We are approaching the halfway mark of the fantasy hockey regular season, and weekly matchups are getting more and more important each week in this shortened season. With so many postponed games and players on the COVID/IR list, it has been a major balancing act for some managers to keep their rosters afloat. Finding consistent players for your lineup has been harder than ever before with so many uncertainties every week.
As we outlined a couple weeks ago, the North Division has been a fantasy goldmine for owners. It has brought forth consistent high scoring games with no postponements up to this point of the season. Having North Division players on fantasy rosters has likely led to weekly swings for many managers this year.
We all know about the big name guys in the division leading the way, but what about some more under the radar fantasy options from up north? Let’s take a look at four under the radar players to add in fantasy from the North Division.
Jake Allen G – Montreal Canadiens (43% Owned)
Let’s start off with the obvious here, Carey Price isn’t very good anymore. After struggling last season before the playoffs, Price has once again looked very poor to start the year. In the offseason the Canadiens brought in Jake Allen as a backup to help take the load off of Price, hoping this would help him bounce back. Instead Price has continued to play poorly while Allen has looked much better all year.
Their numbers aren’t even remotely close. Price currently sits with a .888 save percentage and 3.13 GAA, while Allen has a .932 save percentage and 2.14 GAA. Allen ranks sixth among goalies with at least 200 minutes for GSAA at 4.9, while Price ranks 39th at -2.06. Allen also ranks tenth for GSAx at 3.47, while Price is 63rd (out of 67) at -8.81. Allen’s 5v5 save percentage of .953 is currently first in the NHL. Price you ask? He’s 40th at .910. You get the point.
There’s no question Allen should be the go to starter in Montreal. He’s shown in St. Louis that he can be depended on for more than just a backup role. Despite the numbers, Price has started 12 of Montreal’s 19 games this year and Allen hasn’t received back to back starts once this season. Allen just has just one less win in five less games played. He has a record of 4-2-1 versus Price’s 5-4-3 record.
With a changing of the guard at coach in Montreal, and the team in a free fall, the door is wide open for Allen to take the starting role. If Montreal is serious about winning and doesn’t care about the optics of demoting their 10.5 million dollar goalie to the backup role, Allen should be given the job.
As it stands right now Allen is just 43% owned in fantasy. If Montreal smartens up and starts giving him more starts he could become one of the more valuable fantasy assets at the position for the rest of the year. If you have a roster spot available Allen is definitely worth the add.
Jesse Puljujarvi RW – Edmonton Oilers (25% Owned)
Jesse Puljujarvi has found a home in one of the most valuable spots in fantasy hockey, Connor McDavid’s wing. The 22-year-old has played alongside McDavid for most of the season, his first back in the NHL since 2018-19. Despite this, he is just 25% owned in Yahoo leagues. Perhaps it’s due to his slow start to the year but he’s been heating up recently and found a home on the Oilers top line and second power play. He really should be owned in most leagues.
After getting off to a slow start this season with no goals in his first 11 games, he now has six goals in his last 10 games. His underwhelming numbers were mostly due to bad luck as well. He registered 27 shots through his 11 game goalless drought to start the year, including 13 high-danger chances in that span. Despite scoring 0 goals through the first 11 games of the season his ixG over that span was 2.55. In other words he’s pretty unlucky to be sitting on only six goals on the year. The good news is the bounces are starting to go his way.
Over his last 10 games he holds an impressive xGF% of 60 while generating 14 high-danger chances at 5v5. His 27 iHDCF at 5v5 on the year ranks second on the Oilers behind only McDavid. Sitting at just nine points in 22 games is certainly not due to his play but instead bad luck.
It looks like things are finally turning a corner for Puljujarvi though and he could be set for a huge second half of the season alongside McDavid on an Oilers team that is trending up right now. If you need some forward help he is a perfect add.
Andrew Mangiapane RW – Calgary Flames (8% Owned)
I was shocked to learn that Andrew Mangiapane is just 8% owned in Yahoo leagues. He’s been incredible for the Flames this year and one of the only bright spots for the team. In recent years he held more real life value than fantasy value which is perhaps why many people don’t consider him an asset in fantasy. That’s changed this year as he has finally started to get the points to go along with his strong play.
Like Puljujarvi, Mangiapane started the year in a slump as he had just two points in his first nine games of the season. A big part of this was his limited ice time. For reasons unknown, Geoff Ward kept Mangiapane in the bottom six of the lineup to start the year and he averaged just over 15 minutes a game. Since then though, in the teams last 12 games he has averaged nearly 19 minutes a game. Unsurprisingly the points have come with the increased ice time. Mangiapane has eight points over his last 12 games, including six goals.
His iHDCF of 21 and xGF% of 57.1 both rank second on the team among forwards. Whenever Mangiapane is on the ice, the Flames seem to control the play and generate chances. One of the main factors holding Mangiapane back right now is that the Flames well, suck. They’ve scored just 17 goals over their last 12 games, six from Mangiapane alone. On a team where it seems nothing is clicking right now, Mangiapane is doing his best.
Look, the Flames may be bad, but they aren’t as bad as they’ve been recently and the goals should start coming for them eventually. With it will come more points for Mangiapane too, who has been carrying the offense on his shoulders recently. He’s available in almost every league and could be a nice depth add for the rest of the season.
Drake Batherson RW – Ottawa Senators (15% Owned)
Before the season started, it would’ve seemed like a bad idea owning any Senators forward not named Brady Tkachuk. After a terrible start to the season though, the Senators have picked up their play offensively as of late. They’ve scored 26 goals over their last six games, an average of 4.3 goals per game.
Overall as a team they’re actually generating shots and chances at a decent rate. They sit seventh in the league for CF/60 and eleventh for HDCF/60 at 56.1 and 10.9 respectively. Not exactly the fantasy wasteland many people predicted.
One of the main reasons for their offensive turnaround this season is the play of Drake Batherson on the Senators third line. Along with rookie Tim Stutzle, Batherson has given the Senators some much needed depth scoring as of late. After starting the season with just six points in his first 16 games, Batherson has seven points in his last six games, including five goals.
Despite his lack of points to start the year, he’s been playing some solid hockey all season. He ranks fourth on the team for xGF% at 51.6, second for total shots with 50, and second for iHDCF at 24. In fact, his 24 iHDCF at 5v5 actually ranks 13th league wide, ahead of elite fantasy players like Ryan Nugent Hopkins, John Tavares and Elias Pettersson.
Batherson has been generating shots and chances at an impressive rate for the Senators and has been one of the driving forces behind their surprising offense. He also plays on their top power play unit, adding even more fantasy value. The Senators offense will probably cool down to some degree eventually, but by playing in the North Division with so many terrible defensive teams, I think Batherson has real value for the rest of the season.
remember the North
This season, fantasy hockey has been anything but normal. There are real tradeoffs and consequences of owning a better playing on an American team versus owning slightly less skilled players on Canadian teams. Whether they are unknown, underrated, or underutilized, that’s besides the point.
The fact of the matter is, the North Division provides a level of consistency in fantasy that isn’t comparable anywhere else. If your team is struggling, seeking out these players can bring more value than expected, as they are bringing the offense, but are also less likely to have their schedules reworked.
In a year where every game matters that much more, rounding out a roster with reliability first and raw talent second might just be the trick.