The NHL has postponed 24 games this season due to COVID protocols. The sizable number of contests that have been rescheduled have made things a little more difficult for fantasy hockey managers.
It’s been much harder to do any kind of weekly planning. Typically, managers could just look ahead to the upcoming week and see which teams have busier schedules. This season, fantasy hockey has been much more of a daily grind, with managers having to monitor which teams are on pause and which players are out due to COVID protocols, and adjust accordingly.
We can’t do much about it, so let's focus on the games that are being played. Here are 10 fantasy hockey takeaways from the previous week of action.
1) Stream against the Ottawa Senators whenever possible
One thing was made abundantly clear this past week: The Ottawa Senators are a defensive sieve. The Sens have the most goals allowed per-game, the fourth-most giveaways per-60 minutes and the 12th-most shot attempts per-game. This means fantasy hockey managers should really pay attention to which North Division teams the Senators are scheduled to play.
Next week Ottawa has two matchups against the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to proactively add players like Jesse Puljujarvi (17% rostered on Yahoo) and Paul Stastny (22% rostered on Yahoo).
2) Mike Hoffman rewarding fantasy managers for patience
Through the first six games of the season, Blues offseason addition Mike Hoffman (74% rostered on Yahoo) had registered just one goal and an assist while playing 15 minutes or more just twice. Over his last four games, however, his ice-time has steadily risen and he’s rewarded the Blues with three goals and five points during that stretch.
His most recent performance, a two-goal, nine-shot effort against the Arizona Coyotes was boosted by his 19:13 time-on-ice. This solid string of performances will likely be rewarded by head coach Craig Berube with more consistent ice time. Zach Sanford (two points in 11 games) is the only winger in St. Louis’ top-six who has struggled this season, so a promotion for Hoffman would likely come at his expense. That would place Hoffman alongside Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron on the team’s first line. Additionally, it’d be hard to imagine Hoffman not being promoted to the top power play unit sometime soon given his elite ability to produce on the man advantage. Since 2014-15, Hoffman is 10th amongst all NHL players in powerplay goals with 59.
3) Jake Guentzel is an excellent buy-low candidate
The Pittsburgh Penguins have largely underwhelmed in the NHL’s East Division, showing that there’s quite a bit that separates them from the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals. Although he is off to a bit of a quiet start, Jake Guentzel (95% rostered on Yahoo) is far from the reason why.
At 5-on-5, Guentzel’s 59.07% corsi for percentage (CF%) is second on the team, only trailing Sidney Crosby, according to Natural Stat Trick. His individual expected goals (ixG) of 3.84 is tied with Mitch Marner for 20th in the NHL. The latter stat is noteworthy because since the 2018-19 season, Guentzel has far outpaced his ixG mark (63 goals vs. an ixG of 43), proving that he’s a better-than-average goal scorer. His shooting percentage this season, 11.1%, is far below his career average of 16.0%, another sign that points towards poor puck luck. All of these indicators suggest Guentzel is due for a breakout very soon. In addition to scoring goals, the 26-year-old has also proven to be a solid source of hits. He’s certainly someone you should be trying to acquire if he’s available.
4) Is Chris Driedger the Florida Panthers’ No. 1 goalie
Entering this year, I thought Sergei Bobrovsky was a solid value pick in fantasy hockey drafts. Four starts later with only one good performance to show for it, I’m really starting to think that Bobrovsky is no longer the dominant goaltender he once was. Through his four appearances this year, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner owns a -2.229% save percentage above expected, according to MoneyPuck, which is the eighth-worst mark of all goaltenders to play a game this season. Bobrovsky’s bumpy beginning is even more concerning when looking at Chris Dreidger (30% rostered on Yahoo), who for the second-straight campaign is outplaying Bobrovsky.
Amid Bobrovsky’s struggles between the pipes in 2019-20, Driedger was extremely reliable. Through 12 games played, he posted an impressive .938 save percentage. Over three starts this season, the 2012 third-round pick owns an equally impressive .937 mark and a much more presentable 0.673% save percentage above expected. Although the Panthers are financially committed to Bobrovsky, there comes a point where a team has to value performance over paycheque.
5) Tim Stutzle is truly phenomenal
Stutzle (23% rostered on Yahoo) has played in just eight of the Ottawa Senators’ 11 games this season, but that hasn’t stopped the German forward from leading the team with four goals. In his last three games, the 19-year-old has recorded three goals and five points. Although the ice-time hasn’t been plentiful over this stretch, he has caught the attention of his coaching staff, which will hopefully lead to more opportunities.
“For his age, it’s unbelievable what he’s doing out here,” Senators head coach D.J. Smith said about Stutzle to Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun. “And he’s tracking and he’s blocking shots. You get that feeling he can do all things. At the end of the game, I felt comfortable putting him out there. He knows how to play the game the right way. He was exceptional.”
It’s performance, praise and pedigree that have me very interested in scooping up Stutzle.
— Everyday.Sens (@EverydaySens) February 5, 2021
6) David Pastrnak may just be the biggest draft-day steal
Entering the 2020-21 season, it appeared that David Pastrnak (99% rostered on Yahoo) was going to miss the first month recovering from hip surgery. Obviously, with only 56-games on the schedule, a month-long absence significantly hampered his pre-season outlook. As a result, Pastrnak earned a 41.8 average-draft-position in Yahoo fantasy hockey drafts.
Fast forward to early February, and Pastrnak already has five goals, two assists, three powerplay points and 19 shots on goal in just three games. In total, the 24-year-old missed just seven games to begin the campaign. The Bruins’ sniper has performed like a top-10 fantasy hockey selection, and fantasy managers should expect more of the same production moving forward.
7) Jesse Puljujarvi should be rostered in more fantasy hockey leagues
There are very few situations I can think of that offer more fantasy upside than riding shotgun on a line with Connor McDavid. Due to some recent line shuffling for the Edmonton Oilers, Jesse Puljujarvi (17% rostered on Yahoo) now finds himself in that luxurious position and he produced impressive results in his most recent outing.
On Tuesday, the former fourth-overall pick potted a pair of goals against the Ottawa Senators. Although he had been quiet in the four games prior, the opportunity to establish himself on the team’s first line is certainly worth taking a flier on.
8) James Reimer will get wins, but his numbers won’t be spectacular
Petr Mrazek recently underwent surgery on his thumb and there currently is no timetable for his return. That has left James Reimer (56% rostered on Yahoo) as the clear No. 1 netminder on the Carolina Hurricanes. While Reimer has played well while functioning as a tandem tender, the early results of being the de facto starter suggest his numbers will take a dip.
Through five games played, Reimer has posted a .900 save percentage with an underwhelming -0.776% save percentage above expected. This is a noticeable drop from his .914 save percentage and 0.389% save percentage above expected from last season. Regardless, playing on the Hurricanes, he is going to win his fair share of games and return fantasy value. He’s a great hold while Mrazek recovers.
9) Mika Zibanejad is a nice trade target
It’s been an excruciatingly slow start for Mika Zibanejad (94% rostered on Yahoo) as the talented centre has just one goal and three points through 10 games. As a result, Zibanejad has been traded more in Yahoo fantasy hockey — 134 times as of this writing — than any other player since Feb. 4. Like many others, the DJ ZBad fantasy manager in your league may be growing impatient with the struggling star.
This is when you send along an offer. Zibanejad has produced an unsustainably low 3.1% shooting percentage in the early going, a number much lower than his career mark of 12.7%. Additionally, his ixG (3.32) suggests that he’s been more unlucky than anything. When you also consider that the 27-year-old is tied with Artemi Panarin for the most shot attempts on the team (57), you have a player that is due for some positive results. Get those Zibanejad trade offers out there.
10) Josh Morrissey is a nice player to add off the waiver wire
With just four assists and zero goals on 17 shots this season, Winnipeg Jets blueliner Josh Morrissey (24% rostered on Yahoo) has underperformed as a member of the team’s top powerplay unit. While Winnipeg has clicked at a respectable 20% on the man advantage, Morrissey has just a pair of extra-man helpers to show for it. Given the Jets’ upcoming schedule, however, there’s ample reason to believe Morrissey will improve upon those numbers.
Next week, the Jets are scheduled to play a pair of games against the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa currently owns the sixth-worst penalty kill in the league. Winnipeg then plays two contests against the Edmonton Oilers, who have the seventh-worst penalty kill in the NHL. These juicy, fantasy-friendly matchups offer prime opportunities for Morrissey to factor in on the scoresheet.
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