There might be no hotter division in professional sports at the moment than the National Hockey League’s Metropolitan Division. In the division, you can find five of the top seven teams in the entire National Hockey League—the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, and the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers.
Among those five teams, it could come as a legitimate surprise that the Capitals have the least number of goals at 81. The Blue Jackets meanwhile are red hot. They have now won nine straight games and have outscored their opponents 36-14 over that stretch.
The Blue Jackets have a balanced offensive attack but only one player on the entire roster who is averaging more than a point per game. That is Cam Atkinson of Riverside, Connecticut, who has 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points in 29 games. However due to this balanced attack, I would be reluctant in loading my fantasy lineup with Columbus players.
Another major reason for Columbus’s success has been the strong goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky. He leads the NHL with 19 wins, and has a strong goals against average of 1.94 and save percentage of .932.
The hottest player in the National Hockey League at the moment is reigning Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks. Panarin, who like Bobrovsky is Russian, has four goals and seven assists for 11 points in his last five games. In his last four games, Panarin has recorded a multi-point game in each contest including a pair of three point games in a 5-4 win over the New York Islanders on December 15 and a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on December 17.
This week is a short fantasy week because NHL teams don’t play Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. As a result, many clubs play back-to-back nights on Thursday and Friday. You might strongly consider picking up a backup goaltender for the week in order for you to get the minimum goaltending starts that is required in your pool. Among the best backup goaltenders who could be available are Rangers netminder Antti Raanta and Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.
Three players who are currently out with injuries are Boston Bruins right winger David Pastrnak, Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. Pastrnak recently had elbow surgery, while Kucherov and Letang are on the injury reserve with lower body injuries. The loss of each of these players will be significant to not only their respective teams but fantasy owners as well. They have combined for 256 shots on goal to start the season.
In weekly leagues, you may want to stay away from players who are on NHL teams that only play twice. Those teams are the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets. In a quirky part of the NHL schedule, the only two games the Jets have all week are a pair of contests in Vancouver.