It’s not often that the entire hockey community is intently watching the worst team in the NHL play, but this past week, nobody could take their eyes off the train wreck that is the Buffalo Sabres.
The team etched its name into the history books this past week, but for all the wrong reasons. Buffalo joined the Pittsburgh Penguins for the longest losing streak ever in the most dramatic and sad way possible, blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period to the Philadelphia Flyers en route to dropping 18-straight contests. Finally, however, the bullying came to an end as Buffalo defeated Philadelphia two nights later to snap the streak.
It’s been a tumultuous year for Western New York’s hard-to-love hockey team, and all this losing has made one of its top young players droppable in most fantasy hockey formats.
It’s pretty safe to drop D Rasmus Dahlin (52% rostered on Yahoo)
There weren’t too many players I had higher expectations for this season than Rasmus Dahlin. Entering the campaign at just 20 years old, I figured the 2018 first-overall pick was on an upwards trajectory after recording 40 points across 59 games in 2019-20. That positive projection, along with all others directed towards the Sabres this past off-season, have fallen embarrassingly short of coming to fruition and fantasy hockey managers should strongly consider dropping the Swedish defenseman.
For starters, Dahlin owns the worst plus-minus mark by a striking margin. His minus-33 rating is 11 notches worse than second-last, teammate Sam Reinhart. Additionally, the offensive production hasn’t been good enough to offset the horrid plus-minus, as his 12 points are tied for 58th amongst all blueliners. Contributing an uninspiring 41 hits and 28 blocks on a Sabres team that will continue to struggle, there’s not much to get excited about with Dahlin for the remainder of this year.
2. C/RW Martin Necas (68% rostered on Yahoo) raising stock in fantasy hockey
After a masterful month of March, Martin Necas has done more to improve his fantasy value than almost anybody this season. Necas’ average draft position (ADP) entering this year isn’t even recorded in Yahoo’s database as he wasn’t being selected with an ADP lower than 185. Now, however, the 22-year-old is a must-roster in leagues of all sizes.
In 14 games during March, Necas produced seven goals and 17 points, the latter being the highest mark on the Hurricanes during the month. Additionally, the 2017 first-round pick posted an astounding 89.47 percent individual point percentage (IPP), according to Natural Stat Trick, which means he found the stat sheet on nearly 90 percent of the goals that were scored while he was on the ice. Playing alongside Sebastian Aho and Brock McGinn on the team’s first line while also serving as a member of the top power play, Necas is in a prime position to succeed on the Carolina Hurricanes. A high-pedigree player that has had success in the Czech Extraliga and AHL as a younger forward, Necas is finding his stride in the NHL. This is someone that should be added if available and will be a fringe top-50 selection in fantasy hockey leagues next year.
3. Schedules to monitor during the fantasy hockey playoffs
When making waiver adds at this point of the season, it’s not a bad idea to target players that have fantasy-friendly schedules during the playoffs. There’s two common playoff time frames in fantasy hockey, one that stretches from Week 13 - Week 15, and another that begins Week 14 and ends in Week 16.
Here’s is how the team schedules breakdown between Week 13 - Week 15:
12 games: MIN
11 games: CAR, COL, DAL, DET, FLA, LAK, NJD, NYR, SJS, TBL, TOR
10 games: ARI, BOS, BUF, PHI, PIT, STL, VAN, VGK, WPG
9 games: ANA, CGY, CHI, CBJ, MTL, NSH, NYI, OTT, WAS
8 games: EDM
Here’s how the schedules breakdown between Week 14 - Week 16:
12 games: CAR, DAL, MIN
11 games: ARI, COL, LAK, NJD, NYR, PIT, SJS, STL, TBL
10 games: BOS, BUF, CHI, CBJ, DET, FLA, NYI, OTT, PHI, TOR, VAN, VGK, WPG
9 games: ANA, CGY, MTL, NSH, WAS
8 games: EDM
During the playoffs, it’s wise to add players on teams like the Hurricanes, Stars and Wild while avoiding players on the Oilers, Ducks, Flames, Canadiens, Predators and Capitals.
4. I just dropped G Carter Hart (67% rostered on Yahoo) and I feel great
In one of my fantasy hockey leagues where I drafted Carter Hart, I finally mustered up the courage to drop my fifth-round pick. I must say, life has been so much better without a Hart problem.
At a position that’s experienced a number of early-round picks turn out to be busts, Hart is easily the worst of the bunch. The 22-year-old owns an awful .869 save percentage, 4.04 goals-against-average, and an 8-9-3 record. Playing behind a Philadelphia Flyers’ team that has given up the seventh-fewest scoring chances per-60 minutes, it’s no surprise that his -0.020 save percentage above expected is the second-worst mark of all netminders with 10 or more games played, according to MoneyPuck. With Philly dropping five of its last seven games, I don’t have a lot of optimism for Hart or the team at this point. You don’t have to feel guilty about dropping him.
5. LW/RW Eeli Tolvanen (37% rostered on Yahoo) vaulting Nashville Predators into playoffs
During March, the Nashville Predators’ power-play was clicking at 26.3% which was the eighth-best mark in the league. The man advantage is a major reason why Nashville has catapulted back into the playoff race in the Central Division and rookie Eeli Tolvanen can be credited for a lot of its success.
Tolvanen’s seven power-play points last month were tied for the eighth-most in the league, and his 10 points this season are third on the Preds. The 2017 first-round pick has been on a heater, registering nine points in his last seven games. His lack of even-strength contributions is a little concerning as just eight of his 18 points have come at even strength. Additionally, his individual Corsi For and expected goals for numbers were just average at even strength in March compared to his totals that include power play time. Tolvanen is someone worth rostering while he’s hot, but without stable production at all strengths, he’s very volatile.
6. C Phillip Danault (16% rostered on Yahoo) finding his offensive footing
Phillip Danault rebounded in a major way for the Montreal Canadiens in March. Through the first 22 games of his season, Danault had registered just eight points with no goals. Over his last 11 games, the 28-year-old has turned in three goals and 11 points, more than doubling his point total. The underlying numbers suggest that Danault’s spike in production is not just a coincidence, but a result of the centre improving his offensive game by noticeably increasing his shots-per-60 which has helped boost his individual Corsi for and individual expected goals for. Playing on the Habs’ first line and top power-play unit, Danault makes for a great add in fantasy hockey.
7. G Elvis Merzlikins (49% rostered on Yahoo) playing well with Joonas Korpisalo sidelined
It’s been a messy season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but despite all of the drama, the team sits just three points out of a playoff spot in the Central Division. The Jackets will be an entertaining team to watch with the trade deadline approaching as it appears the squad is at the intersection of too good to tank and not good enough to be a serious threat. Recently, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo suffered a lower-body injury and it seems his absence has allowed Elvis Merzlikins to steal the starting job and give the team the best chance of claiming a spot in the postseason.
This year, Merzlikins has appeared in 16 games opposed to Korpisalo’s 25 contests, but the former has posted far-better numbers. Merzlikins’ .917 save percentage is much better than Korpisalo’s pedestrian .899 mark. In the four games Merzlikins has started while Korpisalo has been sidelined, he’s posted an impressive .932 save percentage. Korpisalo (48% rostered on Yahoo) is rostered nearly as much as Merzlikins, but it appears Merzlikins has started to distance himself from his teammate.
8. C David Krejci (20% rostered on Yahoo) elevating game on Boston Bruins’ second line
Depth scoring has been a challenge for the Boston Bruins during the 2020-21 season, but it appears the one constant member of the team’s second line through all these years is starting to form some chemistry with a pair of new linemates. David Krejci, now joined by Craig Smith and Nick Ritchie on Boston’s second forward trio, has been piling on the points lately for the Bruins.
Over his last six games, Krejci has totalled eight assists, including four on the power play. Both his linemates, Smith (two goals, five points) and Ritchie (two goals, three points), have also seen an offensive uptick during this stretch. An indicator suggesting Krejci could be due for some more production is his shooting percentage. The 34-year-old has posted just one goal all season, and his shooting percentage is at a career-low 2.4 percent, far lower than his 12.3 percent through 15 NHL seasons. Gaining some comfort with his linemates, Krejci seems like someone due for a major breakout. The Bruins play five games next week, so it’s not a bad idea to scoop him off the wire.
9. How does D Aaron Ekblad’s (47% rostered on Yahoo) injury affect fantasy hockey?
Florida Panthers blueliner Aaron Ekblad suffered a horrible season-ending injury this past week and his absence will be irreplaceable for the Cats. In the midst of a career year, the 25-year-old was logging over 25-minutes per-game for Florida, anchoring a defensive core that has made major strides since last season. Now with a void on the first defensive pairing and the top power-play unit, the players stepping into his position will see a raise in fantasy value.
MacKenzie Weegar and Gustav Forsling now form the team’s top defensive unit. Weegar, who was on the line before Ekblad’s injury, has been a valuable player in fantasy hockey this season because of his strong defensive category coverage (46 blocks, 80 hits) and his ability to chip in offensively with 17 assists. Forsling, while not on the fantasy radar right now, is certainly worth monitoring. Over his last two games, the 24-year-old has registered two assists. Although he doesn’t have an extensive track record of being a premier offensive producer, he could benefit from logging major minutes on a talented Panthers team. On the power play, because Keith Yandle was already on the unit, forward Frank Vatrano was promoted to the first grouping. In his latest game, Vatrano potted a power-play goal. Rostered in just 10 percent of Yahoo leagues and playing on the ninth-ranked man advantage in the league, Vatrano makes sense as a player to target on the waiver wire.
10. D Connor Murphy’s (11% rostered on Yahoo) grit is worth rostering
Over the last 14 days, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy has been a punching bag for pucks. During this stretch, his 23 blocks are second in the NHL, but the 28-year-old isn’t just taking punishment, however, he’s dishing it out as his 23 hits are 11th amongst all players. The 2011 first-round pick is not a flashy blueliner, but if hits and blocks are what you’re looking for, he can supply both for your team. He and the Blackhawks play three games next week.
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