It’s important to remember that there are different ways of getting value out of players when putting together daily hockey lineups. It’s natural to pick against teams that should get dominated, also known as the Buffalo Rule, but it’s important to keep tabs on changing situations. The RotoWire depth charts are a quick reference resource, and I have a list of beat writers to follow on Twitter for game-time changes. Value also comes from opportunity, which is the focus of the players below.
As always, the skaters will all be under $4,000, with a GPP goalie to target.
Riley Nash, Carolina ($3,600)
It’s been a pretty rough season for the Hurricanes overall, as they currently find themselves tied for last in the Eastern Conference with Buffalo at 31 points. There are different explanations for this – injuries to both Eric and Jordan Staal haven’t helped – but there is reason to think the team has underperformed. Since Oct. 28, or the night Eric Staal returned from an injury, the team is 12th in the NHL in puck possession at 51.5 percent, as measured by shot attempts at five-on-five (via War On Ice). That mark is better than teams like Boston and St. Louis, and on par with Anaheim.
With their full complement of forwards healthy(ish), the team has been a bit better possession-wise of late. In their last five games, they’ve beaten the Bruins, taken St. Louis to a shootout, and lost a hard-fought game in Nashville by one goal. Nash has been put in between shooter Jeff Skinner and possession monster Alexander Semin. I think that line has a decent floor because the plus/minus concerns aren’t high. Carolina has games against Colorado and Ottawa this week, and Nash is a fine punt at center in cash games.
David Pastrnak, Boston ($3,400)
Boston has struggled scoring all year. For a team that has earned its reputation for defensive responsibility and goaltending, Boston was third in the NHL in goals scored per 60 minutes from 2011-12 through 2013-14, trailing only Pittsburgh and Chicago. This year, though, they were 21st in the NHL from the start of the season through the end of December in that regard.
Following a World Junior Championship that saw Pastrnak put up seven points in five games, the Bruins recalled the 18-year-old rookie, who already had a stint with the club about six weeks ago. Since returning, Pastrnak has been put alongside David Krejci and Brad Marchand, and has two goals with six shots in two games.
The Bruins start the week with a matchup against Tampa Bay. That would normally be tough, but both Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman look to be game-time decisions. Pastrnak would be a respectable punt play in tournaments. On Saturday, though, the Bruins get a fairly poor Columbus team, so Pastrnak is a good cash game punt for the weekend.
Melker Karlsson, San Jose ($3,700)
Karlsson really wasn’t on the radar for many in fantasy hockey. He was a decent point producer in Sweden’s top league with 53 points in 92 games over his last two seasons abroad. He had just 10 points in the AHL so far prior to his call-up to San Jose.
Injuries might have forced Karlsson to the big club, but even with Matt Nieto returning, the Sharks have left Karlsson to play with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. With Joe Thornton back to play the tough minutes for the Sharks, Karlsson and company can flourish with easier matchups.
Make no mistake here, this isn’t a player that had a lot of expectations. This was a young player given a chance through opportunity. He’s not shooting much, so that does lower his floor a bit and makes him more of a GPP punt play. This week, though, San Jose has games against Arizona, Toronto, and Calgary. Those teams are 21st, 27th, and 29th respectively in puck possession at five-on-five.
Seth Jones, Nashville ($3,100)
As is the case with a lot of things in life, one player’s loss is another player’s gain in both real and fantasy hockey. Nashville’s Ryan Ellis was put on the injured reserve and looks to be out a couple of weeks. In Nashville’s first game without him on Saturday night, Jones played a season-high 24:16, and tallied at least three shots on goal for just the sixth time this season.
I was fortunate to get some data from a blogger that used to run the Shutdown Line Carolina Hurricanes blog. He tracked zone entries and exits for over half the 2013-14 season. Among Nashville’s defensemen, Jones created zone entries with control more often than Ellis, Shea Weber, and Mattias Ekholm. Only Roman Josi was better. Teams generate more shots on entries with control, and Jones is one of their best at that.
Even with more ice time, Jones will avoid tough matchups because those go to Weber and Josi. The team’s first two games this week are at home to Vancouver and Washington. Jones should be able to avoid the Sedin line, and the Ovechkin line. He’s a good cash game play for either contest.
James Reimer, Toronto ($8,000)
This one is truly a shot in the dark. Toronto seems to be playing better hockey – at least by possession numbers – since Peter Horachek took over for the fired Randy Carlyle. Whether that sustains itself, only time will tell.
Toronto is on a West Coast trip this week, and the team has back to back games in the middle of the week against Anaheim and San Jose. Last year when they went into California, the team went 2-1 even though they were wildly outshot every game. That provides a great opportunity to use Reimer in large tournaments, though. I would assume most players will stay off Toronto against one of those Western teams, and if the Leafs do get outplayed, there is the chance for a monster game from Reimer. Just think of what Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov (54-save shutout) and Calgary’s Joni Ortio (36 save-shutout) were able to do in the last week alone.