Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 16

Mats Zuccarello is hot right now, playing with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard. Who else should you target this week in fantasy hockey?

Before I get to this week's edition of Changing on the Fly, I want to tell a little personal tale. Since 2007, I have been a member of La Musique des Fusiliers Mont-Royal, which is a Canadian Army Reserve Band, based in Montreal. Over the years, I have been given the opportunity to perform for many unique occasions. Sunday was the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag, and the Montreal Canadiens invited our military band to perform the national anthem for Saturday night's game.

So I was standing, on the ice, at the Bell Centre, playing "O Canada" in front of 20,000-plus fans and a national Hockey Night in Canada audience; not only that, but the Habs were playing my beloved and be-loathed Toronto Maple Leafs. Afterwards, we got to watch the game from the press gallery; there isn't any cheering allowed up there, which I am used to: being a Maple Leafs fan, living in Montreal trains you to keep your outward expression of happiness (as rare as it is these days) to a minimum. This is an experience I won't ever forget, now on to the article.

In case you are new here and missed earlier volumes, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes," which focus on football and basketball, respectively. Football is over, but if you are into basketball, go see what Russ is saying. It is well worth it.

As always, percentage owned and position eligibility is based off Yahoo!, but the advice is applicable to the whole spectrum of fantasy hockey platforms.

Add Tyler Myers, D – Winnipeg Jets (17% owned)

The fallout of the Evander Kane saga came sooner than expected when general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff shipped him and Zach Bogosian to Buffalo for a package of Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers, along with draft picks and prospects.

The fantasy outcome is less than significant; Kane is out for the year, Bogosian wasn’t anything to write home about in the first place and his stock slips, and Stafford only comes into play in very deep leagues -- but his value should rise slightly. That leaves Myers. Myers broke into the league as a much-hyped defenseman a few years back but has since struggled offensively, as the Sabres fell down the depths of the NHL standings. A move to a competing team in Winnipeg should bode well for him.

If we take a look at this year’s Jets versus the 2010-11 Sabres, the two teams are comparable offensively and are much improved over this year's Sabres.

Category2014-15 Sabres2014-15 Jets2010-11 Sabres

A player;s team and teammates obviously impact their play and the scoring opportunities they receive. To take a look at Myers' performance in 2010-11 versus this year while in Buffalo is almost like looking at two different players: one a must-own fantasy defenseman, the other less than waiver wire fodder.

SeasonGamesGoalsAssistsShooting %Points/Game
2014-15 (Sabres)47495.6%0.28
2014-15 (Jets)2020%1.00

If Myers could get back to contributing at his 2010-11 pace for the rest of the season (0.46 points per game), that rate would put him 40th amongst defensemen. Take into account injuries to several players ahead of him on that list, and Myers looks to be a viable fantasy option from here on out.

Buy Cody Franson, D – Nashville Predators (58%)

The Nashville Predators just bought Cody Franson, and fantasy hockey owners should consider doing the same. The towering defenseman was mercifully traded out of Toronto Sunday, along with Mike Santorelli, for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic, and Nashville's 2015 first-round draft pick. With the trade, Franson goes from the Maple Leafs to the Predators is lined up for an immediate offensive boost. The Preds are sixth in the league in goals for per 60 minutes, while the Leafs are all the way down at 16th. On defense, the gap is even larger; Nashville is the second best team in goals against per 60 minutes, and Toronto sits 25th.

CategoryMaple LeafsRankPredatorsRank

Franson leaves Toronto after leading their defensive core in points, as well as being a positive influence on the back end. His 4.7 Team-Relative Corsi rating indicates that he has not been the primary problem in Toronto when it comes to puck possession, an area where Toronto is particularly bad, 27th in the league.

Cody Franson55321.639.5459.12
Roman Josi56401.6210.2558.71
Shea Weber56401.6113.0358.50

While his exact assignment is unknown, as displayed in the chart above, Franson fits right in with Nashville’s top defender and if he is given the minutes he could thrive in the Music City.

Drop Jhonas Enroth, G – Dallas Stars (34%)

The second trade Buffalo made last week was to move Jhonas Enroth to Dallas in exchange for Anders Lindback and a conditional third round pick. While the quality of his team has improved, look for Enroth to get less playing time in Dallas as he will most likely backup Kari Lehtonen for the rest of the season.

His first game for the Stars did not go well. Enroth let in four goals on 30 shots in the 4-1 loss to the Avalanche.

There was little reason, other than volume of playing time, for Enroth to be on fantasy rosters to begin with. Now relegated to role of backup on a hurt Dallas team, he is even less enticing.

Sell Jamie Benn, C/LW – Dallas Stars (100%)

Even Dallas' stars are having a rough go of it recently. Tyler Seguin is out of the lineup and on the injured reserve; he appears to be slated to miss the next three to six weeks with a knee injury.

That most likely spells bad news to Jamie Benn owners, as the two have been elite scorers this year while playing on Dallas' top line. While Benn is talented in his own right, his numbers take a hit when Seguin is not on the ice with him.

CategoryBenn with SeguinBenn without Seguin
5-on-5 TOI667:4888:01
5-on-5 Points312
5-on-5 GF603.321.36
5-on-5 CF6065.4155.90

While Seguin should be back in time for the fantasy hockey playoffs, if you are on the playoff bubble, Benn might not be your best bet.

Buy Phil Kessel, RW – Toronto Maple Leafs (99%)

Few players have been villainized recently as much as Phil Kessel has been. While at the Canadiens-Leafs game Saturday night, Kessel was booed every time he touched the puck. I was unsure whether it was the Leaf fans or Habs fans making more noise -- maybe they were just agreeing. Regardless, Kessel has been scuffling as of late. Since the turn of the calendar, Kessel has three goals and six points in 19 games for a sad 0.32 points-per-game mark. Not exactly elite numbers that made Kessel a high pick in fantasy drafts.

MonthGamesPointsPoints/GameShooting %

Kessel's career shooting percentage is 11.1%, so this slump can't last forever. Despite this down period, he still holds an 11.4% success rate on the season, so the slump was inevitable to regress towards the mean. Looking at his career numbers, there shouldn't be any surprise of a mid-season slump.

MonthGamesPointsPoint/GameShooting %

Surely owners are frustrated with Kessel by this point, so here is your "buy-low" window. If he performance history is an indicator, things should get better here on out.

Add Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW – New York Rangers (54%)

Before going pointless in Saturday's 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes, Mats Zuccarello had a six-game point streak going where he scored four goals and added five assists. Zuccarello is in a good spot right now as he is on the Rangers top line with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard. He has also been recently promoted to the Rangers top power play unit and will see prime point-gathering opportunities on the man-advantage until further notice.

Sell/Drop Petr Mrazek, G – Detroit Red Wings (24%)

It is coming. Petr Mrazek is going to the minors, and it is only a matter of time, unless the Red Wings trade Jonas Gustavsson or Jimmy Howard. I mentioned this last week, but here is your second warning to rid yourself on Mrazek while you still might be able to get some return value for him.

Add Anders Lee, C/LW - New York Islanders (19%)

The New York Islanders have been one of, if not the surprise team in the NHL this year. This week they have five games on the schedule. Numerous players are fantasy relevant with that volume. If you are in a weekly league or have few roster moves per week, look to Islanders players to add to your counting stats. A good choice, and available to many, would be Anders Lee.

Lee has 18 goals and 10 assists on the year and is currently playing on a line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey as well as top power play time. Five games in a week for a team doesn't come along very often, but when it does, smart fantasy hockey owner pounce.

Drop Shane Doan, LW/RW – Arizona Coyotes (22%)

In contrast to the Islanders, the Coyotes have been one of the most disappointing teams this season. Other than Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and the departed Devan Dubnyk, there haven't been many useful fantasy hockey assets coming from the Coyotes.

The 'Yotes play only two games this week, so any other Desert Dogs your may have on your roster aren't going to be of much help.

Sell Brayden Schenn, C/LW – Philadelphia Flyers (37%)

With 11 goals and 21 assists in 55 games this year, Brayden Schenn has been a dependable contributor to fantasy hockey squads, registering 0.58 points per game. At the moment, Schenn is playing with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek but hasn't produced as with them as one would expect.

Weird, I know. A player, who has obvious offensive upside but is under owned, playing on a line with two of the most explosive talents in the league, and I recommend "sell." Here is why.

Schenn 5-on-5Ice TimeGF20CF20
With Giroux343:381.4059.19
Without Giroux396:342.1256.50
With Voracek335:451.6157.72
Without Voracek404:271.9353.11

Overall, Schenn has a 5-on-5 goals for per 60 minutes of 1.78, so shockingly, playing with Giroux and Voracek isn't helping him much. To trade Schenn, you'll probably have to inform another owner than he is playing on the Flyers top line, just leave out the "he hasn’t produced with Giroux and Voracek" part, and you have a piece of bait to dangle.

Add Blake Comeau, LW/RW – Pittsburgh Penguins (16%)

From players who don’t perform well together, to some that do: Blake Comeau and Evgeni Malkin. When on the ice together the Penguins have a 5-on-5 goals for per 60 rate of 2.84. Their season rate is 2.42, so Comeau and Malkin is a "plus" combination for the Pens.

Since coming back from an upper body injury that he suffered in December, Comeau has three points in two games and has not missed a beat since registering 19 points in his first 32 games before the injury.

Add Tommy Wingels, RW – San Jose Sharks (26%)

He's back. He still isn't scoring, but he is back. If you have been a regular reader of this article, you'll know that Tommy Wingels was struggling before being injured in mid-January. But the allure of Wingels is not necessarily his scoring but rather his peripherals stats -- in particular, hits.

Despite missing time, Wingels is still fifth in the leagues in hits, and as I said once before, when producing Wingels is a poor man's Alex Ovechkin. If your league counts hits, Wingels is a cheap option to line them up.