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NHL: CULLEN – 20 FANTASY POINTS – Sharangovich, Zacha, DeSmith, Andersen, Benn, Guenther, Duclair and much more

SAINT PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 14: Calgary Flames center Yegor Sharangovich (17) skates with the puck during the NHL game between the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild on December 14th, 2023, at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN. (Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire)

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

This week, Yegor Sharangovich is heating up again for the Flames, Pavel Zacha is streaking in Boston, Casey DeSmith gets very important in Vancouver, Frederik Andersen returns in fine form, Jamie Benn is thriving with young linemates and much, much more!

#1 It is not the first time this season that Yegor Sharangovich of the Calgary Flames has deserved the interest of fantasy managers. He scored his 28th goal of the season against Vegas on Thursday, his eighth goal in as many games. He is centering a line with journeyman Dryden Hunt on the left side and rookie Matt Coronato on the other, which does not seem like an ideal situation for elevated scoring numbers, but Sharangovich continues to produce, with 11 points (8 G, 3 A) in the past eight games.

#2 Boston Bruins centre Pavel Zacha assisted on Danton Heinen’s goal in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime win at Montreal, extending his point streak to six games. He has nine points (5 G, 4 A) during that stretch and is centering a line with Heinen and David Pastrnak, which is at least a halfway exciting path to production. In deeper leagues, this makes Zacha a viable fantasy option. The Bruins have patched together a productive centre ice group this season, with Zacha, Charlie Coyle, and Morgan Geekie, and Zacha is making the most of his opportunity.

#3 Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. That is going to thrust Casey DeSmith into an important role in the meantime and it’s coming at a time when DeSmith has been struggling. In nine appearances since the Christmas break, DeSmith has a .864 save percentage, which is obviously not going to cut it getting regular starts for a contending team. Arturs Silovs has been called up to be DeSmith’s backup but he should not be needed if DeSmith is playing well.

#4 In Carolina, goaltender Frederik Andersen has been stellar in three starts since missing four months of action. Admittedly, Carolina’s team defence is rock solid in front of him but, after shutting out the Florida Panthers on Thursday, Andersen has stopped 63 of 66 shots in those three starts, which is good for a .955 save percentage. If Andersen can just be steady in Carolina’s net, there will likely be less of an urgent need for Pyotr Kochetkov, though the Hurricanes have proved in recent years that they can never have enough healthy bodies between the pipes.

#5 Sometimes a veteran player can use a shot of energy and that appears to be the case with Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn. The 34-year-old left winger has been playing with second-year centre Wyatt Johnston and rookie right winger Logan Stankoven and it’s working for them. In his past seven games, Benn has 10 points (2 G, 8 A) and 18 shots on goal. He’s not quite vintage Jamie Benn, but well worth considering for fantasy managers.

#6 It can be easy for a young winger to get overlooked when he plays for the Arizona Coyotes, but Dylan Guenther is scoring enough to generate interest. In the month of March, the 20-year-old winger has delivered seven points (3 G, 4 A) with 23 shots on goal in eight games. He is playing with Lawson Crouse and Logan Cooley as well as playing on Arizona’s top power play unit. Guenther has already established a reputation for the release on his shot so it’s a good thing that he is using it, recording at least three shots on goal in seven of his past 10 games.

#7 Moving to Tampa Bay sure appears to have been a positive experience for Anthony Duclair, who was hot in his final days with San Jose and has continued to score after getting traded to the Lightning. Duclair has two goals, one assist, and six shots on goal in his first two games for Tampa Bay, giving him 11 points (6 G, 5 A) in his past seven games overall. He is playing with Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli, which is a quality situation, setting up the well-traveled winger for a strong finish to the season.

#8 Veteran playmaking winger Teuvo Teravainen has had some ups and downs along the way with the Carolina Hurricanes, but when he’s healthy, he has shown that he can score. The Hurricanes have him on the top line with Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov and Teravainen has 11 points (4 G, 7 A) and 22 shots on goal in his past nine games. With 21 goals this season, he is two away from matching his career high of 23, set during the 2017-2018 season. Teravainen is averaging under two shots on goal per game, which would be his first time since 2015-2016 under that threshold, but he does have 16 shots on goal in his past five games, so that could be moving in the right direction.

#9 With the Buffalo Sabres suddenly proving to be a competent team in front of goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, the Sabres netminder is providing big value down the stretch. After his 21-save shutout against the Islanders on Thursday, Luukkonen has a .931 save percentage across his past 22 starts. From a fantasy perspective, that is already great, but the fact that he has 13 wins in those starts raises Luukkonen’s ceiling. Incidentally, with Luukkonen crushing it in the NHL, Devon Levi is getting a chance to find his game in the AHL and he is rocking a .926 save percentage in 18 games for Rochester. That bodes well for Buffalo’s future in net.

#10 As the Minnesota Wild try to chase down a playoff spot, and with Filip Gustavsson going through a tough season (posting a .894 save percentage after he had a .931 mark in 2022-2023), 39-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury has been stepping up his game. Fleury only needed to make 16 saves in Thursday’s shutout win against Anaheim and has a .934 save percentage to go with five wins in his past six starts.

#11 It has been a difficult season for Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk, the 27-year-old forward who has an expiring contract which will take him to unrestricted free agency in the summer. He had two points in a 15-game span from late January through early March, but DeBrusk is busting that slump. In six games since then, he has seven points (3 G, 4 A) and 17 shots on goal. He is skating with Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle and DeBrusk buried the overtime winner against Montreal on Thursday.

#12 His offensive output probably limits his appeal to deeper leagues, but St. Louis Blues veteran left winger Brandon Saad has hit the 20-goal threshold for the seventh time in his career. In his past dozen games, Saad has 10 points (6 G, 4 A) and 22 shots on goal.  He plays with Kevin Hayes and Kasperi Kapanen at even strength, which may not necessarily be a recipe for ongoing success, but Saad is forcing fantasy managers to pay attention.

#13 There have not been a lot of positives to take away from this San Jose Sharks season, but it does appear that the Sharks are finding out that right winger Fabian Zetterlund can legitimately fill a role as a scoring winger. In his past eight games, Zetterlund has eight points (2 G, 6 A) and 21 shots on goal. He is skating on San Jose’s top line as well as its No. 1 power play unit. Even on a team as weak as the Sharks, that makes Zetterlund worth considering.

#14 After he scored 40 goals last season, New Jersey Devils winger Timo Meier is a far cry from that pace this season, but he is doing his best to salvage the season with his improving production. In his past 10 games, Meier has 14 points (9 G, 5 A) and 36 shots on goal. That’s more like it.

#15 Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault has been a productive scoring winger for years, this being the seventh season in which he topped 20 goals and the third time in his career that he scored 30. But Marchessault is on a tear that he has not ventured near in his previous NHL seasons. In the past two months, he has scored 20 goals in the past 23 games, giving him a career-high 37 goals in 66 games. While Jack Eichel has assisted four of those goals since recently returning to the lineup, Nicolas Roy had 10 assists on the most recent 20 Marchessault goals.

#16 Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Cam York is taking on a bigger role, averaging 23:31 of ice time per game in the past nine contests. In those nine games, he has produced seven points (3 G, 4 A) and 18 shots on goal. He is anchoring Philadelphia’s top power play unit, and the 23-year-old appears to be successfully handling the greater responsibility.

#17 Minnesta Wild centre Joel Eriksson Ek has been having an outstanding season, already scoring a career-high 29 goals, but he has suffered a lower-body injury and will be out of the lineup. While he’s out, Ryan Hartman should return to centre the Wild’s top line and Hartman does have 10 points (2 G, 8 A) and 25 shots on goal in his past 11 games. That has moved Hartman to 38 points (17 G, 21 A), the second highest total of his career, though still far behind his 65-point season in 2021-2022.

#18 While the Buffalo Sabres are playing competitive hockey recently, right winger Alex Tuch has mustered just one goal and zero assists in his past seven games. Do not lose the faith, Tuch managers, because even if he has been slumping, Tuch still has 23 shots on goal in those seven games and first line forwards who are generating more than three shots on goal per game are going to find ways to put up points. It is interesting that Tuch’s shot rate this season has been lower – 2.57 per game is his lowest per-game rate since 2019-2020 – back when he was playing less than 15 minutes per game for Vegas, as opposed to the 19-plus minutes per game that he plays now.

#19 As the Detroit Red Wings’ season is spinning out of control, losing seven straight games, scoring winger Alex DeBrincat is mired in a slump, too, with zero goals and one assist in those seven games. Not having Dylan Larkin in the lineup is surely a factor, but this is a bad time for a slump. It’s also worth noting that he had a 10-game goalless drought early in 2024. Goal scorers are streaky but it’s also tough to see DeBrincat’s even-strength scoring in decline. He had 27 even-strength goals with Chicago in 2021-2022 and now has 13 even-strength goals in 66 games for Detroit this season.

#20 The leaders in all-situations individual expected goals in the month of March: Kirill Kaprizov (4.70), Alexander Nylander (4.57), John Tavares (4.43), Wyatt Johnston (4.36), Sam Reinhart (4.31), Andrei Svechnikov (4.22), Connor Bedard (3.99), Nico Hischier (3.75), Jake DeBrusk (3.68), Zach Hyman (3.63), Sidney Crosby (3.60), and Marco Rossi (3.56). Crosby and Rossi have zero goals while Hischier has one, so those players are coming up short relative to their expected goals. Kaprizov has buried eight goals while Wyatt Johnston or Zach Hyman have both scored six.

Perhaps the most interesting name here is Alexander Nylander, a player who has been bouncing around trying to earn a regular spot in the league and, at the very least, he is getting ample opportunity in Columbus and he does have eight points (6 G, 2 A) in 10 games for the Blue Jackets.