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NHL: THE FANTASY WEEK AHEAD (January 22nd to 28th) – Oilers dominating – Teams and players to target

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 21: Left wing Zach Hyman (18) is congratulated by Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) after scoring a goal during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on January 21, 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire)

Edmonton is playing some of its best hockey since the start of the Connor McDavid era, which is quite the turnaround from its 2-9-1 start to the campaign. After earning a 4-2 victory over Seattle on Thursday, the Oilers have now won 12 straight, bringing their record up to 25-15-1.

Let’s start with the winning streak itself. Already the longest in Edmonton’s history, it’s also in an eight-way tie for 12th on the all-time list. Two more victories would put the Oilers in a three-way tie for fifth place while the record stands at 17, which was set by Pittsburgh from March 9-April 10, 1993.

But it’s more than just the fact that Edmonton’s winning, it’s how the Oilers are doing so. Edmonton eked out one-goal wins on the road against Chicago, Detroit and Montreal from Jan. 9-13, and then the Oilers overcame 2-0 deficits to beat Toronto and Seattle in their last two contests. While you can argue the games being close or necessitating a comeback is a sign of weakness, it also shows resilience. Especially this deep into the streak, it demonstrates that Edmonton hasn’t become complacent. Perhaps it comes from hard lessons learned during the shaky start to the campaign, perhaps it’s thanks to the teachings of new head coach Kris Knoblauch, who has now started his NHL career with a 22-6-0 record, but whatever the cause, it’s something Edmonton will aim to hold onto during the second half of the campaign and into the playoffs -- a postseason run that seemed unlikely to happen back in early November.

The run also speaks to how much the team has grown beyond being just about McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They’ve done their part to be sure -- McDavid has 59 points in 39 contests while Draisaitl has 50 in 41 -- but for the first time since 2015-16, someone other than McDavid or Draisaitl might win the team’s goal-scoring race. Zach Hyman currently has a comfortable lead on both of them with 27 tallies (along with 17 assists) in 40 contests. Edmonton also has four players past the 40-point mark while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is on the cusp of making it five with 11 goals and 39 points in 41 outings. Contrast that with even just two years ago (2021-22) when McDavid and Draisaitl finished with 123 and 110 points, respectively, but no other player had more than 54.

On top of that, Edmonton has been one of the best defensive teams dating back to Nov. 11, allowing just 2.45 goals per game.

Of course, this discussion would have been very different two and a half months ago, and it might change again in April. For now, at least, the Oilers have manufactured optimism where there was little before, and doing so has been a true team effort.

Arizona Coyotes – MON VS PIT, WED @ FLA, THU @ TBL (BTB), SAT @ CAR

The Coyotes will start the week at home against Pittsburgh before beginning a three-game road trip that will take them to Florida on Wednesday, Tampa Bay on Thursday and Carolina on Saturday. Of all the teams highlighted this week, Arizona arguably has one of the toughest batches of opponents, but the busy schedule still makes the Coyotes worthy of note.

Nick Schmaltz (undisclosed) might miss time next week after getting hurt Tuesday. If he does, then Dylan Guenther might get plenty of work. The 20-year-old logged a season-high 18:06 of ice time Thursday, including 2:39 with the man advantage. Guenther has two goals and three points in six contests in 2023-24, but he has plenty of offensive upside, which he’s showcased in the AHL this season, contributing 10 goals and 28 points in 29 outings with Tucson.

Schmaltz’s absence would also put more pressure on Clayton Keller, but he seems up to the task. Keller has 17 goals and 39 points in 43 appearances in 2023-24 and has been especially good lately, providing four goals and eight points over his past six contests.

In net, it will be interesting to see how Karel Vejmelka does this week. Vejmelka started the campaign splitting the goaltending duties fairly evenly with Connor Ingram. However, Ingram has taken a bigger share of the duties as the season’s progressed, and that process has been accelerated by Vejmelka’s recent struggles -- he's recorded a 4.88 GAA and an .852 save percentage over his past four contests. With a back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday, Vejmelka should get at least one start, but if he continues to flounder like he has, then Ingram might cement his hold on the top job.

Boston Bruins – MON VS WPG, WED VS CAR, THU @ OTT (BTB), SAT @ PHI

Boston is set to host the Jets on Monday and the Hurricanes on Wednesday. After that stretch, they’ll have games in Ottawa on Thursday and Philadelphia on Saturday. Three of those four contests are against playoff contenders, but the Senators are in the Eastern Conference basement, so that’s an extremely favorable matchup.

The Bruins have gotten Linus Ullmark back from a lower-body injury, so he should resume splitting the netminding duties with Jeremy Swayman. It would not be surprising to see each goaltender take two of the starts this week.

Brandon Carlo (upper body) is also getting close to returning. With two goals and 10 points in 39 contests this season, he’s not a great fantasy option, but he does have some utility in certain formats thanks to his plus-15 rating, 22 PIM, 51 hits and 71 blocks. Carlo’s anticipated return might also push Mason Lohrei or Parker Wotherspoon out of the lineup.

When it comes to hot players, David Pastrnak has been playing out of his mind, providing nine goals and 19 points over his past 11 contests. Keep an eye on who is playing with him because that does change. Presently, Charlie Coyle is centering his line, which led to him collecting a pair of assists on Pastrnak goals Thursday. Coyle is up to 15 markers and 34 points in 44 appearances this year, including five goals and 13 points over his past 12 outings.


The Flames have just three games ahead of them, but all three games are at home against teams unlikely to make the payoffs. They’ll get the toughest matchup out of the way first when they host the Blues on Tuesday. Afterward, Calgary will face the lowly Blue Jackets on Thursday and Blackhawks on Saturday.

The big X-Factor is whether Jacob Markstrom (lower body) will be healthy for that stretch after missing his second straight contest on Thursday. If he can’t, then Dan Vladar is worthy of a pickup, provided he’s available. Sure, Vladar has had a rough campaign with a 3.35 GAA and an .885 save percentage in 15 contests, but none of the Flames’ upcoming opponents are particularly good offensively, and Chicago in particular ranks 31st with just 2.18 goals per game, so this might be a good stretch for Vladar.

Up front, Blake Coleman is continuing to excel with five goals and eight points over his last five contests, elevating him to 20 tallies and 38 points in 45 appearances this season. Just two of his points have come on the power play, but that’s largely because he’s averaged just 0:47 with the man advantage. However, his sustained success has helped him secure a regular role on the second power-play unit, so we might see him be a bit more productive on special teams in the second half.

Yegor Sharangovich is also on a crazy run with seven goals over his past five games. Through 45 contests this year, he has 19 goals and 32 points. His hot streak has likely ensured that he’ll finish the campaign with a new personal best in goals (presently his career high is 24 from 2021-22), but it should be cautioned that he’s a somewhat streaky goal scorer and this hot run might be followed by a prolonged slump.

Columbus Blue Jackets – TUE @ EDM, THU @ CGY, SAT @ VAN, SUN @ SEA

Columbus’ upcoming schedule is far from ideal, but at least it’s eventful with four games on the docket next week. The Blue Jackets will play in Edmonton on Tuesday, Calgary on Thursday, Vancouver on Saturday and Seattle on Sunday.

The big news regarding the Blue Jackets revolves around goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, who requested a trade. He hasn’t exactly excelled this campaign with a 3.22 GAA and a .906 save percentage in 24 contests, which is a problem given his $5.4 million cap hit through 2026-27. At a surface glance, that might shy off some teams, but an argument can be made that Merzlikins has been better than his numbers suggest.

Columbus ranks 31st with 3.51 xGA/60, which suggests the team in front of him has been terrible defensively. If you look at Merzlikins specifically, he has 0.9 Goals Saved Above Expected, so by that metric, he’s been modestly above average. A trade to a better defensive team -- aka nearly any other squad -- would bolster Merzlikins’ numbers, so there’s an argument to be made that this would be a good time to consider getting him cheap. Keep in mind, though, that it’s a risky strategy because a trade isn’t guaranteed.

Adam Boqvist might also be a buy-low candidate. Injuries have limited him to seven assists in 17 contests this season, but he’s healthy now and has registered four assists over his past four appearances.

You could also consider taking a chance on Dmitri Voronkov next week. The 23-year-old rookie scored twice against Vancouver on Monday, bringing him up to nine goals and 22 points in 38 outings. Although his playing time has been somewhat limited in 2023-24 (an average of 13:18), he has been getting regular minutes on the Blue Jackets’ top power-play unit lately.

Edmonton Oilers – TUE VS CBJ, THU VS CHI, SAT VS NSH

As noted above, with a 4-2 victory over Seattle on Thursday, Edmonton extended its winning streak to 12 games. The Oilers still need to face Calgary on Saturday, so the streak might not be active by the start of next week, but regardless they’re red hot and have three extremely winnable matchups coming up. The Oilers will host the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the Blackhawks on Thursday and the Predators on Saturday. Of those three teams, Nashville is the only one with playoff hopes.

Stuart Skinner improved to 20-9-1 with a 2.59 GAA and a .904 save percentage in 31 outings this season. His GAA and save percentage have been heavily skewed downwards due to his first eight games in which he posted a 3.87 GAA and an .854 save percentage. More recently, he’s held the competition to two or fewer goals in each of his last eight starts, making him one of the hottest goaltenders in the league.

Of course, he’s no longer available in most fantasy leagues. One player who might be available, though, is Warren Foegele. The 27-year-old forward has been inconsistent this season, but he’s been alright overall with nine goals and 23 points in 41 contests. More importantly, Foegele is currently playing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane and should be in line for a strong week so long as he maintains that spot.

Florida Panthers – MON @ NSH, WED VS ARI, FRI @ PIT, SAT @ NYI (BTB)

The Panthers will begin the week in Nashville for a contest Monday before returning home to play against the Coyotes on Wednesday. Florida will play on the road against the Penguins and Islanders on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Those adversaries are middling squads in the conversation for the playoffs but are not presently viewed as serious Cup contenders.

Florida was also highlighted last week, and I noted at the time how Sam Reinhart’s sky-high shooting percentage might not be as huge of a red flag as it initially seems due to his tendency to be economical about when he fires the puck. Reinhart’s shooting percentage has since climbed higher from 27.5 to 27.7 and his goal-scoring streak stands at eight straight.

With 33 tallies in 44 games, Reinhart is now on pace to surpass the 60-goal milestone, and while I don’t expect him to do that, 50 doesn’t seem like a stretch at this point.

Meanwhile, Matthew Tkachuk is also having a great time, collecting seven goals and 20 points over his past 12 outings. That gives him 12 goals and 42 points in 44 contests despite a stretch from Nov. 16-Dec. 14 in which he had just two goals and three points through 14 contests. That slump aside, Tkachuk has been a very consistent scoring threat over the last few years, so I don’t expect him to have another cold spell at that level this season.

You might want to keep goaltender Anthony Stolarz in the back of your mind. He’s been a solid backup this campaign with a 6-3-2 record, 2.22 GAA and .913 save percentage in 12 appearances in 2023-24 and will likely start in one half of Florida’s back-to-back set against Pittsburgh and the Islanders.

Los Angeles Kings – MON VS SJS, WED VS BUF, FRI @ COL, SUN @ STL

The Kings will host the Sharks on Monday and the Sabres on Wednesday before their road games against Colorado on Friday and St. Louis on Sunday. The Avalanche are a top-tier team, but the Sharks sit in the NHL’s basement while the remaining two squads aren’t in playoff positions.

LA might still have a difficult time, though, after dropping 10 of their last 11 games. The Kings could really use more out of Pierre-Luc Dubois in particular. He has nine goals and 19 points in 42 contests after scoring 27 goals and 63 points in 73 outings with the Jets in 2022-23. That’s certainly not what the Kings had in mind when they traded for him over the summer.

It’s a situation that might not improve, though. Dubois averaged 18:27 of ice time with Winnipeg last season, but that’s dropped to 15:52 with the Kings. The problem is that the competition up the middle is fierce between him, Phillip Danault and Anze Kopitar, which has led to Dubois serving in a third-line capacity. On top of that, Dubois is presently on the second power-play unit and has just two points with the man advantage after finishing 2022-23 with 23. Unless something changes, Dubois’ second half could very well be about as unproductive as the first.

Quinton Byfield has a better shot at improving his fortunes. He has just four goals and nine points over his past 19 contests, which stands in contrast to his eight goals and 21 points across his first 23 games of the campaign. It’s not unusual for young forwards to be particularly streaky, though, and the 21-year-old is still a member of the top line and first power-play unit, so it should just be a matter of time before he starts heating up again.

Cam Talbot should bounce back too. Although he has a solid 14-11-5 record, 2.43 GAA and .915 save percentage in 30 appearances, the 36-year-old goaltender has hit a rough patch in which he’s surrendered at least three goals in each of his last five outings. The Sharks rank at the bottom of the league offensively, though (1.98 goals per game), so that might be an opportunity for him to snap out of that cold spell.

Vegas Golden Knights – MON @ NJD, TUE @ NYI (BTB), FRI @ NYR, SAT @ DET (BTB)

Vegas will be on the road all next week with games against the Devils on Monday, the Islanders on Tuesday, the Rangers on Friday and the Red Wings on Saturday. Injuries have significantly hampered the Devils, so this isn’t quite as tough a stretch as it would have been earlier in the season.

Speaking of injuries, Vegas is likely to get Adin Hill back at some point next week. He hasn’t played since Dec. 17 but was fantastic before getting hurt, posting a 10-2-2 record, 1.93 GAA and .933 save percentage in 15 appearances this season. Once he returns, Logan Thompson will go from starting in the vast majority of games to around 40-50 percent of Vegas’ contests, so his fantasy value will naturally take a bit of a hit.

However, Vegas is going to continue to lean heavily on Chandler Stephenson for at least a little while longer. Jack Eichel (knee) is set to miss four-to-six weeks while William Karlsson (lower body) isn’t expected to return before the All-Star break. Once they’re all healthy, Stephenson might slide down to the third line, but for now, he’s the team’s headline center.

Nicolas Roy is also seeing increased responsibilities because of the injuries. Although he averaged 14:44 of ice time over his first 29 contests this season, Roy has logged over 16 minutes in each of his last four games. The 26-year-old is starting to take advantage of the opportunity, registering three assists over his past two appearances.