In the first Independent Sports News fantasy hockey report of 2017, it might just be time to believe in one of Canada’s most loved (and hated) hockey teams. That’s right folks. I am talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Winners of five straight games, there is already some talk that Toronto just might win the Stanley Cup!
Ok, let’s not got ahead of ourselves. They are currently not even in a playoff spot at the moment, but it is clear they are a franchise on the upswing and are generating the necessary tools to be more competitive.
It is also time to put Maple Leafs on to your fantasy hockey roster. Toronto’s top five forwards have skill and fantasy value. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, James Van Riemsdyk, William Nylander and Nazem Kadri all each have a minimum of 90 shots on goal, and are generating many scoring chances a game. Matthews is third in the NHL with 133 shots on goal, while Kadri is also in the top 20 (ranked 16th) with 116 shots. In fantasy hockey, I put the highest emphasis on shots on goal. That category tends to strongly impact all other fantasy categories. Yesterday, the Maple Leafs’ fab five forwards combined for 42.9% of the team’s shots on goal in Toronto’s 5-4 win over Detroit in the Centennial Classic.
One also needs to overlook the fact that Kadri only has eight assists and is a -1. The fact that he has 59 penalty minutes is significant because it ranks him ninth in the NHL in that category.
However the Maple Leafs just don’t have fantasy value up front. Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner are starting to develop as durable blueliners and should be considered too. Meanwhile, goaltender Frederik Andersen has won 14 games since November 1 and has a goals against average of 2.15 over the last two months.
On the injury front, notables who went on the injury reserve this past week include Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk, Chicago Blackhawks veteran winger Marian Hossa, Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov and Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli. Faulk, Barkov and Toffoli have lower-body injuries, while Hossa has an upper-body injury. If you are looking for someone to blame for my vagueness regarding the injuries of these players in this paragraph, you can blame the late Pat Quinn for inventing the terms “upper-body” and “lower-body” injuries while addressing the Toronto media when he was the Maple Leafs head coach. Those terms have now become commonplace for all NHL teams when they describe player injuries.
The top fantasy player this past week was Matthews. The American superstar had four goals and two assists for six points in three games and 12 shots on goal. His fourth goal of the week was the overtime winner in the Centennial Classic.
Finally for the week avoid Dallas Stars, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators as they only play two times each. You will also need to avoid players on the Pittsburgh Penguins as they only play once and do not play until they face they Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.