Welcome to Friday Fantasy Freak Out, where we’ll look at some of the bolder options for fantasy hockey general managers who are desperate to have a strong weekend.
Weekends can make or break weekly head-to-head fantasy leagues. No lead is safe, especially with the plethora of games that usually occurs on Saturdays. You’ll either want to fortify your team or mount an improbable comeback. The under-the-radar players I believe can help engineer either of those moves will be examined in this space.
It takes a healthy level of recklessness to make weekend fantasy moves. You’re not waiting to see how things pan out with a player over the course of a week: You need results immediately. There is a level of risk and reward involved, which is why each player cited here has been given a recklessness grade. The higher the grade, the more your fellow poolies will question your moves if not your sanity. But there’s also a greater potential for reward as well.
This week we’ll look exclusively at four recently traded or added players in the NHL to determine their fantasy value.
Ryan Johansen, C, Predators
If you don’t own Ryan Johansen but are owed a favor by whoever does have him in your league, now is the time to call in that chit.
With Nashville exulting over finally landing a true No. 1 center, Johansen will be slotted in with Colin Wilson and James Neal. He could also see time with Filip Forsberg. Neal and Forsberg are the type of potent wingers he never had in Columbus, where he was still able to put together healthy point totals. Johansen will likely have even more free rein to exercise his offensive upside under coach Peter Laviolette, much more so than he did under the defense-minded John Tortorella. If that’s the case we may see Johansen’s full potential, including on the power play.
Nashville is a team that loves to shoot the puck: The Preds currently sit fourth in the NHL in average shots per game (31.3). With Johansen the big bodied forward that the Predators have long coveted, we could see him cleaning up a lot of garbage in front of the net and converting that into a ton of points.
Odds are he’s already owned in your league and rival GMs will already be fielding calls on his availability, but with Nashville poised to make strong second half push this season, buying high on Johansen may not be that detrimental at all.
Recklessness grade: D+
Seth Jones, D, Blue Jackets
If you’re thinking about acquiring Jones, the first question you need to ask yourself is: How many keepers does my league allow? You’re going to have to play the long game on the young defenseman as he works to earn the trust of his new coach, John Tortorella. Sure, Jones is primed for a bigger role on the back end with Columbus compared to the stacked defense corps he belonged to in Nashville, but that also means he’ll have to play hard minutes against the league’s best.
Columbus is a weak team both in terms of possession and shots-against so his plus/minus numbers are due for a dip. However, if Torts learns to love Jones early on, his power play time will be there and he’ll be given every opportunity to upgrade the league’s 20th-ranked PP unit.
Ask yourself how long are you willing to wait on Jones. The Blue Jackets are likely due for major roster changes during the off-season which means he could have even more opportunities. It’ll take time, but it could be worth the payoff.
Recklessness grade: B+
Mike Richards, C, Capitals
An interesting case here. Richards has had no shortage of off-ice drama that has followed him throughout his career. Has he learned from his half-season away from the game and is he ready to let his strong two-way play emerge and his skills do the talking? Coach Barry Trotz has said that Richards will start on the fourth line, which means he won’t get the ice time needed to justify an immediate waiver pickup. But keep an eye on him: He was welcomed with open arms by his new Capitals teammates and earning their trust doesn’t seem like it will be all that hard.
If he gets some time on the power play and puts some points on the board, it’s not inconceivable that he’ll jump to the second line. The Capitals rank second in the league in average goals per game (3.15) so the opportunity to chip in could be there.
Or his admitted lack of speed could hurt him and he’ll be treated as little more than a role player. If you believe in second, or third, chances, Richards may be worth picking up the moment he starts to score again. Whether that actually ends up happening makes him a real gamble.
Recklessness grade: B
Vincent Lecavalier, C, Kings
Lecavalier’s excitement at being shipped from the lowly Philadelphia Flyers to the Los Angeles Kings, bonafide Stanley Cup contenders, was evident in his first game on Thursday night. He notched an assist for just his second point of the season. Now, that doesn’t mean he will return to the days of being a 40- and 50-goal scorer. Far from it, in fact. The Kings play a heavily structured system under coach Darryl Sutter and, like Richards, Lecavlier will have to work his way up from the fourth line.
The 35-year old wants one last shot at the Cup in what will likely be his last season before retirement. It’s a nice storyline, but it being nice and all probably won’t win you many fantasy matchups. Many people scratched their heads over this deal, so many of your rival GMs will scratch theirs if anyone in your league picks Lecavalier off the waiver wire.
The Kings aren’t exactly a team known for their offensive capabilities but they won’t be turning to Lecavalier for help in that department. When Sutter does figure out a role for him, it likely won’t be a large one. Stay away.
Recklessness grade: A