In a season full of woe and dammit, Nathan MacKinnon, C (3 G, 3 SOG) decided to get his shiz together finally and put up his best game of the season posting the first hat trick of his young career in a 5-2 win last night. That’s a good sign from a guy who exploded on the scene for 24 goals and 63 points as a rookie last season and won’t come close to touching those totals this season. Does that mean the kid is a bust? Hardly! At just 19-years-old the sky remains the limit for MacKinnon and the reasons behind his sophomore slump are not only easily fixable, the healing has already begun, making him a target ripe for the plucking at the trade deadline. It might not seem like it now, but if you do find a way to bring him on as a keeper, you’ll thank me next season.
One of the biggest factors in Mac’s down year centers around Avs Head Coach Patrick Roy and his awful decision-making. Well, it’s not awful, but it hasn’t exactly panned out well in a lot of ways this season and it’s making me seriously question his ability to properly coach that team. That’s another story for another time, though, and the decision that really borked Mac’s 2014-15 season was Roy’s choice to shift him back to center away from his natural slot on the wing. Roy contends that Mac must play the pivot to better utilize his speed and playmaking abilities, but it’s clear that hasn’t translated well in the short term. He’s talented enough to make it happen, but after losing steady center Paul Stastny to free agency and being shifted to the much more difficult role he has had serious problems keeping the scoring up. That’s not a surprise given the increased levels of responsibility that come with the center position, responsibilities that Mac didn’t have to concern himself with for most of last season. It comes as little surprise then, that since he was moved to Matt Duchene’s line about 10 games ago Mac has started to score again.
So what does all that razzmatazz mean for Mac’s value moving forward? I figure he’s going to have a strong finish to this season and, barring some ridiculous ideas that they should keep forcing the issue next season, Mac should rebound in 2015-16 and at the very least find his rookie season form once again. That means that at the moment one of the most talented young skaters in the league is woefully undervalued and ripe for the plucking. If you’re looking to build for next season or want to try and find a guy with high upside that could tilt the scales for you in the playoffs this year, Mac is definitely a guy you should be targeting. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
David Krejci hurt his knee trying to lay a hit last night and the injury sounds serious. He’s headed to get checked out by doctor’s today but it sounds like he could be going the way of Tyler Seguin and he’ll be missing significant time, perhaps weeks.
Ryan Miller, G (10 SV, 1.000%, 10 SA) was forced out of this one after making 10 saves on 10 shots when Jannik Hansen, RW (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) collided with Miller in the crease. There’s no word on how badly he’s hurt or what the timetable is for his return, but he’s slated for an MRI early this week to give us the skinny on both of those questions. In the short term Eddie Lack, G (W, 0 GA, 27 SV, 100.0 SV%) will start for the Canucks with Jacob Markstrom getting recalled from the AHL to back him up. I wouldn’t bother with either guy unless you own Miller or are hurting pretty badly in the crease, though. Lack has been inconsistent all season.
Robb Zepp, G (W, 21 SV, 2 GA, .913%) – I can’t think of a stronger vote of confidence a team can give a netminder other than rolling the guy out in both games of a back-to-back set and that’s exactly what the Flyers did with Zepp this weekend. What’s more, they asked him to tend net against Pekka Rinne, G (L, 31 SV, 2 GA, .939%) and the league leading Nashville Predators and the Washington Caps and Zepp won both games 3-2. If you want to pick him up you’re either on the bubble or out of it, but he’s worth a flyer if you’re desperate.
Michael Del Zotto, D (1 G, 2 SOG, 2 PIM) – Del Zotto continues to consistently put up points and did so again last night with a goal on two shots. That gives him five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last five games and a whopping 15 points in his last 15 games. Yeah, a point-per-game pace from a defenseman that’s sat on the wire most of the season when you could use it the most? Why haven’t you added Del Zotto yet again? It’s not for lack of my telling you to do so, anyway.
Wayne Simmonds, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) – When you draft Simmonds you’re after two things; hits and goals. He’s delivered on both counts, but his goal scoring has been up and down on a month-to-month basis. It’s almost as if scoring comes in waves! Go figure. With another goal last night Simmonds stretches his streak to five games and has 10 points (6 G, 4 A) over his last nine games. He’ll definitely hit the 30-goal mark and could flirt with 35 by the end of the season, but he’ll come up short of 60 points. That’s a shame, but it’s mostly a team problem. If you aren’t in a hits league I’d think about moving Simmonds before the deadline for a more well rounded scoring forward.
Tuukka Rask, G (W, 26 SV, 2 GA, .929%) – Rage Monster earned his nickname in a big way last night when he coughed up an early goal and, while trying to smash his stick across his goal post he slashed the ever-lovin’ crap out of Kris Versteeg, RW (2 SOG, -1) and took a two minute minor for his trouble. It didn’t matter much, the B’s held on for the victory but man, Tuukka, get your shiz together buddy. It’s one goal!
Corey Crawford, G (L, 10 SV, 4 GA, .714%) – Crow coughed up four goals for the second straight start, but this time he did it on 10 shots and was yanked about halfway through this one. Despite the last two bleh starts I think he’ll be fine moving forward, but expect the recently recalled Scott Darling to be between the pipes for the Hawks’ next tilt.
Milan Lucic, LW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – After a lackluster start to the season it seemed like Cheech was back on track after putting up 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in 12 games in January, but he’s gone cold again with just four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last nine games in February. Honestly, I have no idea what he’s going to do for the rest of the season, I expected a 50 or 60-point campaign from him this season and he’s going to come up well short of that. He’s still delivering the hits (185) and should top 100 PIM, but he’s on track to finish with fewer than 20 goals and 50-points this year and that’s a real disappointment.
Dougie Hamilton, D (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – On the other end of the spectrum of disappointment we find satisfaction, and if you own Hambone I can’t see any way you couldn’t be more satisfied with his sophomore season so far. He’s on pace to flirt with 50 points and 15 goals, both marks I expect he’ll come up just short of by the end of the season, but that doesn’t matter much as he’ll set career marks in goals, assists and points. He remains an elite defensive keeper with even more offensive upside next season.
Carter Hutton, G (W, 16 SV, 1 GA, .941%) – I know teams wisely use the Sabres as an opportunity to rest their starter and give their backups and developing young goalies a chance to play some sheltered minutes, but I really wanted Rinne to get this start. What does Hutton need to develop at 29? He is what he is and he’s not going to get better with time. I needed Rinne to get an easy start, dammit!
Michal Neuvirth, G (L, 37 SV, 1 GA, .974%) – I’m continually impressed with how well Newbirth is taking control of the starter’s job on the woeful Sabres and he impressed again pushing away 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss to the mighty Predators last night. I wouldn’t own him with your team because Sabres, but if you are absolutely dying for help in your crease he seems to be able to provide solid peripherals, anyway.
Patric Hornqvist, RW (2 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Since returning from injury Horny hasn’t quite been the same. He started the season white hot with 25 points in 23 games over the first two months but has just eight points (5 G, 3 A) in 14 games since returning. He’s still staking with Sidney Crosby, C (2 A, 2 SOG, +2) and David Perron, LW (1 SOG, 2 PIM, +3) on the top line, so you have to keep rolling him out there, but he was never a point-per-game guy, so don’t expect a return to that form anytime soon.
Jaroslav Halak, G (L, 20 SV, 3 GA, .870%) – I figured Halak’s early season dominance couldn’t last, in fact, while it was happening I had to fight denial that he was playing so well. I no longer have that problem because he’s been pretty inconsistent for a few months now and put up another bleh effort last night allowing three goals on 23 shots in a 4-0 loss to the Canucks. He’ll continue to give you middling peripherals with solid wins, but like Horny, don’t expect a return to his early season form.
Radim Vrbata, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Now here’s a guy I thought would easily score 35 goals after he burst out of the gate playing on the Canucks’ top line alongside Daniel Sedin, LW (1 A, 4 SOG) and his brother Henrik Sedin, C (2 A, 2 PIM), but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. He does have 10 points (3 G, 7 A) over his last 12 games, but he isn’t getting consistent time on that top line anymore and that hurts his overall production. He can definitely put up another eight goals to hit the 30-goal mark before the end of the season, but that’s about all you can expect moving forward.
Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 28 SV, 4 GA, .875%) – Varly won this one in typical 2014-15 Avs fashion and coughed up four goals on 32 shots but held on for a 5-4 win. The writing was on the wall for Varly to have a down year in the preseason and I hope you listened while I preached that gospel.
Matt Duchene, C (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – All I can do is roll my eyes when he scores these days. Wow. Thanks. Too little, too late, guy. Unlike Mac, I have no idea why Duche has been so bad this year, but I can only expect that 2015-16 will be a better year for him and most other Avs who really bombed this year. I won’t draft him, mind you, but he’s too good to stay this bad for more than a season. The Avs really are a mess this season.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, G (L, 13 SV, 5 GA, .722%) – I’d make a joke about Vas going to the Evgeni Nabokov school of goalie backups, but honestly, Nabby was brilliant for most of his career so I can’t knock the guy now that he’s retired. It’s poor form. I can’t knock Vas either, he’s extremely raw and young and these games are going to happen. He remains one of the top goalie prospects in the league, but with no clear path to a starter’s role while Ben Bishop is around.
Tyler Johnson, C (1 G, 2 A, 1 SOG) – Johnson keeps scoring and keeps showing the league why little guys shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re little. I say “little” but really, TJ is just an averaged sized man in a world of giants, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the league. I see no reason why his success will wane anytime soon and if you were lucky enough to grab him this season, hold on tight, he’s going to continue to tear it up for years to come.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Kooch is another Bolt that you should hold on to if you can. With a goal and an assist last night he remains on pace for 30-goals and 70 points by the end of the season and I’m still confident he’ll hit both marks before the fat lady sings.
Cam Talbot, G (W, 27 SV, 3 GA, .900%) – Talbot keeps winning games, and in the NHL that’s what counts, but man alive are they ugly wins and fantasy owners definitely feel the poor peripherals he’s offering up as the Rangers’ starter. There’s no word on if or when Henrik Lundqvist will be returning to the lineup so Talbot will remain the starter, but he can’t hold a lead for his life and I don’t recommend you start him unless it’s against a weak opponent, you’re dying for a miracle to save your week or you’re a masochist. Whatever floats your boat!
Curtis McElhinney, G (L, 34 SV, 3 GA, .919%) – McMeh was basically the exact opposite of Talbot yesterday. He started a bit slow coughing up two early goals, but buckled down from there and proved to be the only thing that stood between the Jackets and a blow out loss. From the first period through OT he continually made huge saves during a game long onslaught from the Rangers and kept the Jackets in it, but they couldn’t hold on in the shootout. He’s been solid for a bit now and is probably worth a flyer in deeper leagues, but don’t expect miracles.
Kevin Hayes, C/RW (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – The goal Hayes score was a sick wrister from the slot as he continues to produce on what has become a fairly dangerous third line for the Rangers. It’s impossible to predict what the rookie will do for the rest of the season, but Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault continues to show increasing trust in his third unit and Hayes and Co. are getting solid TOI as result. In deeper leagues Hayes should be owned and he should be among your top keeper options for next season, too. He’s only going to get better.
Martin St. Louis, RW (2 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Lately Marty has been showing some serious chemistry with Derek Stepan, C (2 A, 6 SOG, +2) as the two rain points down over the last few weeks. Marty has seven points (4 G, 3 A) over his last five games and 16 points (6 G, 10 A) over his last 16 games. It’s never safe to bet against the Mighty Mini Scoring Machine and I wouldn’t bet against him moving forward for the rest of the season on the high octane Rangers. He makes for a great buy-low candidate at the deadline. I’m sure some out-of-contention teams will be willing to move him for a prospect or two to help your run for the playoffs and hopefully, you league title
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – Here’s the thing about Doobie. His track record is such that you won’t get proper value for him in a trade. You can try and move him, but you’re going to give away more than you get in most cases. If you can’t find fair value in a deal, hold on and hope for the best. As I’ve highlighted in the past, the Wild have a very goalie friendly system and a strong defense to help prop up their goalies on bad nights. Doobie hasn’t had many of those in a Wild uniform, but his quality of competition hasn’t exactly been through the roof since he was dealt to Minnesota, either.
Jhonas Enroth, G (L, 29 SV, 6 GA, .829%) – Maybe the Stars picked the wrong Sabres goalie to go after?
Jason Spezza, C (2 G, 5 SOG) – A few months ago I called Spaz’s 2014-15 season lost, but he wasn’t on board with that idea and put up 24 points in his last 24 games since. With Tyler Seguin out with a knee injury Spaz will continue to occupy the top line pivot role along side Jamie Benn, RW (1 A, 1 SOG, 2 PIM) with Erik Cole, LW (2 SOG, -2) the lucky SOB who gets to skate with them and so long as that holds, so should Spezza’s scoring. That being said, he was already getting back to form before the shift to the top line, so that’s a good sign the points will continue to flow. That said, if you can move him for someone more stable before the deadline, I would.
Brian Elliott, G (L, 25 SV, 4 GA, .862%) – As the games go by Elliott’s performances get weaker and weaker as I feared. He coughed up four more goals on 29 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Pens this weekend and I’m not very high on him for the rest of this season. In 22 games before the All-Star Break he put up a line of 13-5-2/1.86/.930 but has since fallen off and put up a mediocre 5-4-0/3.34/.896 line in nine starts since. He could get back on track, but with no track record to indicate one way or the other, he remains a wild card down the stretch.
John Gibson, G (W, 26 SV, 1 GA, .963%) – With starts in back-to-back games it’s clear that the Ducks have zero trust in Ilya Bryzgalov, and why would they? Their lack of trust became abundantly clear when they put Breezy on waivers, which he will absolutely clear, and his time with the Ducks and quite possibly in the NHL will be over. Expect the Ducks to split starts between Gibson and Frederik Andersen down the stretch. For now, Gibson is their starter.
Jonas Gustavsson, G (W, 2 SV, 1.000%, 2 SA) – In what will likely be the easiest win of his career the Monster saw his first action on big ice since November 5th, 2014 this weekend in relief of Jimmy Howard, G (32 SA, 6 GA, .813%) who coughed up six goals on 38 shots before getting the hook. I’d imagine the Wings will give Gus a start in the next game to give Jimmy a rest and kick the tires on their backup and his surgically repaired shoulder, but start him with caution, it’s been a while since he’s seen heavy action.
Michael Hutchinson, G (L, 29 SV, 4 GA, .879%) – Saturday’s tilt marks the third straight game that Hutch has coughed up four goals. Fatigue is absolutely catching up to the rookie, as it will with most rookies, and you can expect a pretty up-and-down finish to the season from him. He remains an elite goalie keeper, however, and is in line to get the opportunity to earn the starting job for the Jets out of camp next season.