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 those 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 20:
2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Studs, Duds, and Sleepers: Week 20
What is fun about fantasy hockey is we get ramped up for playoffs when certain players and teams know they will not be. These players play for no-stress pride, and it can be great for us. Enter Max Domi. The Chicago Blackhawks are on a five-game winning streak and Domi has been a major part of that. He has four goals and seven assists in those five games. Two of those points came on the power play, and he added a game-winner for good measure. He is winning a ton of faceoffs, shooting at will, he is simply filling up the categories for fantasy hockey owners. With the very real possibility Patrick Kane has played his last in a Blackhawk sweater, Domi will be the guy they lean on the rest of the way. This was proven on Saturday in the first game without Kane. Domi logged over 22 minutes of ice time or about four more than his season average.
Fantasy hockey owners can expect this to continue, which could be massive this coming week. The opponents are very favourable. Back-to-back tilts against bottom feeders in the Anaheim Ducks and Arizona Coyotes should produce value. Another matchup against the Dallas Stars, who are a mess right now and Domi just recently torched, could be another interesting game for him. Then a Saturday contest against the recently selling Nashville Predators. With the added ice time and no-stress play, Domi could be a gem for fantasy hockey owners this week and beyond. His ownership is very low right now. Go get him for your week 20 and more importantly for your playoff push.
The Minnesota Wild are in the middle of a tight Western Conference playoff race. Their fortunes have been drastically improved with the recent play of Gustavsson. In his last six starts, he has allowed three only once, and only one three times. That has been good for roughly a 94.6 Sv%. Serving as the backup primarily seems to have shifted. He is now making many more starts than his counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury. Somewhat quietly, Gustavsson has a GAA of 2.11 and an overall Sv% of .928 on the season. The coming week could provide fantasy hockey owners a continuation of his success so far.
The Wild have three games this week. We are projecting two starts for Gustavsson. All the games tell a different story. The New York Islanders cannot score, but neither can the Wild. New York also doesn’t give up much. The Vancouver Canucks score quite a bit, but they also give up quite a bit. The Calgary Flames are middle on both fronts. In the case of the last two games, they are both on the road where Gustavsson is a warrior. His excellent season numbers improve when looking at games away from Minnesota, with a 2.03 GAA and .931 Sv%. If the Wild can provide even a little goal support, this could be a great week for fantasy hockey owners of his. He is widely available in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. If you need a goalie, look here.
The New York Rangers have made a lot of changes, and potentially more to come. Every GM’s fear during the race to the trade deadline is doing too much and killing the chemistry of the team. It is possible that has happened, but it cannot explain the recent struggles of Shesterkin. Right now he is swiss cheese in net. In his last six games, he has allowed at least three goals in all of them and has a combined .851 Sv%. He has been fortunate that the team has scored enough to earn him four wins in those games. Yet the goals seem to have dried up as the Rangers struggle to find consistency. That has led to a four-game losing streak, two of those with Shesterkin in net. If they cannot figure it out, this could be a rough week for Shesterkin if his struggles continue.
The first of three games for the Rangers this week should be an easier matchup. The Philadelphia Flyers are struggling more than the Rangers. Other than that, be very cautious in starting Shesterkin over others right now. The Ottawa Senators are scoring a ton lately, and then there is a late-week game against the Boston Bruins. Collectively, the Rangers will be playing three games in four nights in three different cities. That will be a tired team in front of him. He is essentially 100% rostered in all leagues, and rightfully so. This week, with the current troubles of the Ranges, it may be wise to leave him out this week.
Where are the hits? Trouba is rostered for one primary reason: to fill up the banger categories. He does it so well, his fantasy hockey ownership is above 84% in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. But, he plays for the Rangers. Seems everyone is struggling. During this four-game losing streak, Trouba has fallen off. In two of the games he registered zero hits, had one or no shots on goal, and a game without a block. Ok, these streaks happen. Moreover, if the new-look Rangers offence always has the puck, you can expect to lose banger value. But, the analytics is why you should be concerned.
The five-game moving average of Corsi for has been abysmal. The Rangers were not controlling play, being as low as 42%. Trouba was slightly behind that clip at 41%. During this time, Trouba was filling the banger columns. But lately, the five-game Corsi for average has risen to 53%, with Trouba about equal that. Great for the team, but for a defender that rarely scores (two points in the last eight games) it destroys his value. Of the three matchups for the Rangers previously mentioned, the best puck-possession team will be the Bruins who rank behind the Rangers. The other two rank far below. Expect the Rangers to have the puck more, and for Trouba to be limited.
Here comes the Colorado Avalanche. The shuffling of lines has benefited the team and specifically Compher. Now slotted in on the second line with Mikko Rantanen, he has two goals and six assists in his last four games. He has also been destroying the faceoff dot, leading to more opportunities for leading scorer Rantanen. The other boost fantasy hockey owners are getting is his playing time. Compher is playing top-line minutes, and that is a byproduct of the Avalanche being a mash unit that relies heavily on its top lines. With these minutes, centring Rantanen, the rest of the way looks great for fantasy hockey owners.
The coming week provides a great challenge for Colorado. All three opponents rank top 10 in goals allowed. Two of these games are against the current Western Conference division leaders. Victories in both and Colorado could be leading the conference by week’s end. They are going to be ready, especially Rantanen. These are expected to be tightly contested games, and if they are Compher could benefit as a byproduct. At five on five, 19 of Rantanen’s 30 goals have come with the score tied or within one. Since he is not available, go get Compher who more than likely is.
The season may be over for the Montreal Canadiens, but for fantasy hockey owners there is great value on this squad. A widely available one is Matheson. Currently on a four-game point streak (two goals, three assists) and also adding banger value. Matheson has been an absolute workhorse as well, logging as many as 27 minutes in a single game. He has also only played in 25 games this season, so while everyone else is a little beat up, he is well-rested. He could be a great wire pickup as you head to the playoffs but don’t overlook his week 20 value.
Montreal makes a California trip this week. That means games against the lowly Ducks and San Jose Sharks. There is a substantial opportunity for Matheson to get on the scoresheet for fantasy hockey owners of his. Sandwiched in between is a meeting with the Los Angeles Kings who not only allow quite a few goals themselves but will be playing in their first home game after a five-game trip. There is always an opportunity to jump out early on a team playing at home for the first time in a while. This is another player widely available for you. Might be worth a look.
Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
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