The holiday season only means one thing – a ton of Alberga’s horrible holiday puns and play on words forthcoming. In advance, I apologize but I simply can’t help it.
This time of year, there’s a billion and one Christmas stories that we all remember. Weirdly enough, it’s not that difficult to relate this to fantasy hockey. At least, I’m trying my very best.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some storylines to follow as another fantasy hockey season continues to unfold.
Who will finish as the #1 ranked fantasy player?
The race is on and trust me – it may even trump (HAHA) Hillary and Donald’s tortoise like sprint. Unfortunately, you would think Nikita Kucherov’s injury – which has landed him on the IR – will hurt his chances. Evgeni Malkin – come on down! Malkin is now the #1 ranked Yahoo! Fantasy player. How about that? His injury history suggests this probably isn’t sustainable but enjoy it while it lasts. Currently, it looks like it’ll be a five horse race between the aforementioned Malkin, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Vladimir Tarasenko and Flyers dark horse Jake Voracek. Also, don’t sleep on the likes of Artemi Panarin, Brent Burns and Alex Ovechkin.
What will happen with Marc-Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop?
With the expansion draft looming in June, NHL teams are surely already contemplating the future. In Pittsburgh, there’s no question Matt Murray is the guy which leaves Fleury as a very expensive backup. Talk insists it won’t be hard to get him to waive his no movement clause but he wants to go to a good situation. I’m not sure a 3.37 GAA and a .904 SVP% will have teams lining up to take on his fat contract. Is Fleury on the decline or is the pressure of knowing Murray is there getting to him? Who knows?
In Tampa, the situation is a little different but similar at the same time. Ben Bishop is a UFA-to-be on July 1st and simply put, Steve Yzerman would have to work some more magic to keep Bishop in the fold. Both goaltenders are struggling. Similar to the Penguins, the Lightning have a young netminder waiting in the balance – Andrei Vasilevskiy. It’s hard to gauge what either of these two goalies are this year. Tampa has been hammered by injury issues and obviously, it’s affecting the team in the standings.
For what it’s worth, my money is on Fleury being dealt and Bishop staying past the deadline.
Who will be the top ranked rookie?
In fantasy hockey, it’s not really about who the best player truly is but more so who has the best accumulated stats given the categories provided.
With 18 goals, 11 assists and a +7 rating, Patrick Laine is the club house leader. In fact, I’d probably even go to Vegas with him to win this race. The goal scoring alone will keep him highly ranked.
There’s a trio of first years in Toronto that may give the Fin a run for his money – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. The first two mentioned are tied in points with 23 while Matthews owns a 14 to 8 goal scoring lead. It’ll be interesting considering what we know Toronto’s offense is capable of.
The dark horse in this conversation has to be Columbus’ Zach Werenski. It’s difficult for defenseman – there’s no doubt. He’s having a ridiculous offensive year and is currently the 9th ranked fantasy defenseman. Not bad for a freshman. He already has 21 points (6+15), a +8 rating and 10 PPP with the red-hot Blue Jackets.
Will slumps turn to jumps?
Every season, it’s the same story. Several NHL stars have horrible starts. Some recover from it and some don’t. Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Gaudreau, Evgeny Kuznetsov, P.K. Subban, Cory Schneider, Logan Couture, Anze Kopitar and Nathan MacKinnon – I’m looking directly at you. Trust me, I can go on for days with this list but I stopped in Colorado.
Out of that group, I think the struggles will continue for Subban and MacKinnon. With respect to Subban, it’ll take some time to get accustom to Nashville. It happens quite frequently with new players in new places. Heck, even Shea Weber has seen a significant drop off lately. Over time, Subban will undoubtedly return to fantasy dominance.
Meantime, MacKinnon plays for the Avalanche – not sure I like the direction of that franchise right now. More to come on that in a bit.
You just never know with Schneider these days too. The Devils aren’t as strong defensively as they’ve been in years past. This scares me. Figure it out, Cory.
Who will be the top ranked goaltender?
At this point time, this looks like it’ll be a five horse race too. With four shutouts, a 1.62 GAA and .947 SVP%, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk has a considerable lead on the rest of the field. Who saw this coming? No one! Weirdly enough – don’t ever discount the second highest ranked goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He plays every game and it doesn’t seem like Columbus is ready to lose a game anytime soon. Also, there’s a guy in Montreal named Carey Price. He’s pretty good.
Honourable mentions: BOS Tuukka Rask, PIT Matt Murray and SJS Martin Jones.
Fantasy wise – Will anyone in Colorado ever figure things out?
From a fantasy hockey perspective and also real-life, it’s been a tumultuous season in Colorado so far. With a solid -4 showing against Winnipeg Sunday, Tyson Barrie is now a disastrous -18 on the season. Anyone have a white flag to wave? On a team that features the aforementioned Barrie, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabe Landeskog, the proof is in the pudding. Matt Duchene is the highest ranked guy and he’s outside the top-100. Yikes.
Derek Ryan – C – Carolina Hurricanes
Brian Elliott – G – Calgary Flames
Justin Williams – RW – Washington Capitals
Cory Conacher – C, LW – Tampa Bay Lightning
Timo Meier – RW – San Jose Sharks
Ian Gooding (@Ian_Gooding) of dobberhockey.com and sportsnet.ca was my guest on Episode Ten of the Fantasy Fix Podcast. It was a very jovial discussion. Trust me.
Find the podcast exclusively ON DEMAND with the SiriusXM APP and Online at Siriusxm.ca.
Have a great holiday everyone! Talk in 2017.