Fantasy Hockey pickups: Planning for light schedule ahead

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore has eight points over his past seven games. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By Neil Parker, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports

As if the holiday break didn’t throw enough of a wrinkle into the NHL schedule last week, more than half the league plays two games or fewer in the upcoming scoring period.

Middling fantasy clubs in dire need of a win in weekly settings could gain an immediate advantage by adding players in line to take the ice three or four times this week. Additionally, because of the light upcoming schedule there will be fewer backup goalies in action, and there are also only 12 matchups where a team is playing the second leg of a back-to-back set.

This is also the point of the season where savvy owners can gain some man games for the stretch drive. Ottawa and San Jose have only played 37 games to this point, whereas St. Louis has already hit the ice 42 times.

Here’s the schedule for the next scoring period from Jan. 8-14:

One game: Ducks, Bruins, Avs, Stars, Kings, Canadiens, Predators, Devils, Islanders, Flyers, Sharks, Blues, Golden Knights

Two games: Coyotes, Sabres, Red Wings, Panthers, Rangers, Senators, Penguins, Lightning, Maple Leafs

Three games: Blue Jackets, Oilers, Canucks, Capitals, Jets

Four games: Flames, Hurricanes, Blackhawks, Wild

Make sure to keep tabs on who is cut in your leagues, and also remember to check the handful of players previously covered who are listed below.

(Yahoo ownership rates as of Jan. 4.)


Nico Hischier, NJD (30 percent): Since the holiday break, the rookie has posted three goals, four points and 12 shots through four games, and he’s skating with Taylor Hall at even strength. His 8.9 shooting percentage also has positive regression ahead, and Hischier has aced the eye test lately.

Ryan Spooner, BOS (3 percent): Injuries have limited Spooner to just 18 games, and his three goals and 11 points hardly jump off the page. Still, the talented scorer is now skating in a top-six role and has averaged 3:14 of power-play time per contest for the season. Additionally, the Bruins are scoring in bunches (32 goals through their past eight contests), and Spooner has been a serviceable asset in the past. He’s definitely worth a look.

Calle Jarnkrok, NAS (9 percent): Whenever injuries hit the Predators, it’s Jarnkrok who usually climbs the depth chart. Filip Forsberg is expected to miss at least a month with an upper-body ailment, so Jarnkrok’s spot alongside Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson on the No. 1 line is likely to remain in tact for as long as the trio succeeds. Jarnkrok boasts strong recent form with seven goals and five assists through his past 15 contests, too.

Elias Lindholm, CAR (12 percent): The notoriously slow starter is beginning to find his offensive stride with five tallies and six assists through his past 15 contests. Lindholm has also logged 3:00 of power-play time per game during that stretch and is well on his way to posting career-high marks in the goal and assist columns.

Tyler Bertuzzi, DET (2 percent): The 22-year-old winger is currently skating on the No. 1 line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. Bertuzzi owns the potential to be a cross-category contributor, as evidenced by his three assists, seven shots, four PIM, five hits and a plus-4 rating through the past three games.

Timo Meier, SAN (1 percent): With six points — five goals – through his past eight games, the high-volume shooter warrants attention. Meier was a high-end scorer in the QMJHL and is currently skating alongside Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski on the No. 1 line. The 21-year-old Swiss native has also paced the Sharks in shots per 60 minutes dating back to last season.

Zemgus Girgensons, BUF (1 percent): A potential candidate for those in cavernous settings, Girgensons has collected two goals and an assist through his past three games skating alongside Jack Eichel on the No. 1 line. Not a lot has gone right for the Latvian (or Buffalo) during his tenure with the Sabres, but being attached to a high-end scorer will help Girgensons mark the scoresheet semi-regularly for the duration of his stay atop the depth chart.

Joel Armia, WPG (1 percent): Skating on the third line and receiving power-play minutes with the No. 2 unit has been enough of an opportunity for Armia to collect two goals, five points and 23 shots through his past seven contests. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Finn has the offensive talent to be a low-end option in deep settings, and he could see a few more shifts now that Mark Scheifele (upper body) is out long term.

Devin Shore, DAL (1 percent): Dallas’ lines have been in the blender for most of the season, and until lately, Shore has had limited success despite receiving plenty of looks in a top-six role and on the power play. He’s collected two goals and two assists through his past six outings, so combined with his current assignment alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, the 23-year-old forward is a potential grab in deeper setups.


Sami Vatanen, NJD (19 percent): It’s finally clicking for Vatanen in his new digs, as he sports a four-game point streak with a goal, three assists, 12 shots, six PIM and six blocked shots. The Devils have quietly scored the ninth most goals per game (3.08) in the league, and the Finn is averaging a hefty 22:04 of ice time (1:54 on the power play) since joining New Jersey.

Shea Theodore, VGK (26 percent): Theodore has marked the scoresheet in five of his past seven contests for three goals and eight points. He’s also blocked 11 shots and posted a plus-6 rating during that span to tilt the scales across multiple categories. Considering his pedigree and career trajectory, the 22-year-old blueliner should be owned in the majority of formats.

Jared Spurgeon, MIN (44 percent): Tuesday’s three-assist showing was a reminder of Spurgeon’s year-in, year-out consistency. Injuries have been an issue throughout his career, but his cross-category profile provides value in most settings when he’s in the lineup. Spurgeon’s up to four goals and 16 assists through 30 games for the campaign, after all.

Samuel Girard, COL (1 percent): With Tyson Barrie out long term, it’s been Girard quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit for the Avs. That alone is an encouraging fantasy setup, but the rookie defenseman has also been starting 63.6 percent of his five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone.

Thomas Chabot, OTT (4 percent): Outside of keeper/dynasty settings, there currently isn’t a lot to be excited about with Chabot — especially since Ottawa’s turned into a basement-dweller. However, talent usually wins out over the long run, and if the Sens unload a blue-line asset or two, Chabot could be in line for an uptick in minutes and corresponding value. If nothing else, keep tabs on the blue-chip youngster.


Carter Hutton, STL (26 percent): Dating back to last season, Hutton boasts a 20-11-2 record, .923 save percentage and 2.18 GAA with the Blues. He’s now started — and won — consecutive games and appears to be cutting into Jake Allen’s workload. No one should confuse Hutton as a matchup-proof option in line to usurp Allen’s No. 1 status, but the St. Louis No. 2 is a nice depth piece in most settings.

Jeff Glass, CHI (12 percent): The Anton Forsberg experiment appears to have run its course, and Glass has leapfrogged into No. 1 duty while Corey Crawford is sidelined with an upper-body injury. Considering Crawford hasn’t even hit the ice in practice since being placed on injured reserve, and the Blackhawks have six games in a 10-day span before a six-day break, Glass could be busy.

Jonathan Bernier, COL (6 percent): Semyon Varlamov pulled himself from Tuesday’s game with a lower-body ailment and is currently considered day-to-day. While it isn’t yet a huge concern, the Russian’s track record of lower-body injuries is lengthy. The Avs are currently in the playoff hunt, and a healthy Varlamov is key to their chances of punching a ticket to the dance. As a result, Bernier could see a few extra starts and an uptick in value over the coming weeks.

Players to consider from past columns: Kyle Connor, Nick Schmaltz, Jesper Bratt, Danton Heinen, Reilly Smith, Evgenii Dadonov, Josh Anderson, Mathieu Perreault, Pierre-Luc Dubois, David Backes, Kevin Labanc, Jesse Puljujarvi, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Marian Gaborik, Colin Miller, Erik Johnson, Aaron Dell, Cam Ward, Antti Raanta, James Reimer, Jacob Markstrom, Anton Khudobin, Philipp Grubauer, Malcolm Subban, Alex Stalock.