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10 fantasy hockey takeaways: Don't be the schmuck who trades Jack Eichel

Steven Psihogios
·10-min read
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres skates before a game against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on February 18, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
Acquire Jack Eichel while his value is as low as it's going to get. (Getty)

This weekend the NHL will host two games at beautiful Lake Tahoe. The first game on Saturday will feature the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche while Sunday’s matinee will see the Boston Bruins battle the Philadelphia Flyers.

Obviously outdoor games are nothing new for the NHL and, at times, they’ve been overdone. The idea to host games at this type of venue, however, is pure genius. There’s something about hockey being played in the openness of nature that just feels right and the NHL will try to capture that spirit this weekend.

Without looking too far ahead, though, here are my fantasy hockey takeaways from the week that was and how they could impact your moves this weekend.

1) C Jack Eichel (99% rostered on Yahoo) is an excellent buy-low target

Jack Eichel’s overall numbers haven’t been bad this season. The talented middleman has 12 points across 13 contests, but fantasy managers who selected Eichel with their first-round pick may be growing impatient. The former second-overall selection has recorded just two goals on the year and he has just one point since Feb. 2 largely due to the Buffalo Sabres’ six postponed games this month.

The production issues aren’t due to poor performance as his underlying numbers have been good. The 24-year-old’s 58.33% five-on-five Corsi for percentage (CF%) and 27 scoring chances lead Buffalo, according to Natural Stat Trick. Eichel’s 4.5% shooting percentage is another indicator that suggests he’s due for some positive puck luck as his career average is 10.7%. The sooner you can send those trade offers out for Eichel, the better, as he and the Sabres are scheduled to play five games in the upcoming week.

2) G MacKenzie Blackwood (69% rostered on Yahoo) is the real deal

He’s only played in five contests in 2020-21, but MacKenzie Blackwood still hasn’t had a bad game. The former second-round pick has posted a save percentage of .926% or better in each appearance and he owns a 4-0-1 record which includes a pair of wins against the Boston Bruins. His save percentage above expected is 1.523% which ranks third amongst all goalies with five or more games played, according to Money Puck.

Blackwood’s breakout shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as he’s been planting the seeds for a campaign like this over his first couple of years in the league. Since 2018-19, the 24-year-old has produced a respectable .916% save percentage across 70 games played. His record during that stretch was 32-24-8 despite the Devils being just 59-70-22 as a team. Fantasy managers that landed Blackwood should enjoy the production and expect more of it to come.

3) LW/RW Teuvo Teravainen (89% rostered on Yahoo) is back

Offensive production was hard to find with Teuvo Teravainen at the beginning of the 2020-21 NHL season. In his first eight games, the Finnish star had recorded a point in just one contest and he hadn’t potted a single goal despite playing well. Over the last three games, the 26-year-old has piled on the points with two goals and three assists.

He’s logging minutes on the Carolina Hurricanes’ first line alongside Sebastian Aho and Brock McGinn currently, which is a great position to be in to produce helpers as his two linemates have combined for 12 goals. Goal scoring has never been a huge part of Teravainen’s game as his career-high is just 23 markers in a campaign. His current 8.7% shooting percentage isn’t actually far off from his career number of 10.0%, so fantasy managers shouldn’t expect a massive upswing in goal production, but the assists should start to show up.

4) LW/RW William Nylander’s (93% rostered on Yahoo) trade value likely won’t get much lower

Much has been made of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ second-line struggles, and a lot of the criticism has been put squarely on William Nylander. Over his last seven games, the 24-year-old has recorded a lowly two points which is a major reason why he’s one of the most traded players in Yahoo Fantasy Hockey.

The issue with Nylander is when he’s not producing, he doesn’t offer much. He has just seven hits and eight blocked shots this season, both are numbers that don’t do anything for fantasy managers. The former first-round pick has been a solid offensive contributor in the past, however, and that’s why I expect him to find his game soon. His underlying numbers this year haven’t been bad, either, as he’s second on the team with 3.8 five-on-five individual expected goals (ixG) and a 51.81 CF%. If your team needs a boost in point production and you can withstand the lack of defensive stat coverage, Nylander is a nice buy-low trade target.

5) What to do with the laundry list of absent Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers returned to action on Thursday, but the lineup looked far from familiar. Seven regulars were missing against the New York Rangers due to COVID-19 protocols, headlined by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny. Head coach Alain Vigneault also noted that none of the absent players will be suiting up for the outdoor game on Sunday, a sign that potentially suggests that none are really close to returning right now.

Fantasy managers would be wise to scoop up Joel Farabee (46% rostered on Yahoo) in the meantime. With all of the holes in the lineup, the sophomore has been promoted to first-line duties. While the production has been sporadic, Farabee has 13 points across 14 games this season. An uptick in ice-time (21:18 of time-on-ice against the Rangers) led to a game-tying goal and could help smooth out his consistency issues. He’s a great add if he’s still available in your fantasy league.

6) The Minnesota Wild are back, so add C Joel Eriksson Ek (34% rostered on Yahoo)

Hoards of fantasy managers dropped many Minnesota Wild players as they needed the roster space during the team’s five-game COVID-19 protocol hiatus. Now that the squad has returned to playing, many of those players should be scooped back up in fantasy hockey leagues, especially Joel Eriksson Ek.

Prior to the impromptu pause, Eriksson Ek was having a breakout campaign. The 2015 first-round pick had notched five goals and nine points in 11 contests while continuing to be an excellent supplier of hits with 17. Since the Wild resumed their season, Eriksson Ek hasn’t produced any points, but he has five shots, 18 faceoffs won and 10 hits across two games. He’s noticeably been Minnesota’s best forward and the underlying numbers suggest the same. His 55.59 CF% and 3.87 five-on-five ixG lead the team in both categories. He continues to thrive as the Wild’s first-line centre and an important member of the top power play unit, which means he is going to have lots of fantasy-friendly opportunities. He is one of the top players to add in your league if he’s available.

7) I was wrong, G Kevin Lankinen (75% rostered on Yahoo) is good… but you should still trade him

I’ll admit it, I missed when it comes to Kevin Lankinen. After the Chicago Blackhawks stumbled their way to a 2-4-3 start, I thought the team was on their way to a disappointing season. Since then, Chicago has gone an astounding 7-1-1 thanks largely to the play of the first-year netminder.

Lankinen owns a spectacular .931% save percentage and a really solid 0.397% save percentage above expected. He has nine quality stars across 12 games played and he owns a stellar 7-2-3 record. Even though I am willing to eat my words for the way the 25-year-old has played thus far, there are a couple of warning signs fantasy managers should be aware of. Chicago’s below-average defense has allowed the most shots on goal per-game (33.8) in the league and its 9.12 giveaways per-60 are the ninth-most. It’d be unfair to expect Lankinen to maintain his elite play under these conditions, and a levelling out should be expected. Fantasy managers are advised to trade the goalie before his value shifts.

8) I wouldn’t fault you for dropping D Erik Karlsson (71% rostered on Yahoo)

Things have gone from bad to worse with Erik Karlsson as the former two-time Norris Trophy winner is sidelined with a lower-body injury. Prior to missing the team’s game on Thursday, the 30-year-old had supplied just four assists across 13 games this season - a far cry from the type of production we were once accustomed to with Karlsson.

It’s visibly apparent that the Swedish blueliner doesn’t have the same impact on the game that he once did. Additionally, his 43.06 CF% is the worst amongst all Sharks defensemen, which is extremely concerning for someone who’s supposed to be a major offensive threat. Even though the injury doesn’t appear to warrant a long-term absence, I still don’t think many fantasy managers will regret dropping the former superstar in 10-team leagues. He’s been in decline for the past two seasons and it seems highly unlikely that he’ll snap out of it anytime soon.

9) LW/RW Bryan “Shooter” Rust (73% rostered on Yahoo) is putting everything on net

I don’t often hand out nicknames, but Bryan Rust has earned “Shooter” for the way he has played this season. Over the last two weeks, Rust has the third-most shots in the NHL with 28 despite playing in only five games. On the season, he ranks 14th in shots-per-60 with 11.88 and seventh in individual scoring chances per-60 with 13.09. His strong underlying numbers have helped spur his recent success, as the Pontiac, Michigan native has recorded four goals and seven points in his last four contests. Saddled alongside Sidney Crosby, the 28-year-old is in a great position to continue producing. I don’t typically suggest trading for players that are playing well, but Rust is someone I wouldn’t mind buying-high on.

10) C/RW Nick Schmaltz (33% rostered on Yahoo) excelling in expanded role

Nick Schmaltz has been logging important minutes for the Arizona Coyotes as a member of the first line and top power play unit and he hasn’t disappointed. The former first-round pick has recorded nine points in his last nine games and owns a respectable 56.00 CF% at five-on-five.

Schmaltz has been a decent contributor in past campaigns, finishing with 45-points or more twice over his four NHL seasons. At just 24-years-old, however, there’s certainly reason to believe that he may have another gear offensively. The youthful trio of Connor Garland, Schmaltz and Clayton Keller have been great for the Coyotes this season and I think there’s a lot of post-hype appeal with Schmaltz specifically. He’s a solid add right now as Arizona is scheduled to play four games this upcoming week.

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