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DADOUN: THE FANTASY WEEK AHEAD – Sharks show some bite in tough season – Coyotes, Hurricanes, Avalanche, Devils, Islanders, Maple Leafs, Canucks and Golden Knights – Players to target

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 30: San Jose Sharks left wing Fabian Zetterlund (20) takes a shot in warm up before a game between the Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks on November 30, 2023, at TD garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire)

This column was previously getting released at the start of the week, but starting today, it will come out Saturdays instead. It’ll still preview the upcoming week, but now you’ll have more time to plan your strategy. Please bear in mind that the information provided is reflective of the time of writing (in this case, the morning of Dec. 8).

That aside, I wanted to cast a light on San Jose, which has won five of its last seven games. The Sharks have been fun to watch recently with them overcoming a 4-1 deficit against the Islanders on Tuesday and a 4-0 deficit to the Red Wings on Thursday. After a 0-10-1 start to the campaign that included back-to-back games in which they surrendered 10 goals, the Sharks are now 8-17-2. Still not good, but given where they came from, that’s impressive.

Looking at their last seven games specifically, the big change for San Jose has been its offense. The Sharks have scored 4.00 goals per game over that span, compared to 1.09 over their first 11 outings. Tomas Hertl has been an important factor in their recent surge, providing five goals and nine points over his last six appearances, but the real standout performer has been Mikael Granlund, who went from recording four assists over his first 13 contests to contributing three goals and 12 points over his last seven outings.

The Sharks have gotten some support team-wide too. Seven different players have supplied at least two goals over the past seven games, including three markers from defenseman Jacob MacDonald, who had just three goals over 101 career NHL games going into this campaign.

Is this sustainable, though? Probably not. The Sharks don’t have a particularly good team. Goaltenders Mackenzie Blackwood and Kaapo Kahkonen are still struggling, so if the offense cools from its unreal pace, then the whole house of cards will likely crumble again. Plus overcoming three- or four-goal deficits is fun to watch, but not something that can be counted on to happen routinely.

It is encouraging to see youngsters William Eklund, who has two goals and five points over his last four contests, and Fabian Zetterlund, who has four goals and five points over his last seven games, do well though. They’re the future of the franchise, so strong performances from them matter much more to San Jose than whether the squad is winning or losing today.

Arizona Coyotes - MON @ BUF, TUE @ PIT (BTB), FRI VS. SJS, SAT VS. BUF (BTB)

The Coyotes enjoyed a five-game winning streak from Nov. 25-Dec. 4, bringing them up to 13-9-2 by the end of that run. After spending a few years rebuilding, Arizona has a real shot of making the playoffs this year.

Of course, the Coyotes still have a lot of work ahead of them, which they’ll continue next week with games in Buffalo on Monday and Pittsburgh on Tuesday, followed by home contests versus the Sharks on Friday and Sabres on Saturday. Those adversaries range from bad to middling this campaign, so the Coyotes should do well.

With two back-to-back sets, Karel Vejmelka should get some work for the first time since Nov. 22. He’s struggled this campaign with a 2-6-2 record, 3.45 GAA and .892 save percentage in 11 contests, so he’s not an ideal option for a situational pickup. That said, if he draws the Sharks, then it might be worth considering him (provided San Jose has cooled by that point).

If Alex Kerfoot is still available in your league, he’d be a good pickup. He’s one of the hottest players in the league with a goal and nine points over his last five contests. Part of that surge is thanks to him getting an increased role. Over his first 15 contests this campaign, he had a goal and four points while averaging 15:01 of ice time, including just 0:18 with the man advantage, but that’s jumped to 18:57 over his last 10 contests, including 2:21 on the power play. So, while he obviously can’t maintain the offensive pace of his last five games, as long as Arizona keeps deploying him like it has recently, Kerfoot should continue to be a valuable forward in most fantasy leagues.

Someone else to consider in the short-term but is less likely to have long-term success is Michael Carcone. He has five goals over his last five contests, but his shooting percentage has climbed to an unsustainable 32.4 and he serves in a bottom-six role, so expect him to crash completely once the hot streak is over.

Carolina Hurricanes – TUE @ OTT, THU @DET, FRI VS NSH (BTB), SUN VS WAS

The Hurricanes will start the week by completing their six-game road trip with games in Ottawa on Tuesday and Detroit on Thursday. They’ll then get an opportunity to defend PNC Arena when they host the Predators on Friday and the Capitals on Sunday. Detroit’s been pretty good this campaign, but Nashville is the only other opponent currently in a playoff position, and even then, just barely.

Andrei Svechnikov couldn’t play Thursday due to an upper-body injury. If it turns out he won’t be available for some or all of next week’s games, then that will have a significant impact on Carolina’s lineup. In particular, Michael Bunting could play a major role during Svechnikov’s absence. When Svechnikov missed the first eight contests of the campaign because of a knee injury, Bunting had two goals and six points in eight contests while averaging 18:12 of ice time. Since then, Bunting has dropped to 13:45 while providing four goals and 10 points over 17 games.

We also might see Brendan Lemieux playing consistently during Svechnikov’s absence. Lemieux isn’t much of a factor offensively, but if you’re in a position where you’re looking for penalty minutes, he can help you there. Through 10 appearances this season, he’s accumulated 33 PIM and the 27-year-old has 517 PIM in 285 career games.

On the power play, there might be an opportunity for Brady Skjei to assume a second-line role. He has four goals and 15 points in 29 contests this season, which is great for a defenseman who is averaging just 0:13 with the man advantage. Even a second unit power-play role would be a potentially meaningful boost for him.

Colorado Avalanche – MON VS CGY, WED VS BUG, SAT @ WPG, SUN VS SJS (BTB)

The Avalanche will play four games next week, including home contests against the Flames on Monday, the Sabes on Wednesday and the Sharks on Sunday. Sprinkled in there will also be a road outing in Winnipeg on Saturday. Of those opponents, just Winnipeg is in a playoff position. The Sharks have won five of their last seven games, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if they’re still hot by the time that contest happens.

Speaking of hot players, Nathan MacKinnon is on a 10-game scoring streak, providing four goals and 16 points over that stretch, including two goals and five points over his last two contests alone. Through Thursday’s action, MacKinnon has moved into a three-way tie for fourth in the scoring race with 36 points in 26 outings.

The Avalanche don’t have any other players who are currently excelling, though. Bowen Byram is interesting with two goals and three points over his last four contests. He might be worth some short-term consideration, but the lack of a consistent power-play role is a significant negative.

We also should see Ivan Prosvetov start this week, likely Sunday versus San Jose. He’s been decent when utilized, posting a 2-1-1 record, 2.45 GAA and .919 save percentage in six contests this season, so if you’re looking for a situational pickup in goal, then Prosvetov is a good option.

New Jersey Devils – WED VS BOS, SAT @ CBJ, SUN VS ANA (BTB)

The Devils are a borderline selection because they have just three games this week and their first contest is a home game versus the mighty Bruins on Wednesday. However, New Jersey will then face two of the worst teams in the league with matches in Columbus on Saturday and against the Ducks on Sunday.

If you look at the league leader in terms of points per game, it isn’t Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin or Connor McDavid. That honor instead belongs to Jack Hughes, who has 10 goals and 33 points in just 19 contests. Hughes missed five straight games from Nov. 5-16 due to a shoulder injury but has bounced right back. In particular, he scored four goals and 10 points over a four-game stretch from Nov. 28-Dec. 5. Provided he stays healthy the rest of the way, Hughes is a good bet to surpass his career high of 99 points.

Hughes is far from New Jersey’s sole offensive threat with the team averaging 3.63 goals per game -- fourth in the NHL. However, that’s been counterbalanced by the Devils allowing 3.67 goals per contest, which is the second worst in the league. Their expected goals against per 60 is 3.27, which suggests that part of the problem is New Jersey’s defense, but its goaltending has been lacking too.

Vitek Vanecek is having a disastrous campaign with a 3.60 GAA and an .877 save percentage in 16 contests. The fact that he has a 9-5-0 record despite that is a testament to the Devils’ amazing offense, but for a team with playoff aspirations, Vanecek isn’t looking like an acceptable option. Lately, that’s led to New Jersey pivoting more toward Akira Schmid.

Schmid struggled initially with a 3.46 GAA and an .885 save percentage through his first six appearances in 2023-24, but since then he’s rebounded with a 3-2-0 record, 2.53 GAA and .920 save percentage in five outings. With the 23-year-old outplaying Vanecek, Schmid has a real opportunity to steal the No. 1 gig, which could lead to him accumulating a lot of wins given the offensive support New Jersey can provide.

New York Islanders – MON VS TOR, FRI VS ANA, SAT @BOS (BTB)

The Islanders will start the week with home games versus the Maple Leafs, Ducks and Bruins on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, respectively, before visiting Montreal on Saturday. Toronto and Boston are tough adversaries, but Anaheim and Montreal rank near the bottom of the league, and it helps that the Islanders will be playing mostly at home next week.

Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat have been playing some of the best hockey of their lives recently. Barzal has four goals and 11 points over his last four games, propelling him to nine goals and 27 points in 24 outings this year. Meanwhile, Horvat is on a five-game scoring streak in which he’s scored four goals and nine points, bringing him up to nine markers and 23 points through 24 appearances in 2023-24.

The Islanders have been getting offensive help from less common sources too. Julien Gauthier has two goals and five points in five contests this year. You can consider taking him in the short term, but keep in mind that he’s a depth forward, so once his hot streak ends, he won’t have value in anything but the absolute deepest of leagues.

Similarly, Simon Holmstrom is averaging just 13:38 of ice time this year, so he hasn’t been getting a big enough role to warrant holding him in standard fantasy leagues. However, Holmstrom is an interesting short-term option after scoring two goals and four points over his last four contests.

Toronto Maple Leafs – MON @ NYI, TUE @ NYR (BTB), THU VS CBJ, SAT VS PIT

The Maple Leafs’ schedule isn’t necessarily easy, but it is full with four games ahead of them. They’ll start the week with games in New York versus the Islanders on Monday and the Rangers on Tuesday. Afterwards, the Leafs will return home to host the Blue Jackets on Thursday and Penguins on Saturday.

Goaltender Joseph Woll sustained a leg injury during Thursday’s 4-3 victory over Ottawa and is expected to miss time. He had been serving as the Leafs’ top goaltender, but the injury will at least temporarily force Toronto to pivot back to Ilya Samsonov, who has missed the last two games due to an illness but will presumably be fine by next week. Samsonov has a 3.58 GAA and an .878 save percentage in 10 contests, so he’s been far from ideal, but he shouldn’t be dismissed after recording a 2.33 GAA and a .919 save percentage in 42 outings last season.

Martin Jones might also get a start next week depending on how long Woll is out for. Don’t expect too much out of Jones, though. He had a 3.09 GAA and an .895 save percentage in 220 NHL games from 2018-19 through 2022-23 and more recently has posted a 3.37 GAA and an .870 save percentage in five outings with AHL Toronto. Simply put, he’s not a good option. You might want to keep Dennis Hildeby in the back of your mind, though. The 22-year-old excelled in the Swedish Hockey League and has looked dominant in the AHL this campaign with a 1.89 GAA and a .925 save percentage in nine contests.

Putting the Maple Leafs’ goaltending aside, the team has been led by the usual suspects recently, which is to say that Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander have combined for seven goals and 12 points over Toronto’s last three games. Meanwhile, Max Domi has provided a goal and an assist over his last two contests. He’s been inconsistent offensively, which is unlikely to change so long as he’s averaging just 12:54 of ice time, but he’s an interesting short-term pickup while he’s hot, especially if you’re in a position to benefit from the penalty minutes he can provide.

Vancouver Canucks – TUE VS TBL, THU VS FLA, SAT @ MIN, SUN @ CHI (BTB)

The Canucks will kick off the week by hosting the Lightning on Tuesday and the Panthers on Thursday. They’ll then travel to Minnesota for a contest Saturday and face the Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday. Those later two games are of particular interest given that they’re against teams not in playoff spots.

Sam Lafferty has bounced around the lineup this campaign, but lately, he’s been playing alongside Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev. That’s a golden opportunity for the 28-year-old, who has seven goals and 13 points in 27 contests this year. He’s also doing well at the moment with two goals and three points over his last three games. Be careful not to get too excited about Lafferty, whose career high in points is just 27, but his fantasy value will increase meaningfully if his current top-six role proves to be more than just a temporary assignment.

One Canucks player who has trended in the other direction recently is Andrei Kuzmenko. After scoring 39 goals and 74 points in 81 contests last year, the 27-year-old has been limited to four goals and 15 points over 24 outings in 2023-24, including just one point (a goal) over his last eight appearances. Things got so bad that he was even a healthy scratch for two straight games from Nov. 24-25 and he logged just 12:15 of ice time Thursday, his second-lowest total of the season.

While I don’t expect Kuzmenko to repeat his 2022-23 heights, he certainly can do better than he has lately. Given his recent play and his diminished role (which I believe to be temporary), he’s a solid buy-low candidate.

Vegas Golden Knights – TUE VS CGY, FRI VS BUF, SUN VS OTT

Vegas has just three games scheduled next week, but they’re all home contests against teams not in a playoff position. Specifically, the Golden Knights will host the Flames on Tuesday, the Sabres on Friday and the Senators on Sunday.

Jack Eichel is easily the hottest member of the Golden Knights with four goals and nine points over his last four contests, pushing him up to 12 goals and 30 points in 27 contests in 2023-24. Alex Tuch has already worked out great for Buffalo while Peyton Krebs and Noah Ostlund still might be good for the Sabres in the long run, so it’d be overly simplistic to call Vegas the winners of the Eichel trade, but the Golden Knights nevertheless must be thrilled with how that move has worked out.

Ben Hutton has been a bit of a disappointment, though, at least from a fantasy perspective. With Shea Theodore (upper body) unavailable, Hutton has averaged 2:17 of power-play ice time over the last seven contests, up from an average of just 0:25 over his first 14 outings. However, Hutton has just a goal and an assist over his last seven games and neither of those points came with the man advantage. Hutton’s never been much of an offensive force anyway, but it is a shame that he hasn’t gotten any production out of that power-play role.

If Daniil Miromanov (undisclosed) returns before Theodore, then he might take that power-play spot from Hutton. In that scenario, Miromanov would have some fantasy value.

*(BTB) – Denotes the second of a back-to-back series