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 8:
Coming off career highs in goals and assists last season put Kyrou on the radar for mid-round draft selections. A slow start to the season had fantasy hockey owners a bit nervous. That should all be gone now as Kyrou finds himself on an eight-game point streak and second on the St. Louis Blues in points. Last week’s three goals and two assists plus a game winner was reason enough to be excited. But it is Kyrou’s power play points in four straight (snapped Saturday) that are giving fantasy hockey owners the boost. He is seeing top power play minutes, an average of 2.4 minutes per game. It seems that St. Louis has figured out their special teams with Kyrou leading the way, co-leading them in power play points.
This week, the Blues play three games. First up the Dallas Stars who have recently had a terrible time keeping the puck out of the net. A home game against the Carolina Hurricanes provides a struggling penalty kill. They wrap up the week against the Pittsburgh Penguins who allow over three goals a game. Plenty of opportunity for Kyrou to extend his points streak and add special teams’ points to his totals. A 77% fantasy hockey ownership in both Yahoo and ESPN leagues means he is there for the taking for some of you.
It would seem not everyone got the memo that McAvoy was returning to the lineup. All he has done since returning from off-season shoulder surgery is score ten points in eight games. Five of those points have come on the power play. However, fantasy hockey owners should continue to see value from his even strength play. Arguably the best even strength team in the league, the Boston Bruins lead the league in PDO at 104.4. They are led by McAvoy here. He also leads the team in 5v5 CF%. McAvoy drives possession and he creates for others. Oh, and nine hits last week certainly does not hurt either.
Slightly odd week for Boston as they only dress for two games. Both games are at home, though. If you haven’t heard, Boston is kind of good at home, where they have yet to lose this season. Both opponents are bottom half on the penalty kill, so there are opportunities for continued production here. Moreover, both teams are far below Boston in CF% at even strength. Either way you slice it, McAvoy is quite appealing for fantasy hockey owners. His ownership of 85% and 88% in ESPN and Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues means he’s available for someone.
It was a great start to the season for fantasy hockey owners of Toews. It has been frustrating as of late though. A mere two assists the last six games, neither on the power play, and minimal physical play has sounded the alarms. Owners are starting to drop Toews from the roster. Based on the analytics, it is a justified move. Only Erik Johnson has a worse CF% among Colorado Avalanche blue liners at even strength. When they do have the puck with Toews on the ice, he is mostly not involved. He essentially has averaged a shot a game over the last six. He also has not had a power play point in nine games while averaging 1.4 minutes per game.
Colorado needs him on the blue line. He does his job, and he does it well. This does not mean you need him on your fantasy hockey roster. Especially this coming week. Three games for Colorado, all on the road and two against top seven defensive teams. The middle game will be against the Buffalo Sabres who struggle, so there is one favorable matchup. But being ranked at 55th for the position by ESPN fantasy hockey means there are more productive players available to you. Being rostered at over 90% in both leagues is a little absurd for what he provides.
This one is hard to figure out and is probably why Zegras has such high ownership numbers. Analytics sometimes fails you, and this is certainly an instance of this. Zegras leads The Anaheim Ducks in just about every analytics category. CF% rel, FF% rel, CF, and oZS% by a large margin. In fact, Zegras ranks 17th in the league at even strength oZS% among players with at least 10 games played. He is shooting at 16%, above his pace last season, and is getting almost two full minutes per game more of ice time. So how is it that Zegras only has one goal and four assists his last nine games?
The telling stat could be that his line does not start with the puck often. Zegras is an abysmal 39% on the dot. That is going to cause concern for fantasy hockey owners this week. Three games, all on the road, will provide two opponents who rank top five in team face off percentage. It will also be tough to get the power play working for Anaheim, as all three opponents rank top 10 on the kill. Zegras has not had a power play point in about a month. That will probably continue. He is flashy and fun to watch. But it has been bad for fantasy hockey owners lately, and it is not likely that changes this week.
Time to Panic?
Not necessarily in Zegras’ case. But starting him should be with caution if you are keeping someone on the bench instead of him. Considering he ranks 41st at the position according to ESPN fantasy hockey, there are better options, but it could be worse. In Toews case, there is almost assuredly a blue liner available that provides more value. There is probably a bias for fantasy hockey owners considering his career high numbers last season. Undoubtedly, fantasy hockey owners were banking on having Cale Makar as his pairing partner. However, Makar’s scoring is primarily coming from the power play, which lessens the coattail benefits Toews receives. It would not be wrong to look elsewhere for a blue liner.
There was a sharp uptick in fantasy hockey ownership for Sandin after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost yet another blue liner to injury. There was good reason for that as the young Sandin was going to be thrust into much larger ice time. However, the transaction trends are showing Sandin being dropped left and right, and it is hard to understand why. His minutes are up near five per game the last week, he led all defensemen in power play time, and is filling up the banger categories nightly. While he only has two assists the last five games, being on the top unit of the 8th ranked power play surely will pay dividends. Moreover, as the leading defensemen in CF% at 5 on 5, we can reasonably expect some even strength points as well.
Aside from this, it is the timing that makes it odd that fantasy hockey owners are bowing out on Sandin. Three games this week will include the fifth worst defense, a bottom third penalty kill, and an odd team in the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit either will shut out the opponent, leading the league with three, or open the flood gates, giving up over 3.5 per game when their opponent scores. He should also keep filling in the banger categories. For the next couple weeks at least, Sandin has sneaky fantasy value filling in top minutes for a depleted blue line. This week is no different. If you missed him during the initial rush to grab him, he may be there now.
After a slow start to the season, Pageau has started to look like an offensive threat. Five goals in his last seven games, plus a helper, are adding value to a player that is usually around for banger categories. What may be getting lost is how the goals have been scored. All five have been on special teams, four of them power play goals. He is on pace to shatter his career high there. The one shorthanded tally is also not a surprise for a player that has scored 17 shorthanded goals in his career, almost matching his power play goal totals. That is sneaky value for fantasy hockey owners. Considering his recent success on the power play, expect his ice time to continue rising, giving you more to love.
This week is a prime opportunity for that. Three games for the New York Islanders with two against bottom third penalty kill teams. The other team, the Nashville Predators, generate the 7th most power plays in the league. That will give Pageau an opportunity to cash in shorthanded as well, as Nashville has already given up two. Anything you get from him at even strength would just be an added bonus. But, filling in the hits and blocks categories, where he ranks third and second respectively among Islander forwards, surely continues. At 30% and 21% ownership in ESPN and Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues, this could pay massive dividends for you.
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— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) November 27, 2022