For years as an adult, I played beer league hockey. I kinda skated on my ankles, but I could read the play pretty well and I picked up a bunch of points. We had fun. We had a drink or two.
My skating days are over. Today, I write about hockey, and I present to you a six-pack of Fantasy Hockey pickups to consider. Oh, and Mark needs 20 bucks for the ice rental.
Joe Veleno, C, Detroit Red Wings (2% rostered)
I’ve watched the Patrick Kane comeback with much interest. He was rusty his first game back, but Kane was electric in Saturday’s loss to Ottawa — a goal, seven shots, several good scoring opportunities. If not for a late Alex DeBrincat pass, Kane easily scores two goals. Kane also bumped up his playing time, three minutes more than his debut.
No, you can’t pick up Patrick Kane, not in any competitive league. But Veleno is calling for your attention. Injuries have hit the Red Wings hard, with Dylan Larkin and J.T. Compher heading to injured reserve Monday. This solidifies Veleno’s place as the first-line center, working between Kane and DeBrincat, and it might promote Veleno to the first power-play unit (he’s already getting some time with the second group).
Veleno has modest seasonal stats, as he’s been in a support role. But any player flanked by teammates this good deserves an immediate look for medium and deeper leagues. The Red Wings play four games in the next six days, starting Monday night, so it’s showtime.
Charlie Coyle, C, Boston Bruins (33% rostered)
Here’s a case of a good player being screened by great players; the No. 1 Boston group is always going to be the line Brad Marchand and David Pastrňák are on. But Coyle gets plenty of ice as the No. 2 center, he’s seeing work with the second power-play unit, and he’s scoring at a nice pace (10-11-21 through 26 games). When Coyle was selected in the first round of the 2010 Draft, he was projected as someone who could score 25-30 goals someday. That time has finally arrived.
Dylan Strome, C, Washington Capitals (19% rostered)
I wish I could be a little more convicted with this recommendation. Strome is the first-line center in Washington, but so what? Alex Ovechkin’s regression season is finally hitting, hard. The Capitals have the worst power-play in the league, scoring at a sad 8.2% percent of the time. They might decline their next opportunity, it’s that depressing.
But Strome has shown more interest in shooting the puck lately (12 attempts in his last three games) and he’s on a credible 3-1-4 run over his last five games. Look for your shot, No. 17. It’s one of the few things that’s working in DC these days.
Devon Levi, G, Buffalo Sabres (48% rostered)
Nothing went right for the highly touted Levi in the first two months — through nine games he was sitting on a lousy .876 save percentage and was sent to the AHL. It’s no fun when the Levi breaks. But circumstances required a Levi recall, and he’s come through — a stunning win at Boston, and a solid 29-save effort in a shootout loss to Montreal.
There are staunch tests ahead; after the home game against Arizona on Monday, the Sabres have three difficult games on the road — Colorado, Las Vegas and an Arizona rematch. But goaltending is such a confidence position, I think we have to kick the tires and see where this goes.
Cam York, D, Philadelphia Flyers (5% rostered)
York remains a work in progress in the defensive end, but he knows what to do with the puck, with four points in his last five games and a role on Philly’s top power-play unit. Anyone skating this much with the man-advantage is worth an automatic grab without deep investigation required. I wouldn’t be surprised to see York land with 35-40 points, assuming a healthy season.
Josh Manson, D, Colorado Avalanche (11% rostered)
Anyone good enough to hold down a regular spot in Colorado’s lineup is usually of fantasy interest, and Manson offers a broad collection of skills. Over the past two weeks, he’s put together five points, 11 penalty minutes, 13 shots, 19 hits and 13 blocks. The scoring could be a little fluky and if your pool is points-only, I understand possible hesitation on Manson. But in any league with broad categories, this is the perfect type of support player to target.