Jumping on board with Trocheck and Spooner, plus why I am not buying Mikael Granlund and more.
No timeline has been set for Aleksander Barkov’s return but while he is out, it is indeed Vincent Trocheck’s time to shine. He skated 21:45 with top unit power play time and scored a power-play marker, just his second of the season. Strap in, Trocheck owners, your about to be taken for a ride.
The Panthers’ schedule isn’t ideal for scooping up Trocheck (if he’s still on the wire in your league) as they don’t have a game until Wednesday of next week but I’d jump all over this chance. If you recall, I’d been trying to dump Trocheck for weeks but injuries have continually prevented me from making a short-term swap. Now I am absolutely giddy. Indeed, it is time to make like a Russian on the fourth line and Trocheck.
Jussi Jokinen, also seeing a minutes’ spike, notched an assist. It’s their time to shine.
The Bruins’ second line is hot with Ryan Spooner having scored six points in his last four games, while David Krejci has five in his last three. I would highly recommend a Spooner pickup as the Bruins play six games in the next 10 days. Hell, Krejci is available in a ton of leagues as well even though he is capable of scoring at a point-per-game pace the rest of the way.
Frank Vatrano stepped up with Backes out and notched a pair of assists. Good spot for him as well. He has three points in four games.
Patrice Bergeron has just three points in his past 12 games but scored last night. Take it where you can get it.
With Ryan O’Reilly out for a couple of weeks Matt Moulson has taken his place on the top power play unit. He notched a pair of assists and I suppose has value in deep leagues. Remember, Moulson had fleeting value early on subbing in for Jack Eichel.
I would opt for Evander Kane over Moulson, even though Kane doesn’t see top unit PP time, and can’t even get into the top six when guys are injured. He is just more talented. Even after a donut last night, Kane has eight goals and 10 points this month.
If you draft Hall, you can’t really complain much when the injuries come because you should know what you are getting yourself into. Just hope he’s healthy come fantasy playoffs and you are golden because he’s pretty much a point-per-game player.
Pavel Zacha was also absent from the lineup but this one due to a healthy scratch. Zacha hasn’t scored since November 26th so you can understand the decision to shake things up. Maybe this will help to spark a run. Zacha’s on-ice shooting percentage is a woeful 2.6%. He could use some good fortune.
Ultimately, Zacha’s a rookie and one more in line with a level of preparedness for NHL play that we expect from teenagers. One day he is going to be a hit. Probably won’t be this season.
Also a healthy scratch last night: Jakub Vrana. Good one for keeper leagues, not one-year leagues.
The Wild and Blue Jackets have done it:
Blue Jackets (14) vs Wild (12) on Saturday will be first game between teams with double digit win streaks in NHL history, per Elias SB.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) December 30, 2016
Of course, if you think I’m skipping out on the USA-Canada World Junior game to tune into an NHL regular season contest, you’re out of your mind. I’ll switch over once Canada is done clinching first in their group. Should still be plenty of time left in the Wild-Blue Jackets game.
Which is why it’s somewhat ironic that a modern day fourth liner like Gagner is far more likely to actually swing the outcome or change the momentum of a game with a goal than a player like Boll ever would’ve been able to with a big hit or fight.
I said years ago that some smart team was going to land Gagner, once the Oilers finally gave up, and would find a way to turn him into a real player. My example was always Detroit, who have coincidentally turned to mush. Never in a million years did I think that it would be Columbus, but here we are.
They have turned him into hockey’s version of the DH, skating limited/sheltered even-strength minutes and then using him as a power-play specialist. More and more teams are doing this to help extract more out of their lineup. It isn’t just with forwards, either.
Look at how the Bruins and Flyers have been able to ease slick puckmovers like Torey Krug and Shayne Gostisbehere into the league by starting them out with sheltered third-pairing minutes, but then unleashing them as their #1 defensemen in power play situations. It’s a great way to take advantage of the supreme skills a player has, while not leaving them over-exposed.
Shit hits the fan when you wind up with too many players who “need” power play time in one lineup. That’s when teams get cute and load up two separate units, never simply playing their best players together all at once. The latest victim, the Winnipeg Jets.
Part of this is a good problem. Too much talent? Oh boo hoo. The Jets are finally healthy, which is a good thing. It just emboldens Paul Maurice to split his talent between two different units:
I suppose it makes sense considering the Jets’ power play stinks anyway.
The good news is that Wheeler has cranked it up a notch with seven points in his last six games. Wheeler hasn’t been particularly explosive but he hasn’t had any major lulls either. Just steadily plugging his way to a 65-point season. With all the talent in Winnipeg we’ve probably seen the best Wheeler has to offer. Even though he’s a late-bloomer, it is hard to see how he finds enough usage to go for 70+ points again.
Marko Dano will undergo tests tomorrow but Maurice isn't optimistic. Believes the LBI could keep Dano out of the lineup for weeks.— Sara Orlesky (@saraorlesky) December 30, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen, last night was Devan Dubnyk’s worst start of the season. He allowed four goals in a game for the very first time. It was just his second game with a save percentage below .900, the last one coming way back on October 15.
I don’t think Dubnyk’s season is suddenly going to go off the rails. I just expect him to have his fair share of stinkers the rest of the way. I’d say that’s acceptable after a half-season of being bulletproof.
I am not buying what Mikael Granlund is selling but he is as hot as they come having scored 13 points in his last 11 games. In fact, Granlund has 22 points in 26 games since the start of November. That is two months of spitting fire. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use Granlund if he’s available or if you have been enjoying his extended hot streak, just realize a bubble is ready to burst.
Granlund’s shooting percentage has nearly double his career average of 8.7%. His on-ice shooting percentage is also way up at 10.1%. Granlund doesn’t shoot a ton and only sees secondary power play time. Approximately two minutes per game with the second unit. He is skating more minutes than ever buts that’s mostly thanks to being used as a regular penalty killer for the first time ever.
Granlund is on pace for 21 goals and 63 points but he could finish with 13 goals and 45 points and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Players can be effective with mere secondary usage but it is extremely rare. Granlund certainly has talent. I just wouldn’t bet on the percentages continuing in his favour.
Matt Puempel helped the Rangers fend off a rare feisty game from the Coyotes by notching a hat-trick. No, I do not believe that this is a sign to go out and grab Puempel. He is quite firmly being used in a fourth line role with mere secondary PP time. Not the type of usage for fantasy relevance.
Brassard has four goals and six points in his last eight games. Not bad. He is still only seeing secondary PP time though so I can’t get too excited about him. I’d rather have Kyle Turris centering the second line and top PP unit.
Jason Spezza continues to see run alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. That is one lethal trio when put together. It doesn’t leave the Stars with much on the lower lines when they put it together but it works when they use it. Spezza has six points in the last four games. Great way to wake him from his slumber.
I didn’t notice until now but Jamie Benn is shooting way less than normal this season. He has just 84 SOG and is on pace for less than 200 SOG for the first time since the lockout shortened 2013 season. Tough to score goals when your shot output tanks. His scoring has picked up a bit with 11 points in the last 10 games but I’m a little sour on Benn.
To be clear, Benn is on pace for 71 points. Benn is fine. He just isn’t producing at the level where he might challenge for another scoring title. Not that he would with the way Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid are going, anyhow.
Speaking of guys with declining scoring and shot rates: John Klingberg is actually shooting more in the month of December. He has 25 SOG in 13 games this month. By no means is that great but it’s an improvement. He also has seven points in December. Still not turning it quite around.
Kari Lehtonen was forced from the game due to the concussion protocol but is fine. Lehtonen has put together three straight quality starts but I am not falling for this hot streak. Lehtonen’s quality start percentage is a miserable 50%. You are flipping a coin any time you roll him out there.
Sami Vatanen has missed the past couple of games due to illness. With Vatanen out and Shea Theodore scratched, Brandon Montour finally made his debut. He skated 18 minutes with secondary PP time. Essentially, he was in the Theodore role.
I can’t imagine Montour will stick but this is a good way to get him some experience while also dangling the carrot to keep him motivated and developing at the AHL level. The Ducks have too many capable defensemen but that is not a bad problem to have.
It seems that Brian Elliott is drawing the creampuff assignments while Chad Johnson is taking on the toughs. Four straight losses for Johnson against the likes of Anaheim, San Jose, Columbus and Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, Elliott has beaten Arizona, Vancouver and Colorado for three straight wins. I am not prepared to jump on board with Elliott just yet. That being said, the Flames have Arizona, Colorado and Vancouver twice in their next four games. They’ve got a back-to-back in there against Vancouver, so Elliott won’t be starting all four but he could start and win all three and still suck.
This is the SOFTEST part of their schedule and if Calgary doesn’t bank serious points then they deserve to fall out of the playoff hunt.
James Neal has an upper-body injury and will not return to tonight's game.— Nashville Preds PR (@PredsPR) December 30, 2016
Don’t act so surprised…
Filip Forsberg has four goals in his last five games. Dare I say he is turning it around?
Oh my goodness Al Montoya:
Al Montoya crushes Ekblad's dreams with this astounding sprawling glove save. Wow. pic.twitter.com/h7RdyOoJqf— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) December 30, 2016
As I indicated yesterday, the injury hits keep coming for the Lightning:
Additionally, #TBLightning forward Brayden Point is out 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury.— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 29, 2016
Neither of these guys has been hugely important for fantasy owners but the trickle-down is that the Lightning become top-heavy. It also stretches their team even further, which won’t help Andrei Vasilevskiy to put up big numbers, even as he has been playing well.
Kirill Kaprizov is putting on a show for the Russians at the World Juniors. Sure, Russia has won only one game thus far and may not go far but the offense on display from this guy is awfully impressive. You won’t find him on Dobber’s list of top prospects but rest assured that will change when he updates the rankings in January. This is a coming-out party for Kaprizov. Get him on your radar in keeper leagues.
Kaprizov isn’t the only Wild prospect putting on a show. You already know about Joel Eriksson Ek thanks to his explosive cameo earlier this season but he continues to display good talent for Sweden.
The Wild also have their top pick from 2016 captaining the US. Luke Kunin hasn’t been a big offensive weapon but he’s proving to be a reliable two-way forward, playing big, tough minutes.
In other World Junior news, one of the half-dozen Lightning prospects playing for Canada, Taylor Raddysh, scored four goals against Latvia. He did not go full Thornton, which means I can no longer cheer for him.
Thanks for reading! Follow me @SteveLaidlaw.
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