NHL Friday Fantasy Freakout: Four risky picks worth making
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.
Ryan Spooner, F, Bruins
It’s astounding to me that Spooner isn’t owned more widely than he is in many fantasy leagues. According to Left Wing Lock, Spooner has been on a line with Loui Eriksson and Patrice Bergeron for 84.2% of the Bruins’ power play time through their last three games. And Boston remains far and away the most dominant power play team in the NHL.
And it’s not like the B’s will be stifled much this weekend: On Friday they travel to Buffalo and face the woeful Sabres, who have the fourth-worst penalty kill percentage (77%) in the league. On Saturday they’re at home against the Maple Leafs who haven’t looked all that convincing as of late either.
Spooner is on the up and up with seven points in his last seven games and holds two positions (C/LW) in many leagues as well. Don’t sleep on him much longer.
Recklessness grade: D-
Radim Vrbata, F, Canucks
He doesn’t line up with the Sedins twins nearly as much as he used to or as often as prospective fantasy owners would like. Before Monday’s win against the Florida Panthers, in which Vrbata had one assist, he was also pointless in his last six games. It doesn’t look all that promising for him right now, sure. He was held off the scoresheet for six straight games to start the season as well. Those two droughts were his longest of the season. But after that stretch he notched six points in six games. After a four-game drought in November he then scored another six points in six games.
Vrbata has established himself as a bit of a streaky scorer and if you believe he’s on the upswing, he’ll have lots of opportunities to give your team some much-needed late-week points on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes and on Sunday against the New York Islanders, two teams ranked in the bottom two-thirds of goals allowed in the NHL.
Recklessness grade: B+
Dan Boyle, D, Rangers
You should be looking at the 39-year old defenseman for one reason right now: help on the power play. Though Boyle has seen his ice time steadily decrease for the last six seasons, he is still utilized with the man advantage more than any other Rangers defenseman. That’s translated into nine points on the PP this year, also more than any other blueshirt backender.
OK, so the Ranger PP isn’t great (18.8%, 13th in the league) but they are facing off against the rival Flyers on Saturday afternoon and Philadelphia is one of the most penalized teams in the NHL. He’ll likely get his looks, but the Rangers have games on Thursday (vs. the rival Islanders), Saturday, and Sunday against the Metro-leading Capitals. Three games in four days will likely take a toll on Boyle. Like many GMS, you’ll likely have an open defenseman slot on Sunday, but that won’t be when you’ll really need him.
If you’re in need of an extra point or two on the PP to put you over the edge, don’t scoff at Boyle so quickly. Just don’t expect much else from him either.
Recklessness grade: C+
Jhonas Enroth, G, Kings
With an afternoon game at home against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday and a Sunday evening tilt against the Pacific rival Anaheim Ducks, it’s conceivable that coach Darryl Sutter will split the goaltending assignments and give Enroth his first start since January 4.
Of course, when you’ve got Jonathan Quick as your number one, Sutter surely could send him in for back-to-back starts, as he did for the Kings’ last back-to-back on December 28 and 29 when Quick played incredibly well for two wins. But Enroth has been a more than serviceable backup this season, posting a .930 save percentage through his eight games.
If Sutter does send Enroth in either game, it looks good for all goalie stats. The Senators have had serious trouble finding the back of the net. They've scored more than two goals just once in their past seven games. And the Ducks remain the lowest scoring team in the league. Enroth remains one of the better backups in the league and if there are other fantasy GMs who are in goalie battles this week, it couldn’t hurt you to grab him now in anticipation of the back-to-back starts. But if Sutter does roll with Quick on both nights it will be a wasted goalie spot.
Recklessness grade: B