We’re right at the mid-point of the fantasy hockey season and the 2020-21 campaign has truly been unlike any other. Postponed games, and games with dog cardboard cutouts watching. It’s been different.
With that, here are my 10 fantasy hockey takeaways from an eventful week that was.
1) RW Patrick Kane (100% rostered on Yahoo) had every reason to fail… but he hasn’t
The Chicago Blackhawks appeared to be well on their way to a disappointing 2020-21 campaign. Through the team’s first four games, Chicago owned an 0-3-1 record and was outscored 20-9 during this stretch. To make matters worse, two of the squad’s top centres in Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach were ruled out for the foreseeable future shortly before the year started. Since their ugly start, however, the Blackhawks have unexpectedly played their way to a 14-6-4 record thanks largely to the excellent play of Patrick Kane.
Kane has been simply incredible. His 40 points are the third-most in the NHL and his Individual Points Percentage — which is the number of team goals he has registered a point on while on the ice — is an impressive 80.0 percent at all strengths, Additionally, he’s done all of this on a sustainable 11.3 percent shooting percentage and 11 goals on the year. With over 1,000 career games on his resume, Kane may be playing his best hockey right now.
2) G Antti Raanta (24% rostered on Yahoo) is the latest goalie worth adding
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper is listed as ‘week-to-week’ after suffering a lower-body injury on Tuesday, This is a little concerning as the 30-year old recently returned from a lower-body ailment. Filling in admirably during his absence has been Antti Raanta, who has stopped 60 of the 62 shots he has faced in the 71-minutes he has played over the last two games.
Since the 2016-17 campaign, no goalie with at least 50 games played has a better save percentage than Raanta, who owns an impressive .922 mark. Although he has spent this entire portion of his career as a tandem netminder, it will be very intriguing to see what he is able to do with an extended stretch as the starter. For those in need of a late-week surge in the goaltending categories, the Coyotes have two games against the Minnesota Wild scheduled for the remainder of this week, and the 31-year old will likely appear in at least one match and potentially both.
3) C/LW/RW Adrian Kempe’s (43% rostered on Yahoo) production is likely fleeting
Over the last three games, no member of the Los Angeles Kings has looked better than Adrian Kempe. The 24-year old has notched six goals while putting an outstanding 14 shots on net during this stretch. On the year, his 11 goals already match his total through 69 contests last season. There are a few signs, however, that lead me to believe his production may be unsustainable.
Kempe’s 15.7 percent shooting percentage is noticeably higher than his career total of 10.4 percent. Additionally, his numbers have been inflated by strong power-play production and not because of his strong play at even strength. A hefty four of Kempe’s 11 markers have come on the man advantage while his 49.50 corsi for percentage (CF%) indicates that the team isn’t really driving play at even strength when he is on the ice. All of this reveals that the 2014 first-round pick is a great short-term add, but he’s likely not going to continue this pace through the end of the season.
4) How does RW Vladimir Tarasenko’s (79% rostered on Yahoo) return impact the St. Louis Blues?
The St. Louis Blues received a massive jolt to their lineup this week when Vladimir Tarasenko returned to action. The Russian superstar played his first regular season game since injuring his shoulder on Oct. 24, 2019. Tarasenko earned one assist in his two games back and there’s plenty of reason to believe there’s more production on the way.
From 2014-2019, the 29-year old’s 182 goals were the third-most in the NHL and he's scored 30-plus goals in each season during that stretch. There hasn’t been much easing Tarasenko back into the lineup as he’s currently penciled into the team’s first line and top power-play unit. His return has the largest effect on winger Jordan Kyrou as he’s been demoted from the Blues’ top power-play grouping because of it. It’s not all negative for Kyrou, however, as he does get to play alongside the elite goal-scorer on the teams No. 1 line, which should do wonders for his assist totals. In short, Tarasenko’s return is good news for anyone he’s on the ice with.
5) C/LW Scott Laughton (16% rostered on Yahoo) is hitting his way into fantasy lineups
Scott Laughton is one of the most under-rostered players in fantasy hockey. Over the last 14 days, the power forward’s bruising 40 body checks are second in the entire NHL and he’s registered four points over his last four games while playing inside the Philadelphia Flyers’ top-six.
In category leagues, this kind of hit volume is very valuable and is why he should be added in more leagues, especially for this upcoming week. The Flyers have four games scheduled for the upcoming week and Laughton’s aggressive play may be enough to ensure a hits category win.
6) I’m ready to be burned by D Matt Grzelcyk (30% rostered on Yahoo) again
Chances are you’ve been burnt by Matt Grzelcyk at least once this season. The Boston Bruins blueliner has been in-and-out of the team’s lineup often this year, dealing with a number of ailments. The 27-year old has played in the team’s last five games, however, and it’s hard to ignore his intriguing fantasy value.
Currently, Grzelcyk is quarterbacking the squad’s top power-play unit, an important position considering the Bruins have the 10th-best man-advantage in the entire league. Since returning, he has picked up three assists, including two on the power play. As long as he maintains this role and is healthy, Grzelcyk is someone who should be locked into fantasy lineups. Don’t be deterred by his lengthy list of injuries this season.
7) This is the perfect time to buy low on Mika Zibanejad (86% rostered on Yahoo)
The 2020-21 season has been a statistical disaster for Mika Zibanejad. 25 games into the year, the centre still hasn’t reached double-digit points as he’s stuck on three goals and six assists. After it appeared he was getting back on track with five points across six games, the Swedish star has followed it up with just one point across his last four. Zibanejad fantasy managers are certainly frustrated, and that’s where you come in.
Offensively, Zibanejad continually passes the eye test and his underlying numbers support this statement. The 2011 first-round pick has an unsustainably low 4.2 percent shooting percentage, especially when you consider that his career number is 12.5 percent. Additionally, his 67 individual scoring chances for (iSCF) are ahead of players like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Brad Marchand despite each player having at least twice as many points as he does. He and the New York Rangers also received some good news this past week with a sign that suggests he may be close to re-joining the lineup. Everything I’ve seen indicates a bounce back is coming, so strike now while Zibanejad fantasy managers are Peak Disgruntled.
8) Now is the time to start looking at games played when you make a trade
We are firmly in the second half of the fantasy hockey regular season which is when I typically start to look at games played before making a trade. I don’t get overly microscopic by looking to see if a player plays a ton of games during the fantasy playoffs at this point, I am just looking to get a general sense of who has a loaded back-half of the season and who has a lightened workload.
This is important to do because of a simple math equation. More games equals more chances to earn fantasy production. When looking to acquire someone in a deal, teams like the Dallas Stars (22 game played), Vegas Golden Knights (23GP), Colorado Avalanche (24GP) and Boston Bruins (24GP) are great targets because of their increasingly busy schedules the rest of the way. Players from teams like the Vancouver Canucks (30GP), Edmonton Oilers (28GP) and Chicago Blackhawks (28GP) are good players to start selling as they’ll be in your lineup less through the end of the year. This isn’t to say you should run and trade Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, this is meant to be something you keep in mind when trying to figure out who to add or who to subtract in a deal.
9) Attacking goalie early in fantasy drafts was a losing strategy this season
Unless you ended up with Andrei Vasilevskiy or Connor Hellebuyck, you’re probably regretting drafting a goalie as early as you did. The two aforementioned netminders were the first off the board in Yahoo fantasy hockey drafts, and they’ve delivered for fantasy managers. The next six goaltenders to be selected after these two, however — including Carter Hart, Tuukka Rask, Robin Lehner, Jordan Binnington,Ilya Samsonov, Carey Price haven’t come anywhere near meeting expectations.
Has taken a major step backwards, owns a poor .888 save percentage and 3.61 goals-against-average. He has earned just six wins across 15 starts.
Has posted a sub-par .906 save percentage, a solid 2.46 goals-against average and 8-4-2 record. Currently dealing with an undisclosed injury.
Is currently on the Vegas Golden Knights’ injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Has only played in five games this season.
Has registered a less-than-stellar .908 save percentage and a decent 2.68 goals-against-average. Only has nine wins in 19 starts.
Missed a large portion of the season while being listed in the COVID protocol. Owns a sub-par .907 save percentage and a good 2.55 goals-against-average across just six games this season.
Has earned a .906 save percentage, a 2.59 goals-against average and has eight wins in 16 contests. He’s been noticeably outplayed by backup Jake Allen.
10) You’re safe to drop Kyle Palmieri (42% rostered on Yahoo)
With just one point in his last 10 games, nobody is going to fault you for dropping Kyle Palmieri. The production from the New Jersey Devils’ top line has dried up as the two mainstays, Palmieri and Jack Hughes, have combined for just five points since Feb. 23.
Palmieri hasn’t been a great source of much else, either. He has a modest 56 shots through 22 games, an unspectacular 29 hits and just three power-play points. You’re better off chasing players on hot streaks than you are stashing away Palmieri.
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