9 Fantasy Footnotes: Neal, Mantha Among Early Elite

In fantasy sports, we all like to play that armchair general manager role. We like to make our own decisions and do so with our own game plan in place. But it never hurts having some insight to go along with your knowledge of the game.

With that, welcome to the fantasy footnotes – just a few minor insights into what is going on in the world of fantasy hockey.

Mika Zibanejad Benefitting From Offseason Moves

Maybe the biggest beneficiary of Artemi Panarin going to New York is Rangers’ forward Mika Zibanejad. Through the Rangers’ first three games, he had four goals and eight points with a 33.3 percent shooting percentage.

With that, he’s fired home one power play goal and one shorthanded goal to go along with his two even strength tallies. After all, he’s averaging nearly 22 minutes of ice-time including just under four minutes of power play time and just under three minutes of shorthanded ice-time.

Advice: Now, it won’t last all season, but he is owned in 100 percent of the leagues on Fantrax. So if you didn’t draft him or keep him (based on the type of league you’re in) you might want to see if you can get your hands on him.

The Real Deal James Neal

Tell me that you didn’t see a bounce back season from James Neal after his move to the Edmonton Oilers. There was the potential to play with Connor McDavid and he was surely going to see some significant power play time.

Edmonton Oilers James Neal
Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal is off to a hot start with his new club. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

So far, it’s worked out if you took him in your drafts. The winger has seven goals on 19 shots and is well on his way to yet another 20-goal season. While they’re only five games into the 2019-20 season, Neal’s average of 3:42 on the power play so far certainly doesn’t hurt his fantasy potential.

Advice: He’s likely been picked up in most leagues at this point given his goal totals, but if Neal is an option go out and get him. He’s owned in 84 percent of Fantrax leagues – an increase of 28.2 percent over last week. If you have him, don’t be so quick to sell high on him yet – he could be a valuable piece down the road still.

Sabres’ Early Rookie Success

He’s been an absolute stud for the Buffalo Sabres’ offence so far this season with four goals in the team’s first five games. While he is showing up on the bad side of the plus-minus stat, with all of his goals coming on the power play, he’s still a force to be reckoned with when deciding who to take out of your fantasy lineup for the week.

Advice: He’s 82 percent owned in Fantrax leagues, which is up 12.7 percent over last week. That big increase in ownership along with his average of 18 minutes of ice-time will make him a highly sought after player.

Blues Not Struggling Out of the Gate

After winning the Stanley Cup last season, the St. Louis Blues aren’t exactly struggling out of the game in the fantasy world. That said it isn’t the usual suspects leading the way. Sammy Blais might be the most valuable Blues player to start the season with three goals, five points and a plus-four rating. He’s multi-positional and only owned in 43 percent of leagues on Fantrax.

St. Louis Blues Alex Pietrangelo
Sammy Blais and Ryan O’Reilly have been two of the early contributors with the St. Louis Blues. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly aren’t far behind Blais. Perron also has three goals, five points and plus-four rating, while O’Reilly has one goal and seven points averaging 20 minutes per game.

Advice: Don’t wait too long to pick up these Blues so that you can take advantage of the big scores they’ve been putting up. That said, be careful on guys like Blais and Perron. They could be solid depth choices but might not be season-long successes.

Canucks Tough Out of the Gate

Now I’m all too familiar with this one, as I traded for Bo Horvat prior to the season in my keeper league. Horvat has had a tough start early on with just one assist in four games in just over 18 minutes of ice-time.

J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson have been the top performers for the club thus far, while guys like Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson have yet to get it going offensively.

Related: Canucks Weekly – Horvat, Miller, Hughes, Defence Scoring & More

Advice: Sell high on guys like Pearson and Miller if you have them. The two are owned in 19 percent and 69 percent of Fantrax leagues, respectively, and won’t be the leaders on this team for long. Don’t give up on Boeser and Pettersson, especially in keeper leagues as they will be valuable pieces even this season. As for me, Horvat is worth the risk and should pick up his production as the season gets going.

Where is Pavelski?

A move to Dallas should’ve sparked Joe Pavelski even more from his numbers in San Jose, but the Stars’ forward is off to a mediocre start with his new team. In six games so far this season, he has one assist and is a plus-two and it’s not like he’s not seeing the ice.

Pavelski is averaging just under 19 minutes per game with four minutes coming on the power play. That said, he only has nine shots through the first six games for Dallas.

Advice: Don’t sell too low on him yet. While his ownership has dropped 2.7 percent over last week in Fantrax leagues, the likelihood of him turning things around is high. It’s time to play the waiting game with this one.

A New Mantha in Town

Are the Detroit Red Wings ready to make a run yet? Likely not, but that isn’t stopping Anthony Mantha from running the show in the Motor City. A move I regret in the summer – trading Mantha for Horvat – the big winger is off to a blistering start with six goals and eight points in his first five games.

And the opportunities are there, he’s had 23 shots on goal while averaging just over 19 minutes of ice-time with three minutes of power play time per game. And, if you’re a peripheral league, he’s getting it done with hits and blocked shots right now as well with seven hits and four blocked shots in five games.

Detroit Red Wings Anthony Mantha
Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha has been tearing it up to start the year. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Paul Sancya)

Advice: Don’t trade him – I should’ve taken my own advice. While he has yet to play a full season thus far, his closest to it was 80 games in 2017-18 when he tallied 48 points. He had the same total in 67 games last season and is on pace to smash that total this year.

Not Your Usual Crowd

There are some new names at the top of the goalie list this year. Sure, you’ve got your usual suspects like Tuukka Rask and Marc-Andre Fleury, but David Rittich and Carter Hart of making noise early on.

Rittich is 2-2-1 through five games with the Flames this season and has a shutout to go along with a 3.16 goals against average and .906 save percentage. While they aren’t staggering numbers, they are enough to up his ownership by nearly two percent in Fantrax leagues over last season.

Related: Fantasy Focus – Comeback Candidates

As for Hart, he’s 2-0-1 in three games with the Flyers this season. He has a 1.62 goals against average and .938 save percentage to go along with one shutout as well.

Advice: Goalies are a little tougher to play with year in and year out. Sure, the big names will always be worth a pick, but that being said you could see some unusual names up near the top of the goalie stats as the year goes on.

An Armia of One

He’s having an impressive start to the season for the Montreal Canadiens and fantasy owners are taking note of Joel Armia. Armia has three goals and four points in five games for the Canadiens to go along with 11 hits in just under 16 minutes of ice-time.

Joel Armia, Montreal Canadiens
On a line with Drouin and Kotkaniemi, Armia could be a good depth fantasy option. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He’s seeing time both on the power play and penalty kill and it’s paying off so far. It doesn’t hurt that he’s been assigned to a line with Jonathan Drouin and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Advice: He might be a good early season pick-up while teams still look to figure everything out, but Armia’s production will drop as the season goes on. While his ownership has gone up over 11 percent in Fantrax leagues, he’s still only owned in 18 percent of leagues. So consider that if you’re looking to pick him up.

What moves have you made this week in your leagues? Be sure to comment below and good luck over the next week fantasy owners.