Special to Yahoo Sports
Injuries pile up in the winter, the days are shorter, travel is more difficult and fatigue starts setting in. It’s during this time in fantasy when the players who are most consistent start to really pull away from the pack, too. Much like Thanksgiving, when teams start to have a pretty good idea of whether or not they have a shot at the playoffs, fantasy managers should start to look for different options around this time in an effort to make a push for the second half of the season.
It may seem premature, but in certain leagues — especially roto leagues — making the moves now can pay off. Doing so gives you ample time to catch up, and if the players you acquired don’t work out the way you wanted them to, it also gives you a chance to flip them later to someone else.
Brock Nelson, C, Islanders (69% rostered)
Did you know that this is only the second time in the cap era that the Isles have had two centers who are scoring at around a point-per-game pace? With a six-game point streak and a newfound love for shooting the puck, Nelson is on pace to have his best season ever. His shooting percentage isn’t abnormal — in fact, he’s actually an efficient finisher with a career shooting percentage of 14.2 — but what’s changed is his shooting rate, which has improved from 2.38 shots per game last season to 3.04 this season. His skating and the Isles’ transition game are both much stronger this year, and that should continue all season with Lane Lambert behind the bench.
Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Blue Jackets (85% rostered)
Make no mistake, the Jackets aren’t a good team. But when Laine is in the lineup, it makes a huge difference, as he’s still one of the best goalscorers out there when healthy. He’s been scoring at a 39-goal pace since last season (32 goals in 68 games), and that’s with a 9.1 shooting percentage, which is well below his career average of 15.
Though Johnny Gaudreau‘s decision to sign with the Jackets was much maligned, Gaudreau has been a point-per-game player for a team without any other high-end talent. When Gaudreau and Laine connect, they can be a dynamite duo. They seem to be establishing some chemistry, with Gaudreau assisting on three of Laine’s six goals this season, and it’s only a matter of time before either of them scores their first power-play goal of the season. Laine is a good buy-low candidate as long as he can stay healthy, and at the very least offers a lot of high-volume shooting.
Jamie Benn, C/LW, Stars (83% rostered)
There’s a stretch every season when Benn reverts back to his elite power-forward self, but after that, he kind of just fizzles and bumps his way through the season. Getting faceoff wins from the LW slot is nice, but note that he has just two assists in his past five games and seems to be entering another one of his lulls. The Stars depend on Jason Robertson‘s line for most of their scoring anyway, and Benn’s linemates, rookie Wyatt Johnston and Ty Dellandrea, aren’t the most consistent point producers. Note that Benn also doesn’t offer up hits like he used to, averaging just a little over one per game.
Brock Boeser, RW, Canucks (54% rostered)
If it weren’t for a late injury to Dakota Joshua, Boeser would’ve been a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie season on Saturday. The veteran sniper has been one of the most disappointing Canucks this season, scoring just four goals in 21 games on a paltry 9.1 shooting percentage. Many expected more from the former Calder runner-up, but his poor two-way play and lack of both footspeed and elite finishing ability have hindered his ability to produce.
This is not the first time Boeser has been featured in this space, and perhaps a change in scenery will do him good, but without the goals, high-volume shooting and peripherals, his fantasy upside is very limited. Boeser still has some name recognition, so fantasy managers may be able to dangle him for a younger player with more upside (and potentially more risk), but they may otherwise be forced to dump him onto the waiver wire. Playing with Elias Pettersson certainly helps his production, but the fact the Canucks were on the verge of scratching him shows how little the coaches trust him. A healthy scratch could still happen down the road. Andrei Kuzmenko has siphoned a lot of power-play time from Boeser, too, making Boeser far too risky of a hold when the upside isn’t there.
Hampus Lindholm, D, Bruins (86% rostered)
The early-season bump when Lindholm played every single role possible in Charlie McAvoy‘s absence is now wearing off. Lindholm hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 3 and has just one helper in his past seven games. Like Devon Toews with Cale Makar in Colorado, Lindholm has some fantasy value playing with McAvoy on the top pairing, but it really caps his ceiling because he’s no longer the primary puck mover or the top power-play option. Lindholm has fantasy value in deeper leagues because he can fill all the categories and is very consistent, but you might be better off taking your chances with someone like Torey Krug (more offensive upside) or Justin Faulk (better peripherals).
Source: Yahoo Sports