Each week, I dive into the numbers to help make decisions when it comes time to make fantasy hockey decisions.
This week, Matt Boldy is back on track, the Devils turn to their young defencemen, Mikael Granlund is lifting the Sharks, and a healthy Robby Fabbri is on a tear for the Red Wings.
#1 Minnesota Wild winger Matt Boldy had shown lots promise entering this season but then started this season with one goal (and seven assists) in his first 12 games. A new coach seems to have helped Boldy get back on track as he has rallied to score four goals in the past five games, though that may just be a case of the percentages starting to swing back in Boldy’s favour after he was having trouble finishing early in the campaign. He is getting ample opportunity with the man advantage. Among players with at least 50 minutes of five-on-four play, Boldy ranks fourth with 3.62 expected goals per 60 minutes of five-on-four play. He is behind Vincent Trocheck (3.91), Joe Pavelski (3.82), Zach Hyman (3.78), and ahead of Quinton Byfield (3.57) and Sam Reinhart (3.39).
#2 With Dougie Hamilton out long term due to a torn pectoral muscle, the New Jersey Devils have a hole on the blueline and the first place to look for solutions may be internally, as rookie Luke Hughes will continue to play a big role and Simon Nemec has been called up from the American Hockey League. Hughes has five points (3 G, 2 A) and 12 shots on goal in his past six games, playing more than 20 minutes in five of those contests. Nemec, the second pick in the 2022 Draft, has started his NHL career with three points (1 G, 2 A) in his first three games after producing eight points (2 G, 6 A) in 13 AHL games to earn his promotion. Hughes and Nemec are playing the point on New Jersey’s top two power play units, so they will have opportunities to produce.
#3 As the San Jose Sharks are starting to show signs of life, going 8-7-1 after a 0-10-1 start, veteran centre Mikael Granlund has picked up his offensive production. In his past dozen games, Granlund has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) while averaging 21:53 minutes of ice time per game. A player that can sometimes be a reluctant shooter, Granlund has also put 29 shots on goal in those 12 games so that shows more offensive drive.
#4 Injuries always seem to be lurking around the corner for Red Wings winger Robby Fabbri, but he has been very productive when healthy this season and has landed a spot on Detroit’s top line, alongside Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond. Fabbri has produced 13 points (8 G, 5 A) in 13 games this season, though he has just 20 shots on goal, so it is obvious that he will not continue to score on 40% of his shots, but playing with high quality linemates is a good way to maintain production.
#5 Through his first 16 games this season, Arizona Coyotes forward Alexander Kerfoot contributed just four points (1 G, 3 A). In his past nine games, he has 11 points (1 G, 10 A) and is averaging more than 19 minutes per game. While Kerfoot is generally skating on the third line, with Michael Carcone and Jason Zucker, he is also getting first unit power play time and that gives him a higher offensive ceiling than he might have otherwise.
#6 Ottawa Senators right winger Drake Batherson has turned up the heat offensively. In his past 10 games, the 25-year-old has produced 13 points (6 G, 7A) with 26 shots on goal while playing nearly 18 minutes per game. Skating on a line with Tim Stutzle and Vladimir Tarasenko seems to agree with Batherson.
#7 Florida Panthers late bloomer Evan Rodrigues has seven points (3 G, 4 A) during a three-game point streak and with the opportunity to play with Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart, the 30-year-old winger is poised to have his most productive season. Rodrigues has been a consistent shot generator in previous stops but the chance to play with top players raises the bar for what point totals he might be able to achieve. He tallied a career high 43 points (19 G, 24 A) in 2021-2022 and already has 20 points (6 G, 14 A) in 25 games this season.
#8 With Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish out of the lineup, the Anaheim Ducks pretty much have to lean on rookie centre Leo Carlsson and the 18-year-old pivot has nine points (5 G, 4 A) and 27 shots on goal in his past 10 games, averaging more than 18 minutes of ice time per game. The Ducks have made it clear that they would prefer to ease Carlsson into his NHL career but circumstances may dictate that he just play more because he can. With 0.72 points per game, Carlsson ranks third among rookies, behind Connor Bedard (0.81) and Connor Zary (0.75).
#9 Philadelphia Flyers rookie right winger Tyson Foerster is starting to find his range as a scorer. He has produced six points (4 G, 2 A) with 13 shots on goal in his past five games. The 21-year-old winger is skating on Philadelphia’s top line alongside Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny, and as long as that is the case, Foerster should hold some appeal for fantasy managers.
#10 The seventh overall pick in the 2021 Draft, William Eklund is working his way into a bigger role for the San Jose Sharks, as he has seven points (3 G, 4 A) and 16 shots on goal in his past eight games. He is also playing nearly 19 minutes per game in that stretch and it’s encouraging for a rebuilding team to see their 21-year-old prospect taking advantage of the opportunity to play a significant role. Eklund has landed on San Jose’s top line, skating with Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov, as well as playing on the Sharks’ top power play unit.
#11 Playing just 11 minutes per game for the Arizona Coyotes, Michael Carcone has nevertheless been the most efficient five-on-five goal scorer in the league. Carcone is a 27-year-old who had played a total of 30 NHL games before this season and his good fortune in the offensive zone is keeping him in the Coyotes lineup. He is scoring on 32.4 percent of his shots on goal, which is not sustainable, but Carcone has scored 2.71 goals per 60 minutes, which is the best rate in the league among players that have skated at least 200 five-on-five minutes. He is followed by Trevor Moore (2.09), Nils Hoglander (2.04), Zach Hyman (2.00), Artemi Panarin (1.86), and Jake Neighbours (1.86).
#12 Hoglander has had a meteoric rise for the Canucks this season. After an extended stay in the American Hockey League last season, Hoglander started this season in a very limited role with the Canucks, playing less than 10 minutes six times in his first 11 games. The ice time is still inconsistent, but he has scored seven points (6 G, 1 A) in his past 11 games and his highest ice time this season has come in each of his last two games. He has found a spot on the wing with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser, and that is a real chance for Hoglander to prove that he can be a top six forward in the NHL.
#13 Over the past month, among players to skate in at least 100 minutes in all situations, here are the ixG leaders per 60 minutes: Zach Hyman (2.50), Evander Kane (1.93), Brady Tkachuk (1.92), Quinton Byfield (1.77), Anders Lee (1.66), Matt Boldy (1.65), Jake Guentzel (1.58), Robby Fabbri (1.57), Lawson Crouse (1.57), Joel Eriksson Ek (1.56), and Nils Hoglander (1.54). Many of those players are already established fantasy performers, but it supports the production of players like Fabbri, Crouse, and Hoglander, who are getting the chances that lead to scoring more goals.
#14 Even after surrendering four goals against Philadelphia on Thursday, Arizona Coyotes netminder Connor Ingram has forced his way into a much bigger role between the pipes. In 16 games, Ingram has a .925 save percentage and with Karel Vejmelka struggling (.892 save percentage in 11 games), Ingram has been the natural choice for the suddenly competitive Coyotes.
#15 After a breakout season last year, Minnesota Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson had serious difficulty stopping pucks early this season, posting a .872 save percentage in his first eight games. He is rounding into form, it appears, as Gustavsson has a .926 save percentage over his past seven starts. For a Wild team that struggled to the point that they felt the need to fire head coach Dean Evason, improved play from their starting goaltender can make a world of difference.
#16 Detroit has some tough decisions to make in goal as starter Ville Husso continues to have difficulty. He has a .886 save percentage in 14 starts and that opens the door for backups to earn a bigger role. Veteran James Reimer has a .917 save percentage in six starts while Alex Lyon has a .947 save percentage in his first five appearances for Detroit. The Red Wings are competitive this season, but it might be time for Lyon to get more action. The Red Wings have held three goaltenders in the NHL, presumably because they did not want to lose Lyon on waivers and now it looks like they might want to consider giving him a bigger piece of the goaltending pie.
#17 Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom is out for a couple of weeks with a broken finger, offering a prime opportunity for top prospect Dustin Wolf. Wolf has a .927 save percentage in 118 AHL games, so he has proven everything he can at that level, but he has had difficulty working his way into the Flames’ crease. Dan Vladar has posted a .877 save percentage in eight starts this season, so the Flames can give Wolf more action while Markstrom is out. In four career games (three starts) for the Flames, Wolf has a .914 save percentage, which is good enough to finally earn him a legitimate look.
#18 A handful of notable slumping forwards over the past month: Chandler Stephenson (one assist in 10 games), Ryan Hartman (one assist in nine games), Reilly Smith (two assists in 14 games), Nick Paul (one goal, one assist in 15 games), and Kasperi Kapanen (one goal, one assist in 14 games). Of course, there are others, but these are players that have had quality playing time and their production has hit a dry patch. Stephenson is centering Brett Howden and Michael Amadio right now, which is not necessarily conducive to big scoring numbers. Hartman’s fantasy appeal was largely tied to playing centre on Minnesota’s top line but now that Marco Rossi is in that spot, Hartman has fallen down the depth chart. Smith has played most of this season on Evgeni Malkin’s wing, so it is hard to imagine how he has gone 15 games without a goal. He has been moved to play with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and that duo remains dominant at five-on-five, so maybe they can sprinkle some of their magic on Smith. After some early season scoring success, including scoring five of his eight goals on the power play, Paul has gone nine straight games without a point. He is a fringy fantasy player at best, and this is not his best. Not only does Kapanen have just two points in the past 14 games, but he has just 16 shots on goal. He’s barely giving himself a chance.
#19 Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll was in the midst of an outstanding performance against the Ottawa Senators Thursday when he was forced to leave the game with a lower-body injury. With a .916 save percentage in 15 games, Woll had claimed the Leafs’ No. 1 job, but if he is going to miss some time, the responsibility will fall to the tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Martin Jones. Samsonov was excellent for the Leafs last season, but has a .878 save percentage in 10 games this season. That is decidedly not excellent. Jones had some moments with Seattle last season but the 33-year-old netminder had a .895 save percentage in the five NHL seasons that preceded the 2023-2024 season. Samsonov is the one to back, but that’s not easy given his performance thus far.
#20 It’s not like Patrick Kane is flying under the radar, but it’s worth keeping tabs on him to see what kind of residual effects could hit the Detroit lineup. Kane skated on a line with Alex DeBrincat and Joe Veleno while getting first unit power play time in his Red Wings debut. J.T. Compher did not play because he was nursing some nagging injuries, but it’s possible that Compher, who has 15 points (5 G, 10 A) in his past 15 games, is the more likely centre for that line when he is healthy.