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DADOUN: THE FANTASY WEEK AHEAD – Skinner becoming key to Oilers fortunes – Value to be had on the Ducks, Hawks, Avalanche, Wings, Kings, Wild, Penguins, and Leafs

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 13: Edmonton Oilers Goalie Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save in the second period of the Edmonton Oilers game versus the New York Islanders on November 13, 2023 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire)

The Edmonton Oilers saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end Thursday in a 7-4 defeat to Tampa Bay. After their remarkable resurgence, it’s hard to be too critical of the Oilers, though it did underscore the team’s vulnerability: Goaltending.

Not to undersell the importance of Connor McDavid in Edmonton’s 11-3-0 run from Nov. 11-Dec. 12 -- the superstar forward scored eight goals and 28 points over that 14-game stretch, so he clearly did his part -- but Edmonton’s success this year will likely be determined in no small part by Stuart Skinner.

When the sky seemed to be falling in Edmonton early this season, Skinner posted a 1-5-1 record, 3.87 GAA and .854 save percentage in eight appearances. When all seemed to be fixed from Nov. 11-Dec. 12, Skinner went 10-2-0 with a 2.30 GAA and a .914 save percentage. On Thursday, he allowed five goals on 22 shots.

Skinner might bounce right back, and the Oilers need him to. Jack Campbell posted a 4.50 GAA and an .873 save percentage in five contests with Edmonton to start the campaign, leading him to be moved to AHL Bakersfield where he has an uninspiring 3.22 GAA and .894 save percentage in nine outings, so he’s probably not a viable alternative. Maybe Calvin Pickard is. The 31-year-old has done fine in limited play, posting a 1-1-0 record, 2.24 GAA and .917 save percentage in three contests, but he has a career 3.02 GAA and .904 save percentage in 119 outings, so it’s probably best not to bet on him being good for anything more than the occasional start.

Edmonton’s terrible start to the campaign also means that it’s just 13-13-1, even after winning eight straight, so the Oilers still aren’t done digging themselves out of their hole, though they’ve certainly made a lot of positive progress over the last month and, if Skinner plays well, they’re likely to enjoy continued success going forward.

Anaheim Ducks – MON @ DET, THU VS CGY, SAT VS SEA

The Ducks might not have been featured on a busier week, but with no games scheduled Dec. 24 due to the Christmas break, not many teams have four-game schedules. Meanwhile, the Ducks will play in Detroit on Monday before hosting Calgary and Seatle on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. Given the Flames and the Kraken’s struggles this year, those are winnable contests, even for a struggling team like Anaheim.

Trevor Zegras (lower body) also appears to be close to returning, so the Ducks might have him for the upcoming week. He had just a goal and two points in 12 contests before being shut down Nov. 12, but the injury was bothering him before he was shelved, so that might be the reason for his slow start, and the 22-year-old could play more like himself upon returning. For that reason, Zegras should be considered a good buy-low candidate.

It remains to be seen how the Ducks will adjust their lines when Zegras returns, but I expect Leo Carlsson to maintain his top-six role. The 18-year-old has earned his spot, providing eight goals and 14 points in 20 contests. I could see Adam Henrique losing some time -- he's also someone the Ducks will likely look to trade closer to the deadline -- but he has three goals over his last five outings, so perhaps Anaheim will at least keep utilizing him while he’s hot.

With that in mind, the hardest hit when Zegras returns could be Ryan Strome. He has three goals and 17 points in 27 contests this season while averaging 16:02 of ice time, but he’s already seen his role slide as of late -- he's logged under 16 minutes in each of his last six contests -- and that slide might continue.

Chicago Blackhawks – TUE VS COL, FRI VS MTL, SAT @ STL (BTB)

The Blackhawks are set to play at home all week, facing the Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canadiens on Friday and the Blues on Saturday. Colorado naturally figures to be a tough matchup, but St. Louis and Montreal are hovering around .500 PTS%.

There unfortunately isn’t a lot of value to be had with the Blackhawks, right now. I’ve been disappointed by Anthony Beauvillier, who has seen his playing time tick up since being acquired by Chicago from Vancouver, but nevertheless has just a goal and an assist in seven games with the Blackhawks. I do still think there’s potential there, so I’d recommend keeping an eye on him, but I’m less optimistic about the trade helping his production than I initially was.

Lukas Reichel has underwhelmed too, recording just two goals and six points in 28 contests this season. He did log 15:18 of ice time Thursday, which was his most this month, but he was also minus-2 with just one shot in Chicago’s 7-1 loss to Seattle. At this point, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the 21-year-old sent to the minors to work on his game and confidence but keep in mind that this rough stretch doesn’t alter the fact that he has tremendous potential.

For now, though, about the only Blackhawks player worthy of significant fantasy consideration in standard leagues outside of Connor Bedard is Philipp Kurashev. The 24-year-old has six goals and 16 points in 23 contests this year while regularly playing alongside Bedard.

Colorado Avalanche – TUE @CHI, THU VS OTT, SAT VS ARI

The Avalanche will begin the week with a road game against the lowly Blackhawks on Tuesday followed by home contests versus the Senators on Thursday and the Coyotes on Saturday. Of those squads, just Arizona is in a playoff position, and even then, only barely.

Nathan MacKinnon is one of the hottest players in the league right now. He’s on an incredible 13-game scoring streak (six goals, 21 points) and has been especially effective over his last five games, scoring four goals and 10 points. That brings the 28-year-old up to 12 goals and 41 points through 29 appearances this season, putting him on track to narrowly surpass the career high of 111 points that he established last year.

In terms of a hot player who has flown a little more under the radar, Sam Malinski has a goal and four points over his last four contests. The 25-year-old defenseman was summoned from AHL Colorado on Nov. 29 and has averaged just 13:39 of ice time with the Avalanche in 2023-24, including almost no work on the power play, which makes his recent production all the more impressive. Malinski might be a decent short-term option, but I don’t expect him to stay noteworthy offensively for much longer. He does have that element of his game, recording three goals and nine points in 17 AHL outings this campaign, but he’s just not going to get many opportunities with the Avalanche as long as their defense is relatively healthy.

Outside of that, keep an eye on Ryan Johansen. He has nine goals and 11 points in 29 contests this season, which makes him a disappointment with Colorado thus far, but after averaging a modest 12:15 over 11 contests from Nov. 18-Dec. 7, he’s logged at least 14 minutes in two of his last three games and seeing time on the second line, so perhaps something will come of that.

Detroit Red Wings – MON VS ANA, WED @WPG, FRI VS PHI, SAT @ NJD (BTB)

One of the rare teams set to play four games next week, Detroit will host the Ducks on Monday before kicking off a road trip that will send them to Winnipeg on Wednesday, Philadelphia on Friday and New Jersey on Saturday.

Although the Red Wings now have Patrick Kane, Detroit is missing Dylan Larkin (upper body), J.T. Compher (undisclosed) and David Perron (suspension). Perron isn’t eligible to return until next Friday against the Flyers, though he is appealing the suspension so it’s possible he’ll be back sooner. Compher is day-to-day at this point and likely to return Saturday versus Philadelphia, while Larkin skated Thursday, giving fans some hope that he won’t be out for long.

With at least Compher expected to play next week, Andrew Copp, who has logged 19:45 over his last three contests while contributing two assists, might see his playing time reduced. Compher will likely play alongside Michael Rasmussen and Patrick Kane in his return.

Speaking of Rasmussen, the 24-year-old forward has seen his usage rise recently. Although he’s averaging 15:20 this year, he’s jumped to 16:45 over his last four contests. That comes amid a larger hot streak for the 24-year-old, who has five goals and eight points over his past seven appearances.

Los Angeles Kings – TUE@SJS, WED @SEA (BTB), SAT VS CGY

The Kings are scheduled to stay in LA next week, hosting the Sharks on Tuesday, the Kraken on Wednesday and the Flames on Saturday. None of those squads are in a playoff position, so the 16-6-4 Kings have an opportunity to rebound after losing three straight from Dec. 9-13.

Cam Talbot has been dominant with a 12-5-2 record, 2.02 GAA and .927 save percentage in 19 contests this year, but with a back-to-back set upcoming, Pheonix Copley should be penciled in to play in one of the Kings’ next two contests. Copley is 4-1-2 with a 3.17 GAA and an .870 save percentage in eight appearances this season, so he’s left plenty to be desired, but Seattle ranks 29th offensively this year with 2.57 goals per contest, so if he gets the start Wednesday, which is the most probable scenario, then he might still be worth grabbing for the situational start.

Los Angeles has scored just five goals over its last three games, so most of its players haven’t stood out recently, but Alex Laferriere did find the back of the net Wednesday. It was just the rookie’s third goal and fifth point in 25 contests this season, but what’s noteworthy is he also logged 3:13 of power-play ice time, by far his most since October. Monitor the situation to see if Los Angeles continues to give him an opportunity with the man advantage. While Laferriere hasn’t done much this season, he does have offensive upside after scoring 21 goals and 42 points in 34 games with Harvard in 2022-23.

Minnesota Wild - MON @ PIT, TUE @BOS (BTB), THU VS MTL, SAT VS BOS

The Wild have won six of their last eight games after earning a 3-2 shootout victory over Calgary on Thursday, so they’ll look to carry that momentum as they look ahead to a busy week. They’ll play in Pittsburgh on Monday and Buffalo on Tuesday before returning home to host the Canadiens on Thursday and the Bruins on Saturday. Not an easy lineup, but there isn’t much in the way of teams playing four games next week, so Minnesota got highlighted for that alone.

Filip Gustavsson has been a standout performer recently, posting a 5-1-0 record, 1.33 GAA and .950 save percentage over his last six games. He’s likely to get the bulk of the action next week, but the Wild’s busy schedule means Marc-Andre Fleury will probably start in a game. The 39-year-old goaltender has a 4-5-2 record, 3.29 GAA and .886 save percentage in 11 contests this year, but he’s traditionally done well against Buffalo (23-7-4 with a 2.21 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 23 career contests), so it’ll be interesting to see if he gets the nod against the Sabres on Tuesday.

In terms of forwards, Matt Boldy has been fantastic with seven goals and nine points over his last eight contests. Boldy managed just one goal over his first 12 games this year, but after collecting 31 tallies in 81 contests in 2022-23, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Boldy continue to be a solid contributor even after his current hot streak fizzles out.

Another youngster, Marco Rossi, is also having a fun campaign. He’s found the back of the net in each of his last two outings, bringing him up to 10 markers and 17 points in 27 appearances this season. It helps that he’s found a top-six role, although his offensive production isn’t likely to truly take off until he does more with the man advantage. He’s been limited to one power-play point (a goal) this year while serving mostly on the second unit.

Pittsburgh Penguins – MON VS MIN, THU VS CAR, SAT @ OTT

The Penguins have been mediocre this campaign, so every point is important as they attempt to stay in the battle for a playoff spot. They’ll start the week by hosting the Wild on Monday and the Flames on Thursday before visiting Ottawa on Saturday. Carolina is the only one of those adversaries in a playoff position, though Minnesota has made strides since parting ways with coach Dean Evason on Nov. 27.

Rickard Rakell (upper body) hasn’t played since Nov. 19, but he might make his return before next week. In fact, he’s not only projected to play Saturday versus Toronto but skate on the top line alongside Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. Rakell has just four assists in 17 contests this year, but that assignment might spark him.

Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby is continuing to excel, supplying three goals and six points over his last five contests, which increases his 2023-24 totals to 17 goals and 31 points in 28 contests. The 36-year-old is on pace to flirt with the 50-goal milestone for the first time since 2009-10, which might sound unsustainable, but he is firing 3.75 shots per game, up from 3.11 last season, so as long as he continues to fire the puck at that rate, the goals should continue to come.

One player you shouldn’t get excited about, though, is Jeff Carter. He scored twice Tuesday, but that brings him up to just three goals and four points in 22 contests this campaign. Unlike Crosby, age has caught up to the 38-year-old Carter, who is consequently serving primarily in a fourth-line role. He might not have another night like Tuesday’s again this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs – TUE VS NYR, THU @BUF, SAT @ CBJ

The Maple Leafs will play at home against the Rangers on Tuesday and the Sabres on Thursday before visiting Columbus on Saturday. The contest against the Blue Jackets should be interesting after Toronto overcame a 5-0 deficit against them, only to lose 6-5 in overtime Thursday.

Joseph Woll (ankle) isn’t expected to return next week, so Ilya Samsonov will probably start in all three contests. Samsonov has struggled with a 5-1-5 record, 3.51 GAA and .878 save percentage in 13 contests this season, but the alternative is Martin Jones, who will probably only be used when Toronto is facing a back-to-back set.

Fortunately, Toronto can count on its offense, led by Auston Matthews, who has an insane nine goals and 15 points over his last seven contests. He’s up to 23 markers and 35 points in 27 games this year. William Nylander has been superb too, recording at least a point in seven straight contests as well as multiple points in each of his last four outings.

Calle Jarnkrok has been quietly effective lately, providing two goals and seven points over his last six contests. His success has been overshadowed by the likes of Matthews and Nylander, but Jarnkrok giving the Leafs some secondary scoring certainly has value. With Toronto set to face Buffalo and Columbus, ranked 23rd and 30th in goals allowed per game, respectively, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jarnkrok continue to factor on the scoresheet next week.