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10 fantasy hockey takeaways: It's time to make some tough decisions

Steven Psihogios
·10 min read
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This year’s NHL trade deadline wasn’t nearly as busy as in past years, but it still produced a number of trades that are already making an impact in fantasy hockey and the league at large. 

Here are 10 fantasy hockey takeaways from this past week.

1 - LW Taylor Hall (81% rostered on Yahoo) should break out with Bruins

It’s only been two games with the Boston Bruins, but Taylor Hall has already scored 50 percent of the goals he scored across 37 games with the Buffalo Sabres. I know, I know, it’s only one goal but it’s an encouraging sign of more to come from the former Hart Trophy winner.

I could write a long list of advanced analytics that illustrate why Hall is due for some positive regression, but this is the easiest way to frame it: He currently owns a 3.2 percent shooting percentage when his career number is 10.0 percent. This is someone who unsurprisingly didn’t receive much puck luck while playing on the worst team in the league. Now on a formidable second line featuring David Krejci and Craig Smith, Hall should certainly see his fortunes turn and it wouldn’t be surprising if he closes out the regular season on a major heater.

2 - LW/RW Anthony Mantha (60% rostered on Yahoo) will get a boost playing on contending team

The early returns are looking good for the Washington Capitals after acquiring Anthony Mantha from the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline. Through two games, Mantha has recorded two goals and an assist while seamlessly fitting in on a line with T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom.

In two contests with his new team, Mantha is tied for the team lead in scoring chances with five and high-danger chances with three, according to Natural Stat Trick. Going from the lowly Red Wings to the East-leading Capitals is great for his fantasy value and he remains a strong hold in fantasy through the weekend as Washington has a pair of games scheduled.

3 - Avalanche will lean on G Devan Dubnyk (35% rostered on Yahoo) with Philipp Grubauer sidelined

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar disclosed after the team’s 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday that goaltender Philipp Grubauer will be sidelined for at least 14 days after entering COVID protocols. It’s a major blow for the Avs as Grubauer has played well this season, owning a .920 save percentage, 2.00 goals-against average, and is tied for the league lead in shutouts with five. The team will now turn to a tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jonas Johansson to handle the workload, but I expect Dubnyk to see the majority of starts.

Dubnyk, acquired prior to the trade deadline for Greg Pateryn and a fifth-round pick, is an insurance policy Colorado would prefer not to use, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. With all but one of his 18 games played coming as a member of the San Jose Sharks, Dubnyk owns a rocky .899 save percentage and an equally rough -0.011 save percentage above expected, according to Money Puck. Playing behind a much stronger Avalanche team, however, Dubnyk’s numbers should improve. In his first start with Colorado, the 34-year-old stopped 31 of 34 shots in a victory over the Blues, so the hope is better results are on the way. As long as Grubauer is out, he’ll be a solid source of wins.

4 - LW/RW Viktor Arvidsson (45% rostered on Yahoo) elevating game on banged-up Predators

Admittedly, I did not expect Viktor Arvidsson or the Nashville Predators to rebound quite like this. The team has won 14 of its last 17 games despite missing Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, and Eeli Tolvanen. Having to pick up a lot of the offense in the meantime has been Arvidsson, who is a big reason why Nashville is currently clinging on to the No. 4 seed in the Central Division.

The Swedish forward is a high-volume shooter as his 138 shots are tied for 13th-most in the league. Arvidsson, however, has the lowest shooting percentage of any forward ranked within the top-20, a sign that he’s been a little unlucky. His current shooting percentage of 7.2 is also noticeably lower than his career mark of 11.5 percent. The underlying numbers suggest some correction, as the 2014 fourth-round pick leads the Preds in individual expected goals for (10.96), individual Corsi for (246), scoring chances (128) and high-danger chances (45). With five goals through seven games in April, more should be expected from Arvidsson as Nashville looks to continue this momentum into the playoffs.

5 - There’s no reason why LW Jason Robertson (44% rostered on Yahoo) should be available in your league

Since the beginning of March, Dallas Stars rookie Jason Robertson’s 24 points are more than Auston Matthews, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and the list goes on. So why on earth is he rostered in less than half of Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues?

The talented young forward has done nothing but produce as a member of the Stars’ first line and top power-play unit, yet he continues to be slept on in fantasy. In addition to point production, his plus-13 rating since March 1 is the highest of any player in the league. The 2017 second-round pick is the best player available in the majority of fantasy leagues, and it’s not very close. He could very easily wind up closing in on Kirill Kaprizov for the Calder Trophy, sitting five points behind him for the rookie points lead.

6 - What’s the deal with LW/RW Adam Erne (6% rostered on Yahoo)?

Anybody who tells you they saw the Adam Erne breakout coming is lying straight to your face. After scoring just two goals and five points through 56 games last season, Erne has now recorded 11 goals and 18 points in 2020-21, thanks largely to the eight-game point streak he’s currently riding.

Playing on a very rough-looking Detroit Red Wings team these days, I don’t see things getting better than this for the 2013 second-round pick. His 18.6 shooting percentage is noticeably higher than his career number of 10.0 percent, which means he’s likely due for a bit of a dry spell. The recent production and solid hit totals may be tempting, but I’d steer clear.

7 - Tampa Bay Lightning’s top stars struggling at an inopportune time

If you have Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos (injury), Ondrej Palat, or Mikhail Sergachev on your fantasy team, you’re receiving some pretty brutal production at the absolute worst time. Over the last 14 days, each of these players owns a minus-3 rating or worse while only Hedman has notched more than three points during this stretch. For fantasy managers in tight playoff matchups, you might be wondering what to do with these struggling stars.

In an ideal and perfect world, it’s worth keeping all of these players through the weekend and into next week. If your fantasy hockey team is looking a little desperate entering Sunday, however, and you’re short on options to drop, I wouldn’t fault you for letting go of any of the players listed above with the exception of Hedman. The Lightning’s final game of the week is on Saturday, meaning you may need to explore the waiver wire to claw your way back into your matchup on Sunday. 

Stamkos fantasy managers should place the 31-year-old on IR or drop him as he will not play again until May 5 after retroactively being placed on long-term injured reserve. Given the rest of the group’s recent struggles, dropping your Lightning studs may be a tough but necessary move to make.

8 - With G Ben Bishop ruled out for the season, G Jake Oettinger (29% rostered on Yahoo) becomes more valuable

Earlier this week the Dallas Stars announced goalie Ben Bishop will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. His absence leaves Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger in charge of the team’s goaltending situation for the rest of the year, and with neither seizing total control of the crease, Oettinger is a widely available goaltender that’s worth taking a gamble on.

The starts between the two netminders have been split pretty evenly as Khudobin has made 24 to Oettinger’s 18. Despite seeing a little less action, Oettinger has actually posted a better goals-against average (2.22 to 2.34), save percentage (.917 to .912) and save percentage above expected (0.000 to -0.002). The youngster also looked really solid in his last outing, turning aside 17 of 18 shots in a victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. While Khudobin has handled four of Dallas’s last five games, I think there’s ample reason to give Oettinger some more looks down the stretch. The Stars play four games against the Detroit Red Wings next week, so a pair of starts against the division’s worst team isn't out of the question.

9 - Ducks, Oilers, and Capitals will cause some tough decisions next week

If you’ve been relying on any stars from the teams listed above, you may find yourself in a bit of a predicament next week. The Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals each play two games, a scheduling situation that doesn’t bode well for fantasy.

In order to help you navigate this conundrum, however, here’s a handy keep-or-drop guide. 

Players worth keeping: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson.

Players worth dropping: Everyone else.

Tyson Barrie and the Oilers only have two games on tap next week as fantasy hockey playoffs kick off in many leagues. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tyson Barrie and the Oilers only have two games on tap next week as fantasy hockey playoffs kick off in many leagues. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s actually that simple. Unless the player you’re clinging onto is truly elite, there’s no point in keeping them. The Oilers play two games early next week (Monday and Wednesday) so it’s not a bad idea to hold your Edmonton players until Thursday, but after that, the team doesn’t play for the remainder of the week. There’s simply no Ducks player worth clinging onto during a two-game week and the Capitals play a pair of road games against the defensively stingy New York Islanders, so goals aren’t a given in either of those two contests. It may be hard letting go of a player like Tyson Barrie or T.J. Oshie, but desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s the playoffs.

10 - Why D Jakob Chychrun (86% rostered on Yahoo) should be in the Norris Trophy conversation

Playing for a big-market team doesn’t make you a better hockey player.

With award season coming up in the NHL, the debate around who deserves to win the Norris Trophy will start to get louder. One player who’s received very little recognition for the work he’s done this season is Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. The 23-year-old is currently tied for first among defensemen in goals with 13, is second in shots with 121, is 28th in the league in blocks with 70, and has the fourth-highest individual Corsi for of any blueliner with 300-plus minutes at 15.3, making him the highest-ranked blueliner playing on a non-playoff team. This is a young player who excels at both ends of the ice, but he plays in a small market like Arizona, so he doesn't get nearly enough credit for his efforts.

Fantasy managers know Chychrun has been one of the best at his position all year long. Currently ranking second on the Coyotes in goals and first in shots, he is one of very few rearguards who’s actually relied on for his team’s offensive success. There’s no doubting the 2016 first-round pick is elite, and it’s about time hockey fans and experts start viewing him that way.

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