Sunday's six-game NHL slate offers non-stop thrilling action, with a 7:00 p.m. EST Original Six battle between the Red Wings and Rangers as the highlight. There are plenty of high-end fantasy options available, but the players listed below have the best chance of delivering value.
Semyon Varlamov, COL at VAN ($38) - With backup Calvin Pickard starting Saturday, Varlamov should be fresh for this clash with a Canucks team that has dropped four straight games by the exact score of 5-2. Vancouver’s struggles on both ends over that span make the Russian a heavy favorite to pick up yet another win after coming out on top in seven of his last 10 appearances. He won’t come cheap, but Varlamov is the safest goaltending bet available for under $40.
Goalie to Avoid:
Cam Ward, CAR vs. TB ($36) - While Ward’s six wins in his last nine games make him an appealing option, there’s a strong chance he runs into trouble against a Tampa Bay team that has scored 10 total goals in winning each of its last two games. Matchups often determine a goaltender’s effectiveness, and the Lightning present a tough one for Ward.
Jordan Staal, CAR vs. TB ($19) - Staal is in the midst of his hottest offensive stretch of the season, having racked up five goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games. Extended production like that usually catapults skaters’ prices well above $20, but the defensively sound center can still be had for just $19. Staal’s strong two-way play and resulting high plus/minus give him a high floor, but his recent scoring binge shows that his ceiling isn’t too shabby, either.
Center to Avoid:
Pavel Datsyuk, DET at NYR ($29) - Datsyuk has been hot lately, but so has Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The King has a miniscule 1.65 GAA over his last six starts, and spending big on a forward facing a goaltender this locked in tends not to pay off.
Kevin Hayes, NYR vs. DET ($15) - After disappointing for much of his sophomore season, Hayes has stepped things up with at least 13.0 fantasy points in three of his last five games. His low ice time totals are troublesome, but the young forward is oozing with offensive skills, and it only takes one big play to have a decent fantasy outing. At just $15, Hayes is worth a look against a Red Wings team that gave up 18 goals in dropping three of four heading into the weekend.
Nikita Kucherov, TB at CAR ($23) - Kucherov’s three tallies in the last five games shouldn’t surprise anyone, as he now has 17 goals and 18 assists in 32 games since Dec. 5 following a slow start. The Russian winger is still growing offensively in his third NHL season, and a middling Hurricanes team is unlikely to slow down his line which also features Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. His $23 price tag is actually quite cheap for a forward who has been producing at above a point-per-game clip for over two months.
Wings to Avoid:
David Perron, ANH vs. CGY ($20) - Perron should make for a trendy pick due to his strong recent production and favorable matchup, but it’s going to be hard for the winger to sustain his offensive pace due to a consistent lack of playing time. He has skated under 16 minutes in eight of his last nine games, and $20 is more than enough to find a forward who gets many more opportunities over the course of a game.
J.T. Brown, TB at CAR ($16) - Brown’s six points in his last 10 games have sparked a price hike up to $16, but his 19 total points through 53 games offer reason for skepticism about his ability to sustain that level. Those in search of a forward in this price range to fill out their lineup best look elsewhere.
Keith Yandle, NYR vs. DET ($19) - Teammate Ryan McDonagh is expected to miss Sunday’s game after taking a flagrant elbow from Leo Komarov on Thursday, thrusting Yandle into a more prominent role on New York’s blue line. The veteran saw north of 25 minutes per game when McDonagh had to miss time after being on the receiving end of a Wayne Simmonds sucker punch earlier this month, and a player with his offensive instincts is more than likely to chip in significantly on that end when given extended opportunity to do so. While Yandle would surely prefer that cheap shot artists stop taking liberties with his captain, McDonagh’s absence undoubtedly raises the former Coyote’s stock in the short term.
T.J. Brodie, CGY at ANH ($19) - Brodie’s three assists Friday gave him 11 in his last eight games, as he has added an offensive element on top of his tremendous defensive play. He has more points than more expensive options Mark Giordano ($23) and Dougie Hamilton ($21) combined in that span, making Brodie unquestionably the man to own on Calgary’s blue line at the moment. Even against a hot Ducks team, his prowess in the plus/minus and assist categories makes the blueliner a worthwhile play at just $19.
Defensemen to Avoid:
Cam Fowler, ANH vs. CGY ($18) - Fowler has picked up his assist rate, but the offensive-minded defenseman still hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 19. He doesn’t block enough shots to provide significant value that way, and it’s tough to rack up big points if you never put the puck in the net.
Victor Hedman, TB at CAR ($25) - Hedman hasn’t been living up to his billing as a $25 defenseman recently, scoring just 12.0 combined fantasy points in three games since Tuesday. While he could always turn it around, Carolina’s strong recent play puts his ability to do so Sunday in doubt.