It was a short week in the NHL as teams returned from an extended Christmas break, and some players wasted no time making an impact. Jason Chen took a look at some of the most notable players from the past week.
Maxime Lagacé and Hugo Alnefelt, Lightning
If there was any doubt – no matter how small – that Andrei Vasilevskiy was a product of a well-built team and good coaching, watching the Lightning allow 13 goals in two games is enough evidence that Vasilevskiy is rightfully the MVP of the team. (Never had Nikita Kucherov been more blunt, honest and also drunk when he said that). The Lightning have been a staple at the top of the league at a time when no one thought it was quite possible considering how much depth and talent they had lost over the past two seasons, especially in a season with so many surprises and interruptions. Brian Elliott returned to play on New Year’s Eve, but the Lightning are a vulnerable opponent when they don’t have Vasilevskiy, and fantasy managers should be much more willing to pick against them.
Spencer Knight, Panthers
With the taxi squad being re-implemented, it looks like the Panthers will just carry both Knight and Jonas Johansson for the rest of the season. That dampens Knight’s fantasy value a little bit because he’ll be battling for playing time with Johansson, and being waiver-exempt means the Panthers might just stick Knight in the minors if it means getting more playing time. The good news is, Knight’s definitely got an edge over Johansson right now after making 39 saves in a win against Tampa, and Johansson hasn’t really shown enough to be a reliable backup. The upside for his fantasy value remains limited since he’s been unable to hold onto the backup job this season.
Tuukka Rask, Bruins
Until Rask actually signs, he will probably be designated as ‘NA’ in Yahoo leagues and take up a roster spot unless your league allows for NA roster slots. Once signed, the Bruins will likely use a three-man rotation, and Jeremy Swayman may get in some games with the P-Bruins because he’s waiver-exempt.
The key question is, how good will Rask be? Keep in mind that Swayman (0.12) and Linus Ullmark (2.06) have positive values in GSAA at 5-on-5 this season, per naturalstattrick.com, and rank 23rd and 14th, respectively, in 5-on-5 Sv%. Their combined .919 Sv% is lower than Rask’s career average (.921) but higher than last season’s (.913) when his record was 15-5-2. There’s a chance Rask ends up third in the pecking order, and so perhaps expectations should be tempered. He will require waivers to be placed on the taxi squad, and it seems unlikely Rask would play for any team other than the Bruins. Their problem really isn’t goaltending, anyway; only one forward not on the Perfection Line has scored more than five goals and they rank 24th in GF/GP.
Felix Sandström, Flyers
The Flyers’ third-round pick from 2015, the 24-year-old Sandström showed very well in his NHL debut, making 43 saves in an overtime loss. Both Carter Hart (.911 Sv%, currently in COVID protocol) and Martin Jones (.894 Sv%) have seen their play tail off a little bit, and the return of the taxi squad may have opened the door for Sandström to get more starts, and why not? The Flyers are only a playoff hopeful with a coaching change in the summer to certainly follow no matter what happens, and Jones is an impending UFA who could be traded. Fantasy managers should keep an eye on Sandström to see if he gets more playing time, and if he performs well, he would at least be worth considering for a spot start or two.
Janis Moser, D, Coyotes
Since making his NHL debut on Dec. 15, Moser has averaged 19:42, one of five Coyotes defensemen to average over 19 minutes and one of two to score a point on the power play. The Coyotes aren’t particularly noteworthy this season save for their stupendous tank job, but Moser’s performance so far has been pretty impressive. He’s just the fourth player from the most recent draft class to play in the NHL, and only Moser and Cole Sillinger remain in the league. Moser was passed over in two drafts and the competition for playing time in the desert is relatively easier, but the 21-year-old late bloomer has shown tremendous poise. Fantasy leagues that have a dearth of quality defensemen on the waiver wire should keep an eye on Moser, whose role may increase and has already made positive contributions on the second power play unit.
JJ Peterka, RW, Peyton Krebs, C, and Jack Quinn, RW, Sabres
A shortage of bodies forced the Sabres to call up Peterka, Tim Stützle’s linemate at the previous World Juniors, and Krebs, whom they acquired in a package for Jack Eichel, and both youngsters made their long-awaited debuts with the Sabres. Quinn, who ranks fourth in points per game in the AHL (min. 10 GP), would’ve surely been part of this group, but he has not played due to mononucleosis. It’s been another tough season for the Sabres, but it’s also quite exciting to see a new wave of top-notch prospects come in and show flashes of their potential. When the Sabres get healthy, Peterka and Krebs will likely see much less ice time or get re-assigned to Rochester, but in the meantime, they’re playing meaningful roles, especially with Peterka on the top line with Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch, which means Peterka’s at least worth keeping an eye on in fantasy.
Morgan Frost, C/LW, Flyers
News that Sean Couturier’s injury will keep him sidelined for multiple weeks means it’s time for Frost to step up. His goal Thursday against the Kraken was his second of the season in 12 games, and though the sample size is small, he’s been quite productive even though his ice time has been rather limited. Even without Couturier, the Flyers have quality depth up front, which pushes Frost to third-line duties, but he’s also flanked by two promising young players in Travis Konecny and Oskar Lindblom. The Flyers’ GF/GP has ticked upwards under Mike Yeo, and Frost presents some interesting upside on a team that must lean on its offense to win games.
Jack Hughes, C/LW, and Jesper Bratt, LW/RW, Devils
In the two games since the holiday break, Hughes and Bratt have combined for 11 points, and in 26:42 5v5 TOI have a 61.11 CF% and 68.59 xGF%, according ton naturalstattrick.com. Those are elite numbers, though it helps facing the Sabres and Oilers, two teams that have really struggled in net this season. Hughes and Bratt are generating nearly 100 shot attempts on net every 60 minutes at 5-on-5, and their speed and quickness has been a nightmare for defenders. Bratt is rostered in just 51 percent of Yahoo leagues, which is far too low considering he’s in the midst of a breakout season with 29 points in 31 games, leading all Devils in scoring and trails only Dougie Hamilton in shots. Among players who have played at least 15 games, Bratt’s 0.94 PPG and Hughes’ 0.93 PPG rank 46th and 47th, respectively, ahead the likes of Elias Lindholm and Troy Terry, both of whom are likewise having outstanding seasons and very popular in most fantasy leagues.