By Jason Chen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Fantasy hockey success is found at the intersection of ice times and games played. Here are a handful of players who spend a lot of time on the ice and have a busy schedule this week.
Sam Bennett, Flames
He played just 8:47 in the season opener but logged a season-high 18:29 in a win against the Kings on Friday. Playing on a line with Matthew Tkachuk, the two wingers bring a lot of speed, grit and tenacity. They provide a nice counter-balance to a supremely skilled top line. Bennett is on pace for another season with less than 15 goals, but if he sticks on the second line he’ll get more minutes and more opportunities.
I’m still skeptical about his ability to be a reliable top-six scorer, but he’s certainly come close a few times recently and may just be a little snakebit at the moment. It’ll be an interesting test for Bennett with the Flames facing the Jackets, Wild, Predators and Oilers this week.
Colby Cave, Bruins
With Patrice Bergeron out and Bruce Cassidy seemingly out of ideas, it’s finally Cave’s turn. To Cave’s credit he’s outplayed everyone who’s been given a shot over him. The 23-year-old undrafted forward spent three full seasons in the AHL, including one under Cassidy, and scored 18 points in 15 games prior to his call up. It’s tough to say how high Cave’s offensive ceiling is because only now has he shown any top-six ability in the pros, but he can win faceoffs and plays with a bit of an edge.
That’s not unlike Riley Nash, who filled in for Bergeron last season and did so admirably for stretches. Time will tell if Cave is a good fit or if Cassidy has to break up David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand to balance out the offense, but Cave is getting a serious look. His ice time has increased steadily since his season debut and played a season-high 19:54 against the Islanders last Thursday.
Rasmus Dahlin, Sabres
If Dahlin is still available in your league, now’s a really good time to pick him up. The rookie phenom has played more than 20 minutes in seven consecutive games, including two back-to-backs. He also played a season-high 25:51 against the Lightning in a key battle for Eastern Conference supremacy. If the Sabres were cautious with Dahlin at the beginning of the season, the kid gloves have been forced off with Marco Scandella and Jake McCabe joining Matt Hunwick in the press box with injuries. Rasmus Ristolainen, of course, remains the team’s No. 1 defenseman and that probably won’t change until maybe next season.
Torey Krug, Bruins
Pick any Bruins defenseman, including Matt Grzelcyk who I highlighted last time, and they all deserve a mention in this space. However, Krug has stood out lately with five assists in four games and leads the team in average ice time. With half of their regulars on injured reserve, the Bruins would be unwise to trade Krug, who has suddenly become indispensable. He’s played roughly 24 minutes in four of his last five games and continues to quarterback a top-five power play. The Bruins play four games this week, including against the Panthers and the Senators, who rank 27th and 31st in penalty killing efficiency.
Connor McDavid, Oilers
The reigning Art Ross winner is one of five forwards who average more than 22 minutes per game. He has a slight advantage over the rest, however, because the Oilers play four games this week. Under Ken Hitchcock, McDavid’s ice time has increased, averaging 24 minutes in six games with the Oilers going 4-1-1. They now have a winning record after a horrendous start to the season, and sit just four points shy of the division-leading Flames, whom they play next Sunday. If things go their way, the Oilers could jump from fifth to first even if they lose half of this week’s games.
It’s a tough schedule but the Oilers realize they need to turn it around in a hurry. Otherwise, they face an even bigger uphill climb the rest of the season, and if you factor in a few two-minute shifts on the power play and some overtime play, it’s not inconceivable for McDavid to play 100 minutes this week. At his current scoring pace, that works out to an expected total of six points this week. Oscar Klefbom has also seen an uptick in production and ice time.
Brayden Point, Lightning
It’s funny how teams start to develop certain traits and patterns even though the people making decisions aren’t always the same. The Lightning have had a lot of success with the small guys: Martin St. Louis, then Cory Conacher for a little stretch, Tyler Johnson on the Triplets line and now Brayden Point. Since scoring a hat trick on Nov. 15, Point has scored six goals and 11 points in seven games and played over 19 minutes in five of those. His output has been higher than his season average of 17:42.
Although it’s early in the season and the Lightning have other players who are also deserving of the spotlight, Point has at least entered the conversation for league MVP. The Lightning have four games this coming week: Detroit and New Jersey, who are 11th and 16th in the conference, Boston and their banged-up defense, and the Avalanche, a potential high-scoring game.
Nate Schmidt, Golden Knights
The Knights have won six of the seven games Schmidt has played this season since returning from a suspension. He played a season-high 25:12 in a close 2-1 loss to the Oilers on Saturday, five more minutes than the next defenseman. He’s their best all-round defenseman and after a slow start, the Knights are starting to find their groove.
The pucks are going in for Max Pacioretty, Alex Tuch has emerged as a legitimate top-six power winger and Marc-Andre Fleury went 9-4-0 in November. Schmidt is a defenseman who can score 30-40 points and pitch in with peripheral stats, especially if he continues to play in situations. He’s owned in just seven percent of Yahoo leagues and perhaps worth adding in deep leagues.