Throughout the NHL season, some of the league's brightest stars undergo extreme cold stretches, and lately, David Pastrnak has been ice.
Over his last six games, Pastrnak has been held to no goals and two points. With injuries and COVID-related absences mounting for fantasy managers, a struggling top talent can be extremely frustrating to have.
The thing is, though, there are a number of indicators that suggest his struggles won't last, which makes now the perfect time to send a trade out to the Pastrnak manager in your league.
Here are my 10 fantasy hockey takeaways, starting with Pasta.
1. Now's your time to trade for David Pastrnak (100 percent rostered on Yahoo)
If you play fantasy hockey and don't have David Pastrnak on your squad, you need to go out and at least try to change that.
The Czech winger hasn't been producing in the manner many have grown accustomed to. Instead of scoring lots of goals, Pastrnak has potted just eight through 25 games. For a player who was selected in the first round of fantasy drafts mainly for his ability to score goals, this slump poses a bit of a problem for fantasy managers and likely explains why he was the most traded player in Yahoo fantasy on Thursday.
If there's someone in your league who's growing thin on patience with the Bruins star, the wise move is to send a trade offer over as soon as you can.
Sure, the goals aren't there, but it's not for a lack of trying. Pastrnak has rifled 108 shots on goal in 25 outings, averaging out to 4.32 shots per game. The high volume of shots and low volume of goals has resulted in a 7.4 percent shooting percentage, a mark much lower than his career number of 13.8 percent.
Looking deeper at the issue uncovers more indicators that some positive regression is on the way. His on-ice Corsi-for percentage sits at 65 percent in 2021-22, which ranks as the second-best mark of his career, according to Hockey Reference, and just one percentage point below his number from last year.
Pastrnak's early-season struggles can be chalked up to some bad puck luck. He will rebound and is worth trying to acquire in trade. I'd be willing to part with players like Andrei Svechnikov and William Nylander in a deal for the 25-year-old.
2. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (4 percent rostered on Yahoo) showing well early on
I know what you're thinking, he plays on the Buffalo Sabres. I get it, but in dynasty, keeper, and deep leagues, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is a name to know and target on the waiver wire.
The 2017 second-round pick has been stellar in his most recent stint in the NHL, posting a .939 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against average across four starts. Of course, his record is only 1-2-1 because he does play for the Sabres, but if you can snag a top goaltending prospect who's playing well for free, you gladly take the opportunity.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 12, 2021
Luukkonen's 2018-19 OHL campaign was one of the best from a netminder in the league's history. His .920 save percentage led the league, while he took home both the OHL Goaltender of the Year award and the Red Tilson Trophy, as the league's most outstanding player. He became just the fourth netminder in the Tilson Trophy's 65-year history to earn the honour, joining Michael Houser, Andrew Raycroft, and Glenn Hall. At the World Juniors that year, he helped his home country of Finland secure a gold medal and was named to the tournament's All-Star team.
Simply put, goaltenders with this kind of pedigree likely aren't filling up your waiver wire. He's someone worth actively pursuing.
3. How to handle COVID-19 postponements
65 NHL players are currently sidelined with a COVID-19 designation, according to NBC Sports Edge, and that obviously creates a massive problem for fantasy-hockey managers.
That's not even mentioning the number of players who are currently out with non-COVID-19 issues. Add several team outbreaks to a roster that looks like the one below, and just having players to play can be a challenge for some.
— Sasha Alexander (@Sasha_Dynamo) December 11, 2021
It's okay Sasha, we'll get through this one together.
There are three ways for fantasy managers to approach this situation, and I'll outline each option below.
Option 1: The Early-Season Success Story
If your team has gotten off to a really strong start, your goal should be to find the most injury and COVID-19-ravaged team in your league and try to upgrade some of your healthy and good players for high-end options. A good example of this would be offering Timo Meier to the Brad Marchand manager in your league.
Your team can likely afford to be without Marchand until he's healthy again, and you should be trying to plan for the long-term rather than the short-term.
Option 2: Bad and Injured
If your fantasy hockey team has gotten off to a slow start and you're going through a lot of injuries, I hate to break it to you, but your team is likely done for.
You should, however, be trying to make trades to acquire solid players like Meier and J.T. Miller, who are healthy. If that means giving up a Marchand, Nikita Kucherov, or Mitch Marner, it may be worth it just to give your team some immediate relief and keep it afloat. While planning for the playoffs is nice, you don't get there without winning these weeks, and if you're already playing catch up, good luck making the playoffs while trying to juggle an onslaught of injuries and COVID-19 cases.
Option 3: Patience is a Virtue
If your fantasy team hasn't been terrible, but it's not lighting up the league, the play is to hang tight and wait for the storm to pass.
Your team is good enough not to worry about losing a matchup or two, and you likely don't have enough healthy top talents to try and poach an elite player from a struggling squad. Just hold steady and wait for your players to come back.
4. Moritz Seider (82 percent rostered on Yahoo) has been special
If you were one of the lucky people who plucked Moritz Seider off the waiver wire at the beginning of the year, congratulations: you're rostering a stellar defenceman.
Seider recorded his 20th-career point this past week and became the third-fastest Detroit Red Wings blueliner to reach the mark as a rookie. The 29 games it took for Seider to hit the plateau sit just seven behind the great Nicklas Lidstrom, and any time your name is beside his, that's a sign that you're doing something right.
Moritz Seider recorded his 20th career point (3-17—20 in 29 GP). He required the third-fewest games by a rookie defenseman to reach the mark with the @DetroitRedWings behind Nicklas Lidstrom (22 GP) and Jeff Sharples (26 GP).#NHLStats: https://t.co/GmoeSVNw6v pic.twitter.com/vbN2MHuiGg
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 15, 2021
Okay, so maybe it wasn't good news for Jeff Sharples (whom I admittedly had to look up after reading this), but it seems much more plausible that Seider has more in common with Lidstrom than Sharples.
Currently, Seider is on pace for 57 points, which would be the most from any rookie blueliner since, coincidentally, Lidstrom tallied 60 points in 1991-92.
What we've seen out of the young German rearguard so far is very impressive, and those who were proactive in fantasy are reaping the rewards.
5. Is Patrick Kane (99 percent rostered on Yahoo) a buy-low candidate?
Patrick Kane has been a sporadic scorer this season, which isn't good for fantasy managers who used a late-first or early-second round pick to select the Chicago Blackhawks forward. The playmaking winger has been held off the scoresheet in seven of his last 12 contests and owns a minus-seven rating during this stretch. Given this underwhelming run from Kane, it's understandable why some fantasy managers are worried about his sputtering production.
I'm not, however, and there are a couple of reasons for that.
Kane's bread and butter for years has been his ability to rack up assists. Last season, his 51 helpers in 56 games ranked third in the NHL. This year, over the course of an 82-game season, Kane is only on pace for 58 assists. Part of the reason for that has been Chicago's relatively low team shooting percentage, as its mark of 8.16 percent sits seventh-worst in the NHL, according to Natural Stat Trick. That number is down more than 1.5 percent from its 2020-21 total of 9.72 percent, meaning the Blackhawks as a whole are likely due for a little bit of puck luck.
Additionally, his 7.7 percent shooting is down more than four ticks from his career mark of 11.8 percent. That's likely due to increase as the team's shooting percentage rises — and it's one of the main reasons why I'm looking to acquire Kane in trade. Players I'd be willing to part with for him are Johnny Gaudreau and Vladimir Tarasenko.
6. How does Nicklas Backstrom's (83 percent rostered on Yahoo) return affect the Washington Capitals?
Nicklas Backstrom returned to the Washington Capitals lineup on Wednesday night and recorded an assist while logging a healthy 18:14 of time-on-ice. His return coincided with fellow centre Evgeni Kuznetsov's absence, as the Russian middle man is sidelined due to COVID-19. In addition to Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson is also out with an upper-body injury.
But when everybody returns, how will Washington's top-six shape up?
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 15, 2021
Currently, Aliaksei Protas is posted up on the first line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Lars Ellers. When fully healthy, only Ovi should remain on the top trio, as Kuznetsov will supplant Ellers and Wilson will replace Protas.
On the second line, Backstrom and T.J. Oshie seem like locks to play alongside each other, while the left-wing slot on the unit remains open. Conor Sheary has grabbed hold of that spot right now as he's registered four points in his last three games, and has actually logged more than 19 minutes in each of those outings. If he can cling onto a spot in the Caps' top-six, he'll likely carry some fantasy value.
The power play is where things can get tricky. The five players on the man advantage are Protas, Backstrom, Oshie, Ovechkin, and John Carlson. While Protas will certainly come out, likely for Wilson, Backstrom could be pulled from the top unit for Kuznetsov, so just be mindful of that situation in fantasy, because it could have a pretty significant impact on either player's value.
7. Is this the new Tyler Seguin (75 percent rostered on Yahoo)?
Entering the 2021-22 season, I viewed Tyler Seguin as one of the better values in Yahoo fantasy drafts, but that hasn't been the case at all.
Through 26 games, Seguin has notched just seven goals and 11 points. Unlike other positive-regression candidates, the forward's shooting percentage is actually above his career mark, as the 11.1 percent rate he's scoring at this year is higher than his career number of 10.8 percent.
The biggest issue with Seguin has been the pretty significant dip in his shot volume. Prior to the 2020-21 season, the 29-year-old had recorded nine straight seasons with a shots-per-60-minutes rate higher than 10. In the three games he played last year, that mark sat at 9.4 percent. During this campaign, he's only been able to muster an 8.3 shots-per-60 number, which is the lowest of his career.
Seguin recently discussed his struggles, and it's important to pay attention to how he described what's been happening to him this year:
"Sometimes, you get a little frustrated not having the same kind of game I have in the past," Seguin told The Dallas Morning News. "Some things that used to click in my head and the opportunities I would get, I haven’t really seen this year. Some of it’s you guys kind of chirping about the way I score goals.
"That’s all I know how to do, is when things aren’t going a certain way, it’s, 'okay, let’s grease it up. Let things go off you. Go to those dirty areas.' I’m still trying to find that balance of muck-and-grinder and finding that fluid style to my game that I’ve had."
My takeaway from Seguin's comment is that he isn't the same player he was prior to his hip and knee surgeries. It sounds like the sniper is trying to reinvent his game as he deals with some of the lingering effects of the major operations he underwent.
With that being the case, I think it's fair to adjust expectations for Seguin. Until he starts shooting the puck more, I'm not interested in trying to buy low on the Dallas Stars winger. I'd actually be more inclined to try and sell low if you get a half-decent offer.
8. What's the deal with Taylor Hall (67 percent rostered on Yahoo)?
The 2021-22 season hasn't been kind to the 2011 NHL Draft class.
Taylor Hall, like Seguin, has really struggled through the early part of the campaign, scoring just five goals and 14 points through 25 games. The former Hart Trophy winner hasn't been an impact player offensively for the Bruins, and fantasy managers have taken action. Drafted in 100 percent of Yahoo leagues, Hall now finds himself rostered in fewer than 70 percent.
Hall's shooting percentage is a good place to start when dissecting his sluggish start to the year. His 8.5 percent mark is noticeably lower than his career total of 10.1 percent. What's also hurt the 30-year-old is Boston's poor team shooting percentage, as the 7.77 rate the Bruins have scored goals at this year ranks sixth-worst in the NHL — just over a percentage point below the squad's total of 8.79 from last year, which was also sixth-worst in the league.
The Bruins' shooting percentage will rise over the remainder of the season, and that'll help Hall in both the goals and assists category. Playing on the second line, his average time-on-ice is down considerably to 15:54, but still stationed on the top power-play unit, I'm in on Hall and would try to buy low if possible. Players I'd be willing to move for Hall are Marcus Foligno and Conor Garland.
9. Get Ryan Getzlaf (49 percent rostered on Yahoo) while you can
Category stuffers are hard to come by in fantasy hockey, and with Ryan Getzlaf back after missing time with a lower-body injury, he's one that's available in a number of Yahoo leagues.
The 36-year-old veteran hasn't recorded a point in his three games back, but he's still managed to be a useful player to roster. In those outings, he's earned a plus-two rating, seven hits, and 28 faceoff victories.
The Ducks captain has also been a reliable source of helpers this year, as he's tallied 19 assists in 26 outings.
Another thing that has me intrigued by Getzlaf is his low shooting percentage. He's notched just one goal on 53 shots, which has resulted in an unsustainably low 1.7 shooting percentage, a mark well below the 9.3 percent he's averaged over the past four seasons. This means that Getzlaf is likely to undergo some sort of goal-scoring correction sometime soon.
Players that service a number of categories are extremely valuable in fantasy hockey, and given the wide-ranging production Getzlaf has offered this season, he's worthy of an add.
10. There's still time to snag Tim Stuetzle (37 percent rostered on Yahoo)
When young, top-tier NHL draft picks start performing, you want to make sure you're paying attention so you're able to scoop them off the waiver wire before someone else in your league does.
Still freely available in over 60 percent of Yahoo leagues, Tim Stuetzle is worthy of your attention.
The 2020 third-overall selection seems to have found his scoring groove recently, as he's notched three goals and six points over his last five games. During this stretch, he's averaged 17:16 of time on ice, rifled 17 shots on goal, and posted a plus-two rating.
Prior to this hot stretch, the 19-year-old had registered just eight points across the first 21 games of the season.
With both he and the Senators rolling, Stuetzle is worth proactively adding in your fantasy league.
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