By Jason Chen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Welcome to 2023, fantasy managers. As the NHL schedule approaches the midseason mark, we've managed to get a pretty good idea of which players and teams are outperforming or underperforming expectations. There's always a chance of a second-half turnaround, but in reality, those are pretty rare and difficult to accomplish.
Here are some trade targets who could have major fantasy value in the second half of the season…or not.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Jets (88 percent rostered)
The Jets' best winger is Kyle Connor, and Dubois should feel pretty lucky that they've been paired together for the past few games. But digging deeper into the analytics, the two are below 50% in both 5v5 Corsi percentage and 5v5 expected goals percentage according to naturalstattrick.com. That suggests they're not nearly as effective as we've been led to believe.
However, with Blake Wheeler, Cole Perfetti and Nikolaj Ehlers expected to be in the lineup as soon as Friday's game against the Lightning, it's opened up all sorts of options for a Jets team that had been having trouble generating offense lately. Dubois has emerged as the team's top center this season, scoring at a point-per-game pace, and his possession numbers with Wheeler on his wing are much better than with Connor. If Dubois can score at his current pace with sub-optimal linemates, he should see a slight scoring boost when Wheeler plays on his line. Of course, Wheeler could always end up with Mark Scheifele, but the plethora of options also makes matchups much more difficult for the opposition, and it might take some pressure off Dubois as well.
Brandon Hagel, LW/RW, Lightning (55%)
Hagel has now scored 22 points in his past 26 games while skating on Tampa's top line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. After finding it difficult to get acclimated with his new team after being acquired via trade, Hagel's usage has gone through the roof this season. He's averaging a career-high 18:52 TOI per game, which also includes ample time on the power play. Though he's a complementary piece on the top line, Hagel's obviously been very effective in that role, with shades of Tom Wilson playing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the Caps — an effective role player with above-average finishing ability who offers an element of physical play to an otherwise pure scoring line.
Hagel's spot doesn't look to be in danger going forward, and quite notably, he's shooting the puck far more often this season as well, averaging over two shots per game. That's still on the lower end considering the league-wide uptick in offense, but it's certainly a nice bonus for Hagel's fantasy value.
Brandon Montour, D, Panthers (86%)
Aaron Ekblad was featured as a player to trade away last week, and as the saying goes, what one hand giveth, the other taketh. Montour has been very good for the Panthers this season, scoring 30 points in 37 games and splitting PP1 duties with Ekblad. Except Montour doesn't have the concerning injury history, has been far more consistent on offense and offers more upside in banger categories such as penalty minutes, blocked shots and hits. Ekblad's fantasy value was mostly derived from his offense, but that's taken a step back this season, not to mention that Montour has been playing more minutes on some nights.
Alex Pietrangelo, D, Golden Knights (97%)
The Knights' defense has been hit hard. With Alec Martinez moved to injured reserve, Zach Whitecloud moved to long-term injured reserve and still no timetable for Shea Theodore's return, Pietrangelo's already massive workload is about to get heavier. Excluding his first game upon returning from his own injury, Pietrangelo has played at least 25 minutes in every game, including 34:16 against the Ducks and at least 28 minutes in five of his past seven games. He's doing everything from quarterbacking the power play to leading the defensemen in minutes per game on the penalty kill.
Granted, this is something we've seen Pietrangelo do before, but he's going to have to do this for the foreseeable future with Nicolas Hague and Brayden McNabb as the only other regulars on their blue line. The rest of the defense is filled with depth defensemen (Ben Hutton) and raw rookies from the farm team (Kaedan Korczak, Brayden Pachal), and even Vegas' highly regarded KHL import, Daniil Miromanov, missed their most recent game due to a lower-body injury. In fantasy, quantity is king, and Pietrangelo's going to fill up the categories every night because no one else on the roster can.
Moritz Seider, D, Red Wings (87%)
Admittedly, giving up on a highly touted rookie that everyone knows is going to be a superstar can be difficult. It's shades of Jack Hughes' rookie season, where he's shown flashes of brilliance but can't be consistent or trusted enough to be an everyday fantasy player. This isn't an Alexis Lafreniere situation where the player and team just never seem to be on the same page, but instead just part of the growing pains of playing in the NHL.
After scoring 50 points last season, Seider is on pace for just 28 this year. While he offers a litany of blocks and hits, his fantasy value has really tanked in leagues that emphasize scoring. Of course, it doesn't help when you're paired with Ben Chiarot or Jake Walman, and teams have adjusted to Seider in his sophomore season, but the Red Wings as a whole are in a bit of a flux. Injuries and inconsistency have led to some line juggling recently, and other than Dylan Larkin, no player has really been able to provide offense every night. That will obviously make it hard for Seider to score points, and there will be more roster shuffling with Robby Fabbri making his season debut soon, Tyler Bertuzzi expected to return in about a week and Jakub Vrana trying to make his way back to the team after being held without a point with a minus-5 rating in his three-game rehab assignment and subsequently getting waived. In keeper leagues, Seider still has tremendous value, but in shallower one-season leagues, it's about time managers consider capitulating and grabbing another defenseman who can be more reliable when it comes to scoring. Fantasy managers can always draft Seider next season and hope for better results.