Hutch's Hockey: The Annual Apology Tour

Hutch's Hockey: The Annual Apology Tour

American Thanksgiving is the de facto quarter-pole for the NHL season, and that means we've got enough of the season in the books to take a short look back at draft day. No one can predict the future, but to this point, I've had a few notable whiffs and some big wins in my draft strategy, which you can find here

First and foremost, I won't hide from the fact that I was arguably the biggest Thatcher Demko backer outside of Vancouver itself. He's played in 14 games with a 3-9-2 record, a 3.81 GAA and an .885 save percentage. That's not good anywhere -- and certainly not the top-15 overall fantasy finish I projected. The Canucks are beginning to turn things around, but that's been with less of Demko and more of Spencer Martin. I still see Demko as too good to drop, so I'll be riding this one out. 

I also undervalued Connor Hellebuyck dramatically. With a 10-5-1 record, a 2.43 GAA and a .925 save percentage, he's had the bounce-back year many projected for him, especially with the Jets enjoying some solid play to compete for the Central Division lead. He's tentatively on a 40-win pace with excellent ratios, though he's not getting much Vezina hype -- yet. 

Among my other favored goalies, Jake Oettinger, Linus Ullmark, Ilya Sorokin and Logan Thompson have all been excellent, while Jacob Markstrom has notably struggled. Outside of a couple of my teams, goaltending hasn't been a

American Thanksgiving is the de facto quarter-pole for the NHL season, and that means we've got enough of the season in the books to take a short look back at draft day. No one can predict the future, but to this point, I've had a few notable whiffs and some big wins in my draft strategy, which you can find here

First and foremost, I won't hide from the fact that I was arguably the biggest Thatcher Demko backer outside of Vancouver itself. He's played in 14 games with a 3-9-2 record, a 3.81 GAA and an .885 save percentage. That's not good anywhere -- and certainly not the top-15 overall fantasy finish I projected. The Canucks are beginning to turn things around, but that's been with less of Demko and more of Spencer Martin. I still see Demko as too good to drop, so I'll be riding this one out. 

I also undervalued Connor Hellebuyck dramatically. With a 10-5-1 record, a 2.43 GAA and a .925 save percentage, he's had the bounce-back year many projected for him, especially with the Jets enjoying some solid play to compete for the Central Division lead. He's tentatively on a 40-win pace with excellent ratios, though he's not getting much Vezina hype -- yet. 

Among my other favored goalies, Jake Oettinger, Linus Ullmark, Ilya Sorokin and Logan Thompson have all been excellent, while Jacob Markstrom has notably struggled. Outside of a couple of my teams, goaltending hasn't been a problem. If you followed me on Demko and away from Hellebuyck, I can only offer my apologies -- it's a fickle game we play. 

For forwards, I've had a little bad luck on some mid-round and depth picks. Josh Norris' shoulder injury threw a wrench in my plans. Bryan Rust has gone cold, but he's in a good position to turn it around. 

Where the apologies come in are on the fades. Johnny Gaudreau (seven goals, 13 assists in 20 games) has picked it right up in Columbus. I was down on Nashville as a whole, but Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene have been strong options. Nazem Kadri has often looked like the Flames' best forward, though the team's weak offense has dampened that a bit recently. I didn't expect Tage Thompson (13 goals, 13 assists in 26 games) to be anywhere near a point-per-game pace. Mark Scheifele and Patrice Bergeron are finding success that I won't enjoy any bit of. 

Finally, on the blue line, my Mikhail Sergachev sleeper pick looks like absolute gold -- he's got four goals and 15 assists in 20 contests, and he's outplayed Victor Hedman, who often went in the first two rounds. Damon Severson and Jared Spurgeon have mostly been duds however, so I've rotated them out for more productive options. 

Missing out on Brandon Montour has been my biggest draft-day whiff, but it was one that many managers also committed -- I've picked him up off the waiver wire to replace some of my other mistakes. 

As you can see, there were big hits and massive misses in places. The thing to remember is that no fantasy league is won on draft day -- many can be lost there, but it's what you do during the season that determines who's at the top. 

In that vein, I want to make sure everyone's fully aware of just what Matty Beniers is doing in Seattle. The rookie center has seven goals and 11 assists in 21 contests, but he's picked up nine of those 18 points in the last four games. Teams don't pick guys second overall just because they're nice -- there's real skill here, and he's got the potential to be a star for a surprising Kraken team. Don't let him slip under the radar in redraft formats. He's on pace to top 70 points, though his current surge will eventually cool. Even if he's a 55-to-60 point guy, that's good enough. 

It's getting tough to ignore David Krejci, as he's picked up six goals and two assists over the last five games. The 36-year-old's biggest flaw is being an injury risk, but he's flirting with a point-per-game pace this season. The Bruins look like a juggernaut, and Krejci's giving them the depth to be something really special. He's a second-liner right now, but that's been a Czeching line when he's partnered with David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha on his wings. 

The story of Artturi Lehkonen's season: three points on Opening Night, a quiet rest of October and now a nine-game point streak. Gabriel Landeskog and his surgically-repaired knee ain't walking through the Avalanche's locker room any time soon, so the top-line gig is Lehkonen's to run with. He's at 17 points in 19 contests, with 11 of them coming on the power play. You just have to hope he's immune from the injury bug that's bit the Avalanche hard. 

Give Alex Killorn another look. His slow start to the year is behind him -- he's got three goals and six assists in his last six games. The Lightning aren't front-running in the Atlantic like they usually do, but they're still a good team. Killorn and the rest of the Bolts' top-six forwards need to be on fantasy rosters, though he's added just 11 hits to his 17 points in 20 contests this season, which suggests he's taken a step back in the physical part of the game. 

Going into the season, there was a question of where Dawson Mercer would fit with the Devils. He's a natural center, but he's too good for the third line. Head coach Lindy Ruff hasn't taken long to put the 21-year-old on the wing, and it's working right now -- Mercer has a goal and six assists in his last seven games. He's at a pedestrian 13 points in 22 contests overall with little physicality, but he's also seeing time alongside Jack Hughes. That's a gig that could make anyone look good, and positional flexibility is a plus. 

I'll keep bringing up Vince Dunn until he gets the respect he deserves in fantasy. Virtual blue lines aren't so deep that he can be left on the sidelines. The 26-year-old has two goals and four assists in his last six games, including a pair of multi-point efforts. With the Kraken looking legit and Dunn on their first power-play unit, he's a sneaky good add that will also help you maintain your hits and blocked shots. 

There's always room in my heart for Ryan Pulock, especially in formats that reward physical play. The 28-year-old is an excellent defenseman in his own zone, but he's still got a booming shot capable of making noise on offense. He popped off with four assists Saturday versus the Flyers -- opponent aside, that's an impressive game. He's picked up three power-play helpers among his one goal and 10 assists in 23 contests overall, and he'll always see big minutes while providing well-rounded category coverage. 

In terms of doing due diligence, you should check to see if Jakob Chychrun is available. He's picked up three points in four games since returning from a wrist injury. The 24-year-old defenseman could hurt your plus-minus as long as he's with the Coyotes, but his name is among the breeziest swirling in the trade winds. If he lands with a contender, he'll be a huge boost -- get in now, and flip him later if you don't want to hang on. With the Coyotes' power play surprisingly effective, he'll be useful as long as he's healthy.

As I mentioned during the apology tour, Spencer Martin is pushing to take the No. 1 job from Thatcher Demko in Vancouver. It's hard to argue with the logic here -- the Canucks need wins and Martin's gotten three of them in his last three starts, allowing eight goals on 95 shots. The 27-year-old isn't a long-term fix, but he can stabilize a fantasy crease just as well as he's done lately on the ice. If he's going to get the bulk of the starts (or even a 50-50 split), he can help you win matchups. 

It took a while for Cam Talbot to look comfortable with the Senators -- missing nearly a month to start the season will do that. He's picked up wins in each of his last two outings, and he's been steady to not allow more than three goals in any of his last seven games, though one of those was an ugly dud versus the Sharks. The Senators are a flawed team battling injuries, so there's some risk, but Talbot looks up to the task right now, and he's seeing the starting role we all expected when news first broke that he was traded from Minnesota over the summer. 

Don't forget the other starting goalie in Ontario -- Matt Murray has won three starts in row while allowing just six goals. Both Talbot and Murray will be tough to find in standard formats, but if they're on the waiver wire, make sure they're not available for much longer. 

All in all, we play fantasy because it lets us live a dream of building a superteam. It's exciting to see what kinds of players we can put together and if we can win. Sometimes, we're wrong about what a player is -- I'll admit my faults, as I have here, while providing my thought process on how to adjust. Don't get too caught up in what didn't work. Apologize for mistakes made, and work to be better. It's easy to do in fantasy, where there's no shortage of ways to improve a roster that isn't up to standard. Remember that our successes and failures are largely out of our hands, and do your best to get a win this week. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Hutchinson
Shawn has covered sports independently since 2010, and joined RotoWire in 2019. He serves as a beat writer for the Calgary Flames and contributes in hockey and baseball. Shawn also enjoys soccer, rooting on his hometown teams: Sounders FC and Reign FC.
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