Fantasy Hockey
Victoria Matiash, Fantasy Hockey 51d

Fantasy hockey: Tyler Toffoli, Joe Pavelski lead best matchup specialists

Fantasy, NHL

The challenge of this unique NHL season has us continually looking at different ways to garner an edge over the fantasy competition, be it in re-draft, dynasty/keeper, or daily leagues. For instance, what can we make of each team facing only seven others in limited competition - just six north of the border - over and over and over again? Perhaps a few players are thriving above their own personal mean, depending on specific competition. After a fair bit of digging, it turns out a handful are doing just that.

The respective fantasy fallout here is varied. Those more prominent might serve as worthwhile, high-cost DFS assets or help their less fantasy-popular linemates thrive. Others merit streaming in their own right. One challenge was dealing with varying sample sizes: too small (game or two) doesn't necessarily speak to a trend, too big and there aren't sufficient head-to-heads to take advantage of left on the board. I also endeavoured to focus on players who have been both consistent and that much better against another particular squad. Philly's James van Riemsdyk boasts excellent numbers versus the Bruins but - guess what? - he's scoring up a storm against nearly everyone else too.

Joe Pavelski, F, Dallas Stars (Rostered in 98.6% of leagues): The veteran has three goals and four assists in two games versus Nashville this oft-disrupted season, split comfortably between three points in one game and four in the other. There are two key takeaways here: It might be prudent to invest in Pavelski as a high-end daily-fantasy asset whenever the Stars battle the Predators, whatever the "cost". Second, Joel Kiviranta - rostered in 2.9% of leagues - is currently skating on a forward line with the 36-year-old. Give Kiviranta, who scored his third-career goal Wednesday against the Panthers, some extra thought as long as he sticks on Pavelski's line. Maybe every game but particularly versus the Preds. They're scheduled to face on another six occasions before the season's conclusion.

Shea Theodore, D, Vegas Golden Knights (96.4%): Each of Theodore's three goals on the season have counted against the Coyotes. Averaging 3.75 shots over four contests, the Knights' puck-moving defenseman also has two assists versus Arizona. Last year? Four points in three games versus the 'Yotes. Consider spending a decent portion of your daily fantasy budget on Theodore when Vegas faces Arizona four times in April.

Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens (96.0%): The inspiration for this column, the Canadiens forward is arguably more heavily associated with Vancouver these days in light of his voracious appetite for scoring against his ex-team. There's no ignoring the eight goals and three assists over five matchups, culminating in two goals and one assist in the fifth game. That suggests the Canucks have yet to figure out how to stop their former winger. And the fantasy fun isn't over yet, with four more contests coming up in a span of 13 days, beginning Mar. 8. While the 28-year-old winger is overwhelmingly spoken for in leagues, there's still value to be mined here, in the form of his on-ice associates. I'm heavily interested in whoever lines up with Toffoli versus Vancouver - whether it's Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi or another body altogether tapped by new head coach Dominique Ducharme. Paying attention to that shuffle could earn you big fantasy dividends in 11 days' time.

Anders Lee, F, New York Islanders, (88.9%): The Islanders' top-liner has four goals divided up rather evenly through three games against the Sabres over the course of one recent fat week. The two teams are scheduled to play another three-game set, starting seven days from now on Mar. 4. While more conventional fantasy managers should ensure Lee is active in their lineup all next week, he makes for an intriguing DFS commodity against Buffalo as well.

Jordan Kyrou, F, St. Louis Blues (46.1%): The young forward has two goals and four assists in a quartet of contests against the Sharks. Looking ahead to putting a recent mini-funk against the Kings behind them, the Blues dance with San Jose again on Saturday, before engaging in three more waltzes by Mar. 20. Playing on a dangerous scoring line, Kyrou is poised to strut his fantasy stuff in all four games. Stream him if you got him.

Frank Vatrano, F, Florida Panthers (29.5%): Here's a fun one: Boasting just one goal otherwise, Vatrano has scored in each of three tilts with the Lightning this season. Alongside linemate Brett Connolly - who clearly relishes punishing the team that dealt him during the early stages of his career - the 26-year-old makes for a delightful streaming/DFS option versus Tampa. Mark down Mar. 21, April 15, Apr. 17, and May 8 on your fantasy calendars. Frankly, the Vatrano/Connolly forward duo is due for a productive breakout altogether.

Max Comtois, F, Anaheim Ducks (21.5%): Before he scored against the Coyotes on Wednesday, all of Comtois' previous seven goals counted against the Sharks or Golden Knights. While I'm wary of enlisting just about any forward versus Marc-Andre Fleury while the Vegas netminder rides hot, Comtois' matchups with San Jose holds plenty of appeal. Anaheim is slated to face the Sharks twice in mid-March and three times in April. It should also be noted that the 22-year-old is one of the Ducks' few bright spots on offense altogether this campaign, as pointed out by reporter Eric Stephens. Managers in deeper leagues may want to invest in him regardless.

Kevin Lankinen, G, Chicago Blackhawks (82.0%): While the Red Wings aren't getting the best of netminders in general, they appear to have that bit of extra trouble against the Blackhawks' No. 1. Lankinen has allowed only three total goals to the Wings through three games, including last week's 29-save shutout. Chicago hosts Detroit this Saturday and Sunday before taking a break in direct competition until mid-April, priming Lankinen for big fantasy returns. And if Malcom Subban - rostered in 3.2% of leagues - subs in for one of those contests, as anticipated, stream him instead. The club's backup was also mean and stingy against the Wings last week.

Linus Ullmark, G, Buffalo Sabres (48.4%): If not for his playing the Devils, Ullmark - an altogether volatile fantasy asset - would have just two wins to show for the Sabres' disjunct 2020-21 campaign. Thankfully for Buffalo's No. 1, he's 3-0 with a 1.95 GAA and .942 SV% in competition with New Jersey. Ullmark presents as an excellent streaming option whenever battling Jack Hughes and company, including tonight (Thursday, February 25). After that, the two teams face off another three times.

David Rittich, G, Calgary Flames (6.4%): Never mind the final result in which William Nylander shushed local critics with a late tying and subsequent winning goal, Rittich was superb against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. He was even better in shutting out Toronto in stopping 34 shots two evenings previous. But let Rittich's latest play serve more as a general indication of his being in a better place. He appears more confident, deliberate, and in control. Good thing for the Flames too, since Jacob Markstrom remains out with an upper-body injury. Calgary battles the Ottawa Senators in four-straight over the next week.

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