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NHL: CULLEN – 20 Fantasy Points – Fresh start for Drysdale – Big opportunity for Harley – Bedard’s injury – Geekie’s emergence – Kadri bouncing back + much, much more

Thomas Harley (55) of the Dallas Stars. (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire)

Each week, I dive into the numbers to help make decisions when it comes time to make fantasy hockey decisions.

This week, a fresh start for Jamie Drysdale, a big opportunity for Thomas Harley, Connor Bedard’s injury, Morgan Geekie’s emergence, Nazem Kadri bouncing back from a slow start, and much, much more!

#1 Moving to the Philadelphia Flyers could be just what defenceman Jamie Drysdale needs to get his career on track. The 21-year-old blueliner was the sixth pick by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2020 Draft band scored 32 points (4 G, 28 A) during the 2021-2022 season, but has battled injuries since, so the smooth-skating puck-moving defender has not been able to consistently show what he can do. Drysdale had five points (1 G, 4 A) while playing more than 21 minutes per game in 10 games with the Ducks prior to getting traded to Philadelphia for centre Cutter Gauthier, but there were few teams that more desperately needed a player with Drysdale’s particular set of skills. Drysdale started on Philadelphia’s second power play unit, but it would be shocking if he is not given a shot on the top power play and that gives Drysdale the scoring upside that will make him appealing to fantasy managers.

#2 Cutter Gauthier was the fifth pick in the 2022 Draft and has lived up to expectations with his performance since. He tallied 37 points (16 G, 21 A) in 32 games as a freshman at Boston College last season, putting up 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in seven games at the World Juniors, and adding nine points (7 G, 2 A) in 10 games at the World Championships. All of that would suggest that he might have been ready to embark on his pro career, but he did not sign with the Flyers and returned to Boston College, where he has produced 23 points (13 G, 10 A) in 17 games and he was part of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the World Juniors, contributing a dozen points (2 G, 10 A) in seven games. He will presumably join the Anaheim Ducks following his college season and should be a cornerstone piece for the rebuilding Ducks for years to come.

#3 With Miro Heiskanen vaguely considered week-to-week with an injury after crashing into the net, opportunity is knocking for 22-year-old Stars defenceman Thomas Harley, who has 19 points (9 G, 10 A) in 37 games, but is capable of more. In four games since Heiskanen was injured, Harley has a couple of assists, but has also played more than 23 minutes per game, a significant jump from the 18:44 per game that Harley had played previously.

#4 Chicago’s star rookie, Connor Bedard, is out 6-8 week after suffering a broken jaw from a hit by Devils defenceman Brendan Smith. Bedard leads the Blackhawks with 33 points (15 G, 18 A) in 39 games but only two Chicago skaters have more than 20 points – Philipp Kurashev, who has 23 points (8 G, 15 A) in 35 games, and Jason Dickinson, who has 21 points (14 G, 7 A) in 42 games. Kurashev and Dickinson are manning the top two centre spots for the Blackhawks, with Rem Pitlick and Taylor Raddysh on Kurashev’s wings and Colin Blackwell and Joey Anderson on Dickinson’s wings. This is all to say that Blackhawks players are only offering fantasy value in the deepest of leagues.

#5 It seems I get to talk about Boston’s centres a lot this season, and that was not what I expected in the aftermath of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retiring in the offseason. Signed as a free agent after he did not receive a qualifying offer from Seattle, Morgan Geekie has stepped into a bigger role with Boston and is thriving. Since December 9, he has played nearly 17 minutes per game, putting up 14 points (6 G, 8 A) in 16 games. Geekie had a career high 28 points (9 G, 19 A) for the Kraken last season but he is poised to soar past that total.

#6 After a slow start to the season, veteran centre Nazem Kadri is hitting his stride for the Calgary Flames. Kadri had produced 18 points (8 G, 10 A) and 65 shots on goal in his past 18 games. That shot rate is a very encouraging sign for Kadri to sustain his scoring rate and he continues to thrive with rookies Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil on his wings.

#7 The Winnipeg Jets have been a pleasant surprise this season and part of the reason for their success is quality depth. Second-year forward Cole Perfetti has been a reliable source of offense, putting up 10 points (5 G, 5 A) with 30 shots on goal in his past 12 games. He’s recently been skating at left wing on a line with Vladislav Namestnikov and Alex Iafallo. Namestnikov isn’t shooting as much as Perfetti, but has still managed to chip in 11 points (3 G, 8 A) in his past 13 games.

#8 Taken with the ninth pick in the 2021 Draft, right winger Dylan Guenther had 15 points (6 G, 9 A) in 33 games for the Arizona Coyotes last season before returning to the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League to finish the season. He started this season in the American Hockey League and the 20-year-old winger earned his promotion to the big club by putting up 28 points (10 G, 18 A) in 29 games. In three games since getting called up, Guenther has three points (2 G, 1 A) with 10 shots on goal and he is getting first unit power play time, which elevates his appeal for fantasy managers.

#9 A 34-year-old who had provided below average goaltending for five consecutive seasons and started this season in the American Hockey League, Martin Jones was not the most likely candidate to answer a playoff team’s goaltending questions. Nevertheless, that is what has happened in Toronto, where Jones has stepped up with Joseph Woll injured and Ilya Samsonov going through a crisis of confidence. In his past seven starts, Jones has a 5-2 record, with a .953 save percentage. That can’t last, but if Jones is merely adequate until Woll is ready to return, which is expected to be sometime in February, then Jones will have done the job.

#10 Veteran Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin is playing at a high level again. He has battled injuries and it has affected his production in recent seasons, but the 31-year-old is on a four-game goal-scoring streak and has nine points (6 G, 3 A) with 21 shots on goal in his past six games. His line, with Mason Marchment and Matt Duchene, has been excellent, outscoring opponents by a 28-14 count during five-on-five play.

#11 It was looking bleak early in the season for Colorado Avalanche winger Jonathan Drouin, who had zero goals and one assist in his first 10 games with his new team, but his performance has improved over the past month. In his past 14 games, Drouin has 14 points (6 G, 8 A) and it has earned him the trust of Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar, as Drouin has played more than 21 minutes in six straight games.

#12 There are signs of life from the Calgary Flames’ highest paid player, left winger Jonathan Huberdeau. The 30-year-old winger had just 15 points (4 G, 11 A) through 35 games but is starting to emerge from that long slump, producing eight points (2 G, 6 A) in his past seven games. Huberdeau has returned to Calgary’s top line with Elias Lindholm and Yegor Sharangovich, and Sharangovich’s hat trick at Arizona on Thursday lifted him to 19 points (12 G, 7 A) and 49 shots on goal in his past 17 games.

#13 Claimed on waivers from Nashville last season, Seattle Kraken winger Eeli Tolvanen continues to make Seattle look smart. During a four-game point streak, Tolvanen has six points (1 G, 5 A) and he is fitting in nicely alongside Yanni Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand, with the trio outscoring opponents 14-11 while getting 56.2% of expected goals during five-on-five play.

#14 Sticking with players who moved on the NHL waiver wire, Florida Panthers defenceman Gustav Forsling has contributed eight points (2 G, 6 A) in his past nine games. He is a plus-27 and has recorded 89 shots on goal. Forsling’s 6.26 shot on goal per 60 minutes of five-on-five play ranks 11th out of 133 defencemen that have played at least 500 five-on-five minutes.

#15 Anaheim Ducks right winger Troy Terry has not been producing to his customary level this season, but he does appear to be turning the corner. The 26-year-old winger has 10 points (4 G, 6 A) and 20 shots on goal in his past nine games. Terry is skating on a line with veterans Ryan Strome and Adam Henrique, a trio with enough skill to maintain his point production.

#16 Rumours started swirling this week, following the Drysdale trade, that Anaheim might consider trading centre Trevor Zegras, too. Those plans were put on hold, it seems, when Zegras suffered a broken ankle at Nashville. It would not be a high point in Zegras’ value to move him, even if he was healthy, as he has managed just seven points (3 G, 4 A) in 20 games. For a player who had a career-high 65 points last season and 61 the season before that, it is fair to wonder where Zegras fits with the Ducks long term because Mason McTavish and Leo Carlsson both appear to be long-term fixtures in the middle of the ice and Anaheim just added Cutter Gauthier, who can also play centre.

#17 Buffalo Sabres left winger Jeff Skinner is week-to-week with an upper-body injury, which has opened the door for Casey Mittelstadt to join Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch on the Sabres’ top line. Mittelstadt has produced 13 points (5 G, 8 A) in his past 12 games, so he has already been scoring, but playing with Buffalo’s most dangerous offensive forwards should only elevate his ceiling. One challenge for Mittelstadt is to generate more shots on goal. Even on his current productive run, he has just 19 shots on goal in 12 games, which is not sufficient.

#18 As the New Jersey Devils try to stay afloat with star centre Jack Hughes out of the lineup for weeks with an upper-body injury, they need other players to step up. Erik Haula, for one, is doing his part. In his past four games, Haula has five points (1 G, 4 A) while averaging 20:12 of ice time per game. While Haula often plays centre, he has moved up to left wing with Nico Hischier and Dawson Mercer, which is the Devils’ top line with Hughes and Timo Meier sidelined.

#19 Not only is goaltending an unpredictable position, as I’ve lamented throughout the season, but injuries have been a growing problem. The list of goaltenders battling injuries includes John Gibson, Linus Ullmark, Pyotr Kochetkov, Jake Oettinger (who may be nearing his return), Ville Husso, Filip Gustavsson, Semyon Varlamov, Philipp Grubauer, Joseph Woll, and Adin Hill. With so many goaltenders hurt, Martin Jones, Joey Daccord, and Alex Lyon are quality alternatives under the circumstances. Also, keep an eye on Jesper Wallstedt, Minnesota’s top goaltending prospect who gave up seven goals in his NHL debut against Dallas, but has a .911 save percentage in 58 AHL games across the past two seasons. The 21-year-old is surely the goaltender of the future, but if Gustavsson is out for a while, that could give Wallstedt a longer look in the present.

#20 Following what has been, for him, a relatively slow start to the season, Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk is heating up. He has 16 points (7 G, 9 A) during a seven-game point streak and has recorded nine shots on goal in each of his last two games. Tkachuk ranks third (among players to play at least 50 all-situatiosn minutes) with 2.55 individual expected goals per 60 minutes since January 1, behind crease crashers Chris Kreider and Zach Hyman. Following Tkachuk are William Nylander, Yanni Gourde, Gabriel Vilardi, Elias Pettersson, Valeri Nichushkin, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, and Warren Foegele. There are many stars on that list who will not be readily available for fantasy managers, but Gourde and Foegele are interesting. Just outside that group, Columbus’ Cole Sillinger is tied with Auston Matthews, so that’s another name to consider in deep leagues. Sillinger has eight points (6 G, 2 A) and 25 shots on goal in his past 10 games.