Hey everyone, we finally got to some real meaningful hockey games…sort of. The NHL officially kicked off the regular season Friday and Saturday with its World Series in the Czech Republic with a two-game series between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks. It’s good to start having games that matter, but on the other hand, it’s a bit of a shame that we don’t have anything to look forward to until Tuesday when the rest of the league officially starts. Without a ton to really break down or analyze, I thought this might be a good opportunity to highlight some players worth trying if you have a few empty spots to fill through IR pools. Let’s look!
Nelson is entering his tenth NHL season, all played on Long Island. He’s just completed a season that saw him set career highs in goals and points with 37 and 59 respectively. It’s also worth considering that he achieved that in an Islands team that was to say the least lackluster last season. This year, the dynamic could be much different for the Islanders. The management of the New York Islanders has decided to part ways with head coach Barry Trotz during the offseason.
Trotz was known as a defensive type trainer who, while effective, often led to below average offensive output. The hope is that new coach Lane Lambert can step in this season and bring a more balanced attack to the fold. Nelson turns 31 next week, so he’s not exactly a young gun anymore, but I think he could still be a usable pickup for most fantasy teams, even if only temporarily. He should continue to be deployed on the front line and first power play unit, so his opportunities will be there.
Of his 59 points last season, only 14 came on the power play, which really doesn’t count for much. I think the power play should see some improvement this season, and with that could be an increase in production for Nelson. Outside of his one-off output, don’t expect much else from Nelson. It shoots at a pretty solid pace. Last year he averaged 2.4 shots per game which is decent. He’s also pretty useful when it comes to getting draws, but don’t expect a ton of hits or blocks from him.
I guess his ownership is weak because he is a pure center and center is easily the deepest position in fantasy hockey. The Islanders are definitely an unknown this year, and if anything, people are pretty disappointed heading into the year. He’s listed in just 40% of Yahoo leagues and just over half of Fantrax leagues, so he’s still pretty accessible overall. If you have a spot on the open roster, it might be worth testing the waters.
I know what you are thinking…Jeff Skinner?? Really?? Yes, he’s overpaid and has a terrible contract, but it’s not my money and Skinner still has a chance to provide a half-decent fantasy upside. The Buffalo Sabers are definitely moving in the right direction, and while I don’t think they’re there yet, I think we’ll see some improvement from them this year. It’s crazy to think that Skinner will be a veteran of this team, but he’ll actually be one of the oldest players on the team heading into this season at the age of 30.
Skinner is known for being streaky and unpredictable, but in the scenario I suggest where you have a free roster spot open temporarily, taking a flyer on someone like Skinner could pay dividends. Its deployment will certainly not be a problem. Much like the aforementioned Nelson, Skinner will get a high-level deployment on both the 5-on-5 and power-play lines. He’s going to be surrounded by a ton of up-and-coming young talent, so I think he should have plenty of opportunities to do what he does best, and that’s the score.
When Skinner is having a good year, he’s good for around 30 or more goals and between 50 and 60 points. Another advantage it brings is its very high shot volume. He’s still a lock for more than three shots per game, so that’s something you can always count on him for. Last year, only five of his 33 goals were scored on the power play. Like the Isles, I think Buffalo’s power play could be stronger, so there’s room for improvement in his special teams numbers. Skinner won’t get you much outside of those stats, so keep that in mind.
Depending on the format, Skinner’s availability varies. In Yahoo Leagues, Skinner only has an ownership rate of 36%, while on Fantrax it is just over 60%. I should mention that Fantrax numbers will almost always be higher, but I’m pretty sure that’s because so many deeper dynasty leagues are hosted on Fantrax thanks to their amazing league customization settings. In my two standard 12-team leagues, Skinner can always be had, so that’s food for thought. If you can find him a home on your team without letting anyone down, he could be a decent, low-risk addition to start your season.
Focusing on the blue line, I have a pretty weak suggestion to the Washington Capitals’ Fehverary. If you don’t know much about him, the 23-year-old Slovakian defender is entering the final year of his entry-level contract. That alone matters a bit as he plays for his next contract, especially at a time when it looks like salaries will be rising with talk of the salary cap in the near future. Fehervary or as I call him for my friends “February”, is a courageous and physical defender. With much of the Captials defensive corps starting to age, Fehervary looks set for an incredible opportunity this season.
It looks like Fehervary will be riding a shotgun alongside John Carlson on best pairing to start the season. It’s great for his deployment and average TOI. That being said, don’t expect him to get a power play deployment. At least at his stage in his career, Fehervary won’t provide you with much in terms of attack. But if you’re in a league of bangers that values hits and blocked shots, you’re definitely doing worse than Fehervary. Last season, he racked up 251 hits and 117 blocked shots.
If you have decent offensive defenders and are looking to load some peripherals off your bench, I think Fehervary is an ideal option for a fifth d-man for your team. It is certainly available in most formats. In Yahoo leagues he is listed at only 20%, while on Fantrax he is listed at 42%. I consider him a younger, poorer version of Radko Gudas. If you have space, it could be useful to you!
Well, that’s a wrap for this week. A quick Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadian readers. Enjoy your turkey and its stuffing. Also commiserations to all my fellow Jays fans out there. What a disappointing way to end a season, but if you’re into the Toronto sports scene like me, it’s really just another day in the park and you’re probably numb at this point. Wow that took a dark turn! Take care all of you, I can’t wait to get things started FOR REAL next week!