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Fantasy Hockey Roundup: Oh My, McDavid

Connor McDavid is incredible (duh), a number of under-the-radar goalies are making waves and, oh, hockey is just chaos. Jason Chen gets you up to date with the week that was in fantasy hockey.
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Connor McDavid

If you haven’t seen Connor McDavid’s goal from Friday’s 6-5 overtime winner against the Rangers, I implore you to watch it.

There was a time in fantasy hockey when Wayne Gretzky’s goals and assists were considered separate “players” because he was so much better than everyone else. McDavid enters Saturday second in the league in scoring – what a scrub! – but it showcased his unmatched ability to suddenly change directions without breaking stride and how dominant he can be.

He’s so good that scoring just one point seems like an off night, and he’s helped the Oilers score on half of their power plays, going 15-for-30. It’s elevated the entire team and they have a really good chance to win the division title. Case in point: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is sixth in scoring with 14 points – all assists – scored nine of them on the power play; otherwise, he has four even-strength points in 10 games this season.

Goalies

Eric Comrie, Winnipeg Jets

It’s been a good run for Comrie, who has been perfect 3-0-0 so far this season in Connor Hellebuyck’s absence. It should be noted, though, that the three teams Comrie has faced are the Kings (23rd in GF/GP, Stars (30th) and Blackhawks (29th). None of them present much of a challenge for a strong playoff contender like the Jets and we any half-decent contender to go 3-0 against those teams. When Hellebuyck returns, expect him to assume much of the workload again. It’ll give the Jets a little more confidence to start Comrie down the road, but for fantasy purposes, he will only be good for the occasional spot start.

Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes

There are only three goalies in the league with a save percentage of .920 or higher with a losing record: Braden Holtby (2-3-1, .924 Sv%), Dustin Tokarski (1-2-1, .924 Sv%) and Vejmelka (0-7-1, .920 Sv%), who was a two-time Czech league champion. It’s amazing how Vejmelka has given the league’s worst team a chance to win every night… and also become fantasy-relevant because of it.

Look, it’s not going to be pretty and who knows when the Coyotes will even manage to win their first game, but Vejmelka currently ranks fifth in saves (242) and that counts for something if you can keep your GAA low and your save percentage high. He’s widely available in most fantasy leagues and definitely has become much more than just an afterthought.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

A big sigh of relief in Montreal upon hearing that Price will re-join the team on Monday, but with no return date set, that means Jake Allen will continue to be the starter. He has been a huge disappointment, failing to hold the fort in the absence of their franchise goalie and now 14-19-5 with a .906 Sv% in his career as a Hab. The only saving grace Allen has are his two shutout wins and 265 saves, which ranks third in the league. The Habs are very bad and Allen’s performances are very difficult to predict, yet half of you are still holding onto Allen on your rosters when the aforementioned Vejmelka offers up the same rate of saves with a better save percentage.

There also doesn’t seem to be a lot of trust in third-string Samuel Montembeault, and it’ll be interesting to see how desperate the Habs are for Price’s imminent return. If they’re letting Price take his time, then it’s clear that they’ve already surrendered on the season knowing that they’re missing just too many key pieces to compete and their young players have taken a step back. If they push Price, that means they’re desperate to get back in the race, but rushing a player back from injury doesn’t seem like a good idea. Fantasy managers will have to be patient for Price’s return, but know that upon returning there are no guarantees he will be playoff Price rather than regular-season Price, or that the team’s play will suddenly improve.

Other goalies we’re keeping an eye on: Carter Hart and Martin Jones, Flyers; Alex Nedeljkovic, Red Wings; Semyon Varlamov, Islanders

Rookies

William Eklund, LW, San Jose Sharks

It was surprising to see Eklund assigned to Djurgården for the rest of the season, considering how the Sharks played him in the top six regularly and how comfortable he looked generating offense against the best defensemen in the world. It may not have been the right decision, but it certainly was a conservative one, and it’s a hint that the Sharks’ focus isn’t on their immediate play, which has been surprisingly strong, but rather their long-term future.

By re-assigning him before his 10th game, the Sharks won’t have to burn the first year of Eklund’s ELC, and they do so knowing that losing Eklund means losing some scoring punch and a much-needed warm body with several players still in COVID protocol. It does suggest that perhaps the Sharks are really entertaining the idea of trading Tomas Hertl at some point, but the more immediate fantasy impact is perhaps seeing Jonathan Dahlén get more minutes.

Alexander Holtz, RW, New Jersey Devils

The seventh overall pick from 2020, Holtz is a pure goal scorer and led the Devils’ AHL affiliate with five goals in four games. He made his NHL debut Friday against the Kings, skating 15:25, including 2:55 on the power play, and finished with zero points and one shot. It was a splashy debut, but the results were certainly positive. Holtz skated on the second line with Dawson Mercer, a dark horse Calder candidate, and Pavel Zacha, and has clearly been tasked to provide some offense while Jack Hughes remains injured. Holtz is worth a speculative add though they have a tough schedule coming up against the Isles, Bruins, Rangers, Lightning and the Panthers twice.

Cole Sillinger, C, Columbus Blue Jackets

The Jackets have some interesting new lines with Patrik Laine on injured reserve until at least December – Sillinger is now the team’s No. 1 center between Jakub Voracek and fellow rookie Yegor Chinakhov, while Boone Jenner centers a more veteran line with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Gustav Nyquist. The Jackets have moving parts in their lineup at all times, but it’s a big sign of confidence to have Sillinger take on such a role and with an untested rookie on one of his wings.

We thought the Jackets might be a more defensive-oriented team, but they’re averaging three goals per game with a 10th-ranked power play, in which Sillinger is expected to play a big role as well with the first unit. As with any rookie, Sillinger’s play will likely be streaky and inconsistent, but given the opportunities before him, there should be some upside to be had in deeper or dynasty leagues.

Arthur Kaliyev, RW, Los Angeles Kings

A goal Friday against the Devils gives Kaliyev three in four games, two of which have come on the power play. He filled in on the top line with Viktor Arvidsson in COVID protocol and produced zero points, but on the brighter side didn’t look completely lost. Kaliyev’s 5-on-5 possession numbers rank 11th among the 16 forwards who have dressed this season, and at this point is more a power-play specialist with moderate upside because of how few weapons the Kings have. Speaking of which, Alex Iafallo has scored four goals in four games and is more deserving of your attention.

Other rookies we’re keeping an eye on: Bowen Byram, D, Avalanche; Michael Bunting, LW, Maple Leafs; Tanner Jeannot, LW, Predators; Trevor Zegras, C/LW, Ducks; Seth Jarvis, C, Hurricanes; Ryan Merkley, D, Sharks

Notables

Adam Henrique, C/LW, and Troy Terry, RW, Anaheim Ducks

Hockey is just chaos. Henrique was considered a buyout candidate not long ago. Terry was scratched in the second game of the season after playing just 8:35 in the season opener. Since then? Terry has gone on a 10-game point streak and Henrique ranks third on the team with 11 points in 12 games. A lot of this is thanks to an improved power play, but even one month in, I’m still not 100 percent convinced. Their possession numbers at 5-on-5 with center Ryan Getzlaf have been good (53.62 CF%), but they’re not getting many shots through and their xGF% is alarming low at 42.16 percent, and the teams they’ve piled up goals against – Buffalo, Edmonton, Montreal, Arizona – aren’t known for their good defense.

Anthony Beauvillier, LW, New York Islanders

Beauvillier’s scored seven points in eight games and maintains a very good 12.9 shooting percentage in his career – what’s not to like? Sure, the Isles like to spread their minutes around, but Beauvillier is their fastest and arguably best goal-scoring winger, and even excluding his three-assist performance against Montreal has been playing quite well so far this season. He’s widely available in most leagues, and the Isles are less than two weeks away from their home opener. Once their road trip is over, they should have a very favorable travel schedule for the rest of the season.

Rasmus Asplund, C/LW/RW, Buffalo Sabres

Asplund is the rare trifecta, a forward who can fill any forward position slot in fantasy and therefore provides a lot of flexibility. The added bonus this season has been his strong play in the Sabres’ top six, who ranks second in scoring on the team with eight points and averaging the second-most ice time per game among forwards, trailing Tage Thompson by a measly 13 seconds. There’s fantasy value in Asplund based on usage alone since he plays and has scored points on both the power play and penalty kill, but that 21.1 shooting percentage scares me. He’s worth a stash if you have room, but the Sabres and Asplund might be due for a regression, and it’s already starting to show in their goaltending. 

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