2019’s fantasy hockey resolutions

We’ve put 2018 in the books, but there’s still more than half of this NHL regular season still to be played. Fantasy managers would be wise to use the flip of the calendar to 2019 to reboot or refresh their fantasy squads. In that spirit, let’s take a tour around the league in addressing one quick, fantasy-relevant “resolution” that can be taken away from each team. Perhaps some of these new ways of looking at things will have a bit more staying power than your typical resolutions.

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Give Getzlaf a break

Anaheim Ducks captain hasn’t enjoyed the most fruitful of holiday seasons, with a not-so-grand total of zero points (minus-seven) in five recent games, as he rotates through a series of inexperienced forwards in Pontus Aberg, Daniel Sprong, and Kiefer Sherwood. On the bright side, Ryan Getzlaf won’t be without Rickard Rakell on his flank for very much longer. Out since early December with an ankle injury, Rakell is due back any day now. Still, perhaps it would be wise to give Getzlaf a “rest” on your fantasy bench until Rakell’s return.

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Richardson worth a look

Of note for DFS, veteran Brad Richardson is filling in on a scoring line for Nick Schmaltz, who was placed on IR with a lower-body injury. While seeing top-six minutes on Wednesday versus the Oilers, Richardson scored the Coyotes‘ only goal of the game on five total shots during 18:28 of ice-time. GPP competitors might find the 33-year-old to be an appealing outside-the-box asset until Schmaltz’s return.

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Take Tuukka for a spin

Stuck in a time-share with Jaroslav Halak, veteran Tuukka Rask was simply superb in his team’s 4-2 Winter Classic win over the Blackhawks. Now the career Bruin is projected to start his third-straight game against the Flames on Thursday. There might be a “seizing of the reins” here as the Bruins approach the season’s midpoint. Another strong showing from Rask might mean fewer opportunities for Halak in the foreseeable future.

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Eichel’s absence opens a door

Listed day-to-day with an upper-body injury, Jack Eichel is expected to miss at least the next couple of contests for the Buffalo Sabres. Consequently, Evan Rodrigues appears to be “first up” to get a chance at Eichel’s role of top center between wingers Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart. If you’re keen on a dark-horse DFS asset over the next few days, Rodrigues could be your guy.

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Flock to Frolik’s fresh start

Since sitting Saturday out as a healthy scratch, Michael Frolik has scored a goal and tallied two assists in a pair of games. He’s also back aside top-six linemates Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund. While Frolik will never light up your fantasy roster like other Calgary Flames skaters, he might be worth a short-term investment in extra-deep leagues following this recent reboot.

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Carolina concerns call for cuts

Sitting out the Carolina Hurricanes‘ last four matchups (after missing two full weeks earlier in December), Jordan Staal appears to have suffered his second concussion within a month. That’s a real worry — and not only for the veteran center himself, but for Carolina’s offense as a whole. In particular, Staal’s regular winger Justin Williams may be hugely impacted here. Outside of top forward Sebastian Aho, linemate Teuvo Teravainen, and promising rookie Andrei Svechnikov, there isn’t much to like for fantasy from Hurricanes skaters at present.

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“Erik the Able” now on the table

Bumped up to the Chicago Blackhawks‘ top power-play unit, Erik Gustafsson has now had 10 points in 10 games, including two goals and two assists with the extra skater. Seeing top-pair minutes alongside Duncan Keith, he’s also on hand to block the odd shot (60 total for the season). Rostered in only 5.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Gustafsson currently vaults over both Keith and Brent Seabrook as a blue-line fantasy asset in Chicago.

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Come and check out Compher

Outside of Colorado’s big three — Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog — there’s little fantasy consistency to enjoy up front with the Avalanche. Still, forward J.T. Compher boasts some potential as a recent regular on the No. 1 power-play unit. Largely available in ESPN.com leagues, Compher could merit a look in deeper leagues that reward points with the man-advantage, as those are at a premium.

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Making sure the Jackets fit

GM Jarmo Kekalainen recently told reporters that he wouldn’t rule out trading pending free agents Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin if that’s what he feels makes the most sense for the Columbus Blue Jackets by this year’s deadline. Kekalainen also wouldn’t dismiss keeping both players as the club’s own “rentals” for a potentially successful push through the postseason, if that’s how it shapes up. Fantasy managers invested in Bobrovsky in particular should keep an eye on how this situation unfolds over the coming weeks, as the current No. 1 goalie’s workload might not be as heavy should he end up joining another contending club.

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The D in DFS?

Whether or not you approve of the approach, the Dallas Stars are 2-0-1 since the expletive-riddled undressing of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin by CEO Jim Lites to close out 2018. The club’s top two forwards have also combined for four goals and two assists on 26 shots in those three contests, despite Benn missing most of that third game with an injury believed to be of the minor variety. The fantasy takeaway here — with Benn, Seguin, and Alexander Radulov overwhelmingly spoken for across all fantasy formats — is that this latest “calling to the carpet” might actually result in improved team play at both ends of the ice, and more total wins. If so, goalies Ben Bishop and backup Anton Khudobin should both benefit. Khudobin has been super of late when called upon, posting a 49-save shutout against the Predators in his last outing.

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Prepare for the month of Mantha

After losing most of December to a broken hand resulting from a fight with Colorado’s Patrik Nemeth, winger Anthony Mantha is projected to re-join the Detroit Red Wings lineup Friday against the visiting Predators. Following a ho-hum start to the season, Mantha had been warming up in November with six goals and three assists in nine games. Fantasy managers who have been stashing the forward on IR should start him immediately. The 24-year-old will feel antsy to contribute after sitting out for so long.

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Chase Chiasson?

Recovering from a minor knee injury, Alex Chiasson could return as early as Saturday in Los Angeles. At that point, the 28-year-old winger is expected to reclaim his post on the Edmonton Oilers‘ top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, replacing plug-in Ty Rattie. Before getting hurt on Dec. 27, Chiasson had collected five goals and two assists (including two power-play points) in eight contests alongside McDavid. There’s value here, especially in deeper leagues.

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Pounce on Borgstrom

It appears the 21-year-old rookie is in line for a least two more games in the Florida Panthers‘ top-six. With Nick Bjugstad likely to miss the weekend, Henrik Borgstrom remains fixed on a scoring unit with winger Mike Hoffman, from which he has scored two goals in his past three contests. Before getting the mid-December call, the promising University of Denver alum averaged nearly 1.0 point-per-game in his first AHL tour. Already worthy of consideration in deeper dynasty leagues, Borgstrom should remain on the radar for gutsy DFS players as well.

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Don’t overlook Campbell

Jack Campbell is a good goaltender. He had proven as much in previously limited play with the Kings. Unlike previous seasons, though, this time around Campbell has earned his share of starts due to Jonathan Quick‘s bouts of poor health. The 2010 first-round pick showed marked improvement through the first half of November, surrendering only five goals in four starts before falling hurt himself. Campbell is once again healthy and proved as much this week in a narrow loss to Vegas where he stopped 46-of-47 shots. Keep Campbell around for spot-starts or even more usage when Quick inevitably falls injured again.

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Buy into Byron

Paul Byron is earning the chance to produce on Montreal’s top line alongside Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin. In this position, the diminutive winger could pay out fantasy dividends as he helps to fill your injury-induced roster holes in deeper leagues. Byron has been known to “light it up” for inspired stretches of time. Also of note is that forward Andrew Shaw, a top-line asset not that long ago, has been placed on IR with a neck/head issue.

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Praise for Parise

Right now he’s “only” on pace for 38, but have a little faith. October was a bit dry for him but Zach Parise is currently healthier than he’s been in ages. His current pace also has him landing near 260 shots before season’s end. Playing on both a scoring line and Minnesota’s top power play, the 34-year-old sniper has averaged 18:31 minutes of ice-time through December. Parise is available in one-half of ESPN.com leagues. That needs to change.

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Smart to seek Saros

Following a run of inconsistent play up until mid-December, promising young netminder Juuse Saros appears to have rediscovered his groove. One shutout win, one 2-1 shootout victory (33 saves), and one solid performance in relief should give you confidence in Saros moving forward. More of the same will allow the Nashville Predators the freedom to spell Pekka Rinne, who has not been all that great of late, a little more often down the stretch. That’s a key objective in keeping their No. 1 goalie relatively fresh ahead of a potentially long postseason run. So yes, expect more Saros in the second half.

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Delve into some devilish options

If you’re interested in an uncommon DFS asset from New Jersey, forward Jesper Bratt has had a goal and an assist in two recent games filling in for Taylor Hall on the team’s top line. While Hall is not expected to be out for very much longer, at last check, he hadn’t travelled with the Devils out west. If you’re keen on a dark-horse netminder for DFS, Mackenzie Blackwood has been super — with three wins in four post-Christmas starts, including two shutouts! Just be forewarned that his most recent outing — a 5-4 loss to Dallas — wasn’t as impressive.

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Lean on Lehner

This is the dominant showing that fantasy pundits had been hoping for when the 27-year-old first joined the New York Islanders. He’s now the winner of five-straight games, including a Saturday night shutout over the mighty Maple Leafs. Robin Lehner has allowed only three goals over this span. How is he available in 99 percent of ESPN.com leagues?

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Call on Kreider

Those familiar with the feisty 2009 first-rounder know what a handful he can be when he’s fully jazzed up and tuned in. Now is one of those times for Chris Kreider. Recently promoted to a top line with Mika Zibanejad, the 27-year-old has six goals and three assists in eight games for the New York Rangers and is already up to 20 goals on the season. Available in more than one-third of ESPN.com leagues, Kreider has value right now — and it just might last.

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Enjoy “Lajoie de vivre”

With Thomas Chabot on the shelf with an upper-body injury, fellow young defenseman Maxime Lajoie takes over anchoring duties on the Ottawa Senators‘ top power play. After launching his first NHL season with four goals and three assists in six games, Lajoie has quieted significantly. However, this assignment might be just what he needed to get back to form. Chabot, meanwhile, is projected to be out until late January.

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Avoid that hole in your Hart

We love the idea of Carter Hart helping to turn fortunes around for the struggling, underachieving Philadelphia Flyers. We really do! However, it’s probably too much to ask of the talented rookie right now. Getting yanked on New Year’s Eve after allowing three goals on 10 shots won’t help his confidence much, either. Unless your dynasty league is viciously deep — in which case you can stash the gifted 20-year-old for future use — hold off on Hart for now. Veteran Brian Elliott is due back this month anyway.

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Return to Schultz upon his return

Recovering on schedule from a broken leg, Justin Schultz is due back for the Pittsburgh Penguins, potentially in as soon as three weeks. Rostered in 43.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues, the offensive-minded defenseman may be worth snagging well before then. Once he’s up to speed, the 28-year-old is a lock to anchor the Penguins’ secondary power play, while also contributing at even-strength. Should anything happen to top producer Kris Letang, Schultz would be first in line to fill in on Pittsburgh’s top unit again, just as he has done in the past.

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These are not your average Joes

After spending most of this season playing apart, Joe Pavelski (shifted to the wing) and Joe Thornton have finally reunited on the same scoring line. This shuffling bodes best for Thornton, who hasn’t enjoyed a very productive campaign after losing most of October to injury. Skating alongside his familiar partner up front — and the San Jose Sharks‘ leading scorer with 24 goals, no less — should provide a boost. At present, Thronton is available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues. He may be pushing 40, but he still averaged 0.77 points per game just last year.

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Pick up Pietrangelo’s potential

After sitting out most of December with a hand injury that required surgery, Alex Pietrangelo is back in action for the St. Louis Blues, getting time as a top-pair defenseman and an asset with the secondary unit on special teams. However, unless Vince Dunn starts contributing in a hurry, the elder defenseman may soon take over the youngster’s role on the Blues’ No. 1 power-play unit. Dunn has failed to put up any power-play points since Pietrangelo went down. St. Louis is performing below its talent level at present, so look for an all-around improvement in 2019. The point is, Pietrangelo might make for a decent fantasy trade target right now.

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Time to try Tyler

Skating consistently on a scoring line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, forward Tyler Johnson had eight goals and five assists in 14 games in December, including four goals in his last quartet of games for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yet, somehow, Johnson remains available in nearly half of ESPN.com contests. You should resolve to fix this inequity.

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What you need (if you need a goalie)

With Frederik Andersen still nursing an injured groin and back-up Garret Sparks also shelved after a run through the league’s concussion protocol, former Panther/Jet Michael Hutchinson appears set to make his first start for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Wild on Thursday. Career minor-leaguer Kasimir Kaskisuo is projected to dress as his backup. If everything goes as planned, Hutchinson should be back between the pipes on Saturday versus the visiting Canucks. If so, DFS competitors in GPP action might consider taking a chance on the 28-year-old. He’s enjoyed his moments in seasons past and, goodness knows, Toronto’s forwards can score.

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Markstrom making a mark

One of the hottest netminders in the NHL, Jacob Markstrom has lost just once in 10 starts since the end of November for the Vancouver Canucks. Still, he’s rostered in only 12.9 percent of ESPN.com leagues. At a bare minimum, Markstrom is worth your time as a plug in until his next inevitable cooling down period comes along.

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Pick a side with Pirri

It’s a happy problem for the Vegas Golden Knights, as it were. Since he was brought up to replace an injured Max Pacioretty on the No. 2 scoring line, Brandon Pirri has six goals and three assists in seven games. Before that, he was lighting it up in the AHL with 41 points over 28 contests. However, Pacioretty is nearing a return, which will force the Knights to make a decision. Maybe they’ll skate the former Montreal sniper on the No. 3 line until Pirri starts to cool. Maybe they’ll demote the 27-year-old immediately, since playing another three games in the NHL would require him to pass through waivers. Pirri is rostered in only 0.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues, but if things fall in his favor, he could be with Vegas for a long time.

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Pheonix on the rise

Averaging approximately one start per week, Pheonix Copley is now 9-2-1 on the season. He’s laid only one true egg — a 5-4 decision the Washington Capitals still managed to win in overtime against the Canadiens back on Nov. 19 — since early October. The 26-year-old has won six-straight contests, while rocking a .944 save percentage through December. He has value as either a handcuff option to Braden Holtby — who could be spelled off more often as the season wears on — or as a DFS candidate.

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Don’t Byfuglien yourself

While Dustin Byfuglien recuperates from a lower-body injury over the next four-plus weeks, fellow Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey volunteers as tribute on the top pairing and power play. Rostered in only 49.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues, the talented 23-year-old has a place in all but the shallowest of leagues. In his first full game as Byfuglien’s stand-in, Morrissey collected an assist while clocking 26:28 minutes of ice-time.

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