By Jason Chen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Here's a look around the league at the latest trends after another week of hockey. Some food for thought, some leftover stats and, of course, some fantasy advice. Let's dig in.
The Not-So-Ugly Ducklings
It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows for the California teams recently, especially for the Ducks, who enter Sunday in last place in the West Division and remain only one of two teams with single-digit wins. Their top goal scorer, Adam Henrique, was benched and waived earlier this season, and their MVP for multiple seasons, John Gibson, has won just six games and is statistically having the worst season of his career (.894 Sv% and 3.11 GAA). But if there's light at the end of the tunnel, it was on full display Thursday with stud rookies Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale scoring their first NHL goals.
By their next game Saturday, despite losing 5-1, Zegras had added another assist, and Drysdale registered three shots and finished third among Ducks defensemen in total ice time (20:36), trailing only Cam Fowler (20:38) and Kevin Shattenkirk (21:16). In those two games, according to Natural Stat Trick, Drysdale not only led all Ducks defensemen with a 59.68 5v5 CF% and 60.59 5v5 xGF%, he did it while dragging Ben Hutton, who had a 43.18 5v5 CF% before Drysdale's debut, ranking last among the nine defensemen the Ducks have dressed this season. The sample size is small, but also note Drysdale (150.00 CF/60) and Zegras (120.45 CF/60) are also the Ducks' two best players at generating shots on the power play, and their numbers are on par with the likes of Cale Makar (133.9 CF/60) and Anze Kopitar (121.23 CF/60, third in the league with 20 power-play points).
With no hope for the playoffs and plenty of decisions to come with the trade deadline looming, it seems pretty clear that the new path for the Ducks is to play Zegras and Drysdale together as much as they can, continuing to build on their chemistry that started with AHL San Diego. Because the Ducks just aren't very good in general, Zegras (9 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues) and Drysdale (15 percent already!) won't be consistent contributors, but they can be incredibly valuable in keeper leagues. Drysdale is on the verge of surpassing Shattenkirk as the primary offensive defenseman, if he hasn't already, especially since Shattenkirk has scored just four power-play points. There is a risk the Ducks may send Drysdale back to the OHL, but if he maintains his current level of play, why would they?
Also, keep an eye out for: the Kings' Quinton Byfield, Samuel Fagemo, Alex Turcotte and Rasmus Kupari; the Flyers' Zayde Wisdom; and the Devils' Nolan Foote, all of whom are having success in the AHL and may get called up sooner than later as their parent teams fall out of the playoff race and look toward the future.
We knew that if Maple Leafs backup Jack Campbell played well Saturday, he would get a chance to replace Frederik Andersen as the starting goalie, even if only until Andersen gets back on track. Well, not only did Campbell shut out the Flames in a much-needed win to keep the Leafs in first place in the North, it was also announced that Andersen was ailing from a lower-body injury. This means that for the foreseeable future, Campbell is the Leafs' de facto No. 1 goalie.
The Leafs have a very talented roster, but the key to their success remains in net. Until March 4 and prior to losing six of the next seven games, the Leafs had the best P% at .792 despite a poor 47.83 5v5 CF, thanks largely to a 5v5 Sv% of .937 that ranked second in the league, according to Natural Stat Trick. During their seven-game slide, the Leafs' 5v5 Sv% plummeted to .897, ranking 26th in the league, and their P% plummeted to .250, ranking 30th and only ahead of the Sabres' embarrassing .056. Campbell's triumphant return from injury bodes well for the Leafs; if Campbell can simply maintain his career even-strength save percentage of .924, which is just slightly better than Andersen's .922, it should rank in the top half of the league and give them a chance to maintain their division lead. The Leafs' possession numbers are improving (now 50.07 5v5 CF%, 14th in the league), and given the evidence that Campbell doesn't need to be lights-out to win games, the reward proposition is quite good even with a daunting schedule ahead with the Oilers and Jets coming up. Campbell can be a valuable add in a season short on quality goalies, and he's rostered in less than a third of Yahoo leagues.
Speaking of goalies, there's also some fantasy value in Jonas Johansson, whom the Avalanche just acquired from the Sabres for a sixth-round pick, which also provided a hint that Pavel Francouz may not return this season. Johansson, who played in the AHL All-Star Game last season but has struggled most of his NHL career with a .888 Sv% and 3.40 GAA, will probably be tasked with giving workhorse Philipp Grubauer a break. While Grubauer has been excellent all season, the Avs have played just three back-to-backs and managed to avoid playing him consecutive nights, but the schedule is getting tight — the Avs have back-to-backs March 22-23, April 2-3, April 11-12, April 30-May 1 and the season finale on May 7-8, barring any schedule changes. Even if Johansson's play in the NHL remains poor, the Avs' potent offense should bail him out. Heck, even Hunter Miska managed to win one game this season ...
Fantasy managers who live for chaos and want to take a stab in the dark may want to look at Filip Gustavsson, the Senators rookie who was pressed into action on Wednesday and saved all eight shots he faced before succumbing in a shootout after third-string goalie Joey Daccord suffered a season-ending injury. Gustavsson had played just six games for AHL Belleville before his call-up, but he has some pedigree; he was named the best goaltender at the U18 World Championships in 2016 and the 2018 World Juniors. Sometimes, a young goalie can step in and just catch fire right away, like Daccord did just for a brief moment; otherwise, the Sens' only other options are 28-year-old Anton Forsberg, who has a career. 901 Sv% and 12 wins, or 2018 sixth-round pick Kevin Mandolese, who has two games of pro experience. If we're already rolling the dice with a Sens goalie in the high-scoring North Division, it might as well be Gustavsson, who clearly has the most potential.
Through two games, Jimmy Vesey is averaging more than 18 minutes per game with the Canucks, the most ice time he's ever received in his career. After Tanner Pearson suffered an injury that will keep him out of the lineup for four weeks, the Canucks claimed Vesey off waivers and immediately plugged him into their top-six and top power play unit, but he has zero points and three shots to show for it so far. Don't expect Vesey (1 percent rostered), who was an effective scorer in the NCAA but has struggled to find a role in the NHL, to put up any kind of meaningful numbers, but if the opportunities are there, eventually he should pick up a point here and there.
Vesey was placed on waivers because the Leafs wanted to make room for Alex Galchenyuk, who notched an assist in his second game and trails only Joe Thornton in 5v5 CF%. It's amusing, if only because we have a pretty good idea of what we're getting with Galchenyuk, who is playing for his fifth team in two seasons. The analytically inclined Leafs might know something we don't, but until Galchenyuk (8 percent rostered) proves he can be a consistent contributor, he remains waiver-wire fodder.
The player to keep an eye on is Jared McCann (3 percent rostered), who slotted into Evgeni Malkin's usual spot on the Penguins' second line. His line with Evan Rodrigues and Kasperi Kapanen didn't create much, but McCann's 14:55 TOI is his third-highest total this season, and his five goals in 18 games is the fifth-best G/GP average on the team. As long as Malkin is out, whoever plays on that second line should get a boost in offensive opportunities, assuming Sidney Crosby's line doesn't take all of them.
The Bruins will also be in an interesting situation with four forwards landing on COVID protocol, including top sniper David Pastrnak and their entire second line of David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Craig Smith. Their offense will obviously take a big hit, especially if they're unavailable for an extended period, but that also potentially means more ice time for Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Jack Studnicka, Anton Blidh and Cameron Hughes. Don't hold your breath on any of these players, but fantasy managers who play matchups and looking for upsets may want to take note with their upcoming games against the Sabres and Devils.