Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: Time to give up on Canucks’ Thatcher Demko?

One thing that often gets overlooked in fantasy hockey is the schedule, and more specifically, the start time of the first game each day.

I saw a number of surprised people when the Ottawa Senators faced off against the New York Islanders at 5:30 p.m. ET on Monday, as they missed an opportunity to set their lineups for the night or week. That game started early so it wouldn’t conflict with the Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony for Daniel Alfredsson and next week it’s American Thanksgiving, so there will be a number of afternoon games Friday.

Most people are aware of early starts on weekends, but there are a handful of weekday afternoon games throughout the season, too. It’s good practice to set aside five minutes each morning to double-check when things kick off that day so you’re prepared to set your lineup or perhaps get a jump on any waiver wire adds you may want to take advantage of.

Any edge you can get goes a long way.

Let’s get to your questions:

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I think a lot of it depends on whether or not the Pittsburgh Penguins can start climbing up the standings and start winning with regularity again. A tandem on a good team is never a bad idea to roster, but if the Penguins aren’t as competitive as previous years, it doesn’t make sense to keep both goalies.

As far as Sergei Bobrovsky goes, I might try to get something for him if you can. Otherwise, just keep him and try to use him when a good matchup presents itself, unless your league isn’t that deep and there are a bunch of better options on waivers. The Florida Panthers are still a good team and Bobrovsky should get a favourable matchup more often than not.

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There are a couple that are probably closer to being NHL-ready that I would look at it. Pyotr Kochetkov, who is up with the Carolina Hurricanes, figures to be a mainstay in the crease next season with both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta pending UFAs. Daniil Tarasov is another name to watch in Columbus who could get an opportunity soon. Anaheim’s Lukas Dostal has been performing very well in the AHL.

Maybe a bit more long term, though, is Devon Levi with the Buffalo Sabres. He’s in the midst of back-to-back incredible seasons at Northeastern University and might fit in perfectly with the timeline of the Sabres’ rebuild finally being complete.

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I would probably drop Oliver Wahlstrom and replace him with Timo Meier if you can swing it from a cap perspective. Wahlstrom just isn’t playing enough to be productive, as he’s averaging under 12 minutes per night. Meier leads the league in shots on goal and his slow start is well behind him. Plus, he’s also fairly valuable for hits. Carter Verhaeghe is a bit streaky and Meier should give you the most consistency.

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Few would’ve expected the Minnesota Wild to be 28th in goals for, behind the likes of Arizona and Anaheim. That said, there are reasons a dip in scoring shouldn’t be too surprising.

Kevin Fiala left in the offseason and he was a huge part of their offense, and Ryan Hartman, who scored 34 goals last season, hasn’t played much because of an injury. Not to mention Marco Rossi hasn’t really popped like many thought he would this year. The Wild are still a solid team, goals may just be a bit harder to come by for them in 2022-23.

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Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are the two most likely candidates to be dealt who have value, but Erik Karlsson’s name has come up in rumours recently, too.

One other interesting name I’ll throw out there is Bo Horvat. It sounds like no one is safe in Vancouver and he is having a tremendous season. If he isn’t re-signed, it seems like a reasonable possibility Horvat could be traded around the deadline, which would boost his value for the fantasy playoffs.

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If it were me, I’d take my chances on Stuart Skinner. He’s been solid all season and has started two games in a row. The Edmonton Oilers are a strong team, and if Skinner even gets a decent share of starts, he’ll be very valuable.

Out of that group, I like Anthony Duclair. He looked really good with the Florida Panthers a year ago and there is an obvious need in the top six for him to slide back into.

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I’m not as concerned about Jonathan Huberdeau as I am about Roman Josi. Elias Lindholm is heating up and I’d imagine Huberdeau will work his way back onto the top line at some point. He might not have a 100-point campaign again, but he should be fine long-term this season.

As for Josi, I mentioned in the preseason I was concerned about the Nashville Predators because so many of their top players had inflated shooting percentages in 2021-22. Josi led the league in secondary assists last season and his numbers should drop as the players’ production around him normalizes. Like Huberdeau, he’ll still be solid, but just don’t expect Josi to flirt with 100 points again.

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I think Dawson Mercer’s value won’t be that substantial this season. He’ll be a great player eventually, but without much time on the power play, he’ll have a hard time producing numbers that make him worth rostering in 2022-23. If you’re in a one-year league, there are probably better options out there. Mercer looks like one of those “better in real life” players than in fantasy right now.

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It’s likely going to be a split between Daniil Tarasov and Joonas Korpisalo. Tarasov has a lot of upside, but nothing is going right for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. I’d look externally for options to replace Elvis Merzlikins. Pyotr Kochetkov is a good add and Filip Gustavsson could be worth a look with Marc-Andre Fleury injured.

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It’s not impossible. If you remember a couple of years ago, Alex Nedeljkovic was in a similar situation in Carolina. When he was called up, he played so well that he stuck around even when Petr Mrazek and James Reimer were healthy. The same thing could happen with Kochetkov, though he would have to play very well to steal starts from a healthy Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.

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You’d think so, but eventually, an aging team like the Penguins is going to slow down. The majority of their top players are in their mid-30s and they aren’t getting very good goaltending from Tristan Jarry. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a ton of depth, and it’s going to become tougher and tougher for Sidney Crosby to put this team on his back. I’m not counting them out yet, though.

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It’s really tough to let him go because most people spent a decent draft pick on Thatcher Demko this year, but things aren’t looking good for the Canucks. I’m not as confident in Demko regaining his value this season as I am in someone like Juuse Saros, for example, simply because Vancouver is likely going to be near the league’s basement barring a miracle turnaround.

The other issue is Spencer Martin is starting to cut into Demko’s playing time. Martin is actually 4-1-1 and Demko has just a single victory. If Martin continues to play regularly, it’s only going to hurt Demko’s dwindling value.

It is tough in a 14-team league where goalies are scarce, but right now you’re probably better off taking a chance on a Skinner or Kochetkov and hope they run with the job. Demko is doing more harm than good at the moment.

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Jarry may bounce back but you should definitely look at adding a third goalie, especially with Merzlikins injured. Skinner, Kochetkov and maybe even someone like Gustavsson as a stopgap would be worth checking out. You could also explore the trade market if you have a position that is stocked with skaters. You might be able to move one for a goalie to another team that has a need.

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They could, though they may not want to burn a year of his entry-level deal on a season that appears to be lost. There’s a chance he at least gets a few more games on the big club with all the injuries they have, so David Jiricek could have some short-term value. He’s worth taking a chance on if he gets the call as long as it’s just a waiver claim.

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I think Joel Eriksson Ek is a fine option for multi-cat leagues, but expectations may have been raised about his offence over the past two seasons. The Wild forward had a shooting percentage a fair bit higher in both 2021-20 and 2021-22 than his career average, where he scored 19 and 26 goals respectively.

I agree it is concerning that his hits and faceoff wins are down, but I don’t think I’d reach for any of the players you listed. Eriksson Ek has bounced around different forward lines quite a bit, so maybe when Hartman comes back he’ll slot into a more consistent spot.

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It’s Arber Xhekaj for me. Kaiden Guhle may get you a few more points, but Xhekaj should be far superior in hits and shots. I’d rather have Xhekaj help me win the hits and shots categories regularly then pick up the occasional goal or assist from Guhle.

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A lot of people would love to be in your position. I’d probably go with Andersen, Bobrovsky, Spencer Knight and Alex Georgiev. Then, I’d put Andersen on the IR and grab Vitek Vanecek. As much as Bobrovsky’s value is trending down, the Florida Panthers tandem is still strong.

Vanecek and the New Jersey Devils are flying and Georgiev has taken over the top job in Colorado. You should be fine with that group.

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Not if those are your alternatives. Jack Campbell is very streaky and, eventually, he’ll probably go on a six-week heater where he’ll stop everything in sight, but you have to take the bad with the good. All of those goalies you listed are probably only streaming options for spot starts. If Skinner really takes over the net completely, then maybe re-evaluate.

Boldy is actually doing all right when you forecast his numbers for the season. He’s on a 56-point pace and averaging more than three shots per game. You’ll take that all day long in deep leagues. No need to panic where he is concerned.

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Tough one, but I’d probably prefer Jake Guentzel in the long run. I think he can be a 50-goal scorer one day and he should be a lock for 40 with 80 points if he stays healthy the rest of the way. Even though the Penguins are struggling somewhat this season, I have more confidence in them than the San Jose Sharks and I think Tomas Hertl will go through a few more cold stretches than Guentzel.

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I wouldn’t because of Matt Murray’s injury history. It’s impossible to be confident that Murray is going to remain durable enough to start with regularity the rest of the way. Even with Campbell struggling and Skinner stealing starts, I’d guess he still finishes with more starts than Murray and the Oilers are a very comparable team to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There’s simply too much risk with Murray.

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Much like you, I was high on Seth Jarvis coming into the season. It hasn’t worked out, however, and even though he’s on the first line, I don’t think many imagined Stefan Noesen joining Jarvis and Sebastian Aho in that group. The second line with Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov is doing most of the scoring for Carolina and without time on the first power play, Jarvis can be comfortably dropped for better alternatives.

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That’s something you could pursue. Matt Beniers is going to be more valuable long term and he’s slowed down after a strong start. Using a piece from a deep position to boost a thinner one is always a good use of resources.

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It was only a couple of slow games for that unit before they bounced back Thursday, besides Bryan Rust, who is uncharacteristically struggling, so I wouldn’t panic yet. As mentioned earlier, I’m not worried about Guentzel and Crosby because they are both averaging over a point per game and they will be fine over a long season.

In general, though, as the Penguins’ core gets older, it’s going to be tougher for them to produce elite fantasy seasons. Is Crosby still going to be a very good player for the next few years? I’d bet he will be. Is he going to continue to score at a 100-point pace? That seems less likely.

That just means you’re going to have to start drafting him as an 85-point guy instead of 100 at some point. How soon that happens remains to be seen.

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I would hold him if you can. As you said, you probably won’t get top value for him and he still has 13 points in 16 games, so he’s far from ineffective. Kane will likely be dealt to a contender later this season, so his value should jump at some point.

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I provided my feelings about the Penguins above, but I think that’s a trade you can consider. Jamie Benn is probably overperforming at the moment and Rust is underperforming.

If the deal nets you Brandon Hagel, it should be a win. He might be the most valuable player in the trade if he sticks on the Tampa Bay Lightning top line.

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I would probably keep Raanta and Kochetkov while Andersen is out. I think they’ll play close to a 50/50 split and a Carolina tandem is very valuable with the team’s strong defensive structure.

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A 53-point pace isn’t terrible, but I think many were banking on Vincent Trocheck to return to being a 70-point player with all the talent in the New York Rangers’ top six. Trocheck’s shooting percentage is a bit lower than normal, so I’d wait and see if that normalizes before giving up on him. Trocheck’s upside is too high to part with him in November.

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Tarasov could very well steal starts from Korpisalo, but I’m not sure I’d be targeting any Blue Jackets players with the way their season is going.

Back-to-back strong performances against the Hurricanes for Pavel Francouz is very impressive, so anything is possible. I have a hard time believing Francouz will take over the net entirely, but if he keeps playing like this, getting more of a timeshare with Alex Georgiev is definitely realistic.

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