Anthony Duclair

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Kovalchuk, Toffoli among this week’s top 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

Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens – LW/RW: Kovalchuk didn’t work out with the Los Angeles Kings and that eventually ended with his contract being terminated. However, he still clearly can offer something offensively in the right situation. That situation seems to exist with his new team, the Montreal Canadiens. Through four games they’ve given him an average of 19:57 minutes and he’s rewarded him with a goal and four points.

Jake DeBrusk, Bruins – LW/RW: DeBrusk is in his third NHL season and though he’s been a solid contributor right from the start, he hasn’t found that next level yet. His upside makes him interesting to watch, but if nothing else, he’s at least a good short-term grab with three goals and five points in his last three games. He wouldn’t be terrible to own even after he cools down, but you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to keep him.

Nathan Gerbe, Blue Jackets – LW: Gerbe is a roll of the dice, but an interesting one. The 32-year-old was a regular in the NHL from 2010-11 through 2015-16, but from 2016-17 through 2018-19 he played in all of two NHL games. During that time he had a stint in the Swiss league and spent time with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. He’s been putting in the time though in hopes of getting another shot. In 2018-19 he had 32 points in 41 AHL games and then he had 25 points in 30 AHL games this season. That led to him getting a call up on Dec. 22nd and he’s stuck with the Blue Jackets since. He’s been a regular contributor since then with three goals and six points in 10 contests while averaging 14:32 minutes. That offensive production has been spread out with him not being held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games yet. There’s enough to like here to give him a chance if you’re hurting for a left winger, though he’s definitely a high-risk pickup given that he might not even stay in the NHL.

Vincent Trocheck, Panthers – C: Trocheck is on a four-game point streak and has two goals and 12 points in his last 12 games. He’s worth grabbing while he’s hot, especially given that this might develop into a strong second half overall for him. Trocheck isn’t that far removed from his amazing 2017-18 campaign when he scored 31 goals and 75 points in 82 games and while he won’t come close to those totals this season, he’s still capable of being an asset in fantasy leagues.

Esa Lindell, Stars – D: Lindell is one of those players who is more valuable to his team than he is to fantasy owners. He contributes offensively, but not to the extent that he’s more than a borderline option in standard leagues. Lately he’s been far more than that though. He has eight assists in his last six games. He’ll cool down and at that point you’ll want to look at your other options, but for now he’s a solid gamble.

Derek Ryan, Flames – C: Ryan is on a hot streak right now with two goals and five points in six contests. He’s not worth owning outside of his hot streak, in part because of his center-only eligibility, but on the plus side this season is shaping up to be a step forward for him. He has eight goals and 24 points in 47 games, putting him well on his way to topping his career-high of 38 points, which he set in 2017-18 and matched in 2018-19.

Matt Martin, Islanders – LW: If you’re ever hurting in the hits category, Martin is the answer. He won’t do much else, but with 141 hits in 31 contests, he’s one of the best sources of hits in the league. If you are going to pick him up, now is a particularly good time because of the Islanders’ packed schedule. They’ll play against Detroit on Tuesday, the Rangers on Thursday, Washington on Saturday, Carolina on Sunday, and the Rangers again on Tuesday, Jan. 21st before they finally get a breather for the All-Star break. The end result is that you should get plenty of hits out of Martin in a short span of time and after that you can replace him with a player who will help you in more categories.

Tyler Toffoli, Kings – LW/RW: Toffoli got off to a slow start this season with six goals and 13 points in 30 games, but he’s heated up with six goals and 14 points in his last 16 contests. He’s been something of an inconsistent player in his career with him never matching his highs of 31 goals and 58 points set back in 2015-16. His more recent success does give some reason for cautious optimism in the second half of the campaign though.

Nico Hischier, Devils – C: Hischier has been at the top of his game lately with six goals and 10 points in his last nine contests. It’s been interesting because this jump started after the Hall trade. At least in part, this is probably a hot streak from Hischier and he’ll fizzle out, but there’s also a chance that he’s taking the lead a bit more in the post-Hall Devils.

Dominik Kubalik, Blackhawks – LW/RW: I mentioned Kubalik last week too, but because he’s still only owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues, he’s worth bringing up again. The rookie forward has been outstanding lately with eight goals and 13 points in 11 contests. A contributing factor to his recent success has been him playing on a line with Jonathan Toews. As long as that continues to be the case, he should be a significant fantasy asset.

Players You May Want To Drop

Nick Schmaltz, Coyotes – C/LW/RW: Schmaltz has had a couple amazing stretches this season with his most recent coming from Dec. 17-Jan. 4. Over the nine games he played during that span, he scored a goal and 12 points. The problem is that he’s also been inconsistent this season. From Nov. 9-Dec. 6, he had just six points in 15 games. So you have to wonder if we’re in the start of another prolonged cold streak given that he’s now gone four straight games without a point.

Clayton Keller, Coyotes – LW/RW: It shouldn’t come as much surprise that Schmaltz’s regular linemate is also struggling. For Keller though, he’s been cold for significantly longer. Keller has just two goals and three points in nine contests. He’s something of a frustrating player because his rookie season was so good, but he took a significant step back as a sophomore and while his third campaign is shaping out to be better, he’s still falling shy of his promise. He’s 21-years-old so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him breakout in the future, but for now he’s very much a mixed bag.

Mikko Koskinen, Oilers – G: Koskinen endured a rough stretch from Dec. 21-31 where he allowed at least three goals in four straight games. After that slump, Mike Smith started in four consecutive games and took full advantage of the opportunity, posting a 3-0-1 record, 2.49 GAA, and .926 save percentage in that span. Koskinen finally got another shot on Saturday, but allowed four goals on 33 shots in a 4-3 loss to Calgary. There will be other chances for Koskinen, but he’s pretty mediocre anyways so you should always be examining your other options.

Anthony Duclair, Senators – LW/RW: Duclair has already set a new career-high this season with 21 goals in 44 games, but that’s largely due to an incredible stretch from Dec. 4-21 where he scored 11 goals in nine contests and was enjoying an unsustainable 36.7 shooting percentage. Since then he hasn’t scored another goal and because his value is so heavily dependent on goals, that’s a big problem. To be fair, he’s been a pretty intriguing player for a long time now and he’s enjoying a bigger role with the Ottawa Senators than he’s ever had, so there are reasons to hope for him to have a strong second half. However, given his streaky nature, it’s not unreasonable to regard him as a situational pickup who has fallen out of favor for now, but may be worth scooping back up later.

Anthony Cirelli, Lightning – C: With nine goals and 27 points in 44 games and just eligibility as a center, Cirelli isn’t a particularly good option in fantasy leagues. He has enjoyed some great stretches though, which makes him worth keeping an eye on. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. He’s gone six straight games without a point immediately following a far more pleasant stretch of two goals and five points in four contests.

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.

Five great NHL performances sneaking under the radar this season

On Friday we looked at five players having slow starts this season and are no doubt looking for a fresh start with the new year.

Now we want to look at some players on the other end of the spectrum.

Players that have enjoyed great starts and are not really getting much attention for it.

1. Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes acquisition of Teravainen is one of the great steals of the decade.

All it cost was a couple of draft picks and the ability to take Bryan Bickell’s contract off Chicago’s hands.

In the years since, Teravainen has become one of the most important core players on one of the league’s best up-and-coming teams. Sebastian Aho is the superstar and Andrei Svechnikov makes the highlights, but Teravainen is the one helping drive the bus to success.

He scores at a top-line rate, is one of the best possession drivers among all NHL forwards, and is one of the most overlooked, impactful players in the league. How good is he at dictating the pace of play? When he is on the ice at 5-on-5, the Hurricanes give up just 46 total shot attempts per 60 minutes and controlling more than 60 percent of the total attempts. Both are best in the league.

You know who could really use a 25-year-old top-line forward signed to a cap-friendly deal for the next five years? The Blackhawks.

2. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks raised a lot of eyebrows over the summer when they traded a future first-round pick to Tampa Bay for Miller. He is a fine player, but did not seem to be enough to move the needle much in their rebuild. And given where there the team has finished in the standings the past few years there is always the possibility that draft pick could be very high.

But so far Miller has been a perfect fit for the Canucks and is putting together a career year.

Entering play on Friday he is on track to shatter all of his career highs offensively with underlying numbers that place him among the league’s elite forwards. His shot-attempt and expected goal differentials are both in the top-10 league wide.

He spends a significant chunk of his ice-time playing on a line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, and that certainly helps his cause, but there’s a lot to be said for being able to establish a chemistry with top-line players and take advantage of your minutes. Miller is doing exactly that.

3. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights

At his peak Pacioretty was one of the most dangerous goal scoring forwards and one of the biggest salary cap steals in the league, and I don’t know that Montreal ever fully appreciated what they had with him. When they traded him to Vegas before the 2018-19 season they did so at a time where his career seemed to be heading toward its downward decline. But he is showing this season that he still has some elite hockey left, even after turning 31 in November.

He is in the middle of one of the most productive seasons of his career and is currently on pace for his first 30-goal season in three years. He is also producing at a near point-per-game clip, has the highest shot rate of his career, and is leading the Golden Knights — a top contender in the Western Conference — in every meaningful offensive category.

4. Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers

Provorov’s restricted free agent situation this past summer was one of the most intriguing ones in the league. The Flyers have used him like a top-pairing defender, but he has not always performed like one. Despite that, they still committed to him with a six-year, $40.5 million contract.

If he performs like the Flyers hope he can and expect him to perform, it’s a steal.

If he does not, it becomes a problem.

So far this season the former situation has played out. He’s been great for a Flyers team that has exceeded expectations and is hanging around in a wildly competitive division.

He is excelling offensively and has been the Flyers’ top performing defensive defenseman across the board.

5. Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators

Duclair is only 24 years old. He has top-six talent and was at one time a highly regarded prospect and the centerpiece of the trade that sent Keith Yandle from Arizona to New York. He has played more than 320 games at the NHL level and for his career has averaged a 20-goal pace per 82 games. And despite all of that, he is still playing for his fifth different organization in six years.

A lot of teams missed here (one badly) and right now Ottawa is benefitting from it.

Duclair is one of the bright spots in what is yet another dismal season of Senators hockey and with 20 goals in 36 games has already matched his career high and is on pace for 45 goals this season. The only players with more goals entering play on Friday are David Pastrnak, Jack Eichel, Alex Ovechkin, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Sebastian Aho, and Leon Draisaitl.

More NHL Content

Stunning NHL Numbers: Red Wings’ struggles; Eichel’s point streak
Players looking for fresh start in 2020
Coyotes and Taylor Hall need each other

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Golden Knights’ dynamic duo; Duclair’s journey

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.

• Puck Junk breaks down some of the worst hockey cards ever made. (Puck Junk)

• Some fans expected their favorite teams to be a lot better than they are right now. (The Hockey News)

• The Golden Knights hit the jackpot with the pairing of Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. (TSN.ca)

• The Athletic has unlocked some of their best stories of 2019, so take advantage of that by reading this great piece on Carey Price and how he got his name. (The Athletic)

• Habs rookie Cale Fleury has flashed some of his offensive potential of late. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom will skate in their 900th game together on Friday night. (RMNB)

• What could the Rangers get for Alexandar Georgiev? (Blue Line Station)

• The Panthers could’ve used Taylor Hall, but that’s not the piece they absolutely needed to acquire. (The Rat Trick)

• Should the Golden Knights be in the market for a defensive defenseman? (Sinbin.Vegas)

Anthony Duclair‘s journey to Ottawa hasn’t been an easy one. (Sportsnet)

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.

Lightning need Nikita Kucherov to shake off benching by Cooper

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Jon Cooper owed Anthony Cirelli some serious gratitude on Tuesday night. After all, the heat would have been on if Cooper benched Nikita Kucherov and the Lightning lost to the squalid Senators.

Cirelli scored a sensational overtime goal to secure a win for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Ottawa Senators. In doing so, Cirelli bailed out Cooper — to an extent — after the Bolts head coach made that highly questionable decision to bench Kucherov for most of the third period and overtime of that 4-3 OT win.

Even with that narrow victory, Cooper’s coaching decision inspired scrutiny. Some Lightning fans poured over tape to study Kucherov’s body language following the victory.

The mistake that likely inspired Kucherov’s benching

Cooper likely benched Nikita Kucherov because of a turnover that opened the door for this Anthony Duclair goal:

People searched for visual cues of frustration from Kucherov because, for the most part, the team wasn’t very transparent about the benching. Kucherov declined to comment after the game, while Cooper’s response was fairly cookie-cutter.

“As a coach you have to make decisions and what was best for us to win tonight. It was our decision,” Cooper said, via Lightning radio analyst Caley Chelios. “He’s a huge part of our team, it could be anybody.”

How will Kucherov respond?

Yes, Kucherov took too much of a risk in trying to beat multiple defenders before that turnover. Cooper gives off the vibe of being fairly player-friendly, but every now and then, he might push the limits, and this seems to be one of those times.

The decision reeks of scapegoating, so Cooper should tread lightly.

While Kucherov isn’t on the outrageous pace that powered him to a 2019 Hart Trophy, he remains the straw that stirs the drink for Tampa Bay. Looking at underlying metrics such as his 2018-19 versus 2019-20 heatmaps at Hockey Viz, you could argue that Kucherov’s been just as dominant in certain ways:

Floating the argument that this was a risky move by Cooper isn’t so outrageous.

After all, Kucherov’s shown evidence that a fiery temperament that likely drives him to dominate might also push him to bristle at slights. Kucherov lost his cool before the hit that drew a seismic suspension during that Round 1 sweep against the Blue Jackets, and he also griped about the quality of his linemates after a rare season where the Lightning missed the playoffs.

So, in benching Kucherov, was Cooper playing with fire?

For what it’s worth, Steven Stamkos shrugged off such concerns heading into Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars.

Lightning need to put together some strong stretches

One way or another, the Lightning must start to climb the ranks as this telling stretch winds down.

They’ve won five of eight games during a home-heavy December, which is … fine. Still, their 17-12-3 record (37 points) leaves them out of playoff position today. Four of their next five games are at home, so the Lightning must strike while the iron is hot.

Whether Kucherov was left hot-headed by the benching or not.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Sabres thrilled for Bills; Hall’s impact on Arizona

Sabres Bills fans
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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.

• The Coyotes landing Taylor Hall in that big trade with the Devils presents a challenge for Arizona’s potential as a hockey market, while Hall could pump up his own value as a free agent. Mark Spector explores those two interweaving storylines, asking if Hall can “take that team as his lawfully wedded knife, and carve out some long awaited success for both parties?” (Sportsnet)

• A lengthy look at Hall’s legacy with the Devils, even though he wasn’t with New Jersey for a lengthy amount of time. (All About The Jersey)

• Former NHL head coach and player Ted Nolan, now an inspirational speaker for indigenous youth, reflects on the resiliency he had to show during his playing days. (NHL.com)

• Reddit user arahn17 presents an idea that takes #OskarStrong a step or five further: urging people to vote Oskar Lindblom into the 2020 NHL All-Star Games as Metropolitan Division captain. (reddit/Sporting News/NHL All-Star Ballot)

• The Sabres discuss how thrilled they are for the Buffalo Bills. The Sabres also discuss what they can learn from the Buffalo Bills. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• The Capitals are justified in using Ilya Samsonov more often going forward, even beyond keeping Braden Holtby fresh. (Nova Caps)

• Filip Zadina just played his 10th game of 2019-20, burning a year off of his entry-level contract. The Red Wings explain that they’re emphasizing his development. (The Detroit News)

• Strange, this story about Max Pacioretty‘s great year isn’t just “because Mark Stone” over and over again. OK, Patches deserves credit too … but it’s not a coincidence that Pacioretty’s play is taking off alongside an elite player like Stone. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

• This piece discusses Anthony Duclair, nickname “Duke,” going “nuclear” yet there’s no mention of classic, tasteless first-person shooter “Duke Nuke’Em.” Is that for the best, or a missed opportunity? Either way, Duke took the high road with John Tortorella after Duclair’s hat trick against Columbus. (Sportsnet)

Eric Staal hit career point 1,000, making for a great time to ask if he’s underrated. (The Hockey News)

• You’d think that you can’t really mess up the Flames’ jerseys, but … yes, you can. (Hockey By Design)

• Which NHL teams provide the best and worst values for fans when it comes to a night of family fun? (The Athletic [sub required])

• As a supplement to this strong analysis of the Oilers’ potential impending plummet from PHT’s Adam Gretz, Travis Yost looks at their slipping goaltending, specifically. (TSN)

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.