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Fantasy Hockey: Players to Watch (Week of April 10)

Jason Chen looks at notable names in the fantasy hockey world, including some goaltenders going in different directions and a host of others that will shake things up.
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Goalies

Samuel Montembeault, Canadiens

To say Jake Allen’s tenure with the Habs has been disappointing would be a huge understatement. The veteran goalie was brought into give Carey Price more rest and step in as the starter as needed, but for the umpteenth time this season, Allen is injured yet again. He stopped 14 of 15 shots Saturday against the Leafs before being forced to leave the game, once again forcing Montembeault into the spotlight. The former Panthers prospect was given a much bigger role and, depending on the severity of Allen’s injury, will likely lead all Habs goalies in appearances. Montembeault’s fantasy value is capped because the Habs just aren’t very good, but there was a stretch where he won three straight games with only four goals allowed, so there’s some fantasy value to be unearthed depending on the matchups; five of their next seven opponents are currently out of a playoff spot.

Elvis Merzlikins, Blue Jackets

Brad Larsen’s declaration that Merzlikins would start every game for the Jackets for the rest of the season gives him a big fantasy boost because there’s no second-guessing who will start for them, and by playing every game, Merzlikins will surely rack up the saves. Whether or not they win games is a different question – and they likely won’t win many – but in fantasy leagues that favor quantity over quality, Merzlikins just jumped up the rankings a few spots.

Spencer Knight, Panthers

Knight is 4-0-0 with a .926 Sv% and 1.99 GAA in April, and given Sergei Bobrovsky’s struggles, there is –once again – a potential goalie controversy brewing in Florida. If the playoffs started today, there should be little doubt that Bobrovsky would start Game 1, but his leash will definitely be short. There’s definitely a chance that between now and the playoffs, Knight takes over as the de facto starter, especially if he can help them clinch the Atlantic Division. Knight is worth rostering in all fantasy formats due to his performance lately and the possibility that Bobrovsky will lose his starting job once again.

Rookies

Alex Newhook, C/LW, Avalanche

Newhook’s four-game point streak was snapped Saturday against the Oilers, playing on the third line with Nico Sturm and Nicolas Aubé-Kubel while J.T. Compher centered the second line. Jared Bednar has opted to rely on players with more experience, but don’t forget that Newhook’s offensive ceiling is higher than any of theirs, and that in offensive situations he is usually one of the better depth choices. Due to role he’s playing now, Newhook’s fantasy value has diminished, but it could pop back up at any time, and on a high-scoring team, he’s playing with elite players that can boost his production in the right situations. Keep an eye on Newhook.

Peyton Krebs, C/LW, Sabres

Krebs was one of the key pieces going back to Buffalo in the Jack Eichel trade, and he’s played a steady middle-six role for the Sabres all season. His offensive production has ticked up lately, scoring a goal and four points in his past five games, representing nearly one-fifth of his season total. The Sabres don’t have anything to lose at this point of the season but it’s encouraging their young players continue to produce. Spending a lot of time with Dylan Cozens also bodes well for the future, and those bullish on Buffalo may want to keep this duo in mind as they will likely be the lynchpins of the second line behind their excellent top line of Tage Thompson between Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch.

Notables

Denis Gurianov, LW/RW, Stars

Gurianov did not play Saturday against the Devils as a healthy scratch. His offensive production has been modest, but he’s also been in Rick Bowness’ doghouse all season. The Stars don’t offer up many fantasy options on offense other than their top line, but it has opened the door for depth players and prospects such as Marian Studenic, who had scored two points in two games and played with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on the second line. Gurianov hasn’t been a viable fantasy option for much of the season, but for the 10 percent of Yahoo leagues who still have a manager with Gurianov on their roster, it’s a good time to remind them that it’s better to roster players who actually play.

Frank Vatrano, LW/RW, Rangers

Vatrano’s a sneaky-good winger who likes to shoot the puck, and just couldn’t quite find the right role on a stacked Panthers offense. However, since joining the Rangers he’s scored nine points in 13 games, and the return of Kaapo Kakko has not bumped him off the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. This is very good news for Vatrano, whose fantasy value continues to climb and will continue to climb as long as he stays in that role. Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière, who have yet to really make any significant contributions despite being lottery picks, skated on the third line together with Barclay Goodrow at center. 

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