I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for Thomas Vanek. I saw him win the NCAA Championship as Minnesota’s best player as a freshman and fell in love with his offensive abilities before the Sabres drafted him 5th overall. Vanek was excellent for many years in Buffalo and while his game isn’t where it once was, he can still put up points at a fairly high level. Vancouver switched their lines recently with Vanek playing with Brock Boeser and Sam Gagner. They exploded against Chicago on Thursday with Vanek leading the way. In the 5-2 win over the Blackhawks, Vanek scored two goals and three assists with five shots and two PIM finishing +5. Vanek now has 10 points in his past 4 games giving him 12+16 in 38 games this year. The shot rate has been up over the past ten games (3 per) so I’d grab Vanek while he’s on fire, at least as a streamer. I’m sure his name will be discussed as a trade target again at this year’s deadline and unlike last year in Florida, I think Vanek will make a difference. Injuries really hurt Florida and Vanek was mostly relegated to 12 minutes on third line duty. We’ve seen in Detroit last season and Vancouver this year that Vanek is still capable of putting up points. Let’s take a look at what else happened Thursday night around the league:
Andrei Vasilevskiy – 31 saves on 32 shots in the 3-1 win over Montreal. He just keeps rolling and is the #1 overall goalie by a fairly large margin as we near the halfway point.
Steven Stamkos – Two goals on seven shots. As crazy as it sounds, Stamkos’ season could get a bit better since his shooting percentage will go up a bit, especially if he maintains his recent surge in shot rate.
Ondrej Palat – Two assists with a shot. Solid streamer but unless you need the plus-minus boost, I wouldn’t hold Palat.
David Backes – Two goals on five shots. I wrote this on Backes yesterday: “Lackeydrinksonme has been talking about Backes for a while, most recently in his latest post. I agree with him that Backes would be a nice add if he’s still available. I wouldn’t call him must own but if you need PIM, Backes is a great choice since he’s due for some positive regression in the goals department.” And that’s me quoting me! And there’s that positive regression. I’d grab Backes now.
Dalton Heinen – Two assists with three shots. Heinen is really pushing towards being a hold.
Lars Eller – Goal and an assist with five shots. Eller has little fantasy value outside of the deepest of leagues.
Nick Bjugstad – Two assists with two shots. The minutes are dropping so Bjugstad is a bottom end streamer at the moment.
James Reimer – 29 saves on 31 shots in the 3-2 win over the Flyers. He’s started 11 straight with Luongo out and has put together a nice stretch. I’d own Reimer right now in all formats.
Patrick Marleau – Two goals and an assist with four shots. I’d stream Marleau but I wouldn’t hold him. He didn’t have an assist in ten games before this and he’s not exceptional in any category.
Mitch Marner – Goal and two assists with two shots. Here comes the heater for Marner. That buy low window has shut completely.
Morgan Rielly – Two assists with four shots. The minutes aren’t great and it’s a big AAGNOF but Rielly should be owned everywhere.
William Nylander – Goal and an assist with two shots. That’s a four game point streak for Nylander who is starting to get rolling again. I expect Nylander to finish right around last year’s totals (22+39).
Tobias Rieder – Two assists with two shots. He doesn’t have the role at the moment to have much fantasy value. Rieder is an RFA at the end of the season and while the Coyotes definitely don’t have to trade him, he could be an interesting trade target.
Jordan Martinook – Goal and an assist with two shots. Meh, nothing to really see here. Martinook showed some signs last season but he hasn’t taken any steps forward this year.
Reilly Smith – Two assists with two shots. I’d lean towards holding Smith for the raw point total but the shot rate is getting extremely troubling (2 shots or less in 8 straight).
Marc-Andre Fleury – 26 saves on 28 shots in the 3-2 OT win over the Kings. Fleury has a great chance to be a #1 the rest of the way with how Vegas is playing.
Drew Doughty – Goal and an assist with five shots and two PIM. Doughty has been even better than usual this year. Amazingly, he’s pushing towards being the #1 fantasy defenseman. I’d consider selling high if you could. Obviously he’s not going to fall off a cliff but Doughty won’t finish as the #1D either.
Anton Forsberg – 26 saves on 31 shots. I’d look to stream guys against Chicago every game while Forsberg is starting. The Blackhawks are in serious trouble if Crawford misses any significant time.
Brock Boeser – Goal and three assists. That’s a goal in four straight and eight of the past ten for Boeser. What a season he’s having.
Sam Gagner – Two goals and an assist with three shots. I’d stream Gagner as well as he’s heating up playing with Boeser and Vanek.
Jacob Markstrom – 30 saves on 32 shots in the 5-2 win over the Blackhawks. He’s been hit or miss so I’d only use Markstrom if you’re desperate.
Martin Jones – 32 saves on 34 shots in the 3-2 SO win over the Flames. After a really rough stretch, Jones has had two quality starts in a row. I would try to buy low if his owner is still worried about his dreadful run of 4+ against in 6 straight.
David Rittich – 30 saves on 32 shots losing in the shootout. He looked kind of awkward in this game but he got the job done. Unfortunately, the Flames missed some glorious chances in overtime. Rittich has played well in all four of his starts so I’d stream him going forward until he struggles.
That’s all for now guys. I will be back on January 2nd recapping all of the action between now and then. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. I am going to the USA-Canada World Juniors outdoor game today so I will answer any questions posted before I leave around noon and then get to everything from the afternoon and early evening when I’m home. After that, I’ll be able to answer all weekend and Monday like normal. I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year’s. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back in 2018!