On the final Monday before the Christmas break, the NHL has given us five games to work with. The merits of the pricy players out there are clear; letís take a look at the cheaper guys who can fill out your roster with contest-winning upside.
Mike Smith, ARI vs. CGY ($8,200): Smith has made 17 starts for the Coyotes this year, and in those 17 starts, heís faced a little over 35 shots per game. While his team is poor enough that thereís constant concern about achieving a win, that workload lends itself to a nice floor. Even if he allows three goals, that doesnít kill his fantasy value because his workload is so big. Thereís also a real chance for a win with Calgary in town, as the Flames are under 49 percent in adjusted shot-attempt differential. Whenever Smith is in net for the Coyotes, he has a lot of upside for tournament consideration.
Teuvo Teravainen, CAR vs. DET ($4,300): It is still a limited sample, but in nearly 120 minutes of five-on-five time together, the line of Teravainen, Sebastian Aho, and Lee Stempniak has managed to control nearly 59 percent of the shot attempts. That is an elite rate. Carolina hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night, a team that controls less than 48 percent of the adjusted shot attempts as a whole. In other words, this should be a game dominated by the Hurricanes. There are a lot of attractive and expensive options from teams like Philadelphia, Edmonton, Toronto and Nashville, which means money needs to be saved somewhere. Starting with a talented center on a line thatís currently playing elite hockey is a good start.
Auston Matthews, TOR vs. ANA ($6,800): By any standard, Matthews is having an unbelievable rookie fantasy performance. Should his current rates be sustained, he would become the first rookie to score 35 goals and manage 280 shots on goal since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06, and just the fifth rookie of all time to reach those marks. Per Corsica Hockey, he leads the NHL in individual scoring chances at five-on-five (47) by a wide margin; Jeff Skinner is second with 41. Itís clear that Matthewsí scoring rate is by no means a fluke. Until the Arizona kidís price increases significantly, itís difficult to fade him on just about any night.
Jakob Silfverberg, ANA at TOR ($5,800): It has been a breakout season of sorts for the Anaheim winger, as heís posting career-best per-game rates of goals (0.25), assists (0.41) and shots (2.88). Part of this is certainly due to an increase in ice time, as heís managing over 18 minutes a game, but for fantasy purposes, all that matters is production. Playing on the second line with Ryan Kesler, Silfverberg should avoid the shutdown line of the Leafs for Monday nightís game, and Toronto gives up 9.8 adjusted scoring chances per 60 minutes when Nazem Kadri is off the ice. That mark is about the same as the Edmonton Oilers as a whole Ė in other words, poor. The Kesler line should get its scoring chances in this matchup.
Troy Brouwer, CGY at ARI ($4,800): In an effort to kick-start the Calgary offense in Friday nightís game, coach Glen Gulutzan put together a top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Brouwer. Since Gaudreauís return from injury, heís largely been kept away from Monahanís wing, which was something that didnít happen often in recent years. The duo has typically fared better together than apart, as Calgary has generated over 55 shot attempts per 60 minutes when Gaudreau and Monahan are skating together, but under 50 when the center is on the ice without the star winger. Facing Arizona is a solid road matchup for the Flames, and with Brouwer serving as the third wheel on a legitimate top line, thereís scoring potential here.
Calle Jarnkrok, NAS at PHI ($3,500): The line of James Neal, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg was broken up about halfway through Saturdayís game, with Jarnkrok taking Forsbergís spot on the top line. Jarnkrok is by no means a goal scorer, but it is worth noting that per Hockey Analysis, he has played 600 five-on-five minutes with Neal in his career. Those 600 minutes have produced 1.70 points per 60 minutes for Jarnkrok, while he has produced just 1.14 points per 60 minutes in the time heís spent away from Neal. The lineup may change quickly, which makes Jarnkrok more of a tournament target than a cash game one, but at his price and in his situation, heís a good target for salary relief Monday.
Radim Vrbata, ARI vs. CGY ($4,900): One of the areas in which the Flames struggle is staying out of the penalty box. On the season, theyíve spent the most time shorthanded by a fair margin and are giving up 3.67 power plays per contest. Vrbata leads all Arizona forwards in power-play minutes, though heís neck-and-neck with Martin Hanzal. The Czech winger is averaging nearly three shots per game, should see a fair amount of power-play time tonight, and is a fixture on the top line. Relying on Arizona for anything is precarious, but Vrbata should get his chances to score against the Flames.
Shea Theodore, ANA at TOR ($3,600): Anaheim is in Toronto for Monday nightís matchup, and that means facing the Leafsí penalty kill. Through the first two-plus months of the season, the Blue and White are giving up the sixth-most shot attempts against while shorthanded, which should bode well for the Anaheim power play. This is relevant for Theodore, a second-year defenseman who has recently been placed on the top power-play blue line alongside Cam Fowler. Theodore makes for a solid cap-relief option with his price and offensive upside.
Ryan Ellis, NAS at PHI ($4,600): P.K. Subban is expected to miss at least a couple more games for the Predators, and thatís good news for Ellis. In the first game Subban missed, an overtime contest, Ellis received more than 28 minutes of ice time. That might not be in the cards every game, but itís a good indication that he should see a bit of extra ice with Subban out of the lineup. This helps raise the fantasy floor for Ellis, allowing for more shots on goal, more blocked shots and more scoring opportunities. Nashville is facing a Philadelphia team that takes the fifth-most shots per 60 minutes, which should mean lots of opportunities for Ellis to put his body in the way of oncoming pucks.