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Fantasy mailbag: Kempe, Buchnevich, Nilsson worth considering

Young forwards producing for Kings, Rangers; Canucks goaltender emerging as starter

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / Senior Fantasy Editor

Every Friday during the season, will answer your fantasy mailbag questions. Whether you're in a year-long league or play DFS, we'll answer the most relevant questions based on Yahoo transaction trends, DraftKings value and any other developments (production, lineup, injuries) around the League. Send your questions to @NHLJensen.


@Ommmzzz: Do you see Nikita Kucherov and/or Steven Stamkos putting up 100 points this season, or will they regress to closer to a point per game?

If Stamkos stays healthy, there's a high likelihood he and Kucherov reach 100 points based on what we've seen. Having an elite goal-scorer in Kucherov as a linemate has opened up new possibilities for Stamkos in terms of balanced scoring. Stamkos had 60 goals in 2011-12 and 51 goals in 2009-10, but has never hit the 50-assist mark in his NHL career (46 in 2010-11). Stamkos is averaging nearly two points per game right now, and that's with only four goals on 37 shots on goal (10.8 percent; NHL career average: 17.0). I would not entertain sell-high talk with either of these two. They were attainable as a point pair in drafts, and you likely will win your league if you have both. I was higher on Kucherov than most in the preseason (had him fourth overall; Yahoo average draft position: 9.4), and he's still exceeding expectations.


@MattKuiper: Thoughts on Jordan Eberle and if he can turn his season around? It's a keeper league, so trading him now doesn't bring much value.

Unfortunately for Eberle and his fantasy owners, his most-productive days may be behind him. He still has a chance to turn things around if the New York Islanders remain married to their top line of Eberle with Tavares and Anders Lee, but we're reaching the point where fantasy owners need to consider dropping him depending on who is available. He's on the verge of losing his spot among my top 100 forward rankings with so many young players emerging around the League. It just doesn't seem like a coincidence that things aren't working out with the Islanders after they didn't end well among talented forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with the Edmonton Oilers. The Islanders power play has struggled for a season-plus now, and Eberle has no goals and six assists on 24 shots on goal. If Tavares leaves as an unrestricted free agent after this season, then Eberle would lose his appeal in a keeper league. That said, he remains an appealing buy-low fantasy add in some leagues if you have a roster spot to play with. It's not often that you see a former 60- or 70-point player up for grabs.

Video: BUF@NYI: Tavares buries Eberle's dish on the rush


@rsd08: How does the goalie situation in Vancouver shake out? Anders Nilsson has strung together a couple of good starts. They're a low-event team. Any value there?

When there's potential value in a fantasy goaltender, you have to act quickly. Nilsson (13 percent owned) has two road shutouts and stopped 25 of 27 shots in a 6-2 home win against the Washington Capitals on Thursday. This may be his fifth team in as many NHL seasons, but he had a .923 save percentage in 26 games with the struggling Buffalo Sabres last season. He has the clear edge on Jacob Markstrom if he keeps up anything close to this level of performance, and is worth adding as a third or fourth fantasy goaltender in the short term (at least for spot starts). The Canucks may not be the most dynamic offensive team, but they have a veteran-laden forward group, an underrated young line in Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser and a top 10 penalty kill (84.2 percent, T-9th).


@DerekEpp88: Alexander Wennberg worth holding on to, or should I look for a possible replacement (and who)?; @djordan119: Alexander Wennberg worth keeping this year? Very early but he doesn't impress me so far on the power play.

I would have some faith in Wennberg in standard and deeper leagues, but there are centers on the waiver wire in shallow formats that have become more appealing. Derick Brassard (OTT; 55 percent owned), Sean Couturier (PHI; 52 percent) and Paul Stastny (STL; 39 percent) continue to produce and need to be taken more seriously. Even Clayton Keller (C/LW/RW, ARI; 52 percent owned), playing for a winless team, is providing better category coverage than Wennberg. The leash sometimes has to be short with center-eligible players because center is the deepest position. If you cut the cord, at least you probably didn't spend a high pick on him in drafts (ADP: 163.0). He is a top-100 overall player when playing top-line and first power-play minutes for the Columbus Blue Jackets. When he's being bounced around at even strength, his incomplete category coverage gives him a low fantasy floor.

Video: CBJ@MIN: Wennberg knocks home game-winner in OT


@iamTwigggy: Is Adrian Kempe the real deal? Drop Anders Lee for him?; @EichelBetter: Victor Rask or Adrian Kempe?; @Bobmack13: Thoughts on Adrian Kempe, and Baertschi?

I like Kempe (C/LW, 29 percent owned) over Rask and Baertschi right now because of how much damage he's doing in per-60 metrics and also the staying power of the Los Angeles Kings. I would not drop Lee for Kempe though because Lee sees top-line and first power-play usage with Tavares, a linemate far superior to Michael Cammalleri and Trevor Lewis. Lee is also great in a hits league. One thing to keep in mind is that the eventual return of Jeff Carter (ankle) could lead to an altered role and potential regression in the coming weeks or months. Kempe, 21, has no power-play points during his recent surge, but is certainly worth a flier in deeper leagues with nine points (six goals, three assists), a plus-9 and 12 SOG in five games dating to the game Carter was injured. If he begins to see top-six and/or power-play usage, his fantasy worth for the rest of the season could spike.


@Quinten_Cox23: Thoughts on Sven Andrighetto vs. Pavel Buchnevich moving forward this year? Trying to decide between which one to keep.

There are a lot of fantasy negatives from the New York Rangers' slow start, but I actually love how they are using Buchnevich this season compared to his rookie year. The 22-year-old has been a staple on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and on the first power-play unit with Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Buchnevich has quietly been a bright spot for the Rangers and is somehow only 4 percent owned in Yahoo with dual eligibility (LW/RW), seven points (three goals, four assists) and solid peripherals (even rating, three PPP, 24 SOG) through 11 games. Buchnevich had his best game of the season against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, scoring two goals and was plus-3. Andrighetto has cooled off considerably for the Colorado Avalanche and is much more of a plus/minus liability, so I would go with Buchnevich.


@Jutt_edwards: Will Devan Dubynk turn it around? Or is this a trend with him: One season good, one season bad?

I pin a lot of the Minnesota Wild's issues to their rash of injuries to some of their top forwards (Nino Niederreiter, Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle). Dubnyk has played six games and allowed at least four goals on four occasions. His 1-0 loss to the Canucks on Tuesday saw Minnesota's injury losses come to a head, but it was encouraging to see an offensive response in a 6-4 win against the Islanders on Thursday. Dubnyk's save percentage should revert to at least respectability over time. The Wild are still one of the deepest forward groups in the League when healthy, and I wouldn't call any of Dubnyk's save percentages in the past three seasons "bad" (.936 in 2014-15; .918 in 2015-16, .923 in 2016-17).

Video: NYI@MIN: Dubnyk denies Ladd twice in quick order


@MattKuiper: Oscar Fantenberg is available. Do you like his possible return on depth stats (hits and blocks), or is he more of an offensive defenseman?

Fantenberg (1 percent owned) is quietly producing power-play points on the Kings' second unit with Jake Muzzin, Tanner Pearson and Cammalleri. He has four assists in 10 games with three coming on that power-play unit. He's definitely worth a look in a deep league like yours considering he's averaging more than one hit per game (14 in 10 games). Even though his blocks shots total (five) isn't notable, the PPP are the overriding factor. It's hard to find those among defensemen on the wire. Coach John Stevens has been a fresh voice for the Kings, and some of this could be sustainable given the championship pedigree of many players on this roster.


@95jakeringwald: What to do with Carey Price and Oliver Ekman-Larsson?

These are top-notch fantasy talents who are nothing more than buy-low trade targets at this time. You could never drop either Price or Ekman-Larsson because of their ceilings at their respective positions, so you just need to be patient and hope the Canadiens offense begins to improve over time or that the young Coyotes win a game soon and start improving from there. Unfortunately, Price and Ekman-Larsson were overdrafted in Yahoo despite glaring concerns. I worried about Price's wins total entering the season, but he can still put up elite peripherals from here on out and keep the Canadiens in games. Ekman-Larsson is a plus/minus liability, but he's fortunate to at least have even-strength and power-play exposure to Keller, Derek Stepan and Max Domi, leaving his bounce-back window open.

Video: BOS@ARI: Ekman-Larsson rips home PPG to set record


@fantasygurulol: With Sami Vatanen coming back soon, should I drop Michael Del Zotto or Alec Martinez for him in a hits and blocks league?

Vatanen (17 percent owned) is a boom-or-bust power-play specialist that could be a key addition for the Anaheim Ducks once he is fully recovered from his shoulder injury. The Ducks have the second-worst conversion percentage in the NHL right now (6.5 percent). That said, the Ducks defense is still pretty deep, even in the absence of Cam Fowler (knee), with Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Montour and Josh Manson making cases for big minutes. I would probably drop Del Zotto for Vatanen in a standard league, but not in one like yours that counts hits (17 in 10 games; five NHL seasons of at least 100). Martinez, especially with how well the Kings are playing, also should not be dropped in a hits/blocks league; he has at least 130 hits and blocks in each of the past two seasons. Martinez's offensive production should come around with his frequent usage on the first power-play unit with defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Anze Kopitar. If you need more help in blocks than hits, Vatanen may be worth adding over Del Zotto.

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