Each week, Jordan will attempt to provide you with guidance and inside information as you pick your lineup in the Hockey Night in Canada Fantasy Pool presented by Kia, with a focus on finding "sleeper" picks to help fill the roster when cap space is low.
The first third of the NHL season is in the books, and my top three surprise teams have been the Panthers, Coyotes and Maple Leafs. These three teams have not done much in the fantasy world in recent years, and aside from one or two guys, their players were left wallowing on the waiver wires. But in today's NHL, any team can create a competitive roster and put things together for a run. Congrats if you picked up on these teams successes and were able to reap the fantasy benefits. Perhaps more surprises are in store.
Something I liked last week: the announcement by the NHL about conference realignment. I think by having four conferences based on geography, it will create bigger rivalries within the conferences and, most importantly, in the playoffs, where the top four in each conference will face each other a winner emerges. Rivalries like Montreal and Toronto, and the Rangers and Flyers will take on renewed hatred as the probability of these teams facing each other in the post-season greatly increases.
On to the picks for this week:
In last week’s article I gave kudos to Canucks goalie Cory Schneider for his recent strong play. This week I want to take it a step further and recommend you add him to your Week 11 roster. I like the matchups Vancouver has this week: they play at Ottawa Saturday, at Columbus Tuesday, and at Carolina Thursday. Although these are all road games, they are against a young Ottawa squad and two struggling teams in the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. Vancouver is above .500 on the road and is 8-2 in their last 10 games.
As far as choosing Schneider over Roberto Luongo, Schneider has been the better goalie for several weeks now and is getting the lion’s share of starts. Luongo left Tuesday’s game after taking a puck to the neck and is day to day. This is another reason to go with Schneider. At a player value of 3, Schneider is a bit pricey for a "back-up" goalie but it’s obvious his designation as the No. 2 goalie wouldn’t apply if he were on most other NHL clubs. Schneider makes a strong case to start at least two of the three games Vancouver plays in Week 11, and if Luongo is unable to play he gets them all.
Sticking with the Canucks, I want to recommend adding Kevin Bieksa to your squad for Week 11. Besides the three lower-tier teams he will play against, Bieksa is on a bit of a tear lately. He has a nice six-game point streak going with one goal and six assists. This breaks him out of his early-season slump. Bieksa is tied for first among NHL defencemen in points in the last seven days and, if healthy, he should continue his pace as a 45-point player in an 82-game season. His player value is only 1 and he makes for a good filler when trying to squeeze in your fourth defencemen.
I think there’s a good chance he can pick up four in Week 11 and is a solid value play. Save your three-star selection for a more marquee name, but Bieksa shouldn’t be ignored.
In Week 11 you should avoid all forwards from Carolina, Colorado, Edmonton, St Louis, Toronto and Washington. They play only two games this week, so someone playing in four games is a better fit to get points. That being said, this eliminates a lot of sold fantasy forwards like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Alex Ovechkin, and Phil Kessel.
In order to fill that fantasy void, add New York Rangers centre Brad Richards. The Rangers play four times (at Buffalo, vs. Florida, vs. Dallas, at St. Louis) and Richards will be in position for a pile of points. He has 10 points in the last 15 days, good enough for third in the NHL among forwards in that span. He's also riding a six-game point streak with four goals and six assists. At a player value cost of 4 he isn’t cheap, but he looks to be a better choice in Week 11 than other players costing the same. He’s hot right now, go take advantage.
Good luck with this week’s selections and remember to have your rosters set in time for the deadlie on Saturday Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. ET.