Ryan Dadoun

Fantasy Nuggets

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Fantasy Nuggets Week 23

Thursday, March 16, 2017


The New York Islanders might prove to be the winners of the trade deadline, not for any deal they made, but for their decision to summon Joshua Ho-Sang on March 1.  The 2014 first round pick has been questioned in the past for potential off-ice problems and saw that problem take center stage during the Islanders' 2015 training camp when he was cut on the opening day because he overslept.  He was having a strong AHL rookie campaign prior to be calling up though and dating back to his NHL debut on March 2, he has three goals and six points in eight games.

 

That's provided the Islanders with a nice offensive boost, which has in turn helped them stay competitive over a challenging start to the month.  The Islanders' 4-3-1 record this month might not be what you'd want to see from a team battling for the second Wild Card spot, but keep in mind that seven of those eight games were on the road.  Things will calm down a bit for the Islanders for the rest of the month as they'll spend five of their next eight games at home.

 

At the same time, that mediocre record has allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning to catch up in the Wild Card hunt.  After winning four straight games, the Lightning are tied with the Islanders with 77 points in 69 games, though the Islanders hold that second Wild Card spot by virtue of the ROW tiebreaker.  Meanwhile Toronto is a point behind both clubs after suffering an embarrassing 7-2 loss to Florida on Tuesday, but the Maple Leafs have played in one less game than the Lightning and Islanders, so Toronto still controls its own fate.

 

That sets the stage for a key match between Toronto and Tampa Bay tonight while the Islanders will be trying to keep pace with the winner by attempting to best the Winnipeg Jets.  In terms of that Lightning-Leafs game, one player to keep an eye on will be Auston Matthews.  The Leafs rookie has gone six straight games without a point, making this his longest slump thus far.  The fact that this qualifies as his worst stretch is pretty impressive for a 19-year-old, but his age aside, the reality is that he's already an important part of the Maple Leafs and Toronto really needs him to bounce back in order to avoid from fading in this battle for a playoff spot.

 

Meanwhile the battle for the Art Ross Trophy and Rocket Richard have gotten very interesting.  Starting with the Art Ross, we now have a three-way tie for first place between Boston's Brad Marchand, Chicago's Patrick Kane, and Edmonton's Connor McDavid at 76 points each.  The Penguins duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are right behind with 74 and 72 points respectively.

 

A win for Kane would make him the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy in back-to-back years since Jaromir Jagr did it from 1997-98 through 2001-02.  McDavid would become just the second member of the Edmonton Oilers to ever win the award with the other of course being Wayne Gretzky.  Should Marchand claim the prize it would be an exclamation point on his rise from gritty forward who was known more for getting under players' skins than offensive contributions to a far more well-rounded player that seems to do it all.

 

Should Crosby or Malkin claim the Trophy, it would be going to the respective superstar for the third time.

 

With the Rocket Richard Trophy, Crosby has led the pack for a lot of the season, but now Marchand has pulled ahead with 36 goals to Crosby's 35.  Malkin, Patrik Laine, and Max Pacioretty are all in the running too with 33 goals each.  A victory for Laine would arguably be the most rookie given that he's a rookie and one that missed some time this season with a concussion to boot.

 

Laine's really pulling ahead in the Calder Trophy race as Matthews' aforementioned slump means that Laine has a two-goal and five-point lead in each battle between the two despite having played in fewer games.  Mitchell Marner (54 points) is in the running too, but one player that perhaps hasn't been given enough attention in that battle is defenseman Zach Werenski.  After all, Werenski has a shot at becoming the first blueliner in the salary cap era to have a 50-point rookie season.  As impressive as Laine and Matthews have been, Werenski deserves some consideration as well.

 

Watching those trophy races should be a lot of fun over the next few weeks.  It gives extra flavor to games like tonight's contest between Boston and Edmonton, which will double as McDavid versus Marchand.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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