10 fantasy hockey takeaways: Healthy Penguins paying huge dividends

The Pittsburgh Penguins are healthy again, which means those who roster some of the team’s top stars are absolutely killing it in fantasy hockey.

Players like Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust all missed extensive time before the holiday break, but now that all three are healthy, they have been terrorizing opponents and single-handedly winning people weeks.

With that in mind, here are my 10 fantasy hockey takeaways, starting with the return of the Penguins.

1. Bryan Rust (78 percent rostered on Yahoo) and Jake Guentzel (99 percent) are back and dominating

Of all the NHL players who were either in the COVID-19 protocol or on injured reserve that have returned to action since the holiday break, Rust and Guentzel are certainly the ones making the biggest impact.

In the two games the wingers have played since being activated off IR, Rust and Guentzel have combined for 12 points, with the former scoring five goals and eight points on his own. It’s been a return that’s benefited many fantasy managers, and has also illustrated the merits of line stacking.

In the preseason, I explained why fantasy managers should be looking to stack well-established lines, like the Penguins’. Anybody who loaded up on Pens is now reaping the rewards and likely winning this week thanks to those players specifically.

Jake Guentzel, left, and Bryan Rust are healthy and rewarding fantasy managers. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jake Guentzel, left, and Bryan Rust are healthy and rewarding fantasy managers. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2. Adding Matt Grzelcyk (18 percent rostered on Yahoo) is the move with Charlie McAvoy sidelined

McAvoy is sidelined with a lower-body injury, and even though there’s no timetable for his return, it’s not a bad idea for fantasy managers to swipe Grzelcyk off waiver wires where he’s available.

Grzelcyk, 28, handled power-play duties for the most part when he was healthy last season and will likely take over that role for as long as McAvoy is out. That resulted in some success on the man advantage in 2020-21, as he recorded seven power-play points across 37 contests, while notching a respectable 20 total points.

The Boston Bruins’ power play grades out as the 11th-best in the league this year, and exposure to players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak in those situations is very fantasy friendly. Grzelcyk is a great short-term streaming option.

3. Brayden Schenn (59 percent rostered on Yahoo) is back and should be rostered in more leagues

Schenn wasted no time in his first game back since suffering an upper-body injury, as the St. Louis Blues centre potted a power-play goal just 20 seconds into Wednesday's contest.

Schenn finished the game with two points, two hits, and a block in 15:25 of ice time, which isn’t bad for his first NHL action since Dec. 12. Now seemingly healthy, he should be added in more fantasy leagues.

The 30-year-old has proven in the past that he can provide quality category coverage. In 56 games last season, he notched 16 goals, 36 points, nine power-play points, 119 hits, and 318 faceoff wins. Specifically, his blend of solid point production and hits is more than serviceable in leagues that value the two categories.

Sitting on waiver wires in over 40 percent of Yahoo leagues, he should be rostered in almost every league with 10 teams or more.

4. Dougie Hamilton’s broken jaw paves way for Damon Severson (22 percent rostered on Yahoo)

Hamilton broke his jaw during the New Jersey Devils’ game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday and has been placed on injured reserve. His absence has created a hole on the top pairing and first power-play unit, which has been filled by Severson.

The 27-year-old has done a good job with the expanded role, recording two goals and three points his last two games. Severson has topped 25 minutes in each contest, which is obviously a great development for his fantasy value moving forward.

Severson’s heavy usage will likely lend itself to some more solid point production as New Jersey’s offense has been heating up recently. The Devils have scored three goals or more in four straight games since the break.

The 2012 second-round pick also has a pretty impressive history of point production. In his final year with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, Severson tallied 61 points in 64 games while also adding 18 points across 14 playoff games. In the NHL, he’s tallied 30 points three times in his career. He’s a strong add considering the severity of Hamilton’s injury.

5. It’s Marco Rossi (10 percent rostered on Yahoo) time

Rossi has been called up to the NHL, and now’s the time for fantasy managers to add the talented centre.

For those not familiar with him, here’s some background information. The 20-year-old Austrian was the ninth-overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft after producing an astounding 39 goals and 120 points with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s in his draft year. Rossi has also posted a very impressive 23 points in 21 contests with the AHL’s Iowa Wild this season.

Players with this kind of pedigree should be added just based on principle. Centering the Minnesota Wild’s second line, which features Marcus Foligno and Kevin Fiala, while also skating with the top power-play unit, Rossi is a priority add where available.

6. The Zach Hyman (78 percent rostered on Yahoo) buy-low window is wide open

If ever there was a time to send out some trade offers for Hyman, now would be it.

The Edmonton Oilers winger has been pretty unusable for fantasy hockey purposes recently. In his last seven games, Hyman has recorded just one point and he’s been rendered goalless in 10 straight contests. This hasn’t just been an issue for Hyman, but the rest of the Oilers, too. Since the start of December, Edmonton’s scored 2.57 goals per game, which sits fifth-worst across the NHL.

With the recent news that Connor McDavid has entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, there’s even more reason for fantasy managers to be pessimistic, which is why now is the best time to try and acquire Hyman.

For starters, Hyman will be tied to McDavid’s hip as soon as the superstar is back in the lineup. One glance at the team’s forwards shows you that there are not many other players to pair with McDavid. Secondly, Edmonton has to make Hyman work, as he’s earning $5.5 million per year until the end of the 2027-28 season.

Players I’d be willing to move for Hyman are T.J. Oshie and Andrew Mangiapane.

7. There’s reason to be concerned about Jordan Binnington (88 percent rostered on Yahoo)

After a strong start to the season that saw Binnington post a .928 save percentage to go along with a 6-2-1 record, the Blues netminder has really fallen off and it’s fair to place a lot of the blame on him. In his last 11 appearances, Binnington owns a rough .890 save percentage, which is accompanied by a fitting 4-5-2 record.

While his numbers on their own are concerning, they’re even more troubling when compared to the two other goalies he’s shared the crease with this season. Ville Husso and Charlie Lindgren have both actually done quite well this year. In seven games played, Husso has earned a .920 save percentage while Lindgren produced a .958 mark in his five appearances.

It gets even more concerning when checking out each puck-stopper’s goals saved above expected. Lindgren owns a mark of 4.6 and Husso has posted a 4.4 grade, while Binnington owns a shaky -1.6 rating, according to MoneyPuck.

What may look like a buy-low opportunity really isn't, and, in fact, may be a time to sell low for Binnington managers. Goalies I’d target if I was trying to unload Binnington are John Gibson and Alex Nedeljkovic.

8. What to do with Patrik Laine (82 percent rostered on Yahoo)?

Due to a combination of personal reasons and an oblique issue, Laine has only appeared in 12 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. When in the lineup, however, the winger has been very productive.

Laine has racked up four goals and 11 points in those 12 games, which is a step up from his 2020-21 output, as the Finnish forward totalled just 12 goals and 24 points across 46 games played. Since returning, however, Laine has recorded just one point in three games, making it fair to wonder if he’s still hampered by his oblique issue. That, along with the struggles Columbus has undergone recently, could scare people off of Laine.

I wouldn’t be too concerned and actually think this is a nice opportunity to buy low on the sniper. In the three games he’s played since returning, he’s rifled off an impressive 10 shots and his 5v5 individual Corsi for (11) leads the Blue Jackets, while his scoring chances for (6) are tied for the team lead, according to Natural Stat Trick.

I’d be looking to send out trade offers for the 2016 second-overall pick, and I’d be willing to trade players like Troy Terry or Oshie to get the deal done.

9. Alexandar Georgiev (25 percent rostered on Yahoo) upside stash

While Igor Shesterkin was dealing with a lower-body injury, Georgiev was a solid short-term add for fantasy managers as the Bulgarian puck-stopper played well in his absence.

In the seven appearances he made over that stretch, Georgiev posted an excellent .935 save percentage. In the one start he’s made since Shesterkin’s return, Georgiev turned aside 33 of the 34 shots he faced in a winning effort against the Oilers.

It’s clear that on a good New York Rangers team, Georgiev will continue to hold value in deeper leagues where quality goaltending options are hard to come by. There is, of course, some hidden upside with Georgiev that could be realized between now and March 21.

Georgiev’s name has been involved in recent trade talks, including on Sportsnet’s Real Kyper and Bourne Show, where Nick Kypreos said this regarding the Rangers goaltender:

“I teased a name that I think the Oilers could trade for by the weekend,” he started. “Georgiev. He’s out there, [Edmonton’s] talking about him. There’s no way the Rangers are keeping him. He comes in at [$2.5 million] for the rest of the year.

"He wants to be a No. 1 goaltender, he’s not happy in New York, he won’t cost you a lot, just do it Kenny Holland.”

A move to the Oilers would instantly boost Georgiev’s fantasy hockey value. Now’s a nice time to get ahead of it and stash him on your bench.

10. The Jack Hughes (77 percent rostered on Yahoo) breakout is happening

Hughes has been absolutely electric since the holiday break and his play has me thinking it’s a precursor of what’s to come over the rest of the season.

In the four games since the pause, the 2019 first-overall pick has tallied nine points. The advanced numbers also illustrate his dominance as he leads the Devils in 5v5 individual Corsi for (22) and scoring chances (13) over this stretch.

On the season, Hughes has registered 17 points in 17 games, and with the apparent chemistry he, Tomas Tatar, and Jesper Bratt have shown on New Jersey’s top line, he’s someone I’m very high on. I’d be willing to buy high in order to acquire the Devils’ centre. I’d be open to moving players like Terry and Chandler Stephenson in order to get a deal done.

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