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Fantasy Hockey Watch: Players to Know (Week of Feb. 26)

Jason Chen looks at a couple of key players to keep an eye on for your fantasy, including some unexpected goaltending options, a returning rookie and a stout defender on a big-time contender.
Jaccob Slavin,

Goalies

Samuel Montembeault, Canadiens

The Habs are over .500 under Martin St. Louis. Crazy, I know. Playing with renewed purpose and finally getting some scoring from Cole Caufield, who in turn has also elevated the point production of linemates Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson – a line St. Louis envisions “being together for a long time” – it has also reinvigorated some fantasy value to Montembeault’s name. The embattled third-round pick from 2015 was seen as a potential starter down the road for the Panthers before being leapfrogged by Spencer Knight on the depth chart, but he’s now won three games in a row with four goals allowed with his hometown club.

There’s obviously a good chance the Habs’ recent run is not sustainable; their roster is too thin and they’re expected to part with veteran defenders Ben Chiarot and perhaps Jeff Petry in the near future. But as the fantasy season winds down, fantasy managers looking for some goaltending help might want to consider Montembeault. Playing hot streaks can be a very effective tool down the stretch since most fantasy leagues will be starting their playoffs soon. There’s some nice matchups coming up with the Sens on Saturday night then the Kraken and Flyers a week before the trade deadline.

Jean-François Bérubé, Blue Jackets

Bérubé is another goalie who has been capitalizing on an offense that has suddenly gotten red-hot. Patrik Laine is arguably the league’s most dangerous goal scorer right now with nine goals in nine games in February after scoring 10 goals in his previous 24 games. Bérubé had been toiling on a mediocre AHL Cleveland squad before injuries to both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzļikins necessitated his call-up, but went a perfect 3-0 with a .925 Sv% even thought he had not seen NHL action since April 6, 2018. With Merzļikins now back in the lineup, it looks like Bérubé’s little hot streak is over because he won’t be getting the same amount of playing time, though he remains a name to watch as the backup with Korpisalo and Daniil Tarasov still on injured reserve.

Jeremy Swayman, Bruins and Jake Oettinger, Stars

Neither team has really made overt announcements about their goaltending situation, but right now Swayman and Oettinger are the de facto starters for their respective teams. Swayman won both of his games this past week with a .950 Sv%, while Oettinger has started all but one game in February. Curiously enough, both goalies are rostered in less than 70 percent of Yahoo leagues as of Friday night, and perhaps represent the last two starting goalies that can be picked off the waiver wire.

Though neither the Bruins nor Stars have been particularly strong this season, both teams boast very good first lines that can carry an offense by themselves, and both teams also feature elite defensemen that play very well at both ends of the ice. Certain leagues may not give fantasy managers enough goalie spots to roster them, but based on Yahoo’s settings that count wins, saves, GAA and save percentage, Oettinger and Swayman rank 13th and 14th respectively among all goalies. The only goalie in the top 15 to be rostered in less than 80 percent of leagues is the Blues’ Ville Husso, who has a grip on the No. 1 job but may cede a number of starts to Jordan Binnington.

Rookies

Nick Robertson, LW, Maple Leafs

The 53rd overall pick in 2019, Robertson has long been considered one of the Leafs’ top prospects, but various injuries have really hampered his development. He doesn’t quite have the same upside as older brother Jason, who is already a very good first-line scorer with the Stars, but there’s a chance that he can make a difference for the Leafs right away following a string of solid performances with the Marlies. Placing Jake Muzzin on LTIR opened up some cap room, and an illness going around that has affected forwards John Tavares, Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall means roster spots have opened up. Robertson is expected to make his Leafs debut Saturday against the Red Wings, who have the seventh-highest GA/GP and the eighth-highest SA/GP. Keep an eye on Robertson, just in case he manages to get some quality ice time and makes the best of it. Remember, riding hot streaks can be key to winning your fantasy league.

Notable

Jaccob Slavin, D, Hurricanes

With Tony DeAngelo injured and likely to miss a month of action, look for Slavin to quarterback their top power-play unit, sharing the ice with Vincent Trocheck, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen. Known more for his smart, no-frills, two-way play, Slavin is not known to be as offensively inclined or skilled as DeAngelo.

Slavin’s seven power-play points this season entering Friday’s game already matched a career-high after scoring just one power-play point a season ago; in comparison, DeAngelo had already scored 16 points with the man advantage on the season. While Slavin’s style doesn’t make him an ideal fit on a special teams unit designed to score goals, his exposure to four very good forwards should bring a lot of fantasy value in the meantime. The drawback for the Canes’ power play, which is top-10 in the league, is that they don’t draw a lot of penalties, ranking 24th with 174 penalties drawn heading into Friday’s game, which has drawn the ire from Rod Brind’Amour all season. 

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