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Who You Need to Start in Fantasy Hockey This Week

It's the final week of the NHL regular season and there's still a lot on the line. Jason Chen gets you set for the week ahead – and don't discount teams already out of the hunt.
Alexis Lafreniere

It might be because it’s been a while since we’ve played through a full 82-game schedule, but this season felt looong.

A reminder that the second part of Week 26 will extend to Sunday for the rescheduled Kraken at Jets matchup, and all but two teams will be in action on Friday. That means no games for so what is usually a pretty heavy slate for Saturdays, and combined with only one game on Monday, it means Tuesday and Thursday will feature a lot of action.

Playoff seedings have to be determined in the East and playoff spots are still up for grabs in the West. Priorities will be different, so lineup changes to get rest for certain plays will be in play. Of the 30 teams in action, half of them will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. Backup goalies will certainly be in play.

Legend:
P% = season points percentage
Opp. P% = opponents’ season points percentage
Diff. = difference between P% and Opp. P%
Green is good. Red is bad. All advanced stats courtesy naturalstatrick.com.

Week 26 v2

Start

Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets

By virtue of being the only two teams in action on Sunday, it represents the only sliver of hope for fantasy managers looking to eke out a win. The Kraken’s fantasy options have been threadbare all season, but the arrival of Matty Beniers has certainly changed that. He’s scored five points in six games, averaging 17 minutes per game and delivered the goods immediately after being slotted onto their top scoring line. Noting the Jets still have a very good goalie in Connor Hellebuyck, the drawback to Beniers’ fantasy value is the lack of elite scoring wingers on his line, and in leagues that count faceoff wins, note Beniers barely won 40 percent of his draws and went 1-for-9, including 0-for-5 against veterans Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin against the Stars on Saturday.

The Jets offer far better fantasy options and asides from the usual suspects – Ehlers, Wheeler, Connor, Dubois, Stastny – it’s hard to pick out another worthwhile option. The best will likely be Jansen Harkins, who is playing on the second line with Connor and Dubois, and at least gets a sprinkling of power-play time, which Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton do not even though they play more minutes. It’s still better to go with the Kraken because they play one more game than everyone else and note both teams play on Wednesday as well, which will only have five games.

Dallas Stars

The Stars finish their season with three straight home games and a pretty easy schedule to lock up their playoff spot, facing Vegas and Arizona in a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Ducks on Friday. It might be a good chance to take a chance on Vladislav Namestnikov, Denis Gurianov, Joel Kiviranta or Radek Faksa, who may see increased minutes if the Star want to rest their top line and both Seguin and Benn. The more interesting development will be in net, and who Rick Bowness elects to start on Friday and for what reason. Both Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood, if he continues to play well, make a case to be the starter in Game 1 of the playoffs, and it remains to be seen if Wedgewood’s increased playing time is motivated more by resting Oettinger or because Wedgewood has the hot hand. Either way, it’s conceivable the Stars sweep the week and one of the two goalies will have two wins in their pocket.

Florida Panthers

It doesn’t matter that all three of their remaining games are on the road because they’ve already locked up home-ice advantage in the East already. There isn’t much incentive to take their remaining games seriously, especially with a back-to-back that ends the season against the Sens and Habs. That means some more ice time for the younger players, such as Mason Marchment, who has played over 16 minutes in two of his past three games, and linemates Anton Lundell and Noel Acciari. Expect veterans such as Claude Giroux to see a little less ice time, while Joe Thornton may see a little more game action since it remains to be seen if he will be in the Game 1 lineup for the playoffs since he was played sparingly for most of the season.

New York Rangers

The Rangers play all three of their games at home where they’re 26-8-4 with the added bonus of facing the Habs on a light Wednesday schedule. The Rangers are already 2-0-0 on the season against the Habs and won four of their past five meetings. Though they’ve scored only six goals in those two games, one of them was scored by Alexis Lafrenière, who has been showing some elite skill and has scored four points in four games. His ice time remains limited and 50 points through his first two seasons as a pro is well shy of expectations for a first overall pick, but it has also been very difficult to crack the Rangers’ top six. If the Canes win the game against the Rangers on Tuesday, the top two seeds in the Metro will have been decided, leaving the Rangers with two relatively meaningless games. Those are the games in which Lafrenière may see more minutes than usual, and he’s had some success against the Habs and Caps, against whom he’s scored five goals in 12 career games. 

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