Lately it feels like I can’t have a conversation about hockey without discussing the Colorado Avalanche. The "new kids on the block" so to say, have taken both the NHL and fantasy leagues by storm.
Through 10 games Patrick Roy’s club has 9 wins, while scoring 32 goals and allowing only 14. That is a differential of 18, the second best the league (behind only San Jose). What makes these numbers even more remarkable is they come on the heels of a 29th place finish in 2012-13. They finished ahead of only one team, the Panthers, and were awarded the first overall pick (Nathan Mackinnon) via the lottery.
In fantasy, managers have been scooping up Avalanche forwards like discount Halloween candy on November 1st. Players like Duchene, Landeskog, and MacKinnon are being valued as high end fantasy assets, core pieces poolies can build around. While others like Parenteau, Tanguay, O’Reilly, and Downie are carrying significant value as offensive depth and reliable veterans.
The problem (sadly, there is a problem), is that outside of Matt Duchene none of the players listed above has been that incredible to start the year. MacKinnon has 7 points in 10 games, very respectable for a rookie, but with only 22 shots and limited ice time per game (13:28) his value in one year leagues isn’t massive.
A quick look at Duchene’s stat line reveals he currently has a shooting percentage of 25.8%, more than 10% higher than his career average. Even though this looks to be his breakout campaign, those numbers will regress over time.
Tanguay and Parenteau have both amassed 4 assists and 7 points through 10 games. They’ll be a nice source of points, although neither will be a threat to break 180 shots.
Steve Downie is an interesting case, since he can fill nearly all categories, much in the same way as Brandon Dubinsky or Wayne Simmonds. If Steve is healthy he’ll have a real chance to hit 40 points, 200 PIMs and 100 shots. Of course healthy is more than just a small risk – he hasn’t suited up for a full season since 2009-10.
Colorado has three offensive lines that are all capable of scoring and eight forwards averaging over 1:44 on the man advantage every night. It is a situation not too dissimilar from the one in St. Louis. When the Blues first put together their forward group fantasy leagues braced for what should have been a potent attack. Players like Backes, Stewart, Oshie, Berglund, Steen and now youngsters Tarasenko and Schwartz were expected to produce dizzying numbers. Poolies weren’t exactly wrong, but they haven’t been right either.
As a result of a balanced group St. Louis features a number of good but no great fantasy options. Backes is a reliable source of close to 50 points, 100 PIMs and 200 shots. Stewart is inconsistent, but can be a solid contributor to both goals and shots. Steen is in the midst of an incredible run with 10 goals and 15 points through 10 games, although we can’t expect that pace to continue (pencil in 60 points and 240 shots). I absolutely love the skill set of Vladmir Taraksenko and if he were the preeminent option on maybe Columbus or New Jersey, then I would look for him in for 65-70 points and well over 200 shots. In St. Louis, bouncing between multiple lines and power play units, can we even comfortably guarantee 55?
What do we need to watch out for?
I think we all need to be careful of how much value we place on Colorado forwards. They are definitely great players and at times in their careers will be stand out fantasy options. In the near-term, they are part of a balanced group that will promote even distribution of fantasy value and may prohibit elite production.
Onto today’s daily dosage...
A quick note before we get into the details. Yesterday there were 5 games on the NHL schedule. Which means diving into the minutiae of each game was not only going to be time consuming, but may not provide a ton of pertinent information for your fantasy team.
Instead, I am going to call out the 7 things you need to know from last night’s games. These are the major items that I noticed or found interesting and think you should know about. It’s a bit of a different way to approach the daily dosage, but we’ll see how it goes for this week.
7 Things You Should Know
1.Martin St. Louis is doing it all – he’s even shooting the puck.
Having owned St.Louis in my keeper pool last year I was treated to the 60 point, Art Ross campaign he put together at age 37. While I don’t like to complain after receiving such numbers, the one area of Marty’s game that was a bit down was his shooting. After being a reliable 240 shooter during much of his career he had slumped to 180-190 the past couple of seasons. This year, through 11 games he’s fired 29 shots on a net, including 3 against Florida last night in a 4 to 3 win. A great sign for his production this year in multi-cat leagues.
2.Shhhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone, but Kyle Turris may be having his breakout season.
Well, better late than never right? At 24 years old some of us were starting to give up on Turris, the former 3rd overall pick in 2007. I have a rule in fantasy; all things being equal, always pick the player with the superior draft pedigree. He picked up another assist last night in a loss to San Jose, giving him 8 helpers on the season. Despite having only 1 goal, he’s fired 31 shots on net and has a paltry 3.7% shooting percentage. Expect that number to rise over the year and finish closer to his career average of 8.7%.
3.Erik Karlsson was outstanding in a loss to San Jose.
He’s almost like having a star forward in your defencemen slot, which creates a huge mismatch for opposing owners. His line last night was 1 goal, 1 assist, and 9 shots. I had initially thought his numbers would slow down this year as oppositions figured out more creative ways to defend him. With 10 points in 11 games there is a strong possibility I was wrong.
4.Logan Couture is emerging as one of the best Center options in fantasy.
He added another assist against Ottawa, leaving him with 14 points in the first 12 games. He was a standout scorer in the OHL and appears to be arriving this season for the Sharks. If Logan can sustain a near point per game pace to go along with over 260 shots he’ll be a top 25 asset. The only concern, and it’s a minor one, is he won’t contribute to your PIMs category most seasons – 4PIMS last year and 0 this season. If only we got fantasy points for Lady Bing nominations right?
5.I wish I had drafted Thomas Vanek in the worst way.
Late last night it was revealed that Vanek was dealt to the Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson and two draft picks. The move will reverberate throughout fantasy, most notably in the value of Vanek, who will likely get a chance to skate alongside John Tavares. I would expect Thomas to challenge for 40 goals and 40 assists in his new surroundings. If you currently own him you’ll have two options - trade him now with all the increased media attention – or enjoy the ride as his production soars in the coming weeks and months. A true win-win.
6.Corey Perry is back.
He took some abuse in fantasy circles the past couple years, due in large part to unreal expectations after his 50 goal campaign. Last night he posted a goal and an assist in a 4 to 3 win over the Blue Jackets. He now has 13 points, 42 shots, and 14 PIMs through 12 games. The old Perry appears to be back. I would expect to see a final line of 70-75 points, 110PIMs and close to 280 shots.
7.Don’t forget about Blake Wheeler.
Wheeler reminds me a lot of Radim Vrbata a couple of seasons ago. A guy that does a lot of things well but rarely receives the credit he deserves on fantasy teams. Last night he ended with a goal, an assist, and over five minutes on the power in a 3 to 2 loss against Colorado. Even with a slow start he should still end somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-65 points and 200-220 shots. There is always the potential for more if he gets more ice time alongside Evander Kane.