Hutch's Hockey: Silly Season

Hutch's Hockey: Silly Season

We're entering the final week before the NHL trade deadline, which is one of the more intriguing times to be a fantasy manager. Speculation is high, nerves are higher and there's no shortage of scuttlebutt to discuss. So far this season, we've had two big trades – Jack Eichel to Vegas and Tyler Toffoli to Montreal. There's been 19 deals since the start of September, but many haven't exactly registered on the Richter scale in terms of impact on teams or the league as a whole. 

That's likely to change over the next seven days. It's time for teams to announce their intentions, either as buyers or sellers. The Eastern Conference playoff picture looks pretty set, as it has for a while, but there will be teams that want to make upgrades or shake things up a bit. Out west, there's plenty to decide, so expect most of the bubble teams to be attached to a number of targets. Complacency at this time of year is like running in quicksand – you're getting nowhere fast if you're doing nothing. 

In fantasy, we have to react to the events of the real world. You may like a player a lot in the role they're playing now, but if their team brings in a better player at the same position, things will change and it won't always be for the better. Some players will unjustly have their roles reduced by next week, while others will get a chance to prove their worth. I'll have more detailed analysis on all of the biggest trades in next week's column – for now, I'll focus on who can help you out this week. 

One of my favorite all-around defensemen in the league is Ryan Pulock, and I'm happy to report that he's finally back up to speed after a long absence with a lower-body injury earlier in the season. He was eased back into the lineup at first, but he's once again paired with longtime defense partner Adam Pelech. Since the start of March, Pulock has a goal, six assists, 14 blocked shots, 13 shots on goal and a plus-6 rating. At his best, he's got 35-point talent with lofty totals in the non-scoring categories. The Islanders still have 26 games left – I'd expect roughly 10-12 points, 35 blocks and the occasional special-teams contribution for the rest of the season. 

I'm hoping Dylan Strome stays put at the trade deadline – both with the Blackhawks, and as their top-line center. He's blessed fantasy managers with seven goals and three assists in six games since the start of March. I'd be nervous to hold onto him if he's traded for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, a trade would mean he's not playing alongside Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat anymore, and that's been an absolute goldmine for scoring stats lately. Second, I question if a coach on a contender would be willing to give him a top-six role and power-play time like he's seen since the start of 2022 (17:25 of ice time per game, including 2:58 with the man advantage). It's taken a while for him to be given the chance to produce like this, and there's not much benefit he could get out of a change of scenery now. 

The Winnipeg Jets aren't exactly good, but they make things interesting. Despite the team's inconsistency, Paul Stastny has made a nice home for himself on the top line. He's picked up five goals and three assists in his last eight contests while earning his even-strength minutes alongside Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. The Jets have a pretty well-defined top six and Stastny is in it – he needs to be rostered when he's productive like this. That said, he's also a trade candidate if the Jets run up the white flag soon, and his chances of getting such a plum role  with another team at 36 years old aren't great. 

Anthony Beauvillier has found his playmaking touch lately, earning seven assists in his last four games. Even better – three of them have come with the man advantage. The Islanders' offense is thawing out just in time for the spring. In addition to Beauvillier, I also like what I've seen from Anders Lee (seven goals, one assist), Brock Nelson (three goals, one assist), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (one goal, four assists) and Josh Bailey (three goals, three assists) in that same span. I wouldn't grab more than a couple of these guys per fantasy team, but the steady offense of late makes all of them solid options. 

I don't know what's gotten into Colin Blackwell lately, but I like what I'm seeing. The 28-year-old has contributed three goals, three assists, 14 shots on net and 12 hits in his last six games, with two of those tallies coming shorthanded. Doing work on the penalty kill obviously isn't sustainable on offense, but he's also seen his ice time tick up to 15:19 per game in March compared to 12:20 per game for the season. Dave Hakstol has shown no hesitancy to shuffle the Kraken's lines to reward the hot hand this season – Blackwell's earned a second-line gig by playing well, but he'll have to keep it up to stay there. 

Matias Maccelli isn't a player that's on many fantasy managers' watch lists yet, but he should be. Drafted 98th overall in 2019, he lit up the AHL with 55 points in 42 games this season for Tucson. That earned him a promotion to the Coyotes, where he's kept up the scoring with a goal and three assists in his first five NHL games. This is a meteoric rise for a mid-round pick – I wouldn't expect him to flirt with a point-per-game pace for the rest of the season. He's yet to add much outside of the points while playing in a bottom-six role. Maccelli is most likely to help in deeper fantasy formats, but his appeal will broaden in conjunction with the number of players the Coyotes trade away before next Monday's deadline, as long as they don't bring in too many veterans. 

If you want some rough-and-tumble, check for Trent Frederic. The 24-year-old is back into a regular role in the Bruins' lineup on the third line, but he's outperformed his role with a goal, five assists, 10 hits and a plus-7 rating in his last five contests. His success has been linked to Craig Smith's surge – they've played together on a line with Charlie Coyle lately. Frederic's another option for deeper fantasy leagues, but it'd be justified to roster him in any format that counts hits if he can chip in a point every other game or so. 

Esa Lindell hasn't had the best of seasons, but he's picked up a goal and three assists in his last three games. He's best known for his physical play – he's at 89 hits and 114 blocked shots to go with a reasonable 20 points through 57 games this season. If you're looking for a budget-friendly Miro Heiskanen (illness) replacement, Lindell's your guy, as he'll absorb a lot of the all-situations minutes left behind by his fellow Finn. 

In a similar vein, K'Andre Miller looks ready to turn things up on offense. He's picked up a goal and two assists in his last two outings. The second-year defenseman is another physical option – his 88 hits and 66 blocked shots should garner some attention even if his 14 points in 59 games don't impress you. He's gotten a look on the second power-play unit as well, and the Rangers will hope he's ready to take a step forward in the stretch run. 

With any luck, next week's trade deadline will be an exciting one. I'll be keeping an eye on the teams that are expected to eat some salary in three-way deals – the Coyotes, Kraken and Sabres all have the cap space to serve as a third party for the friendly price of a pick or an expiring contract. The flat cap could dampen the fun a bit, but I'll also be looking at the Avalanche, who will likely need to do something to address the absence of Gabriel Landeskog (knee). Next week's column will run a little later in the day Monday to provide some instant reaction to all the big trades. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Hutchinson
Shawn has covered sports independently since 2010, and joined RotoWire in 2019. He serves as a beat writer for the Calgary Flames and contributes in hockey and baseball. Shawn also enjoys soccer, rooting on his hometown teams: Sounders FC and Reign FC.
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