Getty

Fantasy Hockey All-Stars for 2017-18

1 Comment

With the 2018 All-Star Game and weekend festivities rapidly approaching, why not put together a fantasy All-Star team?

A few ground rules for this specific list:

  • It will have traditional positions (wings, center, two defensemen, one goalie) rather than the current setup.
  • Versatility matters.
  • Also, players who were drafted low or were on waiver wires get a big bonus. If you were able to land a top-50 guy far beyond the top 50 picks, your chances of winning your league skyrocket.

Good? Good. Let’s get rolling.

Left Wing – Alex Ovechkin

This one was tough mainly because Jonathan Marchessault went from a guy who likely wasn’t drafted in many leagues (in fact, Marchessault is still available in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues), yet he’s a top-50 guy.

Ovechkin’s just too dynamic to ignore, though, and it’s what he does beyond the obvious that makes him very useful.

His 208 shots on goal is tied for first in the NHL, and Vladimir Tarasenko‘s played in two more games.  Ovechkin’s 94 hits tie him for 34th among forwards. His 20 penalty minutes and +10 rating make him a guy who checks a lot of boxes peripherals-wise.

The obvious stuff is great, too. He leads the league with 30 goals. Ovechkin is also 13th in points with 53, so he’s getting helpers as well.

Simply put, the deeper your league goes with categories, the more obvious a choice Ovechkin and some others end up being.

Center – Sean Couturier

Couturier falls along the Marchessault lines.

Steven Stamkos has better numbers, as does Nathan MacKinnon. Still, Couturier didn’t get drafted in many cases, yet he’s part of a resurgent top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek in Philly. The two-way center who’s largely done the heavy lifting is showing he’s more this season, scoring 23 goals and 23 assists. There are some nice peripherals with a +10 rating and even 26 blocked shots.

Value means a big difference in fantasy. Most people can pinpoint the obvious the guys, even if they end up slightly better than expected. The off-the-radar guys make the real difference.

Right wing – Nikita Kucherov

Look, not every pick on this list would mildly surprise somehow.

He leads the league with 63 points, and it’s not like it’s all assists, as he still has a shot to catch Ovechkin with his 27 goals. From a +13 rating to 22 power-play points, Kucherov covers all the bases.

Other members of high-end lines deserve consideration too, especially someone in the Marchessault/Couturier realm of overachievers like Brayden Schenn.

Defenseman: John Klingberg

Six goals and 42 assists for 48 points would be a nice season for Klingberg, let alone just a bit more than half of a season’s worth of work (50 games). While he collects more helpers, the six goals are quite nice. Klingberg has 119 shots on goal in those 50 games, and is basically doing it all.

His points total exceeds every other defenseman by seven points, and he’s 10+ points ahead of every blueliner beyond …

Other defenseman: Brent Burns, who has 41 points after collecting two assists on Thursday.

He now has eight assists during a six-game point/assist streak. During the month of January, Burns has one goal and 15 assists for 16 points in 12 games. Since December, he’s generated a remarkable 30 points in 25 games. If anyone can catch Klingberg, it’s Burns.

Even beyond that, Burns will probably be the most valuable fantasy defenseman going forward, unless Erik Karlsson resumes being fully Erik Karlsson, as he covers more categories.

On one hand, after a +19 rating in 2016-17, he’s -21 this season. (Plus/minus is a flawed stat, but it’s frequently used in fantasy.)

Burns can provide penalty minutes (24) and can be valuable even if he doesn’t score goals because he shoots so much (202 SOG, 50 more than every other defensemen, third in the NHL with fewer games played than Ovechkin and Tarasenko), and he’s logging a ton of ice time with 25:20 per game.

Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy, followed by Connor Hellebuyck

OK, Vasi is obviously the guy. He leads the NHL in wins with 29, shutouts with 7 (everyone else as four or fewer), and his .931 save percentage stands out among starters. He’s clearly the best.

That said, Hellebuyck deserves a mention because he was likely picked up on waiver wires or very low in deep drafts. Even among Winnipeg Jets fans, you’d think Steve Mason was selected in almost every instance.

If you hopped on the Hellebuyck bandwagon early, you enjoyed most of the benefits: 26 wins (second to Vasi), sixth-best 1,147 saves, and a fantastic .924 save percentage.

***

Maybe you have a different way of looking at things, and you can’t deny MacKinnon, Stamkos, Patrice Bergeron, or someone else from being mentioned. With that in mind, feel free to share your All-Stars, even if you keep it strictly to players who happened to land on your team(s). We’d be delighted to hear about your big steals, shrewd moves, and near-misses.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trade: Capitals acquire defenseman Michal Kempny from Blackhawks

Getty
4 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The trade deadline is one week from today so buckle up for a busy week of transactions. It started on Monday with a deal involving the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals.

The Deal: The Blackhawks send defenseman Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a conditional third-round draft pick.

The condition on the pick is that the Blackhawks will acquire the higher of Washington’s two third-round picks. The Capitals own their own pick, as well as the third-round pick that originally belonged to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Capitals acquired that pick (via New Jersey) in the Marcus Johannson trade over the summer.

Why the Capitals are making this trade: They get a cheap, left-handed shot to add some depth to their blue line. Kempny isn’t going to steal trade deadline headlines the way the Kevin Shattenkirk deal did for the Capitals a year ago, but he definitely adds some depth to the blue line.

Along with the usual suspects on Washington’s blue line (John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov, Brooks Orpik) the Capitals have also been using some younger players like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey, as well as veteran Taylor Chorney to fill out their D pairings.

In 31 games this season Kempny has one goal and six assists while logging more than 15 minutes of ice-time per game.

Why the Blackhawks are making this trade: It is pretty simple, really. The Blackhawks are pretty much out of the playoff race at this point and this could be the start of them selling off some pieces over the next week. Kempny is an unrestricted free agent after this season and given the Blackhawks’ salary cap situation he may not be someone that figures into their long-term plans.

They are also short on draft picks this summer and do not currently own a second-or fourth-round pick.

They were able to get back a pick in this trade giving them two picks in the third-round (to go with two in the fifth-round and one each in the first, sixth, and seventh).

The other bonus for the Blackhawks: The draft pick carries no salary cap hit next season. Kind of a big deal for them.

Who won the trade: At the moment probably an edge to the Capitals because, well, they’re getting an NHL player to help for a playoff push and the Blackhawks are getting to what amounts to a scratch off lottery ticket. That third-round pick is almost certain to be in the bottom half of the third-round which means it probably only has a 10-20 percent chance of turning into a player that ever plays a single game in the NHL, let alone becomes any sort of an impact player.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Slumping Blue Jackets lose Nick Foligno for 1-2 weeks

Getty
2 Comments

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Times are tough for the Columbus Blue Jackets right now.

After losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday evening the Blue Jackets are now just 4-9-2 in their past 15 games and have fallen out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, sitting one point back of the New York Islanders entering play on Monday.

Now the team has announced that captain Nick Foligno will be sidelined for the next one-two weeks due to a lower body injury that he suffered in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Penguins.

Foligno, 30, is having a down year with just 13 goals and 13 assists in 59 games but he is still one of the Blue Jackets’ top forwards, and for a team that is struggling to score goals they really can not afford to lose anybody. Especially given the schedule they have coming up.

Over the next two weeks the Blue Jackets have games against the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

That is a tough stretch that could end up making or breaking their season.

————

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fantasy Adds & Drops: Time to lose Lucic

Getty
1 Comment

This weekly column will aim to help you navigate through the rough waters of your fantasy league’s waiver wire. We’ll recommend players you should think of adding that are owned in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues and we’ll also make recommendations on players you should think of dropping. 

Here we go:

Adds:

Clayton Keller– C/LW/RW- Arizona Coyotes (44 percent)

After a terrific start to his rookie season, Keller’s play dropped off. He wasn’t putting up as many points and he wasn’t making as many headlines as he was in October and November. But it looks like now might be the right time to pick up in your fantasy leagues. He has eight points in his last six games, including a four-point night against Montreal last week.

Anthony Mantha– LW/RW- Detroit Red Wings (39 percent)

Mantha was owned in a lot more leagues earlier this season, but his production dropped off quite a bit. He appears to be back on now, as he’s picked up six points in his last six games. He’s versatile enough because he’s eligible to play both wing positions in Yahoo leagues. The Red Wings forward should be added in deeper leagues.

Nico Hischier– C- New Jersey Devils (30 percent)

Hischier and Taylor Hall have formed a remarkable duo over the last little while. After hitting a bit of a wall near the midway point of the season, the first overall pick from last June’s draft has managed to pick up the offensive part of his game. He’s now found the back of the net in four straight games and he’s riding a five-game point streak.

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Derick Brassard– C- Ottawa Senators (25 percent)

It sure seems like trade winds have given Brassard an added boost of motivation. The Sens forward has racked up six points in his last four games and he’s coming off a three-point performance against the Rangers on Saturday afternoon.

Ondrej Kase– LW/RW- Anaheim Ducks (11 percent)

Kase isn’t a big name, but he’s been lighting it up for Anaheim lately. The 22-year-old has nine points in his last seven games. He’s on pace to hit the 25-goal mark in 2017-18. He could be an intriguing add in deeper fantasy leagues.

Drops:

Milan Lucic– LW- Edmonton Oilers (59 percent)

If your league doesn’t award points for penalty minutes, there’s absolutely no reason for Lucic to be on your roster. He hasn’t picked up a point in any of his last 11 games and he hasn’t scored in 22. And in his last 12 contests, he’s also managed to accumulate just four penalty minutes. Lucic needs to be dropped ASAP.

[More Fantasy: Check out the Rotoworld Hockey Podcast]

Ryan Kesler– C- Anaheim Ducks (47 percent)

The 2017-18 season hasn’t been kind to Kesler. He missed over two months of action because of a hip injury and he just hasn’t looked like himself since returning. The Ducks forward missed the last game because of a lower-body issue. It’s time to cut ties with him and add one of the other players mentioned above.

Robin Lehner– G- Buffalo Sabres (51 percent)

Not only are the Sabres struggling, but Lehner is now day-to-day with an injury. Don’t expect Buffalo to win many games down the stretch, so picking up someone like Petr Mrazek, who might get traded before the deadline, could be a worthwhile gamble.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Canada women beat Russia 5-0, will meet U.S. in hockey final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — It’s part of the routine now, as much a staple of the Winter Games as the medal ceremonies, the doping scandals or the sequins on the figure skating costumes.

The United States playing Canada for the Olympic women’s hockey gold medal.

Jennifer Wakefield scored twice and Shannon Szabados stopped 14 shots on Monday night to lead the Canadians to a 5-0 victory over Russia and earn the four-time defending Olympic champions a spot in another gold medal game.

It will be the fifth time in six Winter Games since women’s hockey was added to the program that the North American neighbors have met in the final. No one else has ever skated away with an Olympic gold medal.

Canada outshot Russia 47-14 but struggled to pull away, scoring just once in each of the first two periods before Wakefield bounced one in off goalie Valeria Tarakanova’s right arm just two minutes into the third and then Emily Clark made it 4-0 just 31 seconds later.

Russian coach Alexei Chistyakov swapped his goalies, but it was too late. The Russians still have a chance for their first Olympic women’s hockey medal ever when they play Finland in the bronze medal match on Wednesday.

Marie Philip-Poulin and Rebecca Johnston also scored for Canada, which has won 24 in a row at the Olympics since losing the gold medal game in Nagano in 1998.

The United States advanced to the gold medal game with a 5-0 victory over Finland earlier Monday.

The Americans won the Four Nations Cup, third only to the Olympics and world championships in importance, beating Canada in three of the first four games in a Pyeongchang tuneup tour. But Canada has won the last four, with a 2-1 victory in the pool play finale on Thursday.

None of it matters, really.

The gold medal match is the game these two have been looking forward to since Canada rallied from a two-goal deficit and beat the Americans in overtime in Sochi four years ago.

And it’s the only thing right now that can help the 10 American holdovers from that team ease the pain of their 2014 collapse.

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org