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Fantasy buzz: Wheeler, Connor step up for Jets

Each has multipoint game in absence of injured Scheifele; Puljujarvi, Schmaltz impress

by James Harding / NHL.com Fantasy Correspondent

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff will have you covered with daily lineup news, production trends and injury notes from around the League. We will identify how these developments affect fantasy owners in year-long (Yahoo) and daily (DraftKings) formats.

 
2 p.m.
DraftKings value picks for Saturday

CENTER

Mikko Koivu, MIN ($4,600): The Minnesota Wild forward has had a stagnant season but is beginning to see his production pick up over his past five games. Koivu had an assist in a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators on Friday giving him points in back-to-back games. He has three points (one goal, two assists) and 12 shots on goal in his past five games. Koivu is skating on the first line with Mikael Granlund ($5,600) and Jason Zucker ($6,100) and has two assists in two games against Nashville this season.

Spend up for: Anze Kopitar, LAK ($7,300 at VAN)

Video: MIN@OTT: Koivu redirects point shot past Anderson

WING

Thomas Vanek, VAN ($3,600): The Vancouver Canucks forward is coming off a huge game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday with two goals, three assists, one blocked shot and five shots on goal for 15.0 DraftKings points. Vanek has 10 points (five goals, five assists) and 12 shots on goal in his past four games. He is skating on a line with standout rookie Brock Boeser ($6,600) and Sam Gagner ($3,500). Vanek is averaging 3.6 DraftKings points per game in 20 games at home this season where the Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Spend up for: Vladimir Tarasenko, STL ($7,800 vs. CAR)

Video: MTL@VAN: Vanek lights the lamp in all three periods

DEFENSE

Sami Vatanen, NJD ($3,700): The New Jersey Devils defenseman is coming off a solid all-around performance against the Buffalo Sabres with one assist, one blocked shot and eight shots on goal in a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday. Vatanen has points in back-to-back games and has three points in his past five games. He has been getting great DraftKings category coverage in that span with one goal, two assists, nine blocked shots and 21 shots on goal. Vatanen has three points, two on the power play, in 13 games since being acquired by the Devils from the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 30.

Spend up for: Roman Josi, NSH ($6,400 vs. MIN)

Video: DET@NJD: Vatanen seals the win with empty-net goal

GOALTENDER

James Reimer, FLA ($7,300): The Florida Panthers goaltender had another solid performance on Thursday making 29 saves in a 3-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, extending his winning streak to four games. Reimer has allowed six goals on 141 shots during the winning streak. He is 6-3-1 with a 2.40 goals against average and .929 save percentage in his past 10 games, averaging 5.9 DraftKings points per game in that span. Despite above average peripherals at home (3.53 GAA, .896 SV%), Reimer's home record (6-3-2) makes him a great value target against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. 

Spend up for: Tuukka Rask, BOS ($8,400 at OTT)

Video: PHI@FLA: Reimer stands tall to deny Flyers

 

Penguins call up Sprong

The Pittsburgh Penguins recalled forward Daniel Sprong from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Saturday. Sprong scored his second hat trick of the season against Hartford on Friday. 

Sprong (RW, 1 percent owned in Yahoo) is an intriguing fantasy target, especially in keeper and deep leagues. He has 18 goals (second in the AHL) and 10 assists in 29 games this season. Sprong could slot into the Penguins top-nine forward rotation and could potentially skate in their top-six with Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins offense is looking for a spark, having slipped to 21st in the NHL in scoring, averaging 2.77 goals-per game. In December, they are averaging 2.62 goals-per game.

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11 a.m.
Wheeler, Connor step up in absence of Scheifele

The Winnipeg Jets first line showed no ill-effects of losing center Mark Scheifele for 6-8 weeks because of an upper-body injury earlier this week. Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine each had a multipoint game against the New York Islanders in their 4-2 victory on Friday.

Video: NYI@WPG: Wheeler nets Connor's pass on rush

Connor (LW, 13 percent owned in Yahoo) extended his point streak to three games. He has two goals, two assists and 11 shots on goal in that span. Connor has 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) and 89 shots on goal in 33 games. He has been an undervalued fantasy asset with his exposure to the Jets high-powered offense and remains a top value target for fantasy owners and DFS players going forward.

The Jets moved Wheeler to center on the first line and, should he stay there, fantasy owners should expect him to receive center position eligibility. Wheeler had a goal and an assist with two shots on goal against the Islanders. He is eighth in the NHL in scoring with 44 points (10 goals, 34 assists) and is the ninth-ranked fantasy player in Yahoo standard formats.

 
Puljujarvi thriving with McDavid; Schmaltz has big game for Blackhawks

Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi had a power-play goal, one assist and six shots on goal in their 4-3 overtime loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. He has goals in back-to-back games with 13 shots on goal in that span. Puljujarvi has nine points (six goals, three assists) and 38 shots on goal in 12 games in December.

Video: CHI@EDM: Puljujarvi jams home rebound for PPG

The No. 4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Puljujarvi (RW, 11 percent owned) has been skating on the first line with center Connor McDavid and forward Milan Lucic. Puljujarvi scored eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 28 games during his rookie season in 2016-17, totals he has already surpassed this season with eight goals, 11 points and 61 shots on goal in 21 games. 

Blackhawks forward Nick Schmaltz had three assists, one on the power play, and two shots on goal against the Oilers. The multipoint game gives him four points (one goal, three assists) and two power-play points in his past two games. 

Schmaltz (C/LW, 11 percent owned) has moved up-and-down the lineup this season but is currently skating with forward Patrick Kane and Ryan Hartman (C/LW/RW, 8 percent owned) at even strength with forward Artem Anisimov (upper body) placed on injured reserve on Friday. Schmaltz has eight points (three goals, five assists) and 12 shots on goal in his past eight games.

Puljujarvi and Schmaltz are worth adding in deep leagues and keeper leagues and are worth monitoring in all formats. They are very good to target as value forwards for DFS lineups on DraftKings.

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