For most of the season Rasmus Ristolainen, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) has been largely forgettable on a forgettable team. His season line currently sits at 8/9/17/-29 in 73 games played and that’s going to make most owners laugh and look elsewhere for blue line help at this point in the season, but if you did that you’d be making a mistake. As my mantra goes, at this point in the season it doesn’t really matter what has happened, it only matters what’s happening now and right now the talented young rearguard is starting to catch fire and is definitely worth a look in most formats now and should absolutely be on your radar for a breakout campaign in the next season or two.
At 6-foot-3-inches tall and 205 lbs Risty is the big bodied, freakishly strong defenseman that every team in the NHL wants to grow a field of. He has solid stick handling abilities, has shown a knack for moving the puck out of the defensive zone with sharp passes and good vision. He sports a heavy slap shot and a nose for the net that combined with his vision and puck moving abilities makes him a top candidate to QB the Sabres top power play for years to come and wouldn’t you know it, he’s getting time on their top power play unit already. Like any young player it’s not all birthday cakes and rainbows, his skating leaves something to be desired and he’s not particularly fast. That comes with the big frame, but he makes due and should improve with time. The other knock is a bad attitude that can crop up and lead to lackluster effort when things aren’t going his way on the ice. That’s a tough recipe to cook a decent meal from when you play for the lowly Sabres, but lately he’s making it work.
I know it’s hard to believe that I would suggest picking up any Sabres while you’re fighting for your league title but you can’t deny what Risty has been up to lately. Last night’s tally extends his point streak to three games, he has four points (3 G, 1 A) over that span and contributed three hits, four blocked shots and a surprising plus-6 as well. That last bit is the key here, as the only real drawback on taking a risk with a Sabres player is the horrible plus/minus you most likely have to endure with the addition. I’m not saying the Sabres are good all of the sudden and that Risty won’t put up a minus-4 in his very next game, but at the moment he’s streaking and he’s absolutely worth a flyer in most formats, especially if you need help at the back end of your blue line. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Roberto Luongo will be back between the pipes for the Cats tonight so his shoulder must not be that bad. This is one of those injuries I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lu get off-season surgery to fix, but is playing through the pain for now because he can’t damage it further by playing. Either way, he’s a must start so get him back in there.
Andrew Hammond will get the call for the Sens tonight after Craig Anderson sucked it up in back-to-back games over the weekend. Start the Hamburgler with caution, the hot streak is over and we’re back to reality. In cause you didn’t know, reality is where Hammond isn’t very good.
Victor Hedman is once again injured and listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. It doesn’t sound like he’ll suit up against the Leafs tonight as the Bolts have recalled defensive prospect Slater Koekkoek to replace him and make his NHL debut.
Shea Weber wasn’t at practice with the team this morning and it sounds like he’ll miss yet another game. There’s still no word on the severity of his injury or a timetable for his return, but expect the Preds to not push their franchise defenseman back before the playoffs. They haven’t locked up a spot yet, but they will, and there’s no reason for them to risk losing Weber for their cup run.
Erik Cole remains out and will miss his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury.
Petr Mrazek gets the call tonight for the Wings despite a poor performance in his last game. To be fair, that poor game came on the heels of a 23-save shutout, so there’s some upside here. He makes for a solid streamer going up against a suddenly fading Sens team who have lost three straight.
Vladimir Tarasenko limped off the ice and to the dressing room last night and is listed as day-to-day. Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said there should be an update on Vladdy today, so keep your eyes peeled for an update on his status.
Tyler Johnson remains day-to-day and could miss another game, but he could also be back. This is another case where if he is hurting but not really hurt, the Bolts might rest him for the playoffs, so he might not get much action over the next 10 days. Adjust your lineups accordingly, but don’t cut bait on him.
Bryan Little returns to the lineup tonight after missing a handful of games with a minor injury so get him back in your lineups, too.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 25 SV, 3 GA, .893%) – Ugh, another game where Bish coughs up three goals, puts up a meh save percentage but nets the win because his team is beast. I like Big Ben, I own Big Ben, and I’m a fan of Big Ben. I just wish he’d take a step forward and keep that goals-against average down around 2.20-2.25 instead of the 2.35-2.40 range.
Carey Price, G (L, 39 SV, 4 GA, .907%) – Price has been so good that despite coughing up four goals on 43 shots last night his goals-against average is still sitting pretty under 2.00 at a pristine 1.92. This was a bad game that came at the worst time, especially considering he’s had what? Five bad games all season? He’ll bounce back in his next start.
Jonathan Drouin, C (1 G, 2 SOG) – It has been a long time since I mentioned Drouin, but that’s mostly because he’s had a forgettable rookie campaign. In 66 games this season he’s put up just three goals and 27 helpers for 30 points and a plus-1. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the all-world talent you drafted, he’s just a typical rookie that needs time to get up to speed. He also plays on a team with a very crowded top six, so he wasn’t able to get big minutes at any point this season. Hang tough with Drouin and keep him for 2015 if you can, he’s something special.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +2) – Kooch has slowed down significantly in the last month or so, but he still finds way to stay fantasy relevant and potted a goal on four shots last night. That tally gives him 28 for the season and I don’t think it will be difficult for him to find his way to 30 on the year. He’ll finish with around 65 points and if you couple that with close to 30 goals and a rocking plus/minus, you’ve got yourself one of the best wire pickups of the season. We’ll see more of the same from him next season.
Vladislav Namestnikov, C (2 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Normally Name’s Nick Off plays on the third line with Cedric Paquette, (1 SOG, +1) and Valtteri Filppula, LW (-2) but with the recent injury to Tyler Johnson he’s been bumped up to the second line to play pivot between Ondrej Palat, LW (2 A, 3 SOG, +1) and Kucherov. That worked out well and he put up a stellar two goal, three-point game in response to the promotion. Even if TJ doesn’t miss more games and Vladdy finds himself back on the third line he’s still worth streaming with six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last five games.
Anton Stralman, D (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – The puck possession beast has upped his game this season as he quietly approaches a 40-point season. He’s set career highs in goals (9), assists (29), points (38), plus/minus (+22), and shots on goal (130). At just 28-years-old in his seventh season there’s no reason to think he won’t replicate this season again next year, or even take a small step forward and finish with mid-40s and around 10-12 goals next season. Don’t sleep; he’s really come into his own with the Bolts.
Eddie Lack, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) – If you look at Lack’s goals allowed over his last five games it goes like this; 1, 2, 3, 4, 1. So if the pattern holds expect him to cough up two more goals in his next tilt, then sit him for the following two starts. Ah, if only it was that simple, eh boys?
Brian Elliott, G (L, 18 SV, 3 GA, .857%) – Elliott has played nearly as many games in the last two months (22) than he has in the previous four months combined (23). Not surprisingly his numbers have suffered and instead of posting sub 2.00 GAAs it’s been more in the range of 2.30 to 2.70. That’s not nearly as good as you’d hope from Elliott, but I’ve been warning everyone who will listen that fatigue would limit his effectiveness late in the season and here we are. He isn’t unplayable by any stretch of the imagination, but I hope this gives you some idea as to why Jake Allen is so critical to the future success of the Blues and by future, I mean in the next year or two.
Radim Vrbata, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Verbs continues his ridiculous hot streak with another two-point game last night, his four such performances over his last five games. In fact, he has nine points (4 G, 5 A) over that span and threw in 25 shots on goal and four penalty minutes for flavor. It goes without saying that he needs to stay in your lineup; guys this hot make the difference right now.
Scott Darling, G (W, 31 SV, 1 GA, .969%) – Given how poorly Corey Crawford has been playing lately I wasn’t surprised to see Darling between the pipes for this one and he delivered once again steering aside 31 of 32 shots for the 4-1 victory over the Kings. You have to expect the Hawks to go back to Crawford, but given how strong Darling has been he could get another start before the end of the season and he’s worth streaming if he does.
Jon Quick, G (L, 36 SV, 4 GA, .900%) – Quick might be incredibly talented but he isn’t flawless and he got touched up in this one for four goals on 40 shots. None of the goals scored against him were particularly bad; a power play goal from the point, a redirect in front of the net and so on, so I’d roll Quick out again in his next start and not worry too much about him. You kind of have to start him again at this point anyway; you need to bring that GAA of his down for the week.
Marian Hossa, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – After last night’s two point showing Hoss has 57 points. That’s about where I expected him to be at this point in the season but I thought it would be due to missing games because of injury, not because he’d just lost a step. Well, he’s lost a step. Or two. The fact that he’s played over 70 games is a freakin’ miracle, one you shouldn’t expect to see repeated next season. He was overvalued at this year’s drafts and he’ll be even more overvalued in next year’s drafts because the only knock against him up to this point was the injury worries. Now he’s old and past it. The numbers won’t get better next season.
Duncan Keith, D (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) – Keith now has nine goals on the season. Nine! He could actually finish with double digit goals this season, a feat he’s only accomplished two other times in his nine-year career. Sadly he’s going to finish well below last season’s 61 point showing and finish with around 45-50ish points. Honestly, I think that’s more in line with what you can expect from him moving forward. That’s still baller, it’s just not top five overall baller.
Jonas Hiller, G (W, 33 SV, 3 GA, .917%) – Eh, I still wouldn’t trust Calgary goalies with my championship run.
Kari Lehtonen, G (L, 15 SV, 4 GA, .789%) – It seemed like Let-one-in had finally turned the corner, but no, he’s back to his mediocre self. Look, I know the Dallas D has been a bit of a mess all season, but man alive has he been terrible this season. I don’t know that he’ll bounce back next season either. In fact, I’m avoiding him and I suggest you do the same.
Johnny Gaudreau, LW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – I still see people listing Filip Forsberg as this year’s Calder winner. Still? Really? Have you not been watching since January or what? Johnny Hockey is your Calder winner, y’all and he proved it again last night with another two point game. That pushes his season line to 22/38/60/+8 in 76 games so far this season. That’s ridiculous, I’d take that from a veteran, but a rookie? It sets extremely high expectations for 2015 that I’m worried Johnny can’t meet. That being said, no one expected him to be this good this season, either, so who knows? I think it’s a safe bet to put money on him in 2015.
Jiri Hudler, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – There’s no way Hudler repeats his performance this season again in 2015. In fact, I’d call this his career year. After his second straight two-point game his season line moves to a robust 29/42/71/+13 in 74 games this season. He isn’t a point-per-game guy, but he’s definitely good for 60 points and 20ish goals next year. Beware, he’ll be over valued at the draft tables next season, don’t get sucked in.
Jason Spezza, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – I thought the move to the high octane Stars offense would breathe life back into Spezza’s career and return him to the once lofty numbers be posted in years past. Yeah, that didn’t pan out so well. I pegged him for a lost season a few months ago and that was probably a bit harsh, but after 77 games his season line of 17/42/59/-3 is pretty disappointing. Sadly, I think that’s what you can expect from him moving forward. The point-per-game days aren’t coming back.
Richard Bachman, G (W, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) – Wow, Bachman is playing well lately. No, don’t trust him or the Oil with your championship dreams.
Semyon Varlamov, G (L, 32 SV, 2 GA, .941%) – I’m still amazed that Varly’s save percentage is north of .920, I really didn’t think he could do that again, especially considering his goals-against average is a woeful 2.57, but I guess when you face 35-40 shots a night your save percentage is going to be pretty high unless you’re a terrible goalie and Varly is far from terrible. Still, I didn’t draft him anywhere and I won’t again next season.
Taylor Hall, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +3) – Hall extends his point streak to five games with a goal last night. He has two goals and three helpers over that span and is finally playing like the Hall I expected to see this year way back when in the preseason. What the hell, Hall? You’re making me look bad. Do you only play well when games don’t matter anymore? Ugh. Anyway, if some disgruntled owner jettisoned him to the wire he’s absolutely worth owning in all formats. As for next season, if you own him, keep him. He should rebound and put up the monster year I expected this year, next season. I hope. Please. Don’t be a jerk, Taylor.
Ryan O’Reilly, C (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – Ry’O is on fire lately with a beastly nine points (2 G, 7 A) over his last five games and like Hall is finally playing like the guy I expected to see this season. It’s too little too late for the Avs, but just in the nick of time for his owners.
Anders Lindback, G (W, 28 SV, 1 GA, .966%) – Lindy gets a mention because he won just his fourth game of the season last night. Yes, you read that right. Four wins. All year. Ouch.
Mike Smith, G (L, 32 SV, 2 GA, .941%) – And here’s Mike Smith with his 39th loss. Heh, Mike Smith.