One of the biggest stories in the National Hockey League this past week centered around who was suspended and who was not. Let’s start with those who were and the fantasy implications that were involved.
Over the past week, Calgary Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk was suspended two games for elbowing Los Angeles Kings all-star defenseman Drew Doughty, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was suspended three games for hitting Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel in the head and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak was suspended two games for boarding Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The suspension of Polak had minimal fantasy significance. You are either in a very deep league or have no understanding about fantasy hockey if you had the Maple Leafs blueliner on your roster. The suspensions for Tkachuk and Ristolainen however came at the worst possible time because they were during the fantasy hockey playoffs. Tkachuk is having an excellent rookie season in Calgary. He has 13 goals, 33 assists and 46 points, a +14, with 98 penalty minutes, 12 power play points and 135 shots on goal. Tkachuk’s ability to not only generate points, but be defensively responsible and spend time in the penalty box, gives him valuable fantasy value.
Ristolainen leads all Sabres blueliners in points with 44 and has fantasy value because of his high number of power play points (25) and shots on goal (177). One risk when participating in fantasy sports and drafting players who have a history of physical presence, is that there is always the possibility they can be suspended at the worst possible time. That is the case with Tkachuk, but not with Ristolainen, who only has 109 penalty minutes in 268 career regular season games. Even the Sabres were surprised as an organization that Ristolainen was suspended for three games.
The biggest story of the week was the fact that Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby was not suspended for slashing Marc Methot of the Ottawa Senators across the hand. Crosby was not even penalized on the play. Methot will miss the next few weeks with the injury. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk meanwhile was livid that Crosby was not suspended. For those that have Crosby in fantasy pools, count your blessings and be sure to give the National Hockey League and those involved with NHL player discipline a Christmas card this year.
For those in weekly NHL pools, go heavy with the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators as they play five times each. The best fantasy player on the Hurricanes is Jeff Skinner (30 goals, 54 points, 239 shots on goal), and the best fantasy players on the Predators are Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg who have all reached the 50 point plateau this season so far.