Special to Yahoo Sports
This week’s fantasy trade column dives a little deeper into shooting percentages, which will be the main impetus to trade for two players who are starting to score in bunches after muted starts. On the other hand, the “trade away” duo has been hindered by their inconsistent play and the recent slumps suffered by their respective teams.
Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Blue Jackets (81% rostered)
If you need scoring for a cheap price, look no further than Laine. The Blue Jackets have always been an overlooked team for fantasy options, but note that Laine has five goals in his last six games, including a hat trick against Detroit and goals in consecutive games against the Sharks and Flames. That run brings his total to 14 goals in 32 games this year and 40 goals in 88 contests over the past two seasons. Laine and Johnny Gaudreau remain attached at the hip and have generated a 51.56 CF% at 5-on-5, according to naturalstattrick.com, even though the team ranks 29th in the league at 45.28 percent in that metric.
With a shooting percentage of 12.1 percent, it’s worth noting that Laine is below his career average of 14.8 percent. He can be really streaky, but the recent influx of goals signals that perhaps Laine’s production will ramp up. He’s currently scoring at a 35-goal pace over an 82-game schedule, and if he can just get closer to his career shooting average, he’ll push toward a 40-goal pace.
Last season, only 17 players scored 40 goals, making these scorers rare commodities. Given Laine’s recent history and the Jackets’ low profile, he should be easily attainable via trade compared to more high-profile scorers on pace for 40 goals such as Timo Meier or even Zach Hyman.
Owen Power, D, Sabres (47% rostered)
(Editor’s note: With Power rostered in less than 50 percent of fantasy leagues, he might be available in some shallow leagues — go get him off the waiver wire if he is)
Here are Power’s shot totals by month: Eight shots in three games in October, 22 in 14 games in November, 14 in eight games in December and now 28 in 13 games in January. Power’s talent was apparent from the start, but he seemed content playing a supplementary role to Rasmus Dahlin, who’s on his way to earning his first Norris nomination. Power played a safe game, and his steadiness is one reason why he’s averaging nearly 24 minutes per game. Now that he’s shooting the puck a lot more, Power’s game has reached another level, and we’re getting a glimpse of what he can do offensively. He scored his first goal of the season Monday against the Stars, an overtime winner, and then scored again in his second consecutive game Tuesday against the Blues. His offensive talent is on display and it’s about time, too.
According to naturalstattrick.com, Power ranks 15th among all defensemen in shot attempts at 5-on-5, and actually sits slightly ahead of Dahlin in shot attempts per 60 minutes, 61.05 to 60.89. With more frequent shooting, it was just a matter of time before Power found the back of the net. During his two seasons with the University of Michigan, Power scored six goals on 95 shots (6.3 percent), and last season got a little lucky scoring two goals on 10 shots (20 percent) with the Sabres.
The league’s elite defensemen, such as Roman Josi and Erik Karlsson, have career shooting percentages between six and seven percent, and currently, Power ranks 99th out of 123 defensemen with at least 50 shots on goal at 2.8 percent. In other words, we might start seeing the puck go in a lot more for Power. He’s an ideal late-season target for fantasy managers looking for potential keepers or a strong second half.
Jack Eichel, C, Golden Knights (97% rostered)
When Eichel’s at the top of his game, he’s a dynamic offensive player who can score a lot of goals with an underrated passing game. At his worst, he’s a low-event center who doesn’t play defense and settles on perimeter shots. Right now, Eichel’s closer to being his worst than his best, and he’s not even shooting the puck. He’s gone six games without a goal, failing to register a single shot in two of them and managing just two shots three times. Eichel’s play has faded; after scoring 26 points in his first 24 games, he’s scored eight points in 11 games since. It’s been bad enough that Bruce Cassidy had to call him out publicly, though he’s been known to be a very demanding coach and one reason the Bruins felt they needed a new voice in the room.
Top players can drift in and out of slumps, and Eichel is quickly falling down the list of top fantasy centers. Among forwards with at least 25 games played, Eichel’s 0.94 points per game ranks 48th in the league. It’s passable, but it’s not the kind of production fantasy managers were looking for in a No. 1 center on a potential Cup contender. (Eichel’s ADP on Yahoo this season was 42.1.) Eichel may snap out of it, but with the exception of the start of the season, the Knights have had some trouble getting into a rhythm. Eichel’s play has surely been impacted by Vegas’ injury issues; Mark Stone‘s troublesome back is expected to keep him out for a little longer, Shea Theodore has already missed roughly six weeks of the season and they’ve relied on a rookie starter all season.
Stone’s absence will be felt most on the power play, and it’s worth noting Eichel has scored only one goal on the man advantage all season. Should Stone continue to miss time — and his injury history is certainly concerning at this point — there’s a good chance Eichel underperforms for the rest of the season.
Drake Batherson, RW, Senators (82% rostered)
The Sens are a bit of a mess right now. They’ve lost six of their past eight games and averaged just 1.38 goals per game in those losses. Batherson has been particularly streaky, alternating between elite production and very subpar performances every other month. He shot out of the gate in October with 11 points in eight games but followed that up with a paltry six points in 14 games in November. He turned on the burners again in December, scoring 18 points in 14 games, but so far in January he’s produced just five points and a minus-8 rating through 10 games. His minus-32 rating has overtaken Ryan O’Reilly, who’s currently injured, for the league’s worst plus-minus.
The only saving grace for Batherson’s fantasy value right now is that he puts up a fair amount of shots (138, 57th in the league) and dishes a fair amount of hits. But those aren’t enough to mask his shortcomings, and it’s been bad enough that he was taken off Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle‘s line. With Josh Norris officially out for the rest of the season, if Batherson isn’t on the top line, there just isn’t another high-caliber center to set him up, with all due respect to Shane Pinto and Ridly Greig‘s bright futures.
Batherson’s fantasy value is much higher in leagues that emphasize shooting and hits, but if he’s not doing that then he’s not doing much else either. With the Sens’ bleak outlook for the rest of the season, it’s time to swap Batherson for another, more reliable winger.