After a busy Saturday night, Sunday has calmed with only three games on the NHL schedule. Three of the six teams in action are playing back-to-back games and of those three, the New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks are winless and playing each other on the road, making their back-to-back games even more difficult. The freshest team in action Sunday is probably the Edmonton Oilers who are rested, at home and playing an injury-riddled Sabres team. They also have 12 goals in two games.
It was a poor result with my picks yesterday as players who were on fire in game one, cooled off dramatically. Both centers Henrik Sedin (1 assist) and Auston Matthews (no points) underperformed based on my expectations, Brad Marchand only had one assist to follow up an outstanding five-point performance and Victor Hedman played a ton of minutes but did absolutely nothing to help me turn around my lackluster results. Only Andrei Vasilvesky came up big with a 32-save performance in a win for Tampa over New Jersey. Such is the life of playing fantasy hockey. We don’t win em’ all.
Anaheim at New York Islanders
Buffalo at Edmonton
Carolina at Vancouver
Connor McDavid ($8200-$8700)
Six points in two games and he’s tied for the lead in NHL scoring. McDavid has literally put the Oilers team on his back and while it’s arguably true he’s the best center in the NHL right now, he’s easily the best center on the board in Sunday’s games. I’m not going to hesitate riding the McDavid train until it kicks me off.
He’s a good chunk more money in fantasy dollars than any other center on the board. This means that to take him, I’ll have to juggle my other players around his salary and find value in lower dollar players. McDavid is so good, that I’m willing to do that.
Leon Draisaitl ($4700-$5400)
I haven’t taken or suggested Draisaitl in any of my cheat sheets to date and I should have. Coming off a good showing at the World Cup of Hockey, he’s second on the Oilers in scoring and the only player not on the top line in Edmonton getting significant points. He’s getting first unit power play time and he’s good value at his price point. You’ll be spending a good chunk of any available salary on two centers, but it can be made up in value picks from other positions.
Lee Stempniak ($4200-$4300)
Stempniak had a goal and an assist in the first game of the season. His goal was on the power play and he got points for three shots on goal. In a perfect world, I’d actually take Jeff Skinner who is on Stempniak’s line, but Skinner comes in at a price tag that makes some of my other choices harder to manage. The next best thing is taking Skinner’s linemate and hoping the points come by association.
Even without Skinner, Stempniak is worth the low price tag and he’ll be a good choice to round out your forwards against a Vancouver team that is going to play it’s second-string goaltender, be tired after going to a shootout and now playing in a back-to-back contest.
Milan Lucic ($5700)
Lucic is starting to heat up and is finding more chemistry on the McDavid and Eberle line. That line is producing most of Edmonton’s offense and if that trend continues, it’s only a matter of time before he posts a goal to get in on the action. Lucic is getting power play time and plants his big frame in front of the net on a regular basis. He has five shots in two games and if he doesn’t score, someone is liable to bounce one in off of him. That’s good for points in the fantasy hockey world.
FanDuel and DraftKings have Lucic at the exact same value and this is usually a telling sign that the oddsmakers know exactly the kind of value a player brings. McDavid is so hot right now that you should consider taking anyone that is riding his coattails. Of the three players on this line, Lucic is the cheapest but also a pretty good player in his own right, so this may be the game he breaks out.
Rasmus Ristolainen ($4600-$6100)
He’s only played one game, but in that game, he had a goal, five shots on net and played over 23 minutes. While Edmonton is undefeated so far this season, their victories also included giving up a lot of shots to the Flames and this could be good news for Ristolainen who plays a lot and shoots a lot.
Ristolainen is coming off a new contract and the Sabres are going to rely heavily on him in a variety of situations. This includes first unit power play so he may be good for a few bonus points. He’s a steal if you’re a FanDuel player.
Cam Fowler ($4100-$4700)
Fowler had a goal, three shots on net and three blocks for the Ducks in a 3-2 loss to then Penguins on Saturday. He’s being given big ice time and he’s going to be a go-to option for Anaheim in a ton of situations. The Ducks are winless in the regular season so far, but this is too good a team to have that trend continue. Fowler is good value and should earn you points in a number of different categories.
Cam Talbot ($8000-$8500)
Talbot looked good for the Oilers in period one of Friday’s contest against the Flames but he’s been a little shaky in the other five periods of play. Still, I think he’s got another level and with Edmonton playing the way they are, he’s due for a better performance and could earn the win against the Sabres. If the Oilers keep giving up shots on net, he’ll get points for that too.
One of the things to watch for is the goals-against differential to shots-allowed. Edmonton has allowed a ton of shots over two games. They average 28.5 shots-per-game against, yet they’ve still won both games. As a pick your fantasy team goaltender, you’ll have to decide if losing points for goals allowed is outweighed by how many saves Talbot will make. I’m taking the net result and suggesting Talbot makes over 25 saves and finally lets in less than three.
Kris Russell ($3500-$3600)
At this price, Russell is an absolute steal if he keeps playing the way he’s played the first two games. With three points on the season and averaging almost 20 minutes per game, he’s helping the Oilers on special teams, he’s blocking shots and he’s getting those who take him in fantasy games unexpected points. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen just how critical Russell would be to the Oilers’ success so far this season. If you’re looking for a good value pick, so far Russell has shown he’s a good candidate.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”