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‘This is for real:’ Journeyman Aliu sparks hockey reckoning

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VAUGHAN, Ontario — There was no breaking point or seminal moment that prompted Akim Aliu to post two tweets less than a minute apart that would rock the NHL in a matter of hours.

Aliu was scrolling through the timeline on his phone when he saw a report of how just-fired Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock had mistreated Mitch Marner, his prized rookie forward.

”It was a spur of the moment kind of thing,” Aliu explained during an interview this past week at a gym near Toronto. A few highway exits from his home, this is where the 30-year-old works out to stay in shape in case some team gives him one more shot at playing.

”I sent it out and didn’t even think anything of it, and just went into the steam room for 20 minutes,” he said. ”I did a couple of hot-cold rounds in the shower and when I came out it was crazy.”

The tweets went viral, and missed calls and text messages were piling up when Aliu returned.

”I was like, ‘Woah, like this is for real,”’ he said.

The posts sent Nov. 25 were thunder claps heard around hockey, alleging coach Bill Peters had directed racist slurs at him when the two were in the minors a decade ago and then tried to make sure he’d be demoted.

Racism is of course not unheard of in hockey, but Aliu was taking aim at a veteran coach. And it was an extraordinary public accusation in perhaps the most private of professional sports in North America, where the idea that dirty laundry is always best kept behind closed doors is sacrosanct.

Almost overnight, Aliu’s allegations proved true and prompted Peters’ resignation as coach of the Calgary Flames. Over the past month, other claims have cropped up and the NHL has swiftly moved to strengthen its personal conduct policies regarding racism and bullying; it put every team official – from president to equipment manager – on notice that any similar incident must immediately be reported to league headquarters.

Suddenly, Aliu was no longer just a long-forgotten defenseman who’s played for 21 teams in seven leagues and six countries over the past 10 years. He was an agent of change coming hard on the heels of two incidents that hover, still, over the first half of the NHL season.

Long-time Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry was let go last month after calling immigrants ”you people” during his Hockey Night in Canada segment. Then came Babcock’s firing and word he had embarrassed Marner by revealing a list he asked the player to write that ranked Leafs players by work ethic.

With hockey already buzzing, Aliu kicked things up a notch by accusing Peters, a Babcock protoge, of openly using the ‘N word’ in questioning Aliu’s choice of music in a locker room all those years ago. It was later revealed Peters had kicked and punched his own players during his four years as coach in Carolina.

Aliu’s allegations also led to Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford being suspended for physically and verbally abusing his players at past stops as a head coach. Crawford will return Jan. 2 after an investigation found he sought counseling in 2010 and continues to undergo therapy.

Aliu’s timing turned out to be perfect in sparking a much-needed discussion about issues long suppressed amid lingering nostalgia for the sport’s rough and tumble, and sometimes hateful, past.

”My parents have always told me that things happen at the time they’re supposed to happen, not when you hope they would happen,” Aliu said. ”I kind of dealt with both of those things. So I kind of combined them. And I feel like I have a voice because of that.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has used the uproar to call for change in a sport long made up of mostly white players and one always eager to diversify and grow. .

”The world is changing for the better,” Bettman said following a recent board of governors meeting in California. ”This is an opportunity and a moment for positive change, and this evolution should be expedited for the benefit of everyone associated with the game we love.”

But is it truly a reckoning in a sport that has fewer than three dozen black players and banned a handful of fans for racist taunts less than two years ago?

”It seems different,” said Anson Carter, a former player and broadcaster. ”It really does because it has the NHL’s attention.”

”Is it going to change overnight? No,” added Carter, who is black. ”Are we going to totally, completely eliminate it 100%? No. It exists in society. We would be ignorant to think that there wouldn’t be some instances that might pop up.”

The discussion has prompted varying degrees of reflection among coaches.

”I don’t think I’m going to sit here and worry about every little word I say and things like that,” St. Louis Blue coach Craig Berube said. ”I treat my players with respect. That’s how I view it, just like they treat me.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he’s on board.

”We’re tough at times, but we’re fair. We want to hold them accountable, but not in the manner of what guys have gotten let go for,” Cassidy said. ”I think coaches have to be a little more respectful with the stories coming out. Hopefully, that’s what happens.”

It took until now for Aliu to find the courage to speak out about racism. Born in Nigeria, raised in Ukraine and a Canadian resident since he was 7, he had learned to stay quiet amid the slurs, slights and demotions for fear of being branded a dissenter – as he believes he was in 2005.

That was during Aliu’s rookie season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires and he spoke out after a hazing incident in which he and three other rookies were stripped naked and jammed in a team bus bathroom following a preseason game.

Aliu’s complaints led to the team being fined $35,000, coach and GM Moe Mantha being suspended and a teammate he had brawled with, Steve Downie, eventually being traded, along with Aliu.

Aliu felt he was the one who was punished the most for speaking out. His Team Canada invites dried up and a player with first-round hopes fell to the second round of the 2007 draft, where he was picked by Chicago.

”I defended myself for it and I was the villain,” Aliu said. ”And the guy that was the head of it, Steve Downie, goes on to play in the world juniors, Team Canada, plays in the NHL.”

If it sounds like sour grapes, Aliu noted, he compiled 167 points in 205 career OHL games as a defenseman. And he continued to produce at the minor-league level only to constantly be demoted.

Aliu acknowledged he rebelled against Peters, but he believes the N-word incident led to one of those demotions and further tarnished his reputation.

Aliu thought he had finally caught a break when the Blackhawks traded him to Atlanta during the 2010-11 season. He said then-GM Rick Dudley had promised to give him an NHL shot, but those plans changed when the team was sold and relocated to Winnipeg and Kevin Cheveldayoff was named Jets general manager.

Aliu noted Cheveldayoff was a former Blackhawks assistant GM and oversaw the Rockford team when the Peters’ confrontation occurred. Aliu said he hoped to clear the air with Cheveldayoff as the Jets opened their first training camp.

”We go in his office and talk, and I go: ‘Chevy, whatever happened in Chicago happened. What can I do to prove to you that I can help your organization,”’ Aliu said. ”And he said, ‘Nothing. We don’t have any plans for you whatsoever.”’

Aliu was eventually demoted to ECHL Colorado, where a minor league equipment manager wore blackface at a Halloween party in 2011. Aliu demanded a trade, though he has since accepted the manager’s apology and requested he not be fired.

Aliu said he never told Cheveldayoff the blackface incident was the reason he wanted a trade. In a statement, the Jets said: ”We were disturbed to learn about the reprehensible situations Mr. Aliu described with the Rockford IceHogs and Colorado Eagles.”

The Jets added: ”We had no previous knowledge of these incidents prior to their public disclosure and, as such, they had no effect on any player personnel decisions involving Mr. Aliu.”

Aliu hasn’t given up on playing, even though he’s been out of hockey since scoring four goals and adding seven assists in 14 games for ECHL Orlando last season.

”I don’t think I’ve ever felt any better,” Aliu said. ”Every day I go to bed thinking, ‘Hey, I might get an opportunity here, you never know.’ Are those chances likely? I mean, I don’t know.”

His NHL career was limited to scoring two goals and an assist in seven games with the Flames, the last in the 2012-13 season. Aliu isn’t sure what happened to his dream of playing with the best players in the world.

”I’d maybe call it a nightmare in a lot of cases. There were a lot of sleepless nights. A lot of soul-searching,” he said.

”If I knew this was going to happen, I probably would have hung them up a long time ago,” Aliu said. ”But at the end of the day, I think you’re put in situations that you’re uncomfortable with. I think God only gives fights to the people that can handle the fight.

”If I can be a help to the next generation, I think it would all be worth it, to be honest.”

ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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The Pro Hockey Talk NHL Trade Deadline Tracker is your one-stop shop for all completed deals. The 2020 NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. ET.

NHL Trade Deadline candidates
Non-UFAs who could move
Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2020 first-round pick, Nolan Foote
Tampa Bay Lightning: Blake Coleman

Feb. 16, 2020 (PHT analysis)
New Jersey Devils: 2021 second-round pick, David Quenneville
New York Islanders: Andy Greene

Feb. 10, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jason Zucker
Minnesota Wild: Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick

Feb. 5, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Toronto Maple Leafs
: Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
Los Angeles Kings: Trevor Moore, 2020 third-round pick, conditional third-round pick in 2021

Jan. 17, 2020
Dallas Stars:
Oula Palve
Pittsburgh Penguins: 
John Nyberg

Jan. 7, 2020
Nashville Predators: Michael McCarron
Montreal Canadiens: Laurent Dauphin

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Buffalo Sabres: Michael Frolik
Calgary Flames: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020 (PHT analysis)
Montreal Canadiens: Marco Scandella
Buffalo Sabres: 2020 fourth-round pick (originally owned by San Jose)

Jan. 2, 2020
Ottawa Senators: Mike Reilly
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Sturtz, 2021 fifth-round pick

NHL on NBCSN: Ovechkin’s chase for 700 continues against Vegas

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is still searching for goal no. 700. Since scoring a hat trick against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 4 (those three goals got him to 698), he hasn’t been able to find the back of the net since. Can he reach the milestone against Vegas tonight?

Ovechkin’s goal drought is at a season-long four games. Clearly, the offense was bound to dry up at some point because he couldn’t keep rolling at the pace he was on. The Capitals captain had scored 14 goals in his previous seven games before the slump. This is still unfortunate timing with the entire hockey world watching and waiting though.

Eventually, he’ll become the eighth player to hit the 700-goal mark. He’ll be joining: Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito and Mike Gartner.

If it doesn’t happen against Vegas, he’ll have an opportunity to get it on home ice against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. If that doesn’t work out, he’ll get a road game in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon and a primetime NBC matchup on Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

All we, as hockey fans, can do is wait patiently for him to get going offensively again.

By comparison, let’s see how long the other members of the 700-goal club waited to hit that mark:

• Wayne Gretzky:

He scored his 700th career goal while he was a member of the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 3, 1991. In a game against the New York Islanders, Gretzky managed to beat Glenn Healy with a backhander in the first period.

Gretzky’s 699th goal was scored against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum on Dec. 29, 1990. He only had to sit on 699 for two games before he finally hit the milestone.

• Gordie Howe: 

Howe scored his 700th goal of his career on Dec. 4, 1968 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Getting boxscores from the 60’s is a little difficult, but thanks to this Sports Illustrated article, we know that Howe scored no. 699 on Thanksgiving night in 1968 (Nov. 28) against Glenn Hall and the St. Louis Blues. So in all, it took him two games to score no. 700 (he was held scoreless against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 1).

• Jaromir Jagr: 

Jagr scored his milestone marker on Mar. 1 2014, while playing for the New Jersey Devils. He scored no. 700 against the New York Islanders on a Sunday. The goal, which was assisted by Travis Zajac and Andy Greene, was his 19th of that season. Goal no. 699 came against Columbus in the previous game, which means Jagr didn’t drag out the process at all.

• Brett Hull: 

Hull reached the 700 goal on Feb. 10, 2003 when he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings. The hall-of-fame sniper was going through a bit of a dry spell when he scored no. 700, as he was in the middle of a seven-game goal drought when he finally found the back of the net. That can’t be fun.

• Marcel Dionne:

On Oct. 31, 1987, Dionne beat New York Islanders goalie Kelly Hrudey from a very difficult angle to score his 700th career goal. Sure, the Rangers ended up losing the game 8-2, but that doesn’t really matter. Dionne’s goal came with just 33 seconds remaining in the game and it wasn’t the prettiest one he had ever scored. Dionne scored no. 699 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 23, 1987. It took him almost four full games to reach the milestone.

• Phil Esposito: 

Esposito was in the exact same position Ovechkin is in right now. He was two goals away from 700 heading into a game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 2, 1980. Esposito, who was with the Rangers at the time, scored no. 699 on the power play in the second period. Early in the third frame, he managed to find the back of the net again. The difference between Esposito and Ovechkin is that Esposito scored his 698th goal in the previous game. He wasted no time getting no. 700 out of the way.

• Mike Gartner: 

Gartner, like Ovechkin and Esposito was two goals away from no. 700 on the night he reached that incredible mark. He did it against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 14, 1997. Gartner opened the scoring in the first period for 699 and he added the game-tying goal on the power play in the third frame. But like Esposito, Gartner didn’t waste any time once he hit 698, as he scored that one in the previous game.

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.

PHT Face-Off: Weber can’t catch a break; Don’t sleep on Coleman

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It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the PHT Face-Off. We’ll look at some of the big topics and storylines around the NHL for the upcoming week.

• Don’t sleep on Blake Coleman:

Since the trade went down between New Jersey and Tampa last night, most of the focus has been on the return the Devils were able to get for Coleman. Obviously, they did very well in this deal. Getting prospect Nolan Foote (former first-rounder) and Vancouver’s conditional first-round pick is a nice haul.

But not enough focus was placed on what the Lightning were able to get their hands on. If you’re a casual hockey fan, you might not realize just how good Coleman’s been this year. He’s definitely a late bloomer, but he had 22 goals last season and he’s already up to 21 in just 57 games this year.

The biggest reason Tampa had to give up what they gave up for him was because of his cap hit. Yes, Coleman’s productive, but he has one year remaining on his contract at $1.8 million. The Lightning are strapped for cap space going forward, so getting someone as versatile as Coleman at that price is a bug deal for them.

Don’t be surprised if better plays fetch less of a return simply because they make more money. Most of the good teams don’t have money to blow.

Shea Weber can’t catch a break:

The last three years have been rough for the Canadiens captain. He’s missed a significant amount of time with foot and knee injuries during that time and he got some more bad news last week. Weber suffered a sprained ankle that will keep him out for anywhere between four and six weeks.

Last week, there was some speculation that the injury was much more serious than the Canadiens were leading on. Nick Kypreos suggested that it might be career-ending. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but it’s tough to ignore Weber’s injury history now.

He played just 26 games in 2017-18, 58 games last season and if he doesn’t play again this year, he will have played in 55 contests.

The big problem is that he’s one of the two cornerstones of Montreal’s roster. He and Carey Price are the most important leaders in the locker room. And the Canadiens don’t have anyone on the roster or in the system that can come close to matching what Weber brings.

What if Kypreos is right? Does that change the way general manager Marc Bergevin has to look at all of this? Bergevin seems to believe that this team can be competitive next year, but that won’t be possible without Weber.

This situation could force him to go with a full rebuild.

Jordan Binnington hitting a rut

Binnington was one of the main reasons the St. Louis Blues hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2019, but things have been a little rockier for him lately. That’s not totally unexpected. Once the sample size got bigger, it was only normal that he was going to struggle at some point.

He’s won just one of his last six games and he had given up three goals or more in eight consecutive games before holding the Predators to two goals on Sunday.

If you’re a Blues fan, there’s nothing to worry about yet. He’s proven to be an effective goaltender this season, too. Will the Blues lean on Jake Allen a little bit more in the immediate future? Maybe. But they’ll clearly sink or swim with Binnington at this point. When the games matter, he’ll be the one between the pipes.

They need to make sure he finds his game as quickly as possible because they are far from locked in to that top spot in the Central Division. The Blues are first with 74 points, but Dallas (72 points) and Colorado (72 points with two games in hand).

We’ll find out if the Blues can win the division soon enough.

• Bill Guerin tearing it down

The Wild general manager made it clear that his team is open for business. They’ve traded Jason Zucker away to Pittsburgh and fired head coach Bruce Boudreau already. It seems likely that there’s more to come in the next few days/weeks.

Beat writer Michael Russo reported last week that there were multiple teams interested in defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Both have term left on their deal (Dumba has three years while Brodin has one year remaining). Those guys both make more than Coleman, but they’re both quality players. The return for each guy won’t be cheap.

The big question is whether or not Guerin can pull off more major moves before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Making hockey deals isn’t easy. A lot of times these things get done at the draft or over the course of the summer.

It seems clear that no matter what happens, the Wild are beginning a painful rebuild. This is a roster filled with older players and they need to go younger. Guerin knows that.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much he can get accomplished over the course of the week.

Meanwhile, the decision to fire Boudreau wasn’t unanimous:

What’s coming up this week

• Bolts will try to match franchise record 11-game win streak: Mon. Feb. 17, 9 p.m. ET
• Sens will retire Chris Phillips’ no. 4: Tue. Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. ET
Semyon Varlamov going back to Colorado: Wed. Feb. 19, 10 p.m. ET

NHL on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Golden Knights, Mon. Feb. 17, 6 p.m. ET
• Maple Leafs vs. Penguins, Tue. Feb. 18, 7 p.m. ET
• Blues vs. Wild, Sun. Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday Night Hockey
• Rangers vs. Blackhawks, Wed. Feb. 19, 8 p.m. ET

NHL on NBC
• Penguins vs. Capitals, Sun. Feb. 23, 12:30 p.m. ET

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.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Zucker, van Riemsdyk among this week’s best adds

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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

Kailer Yamamoto, Oilers – RW: Edmonton summoned Yamamoto on Dec. 31st and they’ve never had any reason to look back. He has seven goals and 14 points in 16 games while playing primarily with Leon Draisaitl. He had some false starts earlier in his career, but he’s a talented young forward who should be a significant part of the Oilers’ offense from here onward.

Jason Zucker, Penguins – LW/RW: Zucker is owned in 58% of Yahoo leagues at this point and normally I wouldn’t highlight a player whose already been scooped up in that many leagues, but I wanted to make an exception in this case because he’s a great addition if he’s still around for you. Being acquired by the Penguins significantly boosted his fantasy value. He’s averaging 17:14 minutes since joining and, more importantly, is playing alongside Sidney Crosby. He’s an already established, skilled winger who is now playing with one of the best players in the league. This should go well and there’s already evidence that it will with him recording three points in three games with Pittsburgh.

Alex Galchenyuk, Wild – C/LW: While I see Zucker as a must-add, Galchenyuk, who was part of the same trade, is a big gamble. Like Zucker, the trade has boosted Galchenyuk’s value, but in Galchenyuk’s case, he was hovering around zero prior to this trade. While Galchenyuk was a capable top-six forward with Montreal and to a lesser extent with Arizona, he didn’t work out at all with Pittsburgh. Galchenyuk’s role steadily dropped throughout his tenure with the Penguins to the point where he was averaging just 7:21 minutes per game. In Galchenyuk’s first two games with Minnesota he logged 12:26 minutes and then 13:44 minutes – so better, but not great. Still, what makes me tempted to keep an eye on Galchenyuk is the Wild’s decision to pair him with Mats Zuccarello when he has been on the ice. This is an opportunity for Galchenyuk to re-establish himself as a top-six forward and he has all the motivation in the world given that his contract is up at the end of the season. Maybe it’s a stretch to pick him up this minute, but I would keep him in mind this next week and if it appears that he is working out in Minnesota, scoop him up.

Miles Wood, Devils – LW: Like Galchenyuk, Wood is someone to keep a close eye on for now rather than pick up right away. Wood has 10 goals and 20 points in 57 games, so he hasn’t been worth owning in standard leagues, but he’s also only been averaging 12:42 minutes. He has three goals and four points in his last six contests though while logging an average of 14:34 minutes over that span. That increase is encouraging and with Blake Coleman now in Tampa Bay, Wood’s role could increase further. On Sunday, with Coleman no longer in the lineup, Wood took his former spot on a line with Nikita Gusev and Travis Zajac. Wood also has 89 hits, so he can contribute in that regard and if your league values PIM instead, he’s noteworthy there too with 51 minutes.

James van Riemsdyk, Flyers – LW: van Riemsdyk is a hot-and-cold player who is producing right now. He has five goals and 14 points in his last 13 contests and is currently on a four-game point streak. Overall this season he’s a somewhat borderline fantasy asset in standard leagues, but at the least he’s worth considering in the short-term.

Patric Hornqvist, Penguins – RW: Hornqvist isn’t someone that makes sense to have on every fantasy team, but for those in need of a reliable right winger due to injury, he’s a good stopgap measure. He has 14 goals and 26 points in 40 games while posting a solid plus-eight rating and contributing 87 hits, so he’ll help you across the board. He’s also been performing particularly well lately with three goals and seven points in his last seven games.

Jonas Brodin, Wild – D: With two goals and 24 points in 58 games this season, Brodin is just a point shy of his career-high. That’s not enough to warrant his inclusion on the vast majority of standard league fantasy teams, but he’s not too far behind the curve. He’s at least worthy of consideration during hot streaks like the one he’s currently on. He has a goal and four points in his last five games.

Brandon Sutter, Canucks – C/RW: Sutter has never been a major offensive threat and injuries during his tenure with Vancouver have further obscured him. This season he’s appeared in just 34 games, though he has a respectable eight goals and 16 points over that span. He’s hot right now with two goals and five points in his last three games, but what makes this a little more interesting is the fact that Vancouver has given him a bigger role over that stretch. He’s averaged 14:55 minutes this season, but he’s logged between 16:05 and 19:02 minutes in each of those three games. Even if Vancouver continues to lean on him like that, he might not be a great addition in the long run, but if nothing else, he’s an okay gamble for the moment.

Craig Smith, Predators – RW: Smith has been clicking lately, scoring an incredible six goals over his last five games. With 17 goals and 28 points in 58 contests, he’s not a great player to hold onto at all times, but as long as he’s hot, he has some value. Just don’t hesitate to swap him out for someone else after he stops scoring.

Nick Bonino, Predators – C: If a center is a better fit for you right now than a right winger, than you might want to consider Smith’s linemate, Bonino. He’s been hot right alongside Smith, scoring three goals and eight points in his last 11 games. Bonino is up to 17 goal and 34 points in 58 contests this season, so he’s been a better offensive contributor than Smith, but because of how deep the center position is, Smith is owned in 12% of leagues to Bonino’s 10%.

Players You May Want To Drop

Erik Karlsson, Sharks – D: Karlsson is still owned in 75% of Yahoo leagues at the time of writing and no active owner in a single season league should have him on their team. It’s painful, but he’s already been ruled out for the rest of the season due to a broken thumb sustained on Friday, so there’s no benefit to him occupying a spot on your team. If you are in a keeper league though, there’s certainly reason to still hold onto him. Although injuries have limited Karlsson in each of the last two seasons, when he’s healthy, he’s still one of the league’s top offensive defensemen.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens – LW/RW: When Kovalchuk first joined Montreal, he seemed revitalized with four goals and eight points in eight games. He’s slowed down dramatically since then though with two goals and four points in his last 11 contests. He’s still getting big minutes in Montreal, which makes him an interesting forward to keep an eye on and there’s also the potential that the Canadiens might opt to trade him given that they’re eight points behind Toronto in the playoff race despite having played in one extra game. A trade involving Kovalchuk is more likely to hurt than help his fantasy value because it will likely result in him getting fewer minutes, but you never know. Even if you do drop him now, he’s still worth keeping a close eye on.

Anthony Beauvillier, Islanders – C/LW: Beauvillier has a solid 17 goals and 36 points in 57 games this season, but a big chunk of that production came from a recent hot streak. He had seven goals and 13 points in 10 games from Jan. 14-Feb. 10. If you had him during that time, you reaped the benefits, but he’s also had some long cold stretches and we might be witnessing the start of another after he was held off the scoresheet in his last three games. 

Jake DeBrusk, Bruins – LW/RW: DeBrusk scored seven goals and 14 points in 13 games from Jan. 7-Feb. 8, but that hot streak is behind him. He’s been held off the scoresheet in each of the Bruins’ last four contests. Overall this season, he has 18 goals and 34 points in 55 games, which is decent, but not quite enough for most fantasy owners to justify holding onto him all-year-round.

Jonathan Drouin, Canadiens – C/LW: Drouin has an ankle injury, but it’s not clear yet if that’s a big issue. So far it doesn’t sound like it is. He sustained the injury on Wednesday, tried to play through it Friday, and then sat out Saturday’s game after participating in the pregame warmups. For Drouin though, this recommendation has very little to do with the injury and far more to do with his recent play. He has been limited to three assists in his last 10 games and hasn’t recorded a point in four contests since he returned from a wrist injury that cost him most of the campaign. It might be a matter of rust and if given enough time he might be able to move past it, but there’s not a ton of time even left in the campaign for him to regain his rhythm.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Draisaitl’s Hart case; Who is best young defenseman?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Evander Kane may be starting a revolt against the Department of Player Safety and that’s a good thing. (The Hockey News)

Leon Draisaitl is making a case to win the Hart Trophy. (Sportsnet)

• Did the Bolts set the price of the market with the acquisition of Blake Coleman? (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

Shayne Gostisbehere and the Philadelphia Flyers may be frustrated, but they need each other. (NBC Sports Philly)

• Find out how Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and Max Kerman of the Arkells found perfect harmony. (Toronto Star)

• Did Chris Kreider play his last game at MSG this weekend? (New York Post)

• It’s time for the Florida Panthers to wake up. (Sun Sentinel)

• Blues forward Zach Sanford is having a terrific year. (St. Louis Game-Time)

Quinn Hughes is the best young defenseman in the NHL. (Vancourier)

• The Coyotes magic number is three. (Five For Howling)

• Even after 40 years, the Miracle on Ice still resonates with fans. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• The Sharks can use their injuries to their advantage at the trade deadline. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

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.