and all on nine shots on goal. Skating on the top line with Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson is paying off for him. Granted, currently shooting at 40% will come back down to Earth for a career 10.5% shooter. But he is currently being deployed with a dZS% of 58.3, which makes his five goals last week even more impressive. Oh, did I mention all three of those games were on the road?

This week Tuch plays three times, two at home, which should allow for more offensive zone starts with last change. Those three games, by the way, are against the Seattle Kraken, Montreal Canadiens, and Chicago Blackhawks. They are a combined 7-7-2. As of this writing, Tuch is rostered by 66% of Yahoo Fantasy teams and 80% of ESPN Fantasy teams. If he is available, now is a good time to grab him.

Valeri Nichushkin

Nichushkin is quickly emerging as an elite fantasy player. Top line or second line, it has not mattered. In four games last week, Nichushkin had three goals, five assists, two power-play points and a shorthanded point. In the one game he failed to register a shot on goal, he casually added two helpers and a couple of hits. With the news of Gabriel Landeskog being out long term, expect Nichushkin’s ice time to stay increased as well.

Currently, he is rostered by 89% and 88% in Yahoo and ESPN fantasy hockey leagues, respectively. That number has risen fast, and it may be too late to grab him. But you are only getting three games from him this week and two the next. Two of those five games are back-to-back as well. It is also a road-heavy set of games. That may be enough to keep managers from picking him up. Yet, Nichushkin has scored in every road contest thus far, and every second game of back-to-backs. If by a miracle he is still available, go get him now.


Aleksander Barkov

Well, he has four assists. There is not much else going right. Last year’s 39-goal scorer is still searching for his first tally. At even strength, Barkov has two points and a team-worst 48.5 FF% among forwards. It would seem the roster changes have produced a slow chemistry build that is still working itself out. That is to be expected, but there are head-scratching stats early on. Last week Barkov dressed for four games and produced nine shots on goal total, four of those in one game. The zone starts are also interesting, so far coming in at a 68.5 dZS%. That will shatter his career-high deployment in this area if it continues. He is also not winning faceoffs, currently sitting at 48.7%, making the defensive zone starts even more baffling.
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The Florida Panthers will play three games this coming week. Two of those teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers, are top ten thus far in goals allowed. Both of those games are on the road as well. Doesn’t scream “breakout” week for Barkov. If you have a roster decision to make on any of those days, it may not be a bad idea to let Barkov warm the bench.

Kyle Connor

After scoring in the season opener for the Winnipeg Jets, it has been a disappointing start for Connor. Last week fantasy owners were gifted four games and were sadly given one assist and a couple of hits. It is not just Connor who is struggling in this lineup either. Winnipeg ranks 30th in this young season with 2.4 goals per game. This is not a complete shock to most hockey fans, as it is well known the new system of head coach Rick Bowness does not produce a ton of offence. But coming off a career-high 47 goals last season, the slow start is troubling.

Fantasy hockey owners of Connor will yet again be gifted four games this week. The two middle games against bottom five teams in goals allowed per game. They bookend games against the top three teams in goals allowed per game. I would advise some caution if faced with roster decisions during the bookend games for starting Connor. The middle games could present an opportunity to get on the board. He is averaging three minutes per game on the power play. Those two opponents, the Arizona Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings are mid-pack on the penalty kill. There may be better options if faced with a decision until Connor gets going.

Time to Panic?

The simple answer after two weeks is no. It is a little more complicated in these two cases. Barkov is very concerning if the coaching staff continues to deploy him heavily in the defensive zone. Add to that he is not shooting on goal. Can’t score if you can’t hit the net. Barkov will get his points at some stage of the season. Will it be consistent enough to justify keeping him over an up-and-coming sleeper? That’s something to keep an eye on.

Again, with Connor, it is complicated. It is early and he will continue to get top minutes on the power play. Will Connor produce at the rate he did last season? Absolutely not. Not under a Rick Bowness offence. His current position rank of 76th, based on ESPN fantasy hockey stats, also means there are plenty of other wingers to consider. This week is a great test for fantasy owners. If it is more of the same, you should have no hesitation in trading him out. Let one of your competitors ride that wave and go get a consistent point producer.


David Krejci

An opening night performance of three points (1g, 2a) was not a fluke. The 36-year-old, who should surpass 1,000 games played this season, seems revitalized under new Boston Bruin coach Jim Montgomery. There is every reason to be optimistic as a fantasy hockey owner of Krejci. His early season deployment of 64.1 oZS% is paying off with his winning 58% on the dot. Last week Boston played four games, with Krejci scoring one goal, adding two assists, and getting two points on the power play. Shots on goal are also trending up with 10 so far after a 2021-22 season that saw 83 total.
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This week Boston will play three games. All three of those opponents are sitting top eight in penalty kill percentage, so don’t look for bonus points in this category. Instead, the angle is going to come from offensive zone starts and faceoff percentage. Krejci’s percentage is miles ahead of the team average for all three of those teams. These teams also are ranked in the bottom third of shots allowed per game. I would not be shocked to see him add a goal and a few assists from the heavy offensive zone starts. Rostered by only 27% in Yahoo leagues and 65% in ESPN leagues, there is a good chance he is available. If you have underperformers or early injuries to cover, Krejci is a good option.

Shane Pinto

Pinto could easily have made a spot in the “Studs” category if not for being widely available in fantasy hockey leagues. Traditional and banger leagues should be all over this pickup. Pinto is currently on a four-game goal-scoring streak. In last week’s three games, he added an assist, a game-winner, and is crushing the dot with close to 59% success. What is most remarkable is he is doing this while having a near 70 dZS% and a low 14.4 minutes per game. He is providing the depth scoring that the Ottawa Senators have needed. He has also thrown his body around some, although last week did fail to register a block and only one hit. This could change very soon.

With center Josh Norris out with a wrist injury, and no timetable as of yet for his return, Pinto should see second-line minutes this week. With how fast he has started the season, that should be enough reason to grab him off waivers. Add in one of Ottawa’s three games are against the league-worst in goals per game allowed Minnesota Wild, he will be rostered by more than currently is shown. He is currently owned by 7% of the Yahoo fantasy hockey teams, and only 4% of the ESPN fantasy hockey teams. Both of those numbers reflect double the ownership from one day ago. If he is available, go grab him.

Have a fantasy question? Have a Mailbag idea you would like to see a deeper analysis on? Follow me on Twitter @GromJoshua or leave a comment for me below.


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