Hello everyone and welcome in for another article, this time looking into potential buys and sells with the first week/10 days of NHL action in the books. First I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos Discord server where you can ask questions and chat with other likeminded fantasy managers on anything fantasy or hockey-related. With that said, let’s get into the buys and sells of the week.
Guys you should put on your watch list:
Joel Eriksson Ek, C – MIN (18% rostered on Yahoo)
Eriksson Ek is a bit of an interesting case. He’s still currently on the third line centering Marcus Foligno and Jordan Greenway; not ideal deployment by anyone’s standards. He also sees a lot of PK work which can make his minutes look better than they actually are for fantasy purposes. But Eriksson Ek saw 2:01 of PP time in Minnesota’s Friday night game versus the Sharks and has seen 18:07 and 19:27 total ice in his past two games. What’s most intriguing about Eriksson Ek is that he is pumping shots on goal at a rate he’s never come close to achieving before, and not just floaters from the blue line either: his 10.03 iSCF/60 through six games is nearly double last year’s mark and ranks 60th in the league. A high on-ice shooting percentage is inflating his counting stats thus far, but I’m very interested in whether Eriksson Ek’s strong play can push him up the lineup into a role alongside Kevin Fiala or Kirill Kaprizov, which would certainly increase his points ceiling.
Nick Schmaltz, C – ARI (13% rostered on Yahoo)
Nick Schmaltz has had a hot start and it’s due to a shocking change in shot generation. Schmaltz has fired 12.4 shots/60 (up from 5.24 in 2019/20) and generated a 4.10 xGF/60 (up from 2.62 in 2019/20). He’s shooting hot and is only seeing 15:28 of ice thus far, but has seen a giant increase in PP time, averaging 3:38 thus far. If he continues to get that PP time and gets more even strength work alongside either Connor Garland or Clayton Keller, you’ll probably be pretty happy streaming Schmaltz in when you need some power play points.
Jesse Puljujarvi, RW – EDM (11% rostered on Yahoo)
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Puljujarvi hasn’t seen more than 13:13 in a game thus far. But that hasn’t stopped him from firing 16 shots and dropping 10 hits in six games. Zach Kassian’s struggles on the top line have been well documented thus far and we have word as of today that Puljujarvi is going to get a look alongside Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in today’s game versus the Jets. I’m a believer in Puljujarvi’s talent and a game against a tired Jets squad could be just what the doctor ordered. To me Puljujarvi represents the greatest breakout potential available on the waiver wire.
Early Breakouts to Believe In:
Nick Suzuki, C – MTL
Suzuki was a big target for me in a lot of drafts this year, and so far the returns have been stellar: he’s scored a point in all six games so far. He’s playing 17:33 a night so far which is almost exactly what I projected him for. What I didn’t project was for him to take another big step in both playmaking and shooting. He’s clearly found chemistry with linemates Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson and is dominating competition with a 61.1% on-ice expected goals for percentage. A point-per-game campaign is not out of the question, and I’d buy him if anyone was foolish enough to let him go.
Jakob Chychrun, D – ARI
Arizona has found some offense early in the season and Chychrun has been a big part of that. Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s injury vaulted Chychrun to top PP duty, but Chychrun looks like he has legitimately taken another step early in the season, generating more scoring chances and posting a 4.01 xGF/60 mark that is a full goal/60 higher than any previous season. He’s certainly benefiting from a sky-high 14.3% on-ice team shooting percentage, but his IPP is reasonable at 50%. I’m a believer that Chychrun will be a legitimate offensive contributor for the full season while still filling the stat sheet with hits and blocks to boot.
Adam Fox, D – NYR
Adam Fox has leapt into the spotlight with Tony DeAngelo’s fall from grace in New York. He has four points in four games and is skating a remarkable 23:46 a night including top power play deployment. His individual chance for rates are close enough to last season’s that I’m calling it a draw there, but interestingly his on-ice expected goals for rate has improved over last season while his actual on-ice goals for rate has decreased. He’s crushing the competition with a 63.9% xGF% and should actually find more assists in the coming games with positive regression in team scoring likely. I’ll buy Fox from any owner thinking that they are selling high on him.
Early Breakouts to Fade:
Jack Hughes, C – NJD
I feel like I might be the only one in this camp but the warning signs with Hughes are all there. Everyone is in love with his deployment (19:16/game thus far) but there are so many things to worry with about his profile. His shots/60 have decreased and he’s shooting 29%. His IPP is 100% and his on-ice team shooting percentage is 16.2%. His xGF has actually decreased to the point where his xGF per game is less than last year’s mark despite the increased ice time. This is a player whose start is wildly unsustainable and who doesn’t have stars to play alongside. I’d try to sell him everywhere right now before his value goes down.
Alex DeBrincat, LW – CHI
DeBrincat has seen a nice start to his season and seems to be permanently attached to Patrick Kane which is good for anyone’s fantasy value. But DeBrincat has taken a small step backwards in generating chances for despite an extra minute of ice time per game. More concerning than his individual goal scoring potential is his team scoring, which thus far has wildly outperformed metrics. His on-ice xGF/60 has dropped from 3.37 last year to just 2.66 in the early going, while his actual GF/60 has jumped from 3.38 to 5.17. That coupled with a 15.4% on-ice team shooting percentage makes DeBrincat a sell high candidate for me where possible.
Early Slumps that Won’t Last:
Anthony Mantha, RW – DET
Mantha has had a bit of a slow start to his season and certainly hasn’t performed to the 69-point pace I had projected for him (82 game pace). He has put just 6.45 shots/60 on net after firing 10.12 last season. Mantha has been consistent with this shot generation over the two previous seasons and nothing has changed with regards to his deployment so I’m anticipating he’ll figure it out shortly. Despite the lack of individual contribution, Mantha’s on-ice xGF/60 has increased slightly over last season to 3.43. This is contrasted against a rock-bottom actual goals for/60 of 1.93; clearly Mantha is in line for some positive regression there. All in all while it’s a disappointing start Mantha should get back on track in short order.
Morgan Rielly, D – TOR
Rielly has done everything exactly as expected, except score points. He has just a single goal in six games despite top power play minutes and 24:27 total time on ice per game. His individual chance for rates are a bit different from previous years with less total chances for but better quality chances. His on ice expected goals for is a little low which could be concerning; but here’s the kicker: an incredibly low 11.1% IPP. Simply put, Rielly just hasn’t been getting his share of the Maple Leafs’ goals thus far. The consensus is that Rielly hasn’t been great thus far, but if there’s anyone out there ready to move on from Rielly after this slow start I’ll be there with an offer.
Ryan Strome, C – NYR
I’m gonna make this one super simple: Strome has seen the exact same deployment plus an extra minute of ice time thus far, and both his individual and on-ice metrics are in line or even better than last year’s. It’s just a matter of time before the pucks start to go in. Strome is the exact same guy he was last year.
Early Slumps that Will Last:
Seth Jones/Zach Werenski/Cam Atkinson – CLB
Maybe this is cheating a bit but all three of these guys have been awful thus far. I’m not convinced Laine’s arrival fixes much; I doubt he plays alongside Atkinson at any point. If anything he will likely bump Atkinson off the top PP unit, and Tortorella will rotate between Jones and Werenski at the point throughout the year. I’m out on all three until they show me something more.
Thanks for reading, you are much appreciated!