The Coyotes had spent much of the season as one of the NHL's elite offensive teams. Unfortunately, that trend has started to come to an end. The team has scored only 17 goals in the past nine games for an average of 1.88 goals per game. That's not good and a big reason why the team has struggled to a 2-3-4 record in that time. Even worse, Thursday night, Oliver Ekman-Larsson left the game early with an upper body injury. How does that injury and the offensive woes impact the Coyotes fantasy prospects going forward? Let's find out.
1. How much does a potential injury to Oliver Ekman-Larsson hurt the Coyotes?
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Ekman-Larsson left the game Thursday night after taking a questionable hit along the boards from Blue Jackets forward Derek MacKenzie. It's too early to speculate if OEL was seriously hurt on the play, but there is no doubt that an injury to young Swede would be devastating to the Coyotes and to his fantasy owners.
Currently, OEL is the 14th ranked defenseman in standard league scoring according to ESPN's player rater. That's even with his struggles over the last month. In December, Ekman-Larsson had only four assists and no goals in 12 games, yet he's still in the top 15 of fantasy d-men. It shows just how good he can be, and any amount of games missed could be bad. Hopefully he misses no time, both for the Coyotes and your team.
2. Is Keith Yandle currently the Coyotes best fantasy asset?
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According to the ESPN player rater, yes, yes he is. He's the 51st ranked overall player and 8th among defensemen. Martin Hanzal is the closest competition for him among Coyotes skaters as he currently sits 58th among qualified players.
Yandle started the season a little slow, but has turned his game up recently. Since the start of December, Yandle has scored five goals and five assists in 13 games. His omission from the team USA Olympic roster could provide him with extra motivation to turn his game up even higher over the next month. Part of that intensity was on display Thursday night when he immediately challenged MacKenzie after his hit on OEL in the first. Hopefully, he'll be scoring points more and fighting less, but it was good to see him come right to his teammate's aid.
If OEL misses any time, Yandle will be the player who picks up the slack, which means more minutes and possibly more chances to produce. One knock against Yandle in his career is that he doesn't play the same type of minutes that most elite defenseman do, but an injury to Ekman-Larsson will give Yandle the opportunity to show that he can handle them.
3. Which Coyote forward is most attractive moving forward: Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata or Mike Ribeiro?
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All three played 12 games since the start of December. Hanzal and Vrbata struggled through those games with Hanzal netting three goals and five points while Vrbata added three goals of his own and seven total points. Ribeiro had almost as much success on his own as the other two did combined. Ribeiro scored three goals while adding eight assists for eleven total points in 12 games.
Ribeiro may have had the best month out of the three, but until Shane Doan comes back and proves he's back to being the Captain we've known and loved, I'd take Hanzal for fantasy purposes. He's struggled recently, but he's far from the only Coyote forward to do so. With only 17 goals since their 6 goal game against the Islanders in mid-December, the Coyotes are last in the NHL in scoring in that frame, including getting shutout for the first time this season last night. That's not good.
The forwards will get back into the groove at some point and when that happens, Hanzal will be the most productive of them all.
4. Add/Drop Advice
- As long as Doan is out, Antoine Vermette is a must own player. He led the Yotes with six goals in December. He's still out there and available in 20% of ESPN leagues.
- Mikkel Boedker was second on the Coyotes in goals in December with five and tied Yandle for the second most points with 10. He's been erratic all year, but has been good for the past ten games. Which means that more than likely he'll be bad over the next ten because I recommend adding him if you need goals for your bench. He's still out there in 45% of ESPN leagues.
- Connor Murphy is an interesting player right now. As a true professional rookie this season, he's been surprisingly effective in the NHL. Through 16 games, he has one goal and four assists while skating to a +1. He's playing over 20 minutes a night and adds value with shot blocks and hits as well. If you are weak on defense, Murphy is worth a flyer, particularly if OEL misses time.
- Two more deep adds if OEL misses games: David Rundblad and Brandon Gormley. With Zbynek Michalek already out, if Ekman-Larsson misses lengthy time, expect Gormley to get called up. If that happens, he's worth adding. Rundblad could also see more playing time without Ollie in the linuep, and has the highest offensive upside of any Coyote d-man not named Yandle in that void.
5. The Trail Ahead: The Next Week of Games
The Coyotes will spend the next week at home with games against Philadelphia, Calgary and Minnesota. The Flyers have turned their season around after an abysmal start and Claude Giroux is playing like it's the playoffs against Pittsburgh every game. It will be tough game Saturday night, but the Coyotes tend to play better with full houses.
On Tuesday, the Calgary Flames come for a visit and if there has ever been a game where the Coyotes should be fired up it's this one. After the comments that have come out as to reasons why Keith Yandle was left off the Olympic team from Brian Burke, if the Coyotes don't put all their energy into beating the snot out of Burke's latest team, I'll be shocked.
Thursday night, the Wild come to town in a battle for the final wild card spot in the West. The Wild have fallen off a cliff recently without Josh Harding in their net every night. It's an opportunity the Coyotes need to take advantage of.
Good luck with your week.