Special to Yahoo Sports
We’re a month into the fantasy season and the league is already topsy-turvy, with the Bruins and Golden Knights at the top of each conference while the Devils lurk as the dark horse. Other teams with higher expectations, such as the Panthers and Red Wings, have struggled. Fantasy managers have to react quickly or fall further and further behind. To help with that reaction time, here are a few players to target on the aforementioned teams.
Nico Hischier, C, Devils (54% rostered)
It’s a little baffling that Hischier is available in so many leagues. He’s scored 10 points in nine games, averages 19 minutes per game in all situations and wins 63 percent of his faceoffs. The Devils are outshooting their opponents by a double-digit margin on average, and only Jack Hughes has generated more shots on goal than Hischier. At 3.88 shots per game on a sustainable 12.9 S% entering Tuesday’s games, Hischier is on pace to register 300 shots and 39 goals this season. It’s a lofty watermark but even coming close would represent a career season.
Bo Horvat, C, Canucks (76% rostered)
Granted, Horvat has always ranked among the league’s best in faceoffs, but this season he’s closed the gap that separates him from the annual presumptive faceoff expert, Patrice Bergeron. Horvat ranks second in the league with 138 wins and leads the Canucks with eight goals, a great start to his contract year. Horvat has been paired with a rotating cast of wingers every season and the Canucks have struggled early on, but with last season’s top scorer J.T. Miller on his left wing and playing his usual bumper role on the power play (where he scored two goals Tuesday night), Horvat is in line for a career season. He’ll be leaned on in all situations and has significant fantasy value in leagues that count faceoffs.
Chandler Stephenson, C/RW, Golden Knights (61% rostered)
It shouldn’t be long before Stephenson gains LW eligibility, which will give him the coveted and rare trifecta. He’s a utility-knife player who can play anywhere in the lineup, but recently he’s settled in on the top line with Jack Eichel at center and Mark Stone on the opposite wing. He’s joining the star duo on PP1 as well. Stephenson scored 64 points last season, and while one of the arguments against his fantasy value this year was that his role would be decreased with a healthy Eichel and Stone, he’s instead joined them and continues to average 19 minutes per game. Stephenson doesn’t shoot the puck very much, and he likely never will with Eichel on his line, but he’s a very efficient finisher. A modest increase to two shots per game could push him into 25-goal, 70-point territory.
Jake DeBrusk, LW/RW, Bruins (50% rostered)
The return of Brad Marchand hasn’t bumped DeBrusk from the top six. Instead, in an excellent development for his fantasy value, DeBrusk is now skating with Marchand and Bergeron while David Pastrnak anchors another line. DeBrusk collected an assist Tuesday against Pittsburgh to extend his points streak to three games and played a total of 19:57, trailing only Marchand and Pastrnak among Bruins forwards. Free from Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse, DeBrusk is responding well with increased minutes and more freedom under Jim Montgomery.
Martin Necas, RW, Hurricanes (61% rostered)
Necas’ play has taken a big jump this season, and he’s looking like a point-per-game player even factoring in some regression. According to moneypuck.com, Necas’ line with an improved Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Andrei Svechnikov ranks eighth in xGoals% among trios who have played at least 50 minutes together. Right wing can be a deep position and Necas doesn’t offer up a lot of peripherals, but he’s worth a roster spot in most standard leagues as a potential 80-point player. Among players with at least 100 minutes played at 5-on-5, Necas ranks ninth in the league in Corsi For percentage, with Kotkaniemi and Svechnikov ranked sixth and eighth, respectively.
Brandon Montour, D, Panthers (66% rostered)
Montour has been an absolute workhorse for the Panthers and will continue to be one as long as Aaron Ekblad (lower body) is out. Over the past two weeks, only Quinn Hughes has played more than Montour’s 26:51 TOI/GP, and Montour keeps putting up points with seven in six games. The Panthers are so thin they need to keep leaning on Montour; the drawback will be fatigue, as Montour has never had to play as much as he has now and is outmatched defensively against the opposition’s top lines on most nights.
Moritz Seider, D, Red Wings (96% rostered)
Seider and the Wings came into the season with high expectations after a summer of heavy spending, but the team has fallen short so far and Seider’s sophomore season hasn’t been going too well. He’s got just two assists through nine games and is playing slightly fewer minutes per game than last season (perhaps because he’s playing with Ben Chiarot), so now might be a good time to see if there’s an opportunity to buy low from a fantasy manager who’s been frustrated with his first month. Seider still has considerable value in banger leagues thanks to his hits and blocked shots, but it’s been a tough slog offensively and he’s yet to have a breakout game like Roman Josi to bust the slump. Seider remains a potential top-five defenseman long-term, however, and his fantasy value might be at its lowest during the Wings’ recent 2-3-2 slide.
Dominik Kubalik, LW/RW, Red Wings (74% rostered)
Kubalik rode a five-game hot streak after Jakub Vrana entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program and Tyler Bertuzzi suffered an upper-body injury, but he’s now gone ice cold with one assist in his past three games. Scorers like Kubalik tend to be very streaky, and with Bertuzzi set to return in a couple of weeks, Kubalik’s usage might take another dip. He played just 13:04 in an 8-3 loss to the Sabres with zero shots on goal, and keep in mind that his 20.0 shooting percentage remains unsustainably high.
Radko Gudas, D, Panthers (55% rostered)
Gudas is favored in roto leagues because he blocks and hits in such high volumes, but that hasn’t been the case this season. Gudas is playing more minutes than ever before, but his trademark physical play has been a little more muted; he’s currently tied for 30th in hits after finishing first last season, and he’s merely borderline top-50 in blocked shots. He’s played well considering the Panthers don’t have Ekblad or MacKenzie Weegarand Gudas’ role has changed a little from being a physical force to being more well-rounded in all areas of the game, but that’s taken him away from contributing in the categories he tends to perform best. Without the massive volume of hits, Gudas just doesn’t have the same kind of fantasy value this season. Fantasy managers may want to sell Gudas by leveraging his reputation while scoping out similar options elsewhere, including Alexander Romanov or Brayden McNabbboth of whom have a bit more offensive upside.