There have been plenty of defensemen this season who have frustrated their owners due to lack of performance. A player who looked on the verge of a breakout after last season was Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres agreed with that take giving him a 5 year deal and early dividends were not there. Risto was accumulating assists but not much else. However, things are starting to change and it’s no coincidence that it has occurred when Jack Eichel returned to the lineup. On Tuesday night, Ristolainen scored his first goal of the season, an amazing slapshot in overtime, and added two assists and three shots in the 4-3 OT win against the Oilers. Add in the assist and three shots he had Monday against the Capitals and that gives Ristolainen a goal and six assists in the five games with Eichel in the lineup. He played almost 30 minutes in each of the last two games showing how important he is to the Sabres depleted blue line and with how the top power play unit moves the puck, I expect Ristolainen to be a #2 defenseman the rest of the way with the upside to be a #1. Let’s take a look at what else developed over the last two nights.
David Backes – Goal on five shots. The offense has slowed down quite a bit but it’s solid across the board with a big boost in PIM per usual.
Patrice Bergeron – Assist and three shots. That’s points in two straight so by NBA Jam standards, he’s heating up!
David Krejci – Two assists, shot, two PIM. Despite having four goals, the shots are at a career high rate meaning there is some upside for more. Regardless, assists in the 40 range seems probable.
David Pastrnak – Two goals on three shots. The kid is a monster. 15 goals, +15, point per game, over 3 shots per. That’ll make you a top 20 forward.
Aleksander Barkov – Goal on four shots Monday, goal on five shots Tuesday. It’s no coincidence that Barkov has three goals in the last four games (more than the previous 23 combined) given he’s totaled 19 shots on goal. Keep shooting kid.
Keith Yandle – Leaves in the first period Monday, everyone reports he’s out but his ironman streak intact with four shots on goal Tuesday. Scare for owners but thankfully he’s alright.
Erik Karlsson – Goal and three assists with five shots. Karlsson has retaken his usual mantle atop the points leaderboard for defensemen. So good.
Mike Hoffman – Goal on four shots. He’s well past being on fire at this point.
Dion Phaneuf – Goal and an assist with five shots and two PIM. He’s a two category player at this point with penalty minutes and shots.
Mark Stone – Goal and two assists with three shots. The boys are back!
Kyle Turris – Goal and an assist with three shots. I wish the shots would go back up to where they were two seasons ago but overall, no complaints.
Craig Anderson – 36 saves on 43 shots in 52:36 before being pulled. Three points here. One, the regression fairies found Anderson in a big way which seemed inevitable. Two, why the hell did Boucher wait to pull Anderson until this point in the game? Three, Anderson did not take the trip to California so expect Mike Condon to get the next three games. Maybe Andrew Hammond if Condon struggles.
Ian Cole – Two points and a shot. This has to be the flukiest 7 points in 4 game stretch I can ever remember.
Sidney Crosby – Goal on four shots. Nothing like playing on a 69 goal pace per 82 games.
Phil Kessel – Goal and two assists with two shots and two PIM. It’s about time the national media starts talking about how well Kessel is playing. This is what everybody expected last season; he’s over a point per game.
Evgeni Malkin – Goal and two assists with six shots. He’s basically in the same boat as Kessel in regards to the lack of media attention. Just stay healthy!
Bryan Rust – Three goals and an assist with five shots. Okay then, not so much rust on him, amirite? He’s an okay streamer but the minutes aren’t great.
Justin Schultz – Goal and an assist with three shots and two PIM. He’s on quite the heater right now, he’s on the second power play unit and the minutes are up. I’m grabbing Schultz in 12’ers where he’s available which is almost everywhere.
Marc-Andre Fleury – 12 saves on 16 shots in 27 minutes before being pulled. Matt Murray saved 17 of 18 shots in relief getting the win. It’s about time Murray gets treated as a #1 and Fleury a normal backup by Mike Sullivan.
Evander Kane – Two shots and four penalty minutes Monday, two goals on four shots with two PIM Tuesday. We’re finally starting to see signs of life from Kane with five points in the last five games. He’s still available in over 2/3rds of leagues and I’d definitely grab him for the PIM boost.
Ryan O’Reilly – Assist and six shots Monday, two assists and a shot Tuesday. It’s only getting better for RoR going forward.
Marcus Johansson – Two goals playing exactly 20 minutes. He’s been a revelation this year for the Capitals given their decrease in scoring. We discussed their situation on the last podcast here.
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Assist with three shots. Please, please be the start of something.
Braden Holtby – 31 saves on 33 shots in the 3-2 OT win over the Sabres. He’s quietly working his way back up the goaltender rankings.
Cam Atkinson – Two assists with three shots. What a remarkable first 24 games for Atkinson.
Sam Gagner – Two goals and two assists with four shots. Ultimate streamer success! I didn’t even love putting Gagner but it worked out in spades. That said, I still think it’s only worth streaming barring an increase in minutes.
Zach Werenski – Goal on three shots. He’s currently a top 10 defenseman on the season. Let that sink in for a minute.
Sergei Bobrovsky – 17 saves on 18 shots in the 4-1 win over the Coyotes. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Drake Caggiula – Two assists. I was at this game and Caggiula spent a lot of time on the first line in this game. I’m going to stream Caggiula on Thursday (spoiler alert) to see if this sticks.
Leon Draisaitl – Goal on four shots. He bounced between the first and third line but had an excellent tip goal on the power play. No worries either way with the German.
Connor McDavid – Two assists with five shots and two PIM. I’ve seen him in person multiple times and it seems to get more incredible every time. You should not be able to do the things McDavid does with the puck at that speed.
Milan Lucic – Goal on six shots. I still can’t explain this massive shot increase but it obviously bodes well for future results.
Daniel Sedin – Goal and an assist with two shots. Henrik Sedin scored the other Canucks goal on his only shot. Can’t slow these Cyborgs down!
Troy Stecher – Assist with a shot and two PIM. Decent deep league option given the minutes and power play role.
Brandon Sutter – Assist and three shots. I prefer to stream Sutter rather than hold him. That plus-minus and 0 PIM is just a beating.
Taylor Hall – Goal and an assist with two shots. Reid called him for the three point challenge. I feel so bad for him that he didn’t get it. Just kidding, I’m still stuck at 0 in the standings :/
Kyle Palmieri – Goal. He’s pretty fringe but I think I’m holding for now just because the rest of the team is starting to put things together.
Kyle Quincey – Two assists and five shots. Nothing to see here.
Damon Severson – Assist with two shots and five PIM. He’s slowed down a bit offensively but I’m still holding onto Severson.
Cory Schneider – 22 saves on 24 shots in the 3-2 win over his old team. He’s surprisingly struggled a lot the last two weeks which makes me think Schneider is going to go on a massive heater soon. Perhaps there’s a buy low window open?
Jaroslav Halak – 36 saves on 38 shots in the 4-2 win over the Rangers. If you know what you’re going to get from Halak in any start, congratulations because I don’t have a clue.
Rick Nash – Assist and five shots before leaving the game with a groin injury. Ugh. Here’s to hoping it’s short term because Nash has been excellent so far this year.
Jimmy Vesey – Goal on four shots. I guess the bright spot of Nash being out is that Vesey’s minutes could increase. I still don’t trust him to produce consistently.
J.T. Miller – Assist with a shot and two penalty minutes. He’s in a cold stretch but still hold tight.
Steve Mason – 42 saves on 44 shots in the 3-2 OT win over the Panthers. Mason was a focal point on the last podcast and my notes in the past week. Pick him up yesterday.
Wayne Simmonds – Two goals on three shots. As much as I loved Simmonds going into the year, and I loved me some Wayne Simmonds, I didn’t see him being in the top 10 in the league in both goals and assists in December. That said, I definitely wouldn’t sell high.
Claude Giroux – Two assists with a shot. Giroux is sitting at 14 PPP already which is remarkable. That’d be 41 over the full season. If the even strength production goes up at all, it could be top 20 at year’s end.
Jakub Voracek – Goal on seven shots. He’s a top 10 forward right now despite the plus-minus being at -6. Five category crusher.
Shayne Gostisbehere – Assist and two shots with two PIM. That’s an assist in three of the past four for the one they call Ghost Bear. That said, only five shots total in those games. Where have the shots gone?
Paul Byron – Goal and an assist. It seems completely unsustainable but Byron is still in the streamer category.
Tomas Plekanec – Goal and an assist with four shots. The minutes didn’t go much despite Alex Galchenyuk being out indefinitely. Given that the goal broke a 13 game goalless stretch, I still don’t want to grab Turtleneck.
Jake Allen – 28 saves on 30 shots in the 3-2 OT win over the Canadiens. The wins have been phenomenal but Allen will need to continue this level of play to get his save percentage back to even league average.
Jaden Schwartz – Two goals and an assist with four shots playing over 22 minutes. All it took was me calling Schwartz out for him to get hotter than hell! If only it worked with other guys like Kuznetsov and Bergeron. Oh well, may the Schwartz be with you.
Paul Stastny – Goal and an assist with two PIM. I’m still holding Stastny although it’s not a guarantee it lasts. The shots are really disappearing and these penalty minutes are quite fluky.
Tyson Barrie – Assist, three shots, two PIM. The plus-minus is quite a mess but Barrie is producing close to his normal point rate. I’m sure that will improve given he’s shooting below 4% at the moment.
Matt Duchene – Two goals on four shots. The Avalanche are close to a two man team at the moment but man, those two guys are excellent.
Nathan MacKinnon – Goal and an assist with four shots. Mack was actually in a four game pointless streak butI have no worries going forward. If I was a betting man (I am), I think he tops the 63 points from his rookie year.
Mikko Rantanen – Assist with two shots. The third wheel at the moment, Rantanen is more of a top end streamer in my mind. At least the Avalanche can hit with their first round picks. The rest of the roster, woof.
Viktor Arvidsson – Goal on three shots. It’s been a meteoric rise for Arvidsson this year and I think it’s to the point where you can make a compelling case that he’s a hold. The shots are spectacular which is bringing the goals.
Kevin Fiala – Assist with three shots for some streamer success. Nothing changed, I will keep streaming Fiala.
James Neal – Goal in his return from injury. Get him back in your lineups immediately.
Ryan Johansen – Assist with four shots and two PIM. This is the playmaking Johansen the Predators were looking for when they made the big trade.
Roman Josi – Goal on four shots as did P.K. Subban. Even when both have been far below average by their standards, they’re top 20 fantasy defensemen. It’s only going to get better for both.
Mike Ribeiro – Two assists. The real story here is that he had a shot on goal! That increases his per game average on the season. Disgusting. The PIM have dried up a bit so Ribeiro is really a one category guy at the moment.
Dylan Larkin – Assist with four shots. I saw the third period and overtime in this game and Larkin looked terrific. Hopefully this game is a building block for him.
Anthony Mantha – Goal on three shots with two PIM. I have a feeling I’m going to be super aggressive in my ranking of Mantha for next season. Like pushing the top 100 aggressive.
Thomas Vanek – Goal on two shots. If I had to pick one player to tip a shot in, it would be Vanek. Dude is ridiculous.
Tomas Tatar – Goal on four shots. Mini streak for Tatar with four points in his last three games. He’s available in over half of leagues so if you’re in one those, I’d look to stream him on Friday and see how things go.
Dustin Byfuglien – Goal and an assist with eight shots. That’s what I’m talking about! Big Buff doing Big Buff things! That’s at least one point in five straight and with the team getting healthy, he’s ready to take off. It wouldn’t shock me if he tops his previous career high of 56 points. It’ll take his shooting percentage getting back to normal rates but the Jets are buzzing at even strength and we know how good their first unit is.
Nikolaj Ehlers – Assist with six shots. As much as I liked Ehlers going into the year, I wasn’t expecting him to be top 5 in assists. I don’t expect that to last but if the shots keep going up, it could push top 50.
Patrik Laine – Goal and an assist with four shots. This kid is scary good. I harped all preseason that he’s the top rookie for this year and in dynasties. I didn’t think it was particularly close and it’s proven to be so. That’s not a knock on the other guys, most notably Matthews, but Laine has the makings of a guy who scores 40+ goals consistently in this league.
Blake Wheeler – Assist with three shots. Wheeler keeps chugging along getting a point in every game, no big deal.
Scott Darling – 22 save shutout in the 4-0 win over the Coyotes. The upcoming games are a bit tougher, including two with the Rangers in the next week, but I’d still grab Darling everywhere.
Marian Hossa – Two goals on three shots. He’s already topped last year’s goal total. It’s December 7th.
Johnny Gaudreau – Goal and an assist with three shots. Here’s Johnny!
Alex Chiasson – Assist with a shot. Still worth streaming as long as he sticks with Gaudreau at even strength.
Sean Monahan – Goal and an assist with two shots. He’s finally back with points in five straight. The shots are still down but it doesn’t matter, the buy low opportunity is out the window. If you’ve held tight, you’re finally getting rewarded.
Chad Johnson – 29 saves on 30 shots in the 2-1 win over Dallas. It’s Ochocinco’s world and we’re just living it in. He’s still available in almost 50% of leagues and if that’s the case in yours, shame on you for not picking him up sooner.
Wednesday Streamers – Four games on the slate tonight making the options limited. Here’s what I’m looking at:
Nino Niederreiter (23.9%) – Yes, I’m cheating by my standards but I’ll give a 4th option. I just want to say that Nino is the top option on this slate to stream by a wide margin given that he’s up on the top line at the moment.
Joel Ward (4.8%) – Condon will be in net for Ottawa and he’s simply not that good. Ward being on the second line and second PP unit is good enough for me.
Jason Zucker (6.7%) – He’s on a bit of a heater lately and I think the Wild are going to take it to Toronto tonight.
Viktor Stalberg (4.8%) – I like the Ducks in this game but I don’t like any of their guys to stream. I also don’t want anything to do with Caps Bruins. I’ll turn to Stalberg who is on fire at the moment. He’s a guy who always leaves me wanting more given his immense talent but he’s harnessed it over the last 5 games with 4 goals and an assist. Here’s to hoping he keeps it rolling.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back with a new podcast on Thursday morning and my next set of daily notes on Friday. Please give the podcast a listen if you get a chance (all episodes available in your pod catcher or here) and please check out No Halftime. I’m sure virtually everyone reading this enjoys fantasy sports and they’ve made a unique format that’s quite enjoyable. With a free $10 when you sign up when you use our promo code, you have nothing to lose! Anyways, per usual, feel free to ask any questions or comments below. Talk to everyone soon, take care!