(Ed. Note: We’re once again pleased to partner with Dobber Hockey to provide fantasy hockey insight throughout the NHL season. Here’s Steve Laidlaw, the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey, as your new fantasy hockey smarty-pants!)
By Steve Laidlaw
Last week we helped get you set with five keys to success in the fantasy playoffs. There was a predominant focus in that article on getting your roster optimized for the first week of playoffs, the one you are currently battling in now. With the right nudges and a little bit of luck you should be on your way to the second round of the playoffs next week. This column will help you get set for next week, running down our five keys once again:
1. Patience is no longer a virtue
This means trimming the fat off your roster. Any player not nailed to your roster by the Can’t Cut List should be considered droppable. Here are some players above 50% ownership on Yahoo who might be worth replacing:
Nathan MacKinnon – C/RW – Colorado Avalanche – 88% owned
MacKinnon has multi-category value but with just six points in his last 16 games you’d be right to question his spot on your fantasy roster.
Cam Fowler – D – Anaheim Ducks – 79% owned
We beat up Fowler in this spot last week and his stock has not improved. Just 11 points in 31 games in 2017 for Fowler.
Matt Niskanen – D – Washington Capitals – 76% owned
The arrival of Kevin Shattenkirk put the fantasy value of Niskanen in a bad spot. The Capitals were rolling through teams, however so there was potential that he could survive a reduced role. The Capitals have been quiet lately and Niskanen has just three points in his last 11 games.
Rick Nash – LW/RW – New York Rangers – 73% owned
Nash has just nine points in 20 games since the All-Star break and has seen his role slip to that of a secondary contributor. On the plus side, he does have 67 SOG in those 20 games, so he remains a flexible option if you need shot volume.
J.T. Miller – C/LW/RW – New York Rangers – 72% owned
Miller’s positional flexibility might be enough to keep him in your lineup. He’s also a solid multi-category contributor. Unfortunately, Miller’s scoring has dried up with just four points in the last 14 games.
Jordan Eberle – RW – Edmonton Oilers – 70% owned
Colton Parayko – D – St. Louis Blues – 67% owned
The big defenseman has just three points in his last 13 games. While he boasts the talent to go on a hot streak at any time the opportunity may not be there as Alex Pietrangelo has won the top power play gig following the Kevin Shattenkirk trade.
Matt Duchene – C/RW – Colorado Avalanche – 66% owned
Duchene hasn’t scored a point in 11 straight games. Cut bait on this nightmare season.
Alexander Wennberg – C – Columbus Blue Jackets – 58% owned
One of the biggest mistakes a fantasy manager can make is getting attached to early-season production. Wennberg is on a terribly timed run of silence with just one point in his last eight games. He is still Columbus’ No. 1 center and the power play runs through his playmaking on the half-wall but that power play hasn’t been effective since 2016. Wennberg doesn’t provide much in the peripheral categories so if he isn’t scoring he isn’t doing anything for you.
Artem Anisimov – C – Chicago Blackhawks – 56% owned
An apparent leg injury cripples Anisimov’s already eroding fantasy value. He had been losing minutes, down under 15 minutes of ice time per game in March and lost his spot on the Blackhawks’ top power play unit. While he was still providing exposure to the scintillating Patrick Kane/Artemi Panarin duo at even strength, it was barely keeping him afloat. Anisimov scored 16 points in 29 games in 2017 so even if he’s healthy you might question how valuable he is.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – D – San Jose Sharks – 53% owned
There is no explaining this ownership level. Vlasic hasn’t been relevant this entire season. It’s likely that many Vlasic owners are checked out. Don’t be one of those owners.
Derek Stepan – C – New York Rangers – 51% owned
Stepan had a fantastic first half to this season but his productivity ran out weeks ago. Since the All-Star break he has scored one goal and 10 points in 21 games. With how crowded the center position is, surely you can find a better option.
2. Game the schedule
This means picking up players off teams with an optimal schedule. Week Two offers quite the challenge in this regard. There is no outlier team with five games. 14 teams have four games next week but not all of them are optimal for maximizing roster space. There are no teams with a complete off-night schedule playing on Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday.
The best two teams are Detroit and Dallas who have three off-night games and four games total. Another sneaky option is Anaheim who plays only three games but those games fall on Wednesday/Friday/Sunday. This chart will help you map these things out:
You could potentially get five games out of one roster spot rolling out a Leaf or an Oiler player Monday through Thursday and then a Jet or Penguin to close out the week. Unfortunately, most of the fantasy relevant players off those squads have been snapped up. You also may not have enough weekly moves for that kind of maneuvering.
If you had just one move to make, you’d do well to grab a Star, Red Wing or Duck, although the Penguins offer some good undervalued options as well. It is worth pointing out that the top-heavy Stars don’t have much in the way of undervalued talent. Some players to consider:
Gustav Nyquist – LW/RW – Detroit Red Wings – 28% owned
Battling through a rough season, Nyquist has finally found a home on Henrik Zetteberg’s wing, which is a good spot considering how hot Zetterberg has been ranking in the top 10 in scoring since the All-Star break. Nyquist has six points in five games since returning from suspension.
Tomas Tatar – LW/RW – Detroit Red Wings – 15% owned
Tatar has also been riding Zetterberg’s coattails of late with five goals and seven points in his last 10 games. The difference between Tatar and Nyquist is power play time. Nyquist is on the top unit, while Tatar is in a secondary role. If you have the choice grab Nyquist.
Anthony Mantha – LW/RW – Detroit Red Wings – 13% owned
Two straight healthy scratches has seen Mantha dumped in many leagues. He got back into the lineup last night.
Rickard Rakell – C/LW – Anaheim Ducks – 38% owned
A recent hot streak should have Rakell back on the majority of fantasy rosters. He has scored seven goals in his last eight games, pushing his shooting percentage back above 20% on the season. It’s too late in the season to worry about notions like regression. Ride the hot hand.
Patrick Eaves – RW – Anaheim Ducks – 27% owned
A recent line shuffle put Eaves alongside Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf, a beefy line that has steamrolled teams over the past week. Eaves has been held off the board in three straight games and still hasn’t lived up to his production with Dallas earlier this season but the opportunities to produce are there.
Conor Sheary – LW/RW – Pittsburgh Penguins – 51% owned
Folks are catching onto Sheary, who is once again producing big-time on Sidney Crosby’s wing. The speedy winger is up to eight points in six games since returning from injury. He has point-per-game potential and should be owned in every fantasy league with a playoff format.
Jake Guentzel – C/LW – Pittsburgh Penguins – 12% owned
Can’t get Sheary? Guentzel is a good consolation prize as the third member of that top line with Crosby and Sheary. That line has caved teams in and Guentzel has six points in his last five games. There’s an argument for picking up BOTH of Sheary and Guentzel. They might be the best waiver options and will no doubt bend many fantasy leagues for owners savvy enough to latch on.
Stephen Johns – D – Dallas Stars – 2% owned
Consider Johns only in multi-category leagues, he can offer value in PIM, Hits and Blocked Shots.
Cody Eakin – C – Dallas Stars – 1% owned
Eakin has not taken advantage of his top power play minutes alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. You’d think that the Stars would look for other options but they haven’t deviated from Eakin since trading Patrick Eaves. Eakin will need to show flashes of scoring before you can be confident putting him into your lineup.
3. Pick players who actually fit into your nightly lineup
You should build your lineup around your superstars. Those guys get started no matter their schedule. Build the rest of your lineup around maximizing games played when your stars aren’t active. Apply the chart above to best maximize those deployments.
4. Know who to avoid
In that games chart above, you’ll note the last line of teams with only three games apiece, all of which falling on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Next week there are 12 games on Tuesday, with 13 on Thursday and Saturday respectively. There is no room for waiver wire pickups to fit into your lineup on those loaded nights. Avoid player off the teams in that last group if you can, but really any team playing three games should be on the chopping block.
You’ll note many cold players listed in the first section playing on teams with limited schedules next week. Use this as added motivation to part with fading options like Duchene, Anisimov and Wennberg who were so good for you for so long.
All those Hurricanes you added for Week One are unlikely to crack your lineup in Week Two. Circle back to those guys if you qualify for the Finals.
One scheduling quirk worth noting is the Rangers’ back-to-backs. Antti Raanta is their lone trusted goalie with Henrik Lundqvist out. All signs point to Raanta starting both ends of their back-to-backs, which spells trouble. Use Raanta on the front half but plan on avoiding him on those dangerous back halves because that’s when goalies can implode.
5. Plan ahead
Not only should you use the chart above to plan your moves but you should also anticipate roster moves you may need to make. Perhaps you need a goalie start on Sunday to win your matchup, start targeting under-owned backups who might help you out. You can also make waiver moves with the intent of blocking your opponents so don’t just focus on your roster. If you’ve got spare moves make pickups that keep good players off teams who can beat you.
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