NHL Fantasy Hockey: Rust, Zadina among this week’s best adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Filip Zadina, Red Wings – LW/RW: This obviously isn’t the Red Wings’ season, but Zadina is a big part of what Detroit hopes is a bright future. He started the campaign in the AHL, but he made his NHL season debut on Nov. 24th and has been chipping in regularly with two goals and seven points in his last seven games. He’s definitely a gamble, but he has the offensive upside to make him worth the risk. It doesn’t hurt that the Red Wings are incentivized to give their younger players healthy minutes given that the idea of making the playoffs is already long gone.

Anthony Duclair, Senators – LW/RW: If nothing else, Duclair is worth taking a shot on right now given how hot he is. He has an incredible seven goals and eight points in his last four games alone. He’s been really good for a while though with 17 goals and 24 points in his last 25 games. He does have a 20.5 shooting percentage over that span, which is a pretty big red flag, but I do think he’s still worth taking a chance on. Duclair is a forward who has shown promise before and might be hitting his stride now that he’s getting a bigger opportunity with Ottawa.

Jordan Eberle, Islanders – RW: Eberle left something to be desired last season, but he did end it on a positive note that gave us hope for the 2019-20 campaign. Unfortunately he got off to a rather rough start this season too and plenty of fantasy owners ditched him as a result. He’s shown signs of life in December though with three goals and seven points in seven games. This might just be a hot streak, but Eberle’s a player who has bounce back potential so if you pick him up now, there’s at least a chance he’ll be a valuable asset for the rest of the campaign.

Josh Bailey, Islanders – LW/RW: If you want to double down on Islanders, Bailey is another option. Like Eberle, Bailey is owned in under 20% of Yahoo leagues at the time of writing and like Eberle, he’s red hot right now. Bailey has a goal and eight points in his last eight games. Just as an aside, while Eberle and Bailey obviously are on the same team, they aren’t typically on the ice together. In fact, Bailey has 22 points in 31 games in 2019-20 while only combining with Eberle four times. This is all to say that Eberle and Bailey aren’t linked, so it’s entirely possible that one will stay hot while the other cools down.

Tyler Toffoli, Kings – LW/RW: Los Angeles is taking a breather on Monday, but when they face Boston Tuesday night, Toffoli will be entering the contest on a four-game point streak. He has an impressive three goals and seven points over that span. Taking his season as a whole, he has nine goals and 20 points in 34 contests, which is good for third place on the Kings scoring race, but is pretty borderline in standard leagues and his lack of contributions on the power play or with hits makes him not a terribly viable long-term option. Still, he’s at least an option worth entertaining while he’s hot.

Bryan Rust, Penguins – LW/RW: I’ve mentioned Rust before as a possible add candidate, but I feel justified in mentioning him again given that he’s still available in over half of Yahoo leagues. He’s just been a great contributor this season with 12 goals and 22 points despite being limited to 19 games. He’s also hot right now, scoring three goals and five points in his last three contests.

Jason Zucker, Wild – LW/RW: Zucker isn’t particularly hot right now with a goal and three points in his last five games, but he’s been a regular contributor throughout the season. His 12 goals and 24 points in 34 games aren’t amazing, but it’s solid and his eligibility on both wings is a great bit of flexibility. If you’re been battered by injuries or have an underperforming winger, Zucker is a pretty safe stopgap measure.

Robby Fabbri, Red Wings – LW/RW: Fabbri didn’t have a spot with the St. Louis Blues, but he certainly has one in Detroit. He’s averaged 17:07 minutes since being acquired by the Red Wings and he’s paid them back for the opportunity by scoring eight goals and 15 points in 18 contests. Fabbri is still owned in just 17% of Yahoo leagues, so he’s flown under the radar to an extent, but he’s had some decent value since the trade and should continue to be a significant contributor with Detroit.

Christian Dvorak, Coyotes – C/LW: Dvorak has been decent this season, but he’s dialed it up lately with two goals and nine points in his last 10 games. I don’t expect him to maintain that kind of pace, but he’s an asset while it lasts. Once he cools down though, I’d lean towards dropping him in favor of some other option.

Eric Staal, Wild – C: Staal had 22 goals and 52 points in 81 games in 2018-19, which was his worst showing since coming to Minnesota. This season is shaping up to be better though. He has 12 goals and 26 points in 34 contests. He only had an assist in his first seven games this season, but since then he’s been an excellent and relatively regular contributor. His center-only eligibility is a definitely knock against him, but he still has use in standard leagues.

Players You May Want To Drop

Adam Fox, Rangers – D: This is a bit of a tough one. He’s having a great rookie season with five goals and 16 points in 32 games, but that might not be quite enough reason to hold onto him if you’re in a standard league. A lot of that production comes from a great run that occurred from Oct. 29-Nov. 30, but more recently he’s been limited to two assists in seven games. Rookies can have more extreme hot-and-cold spells than veterans, so it’s a little riskier to hold onto one while they are cold. That said, even if you do decide to part ways with him for now, he’s definitely still worth keeping a close eye on.

Blake Coleman, Devils – LW/RW: Coleman enjoyed a big hot streak from Nov. 13-28, scoring six goals and 10 points in eight contests. He hasn’t done much else this season though. In fact, if you take away that streak, then he’s left with three goals and six points in 24 games in 2019-20. He’s a decent secondary scorer and was certainly worth having during his hot streak, but there’s not much incentive to keep him now that he’s cooled down.

Jeff Skinner, Sabres – C/LW: Skinner has surpassed the 30-goal milestone four different times in his career, but never in back-to-back seasons. It’s looking more-and-more like that unfortunate trend will continue. Although he scored 40 goals last season, he’s been limited to 11 goals and 18 points in 34 contests this season. It gets worse if you look at what he’s brought to the table since mid-November. He’s scored just three goals and six points in his last 16 games. His shooting percentage is just 6% over that span, which is pretty low for him, so it seems reasonable to believe he’ll eventually bounce back, but not necessarily to the levels that some are hoping.

Kaapo Kahkonen, Wild – G: Kahkonen has spent most of the season in the minors, but he’s been with the Wild during Devan Dubnyk’s absence for personal reasons.  The Wild had a full schedule last week with four games, including three contests in four nights from Dec. 12-15, so Kahkonen has seen plenty of action lately. He saved 31 of 33 shots in an overtime loss on Dec. 10th, but then he allowed five goals on Dec. 12th and four markers on Dec. 15th. In other words, he’s been a mixed bag and even if he wasn’t, his stint with Minnesota would probably be coming to a close anyways. Dubnyk didn’t participate in Sunday’s game, but there’s a fair chance he’ll be back soon and once he is, Kahkonen return to the AHL.

Martin Jones, Sharks – G: This has been a pretty shaky season for the Sharks and Jones has certainly been impacted by that. He has a 3.30 GAA and .888 save percentage in 27 games, which would both be career lows if this continues. That said, I’m a little hesitant to recommend dropping or otherwise getting rid of him at this time. The Sharks shook up their coaching staff just two games ago and part of that change was bringing in former Sharks starter Evgeni Nabokov as the new goaltending coach. It’ll be interesting to see if those changes can help San Jose in general and Jones in particular turn things around. However, I do see this as something of a final opportunity as far as the 2018-19 campaign is concerned. If Jones hasn’t rebounded in the next few weeks then it would make sense to explore other options.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey. 

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

Sabres fans are fed up with losing, and so is Jack Eichel

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While 24 NHL teams aim to return to play, the Buffalo Sabres will not. Despite seeing a league-leading playoff drought extend to nine consecutive seasons, the Sabres confirmed that GM Jason Botterill will be back. This all translates to deeply frustrating times for Sabres fans — not to mention star Jack Eichel.

And both Eichel and those Sabres fans made some waves with the way they aired their grievances.

Eichel and other Sabres are “fed up with losing”

Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen, and other Sabres vented during recent days. In Eichel’s case, he admitted that he’s “fed up with losing.” When you listen to Eichel, you can hear that mixture of fatigue and anger.

Eichel carries a lot of the burden as the Sabres’ biggest star. Yet, as much as Eichel’s suffered through five years of failures, Rasmus Ristolainen absorbed even more over seven. Rumors circulated that Ristolainen wanted out last summer, and he only (kind of) calmed things down later on.

Maybe that sets the stage for some eyebrow-raising comments? Ristolainen told reporters that he realizes that if someone gets traded, he might be the first to go. The defenseman also acknowledged how comments about building toward the future must make everyone sound like a broken record.

No doubt, missing the postseason in such an embarrassing way has to sting Sabres players like Eichel and Ristolainen. The angst also makes it more awkward for Botterill to try to say all the right things.

With cap space opening up and huge needs still lingering, this is a huge offseason for the Sabres. It also could be a long one in a more literal way, if the 2020-21 season starts in, say, December. Clearly, plenty of Sabres players won’t be feeling very patient if the team suffers through another stretch of setbacks.

Fans share discontent — sometimes creatively

It’s clear — and it’s been clear for a while — that Sabres fans are out of patience, too. (Remember Duane?)

Sabres fan Jill Thompson put the team “up for sale” on Craigslist. While the listing was not very surprisingly removed, Thompson shared a screenshot of it on Twitter:

Thompson wrote this in the listing:

For Sale: NHL Hockey Franchise
Team: Buffalo Sabres
Available: ASAP

*Lost team with diehard fanbase looking for wealthy owner who actually understands hockey*

Organization on the cheap. Could be flipped. Major structural damage but few core pieces still in tact.

Non-Negotiable Terms:
-Franchise must stay in current city and is ineligible for relocation.
-Immediate family (i.e. wife) is not eligible for internal position within the organization
-Must provide “team puppy”

Not crazy about the “immediate family” barb personally, but otherwise? Pretty good. Really, all 31 NHL teams should have at least one puppy.

Thompson explained the listing to the Buffalo News, and capturing the mood of many Sabres fans in the process:

“When I post about the Sabres on Twitter, it’s sadly in a negative light and that is because I am upset for the level of disrespect/lack of accountability/neglect of everything down to the smallest details that we are shown from the owners,” Thompson wrote to the Buffalo News. “As one of the most loyal fan bases in all of sports, we deserve better.”

With serious questions lingering regarding goaltending, defense, and forward depth, the Sabres have a long way to go to turn things around. And they might not have a ton of time to win back fans like Thompson.

More on the Sabres

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.

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Beleskey helps Ducks’ winning ways in 2015

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This week’s Hockey Happy Hour on NBCSN will feature four notable milestone and record performances.

In the first-ever playoff meeting between these two teams, the series was tied at two games apiece heading into Game 5. Jonathan Toews of Chicago forced an overtime period when he scored two goals with under two minutes left in regulation, but Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey scored the winning goal in overtime for the 5-4 win. With the victory, the Ducks improved to 11-3 in the 2015 postseason, tying the NHL record for the most consecutive games to begin the playoffs without a regulation loss.

Kenny Albert, Joe Micheletti and Brian Engblom had the call from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Thursday, May 28 on NBCSN
• Blackhawks vs. Ducks (2015 Western Conference Final, Game 5) – 5 p.m. ET

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

LA Kings hope late-season surge indicates brighter future

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings were the NHL’s hottest team before the coronavirus pandemic ended the regular season prematurely. They’re hoping they can eventually build on that success whenever they get back on the ice.

The team with the NHL’s longest active winning streak won’t get a chance to extend it this season, thanks to the league’s decision this week to limit its playoff tournament to 24 teams. The Kings’ seven straight victories before the stoppage comprised the franchise’s best stretch since December 2017, and it had even pulled them out of last place in the Pacific Division.

The Kings haven’t lost a game since Feb. 23, and their 10-3-1 surge prior to the pause suggests coach Todd McLellan’s work was finally paying off after Los Angeles mostly struggled through the first four months of a rebuilding season. The Kings’ only public comment on the abrupt end came in a statement from team President Luc Robitaille.

”It’s unfortunate that our season has concluded, but we fully understand this was necessary and support the decision,” Robitaille said. ”At the time of the pause, we had made considerable progress in the second half and were seeing positive results and encouraging signs for the future. We’ll now turn our attention to the NHL draft and player development so that we can continue building our organization for long-term success.”

Despite their late success, the Kings already were all but certain to miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2009.

Even after two straight disappointing seasons, Robitaille, general manager Rob Blake and McLellan all appear to be secure in their jobs and locked in on a long-term plan to return the Kings to Stanley Cup contention.

Los Angeles won the trophy twice in three years before entering a slow decline caused by massive veteran contracts and unimpressive talent development, culminating in the struggles that finally showed signs of ending before the coronavirus upended everyone’s plans.

”If we had a chance to finish the season, we’d want to finish the season,” Robitaille said earlier this month. ”Especially the fact that we have a lot of young players, it’s always good experience for them to play.”

CORE GUYS

A championship-winning veteran core remains in Los Angeles, but the Kings must decide whether to keep it together for another year. Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter are all still-productive players locked into big contracts, but Blake knows it’s time to repair the foundation of his franchise to rebuild a winner. Blake values the leadership and experience of those veterans along with longtime depth forward Trevor Lewis, who is the Kings’ most noteworthy unrestricted free agent. Los Angeles already parted ways with stalwart supporting players Alec Martinez, Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford in February, and while it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect big changes given the contract obstacles, Blake would be foolish not to consider more ways to get younger and more financially flexible.

FIND THE NET

The Kings were among the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams again this season, with Kopitar’s 21 goals and 41 assists easily leading the roster in both categories. Los Angeles had only five 10-goal scorers, while only Kopitar and Alex Iafallo topped 40 points. Despite their offensive struggles, Blake saw progress in the Kings’ implementation of McLellan’s system. ”Clearly we wanted to be a strong-shooting team, a team that got pucks to the net, recovered pucks well and generated offense off that,” Blake said. ”I think the year-end review showed that.”

PING PONG BALLS

The Kings have a 9.5% chance of winning the top pick in the complicated draft lottery this summer. For a franchise that hasn’t drafted a star since Doughty in 2008, a high pick would be an enormous boost. The Kings’ draft carries an added degree of difficulty with the departure of assistant general manager Michael Futa, whose contract expires in June. Still, Los Angeles is in prime position to add another elite talent to a solid pool of prospects including first-rounder Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo and Tyler Madden.

HIGHLIGHTS

Iafallo’s transformation from an undrafted free agent to a consistent NHL scorer in less than three years has been a rare bright spot for the Kings’ recent record of player acquisitions. Ditto for Sean Walker, an undrafted defenseman who played his way into a regular NHL role. Walker’s 24 points this season nearly matched the prolific Doughty, who had 28.

LOWLIGHTS

Carter has two more years left on his 10-year contract extension, but Blake said earlier this month that the 35-year-old veteran scorer wouldn’t have been able to return from his mysterious core injury even if the NHL season had continued for the Kings. And though Adrian Kempe was the Kings’ fifth-leading scorer, his inconsistency aggravated the front office and coaching staff. The Swede will strive for steadier production in the years ahead.

Killorn, Lightning jet ski their way to NHL return in ‘Bolts are Back’

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During some of the dog days of the pandemic pause, Alex Killorn gathered Lightning teammates for some tremendous-cheesy “Dock Talk” videos. It only makes sense, then, that he gathered the gang (“the boys?”) for the best segment yet to celebrate the NHL’s return to play. Yes, the “Bolts are back,” indeed.*

* – In small groups

Killorn, Steven Stamkos, and other Lightning teammates celebrated this announcement — on jet skis, with humor — to the tune of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are back in town.”

(Warning: that song will probably get in your head if you watch the video above. Maybe it already is?)

Enjoy some of the best moments of Killorn’s great “Bolts are back” video.

Splashy highlights of Killorn, Stamkos, other Lightning players in “Bolts are back”

Killorn makes his “directorial debut” with an honestly very nice overhead pool shot. The video starts strong with Stamkos and Killorn being goofy on their jet skis.

Stamkos "Bolts are Back"
What, Stamkos didn’t spring for fancy airpods? (via Killorn)

In a moment of poor sportsmanship/skismanship, an unnamed Bruin (or, most likely, someone wearing a Bruins shirt?) gets splashed. Figure this one out, Internet. I believe this is the same person who gets dumped in the water (while wearing a Maple Leafs shirt?) later on?

Bruins guy in "Bolts are Back"
Well, that’s rude. (via Killorn)

While there’s plenty of room for debate, I’d argue that Andrei Vasilevskiy (aka “Big Cat”) earns the nod for best cameo. We catch him lifting weights, and grunting something — maybe “you’re the man?” — before spotting his Lightning pals.

Vasilevskiy Big Cat "Bolts are Back"
Do goalies need to be that ripped? Asking for Dominik Hasek. (via Killorn)

Like many great filmmakers, Killorn tackles class when he features Lightning teammate Anthony Cirelli in one of the more memorable sequences of “Bolts are Back.” Notice that Cirelli (“Rocco”) is waiting tables before being summoned. You see, Cirelli is on an entry-level contract. Is his artificially deflated contract being referenced by Killorn?

Clearly.

Judging by Cirelli abandoning his duties, it’s not only good that the Bolts are back, and so seemingly is the NHL. It’s also promising that Cirelli’s due a raise as a pending RFA.

Other cast members

Not every appearance was as strong as a grunting big cat. Then again, maybe it boils down to repeat viewings, because Mikhail Sergachev‘s fanny pack and cat moved up the power rankings over time:

Sergachev cat
Almost a dog-like pose? Not complaining. (via Killorn)

Clearly, Braydon Coburn and/or Killorn are well-schooled on action movie tropes. At least, that’s my headcanon for Coburn being interrupted while cutting wood. Doesn’t that happen in every thriller involving a reluctantly returning hero? Anyway, Coburn joining the group with an open shirt earns one of the bigger laughs:

Braydon Coburn cameo
Alrighty then, “Kobayashi.” (via Killorn)

Killorn isn’t yet at that “obsessive auteur director” level just yet, as I imagine a control freak would have been maddened by the imperfect skiing V:

imperfect V "Bolts are back"
Maddening. (via Killorn)

(Seriously, who is the straggler? Could Cirelli’s jet ski not keep up? Class rears its ugly head again.)

Killorn ties it all together with another great joke: “The Bolts are back” — in small groups.

"Bolts are Back" -- in small groups
(via Killorn)

Killorn actually might be right about the whole “breakout influencer of the year” thing, honestly.

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.