We gave a lot of ink, so to speak, to some pretty big changes over the past week: Two coaching changes, a top-six winger trade and the impending return of a superstar talent. It's worth taking a beat to see what the early returns on some of those changes are.
Montreal Canadiens new coach: Not to put too fine a point on it, but a Martin St. Louis-coached Cole Caufield looks like a fantasy asset. Caufield has four goals in four games under his new coach, not the least of which were the tying goal and the overtime winner on Thursday to clinch St. Louis' first win as a head coach. What's more, he's been set loose offensively since the trade of Tyler Toffoli to the Calgary Flames. Caufield hadn't crested the 16-minute mark in a game since Jan. 1 until he played 21:04 and 18:16 in the Habs last two games. The Canadiens probably aren't poised for a historic run to the postseason, but St. Louis' tenure has shown some hints of being a positive one for fantasy. In addition to Caufield looking like a waiver-wire target, Jeff Petry has three points in the past two games. That may not sound like much, as it was a regular occurrence last season, but they were Petry's seventh, eighth and ninth points of the season!
Of the season!
I'm not rushing out to add him yet, as Chris Wideman is still playing the bulk of the power-play quarterback minutes, but keep a close eye on Petry.
Edmonton Oilers new coaching: Not too much to report for fantasy aside from longer-term concerns about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins staying productive. New coach Jay Woodcroft immediately shortened the forward to bench to three lines (with Tyler Benson and Ryan McLeod essentially floating through the three lines for relief) in order to use seven defensemen. The result has been Nugent-Hopkins shifting off the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lines to play on a third line with Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan. The results to date has been terrific, with the threesome combining for 11 points in four games, but playing apart from the superstar duo is going to suppress Nugent-Hopkins' output eventually.
Evander Kane has been on a line with Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto, but the power play hasn't found its groove under Woodcroft, so Kane has been one of the moving pieces there. His outlook would be much better looked in on the advantage, but we'll have to see what the deployment looks like when it finally starts clicking.
Tyler Toffoli as a Flame: I don't want to look too far into what his usage means yet, as Toffoli was traded Monday and then played in back-to-back games with the Flames on Tuesday and Wednesday. He lined up with Sean Monahan and Dillon Dube on what ostensibly could be considered the second line now. But he hardly sniffed the power play and only played 12 minutes in each contest. Let's let coach Darryl Sutter get a couple practices in with his former player before we consider what role Toffoli ultimately plays. I do still think it's a role with fantasy potential.
Jack Eichel's return: His Golden Knights debut wasn't ceremonious, as the team was blanked by the Colorado Avalanche, but Eichel was exactly where we wanted to see him: centering the top line and on the top power-play unit. We'll give him some time to warm up to linemates Max Pacioretty and Evgenii Dadonov, especially since Eichel's last action was almost a year ago (March 7).
This situation is near-perfect on paper, so don't lose faith in Eichel paying dividends for those that stashed him or nabbed him for fantasy.
Fantasy Forecaster: Feb. 20 to Feb. 27
We are almost back to the pre-arranged NHL schedule, with the original Olympic break coming to a close on Wednesday. The result is a more balanced schedule again, with all teams sticking between two and four games.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Projected to crush their opponents on a four-game schedule, trying to get an extra piece of the Leafs looks like a wise move for fantasy this week. As always, the best place to look for a piece is whatever two forwards are filling out the top six with the stars (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander). Michael Bunting and Alexander Kerfoot are the current candidates, with Bunting on a hot streak that includes three goals in four games. Jake Muzzin might also be an option on the blue line, as he's back from injury and picking up a solid baseline of fantasy points from a combination of shots, hits and blocked shots - or what you might call "Pulling a Muzzin," as peripheral production has always been his calling card.
New York Islanders: A four-game road trip looks advantageous for the defense, but not too shabby for the offense as well. Kyle Palmieri looks to be back again after myriad reasons have limited him to six games since Dec. 16. He's on a stacked top line with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee. The Islanders need to start seeing more outings like his two-goal game on Tuesday and he's in the right spot in the lineup to make it happen. Not that he'll be available in anything but a shallow league, but I'll also put a reminder here that Noah Dobson is criminally available in 54 percent of leagues. He's averaged 2.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG) over his last 12 contests.
Columbus Blue Jackets: It's some tougher matchups, so I don't want my fantasy team to be anywhere near Elvis Merzlikins, but using some of the offense could work out. Jakub Voracek is back to being glued to Patrik Laine's side on and off the power play, and he's managed 2.1 FPPG over the past five games. Oliver Bjorkstrand is also widely available and has access to Laine on the power play. And don't sleep on Vladislav Gavrikov as an option to fill out your blue line. He provides a healthy mix of the hits, blocked shots and shots on goal, but can occasionally pop on offense, too.
Scott Laughton, F, Philadelphia Flyers: Left in the ashes of what has been a Flyers dumpster fire this season (seriously, I thought this team would compete for the division), Laughton has been productive of late on what could be argued as the team's top line with James van Riemsdyk and Travis Konecny. Going back 10 games, Lauhgton has posted 2.2 FPPG by collecting nine points and packing in the periphery stats (26 shots, 18 hits).
Vince Dunn, D, Seattle Kraken: It's after I've already thrown the towel in on him this season, so I'm a bit bitter, but Dunn has been leading the Kraken's defense in power-play time over the past week - and the results are showing, with three goals in five games. I was a big Dunn believer before the season due to his scoring totals in a subdued role with the St. Louis Blues. If the team does pull the trigger on a trade of Mark Giordano, Dunn could be a source of fantasy points going forward.
Laurent Brossoit, G, Vegas Golden Knights: Don't use him next week unless you have daily lineup changes and only want one potential start out of him, but Robin Lehner's injury seems to be lingering and could make Brossoit an asset beyond next week. But this isn't the week to consider him, as the Knights only play two games and they are back-to-back contests against what could be argued as the worst and best teams in the league (Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche). That means Brossoit's only start might come against the Avs.