Ryan Dadoun

Fantasy Nuggets

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Fantasy Nuggets Week 13

Thursday, December 28, 2017


The Christmas break is behind us (hope everyone enjoyed the holidays!) and New Years is just around the corner.  With the book about to be closed on December, it’s worth highlighting some of the players that have excelled this month.

 

John Tavares and Josh Bailey are the most obvious ones to mention as they’ve each recorded 20 points in 13 contests since the start of December.  No one else has been able to touch that duo this month as the next best player (Artemi Panarin) is at 17 points.

 

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Tavares is a very interesting player to keep an eye on under any circumstances, but of course his present success comes with the backdrop of his uncertain future.  His six-year, $33 million contract is set to end this summer and it was already a given that he would get a massive raise, but his negotiating position is ridiculously strong now that he has 21 goals and 48 points in 37 contests this season.

 

The big question though is if he wants to re-sign with the Islanders and we still don’t know for sure.  If he does end up testing the free agent then he’ll arguably be the biggest name to do so since the start of the salary cap era, though we can’t make any assumptions.  Remember that Steven Stamkos was mere days from becoming an unrestricted free agent when he re-signed with the Lightning and on top of that he ended up agreeing to a very reasonable (given his abilities) eight-year, $68 million deal, so don’t write the Islanders out even if the season ends and Tavares isn’t re-signed.

 

While Tavares’ success is the bigger story, Bailey’s has been more noteworthy from a fantasy perspective.  Bailey was only even drafted in 3% of Yahoo leagues and yet he’s scored 11 goals and 48 points in 37 contests this season.  He’s a solid forward, but I’d also credit playing with Tavares as a big part of his recent success.  That’s somewhat moot right now as the duo is expected to stick together, but if Tavares doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders or – and this seems very unlikely at the moment – if the Islanders decide to trade Tavares out of fear of losing him for nothing as an UFA, then you should anticipate Bailey’s production taking a significant hit.

 

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As already touched on briefly above, Panarin’s also having a big month.  That’s pretty encouraging as he got off to a somewhat slow start in his first season with Columbus.  After surpassing the 70-point milestone in his two campaigns with Chicago, he had five goals and 16 points in 25 contests going into December.  It might have just taken him some time to adjust, but Panarin is a superb forward and he should be capable of recording close to a point-per-game in the second half of the campaign.

 

Another high-end player that underwhelmed initially, but has taken off is defenseman Brent Burns.  He’s the reigning Norris Trophy winner and got a combined 56 goals and 151 points in 164 contests in 2015-16 and 2016-17, but he had no goals and seven assists in his first 19 contests this season.  He’s been making up for lost time lately though with six goals and 17 points in his last 15 games.  Like Panarin, I’m looking for Burns to have a strong second half and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he proves to be the league’s top offensive defenseman for the remainder of the campaign.

 

When it comes to rookies, Boston’s Danton Heinen has really stood out this month with five goals and 12 points in 12 contests.  He spent part of October in the minors and had a quiet stretch in early November and those factors have put him significantly behind in the rookie scoring race overall.  Still, he’s worth taking a chance on in standard leagues where he’s still available.

 

Of course, Mathew Barzal is having a great month too, especially after his hat trick against Winnipeg on Dec. 23.  The Islanders rookie is up to 13 goals and 36 points in 37 contests, which is good for the lead among rookies in points.  Barzal has some stiff competition for the Calder Trophy, but even if he doesn’t win it he will likely get serious consideration.  If the Islanders are able to re-sign Tavares, then having the duo of Tavares and Barzal in the long run should be great to build around.

 

Of course, for as good as the Islanders’ offense has been this season, their goaltending has been dreadful.  Thomas Greiss has been particularly problematic this month with his horrendous 4.97 GAA and .828 save percentage in six games.  No goalie with at least five appearances this month even comes close to Greiss’ GAA.

 

Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak has won his last two starts, but he hasn’t been great either this season with his 2.96 GAA and .908 save percentage in 22 contests.  Further complicating this situation for the Islanders is the fact that defenseman Johnny Boychuk is now week-to-week with a lower-body injury.  Though the silver lining there is that defenseman Sebastian Aho (not to be confused with Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho) has been recalled from the AHL and he had been excellent at that level with nine goals and 20 points in 29 contests.  You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on the 21-year-old Islanders defenseman now that he’s getting his first shot in the NHL.



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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