Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 9

With fantasy football season officially over, it's time to focus on your fantasy hockey teams -- and add Michael Raffl.

I hope all of our readers have had happy holidays. Now that all fantasy football seasons have ended and there is a shift to hockey and basketball, numberFire is still here to help you. In case you are new here and missed earlier volumes, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes."

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.

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

Despite immediately adding him in my own league, I somehow forgot to mention this in last week's abbreviated edition of this column, but Jonathan Drouin was moved to the Lightning's top line and is now playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. Drouin missed the first game following the Christmas break with what is reported to be the flu, but that shouldn’t discourage owners from adding the young forward. Cedric Paquette filled in on Stamkos’ wing last weekend, but he is a natural center, and Drouin will most likely slide back on the top line upon his return. As I mentioned in NHL Wish Lists for Santa, Drouin actually improves the Lightning goal production when he and Stamkos are on the ice together.

Steven Stamkos 5-on-5Time on IceGF20GF%Corsi for/20Corsi for %
with Drouin93:591.06463.517.2452.6
without Drouin410:160.97558l819.9457.4

Drouin is one of the league's top-ranked prospects, and playing the Stamkos might just be the the key to a true breakout for the rookie.

Drop Calvin Pickard, G – Colorado Avalanche (22%)

Calvin Pickard has had some impressive number this year, posting a 2.21 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. Both categories put Pickard in the top 10 amongst qualified leaders and earned him the lion’s share of work over Reto Berra while Seymon Varlamov was out with a groin injury.

As a reward for his hard work, the Avalanche have demoted him to the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters. While Pickard has returned to the land of irrelevancy for fantasy hockey purposes for the time being, he was heavily leaned on over the veteran Berra for the past month, and if Varlamov happens to reinjure his groin, Pickard will be worth another look. For now, he is just dead weight on your roster.

Add Devan Dubnyk, G – Arizona Coyotes (17%)

If you were a Pickard owner and are now looking for a replacement after dropping him, look to Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has outplayed incumbent starter Mike Smith and has earned himself more playing time than originally expected. He has surprised many fans and writers this year and has seemingly resurrected his career after being jettisoned by the Edmonton Oilers midseason last year.

Dubnyk has a 2.52 goals against average and a .924 save percentage and has been outplaying Smith all season. He has been called on to clean up his mess numerous times this year.

PlayerGames PlayedGames StartedWinsGAASave %
Devan Dubnyk161382.52.924
Mike Smith232253.48.884

This is even more impressive since the Coyotes with their -0.69 nERD, which ranks just 28th in the league, are not what one would call a “good team.” Coach Dave Tippett has not anointed Dubnyk his man just yet, but if Smith can't pulled it together, the organization's hand may be forced to continue to roll with Dubnyk.

Sell Jake Allen, G (62%)
Drop Martin Brodeur, G (24%) – St. Louis Blues

Things are about to get crowded in the crease in St. Louis now that Brian Elliott is set to return from his knee injury. While all bets are off on which direction the Blues will take with their goaltending trio, Brian Elliott deserves to regain his starter status.

PlayerGamesWinsGAASave %
Brian Elliott1481.82.931
Jake Allen19112.76.899
Martin Brodeur523.29.892

One possible outcome would be for the Blues to assign Brodeur to the American Hockey League, clear waivers, refuse the assignment, and then have his contract voided, presumably allowing him to sign with another team. There may be a trade in the works for Brodeur if the Blues can find a trading partner, or he may be claimed on waivers or simply retire. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a team like the Blues, being up against the salary cap, to carry three netminders; Jake Allen would have to pass through waivers to be assigned to the AHL, and the 24 year-old backstop would be claimed in a heartbeat.

However, things are going to be cloudy until Elliott is ready to return at full strength.

The one certainty is that the crease for the Blues is about to get crowded, and it is an encouraging situation for neither Allen's nor Marty's fantasy value.

Add Michael Raffl, LW – Philadelphia Flyer (3%)

Skating with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, Michael Raffl has integrated himself into the Flyers offense and has proved to be an exceptional linemate for the two superstars. The Flyers have are in the midst of an eight-game road trip (broken up by the Christmas break) but have four games this week. None of Arizona (-0.69 nERD), Colorado (-0.04), Carolina (-0.50), or New Jersey (-0.44) are strong defensive teams, and Raffl, Giroux and Voracek are sure to get some chances.

Raffl is virtually unowned in Yahoo! leagues and would be a nice flyer in deeper leagues if he can add to the 10 goals he has scored this season.

Hold Patric Hornqvist, RW (92%)
Buy Steve Downie, LW/RW (44%)
Sell Evgeni Malkin, C/RW (100%) - Pittsburgh Penguins

New out of Pittsburgh following Saturday night's 3-0 loss to the Washington Capitals is that Patric Hornqvist has sustained a lower-body injury and will miss the next few weeks.

This means another line shuffle for the Pittsburgh Penguins. When Hornqvist went down, Jayson Megna skated with Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter while Bryan Rust played with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

To add to all this, Steve Downie has been infected with the mumps and has missed the past three games. Upon his return, expect Downie to play with either Malkin or Crosby and receive considerable ice time for the Penguins.

As for Malkin, he, Rob Scuderi, and Nick Spaling are the only Pens to suit up for every game this season. If I were a superstitious Malkin owner, I'd be looking at the Penguins’ health record and starting to fret over what ailment will plague Geno in the near future.

Add Johnny Gaudreau, LW – Calgary Flames (46%)

If it wasn’t for Filip Forsberg, Johnny Gaudreau would be making a strong case for Rookie of the Year. The young Flames winger has posted an impressive 12 goals and 17 assists through 36 games and has been hot as of late. The Flames have been a surprising this year and are competing for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference, and Gaudreau ranks third in team scoring, behind Mark Giordano and Jiri Hudler. Rookies can be streaking scorers and while his recent pace of six goals in three games will not be kept, Gaudreau is burning hot and can be rode until his flame burns out.

Buy Jori Lehtera, C – St. Louis Blues (53%)

In Yahoo! leagues, owners have started to sour on Jori Lehtera and with some reason: after a strong start to the season, his numbers have started to waver.

MonthGamesPointsPoint/GameShooting %Shots/Game

This may prove to be the perfect “buy low” opportunity to acquire the talented Finn. Lehtera is on the Blues first power play unit and still skating with Vladimir Tarasenko at even strength. Although Jaden Schwartz is currently injured, Alex Steen is a more than acceptable replacement on the STL line. Lehtera is likely to bounce back from his slow December; expecting a point per game is probably raising the bar too high, but somewhere in the 0.50 to 0.75 points per game rate can be expected.

Drop Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW – Detroit Red Wings (21%)

Justin Abdelkader isn’t a poor choice for your fantasy hockey roster -- he has 8 goals and 9 assists this season to go along with 22 penalty minutes. He skates alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and is on the Red Wings’ first power play unit.

The problem is that Detroit only has three games this week and all three fall on the league’s “busy nights” (Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday). Chances are that Abdelkader will spend more time on your bench than in your lineup. If that is your case, find another player that you can play this week; Abdelkader will most likely still be in the waiver pool if you desire to get him back in the future.

Hold Tommy Wingels, RW – San Jose Sharks (46%)

We’ve seen this before. Tommy Wingels is in a scoring drought. From November 1-20 Wingels was held goalless through 10 games before breaking out to register 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in his next six games. Since then, Wingels hasn’t put the puck in the back of the net.

Wingels is still getting minutes with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture and is third in the league in hits (if your league counts hits Wingels is a must-own). While his scoring drought is concerning, the Sharks play both Monday and Tuesday next week and five games in eight days, giving Wingels ample time to get hot in case you are on the fence about letting him swim free.

Drop Alex Goligoski, D – Dallas Stars (60%)

To start the season, Alex Goligoski was expected to quaterback the Dallas Stars’ power play, which would provide a good portion of his fantasy hockey value. Now in late December, Goligoski has slid down the Stars depth chart, below both Trevor Daley and John Klingberg, for time with the man-advantage. Overall this year has been disappointing for the Stars, and as for Goligoski, unless he starts to receive more power play time, you can look elsewhere to round out your defense core.