As there are now less than five weeks left in the regular season, it’s essential to find the most productive guys who can help you win now and to stay away from those who can’t. A couple of guys not used to playing much find themselves in good standing, while some struggling centers are on the list to avoid.
Antti Raanta – G (NYR)
With the news that New York Rangers starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be out 2-3 weeks, one of the biggest buys this week is his backup, Antti Raanta. The numbers look pretty good for the Finnish veteran, as he enters play with a 14-7 record, a 2.29 GAA and a .921 save percentage. Last game was a bit of an outlier for Raanta, as he gave up three goals in a 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night. However, he has still won four of his last six and he has given up three goals or fewer in 10 of his last 11 games. His three shutouts in 25 games played are pretty good and he hasn’t given up a short-handed goal which is also nice. Upcoming on the schedule the next few days are games with Florida and New Jersey who rank near the bottom of the league in goals per game with 2.45 and 2.21 respectively, so Raanta will get some favorable matchups. Raanta has proven he can get the job done in King Henrik’s absence, and with a solid defense in front of him, look for him to continue his winning ways. Don’t be shy to make a play for him.
Jake Guentzel – LW (PIT)
Someone producing in a big way right now but won’t get the recognition because he is not a big name is Pittsburgh Penguins left-winger Jake Guentzel. The last five games for the youngster have been very productive, as he has notched three goals and three assists while holding a +5 rating in that span. Being paired with Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary on the team’s first line has truly catapulted his game because Guentzel has tallied nine points over his previous nine games. The shot totals have been off the charts as well, with a combined total of 18 over his last five, including a season-high 6 on March 5th. Just once has he eclipsed twenty minutes of ice time until his last two games, though part of that is due to injuries. As long as he continues to make a difference in the coming days and weeks, he should still get his opportunities, even when the injured guys return. Guentzel is firing on all cylinders right now and should be rewarded for his efforts.
Ryan Ellis – D (NSH)
Though the most popular defenseman on the team is most likely P.K. Subban from the fans perspective, his Nashville Predators teammate Ryan Ellis is making a strong case to overtake him. Coming into play today, Ellis has recorded 12 goals and 18 assists – a career-best in goals and just five helpers and three points shy of new career-bests in those categories. More so, three of his goals have come in the past six games and he has fired at least two shots in six straight. Coincidentally, all three of those goals came on the power play which is an added bonus. Ellis has blocked 109 shots this season ranking him just outside the top 50 of all players. Ice time is not an issue for him either, so the important stats keep piling up. With Nashville clinging onto their position for the playoffs, look for Ellis and company to push the pace and continue the hot streak. Probably available in your league and a solid guy to have when your big boys are not playing, do the right thing and snag him up.
Matt Duchene – C (COL)
Usually a good player on a bad team, center for the Colorado Avalanche Matt Duchene recently has been more of a bad player on a bad team. The stats don’t lie, and what they show are the second lowest goal and assist totals in his eight years as a professional while his point tally is a dismal 36 through 62 games. Duchene is supposed to be one of the Avs top playmakers, yet his current streak of ten straight games without a point suggests otherwise. As a member of the lowest scoring team in the NHL at 1.96 goals per game and the highest amount of goals against per game at 3.28, it is no surprise that Duchene’s plus/minus rating is -8 over the last four games and a dreadful -28 for the season. Managing just a single shot in five straight games isn’t going to cut the mustard and help the offense, either. It goes without saying that Duchene has had his fair share of struggles this season and needs to be dropped because of it.
Kyle Turris – C (OTT)
Although he has had a solid season thus far, Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris is in the midst of a mini-slump at the moment. The season stats show Turris has netted 22 goals up to this point, but 17 of them were achieved by January 22nd. Furthermore, he had been dealing with an ailing finger which had caused him to miss three games until his return on Tuesday night, but it was more of the same for Turris as it became his fourth consecutive game without a point. His first game action in more than a week, Turris was placed on the team’s second offensive unit for the power play which may indicate his injury caused him to miss some chances he would have otherwise had. Only 17 body checks on the season and 54 blocked shots will not get the job done either in the world of fantasy hockey. Until Turris can get his game back on track and play like the man who had 10 goals in his team’s first 21 games, it’s best to part ways with him.