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Fantasy Weekend Rundown: Add Vanecek, Rodrigues and More

Jason Chen lists a handful of options for players to pick up for this fantasy hockey weekend and moving forward, including Vitek Vanecek.
Vitek Vanecek

It’s a 14-game slate for Saturday and only the Hurricanes, Rangers, Wild and Blues are not in action. The Avalanche and Blue Jackets will play the second game of their back-to-back in Finland for the second leg of the Global Series, but otherwise only the Sabres draw the short end of the stick having to play on consecutive nights.

The Panthers, Red Wings, Ducks and Leafs will be the teams to stack up on since they’ll be playing both days during the weekend.

(All player positions and rostered percentages courtesy Yahoo).

SATURDAY

Avalanche at Blue Jackets

Pavel Francouz (38 percent rostered) is expected to start and Joonas Korpisalo (two percent rostered) is expected to make his season debut in his home country. That’s a lot of pressure but also a lot of motivation to play well, having played just 22 games last season due to injury and watching his save percentage dip significantly for the second straight season to a career-low .877 SP.

Of note, the Jackets power play finally scored a goal, but overall still went 1-for-7 even though both Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine played over eight minutes apiece with the man advantage. There’s still time, but that vaunted Gaudreau-to-Laine connection that everyone was expecting has not come to fruition.

For the Avs, note that in the past three games, Evan Rodrigues (!) (14 percent rostered) has led all forwards in ice time, averaging 24 minutes per game and trails only Cale Makar. He’s playing on the top line with Valeri Nichushkin nursing an injury and definitely worth streaming.

Islanders at Red Wings

The Isles’ five-game winning streak is on the line with their third road game in five nights. Ilya Sorokin has been excellent, and he’s expected to face Ville Husso (74 percent rostered), who has allowed just one goal in each of his past three wins and winning the goalie battle against Alex Nedeljkovic (25 percent rostered). Linemates Anders Lee (26 percent rostered) and Brock Nelson (45 percent rostered) are both on four-game point streaks and combined for 12 points. Both current have shooting percentages that seem sustainable with Nelson at 15.6 S% (career 14.2 S%) and Lee at 18.2 S% (career 14.3 S%).

Scoring has become problem for the Wings – they haven’t scored more than three goals since Oct. 23 against the Ducks. Dominik Kubalik’s (72 percent rostered) hot run is most likely over, Lucas Raymond’s breakout season won’t be this one and even the staunchest Filip Zadina defenders have to agree that he’s still really far away from reaching his lofty draft-day potential.

Blackhawks at Jets

Connor Hellebucyk has been excellent under Rick Bowness. The Jets allow a lot of shots, but they’re usually from distance and low-percentage chances. That really puts the Blackhawks offense to the test, which has been surprisingly good with strong performances from Max Domi (32 percent rostered) and Jonathan Toews (20 percent rostered), both of whom deserve to be rostered in most 12-team leagues right now.

Stars at Oilers

This is a tough test for Scott Wedgewood (17 percent rostered), who has two straight wins since Jake Oettinger’s injury, but against the Kings and Coyotes. Expect Jack Campbell to start for the Oilers after Stuart Skinner (44 percent rostered) lost the previous game in what is shaping up to be a 50/50 timeshare, and it’s a situation where Skinner might take over as the No. 1 for some stretches if Campbell is hurt or really struggling. This will be the Oilers’ last home game before playing seven of their next nine games on the road.

Coyotes at Capitals

Their games are surprisingly low scoring, believe it or not. The Coyotes will be hard-pressed to score goals in the first place, because Darcy Kuemper has been really good and could end up being a top-five fantasy goalie this season. Oddly enough, over the past five seasons, the Capitals are averaging a league-low 2.50 goals per game in 10 matchups against the Coyotes. They are also the only team – excluding new franchises Seattle and Vegas – that Alex Ovechkin has not scored double-digit goals against in his career, sitting at nine in 22 games. The Caps should win, but this is a very tempting matchup to fade if you consider the odds and the history.

Bruins at Maple Leafs

This should be fun – one is steamrolling through the league and the other is already being crushed by the weight of its own expectations. Timothy Liljegren (two percent rostered) is expected to make his season debut after a promising rookie season and will be paired with Morgan Rielly, which is interesting because it’s a signal Liljegren might see a significant increase in ice time this season. Liljegren averaged 16 minutes per game last season playing mostly with Rasmus Sandin.

Jake DeBrusk (53 percent rostered) has not been bumped from the top six following Brad Marchand’s return from injury and, in fact, they’re playing on the same line. DeBrusk has a chance to extend his point streak to five games, and he’s been playing a lot better under Jim Montgomery. His fantasy value with his goal scoring and high-volume shooting has never been higher, and it definitely has legs.

Sabres at Lightning

The Sabres kept it close against Carolina on Friday, which is sometimes all you can do against them. These are two very important litmus-test games for the Sabres, who are matching up against Cup contenders to see what stage they’re at. The Sabres are clearly still not in the same tier, but they’re on the right path. They’re rotating through their young players, including Jack Quinn and Peyton Krebs through the bottom six, but note that rookie JJ Peterka (two percent rostered) has played in every single game. He’s a dark-horse Calder candidate.

Flyers at Senators

Cam Talbot (75 percent rostered) is expected to make his season debut after a rib injury, and he’s facing a team that’s struggling. The Flyers are winless in three games, scoring only five goals during that span and getting shut out twice in their past five games. Anton Forsberg’s (62 percent rostered) play has been quite subpar, which is leaving the door wide open for Talbot to take the majority of the starts. Now that the ill-fated Derick Brassard experiment has also ended, Shane Pinto (26 percent rostered) is worth a speculative add as their No. 2 pivot.

Kraken at Penguins

Another loss and there might be panic in Pittsburgh. The Pens are looking to avoid losing their seventh straight game, five of which were on the road. Following this game, the Pens will hit the road again for seven of their next nine.

The Kraken are on a roll with three straight wins and five of their past seven, and the biggest improvement this season has been their offense. Martin Jones (nine percent rostered) shut out the Wild in his previous start and has a winning 7-5-0/.929/2.10 record against the Pens in his career. While Philipp Grubauer is injured, Jones is the undisputed starter in Seattle and worth picking up if you can withstand a lot of bad games but need the starts.

Golden Knights at Canadiens

The Knights have had three coaches in history – none of whom have a points percentage below .600, by the way – and all of them realize how good the “Misfits Line” has been because they keep putting William Karlsson (35 percent rostered), Jonathan Marchessault (90 percent rostered) and Reilly Smith (41 percent rostered) back together. Chandler Stephenson (64 percent rostered) is also worth rostering with a top line role on Jack Eichel’s left wing opposite Mark Stone, and he’s scored 10 points in 12 games so far.

On the Habs, the player to watch is Kirby Dach (11 percent rostered), who is now playing right wing on Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki’s line. Dach is on a three-game point streak, giving him seven points in 11 games, but that also means Sean Monahan (four percent rostered) gets bumped down, and as a result his fantasy value again drops to basically zero.

Predators at Canucks

The Canucks offense has zero problems, but their defense has tons. Thatcher Demko is expected to start after Spencer Martin played Thursday, and he’ll face another goalie who’s been struggling as well in Juuse Saros at the other end of the ice. Saros has never lost to the Canucks, but the Preds generally aren’t good playing in Vancouver, barely averaging over 2.5 goals per game since 2010. Saros will have to pay close attention to Andrei Kuzmenko (26 percent rostered), who is coming off a hat trick and showing incredible chemistry with Elias Pettersson, and Bo Horvat has been automatic in the bumper position with five power-play goals already. All three players’ fantasy values are skyrocketing as we speak.

Devils at Flames

The Devils’ comeback win against the Oilers was very impressive, but it cost them Mackenzie Blackwood (23 percent rostered), who suffered a lower-body injury. That means Vitek Vanecek (51 percent rostered) should be picked up right away because he’s going to start most of the games going forward. To their credit, the Devils have taken advantage of an easy schedule so far, but there will be lots of travel this month, and eight of their next nine games (!) will be against Canadian teams.

There’s an interesting development with the Flames with Darryl Sutter really spreading out the ice time. That means Jonathan Huberdeau is not getting the same amount of ice time he got last season with the Panthers, making it difficult to match last year’s 112-point total. I’m also not buying any Milan Lucic stock even if he’s playing on the second line because he simply lacks the scoring ability to be fantasy relevant. The Flames are a better team overall, but everyone’s fantasy value takes a hit for the greater good – I would consider trading them since they’re likely overvalued playing on a good team and instead find players who either play more minutes or are otherwise more productive.

Ducks at Sharks

They’re two of the worst teams in the league, which means tons of goals. Second-line scorers on bad teams tend to get overlooked in fantasy, but this is the game where I would load up on the likes of Ryan Strome (13 percent rostered), Frank Vatrano (eight percent rostered) and Alexander Barabanov (one percent rostered) just because the odds of them scoring a point are much greater. Just don’t be too aggressive and pick someone such as Kevin Labanc (zero percent rostered), who has somehow swindled the Sharks for over $22 million already. There is one star between the two teams, however, and that’s Erik Karlsson (92 percent rostered), who has not only played his way back into fantasy relevance, but back into the elite conversation.

Panthers at Kings

Both teams have been disappointing, but the Panthers more so because their expectations were much higher. The sample size is small, but swapping Sam Reinhart for Matthew Tkachuk on the top line seems to be working. According to moneypuck.com, Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe (42 percent rostered) have a 73.4 expected goals percentage share, compared to just 56 percent with Reinhart. Barkov has five points in four games and looks like he may have found his groove, but Reinhart continues to struggle, and there’s just no point in waiting for him to play through it because he doesn’t offer enough peripherals to justify keeping him in your lineup.

SUNDAY

Red Wings at Rangers

This will be a tough matchup with Igor Shesterkin expected to start, but it’s a 5 p.m. ET start time and strange things happen when games start before the time they usually do. After pounding the drum on Alexis Lafreniere (39 percent rostered) in the beginning of the season, he’s cooled off somewhat and has just five points in 12 games. We may have to wait another season for him and Kaapo Kakko (seven percent rostered) to really break out if they even get the opportunity to do so.

Maple Leafs at Hurricanes

The Leafs have had two back-to-backs already this season and split one while losing both games in the other. If they’re somehow successful against the Bruins on Saturday, the Canes present yet another tough test, and the Leafs are expected to start backup Erik Kallgren (four percent rostered) in one of those games. The Leafs offense will come around, and note they finished last October with a .500 record before going 12-2-0 in November. They’re 1-0-0 heading into the weekend.

Panthers at Ducks

If Anthony Stolarz (four percent rostered) gets Saturday’s game following an 8-5 loss to the Canucks on Thursday with John Gibson, expect Gibson to start. The Panthers have won their past four meetings, two of them in overtime, and seven of their past 10. 

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