This weekís column starts with a friendly reminder to always check the depth charts here on RotoWire to stay up to date on line combinations. Finding value is often about finding players in new situations before the price begins to reflect reality. Knowing whose situation has changed is important when building daily hockey lineups.
As is the case with these players, all the skaters will be under $4,000 at time of writing. Prices may increase or decrease as the week progresses.
Cedric Paquette, Tampa Bay ($3,500)
The Lightning have undergone some lineup changes of late, and there has been a newly-formed third line of Valtteri Filppula, Brett Connolly, and Paquette. As of yet, Paquette hasnít been getting power-play time, so that is one drawback.
Filppula didnít really work out as planned playing with Steven Stamkos. Thatís not necessarily an indictment of either of them; sometimes players just donít develop chemistry. Filppula, though, is a pretty good hockey player. Heís averaged 62 points in his last two 82-game seasons. On top of that, with data I was given by a former hockey blogger by the name of Corey Sznajder, heís been very good with zone entries. Last year, through about half the season, Filppula was second on the team in entering the offensive zone with control, behind only Stamkos. Entry with possession means more shots, which should equate to more scoring opportunities for Paquette.
Tampa Bay has a solid schedule this week with Washington twice and a home game against Carolina. With that said, Paquette is another player who makes a better tournament play than cash game. Heís still not getting a lot of ice time, but I like his price and matchups this week.
James Sheppard, San Jose ($3,500)
The Sharks havenít had a regular season up to the franchiseís high standards at this point. The team is out of a playoff spot as of today, in the middle of the pack in possession numbers and also in the middle of the road in goals for per game. Injuries and lineup shuffling of late has pushed Sheppard into a third-line role for this team. On top of that, heís also getting second-unit power-play duties.
San Jose has a tough schedule as the week wears on, with home games against Nashville and Minnesota later this week. Tuesday night, though, is a home date against the Edmonton Oilers. While Edmontonís underlying stats are a bit better this year, the team is still average in possession and penalty killing. They are also among the lowest-scoring teams in the league, and Sheppard wonít be given the hardest minutes, which means plus/minus is not a concern.
Sheppard should have a reasonable floor against the Oilers. Heís not a special player, but using him is a way to get exposure to the Sharks at a cheap price in a good matchup. It also provides lineup flexibility in GPPs.
Tomas Fleischmann, Florida ($3,500)
Itís the second week of December, and the Panthers have two fewer points than Bruins, and one more point than the Capitals or the Rangers. They are encroaching on becoming a top-10 puck-possession team, boast a steady goalie in Roberto Luongo, and seem to be getting better as the season wears on.
Fleischmann has been a healthy scratch already this season for the Panthers, an indication of the drop in production that heís had over the last couple of seasons. Lately for Florida, though, he has been playing alongside Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau, both at even strength and on the power play. Fleischmann has cracked 17 minutes in ice time in three straight games -- doing so just once all season until this stretch -- and has three points with a plus-4 rating during that span. Heís also averaged three shots on goal per game in this little run.
Florida has a game over the weekend against Buffalo, and that would be the game to stack Fleischmann and his linemates in a tournament. Theyíve gotten a bit more expensive, but are still stackable at about a quarter of the total budget.
Seth Jones, Nashville ($3,000)
Nashville might have the best schedule this week to target. Their first game is in Colorado, which is among the worst teams at even strength. The second game is in Arizona, against a Coyotes team that sits 25th in penalty-kill percentage and 23rd in puck possession. The final game is against the Sharks, which could be a bit tougher, but they are not a great team right now either.
Jones has started to get power-play time of late. The second unit is anchored on the blue line by Jones and Ryan Ellis. Colorado has a good penalty kill, and San Jose isnít bad in that respect. As I mentioned, Arizona isnít very good in that department, and that would be the game to use Jones in a cash game. In a contest earlier this year, Nashville was able to draw five power plays against Arizona. If they can do that again, Jones has a good chance to contribute.
Jonesís ice time has decreased of late, so it is a situation to monitor. He is a very talented player, though, and has some good matchups this week. For a minimum price, itís worth the risk.
Petr Mrazek, Detroit ($6,200)
Detroit has been a pretty good team this year, and is now mostly healthy. The team ranks third in penalty-kill percentage, eighth in short-handed unblocked shot attempts allowed per minute, third in unblocked shot attempts allowed per minute at 5-on-5, and tied with Tampa Bay for the division lead. In all, itís a very good start for a team that was supposedly on the decline.
Jonas Gustavsson was injured about a month ago and will miss another month. In his wake, it was Mrazek that was called up for Detroit. He had a rough start, allowing seven goals in his first two games. He had his best outing his last time out, though, allowing one goal on 35 shots in a win against Carolina.
This week, Detroit has three games in four days, with two against Toronto, and a home game against Florida. Those are winnable matchups for Detroit, and Mrazek is very cheap. He should get one of those games, and makes for a good start in either cash games or tournaments.