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Fantasy Hockey Watch: Players to Know (Week of March 12)

Jason Chen looks at some notable names in the fantasy hockey world from the past week, including a couple of rising rookies and a few forwards improving their value.
Josh Norris

Goalies

Laurent Brossoit, Golden Knights

With news that Robin Lehner returned to Vegas in the midst of their road trip to be evaluated for a lower-body injury, it has pushed almost all of their playoff hopes on Brossoit. Logan Thompson was called up to be the backup but with Brossoit playing both games in a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday – both losses – it’s an indication the Knights don’t really trust Thompson and crossing their fingers hoping Lehner’s injury isn’t too serious.

With a career .906 save percentage and a minus-4.1 GSAA entering Friday’s game based on hockey-reference.com’s model, pinning their playoff hopes on Brossoit is not a sound strategy. Sure, Brossoit could get hot, but a capped-out team like Vegas has few options, and if they were to re-acquire Marc-André Fleury, it may force them to give up a valuable asset in return to ensure Chicago eats some of Fleury’s remaining salary. For fantasy managers, this is yet another footnote in Lehner’s disappointing first season as Vegas’ starter, and while Brossoit is worth a short-term add due to his usage, the expectation is that he won’t win a lot of games or provide any good peripheral stats. The gamble would be to acquire Fleury and then hope he gets moved to Vegas, but it’s a dicey play because there’s a chance Fleury does not get moved.

Antti Raanta, Hurricanes

Raanta’s 36-save shutout win against the Avs was an eye-opener because it reminded us of how good he can still be. With Frederik Andersen out with an undisclosed injury, Raanta has now won three straight games and has lost just twice in regulation in his past 10 games, one of which was a tight 2-1 loss to the Canucks. Rod Brind’Amour promised that Raanta would play more games down the stretch and he has to make good on that promise now. Only a handful of backups (usually on good teams) are worth rostering in fantasy, and Raanta fits the bill as an above-average goalie playing on a Cup contender. Chances are Raanta, who is rostered in just 27 percent of Yahoo leagues entering Friday’s games, is still available in the free agent pool.

Anton Forsberg, Senators

Forsberg has won two straight games and will face Chicago, Arizona, Columbus and Philadelphia during their homestand; that’s an easy schedule and the Sens have reinforced their lineup with the return of Josh Norris (more on him below) and Colin White. Despite the Sens’ losing record, Forsberg has a 13-10-2 record and .921 Sv% this season, an incredible feat and puts him in the running as one of the biggest surprises of the season. He’s rostered in just 35 percent of Yahoo leagues and even when Matt Murray returns, Murray’s injury history this season makes him unreliable. Forsberg has significant fantasy value if he can maintain his current pace of play and should be rostered in most standard leagues. He’s a sneaky add because the Sens are overlooked right now, and they’ll be getting even more reinforcements once Jake Sanderson signs at the end of the NCAA season.

Erik Källgren, Maple Leafs

Drafted in the seventh round in 2015 by the Coyotes, Källgren was signed by the Leafs to a two-year deal last May, and despite a .904 Sv% and 3.02 GAA in 26 games in the AHL this season, finds himself in an enviable position of starting for a very good team. After Petr Mrázek was pulled for allowing four goals on just 12 shots, Källgren made his NHL debut in the second period and nearly pulled off a win, stopping 10 of 11 shots with the only blemish being Jakob Chychrun’s overtime winner. To say the Leafs’ goaltending situation is in flux would be a huge understatement as Jack Campbell’s slump has stretched from weeks to months, and Mrázek just hasn’t been reliable at all, allowing 13 goals in three appearances in March. It might be a little too soon for fantasy managers to pick up Källgren right now, but it’s a situation to keep an eye on if the Leafs feel like they don’t have any other options. There’s obviously a chance that Mrázek can turn it around if the Leafs stick with him long enough, and I suspect that’s what they’ll try and do for now.

Rookies

Ryan McLeod, C/LW, Oilers

With all due respect to McLeod, playing him in the top six is more indicative of the Oilers’ lack of offensive depth than his ability. Playing at times on Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl’s line, McLeod is averaging 18 minutes per game in March after averaging a little over 10 minutes in November. His production has obviously picked up since getting moved up the lineup – as any player playing alongside 97 and 29 would – and having dual-position eligibility is a nice bonus. But, realistically, how long does this last? The small sample size suggests Jay Woodcroft may have stumbled onto something; when McLeod is paired with McDavid, they share a 51.82 5v5 CF% in 57:09 TOI, and with Draisaitl it’s an astonishingly good 60.16 5v5 CF% in 62:58 TOI. That’s not mentioning that McLeod has been a point-per-game both in the OHL and AHL, so there’s plenty of evidence that he has skill, and he also plays in all situations. If McLeod can stick with either center for the rest of the season, he’s a sneaky late-season add for fantasy managers for some modest point production, shots and faceoff wins with exposure to both the power play and penalty kill.

J.J. Moser, D, Coyotes

Moser’s arrival may have come a little sooner than expected, but relative to his draft peers it’s not that surprising. He was drafted as an overager in 2021 and already had three seasons’ experience in Switzerland’s top pro league, and he’s averaging over 18 minutes for the Coyotes with 11 points in 30 games. He’s taken advantage of the Coyotes’ offense surge, and in his past 11 games has pitched in with six helpers. Defense can be a thin position in fantasy, and managers in deep leagues looking for some offense from their blue line can look at Moser, who also provides steady diet of shots and blocked shots.

Notables

Jakub Vrána, LW, Red Wings

That’s now three goals in two games since returning from shoulder surgery and is rostered in just 30 percent of Yahoo leagues. At his best, Vrána is a talented goal scorer who one day should be a consistent 30-goal scorer, but during his time with the Caps found it difficult to get regular ice time and move up the depth chart with Alex Ovechkin blocking his way. He won’t have that problem in Detroit – though Lucas Raymond is the better player – but a relatively thin offense means he’ll get plenty of opportunity. Look for his ice time to increase as he gets back into game shape, making him a very good option for fantasy managers looking for offense. Note that Vrána’s return may also open the door for Filip Zadina, who has scored two points in two games, to improve his offensive production as opposing defenses focus more on Vrána and also allow Jeff Blashill to further balance his lines.

Dylan Strome, C, Blackhawks

With a five-game point streak Strome is now back in the conversation as a potential building block for the Blackhawks, and after scoring seven points in 20 games in the first three months of the season has now scored 24 points in 26 games. There’s a direct correlation between point production and ice time for Strome, who began the season struggling to get 15 minutes per game, but has since averaged well over 17 minutes. Only Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat have scored more points than Strome in 2022, and at just 13 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues, Strome represents a high-upside offensive option.

Josh Norris, C, Senators

Norris has scored four goals and six points in five games since returning from injury, and he’s another high-upside scoring option but doesn’t present the same kind of risk as Strome. Norris is firmly entrenched as the Sens’ No. 1 pivot, and the Sens have a few excellent wingers who can flank Norris. When healthy, the Sens can be a capable offensive team, and they’ve scored at least four goals in three of their past four games. Easy matchups coming up should provide a boon to their offense, and Norris should be available in most leagues being rostered in only 44 percent of Yahoo leagues. 

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