Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 7

Mika Zibanejad has been one of the hottest players in the NHL in December. Should you buy or sell him?

Here we go with Volume 7! In case you missed, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5 and, Volume 6, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes."

Both of those article series are worth a read if you are in fantasy football or basketball leagues. Here, we take a look at a few transactions that will help you improve your fantasy hockey team and win your league.

All percent owned stats will be used from Yahoo! leagues, and we'll assume a standard 6x4 scoring system (Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, Power Play Points, Penalties in Minutes, Shots on Goal; Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage, Shutouts). Transactions are listed in relative order of importance.

Hold Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW – Colorado Avalanche (94% owned)

Ah, the sophomore jinx: every fantasy player’s nightmare. A player has an outstanding rookie season, you are sure he is on the way to becoming the next big thing, you draft him high (this case an average pick of 36th overall), and then…. KERPLUNK! A pedestrian start to year two.

Nathan MacKinnon has gone from 0.77 points per game in his rookie season to 0.63 this year. While not a massive drop-off, it is certainly disappointing to owner who invested early in MacKinnon. The number that has hurt his fantasy value the most has been his plus/minus, which is a result of the Avalanche’s lackluster defensive play as a team. McKinnon has fallen from a plus-20 last year to minus-10 this year, and that is hurting his fantasy ranking.

There isn’t much to be done here but to hold on and take the points MacKinnon will give you; “selling low” would not be ideal for a player with so much potential, and an outright drop would be just wrong.

Add Mika Zibanejad, C/RW – Ottawa Senators (10%)

When things go wrong on a team, often the players are to blame, but it’s the coach who gets the ax. A lot has gone wrong in Ottawa this season, but for the month of December Mika Zibanejad has been a bright spot.

With eight points in six games this month, Zibanejad is out producing everyone not named Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Santorelli this month. With a new bench boss in Ottawa, ice-time is up for grabs, and no line combination is set in stone. For the time being, Zibanejad is set with Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman on what appears to be the Senators’ top line and is also picking up second-unit power play minutes. If new coach Dave Cameron likes what he sees, Zibanejad could be due for a spike in ice time.

Buy Valtteri Filppula, C/LW – Tampa Bay Lightning (66%)

Valtteri Filppula started the season off on a respectable pace with 18 points in his first 19 games while playing with Steven Stamkos. When Alex Killorn returned from injury, he replaced Filppula on the top line with Ryan Callahan and Stamkos, and I recommended selling him. After recording only four points in his past 12 games, the Bolts have reunited their top line. Filppula is much more effective with Stamkos than without and is likely due to start scoring again.

The Lightning score almost three times as many goals per 20 minutes when Filppula is on the ice with Stamkos than when he is playing with other players.

Stamkos SplitsIce-Time withGF20 with Ice-Time withoutGF20 without

Add Mike Santorelli, C – Toronto Maple Leafs (13%)

Last week, I mentioned in this space to add Mike Santorelli because of his recent hot streak and the Leafs’ four games this past week. Well, Santorelli has remained hot, adding 2 goals and 2 assists this week to bring his recent run to 14 points in the last 12 games.

The Leafs have another four games this coming week before and extended road trip after Christmas while the World Juniors are being played in the Air Canada Centre. Keep the upcoming road trip in mind for all Leafs, another productive week from Santorelli is a real possibility.

Sell/Drop Matt Beleskey, LW (35%)
Add Devante Smith-Pelly, LW/RW (5%) – Anaheim Ducks

Matt Beleskey has had a great start to his season with 14 goals while playing with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Now with Perry out, Getzlaf skated with Devante Smith-Pelly and Rene Bourque Saturday. This season Belesky has been scoring on 18.2% of his shots, way above his career shooting percentage of 9.6%; a regress towards the mean is due, and losing Perry and Getzlaf as linemates will probably be a contributing factor to less puck luck in the near future.

On the whole, the Beleskey and the Ducks have more success with Beleskey and Getzlaf paired.

Matt BeleskeyGF20 withGF20 withoutTeammate GF20 without
Ryan Getzlaf1.7200.9510.758
Corey Perry1.4401.0771.116
Ryan Kessler1.2531.1210.655
Kyle Palmieri1.1401.1890.757

His line change along with his unsustainably high shooting percentage makes Beleskey a “sell high” candidate if you can find a buyer. If not, a fantasy owner shouldn’t hesitate too long before dropping him for a “flavor of the week.”

Drop Derick Brassard, C (29%)
Buy Derek Stepan, C (55%) - New York Rangers

After missing the start of the season due to an injury, Derek Stepan has returned and put up a respectable 13 points in 14 games. While his (only) two goals are disappointing, there is reason to believe Stepan with start producing in the near future. His shooting percentage this season sits at 5.6%, well below the 11.1% mark that we are accustomed to seeing from the Rangers center. Furthermore, teammate Derick Brassard has been sent home from the Rangers western road trip after contracting the mumps, opening up the possibility of Stepan centering Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello. Stepan ranks 34th in points in our remainder of the season projections. Make him a trade target this week.

Add Antoine Roussel, LW – Dallas Stars (19%)

For those of you in daily leagues, where penalty minutes are counted, Antoine Roussel is a regular visitor of the penalty box and will be easy to insert into your lineup, as the Dallas Stars have four games coming up this week and play on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, all of which are “off-nights in the league.” With 62 penalty minutes, he is the fifth-most penalized player in the league; he’s been on his best behavior the past four games, so he is probably due for a fight or something sometime this week.

Drop Arizona Coyotes

This applies to everyone not named Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Mike Smith. You could even make an argument to drop OEL and Mike Smith. The Coyotes only play two games this week, and having marginal player sit on bench is not sound fantasy strategy. So Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, and Antoine Vermette can all be jettisoned this week. Chances are, if you get rid of them, they will still be there next week when the Coyotes start playing hockey again. If you want them.

Sell/Drop Mike Ribeiro, C – Nashville Predators (41%)

Much like the Coyotes, the Nashville Predators play only two games this week. Mike Ribeiro currently has 8 goals and 17 assists playing along with James Neal and Filip Forsberg but is unlikely to add much to that total this week. Center is deepest fantasy hockey position, and whatever production you’ll lose by moving Ribeiro can be replicated on the waiver wire in most leagues. Depending on your league size and type, Ribeiro should be moved.

Add Tyler Ennis, C/LW (13%)
Add Zemgus Girgensons (10%) – Buffalo Sabres

For managers who stream players to maximize games played, the Buffalo Sabres are a team to consider this week. The team bookends the week with a pair of back-to-back games: against Ottawa and in Washington Monday and Tuesday, as well as home to Colorado and in Boston Saturday and Sunday. Neither Tyler Ennis nor Zemgus Girgensons should be long-term members of your fantasy roster, but to squeak out a win this week, they can be considered.