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 5:
Fantasy Hockey Studs, Duds, and Sleepers – Week 5
There is not much going right for the Vancouver Canucks this season. However, Horvat has been a bright spot for this team and NHL fantasy hockey players. In a nutshell, Horvat is doing Horvat things. Power play threat? Check. Penalty kill specialist? Check. Possession driver? Check. In three games last week, Horvat scored four goals and added a couple of assists, with three of those goals coming on the power play. This is where he is providing the most value for owners, as he leads the team (and is tied for second in the league) in power play goals.
What should you expect this week? More of the same. Vancouver will make an Eastern Canada trip with three games on the slate. All three teams rank bottom half on the penalty kill, with the best being the Montreal Canadiens at a mere 77.5%. Vancouver is drawing its fair share of penalties, getting Horvat an average of 3.8 minutes per game on the power play. Expect your bonus points in this category. He is also finding the net consistently, with four straight games with at least five shots on goal. Horvat is dangerous, and on pace to shatter his career high in goals. As of Sunday, Horvat is rostered in 80% of Yahoo and 87% of ESPN NHL fantasy hockey leagues. Go get him if he is there.
Lee is a sneaky addition to the Studs category. Additionally, he could be considered a Sleeper if not for his recent play and upcoming matchups. Quietly, Lee is currently the 7th-ranked forward in fantasy hockey based on ESPN rankings. His value is particularly interesting for the banger leagues/categories. In the last 14 days, Lee has added 11 PIMs and 14 hits to his recent four-game point streak (which was snapped Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings). The New York Islanders are a mess on the power play, converting at an abysmal 13.5%. But when they do convert, Lee is almost certainly attached, leading the team in power play points. The surprise value is actually his even strength numbers, where he ranks second on the team with eight points. His oZS% of 59.3 at even strength, should it continue, will most likely allow him to keep this pace up.
There are four games on the schedule for Lee. Three of the four opponents are bottom ten defensively. The one team that is not, the New York Rangers, the Islanders have already beaten. All four opponents this week Lee will see rank in the bottom third in penalty minutes. The Islanders will not see many power play opportunities, most likely. Considering how consistent Lee has been at even strength, and how poor the Islanders have been with the man advantage, this is actually a good thing. Especially facing teams who struggle mightily at suppressing goals at 5v5. Lee is widely available in both Yahoo and ESPN fantasy hockey leagues. You absolutely have a player on your bench that has not performed to Lee’s pace, and you should switch out if he is there for you to take.
Wonder if Gaudreau is regretting his decision to move on? After a five-game point streak early on, it has been pretty disappointing for fantasy hockey owners. In the last seven games, Gaudreau has a mere one goal and one assist. His 54.2% dZS deployment at even strength is also concerning. Yet this is partly tied into the majority of the play being in the defensive zone, as the Columbus Blue Jackets rank fourth in the league for most shots allowed. But the most concerning stat for Gaudreau is zero power play points. Columbus is a league-worst 6.1% on the power play. It is not a lack of time for Gaudreau either, averaging 3.2 minutes of power play time per game. He also leads all forwards in CF in all situations. It has just been all around bad, and there is no real end in sight here.
This week, Gaudreau has three games. Two against the Philadelphia Flyers, and one against the Islanders. Both teams rank top ten on the penalty kill, so don’t expect Columbus to figure out the power play. They are also ranked top six in the league defensively, so don’t expect them to score much either. His only value would come from banger categories, and Gaudreau does not provide this. He does not take face offs, he has exactly zero hits so far this season, and just one block. Especially this week, there is nothing to be excited about with Gaudreau. The fact he is rostered in 98% and 99% of fantasy hockey leagues actually surprises me.
Well, the other big name “Jon” in the recent offseason is also quite disappointing for fantasy hockey owners. Coming off a remarkable 115-point campaign, Huberdeau was expected to replace the production lost with Gaudreau’s departure. A mere five points in ten games is not cutting it. Moreover, his one total point at even strength is terrifying.
It is hard to really ascertain why there is such a struggle for Huberdeau. His oZS% of 64.2 at even strength should be enough to provide fantasy value. His shots on goal are decent lately (11 in the last four games) but a career-low shooting percentage of 5.3% stands out. The one positive is his power play numbers, but that came very early on. In the last seven games, he has one point on the power play. He needs more time to figure things out with the new team.
This week does not look like the week that will happen. There are four games for the Calgary Flames, which usually provides additional value. But all four opponents are top seven in goals allowed per game. Additionally, they are all top 8 on the penalty kill. Doesn’t look good for Huberdeau to turn things around this week. As for banger categories, he has thrown the body a little bit more in recent games. However, only once this season has he recorded a hit and a block in the same game. Faced with a roster decision, it is not worth starting him with an expected shortcoming in offensive production and minimal banger value.
Time to Panic?
With both of these players virtually rostered in all leagues, somebody has reason to panic about Gaudreau. Columbus is a mess right now. They do not score, they have a league-worst goal differential at -25, and the worst power play by a large margin. They do have an upcoming six-game homestand, and that may be enough to convince fantasy hockey owners to hang on to him a bit longer. But there are better options available in essentially all leagues, and you should not be shy about exploring those.
Huberdeau is a little early to put in the panic discussion. Calgary is on a current 0-3-1 streak, but this is on the heels of a 5-1-0 start to the season. Don’t expect his shooting percentage to stay well below his career average. He is going to keep getting his chances with his offensive deployment as well. However, he’s not untouchable, especially for leagues with 12 or fewer owners. There are much better producers this year that are widely available. Giving him a free pass at a low production this coming week is fine, based on matchups. Another one the week after though, and it might be time to sound the alarm.
The Seattle Kraken are on a bit of a roll currently, and one reason is the surprising play of Geekie. Currently on a four-game point streak, he is making great use of his minimal ice time. Three goals, two assists, and two game-winners this past week have propelled him to the team lead in even-strength goals. All this while also leading the team in dSZ%. His recent production is not going unnoticed by the coaching staff, as his time on ice has increased by a full three minutes per game. He does not get any time on the power play, so where else does he add value? A hit and/or block in every game this season covers that.
Seattle will play three games, all at home. Two of the three opponents are bottom half in goals allowed per game. The third opponent will be on the second night of a back-to-back and projected backup goaltender between the pipes. A favourable week to say the least. Geekie is owned by only 1% in both Yahoo and ESPN fantasy hockey leagues. He should be available for you. If you have injuries to cover or very underperforming depth players, this is a sneaky selection that could pay massive dividends.
Is there a team more fun to watch than the New Jersey Devils? Comebacks, close games, blowouts, high-event hockey, they have it all. The bounce back of Wood is part of the success. Playing in only three games last season due to hip injuries, it took some time for him to find his game this year. With four goals and three assists in his last four games, it is safe to say he is there. He co-leads the team in goals so far with five, all at even strength. He is seeing power play time as well.
Three games on the schedule for New Jersey, all at home, will provide three teams in the bottom third in goals allowed per game. Wood has a great opportunity to add to his current four game point streak here. He has also seen his ice time increase as New Jersey has shuffled the forward group a bit with Ondrej Palat on long-term IR. Wood’s ownership is incredibly low for how well he has produced recently. Currently sitting at 4% and 2% in Yahoo and ESPN fantasy hockey leagues, he should be available for you. His ownership is increasing, so do not wait too long if you are in need of a replacement.
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