The North Division’s iron-man streak came to an end this past week as the Edmonton Oilers-Montreal Canadiens game on Monday was postponed due to Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi entering the NHL’s COVID protocols. This was the first game in the division to be rescheduled this season, and Montreal has had all of its games for this week postponed as well.
Despite not playing at all, this week hasn’t been too bad for the Canadiens. Clinging onto the division’s fourth seed, both teams chasing the Habs, the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, failed to register a win, while the Ottawa Senators did its nearby rival a huge favour by beating the Flames in consecutive games. The Sens have picked up a point in each of their last six games, but suffered a heartbreaking, meme-making loss to the first player on my 10 fantasy hockey takeaways list from this past week.
Mini tryout coming for G Jack Campbell (59% rostered on Yahoo) to be Maple Leafs’ starter
Frederik Andersen’s struggles have been well-documented. The eight-year pro owns career-worsts in save percentage (.897 percent) and goals-against-average (2.91) across 23 games this season and has allowed three goals or more in five of his last six outings. Now dealing with a lower-body injury, however, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ crease has been turned over to Jack Campbell who may just have an opportunity to take over as the team’s starter.
Campbell has been extremely reliable for Toronto this year, albeit in a small sample size. The Port Huron, Michigan native is 5-0-0 with a sparkling .958 save percentage and 1.18 goals-against average. While Andersen has been the Leafs’ main man between the pipes in past years, his injury will allow Campbell, the understudy, to potentially steal the role.
2. Islanders’ top line struggling without LW Anders Lee, but buy-low on C Mathew Barzal (90% rostered on Yahoo)
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz likes to roll his lines fairly evenly, but the trio of Leo Komarov-Mathew Barzal-Jordan Eberle currently represent the team’s first line. Recently, Komarov was inserted on the unit due to captain Anders Lee’s season-ending ACL tear and the results haven’t been pretty. In the seven games since Lee’s injury, the two mainstays, Barzal and Eberle, have combined for just one goal and six points.
The underlying numbers also suggest the captain’s absence has hampered the duo. Prior to Lee’s injury, Barzal owned a 55.27 percent even-strength Corsi For percentage (CF%) and Eberle’s was a team-high 58.20 percent, according to Natural Stat Trick. Since, Barzal’s CF% has dropped to 52.84 percent and Eberle’s to 49.68 percent. I’m inclined to believe that this dip in production is due to Trotz trying to find the right player to ride shotgun with these two. Assuming Trotz figures out a winning combination or the Isles address the issue at the NHL trade deadline, I’m looking to trade for Barzal if the manager in your league is growing restless.
3. Flames’ top players have been extremely disappointing
Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk have not been good enough for the Calgary Flames and fantasy hockey managers are growing impatient. Over the team’s last eight games, the three forwards have combined for a measly nine points and their shortcomings are a large reason why the squad has been extremely mediocre this season.
Watching the Flames squander two games to the Ottawa Senators this past week was pretty telling of where the team is, and it really looks like it needs a shake-up. Underperforming for the second-straight season, I’m not looking to acquire Gaudreau or Monahan at this point. I am, however, interested in buying-low on Tkachuk given his ability to rack up hits if he’s available for trade.
4. G Ilya Sorokin (51% rostered on Yahoo), G Alex Nedeljkovic (44%) made back-to-back starts
Two goalies that I’ve been very high on this season seem to be finally getting some more opportunities. Earlier this week, Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin started in back-to-back games for the first time all year and he was very good. The Russian goalie allowed just two goals on 61 shots en route to defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in both contests. His numbers this year have been great as he owns an 8-2-1 record with a .922 save percentage and a 0.007 save percentage above expected which is tied for sixth amongst all goalies with 10 or more games played, according to MoneyPuck. I’m very intrigued to see how Trotz distributes the work moving forward in net as both goaltenders - Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov - have played well this season. He’s worth an add if he’s still hanging around your league’s waiver wire.
The Carolina Hurricanes have played the majority of this season without goalie Petr Mrazek, and while James Reimer initially had the keys to the crease when his injury occurred, his position seems to have been hijacked by Alex Nedeljkovic. Before this season even started, Nedeljkovic was placed on waivers by the Canes, a move that now makes Carolina, along with every other team, look foolish. Nedeljkovic recently started in consecutive games, only allowing three goals on 55 shots while picking up a pair of wins and a shutout in the process. His numbers this year have been outstanding as he has an 8-2-2 record, a .929 save percentage and he’s tied for the NHL lead in high-danger unblocked shot save percentage (0.789) thanks to his excellent lateral quickness. At this point, I think the Hurricanes would be silly to turn the net over to anybody else but Nedeljkovic, even when Mrazek is healthy. There’s no goalie available in over 50% of Yahoo fantasy leagues more talented than this guy.
5. LW Milan Lucic (5% rostered on Yahoo) is fantasy relevant
Growing up as a fan of the Boston Bruins and physical hockey (can’t really be one without the other to be honest) Milan Lucic was my favourite player. In fantasy hockey, however, I thought the days of Lucic being relevant were a distant memory buried in the nostalgic portion of my brain along with my childhood. Fast forward to 2021 and the 32-year-old is actually worth a pick-up in 10-plus team leagues thanks to another figure from my younger days, Darryl Sutter.
In the eight games prior to Sutter joining the Calgary Flames as the team’s head coach, Lucic logged 15-minutes or more in just one contest. In the eight games Lucic has played under Sutter, he’s topped 15 minutes seven times. The uptick in ice-time has allowed Lucic to pile on the hits as his 21 body checks since Mar. 11 are tied for 11th amongst all forwards. Additionally, the added ice-time has helped him find the scoresheet as his four assists since Sutter’s arrival actually lead the Flames. As long as he gets the minutes, he will forcefully make himself fantasy relevant. The Flames still have two games scheduled for this week, so if you need a last-ditch boost in the hits department, this is a guy you can count on.
6. C Sidney Crosby (100% rostered on Yahoo) picking up game with Evgeni Malkin out
We’ve seen this play out through both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s career. When one player is out, the other steps up. During the 2011-12 season when Crosby was limited to just 22 games because of injuries, Malkin had the most successful campaign of his NHL tenure, scoring 50 goals and 109 points en route to winning the Hart Memorial Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award and the Art Ross Trophy. In 147 total contests without Malkin, Crosby has admirably remained productive, scoring 63 goals and 181 points, according to StatMuse. With Malkin on injured reserve due to a lower-body injury, Crosby has once again elevated his games.
Since Mar. 18, the Penguins’ captain has potted two goals and eight points across five games, tying him for the fifth-most points in the league during this stretch. Crosby has been dominating the East Division throughout the month of March, registering six goals and 19 points in 13 contests. Even at 33-years-old and no longer a kid, Crosby is still one of the NHL’s best all-around players.
7. D Torey Krug (94% rostered on Yahoo) not finding same success with Blues
Scoring just one goal and averaging under half-a-point per-game in his first season with the St. Louis Blues, Torey Krug is having arguably the worst statistical season of his career with his new team. The 29-year-old has recorded just one point in his last nine games and the Blues have picked up just two wins during this stretch. The reason for Krug’s offensive struggles with St. Louis is actually pretty easy to pinpoint.
With Alex Pietraneglo no longer around and Colton Parayko missing a large amount of time due to an upper-body injury, Krug has assumed more defensive responsibilities. The feisty blueliner’s defensive zone start percentage (dZS%) this season is at 40.6 percent, a mark noticeably higher than his 31.0 percent dZS% during his nine years with the Boston Bruins. Even with Parayko practicing and seeming closer to a return, I’m still not trying to buy-low on Krug as there's no guarantee that head coach Craig Berube will alter his deployment even with a fully-healthy defense core.
8. LW Jaden Schwartz (44% rostered on Yahoo) should be rostered in more leagues
Jaden Schwartz has played four games since returning from a lower-body injury and his 20:09-minutes of average time on ice are second-most amongst all forwards on the team. In those four contests, the Wilcox, Saskatchewan native has registered a healthy 11 shots on goal, two assists, four hits and five blocked shots. Now that he's back to full-health, there’s no reason why a stat stuffer playing on the first line and top power-play unit like Schwartz should be so widely available. Check your waiver wire and pick him up if he’s sitting there.
9. D Mario Ferraro (8% rostered on Yahoo) logging heavy minutes on Sharks’ top pairing
You’re not going to find a minutes-muncher available in over 90% of Yahoo fantasy leagues that’s racking up defensive stats better than Mario Ferraro right now. The San Jose Sharks’ rearguard is playing alongside Brent Burns on the team’s top pairing and is making his presence felt in a big way. Over the last 14 days, the 2017 second-round pick’s 47 combined hits and blocks are the most of any player in the NHL. Offensive production isn’t something that should be expected as he has just one goal and 11 points through 31 games this season, but with defensive dominance like this, it’s not a deal breaker.
Ferraro is an intriguing player that is now taking on an expanded role with the Sharks. There’s nothing that suggests he’ll be slowing down anytime soon, which makes Ferraro an excellent add for anyone in need of a blueline boost. San Jose plays a healthy four games next week, which means there’ll be lots of opportunities for Ferraro to block pucks and dish out some punishment.
10. D Adam Fox (88% rostered on Yahoo) is already a star
Adam Fox is only 23-years-old but his incredible hockey sense makes him one of the smartest players in the game already. The young New York Rangers’ blueliner is an entertaining watch and fantasy managers that have him on their team already know he’s a star in this league.
His hockey smarts are demonstrated in his underlying numbers as his 51.79 percent even-strength CF% and 17 takeaways lead the Blueshirts’ defense. Fox makes his fantasy mark on both ends of the ice as his 60 blocked shots are tied for 16th-most amongst all defensemen and his 23 assists are tied for fourth. Rangers fans and the fantasy community know he is a bonafide stud and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the hockey world catches on, too. At this point, Fox’s ceiling appears to be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, he’s that good.
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