NHL

Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 6

Rick Nash is at a torrid pace. Should you be looking to add him, or should you sell him while you can?

In case you missed, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4 and Volume 5, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes."

Both of those article series are worth a read if you are in fantasy football or basketball leagues. Here, we take a look at a few transactions that will help you improve your fantasy hockey team and win your league.

All percent owned stats will be used from Yahoo! leagues, and we'll assume a standard 6x4 scoring system (Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, Power Play Points, Penalties in Minutes, Shots on Goal; Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage, Shutouts). Transactions are listed in relative order of importance.

Sell Rick Nash LW/RW - New York Rangers (99% owned)

Rick Nash is having some sort of renaissance year - except Rick Nash has never had a year quite like this one before.

YearGamesGoalsAssistsPoints per Game+/-SOGShooting %S/Gm
2002-037412220.46-271547.82.08
2003-048041160.71-3526915.23.36
2005-065431231.00517018.23.15
2006-077527300.76-822811.83.04
2007-088038310.86232911.64.11
2008-097840391.011126315.23.37
2009-107633340.88-225413.03.34
2010-117532340.88230510.54.07
2011-128230290.72-193069.83.73
2012-134421210.951617611.94.00
2013-146526130.601025810.13.97
2014-152517101.08108619.83.44

Both Nash's shooting percentage and points per game are at career highs; while the points-per-game rate is not super alarming, his near 20% shooting percentage is unsustainable. Right now simple math* tells us Nash is on pace for 56 points.

* 17 goals / 25 games * 82 games in the season = 56 goals

Just slightly more complex math** says if he immediately regressed towards his career shooting percentage while keeping his shots per game consistent (his shots per game rate is down slightly, but to keep this easy) Nash would be expected to score 41 goals.

** 17 goals to date + ((57 remaining games) * (3.46 career shots per game) / (0.124 career shooting percentage)) = 24 remaining goals, 41 total goals

If you can swing a deal where you would get a player that has more than 24 goals left in him, now's the time to start kicking tires.

Hold/Buy Thomas Vanek, LW/RW - Minnesota Wild (76% owned)

Thomas Vanek has had a slow start to his first season in Minnesota with only 2 goals and 12 assists in his first 25 games. He is far off his career 0.83 point-per-game rate. This season, his 5.1% shooting percentage is almost three times lower than what he is accustomed to and has hurt any fantasy owner who drafted him. The time to buy low on Vanek may be now, as he is reportedly practicing on the first line with Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. While right now the numbers are ugly, Vanek has a history of being an elite-level scorer, and he is bound to pick up eventually.

Sell Brandon Saad, LW/RW (65% owned)
Add Kris Versteeg, LW/RW (53% owned) - Chicago Blackhawks

To the delight of the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans, Patrick Sharp is set to return Tuesday, which means coach Joel Quenneville will have to find room for him in the lineup. For the past month, the top two lines have included both Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg.

Top Six
Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa
Kris VersteegBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Because Sharp can play either left wing or center, there are three realistic candidates to be moved out of the top six: Saad, Versteeg or Brad Richards. Here is how each player performs with and without his current linemates.

Brandon Saad withTOIGF20 withGF20 without
Marian Hossa146:151.0941.158
Jonathan Toews131:231.0661.171

Kris Versteeg withTOIGF20 withGF20 without
Patrick Kane118:531.4821.292
Brad Richard149:532.0020.815

Brad Richards withTOIGF20 withGF20 without
Kris Versteeg149:532.0020.648
Patrick Kane140:301.7080.977

The Versteeg-Richards-Patrick Kane trio is this most efficient combination and, consequently, is unlikely to be broken up. It is also important to note that, of Saad, Versteeg, and Richards, Saad is the most efficient without his current linemates. As far as Sharp goes, before his injury, he had spent most of his ice time with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.

Patrick Sharp withTOIGF20 withGF20 without
Marian Hossa89:130.6720.481
Jonathan Toews79:040.5060.643
Patrick Kane48:000.0000.804
Brad Richards43:180.9240.465
Kris Versteeg23:130.8620.536

It is far from a guarantee, but expect Sharp to regain his spot on the top line and Saad to be moved down the lineup.

Drop Johnny Boychuk, D (70% owned)
Add Nick Leddy, D (33% owned) - New York Islanders

Mentioned way back in Volume 2 of this column, we explored how Johnny Boychuk lost power play time to Lubomir Visnovsky after Visnovsky came back from a preseason injury. Now both Boychuk and Visnovsky are hurt and on the injured reserve; the Islanders are being tight-lipped about both injuries, and there uncertainty on when either of them will return, although Visnovsky may be close.

In the meantime, Nick Leddy has been quarterbacking the Islanders power play. In the past five games he has registered four assists, two with the man advantage. On the season, Leddy and Boychuk's numbers are comparable, except power play points, but while Boychuck is out, Leddy had performed well in the role and is a good replacement.

NameGamesGoalsAssists+/-PIMPPPSOG
Johnny Boychuk22212710855
Nick Leddy27581010242

Drop John Gibson, G - Anaheim Ducks (35% owned)

John Gibson exploded into hockey's consciousness last year during the playoffs when he earned a shutout in his first career start and then followed that up with a blanking of the Los Angeles Kings in his first career playoff start. He was expected to challenge Frederik Anderson this season for playing time in Anaheim but went down with a groin injury October 30th. Now with the probable signing of Ilya Bryzgalov to back up Anderson, Gibson is expected to spend the remained of the year playing for the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. Unless you are in a deep keeper league, and have place to store him, time to let him loose

Hold Corey Crawford, G (97% owned)
Add Antti Raanta, G (35% owned)
Add Scott Darling (4% owned) - Chicago Blackhawks

Corey Crawford suffered a freak injury last week when he injured his foot while attending a concert. His replacements, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling will be competing for crease time for the next two to three weeks, with Raanta being given a slight advantage. The Blackhawks are one of the best teams in the league, according to our metrics, and regardless of who is tending goal for them, their netminders are worth owning.

NameGamesWinsGAASv %SO
Corey Crawford18121.87.9291
Antti Raanta532.02.9421
Scott Darling431.73.9430

Add Mike Santorelli, C - Toronto Maple Leafs (7% owned)

Over the past two weeks, Mike Santorelli has been as hot as anyone in the league; with 10 points in his last eight games, Santorelli, with linemates Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik, has added much-needed secondary scoring for the Leafs. It is also good to note that the Leafs play four games this coming week, including three at home.

Drop Jonathan Drouin, LW - Tampa Bay Lightning (45% owned)

If you held on to Jonathan Drouin this long, you probably shouldn't be too hard on yourself. The 2013 third-overall draft pick was the preseason favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy for rookie of the year, and there was hope that the young forward would crack a deep top-six forward group for the Lightning. That depth at forward has been Drouin's fantasy downfall.

General manager Steve Yzerman, coach Jon Cooper, and the rest of the organization have been exposing Drouin to the league at a snail's pace. This year, he has played mostly fourth-line minutes and has been a healthy scratch multiple times. This is not necessarily due to bad play. While he has only one goal on the season, his 11 assists in 20 games show he is contributing. Unless he starts to see more primetime minutes and moves up in the lineup, Drouin can be safely dropped in standard redraft leagues, but follow his ice-time and usage closely and be ready to add him again if there is a sign of movement after the holidays.

Add Aaron Ekblad, D - Florida Panthers (39% owned)

Aaron Ekblad, last year's first-overall draft pick, has stormed the league, and people are starting to take noticeā€¦ or as much notice as people take for a rookie playing for the Florida Panthers. With 17 points in the first 25 games of his career, the young defenseman is on place for over 50 points and is tied with Nick Bjugstad for the team lead. Ekblad is in the midst of a little hot streak with six points in his last four games and has carried a plus-six plus/minus over that time.

Sell John Klingberg, D - Dallas Stars (27% owned)

Everybody off the train! Ok, maybe not just yet, but make sure your know where your exit buddy is. John Klingberg started off with a bang with eight points in his first seven NHL games. He has added just one assist over the last five games, and his ice-time has shrunk from over 25 minutes a game to only 13 minutes Saturday night in a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Klingberg is clearly a dynamic talent, but as a rookie defenseman, there will be ups and downs.

Add Stephen Weiss, C - Detroit Red Wings (13% owned)

While his numbers don't appears to be overwhelming, it is important to remember that Stephen Weiss has missed all but eight games this year. Since returning from his latest injury, Weiss has scored four goals and added six assists in his past seven games for the Red Wings.