Eight fantasy hockey predictions for 2022 — Bullish on Tuukka Rask, bearish on Mike Smith

Crisp new calendar, clear slate, proper? While the 2021-22 season is nicely underway, there’s nonetheless a way of renewal in ringing in a brand new yr, bursting with recent alternatives. In taking a break from the enduring frustration of remaining aggressive amidst sport postponements and dropping particular person gamers to the league’s COVID-19 protocol, listed below are just a few fearless — and a few much less daring — fantasy-relevant predictions to assist usher in 2022.

Tuukka Rask might be value a fantasy stash: Roster flexibility allowing, in fact. Signed to knowledgeable tryout settlement within the AHL, Rask could possibly be again in Boston’s crease earlier than you understand it (permitting for just a few turns in Providence first). If historical past serves as prophecy, the 34-year-old will make his squad-for-life higher. Don’t take my phrase for it; ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski completely outlines why (E+) right here. And if Rask’s comeback certainly blossoms in storybook style, Linus Ullmark and (particularly) Jeremy Swayman will inevitably see much less enjoying time. Food for thought for their respective fantasy managers, alongside these within the goaltending dumps. You may do worse than roll the cube on among the finest netminders since 2009.

Jack Hughes will proceed to shine: Not to the blinding luminance of three targets and 6 assists in 4 latest video games, thoughts you, however brightly sufficient. Circumstances are in place to just about guarantee as a lot. Since dropping a number of weeks to a shoulder harm, Hughes has been having fun with hefty, high-quality top-line/powerplay minutes, rounding out to 19:45 per sport since Dec. 8. He’s capturing greater than ever, averaging 3.9 photographs per contest since Dec. 16. Most interesting maybe, as mentioned by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, is that the 2019 No. 1 draft choose is lastly feeling assured, empowered and comfortable. Nothing replaces a great dose of wholesome swagger relating to competing on the highest stage of any sport. Hughes’ roommate Ty Smith believes the third-year participant may put up 100 factors at some stage. Not this yr, however do not be stunned if he continues to contribute at a great clip from now till spring. The 20-year-old stays there for the buying in 42% of ESPN.com fantasy leagues, whereas linemates Jesper Bratt and Yegor Sharangovich (COVID-19 protocol at current) are largely accessible.

Forward Max Comtois will get pleasure from a robust second half: Nowhere to go however up, actually. Playing in agony earlier than being sidelined with a confirmed damaged hand in early/mid November, the younger ahead had the roughest of begins to what was alleged to be his coming-out-party in Anaheim. Fast-forward by means of a wanted spherical of surgical procedure and transient mini-break by way of the league’s COVID-19 protocol, and Comtois is revved up for a begin recent. Two assists by means of two video games on a high line counsel; thus far, so good. I just like the 22-year-old rather a lot as a well-rounded fantasy asset, significantly whereas he sticks inside the Ducks’ high six. Which seems within the playing cards, so long as Adam Henrique stays sidelined, if not longer. Finally wholesome, Comtois is obtainable in additional than half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues.

Jordan Kyrou will earn extra worthwhile minutes: Competing on a dynamite scoring line with Robert Thomas and Vladimir Tarasenko, the 23-year-old has 4 targets and 4 assists in three video games. Coach Craig Berube cannot really feel in the slightest degree inclined to mess with that unit, as soon as Tarasenko is again out of COVID-19 protocol. What’s much more enjoyable is that Kyrou has ascended to the highest of his membership’s scoring desk with 1.10 factors/sport regardless of seeing fewer minutes than some other top-six heavyweight in St. Louis. Only 16:13 since December’s launch, to be exact. My 2022 crystal ball exhibits extra high quality minutes — together with with the additional skater — are in Kyrou’s quick future. And the fantasy darling stays accessible in additional than a 3rd of ESPN.com leagues. (Not in any of mine, sadly.)

Evander Kane will play within the NHL this season: Not within the quick future, contemplating all that is concerned, however earlier than the common season wraps up. As we’re reminded on the common, NHL groups are within the enterprise of profitable video games. Having a look at his eight factors in 4 latest contests with the AHL Barracuda, Kane nonetheless proves able to boosting that trigger. Once recovered from COVID-19 and out of protocol, and as soon as the membership finds a buying and selling associate — a reunion with the Sharks appears a lot, a lot much less seemingly — the scoring winger is predicted to be supplied an opportunity elsewhere. Word out of the Barracuda’s dressing room is that the 30-year-old has been a great teammate up to now. That helps. A fantasy gem, Kane led the Sharks with 22 targets and 27 assists in 56 contests final yr. He’s accessible in 77% of ESPN.com leagues. Do with that what you’ll.

Tristan Jarry will elbow his manner into official Vezina dialog: Pittsburgh’s finest participant up to now is in for a smoother trip by means of the winter months, as his squad is bolstered by the return of a number of key figures. Forward Bryan Rust is again (is he ever) after dropping greater than a month to harm. Jake Guentzel is wholesome once more following a shorter absence. Sidney Crosby seems his outdated productive self after a quite plodding, injury-riddled begin to the season. Plus, maybe burying the lede right here, Evgeni Malkin (knee) is because of make his season debut any day now. Having these reinforcements out entrance solely makes Jarry’s job simpler. A gig he is already dealt with with aplomb, in boasting a .934 SV% and 1.89 GAA by means of 25 appearances. The 26-year-old is simply two shy of league chief Andrei Vasilevskiy in wins, and that is in backstopping a bunch extra decimated by harm than most. Oh, and he is gained six straight. If you are keen to dealer a blockbuster commerce in buying an elite fantasy goaltender, take into consideration setting your sights on the Penguins’ No. 1, although he will not come low-cost.

Noah Dobson will show to be ridiculously worthwhile down the stretch: Equally enamored with this younger skater as a gifted participant and fantasy asset as I’m puzzled by the shortage of curiosity from managers, I’ll proceed to trumpet Dobson as an underappreciated commodity till season’s shut. This week’s marketing campaign message is obtainable right here. For these nonetheless bizarrely unconvinced, how about this: The Islanders have performed fewer video games than some other staff within the NHL, with solely 28 within the books. Vegas and Anaheim have hammered out 36. That provides as much as a great variety of contests to make up between now and spring (February goes to be busy). Which means rather a lot extra alternative for Dobson to strut his fantasy stuff. Rostered in 25.5% of leagues, the younger defender has averaged 2.2 fantasy factors/sport in ESPN.com’s normal competitors this season.

Mike Smith will disappoint his fantasy managers as a rule: It seems quite bleak in Edmonton for good motive. Even when the Oilers had been 16-5-0, earlier than the wheels blew off in December, the staff allowed 2.90 targets per sport. Which is manageable sufficient when averaging 3.81 to the nice. But when the scoring dries up a bit because it did — as in when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl carry out in additional mortal-like style — that goals-against price will not lower it. Edmonton is not sturdy sufficient defensively to win as a rule, no matter whether or not Mikko Koskinen, Smith and even Stuart Skinner sits in internet. So even when the 39-year-old can keep wholesome — an enormous if in gentle of this season’s points already — Smith could possibly be in for a tough go from now till the buds bloom. At least till there are appreciable modifications on the ice/behind the bench. Worth mentioning because the veteran goalie is rostered in 68% of ESPN.com leagues.

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