The 2021 NHL Season Preview: How I Learned to Love Covid Pt. 2

Welcome readers, friends, and readers that are friends! We are back with our second part in this four part series of the 2021 NHL Season Preview. In case you did not read the first one, these previews are introducing you to the more relevant fantasy players this year and an overall summary of how specific teams should compete this season. The first part featured the Central Division, which contains [REDACTED; just go read the other article if you don’t know]. The second part will feature the West Division: a grouping of two super competitive teams, two bubble teams, and four lackluster teams. Here we go gang:

Los Angeles

Like the Chicago Blackhawks, the LA Kings are also going through a basement-dwelling rebuild after years of success. Unlike the Blackhawks, though, the Kings have done a marvelous job of restocking the cupboard and will start to see some of these dividends pay off as soon as next year. However, for the season ahead, the Kings are likely being sent to the guillotine as they will never get ahead (hehe) in any game they play. This team will be led by one of their franchise cornerstones Anze Kopitar. He will, likely, lead the offense this season and someone we might use on occasion, but rarely in a stack. If we ever stack the Kings, we will likely pair Kopitar with two past-prime shooters: Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter. Those three will likely be the only Kings we use that are not rookies. Depending how the roster shapes up, we might be seeing anywhere from one to four rookies with some sort of fantasy ceiling. Quinton Byfield was this year’s 2nd overall pick so we should see him all season. Whether he is sheltered or expected to make an impact immediately will be something we have to figure out as the season progresses. Gabe Vilardi is the most seasoned of these four prospects and I think he could be someone we use on occasion for DFS purposes. He impressed in the sprinkles of ice he played last season so, being bullish, we could get a very impressive player at a cheap price. The other two, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev, are a little more fluid in terms of where they belong. If they have an impressive camp, then there is a chance we could see them both as mainstays in the lineup. However, I don’t think they will want four rookies in the lineup all season long taking beatings every night. Time will only tell.

The only fantasy relevant defensiveman they have on the roster is Drew Doughty. I think he will be someone we can use, mostly in a LA stack, but he should be reasonably priced as he is past his prime like a lot of this LA roster.

Jonathan Quick will be someone we use as a GPP option a fair bit. He will see a ton of shots and can stand on his head from time to time. Cal Petersen falls under this same category.

San Jose

Like the Panthers, San Jose likely has the most variability of all the teams out west. They still have the upper end talent that we can use for fantasy, but they lack consistency and upper end talent on defense and in net. The offense will be carried by Logan Couture, Evander Kane, and Tomas Hertl. Timo Meier is also a big part of this offense but not on the same level as the other three. You can also use Kevin Labanc and Ryan Donato to get even strength correlation whenever you need. These six players are going to have to go bonkers this year because the next couple of lines are very questionable in terms of talent.

Brent Burns is still a blueline juggernaut in terms of offense but still a not very good defender in real life. Erik Karlsson is also a machine in terms of offensive production. It is rare that we see a team that has two stud defenders that excel in the other team’s end but the Sharks are one.

The ultimate GPP goalie is Martin Jones as he can break the slate or ruin your life any given night. The Sharks will always allow a plethora of shots to the other team, but it’s up to Jones if he wants to let in only one or two versus letting in five or six and getting pulled. I’m unsure of how Devan Dubnyk will factor into the equation but he is a very similar goalie to Jones. 

Anaheim

The next team up are the Ducks and they will not be very mighty this season. They need a proper rebuild and will likely see a lot of flying Ls their way. This is one of the rare occasions that the offensive leader does not play on the first line. Rickard Rakell, the most all-around offensively gifted player on the Ducks, will be our go-to if we ever make an Anaheim stack. We will likely just try to power play correlate with the Ducks as I don’t want to trust the wingers he will get this season. We can also play a cheap yet past-prime Ryan Getzlaf if the slate calls for it, but he will never be a first option for me. All eyes should be on the ever incredible Trevor Zegras as he heads into his rookie season having excelled at every level he’s played. 

I rarely want to dip into this blue line as well. They feature some fantastic options of real life defensivemen such as Hampus Lindholm and Cam Fowler, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most viable options for fantasy and DFS. The addition of Kevin Shattenkirk makes the power play correlation a bit more interesting as he has always been a specialist in that area.

My favorite GPP goalie on any slate will be John Gibson. He has the kind of talent where he can steal any game, even when facing 40+ shots. He will likely get a lot of starts this season as the Ducks’ backup is 40 year old Ryan Miller, someone we can also take a chance on in better matchups.

Minnesota

Speaking of teams that need a proper rebuild, the Wild have been in a state of constant mediocrity for the past decade. Always good enough to make the playoffs but never good enough to get out of the first round. They have a mishmash of players that feel like the leftovers of another team, but that doesn’t include their two winger juggernauts Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov. Fiala broke out something fierce last season and I expect that to continue. Kaprizov tore up the KHL, the biggest Russian hockey league for those not aware, and finally will take his talents across the pond. Those two will likely play together at even strength and almost certainly on the power play, so I do not mind going to those two when we need a Minnesota stack. We can also use a past-prime Zach Parise if we need a third forward, but his price gets crazy here and there.

The rarest part about this Wild team is that you can use at least three of their defensivemen for DFS. Matt Dumba is the top talent because he racks up shots, blocks, and is an above average goal scorer for a defensiveman. Jared Spurgeon, while a better real life defensiveman, can put up points on the regular. The third option is Ryan Suter, who does not provide a big ceiling like the previous two yet has a fantastic floor for someone who does not get priced up enough.

One of the few young goalies on the rise is Kaapo Kahkonen who we can use a fair bit. I’m not sure how much journeyman Cam Talbot will eat into his role, but we should expect a fairly healthy timeshare to start. If Kaapo is not ready to be with the big club, we can expect a timeshare of Talbot and Alex Stalock.

Arizona

I am probably a bit more bullish on the Coyotes than your average fan. They have a good bit of depth throughout the lineup albeit no real star power. They’re also very well off on the blue line and in net. Starting with the forwards, their best player is Clayton Keller without a doubt. He had a down year last season, but should be able to rebound with ease. Then we have another mishmash of various guys that we can use depending on how the lines roll out including two-way forward Christian Dvorak, playmaker Nick Schmaltz, strong finisher Conor Garland, savvy veteran Phil Kessel, and young gun Barrett Hayton. Arizona is generally a very inexpensive team as well, making it easy to build a stack and afford some of the expensive guys.

They have a very deep blue line, although there’s only two guys we really want to use. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is their long-time captain and someone that never is priced up enough for his upside. We also can use Jake Chychrun as he should be on the top power play unit if it is not Ekman-Larsson. Another name to keep an eye on throughout the season is Victor Soderstrom, a very high upside Swede that has a chance to make the roster.

Whenever Antti Raanta is in net, we can use him. He is the occasional chalk on a weaker slate but is still fine for GPP. However, Raanta is often injured. So we will likely see a fair amount of Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill again this season. Both are fine GPP candidates whenever they play.

St. Louis

The Blues lost key defender Alex Pietrangelo to Las Vegas, which is not a good thing whatsoever. Its long term effect is still unknown but I still believe they are a playoff contender. They still have a fairly deep forward core though, led by yearly Selke candidate Ryan O’Reilly. He will likely be paired up with David Perron coming off a late career resurgence. Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz also will be quite viable as the Blues are usually overlooked in terms of DFS options. You can use these four to gain power play correlation as well. Robert Thomas continues to grow as a top-six forward for the Blues and should take another step this season. Vladimir Tarasenko had another off-season surgery on his shoulder so we will not be seeing the Russian Tank for a while.

Former Bruin Torey Krug will be the Blue defender we use the most as his offensive upside should compare laterally to Pietrangelo. We can also use Colton Parayko on occasion for his surprising goal scoring upside as a defensiveman.

Jordan Binnington carries a fair bit of ownership in easier matchups but will be GPP viable most of the season. The off-season departure of Jake Allen will leave the backup goaltending duties to either Ville Husso or Jonathan Gillies. I doubt they go to high end prospect Joel Hofer yet as he still has a lot of growing to do.

Las Vegas

One of the favorites to make the Stanley Cup this year, the Golden Knights look to continue their high level of success for only being in the league for a few years. One thing I hate doing in DFS is targeting left wingers (and forwards in general at a lesser rate) against Mark Stone. The NHL somehow cannot fathom a Selke winner as a winger, yet Stone is the strongest defensive forward in the league. He and Max Pacioretty are the two elite gems of Vegas and will be their expensive options. Heavy shooter Jonathan Marchessault is another fantastic option you can use on this Vegas squad. We can also use William Karlsson, Cody Glass, Alex Tuch, and Reilly Smith to achieve our correlation goals. One high upside youngster to keep an eye on is Peyton Krebs but I do think they will send him back to Juniors to get his conditioning and game back in order after a nasty Achilles injury.

The Golden Knights also feature two very elite options on their blue line like the Sharks as Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore will continue an upper echelon level of offensive output. The Knights are also a deep enough team to roll out two very quality power play units so we do not have to focus on just one of these guys.

Robin Lehner can be put into the argument of top netminder in the league and will be popular every night. I will still play him a bit despite that fact. Marc Andre Fleury is in the backend of a career but should be a high quality backup to Lehner this season.

Colorado

The next potential dynasty in the NHL made strides of growth in the off-season with some fantastic additions. This team will be led by the best player in the league Nathan MacKinnon who we can always use and can always break a slate open. Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog were his most common linemates but it looks like the Avalanche might want to balance the firepower out a bit more. They have a second line that is better than some teams’ first lines featuring a high quality two way center in Nazem Kadri. Moving Nikita Zadorov out for versatile winger Brandon Saad is an insane trade, value wise, and he should be a great complement in this top six forward group. Saad and Andre Burakovsky should have career years in this offense if everything goes well.

One of my favorite mini-stacks last season was adding MacKinnon to elite blueliner Cale Makar. He will be a juggernaut and one of the best in the league at this point in his young career. A very underlooked move will be the addition of Devon Toews. He is a great addition for this team’s second power play unit making them even deeper and more miserable to play against.

Philip Grubauer will be a popular option for his winning upside but I think I’d prefer guys like Lehner who are a little more skilled with higher ceilings. Pavel Francouz is a quality backup as well and someone we can use when he gets his starts in net.

Thanks for reading! Expect Part 3 soon. If you enjoyed this, then follow me on Twitter at ZawaDFS.