February 26, 2024

Fantasy hockey preview – Fresh opportunities for these four players

A tumultuous all-star break made up in action off the ice for what it lacked on the ice in the fantasy hockey realm.

Elias Lindholm is now a member of the Vancouver Canucks, the Winnipeg Jets added Sean Monahan, the Los Angeles Kings have a new head coach and the Pittsburgh Penguins are taking a chance (maybe his last) on Jesse Puljujarvi.

Week 17 of the fantasy hockey season continues — not begins — on Monday with a pair of games, then we have an eight-game Tuesday slate and a lighter three-game schedule on Wednesday. If you play in weekly-roster leagues, a few of your spots might be locked in from all the way back on Jan. 29, which is when this two-week “fantasy week” housing the All-Star Game began.

It’s a very light “week” for some squads, as you won’t see any of the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Kings, San Jose Sharks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken in the early part of the week, with some of the teams not playing again until Saturday (talk about an extended break).

The point being, be cautious and thoughtful with the schedule this week. If you have daily roster changes, the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars should be your focus to start the week, as each team gets in two games through Wednesday.

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Stock up

Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Los Angeles Kings (30.9% available): This has to be close to Dubois’ last chance to redeem his pedigree. He still carries the label as a “potential” top-line center than could take over for Anze Kopitar as the Kings top pivot, but the results have mirrored those of his still young career in Columbus and Winnipeg: Untapped potential. He is still somehow just 25 years old, but chances are running out for him to find the right combination of teammates, linemates and coach to realize that potential.

For the fantasy realm, this coaching change is an opportunity for Dubois and other Kings with potential to catch and ride a fresh start to success. There are more than a few players that could benefit from the restart: Dubois, Kevin Fiala (he’s better than 1.85 fantasy points per game), Quinton Byfield (solid play, but no fantasy relevance yet), Cam Talbot (brutal since mid-December) and Brandt Clarke (minimal opportunity so far).

We don’t get to see what kind of changes new coach Jim Hiller decides to implement until Saturday, when the Kings host the Edmonton Oilers — the very team that is the face for what a coaching change can do for a team mid-season. There is a chance the Oilers will hold the record for the longest NHL winning streak by the time the teams meet.

Ilya Mikheyev, W, Vancouver Canucks (97.7% available): Because the Canucks were able to trade an underperforming top-six player as part of the deal for Lindholm, there are almost no negative side effects to the move for other fantasy performers on the Canucks. Lindholm simply replaces Andrei Kuzmenko on the depth chart. That means no one gets bumped from a scoring line or power-play role.

That also means Mikheyev has another chance at fantasy relevance on a rejuvenated top line with Elias Pettersson and Lindholm. We’ll get to see for sure how the combination comes together on Tuesday in Carolina. Kuzmenko has been a fantasy flop this season, but don’t forget that the line of Pettersson, Kuzmenko and Mikheyev were fifth in the NHL in goals per 60 at five-on-five last season (MoneyPuck.com, minimum 150 minutes together).

Josh Anderson, W, Montreal Canadiens (97.7% available): The Habs power play has been on a tear of late. In fact, the recent success probably helped make Monahan worth a first-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets, so hat tip to the advantage for helping with that trade. Anderson will likely be first up to try to replace Monahan on the unit, so there is an opportunity here for the winger to recapture some of his fantasy magic from previous campaigns. Anderson has flirted with being lineup ready in the past, so getting a chance on the top power play could get him there again.

Jesse Puljujarvi, W, Pittsburgh Penguins (99.9% available): If there’s one lesson to remember about the impact Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can have on other forwards, it’s to never count anyone out until we see some results. Puljujarvi is the longest of long shots for fantasy relevance, but the Pens are taking a chance after Puljujarvi managed nine points in 13 games while showcasing his recovery from offseason surgery with the Pens’ AHL affiliate. We could get to see as early as Tuesday where Puljujarvi draws into the lineup. Working in his favor is the fact that the Pens have been shifting and sliding forwards around in recent games. Maybe there’s a scoring-line opportunity here that he can final capitalize on.

Stock down

Nikolaj Ehlers, W, Winnipeg Jets (41.9% available): Monahan will certainly earn first-unit power-play time upon his arrival. It’s been his bread and butter all season with the Montreal Canadiens. So much so that 16 of his 35 points this season have come on the advantage. That means Ehlers and Cole Perfetti will no longer get to jockey for the fifth and final spot on the top unit. Can Monahan provide a boost at even strength to both of them that makes up for the hit to the power-play time Ehlers and Perfetti were getting? That remains to be seen, as Monahan’s even strength impact with Montreal was not his calling card. This is a better situation though on a winning club, so there is still potential.

Boone Jenner, C, Columbus Blue Jackets (29.7% available): Jenner returned to a much different reality when he returned from injured reserve on Jan. 19. Patrik Laine is out for a while, now the team has lost rookie Adam Fantilli. Jenner was the lone Blue Jacket earning fantasy standing before he hit the IR in early December — but keeping it up now is going to be a tall order.

Streamer specials

Wyatt Johnston, C, Dallas Stars (78.0% available): The Stars are squeezing in a back-to-back set with visits to Buffalo and Toronto early in the week. Johnston has been spotted playing with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson in recent games as the Stars look for offensive sparks. Get him into fantasy lineups while this dream lineup position lasts.

Samuel Girard, D, Colorado Avalanche (81.7% available): Another two-game option to kick the week off right, as the Avalanche play Monday and Wednesday. But you may find yourself wanting to keep Girard longer, as his play has been elevated since returning from the player assistance program. He’s averaged 2.3 fantasy points per game (FPPG) going back a full month now.

Dylan Strome, C, Washington Capitals (40.7% available): Hot and cold this season, Strome is currently on a peak with 2.1 FPPG in his past 10. A valley is coming, but it probably won’t start against the Habs on Tuesday.