The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 10/08/11 at 01:00 PM ET
The people of Winnipeg have a lot to be thankful for this weekend. Not only is Thanksgiving (in Canada) on Monday, but also the Jets take the ice for the first time in 15 years. Although the Jets are not an expansion team, they are not that far off, having assumed the identity of an Atlanta Thrashers team that has struggled mightily in its ten-year existence. But that will hardly matter on Sunday, when the Jets make their return official against the Montreal Canadiens, a game that promises high television ratings across Canada.
So what can we expect fantasy-wise from the Jets? In my Pick Six (which covers Sunday, Monday, and weekly picks), I’ll examine a couple Jets who will attract attention on Sunday.
Please note that players that I list to start aren’t players that should start in all situations, nor are players who I list to bench are players that should be on the bench in all situations. These are simply recommendations as to whether a player will perform better or worse than normal.
Ondrej Pavelec, G, WPG – start
Pavelec established himself as the clear-cut starter for this franchise last season, playing in 58 games. Although his numbers (2.73 GAA, .914 SV%) weren’t Vezina Trophy material, he experienced success last season against Sunday’s opponent (3 GP, 1.64 GAA, .952 SV%, 1 SO). Add to the fact that the crowd will be pumped up on Sunday (will they bring back the whiteout?), and Pavelec has the opportunity to establish himself as an instant hero – both to Jets fans and fantasy owners. If nothing else, start Pavelec just to give yourself something to cheer about.
Mark Scheifele, C, WPG – start
Scheifele, the Jets’ first-ever draft pick (7th overall), may over time establish himself as the face of this franchise. He will be on a ten-game trial like many other rookies, so he will need to establish himself as NHL-ready. The Thrashers Jets aren’t exactly deep up the middle, so there is real opportunity for Scheifele. Although we can’t rely totally on preseason stats, Scheifele led the Jets with eight points, including four goals, during the exhibition schedule. This recommendation is strictly for deeper leagues until Scheifele establishes himself as a proven NHL scorer.
Kari Lehtonen, G, DAL – start
Lehtonen started the season with a bang on Friday, stopping 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 victory over a Chicago team that TSN is picking to win the Stanley Cup. If he starts again on Saturday against Chicago and on Monday against Phoenix, he might be exhausted from playing three games in four nights. However, Lehtonen is looking at a very favorable matchup against a Phoenix team that has one of the lightest offenses in the league. In five games against the Yotes last season, Lehtonen posted a 2-1-2 record with a 1.98 GAA and .930 SV%.
Calgary players – bench
There probably won’t be too many starting roster dilemmas on Monday, as 14 out of 30 teams play that day. However, fantasy owners will need to set their lineups early that day, as the Columbus Day holiday in the US results in four matinee games. Matinee games can be problematic for teams, as I can once recall watching Roberto Luongo suffer a leg injury in Pittsburgh shortly after I finished eating breakfast – not my usual hockey-watching time. Western teams seem to have it worst, with Calgary likely being the most jetlagged. Following an 8 pm (Mountain Time) Saturday home game against Pittsburgh, the Flames hop on a plane for a Monday game across the continent in St. Louis that starts at noon on the same clock. I won’t get into individual matchups in this one, but don’t be surprised to see the Flames come up flat simply because of the travel.
Anaheim/Buffalo/Los Angeles/NY Rangers players – bench
With the NHL having opened in Europe for several seasons now, it’s no secret that the teams who volunteer to start the season there need considerable time for their internal clocks to readjust to North America. The Rangers in particular will provide fantasy owners with slim pickings next week with just one game – a cross-town matchup at Long Island. The Kings receive the least amount of rest time with a match on Thursday in Jersey, while the Sabres take possibly the greatest shock to the system with back-to-back games on Friday against Carolina and Saturday in Pittsburgh. Depending upon your situation, you’re probably best to avoid these teams altogether next week.
Minnesota players – start
The Wild play four games next week, with three of those games coming against possible non-playoff teams. The tough part of the schedule will start early in the week, with back-to-back road games against the Islanders and Ottawa. However, they return home for games against Edmonton and Detroit. The Wild’s new top line of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi could very well ring up the points on a busy week, while Niklas Backstrom should start at least three games.
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About The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
My name is Ian Gooding, and this is The Goods on Fantasy Hockey. Given my ability to understand numbers, write sentences, and follow hockey, it’s not a surprise to those who know me that I became a fantasy hockey writer. I started writing about fantasy hockey in 2006 for fantasyhockey.com and became the site’s content editor in 2007. Looking to expand my audience, I joined Kukla’s Korner in the summer of 2011 to create the site’s first fantasy hockey blog.
A few times each week, I’ll provide an article called “Pick Six” where I will write about six players that should either be in your fantasy team’s starting lineup or bench for the upcoming game. As well, I’ll provide the fantasy takes on important hockey developments. You can also email me your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter.