These bye periods for teams in real hockey have hurt teams in fantasy hockey. And while it wasn’t the intent of the NHL to mess up head-to-head matchups, owners fighting for playoff position may have been hindered by some players’ recent weekly restrictions.
Of course, adjustments can be made to fill the holes. Unfortunately, this task becomes difficult when you have multiple skaters to replace. Benches are often limited and you’re not going to grab someone off the waiver wire if it means sacrificing a better long-term contributor.
But hey, that’s what happens in fantasy. You simply have to recognize the situation and adapt. The main goal is to win at the end, so one or two shaky weeks shouldn’t be a huge problem as long as the foundation is solid.
We’re back to looking at recent performance. Get out your highlighters and take note of the following possibilities:
Two Steps Forward: Leo Komarov, Toronto
Back in December, we hoped Komarov could pick up his offensive pace. And while there have been a few bumps along the way, his most recent numbers (seven points, 19 shots in seven games) are promising. When you combine that with the usual grittiness (190 hits) and power-play duty (seven points, averaging over two minutes a night), Komarov embodies the definition of a strong fantasy performer.
Broken Wing: Michael Cammalleri, New Jersey
The first month or so of 2017 treated Cammalleri very favorably (11 points in 17 contests, including five power-play assists). However, the latest stretch has proved challenging (scoreless in six, a two-minute drop in ice time). As a result of these struggles, the Toronto area native was relegated to the press box for consecutive outings. With the Devils in the midst of a rough patch and their postseason chances slipping away, there will be the tendency to rely more on youth. As such, the prospects for the 14-year veteran the remainder of this season don’t appear too promising.
Between the Lines: Christian Dvorak, Arizona
A natural center, Dvorak has mainly been used this year on the left side. With Martin Hanzal having escaped to the Midwest, the 21-year old (at 10 goals and 12 assists in 57 games) is now expected to slot down the middle in a prominent role. That shouldn’t be an issue for Dvorak, as he impressed skating with topnotch teammates like Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner in junior (231 points over his final two seasons). And when Arizona called the kid up, he netted his first pro goal as if it had been done it a hundred times before.
Two Steps Forward: Radim Vrbata, Arizona
Despite the Coyotes lack of success, not everything is doom and gloom in Glendale. A few fortunate souls have been provided with the opportunity to do well and are maximizing their efforts. One of those beneficiaries would be Vrbata, who has enjoyed his multiple stints in the Desert (288 points in six years coming in to this season). Even at 35, the Czech winger continues to post excellent stats (46 in 61, including 12 PPPs). But it’s his latest run (points in nine straight) that has many taking notice, including possible suitors who could use his services for the final drive. If Arizona opts to ship Vrbata to a contender, his value will depend where and on what line he ends up.
Broken Wing: Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles
Gaborik has long served as the poster boy for perpetual enigma when it comes to consistency, both in terms of scoring and his health. The latter concern popped up again this past summer, when the Slovak broke his right foot during the World Cup. He returned to the lineup in late November and proceeded to go through the usual rollercoaster ride, alternating between decent showings (four points in his first six outings, a January segment of nine in 12) and disappearing acts (separate pointless periods of nine and 11). Don’t be fooled by Monday’s brief outburst (goal, assist) or the repertoire of specialized skills, as Gaborik will inevitably leave you wanting more.
Between the Lines: Phil Di Giuseppe, Carolina
With the Canes’ playoff hopes virtually dashed, the club will look to the future – more specifically, to their on-ice personnel. Among the fresher faces looking to leave their mark is Di Giuseppe, who split last season between the NHL and AHL. His 2015-16 combined point total leaned toward minor-league accomplishments (18 points in 25 contests), although enough progress was made with the parent club (17 in 41) to earn a repeat appearance. As the production was sparse the first two months (two in 18), Di Giuseppe found himself back in the minors but returned last week after some solid play (20 in 33). The current Carolina sample is limited (three in four), but he appears to have settled in amongst the top six and has even earned a taste of the man-advantage.
Two Steps Forward: Derick Brassard, Ottawa
Brassard has endured sufficient scrutiny ever since Columbus took him with the sixth selection in 2006. From his disappointing debut to the years of mediocrity to the much-debated offseason trade that sent Mika Zibanejad to Broadway. The move to his native land appeared to be what the former QMJHL star needed, yet the early endeavors fell short of expectations (nine points in 22 matches). But as the parts began to jell, the Sens started their rise in the Atlantic. Brassard (16 in his last 23) has taken advantage of his extensive skills and resources to form a powerful one-two punch down the middle with Kyle Turris. Just keep him away from the actual punching and he’ll be fine.
Broken Wing: Victor Rask, Carolina
Remember when we were worried about Rask a month ago? Unfortunately, there has been little improvement since; although, to be fair, the Canes have only potted eight goals in their last seven. The young Swede went on an extended scoreless run (14 in a row), only to ruin that by finding the scoresheet in each of the last two. Despite the downturn, Rask remains Carolina’s most promising pivot. And with the team set to give up on their postseason aspirations, he won’t have the pressure to perform right away. Of course, that may be a problem if you’re banking on him to contribute now.
Between the Lines: Devin Shore, Dallas
The Stars are slipping out of contention, which means more opportunities for those who deserve it. Shore may not be the most talented or the fastest skater, but he possesses a high hockey IQ and works hard to earn his keep. The ice time may be low (averaging 14:24 in his last 22 appearances), but the University of Maine standout has made the most of the opportunities (13 points, 20 blocks during that span). Shore will never usurp Tyler Seguin but should be allowed to develop his game and extend his power-play position (just over two minutes per game for the season). And he’s only 22, so there’s no rush for success.