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Fantasy Hockey Head-To-Head Week 3 Primer: Scavenge New Jersey

As NHL teams pass the five-game mark, Jason Chen looks at which players can benefit your fantasy hockey team now and long-term.
Nico Hischier

It’s the last week of October, which means the league is in full swing and we’ve had two weeks to take stock of everything. There’s been plenty of surprises, too, and that means the early going necessitates making changes to your fantasy roster. Even those who were satisfied with their drafts can come away from the first month angry and bitter. (I feel you, those who have Roman Josi or J.T. Miller).

The Week 3 schedule proves to be more balanced than either the extended Week 1 or Week 2, which featured two nights where only six teams were in action. In Week 3, only Wednesday has a light slate with three games. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are usually the busiest days of the week, and that definitely applies here with a total of 32 games scheduled on those three days.

Note 11 teams will play a league-high four games, and all of them play at least one back-to-back set. The Knights, Rangers, Devils, Blues and Blackhawks have a more difficult challenge with travel in between their back-to-back games, and the Penguins might have it the hardest with two sets of a back-to-back and all of them are on the road.

Legend:
P% = season points percentage
Opp. P% = opponents’ season points percentage
Diff. = difference between P% and Opp. P%

Green is good. Red is bad. All advanced stats courtesy naturalstatrick.com. All positions and rostered percentages are courtesy of Yahoo fantasy.

Week 3

Goalies:

Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey (17 percent rostered)

House Blackwood is being rebuilt and the foundations look solid. After signing Vitek Vanecek to shore up their atrocious goaltending, Blackwood has regained the upper hand in the battle for the starting job going a perfect 3-0-0/.932/1.33 last week. The Devils are astonishingly good, and the underlying metrics prove it, too. Blackwood is a must-have given the Devils’ potential.

Eric Comrie, Buffalo (23 percent rostered)

Craig Anderson got the start for the season opener, but it’s been Comrie the rest of the way. He took a break Saturday against Vancouver to ensure Anderson stays sharp, but Comrie’s started three of their five games including impressive wins against the Flames and Oilers. Anderson usually starts October on a very high note, but it tends to be downhill from there, which means the focus should turn to Comrie. It’s a good bet Comrie is the starter for the rest of the season, and the Sabres are legitimately good.

Linus Ullmark, Boston (69 percent rostered)

This might be your last chance to pick up Ullmark, who certainly has the edge in the B’s crease with Jeremy Swayman struggling. He was one of three goalies to go 3-0-0 last week, and the Bruins are averaging over one more goal per game (4.33) than last season (3.09) despite missing Brad Marchand. Good goal support leads to more wins.

Carter Hart, Philadelphia (75 percent rostered)

Hart is a big win for managers who took a chance on him late in drafts or picked him earlier the past couple of weeks. Sure, the Flyers are playing much better under John Tortorella, but Hart is playing his best since his rookie season. Will the Flyers’ play tail off? More than likely it’s a yes, but good goaltending is hard to come by, and Hart is well worth the risk.

Top Five Weekly Banger Picks (< 50 percent rostered on Yahoo, on teams with 4 games this week):

Blocked Shots (BkS/GP):

1. Connor Murphy, D, CHI (3.20)

2. Brayden McNabb, D, VEG (2.83)

3. Nick Leddy, D, STL (2.67)

4. Brenden Dillon, D, WPG (2.60)

5. Justin Holl, D, TOR (2.50)

Hits (Hits/GP):

1. Jarred Tinordi, D, CHI (4.20)

2. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, LW/RW, TOR (4.00)

3. Jani Hakanpaa, D, DAL (3.80)

4. Noel Acciari, C/LW, STL (3.33)

5. Keegan Kolesar, C/RW, VEG (3.33)

Blocked Shots + Hits (BkS/GP + Hits/GP):

1. Jarred Tinordi, D, CHI (5.60)

2. Jani Hakanpaa, D, DAL (5.60)

3. Connor Murphy, D, CHI (5.20)

4. Brayden McNabb, D, VEG (5.17)

5. Justin Faulk, D, STL (4.67)

6. Justin Holl, D, TOR (4.67)

Short-Term Streamers (< 50 percent rostered on Yahoo):

Marco Rossi, C, Minnesota

I don’t think the Wild really know what to do with Rossi, Sam Steel and Tyson Jost just yet. They can be interchangeable pieces and gives the Wild a few different looks. At one point, Rossi was a healthy scratch and Steel was the No. 2 pivot, and now Rossi is ahead of him. Rossi also possesses the most upside between the trio, and the Wild play four games this week against weaker teams on defense, including Montreal and Chicago.

Tyler Johnson, LW/RW, Chicago

Not sure how long Johnson can keep this up (four points in three games) but with a four-game week, it’s not a bad idea to see if you can catch his hot streak. In banger leagues, Johnson is also contributing a fair amount in hits and faceoff wins, surprisingly.

Danton Heinen, LW/RW, Pittsburgh

You’re good in my book if you’re good in Sid’s book. Heinen played on the top line in Jake Guentzel’s absence and scored two goals in a win against Columbus. The prognosis on Guentzel’s injury isn’t clear – he’s considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury – but as long as he’s on the shelf, Heinen is a great short-term add.

Mason Appleton, RW, Winnipeg

Nikolaj Ehlers has been placed on injured reserve, and it was Appleton who played on his line with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor. The results weren’t that good – they lost 4-1 to the Leafs and Appleton had zero points with a minus-2 rating, but the Jets are thin up front and it’s likely Appleton will remain in that role as long as Ehlers is out. There’s a chance Cole Perfetti and Appleton swap spots, but both will remain in the top six.

Owen Power, D, Buffalo

Mattias Samuelsson’s injury doesn’t seem too serious, but it was Power who led the Sabres in ice time when they were forced to play a man short. Power’s raw stats – four shots, one hit, six blocks and an even rating through five games – don’t show much of anything, but with more ice time will come more opportunities to accumulate stats. Power’s capable of much more – he’s just playing it smart and safe in the early stages of his career, but when Power is inevitably turned loose, he can potentially pad stats in all categories.

Jack Rathbone, D, Vancouver

Quinn Hughes missed Saturday’s home opener and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out of the lineup. Rathbone made his season debut in his place and saw plenty of time on the power play. An offensive defenseman who scored at a point-per-game pace in the AHL last season, Rathbone played 18 minutes, including 3:39 on the power play. Rathbone showed really good instincts and wasn’t shy about trying to create scoring chances, and it won’t be long before he manages to score a point. The downside is the Canucks defense at even strength is awful, and Rathbone finished with zero points and a minus-3 rating.

Mid-term Holds (< 50 percent rostered on Yahoo):

Casey Mittelstadt, C, Buffalo

With two assists against the Canucks, that’s now five points in his past three games. Mittelstadt is now a fixture in the top six and playing with sniper Victor Olofsson. The Sabres are really good right now – it’s now a question of how long they can keep this up.

Kevin Hayes, C, Philadelphia

Noah Cates is a great story but there’s no question Hayes is the No. 1 center on this team. He has tons more experience and is also averaging over a point per game. He doesn’t profile as a playmaking pivot so his scoring pace will dip, but the opportunities will remain. Hayes is the No. 1 center on a team that’s no longer moribund but improved by leaps and bounds.

Brock Nelson, C, and Anders Lee, LW, New York Islanders

Lee has scored four goals in four games and the Isles certainly take a few more risks under Lane Lambert, but I’m still weary of their overall ability to score goals. At least Lee represents the best of their underperforming wingers, and, along with Nelson, is a better bet to score rather than watching Mat Barzal drag Zach Parise and Josh Bailey around the ice.

Dawson Mercer, RW, New Jersey

Need a winger who’s reliable and plays top-six minutes? It must be Mercer, who is off to a strong start after a strong rookie campaign last season. He’s generating a lot of shots and the Devils are dominating possession – it all has to lead to something, right? Mercer is a speculative mid-term hold, but we might be looking at a 60-point, 200-shot player this season.

Arber Xhekaj, D, Montreal

I don’t expect the scoring to continue, but Xhekaj is really emerging as a Banger League Best™ with 26 (!) hits and nine blocks in six games. The best part is he may end up being like Radko Gudas, but better, because it looks like Xhekaj’s puck skills are better and more likely to rack up the fighting majors for PIM.

Long-Term Pickups (< 50 percent rostered on Yahoo):

Nico Hischier, C, New Jersey

I swear Harris Blitzer didn’t pay me to write this column, but there are a lot of Devils appearances this week. The reason why Hischier’s fallen off the fantasy radar is that he gets hurt a lot and Jack Hughes gets all the attention. Hischier’s scored six points and won 48 faceoffs in his past four games as their top center.

David Krejci, C, Boston

Krejci continues to prove his first week was no fluke, scoring a goal against the Sens and then adding two assists against the Wild, one of which was scored by – yup, you guessed it – David Pastrnak. As long as the two Czechmates play together, Krejci has fantasy value with the chance to get a lot of helpers and power-play points. Krejci’s like an Evgeny Kuznetsov, a crafty playmaking center fortunate to have a G.O.A.T.-level scorer on his wing, but probably better and far more reliable.

Nick Robertson, LW, Toronto

Robertson had a muted game in his second appearance of the season against the Jets, but the key takeaway was that he was playing in the top six again, and his minutes had also gone up. It looks like the Leafs are finally prepared to give the budding goal scorer a chance to succeed, and there should be lots of attention surrounding Robertson in hockey’s biggest market. 

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