Though this week is getting started a day late with the postponements of every game Monday and a couple more throughout the week already, hockey is back. That also means fantasy is back and you will need players to pick up as some of the players on your fantasy hockey team are most likely out for at least a game.
Only one team still plays four games this week despite the postponements of games, and that’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. As always, players from their team are reliable, as they continue to get the job done despite missing top players.
At the other end, there are a few teams that only play once this week, so even with top players out, you won’t be able to really take advantage of some depth moving up and getting a better opportunity. The teams that play one game this week are the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and Toronto Maple Leafs. There are also two teams that play back-to-backs this weekend, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
(Rostered as of Dec. 28, ESPN Fantasy Hockey)
Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis Blues (rostered 37.8%)
Nobody expected Ivan Barbashev to break out this season, especially with the roster and tough competition he has for playing time. Opportunity and the chemistry he has formed with his linemates has allowed Barbashev to score 11 goals and 25 points in 31 games this year on the second line. He is the centreman of the St. Louis Blues’ all-Russian line of him, Pavel Buchnevich, and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Barbashev has played well enough to have his spot on the second line locked down once players start returning from injury or COVID-protocol. His one goal and five assists in the past three games make him a definite target to add right now.
Conor Sheary, Washington Capitals (5%)
Conor Sheary has gotten a great opportunity recently to play in the Washington Capitals’ top-6. All year long this team has had trouble icing a healthy roster. Right now, T.J. Oshie and Daniel Sprong are on COVID-protocol while Anthony Mantha is injured.
Sheary is on a five-game point streak, recording two goals and six points in the process. As long as he gets more time in the top-6 and continues to play well, he is a good streaming option for your fantasy team (“Why Conor Sheary has become a fixture on the Caps power play”, NBC Sports Washington, Nov. 19, 2021).
Nick Schmaltz, Arizona Coyotes (3.2%)
Nick Schmaltz is now playing on the Arizona Coyotes’ top line with Clayton Keller and Barrett Hayton, a fast and skilled line. After returning from injury, Schmaltz has played much better. In his past three games, he has one goal and four assists while being a plus-4 on the worst team in the league. This may be a sign of his production returning to what it has been while he’s been healthy during his time in Arizona.
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (14.2%)
With Mitch Marner still on the long-term injured reserve for the Maple Leafs, Ondrej Kase has filled the spot on the top line very well, scoring three goals and four assists in the past four games. As long as Marner is out, Kase should be a very valuable fantasy player. When Marner returns, Kase should get a spot alongside John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line after what he has shown in an elevated role.
Warren Foegele, Edmonton Oilers (0.8%)
Warren Foegele stays on this list because even though he was elevated to the Edmonton Oilers’ top line in the absence of Zach Hyman, Jesse Puljujarvi is still on the COVID list, so Foegele should move to the right side. Any player playing alongside the best in the world, Connor McDavid, is worth a look and Foegele is a good streaming option as long as he’s getting that top-line exposure.
In the two games he played on the Oilers’ first line, he scored three goals. Regardless of if he gets bumped back down in the near future, that’s the confidence he’s needed after a long dry spell. Who knows, the Oilers could see Foegele as a good fit on the top line for longer than just a few games.
Nino Niederreiter (53%) or Jesperi Kotkaniemi (5.5%), Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes have spread out their scoring to three lines now with the return of a few key players from COVID. Nino Niederreiter is still playing on the top line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. Over his past 11 games, Niederreiter has scored five goals and 11 points with a big increase in ice time over the past few games.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, on the other hand, is now playing on the third line with Jordan Staal and Seth Jarvis. Regardless of being bumped down, he has scored a goal and four assists in the past three games. This performance could up his confidence and get him going.
Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (19.6%)
Noah Dobson continues to be a player to watch or add in the absence of Ryan Pulock, as Dobson moved up the lineup and is playing on the top power play. He has recorded four points in his past five games, and six in his past eight. All three of his goals on the year have come in the last seven games, so it looks like he is finally getting going offensively.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Buffalo Sabres (5%)
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has made his presence known since arriving on the scene in Buffalo. He has started the last five games for the Sabres and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of them.
He has posted a 1.96 goals-against average (GAA) and .939 save percentage (SV%) while winning his past two starts. If he can continue to provide the Sabres with solid play in net, they may be able to win some more games with their roster starting to get a bit healthier.
Maxime Lagace, Tampa Bay Lightning (0.3%)
Both of the Lightning’s goaltenders entered COVID-protocol, so that means third-string goalie Maxime Lagace is tasked with stepping up and getting the bulk of the starts for the team this week. As the only team to play four games, he will get his work in and most likely win multiple starts backstopping the best team in the league.
You may remember Lagace from when he broke into the NHL with the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season, playing 16 games. Since then, he has only gotten two starts over the past three seasons. This is his chance to make an impact and is worth the add if you are in need of starts or wins in the short term.
It is an unpredictable week in fantasy hockey, but one you can take advantage of if you are looking to add players with good opportunities. Who knows, short-term options may turn into long-term solutions.
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Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.