Another week gone, another group of standouts across the NHL. Whether it was veterans bouncing back, rookies showing some strength or goalies giving you value deep in the lineup, it was yet another interesting week in the world of fantasy hockey.
Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche
With a 7-3 win against the Kraken on Friday, Kuemper is now 4-1-0 with a .929 Sv% in November and has not allowed more than three goals since Oct. 19. The Avs’ gamble on Kuemper looked like a very poor investment in the beginning, with the only silver lining being Philipp Grubauer also struggling with the Kraken, but it looks like the goalie switch is now paying off for the Avs. It’s the second straight season Kuemper’s off to a slow start, but the past two seasons have also been marred by various postponements and cancellations due to COVID-19. It’s possible that Kuemper’s just getting back into his groove; remember, over the past five seasons, Kuemper’s .921 Sv% is tied for fourth-best in the league among goalies with at least 50 appearances.
Oddsmakers did not drop the Avs as the Cup favourites even when they were struggling, and they were definitely right to avoid a knee-jerk reaction. With two games in hand against the division-leading Wild, the Avs are now tied with the Preds as the two hottest teams in the Central, and sit just five points back from the top spot. They’re doing this without Nathan MacKinnon, too, which means the chance for fantasy managers to acquire Kuemper for relatively cheaper may have already missed their window.
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars
With Braden Holtby ruled out for Saturday’s game and Anton Khudobin getting pulled in his last start – even if Oettinger came in relief for only six minutes – look for Oettinger to get his second start of the season at home against the Blues. Rick Bowness made curious decisions for his lineup against the Wild, which resulted in a 7-2 loss, but going back to Oettinger should be a no-brainer.
There’s no return date set for Holtby, but another strong performance from Oettinger could force the Stars to change tracks. A Khudobin-Holtby tandem, with an outside chance of Ben Bishop getting healthy, was the original plan, but the former Cup finalists are having a very tough time with a 6-7-2 record and a lot of ground to make up. This is a fantasy manager’s worst nightmare, especially those who managed to roster both Khudobin and Holtby hoping they would benefit from a team that plays very good team defense. Oettinger is worth a fantasy stash just in case he turns the Stars’ season around, but note with their inability to score goals it will take more than just strong play from Oettinger to win games.
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith was moved to LTIR and Mikko Koskinen has, well, gone back to being Koskinen 16 goals allowed in his last four games, earning three wins only because his offense has been so good. Skinner, on the other hand, has been excellent in two of his three starts, making 35 saves in Detroit despite being tagged with the loss, and then 46 (!) saves at home against the Jets.
The Oilers have a one-point lead over the Ducks and Flames in the Pacific and could potentially win their first division title since 1987. Right now, Skinner might give them the best chance to do that, and he’s got at least a couple more weeks to prove his worth. Smith has missed 13 games already so being placed on LTIR will not affect his timeline for recovery, but it does help the Oilers save some cap space. Skinner’s a worthwhile fantasy add playing behind the best offense in the league.
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues
Husso was a barely-passable backup last season with a .893 Sv%, forcing the Blues to keep playing Jordan Binnington even when he wasn’t sharp. That is not the case this season because Husso has been excellent so far, going 2-0-0 and stopping 60 of 61 shots. He went nearly a month in between starts due to COVID-19, and with Binnington going 1-3-2 with a .897 Sv% and 3.13 GAA in November, it has opened the door for Husso to pick up more starts. He’ll surely get a start during a back-to-back on Nov. 26-27, and after that the Blues will play seven games over a 13-day stretch. The sample size is small and the Blues stubbornly stick with Binnington even when he’s playing poorly, but Husso’s a sneaky fantasy stash as an up-and-comer on a good team.
Other goalies we’re keeping an eye on: Scott Wedgewood, Coyotes; Dan Vladar, Flames; Marc-André Fleury, Blackhawks; Jonathan Quick, Kings; Cayden Primeau, Canadiens; Mackenzie Blackwood, Devils; Filip Gustavsson, Senators; Ilya Samsonov, Capitals
Seth Jarvis, C/RW, Carolina Hurricanes
It’s a very tough rookie class, but if Jarvis keep this up, he’s in the Calder conversation. The 13th overall pick in 2020 has scored a goal in consecutive games, and after averaging less than 10 minutes in his first two games, has now averaged 16:36 in his past three games, which ranks sixth among Canes forwards and even ahead of captain Jordan Staal.
He’s taken Teuvo Teravainen’s stop on the top line with Sebastian Aho and the most underrated elite forward in Andrei Svechnikov, and also logging minutes with the second power play unit. Fun facts: Jarvis is the Canes’ 5-on-5 leader in: Corsi%, Fenwick%, Corsi/60, Fenwick/60, xGF/60, high-danger shot attempts/60 and offensive-zone start %, according to naturalstattrick.com. It’s as if the Canes recognize a supremely talented scorer and want to ensure his success by playing him with other talented scorers – it’s interesting strategy, maybe other teams would like to try this?
Cole Caufield, RW, Montreal Canadiens
Caufield has been one of the most disappointing fantasy players this season, a talented finisher whom many projected to win the Calder who ended up getting sent to the minors. His call-up raised some eyebrows because Caufield had scored only two goals in six games on a veteran-laden Laval Rocket club, and he ended up getting only one shot on goal with a minus-3 rating against the Pens. With so many other good rookies out there, and given how it’s unlikely the Canadiens will be anything but a bottom-five team this season facing a murky future (will Marc Bergevin return?), it’s time to consider that Caufield’s 2021-22 fantasy season may already be over.
Other rookies we’re keeping an eye on (<50 percent of Yahoo leagues): Trevor Zegras, C, and Jamie Drysdale, D, Ducks; Alex Newhook, C, Avalanche; Cole Sillinger, C, and Yegor Chinkahov, RW, Blue Jackets; Anton Lundell, C, Panthers; Tanner Jeannot, LW/RW, Predators; Dawson Mercer, C, Devils; Scott Perunovich, D, Blues
Robert Thomas, C/RW, St. Louis Blues
The Jordan Kyrou bandwagon is already getting pretty full, but there’s still plenty of room on Thomas’. The fourth-year pro is scoring at a point-per-game pace and I don’t think there’s any coincidence that he’s also averaging 19:05 TOI per game, nearly a 50 percent increase from last season’s 13:36. Finally, I say. The 20th pick in the 2017 draft, Thomas’ development was slowed a bit by injuries and also due to the Blues’ veteran-laden lineup and depth. It was very difficult for him to crack the top six, and even when he did manage to get promoted, he was far too inconsistent and often a little too shy with shooting the puck.
This season, he’s shooting the puck more, and after playing most of last season with Mike Hoffman, has been attached at the hip to Vladimir Tarasenko, who is playing at an all-star level again after two frustrating, injury-riddled seasons. There’s also been a huge improvement in Thomas’ faceoff prowess; last season, he won just 42.6 percent and took less than 10 per game, and this season, he’s winning 51.9 percent and taking more than 15 per game. Thomas’ 134 faceoff wins ranks 30th in the league, and with his dual-position eligibility could be an incredibly valuable roto league player.
Nazem Kadri, C, Colorado Avalanche
With another two assists against the Kraken on Friday, Kadri extended his point streak to eight games, including multi-point efforts in the last three. It’s a total of nine points in the four games without MacKinnon, and while Kadri’s role as the No. 2 pivot hasn’t changed with Mikko Rantanen now centering the top line, it’s also been an incredibly productive run and a big reason why the Avs are now rolling.
His hot streak hasn’t gone unnoticed and he’s been one of the most popular adds on Yahoo. He’s an all-round, multi-category beast with 19 points, 26 penalty minutes, 40 shots and 120 faceoff wins. He’s scoring at the highest pace of his career, and while all streaks will inevitably come to an end, he’s well on his way to having his best season since he had back-to-back 32-goal seasons for the Leafs a year before he was traded to Colorado.