Fantasy Hockey 2022-23 Week 7: Studs, Duds, and Sleepers

Victor Hedman and Sam Bennett

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 7:

Studs

Sam Bennett

The fact that Bennett could be in either the Studs or Sleepers category means fantasy hockey owners are not paying attention. This guy checks almost every category used. In the last six games, he has had four goals, six assists, 10 PIMs, and a myriad of blocks and hits. For good measure, let’s add in a couple of power-play points and a game-winner. What is really intriguing here is the likelihood that the stat lines increase. Bennett is being given sheltered opportunities. His deployment of 61.9 oZS% with a career-high in minutes per game of 17.7 will continue to provide value for fantasy hockey owners. What’s more, he is currently shooting a full 2% below his career average and is on pace for a career-high in shots. Goals should increase. Adding that to his current value in other categories and there is no reason why Bennett should be available.

But he is, in close to a third of fantasy hockey leagues. He is ranked as the 16th and 17th best center in ESPN and Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues respectively. Where fantasy owners are likely to make a mistake is passing on him for week 7. There are only two games on the schedule and one of those is against the Boston Bruins. Do not fall into this trap. Bennett scored his first of the year against Boston while adding an assist. The other opponent is the St. Louis Blues who struggle to stop beach balls currently. Bennett’s ownership has gone up 10% in both leagues in the last 24 hours. Do not wait based on the false assumption of a slow week.

Ryan O’Reilly

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As we mentioned prior to the fantasy hockey season, O’Reilly is a must for your late-season matchups. He is now becoming a must-own right now. The St. Louis Blues are a bit of a mess but have wheeled off six straight wins. With that has been outstanding play by O’Reilly. During the winning streak, he has three goals, three assists, and a couple of game-winners. This is great news for fantasy hockey owners who have rostered him despite his one goal and zero assists in the first 10 games. O’Reilly is also far below his career average in power play production. There is reason to be optimistic about this turning around.

Great value this week as the Blues will play four games. Three of the four opponent rank bottom third on the penalty kill. Two of those are bottom four. O’Reilly is averaging 1.9 minutes per game on the power play with a team-best 68% on the dot. His second unit should get ample opportunity to continue improving on the Blues 29% PP during this current winning streak. Currently, he is rostered by 52% of ESPN and 43% of Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues. It is likely that O’Reilly is available for a few more weeks. However, based on the current production and upcoming matchups, the timing is great for picking him up now.

Duds

Victor Hedman

Things have been rough for Hedman. A decent start to the season had fantasy hockey owners believing he could repeat his point-per-game production from last season. But since returning from a two-game absence for an upper-body injury, it has been poor fantasy value. Just one assist and no power play point in those seven games. Hedman’s time on ice has increased during this time, suggesting that injury isn’t a nagging one. He is sporting his lowest shooting percentage of his career, and lowest production numbers since the 2012-13 season. His only value has been with hits and blocks, but even those are low and not the reason why fantasy hockey owners start Hedman. He is there for points, and it has been bad.

This upcoming week looks to be a mixed bag but still worth some degree of caution. For starters, the Tampa Bay Lightning only has two games. One of those is Boston which has the NHL’s best goal-against average and second-best penalty kill. The other game, while against the Blues, is also on a day that has 14 games on the docket. You will have roster decisions for this day. While it may be enticing to start Hedman against a bottom-third defense, the Blues have played better as of late. This game is also at home for Tampa, where Hedman has a lower production number by a full 22 minutes compared to road games. You probably will have better options.

Vladimir Tarasenko

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This one is hard to understand. Unlike O’Reilly, Tarasenko produced regularly during the Blues extended losing streak. Now that they are winning, he has dropped off the planet. Zero goals and four assists (two in one game) in his last eight outings have raised concern for fantasy hockey owners. For a player that historically provides very little in alternate categories, there has been almost no value as of late. It seems the coaching staff is also losing trust, seeing his ice time decline during the winning streak. Tarasenko does still lead the team in power play minutes but having yet to score with the man advantage might change this soon. He also missed Saturday’s game with an illness which will add to the concern this coming week.

As mentioned, there are four games for the Blues this week which should add value. Playing three teams who struggle on the penalty kill is also intriguing. But with Tarasenko’s personal ineffectiveness on the power play, you would want to search for additional value. There isn’t much to find. Three games are on the road where he has failed to score so far this season. The one home game is the next contest. It is unclear if he will play because of his illness, and if he does there are questions on how effective he will be depending on his recovery. If you have roster decisions on days Tarasenko does play, approach starting him over another with extreme caution.

Time to Panic?

It is time to be selective about starting either Tarasenko or Hedman. But it is not time to panic. Instead, we will look back to a couple of previous Duds to sound the alarms.

Patrick Kane

As part of the Week 6 Duds, we recommended a close eye. Three more games without a goal now have Kane at zero goals and just five assists in his last 10 games. Also, he has a disappointing one power play point in those 10 games. His ice time is in steady decline, which heightens the concern. Next week does not provide much hope as the Chicago Blackhawks play two top-ten defensive teams. It is pretty safe to panic now. Yet Kane is still almost exclusively owned in both ESPN and Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues. There are better options available. Time for a change.

Johnny Gaudreau

Part of the Week 5 Duds, there was plenty of reason for panic then. There is still reason to panic now. We bring it up again because he is still virtually completely owned by fantasy hockey owners. Perhaps this is due to Gaudreau having an assist in three straight games. It may also be the false security that he leads the Columbus Blue Jackets in points. However, just a quick glance by owners will unveil lowered ice time, still no value in banger categories, and an unwillingness to shoot the puck (nine shots in the last five games). Gaudreau should only be owned in extremely deep leagues. It was time to panic in week 5; it is still time to panic in week 7.

Sleepers

Boone Jenner

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Here is a player that is coming on very strong after a slow start to the 2022-23 season. Jenner now leads Columbus in goals. In the last six games, he has six goals, two assists, two power-play goals, and a game-winner. Currently, on pace for career numbers in goals, assists, and production, Jenner has become a sneaky addition in the last couple weeks. Adding this to him winning 55% of faceoffs, hits, and/or blocks in every game, and increasing ice time has made Jenner a legitimate fantasy hockey player. This coming week provides an interesting angle that could provide even more value.

The Blue Jackets will play three teams that rank in the bottom third of shots allowed. Columbus is also in the bottom third. These could be high-flying games. Only one opponent ranks in the top half in goals allowed. There is a reasonable assumption that these games will be high scoring with back-and-forth flow. This also means plenty of time with a score that is tied or within one goal. In these situations, at 5 on 5, Jenner has scored over half of his points and leads his team in goals. Continued goal production is a real possibility this coming week. Ownership has been rising fast, if he is there you should grab him.

Owen Tippett

Tippett is a young player who is going to demolish his career highs just about everywhere. Recently, his last four games have provided three goals, two assists, and a power play tally. He is earning the trust of the coaching staff and has averaged close to three more minutes per game of ice time over the past five games. This should continue to be the case for a team looking to generate more offense, which is currently ranked 31st. Tippett leads the Philadelphia Flyers in CF%, and FF%, and is second in oZS%. More importantly, he has found a home on the top power-play unit and leads the Flyers in power-play goals. He also missed the first five games of the year with an injury. Expect his contributions to continue to rise.

That also goes for this coming week. Aside from the “bonus game” with four contests this week, three of them are against bottom-half defensive teams. The other team is barely top half. Three of the four are also in the bottom 10 in shots allowed. Tippett has been a shooting machine with 19 on goal the last five games. Again, with his team-leading oZS%, this should continue. Fantasy hockey owners will also find value in the banger categories with hits in every game this year except his last. He made up for that with three blocks though. With a mere 4% and 6% ownership in ESPN and Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues, he should be more than available. Tippett is a must-have. Don’t let your opponent figure this out before you do.

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