10 fantasy hockey takeaways: Scoop up Corey Perry for the stretch run

Steven Psihogios
·10-min read

NHL schedule makers are going to have to play some crazy calendar Tetris if they’re going to bring the Vancouver Canucks to the league’s finish line.

With COVID-19 hitting the team’s locker room and infecting 25 members of the organization, the squad’s season has been paused with no return date scheduled yet. While the health of those affected is obviously the top priority, managers are also left wondering what to do in this situation with the fantasy hockey playoffs around the corner.

With this and more, here are my 10 fantasy hockey takeaways from this week.

1) What to do with members of the Vancouver Canucks?

If you are holding any members of the Vancouver Canucks in fantasy hockey and don’t have any available injured reserve spots, you should strongly consider dropping them. With the entire team under quarantine isolation, it’s very unclear when the squad will be able to return and if it will have to play games beyond the current league end date.

In fantasy, some managers like to meticulously plan for the playoffs and finals. The issue in doing this is you completely overlook the immediate future which makes your chances of making it to those matchups a lot slimmer. With some fantasy leagues ending on May 2 and others ending on May 9, the Canucks may see a decent amount of their games rescheduled beyond your fantasy final. If you are in a situation where you have no available IR spots and there’s a solid option kicking around on your league waiver wire, I say you make the move. At this point, you’re waiting on a player who may not be able to help your squad at all for the rest of this season.

2) RW Corey Perry (3% rostered on Yahoo) filling in for injured RW Brendan Gallagher

The Montreal Canadiens were dealt a pretty devastating blow this week as forward Brendan Gallagher is expected to miss at least six weeks due to a fractured thumb. The 28-year-old’s 14 goals are tied for second on the Habs, so his absence will be felt as Montreal tries to keep up with the high-scoring members of the North Division. Getting the first opportunity to fill in on the Canadiens’ first line is veteran Corey Perry, who has offered some pretty decent results.

Brendan Gallagher's long-term injury should lead to a pretty significant bump in Corey Perry's fantasy production. (Getty)
Brendan Gallagher's long-term injury should lead to a pretty significant bump in Corey Perry's fantasy production. (Getty)

In the two games Perry has played alongside Nick Suzuki and Josh Anderson, the 35-year-old has potted two goals. In five games during April, Perry has recorded four points — so he was providing some decent production even prior to being thrusted onto Line No. 1. Perry’s tenacious style also helps fantasy managers looking for hits, as he’s delivered nine of those in his last six games. He’s a fine add given the uptick in ice-time and his style of play.

3) C Vincent Trocheck (81% rostered on Yahoo) is back

After a very pedestrian 2019-20 campaign split between the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes, Vincent Trocheck is back to being an extremely valuable contributor. Through 30 games this season, the 27-year-old has 33 points, including 16 goals, which is tied with Sebastian Aho for the team lead. Trocheck missed eight games in March while dealing with an upper-body injury, but he hasn’t skipped a beat since returning.

Since rejoining the team on March 30, the 2011 third-round pick leads all Carolina forwards in individual Corsi For (iCF) and penalties drawn, according to Natural Stat Trick. His strong underlying numbers, as they have all year, have translated into elite production as he’s compiled eight points in his six games back. He continues to be an effective category stuffer as well, as he’s totaled 60 faceoff wins and 21 hits during this span. Trocheck’s ability to fill many buckets will make him a coveted player in fantasy hockey drafts next year.

4) RW Craig Smith (11% rostered on Yahoo) will retain fantasy value on Boston’s top line

The Boston Bruins have broken up the Perfection Line and the results have been… better than perfection? Since bumping Craig Smith up to line one and placing David Pastrnak on line two, the team has picked up seven of eight points while averaging over four goals per game. The more even distribution of talent has brought more production from the top-six and even without Pastrnak’s presence, the squad’s first line hasn’t suffered one bit.

Over the last four games, Brad Marchand (6), Patrice Bergeron (3) and Smith (4) have combined for 13 even-strength points. Smith’s shoot-first mentality has paired well with the high-end talent Bergeron and Marchand supply, and even though he hasn’t scored a goal at even-strength since being promoted, his eight shots are tied for third on the team. Considering the positive results, the Bruins have since been spicing up the lines and Smith likely isn’t going anywhere too soon. With two games still remaining this week, he’s a worthwhile add.

5) How to handle the Hurricanes’ crease situation with G Petr Mrazek (79% rostered on Yahoo) back

Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was dropped in 14% of Yahoo fantasy leagues over this past week. Those people paid for their mistake on Thursday night, however, as the Canes netminder posted a 24-save shutout victory against the Florida Panthers, helping Carolina leap over the Cats for first in the Central Division. The reason for Nedeljkovic’s free-falling rostered percentage is Petr Mrazek’s successful return from a broken thumb. With the two healthy, it’s fair to wonder how head coach Rod Brind’Amour will divide the workload the rest of the season.

For starters, I strongly recommend adding Nedeljkovic in your league if he’s been dropped. His .928 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against-average through 15 games are numbers simply too good to ignore. For those with Mrazek, I wouldn’t fret much either. Carolina plays a healthy 11 games during the Week 13-to-15 fantasy playoff window and 12 games during the Week 14-to-16 period which includes three sets of back-to-backs. I have to imagine that the work will be split up pretty evenly between the pair of puckstoppers as Brind’Amour tries to determine who is the starter come playoff time. Both are viable options in fantasy hockey.

6) C/RW Blake Wheeler’s injury creates opportunity for Andrew Copp (60% rostered on Yahoo)

The best third-liner in the NHL, Andrew Copp’s emergence this season has given the Winnipeg Jets arguably the deepest forward group in the league. The 2013 fourth-round pick has produced 13 goals and 31 points through 40 contests and now with captain Blake Wheeler out indefinitely, he’s set to take on an expanded role which will only help his fantasy value.

In his first game alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Paul Stastny on Winnipeg’s second line, Copp manufactured a goal, three shots, two hits and a block. It’s this kind of category coverage that makes him such a valuable player in fantasy. Still sitting on the waiver wire in 40% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, Copp’s worth adding as he continues to find success in the Jets’ top-six.

7) Impact of the Islanders acquiring RW Kyle Palmieri (48% rostered) and C Travis Zajac (5% rostered on Yahoo)

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello received a nice haul via trade this week by acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils in return for a 2021 first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round selection in 2022, and forward prospects A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst. The Isles’ additions help fill the holes in the roster left by Anders Lee’s absence, and it could be just the thing one of these players needed.

For Palmieri, this hasn’t been a banner year. The 2009 first-round pick has struggled offensively, potting just eight goals and 17 points. The underlying numbers, however, tell a different story. Prior to being dealt, he led New Jersey in individual expected goals per-60 (1.04), individual scoring chances for per-60 (10.22) and individual high-danger chances for per-60 (4.27) while ranking second in individual Corsi for per-60 (15.78). Joining an increasingly talented offensive group in New York, Palmieri may be able to find himself a little more puck luck. Zajac, who I actually wrote about earlier this week, doesn’t offer the same upside at this point of his career, but he has been serviceable. If Thursday’s game is any indication, however, he will lose his high faceoff-win totals as he plays the wing on a line with Palmieri and centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

8) D Jared Spurgeon (33% rostered on Yahoo) quarterbacking Minnesota Wild’s surging power play

Over the last two weeks, the Minnesota Wild’s power play has been clicking at a very impressive 36.4 percent which puts it second in the entire NHL over this stretch. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon has been a major part of the unit’s success lately as the 2008 sixth-round pick has registered five power-play points over his last four games while playing on the team’s top PP grouping.

Spurgeon has always been a decent source of points from the blueline, topping 30 points in each of his last four seasons. This recent run likely isn’t an offensive breakthrough in the veteran rearguard’s career, but a surging Spurgeon is definitely fantasy relevant. His 67 blocks this season are also 25th amongst all players, which makes him valuable in a category that is hard to service.

9) Bruins goaltending surprisingly steady with G Tuukka Rask and G Jaroslav Halak out

To most teams, losing your starting and backup netminder is a negative development, and while I’m sure the Boston Bruins would rather have a healthy Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, their absences have actually been laced with silver linings. With their top tenders out of the lineup, Boston has turned to a pair of youngsters in Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman who’ve yielded positive results thus far.

Vladar owns a .922 save percentage and a 2.25 GAA through four NHL games this season. In 2019-20, the 2015 third-round pick posted solid numbers in the AHL with Providence, backstopping his way to a .936 save percentage and 1.79 GAA across 25 contests. Swayman has been equally impressive at both the AHL and NHL level. Although it’s just two starts in the big leagues, Swayman has been excellent, producing a .947 sv% and a 2.01 GAA. While it’s still very early in both of these goalies’ careers, the results are extremely encouraging and both are fine adds in fantasy hockey while Rask and Halak nurse their way back into the lineup.

10) D Gustav Forsling (11% rostered on Yahoo) has appeared on the fantasy radar

Well, that was quick. Exactly one week after writing this: "Forsling, while not on the fantasy radar right now, is certainly worth monitoring," Gustav Forsling has officially appeared on said fantasy radar. 

In the six games since being promoted to the Florida Panthers’ top defensive pairing, the 24-year-old has picked up four points and five hits while maintaining a healthy plus-eight rating. Logging major minutes on one of the top teams in the NHL this season and having a fantasy-friendly playoff schedule will help Forsling retain value. He’s someone who’s rostered percentage will continue to climb, so get ahead of it and scoop him up now. He and the Cats play 11 games over the next three weeks.

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