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Fantasy Hockey need-to-know: Jack Campbell is leading Leafs to success

·10-min read

By Jason Chen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Here's a look around the league at the latest trends after another week of hockey. Some food for thought, some leftover stats, and, of course, some fantasy advice. Let's dig in.

All fancy stats courtesy Natural Stat Trick.

Mmm, Mmm Good (for Jack Campbell)

At the end of the season, when we look back at the Maple Leafs' first division championship (yes, I'm giving it to them already) in 21 years, the name on everyone's lips should be Jack Campbell.

Not to take anything away from Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner, but Monday, Campbell will go for his ninth consecutive win, which would tie Jacques Plante's 40-year record by a Leafs goalie. Campbell's timely return and brilliant play following Frederik Andersen's mysterious lower-body injury has once again separated the Leafs from the rest of the pack, and it's critical to win the division because it could mean avoiding the Oilers' dynamic duo or Connor Hellebuyck in the first round of the playoffs.

Campbell's been brilliant since March 20, and among goalies with at least five appearances: A perfect 5-0, a league-low seven goals allowed, the third-highest save percentage (.950), the second-lowest GAA (1.35), and the fifth-highest 5v5 GSAA (3.44), according to Natural Stat Trick. However, we should also note that the Leafs have also played very, very well, especially in their own zone. Since Campbell's return, they've allowed just 7.06 high-danger chances per 60 minutes at 5v5, the second-fewest in the league. It's really good company, too, highlighted by a team coached by Barry Trotz (obviously) in first place, then the Habs (perpetual puck-possession beasts at 5v5) in third place, and the Avalanche and Stars to round out the top five. It's something the Leafs have really improved on recently, ranking 19th with 10.16 5v5 HDCA/60 before Campbell's return.

If the Leafs continue playing like this, Campbell has a really good chance to extend his unbeaten streak Monday against the Flames. The remainder of the Leafs' schedule should be manageable with no more games against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and the toughest challenge will be their four remaining games against the Jets, including three straight on the road from April 21-24. They'll play the Habs another six times, too, but they're 3-1 against them this season and while Carey Price remains respected, I scoff at the idea that any elite scorer such as Matthews or Marner should be intimidated by a formerly elite goalie whose numbers continue to decline. The Canucks (four games), Flames (three games), and Senators (two games) shouldn't pose much of a challenge, assuming all of the remaining games are played.

Campbell is just rostered in 67 percent of Yahoo leagues, and while his streak is statistically bound to end at some point, the fact remains he's the starting goalie for the North's best team. He is worth rostering for the foreseeable future, and even if Andersen returns, the Leafs likely will think twice about giving Andersen the starting job just because he's the incumbent.

Goaltender Jack Campbell #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell has been amazing for the Leafs. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Center of Attention

The Central Division has been fascinating to watch all season. We knew the Lightning would lead, but they're tied with the Panthers with 54 points — this, even though the Panthers missed Aleksander Barkov for six games and will miss Aaron Ekblad the rest of the season. Losing Ekblad creates a huge void on the Panthers blue line, and one of the most interesting developments is with whom Joel Quenneville has decided to plug that hole: Gustav Forsling (2 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues).

The connection between Quenneville and Forsling goes way back. Drafted in the 2014 fifth round by the Canucks, Forsling was a skilled defenseman and a star performer at the World Juniors, but he was also undersized and lacked strength, and before he ever suited up for the Canucks was dealt to the Blackhawks for minor leaguer Adam Clendening. Forsling played 122 games for the Hawks and scored 27 points, but following Quenneville's firing at the beginning of the 2018-19 season, Forsling was traded to the Hurricanes in the offseason. Forsling never suited up for them, either, the second time in the NHL a team had given up on him without seeing him play. He was waived before the season in January and subsequently claimed by the Panthers, another astute move that has allowed them to be so successful this season.

All that said, Forsling has led all Panthers defensemen with 22:09 TOI/GP and three assists and eight shots in four games since Ekblad's injury, which is pretty amazing considering Forsling is used on the penalty kill and not the power play. Paired with MacKenzie Weegar, Forsling's mobility and puck-moving ability have been extremely valuable to the Panthers because no one else on the team can make transition plays like him (they don't trust Keith Yandle), and one of the things the Panthers have done a better job this season is moving up and down the ice with a little more speed and precision. It's clear Quenneville really likes the Forsling-Weegar pairing, and as long as Forsling is getting the opportunities, he's worth looking at in deep fantasy pools. In 57:13 5v5 TOI, Forsling and Weegar's 54.64 CF% ranks slightly better than Weegar with Ekblad (53.72 CF%) and leads all pairings with a 57.60 xGF%.

The Stars are another interesting team to track in regards to their lineup. We knew they were going to take a step back because they were missing their top center (Tyler Seguin) and their Vezina finalist goalie (Ben Bishop). Their identity as a defensive team has stayed intact — their 2.54 GA/GP ranks ninth — but other than their Joe Pavelski-driven power play, scoring goals has been rather difficult. In steps rookie Jason Robertson, who led Stars forwards with three goals and four points in the past week and ranks third in TOI/GP, only behind linemates Pavelski and the underrated Roope Hintz.

Robertson (30 percent rostered) ranks second among rookies with 24 points, trailing only Kirill Kaprizov, and a strong second half could push him higher up the Calder Trophy race. With a role on the top line and the top power play, Robertson has also increased his shooting volume and now ranks fourth among rookies with 2.17 shots per game and fourth among Stars forwards with 65 total shots. Their new top line has generated a 58.33 5v5 CF%, with Robertson's individual score coming in at 54.81 5v5 CF%. Robertson's a big reason why the Stars offense has remained somewhat respectable, and it seems like he's cemented himself as a top-six forward and vital component of the league's sixth-best power play.

An Education

We're now down to the Frozen Four of the NCAA hockey tournament, and schools getting eliminated means NHL teams can pounce. Last week, a slew of big names signed entry-level deals. Here's a quick look at the biggest names who could be worth a stash in dynasty leagues, or if you have a spare NA slot just in case any get called up.

Cole Caufield, RW, Canadiens: If the Habs weren't already pretty good at scoring goals and deep on the wings, Caufield would step in right away. Instead, the consensus Hobey Baker favorite will begin his pro career with AHL Laval, though an NHL debut might not be far away. The knock against him is that he's small (5-foot-8, 167) — think Brian Gionta, but wayyy better — but he's defied the odds at every stop. He scored 30 goals in 31 games for Wisconsin this season.

Shane Pinto, C, and Jacob Bernard-Docker, D, Senators: Drafted a year apart, Pinto and JBD were teammates at North Dakota and both will report to Ottawa after completing their COVID quarantine. Pinto is a Hobey Baker finalist noted for his goal-scoring and two-way play and finished his collegiate career with 60 points in 61 games, while JBD is a two-way defenseman and former World Juniors gold medallist the Sens envision as part of their future top four. Pinto could make an impact right away on a team that's a little short on quality depth at center.

Alex Newhook, C, and Sampo Ranta, LW, Avalanche: Newhook, a 2019 first-round pick, had a short season with Boston College (16 points in 12 games) but is projected to be a high-impact, top-six forward. He will first join AHL Colorado along with Ranta — a 2018 third-round pick and scoring winger who just completed his junior season with Minnesota — because the Avs are rolling and don't need much help. It wouldn't surprise me if Newhook (and maybe Ranta) get called up before the end of the season to solidify their bottom six.

Matthew Boldy, LW, Wild: Boldy's part of a big wave of young talent coming in for Minnesota, a Hobey Baker nominee with good size and excellent offensive ability, and was named to Hockey East's First All-Star Team with Boston College. Boldy will report to AHL Iowa first and will have to outplay some veteran depth players to make his NHL debut.

Jordan Kawaguchi, C, Stars: The former North Dakota captain and undrafted senior will start his pro career with AHL Texas. An undersized offensive player, Kawaguchi may get a chance to crack the Stars' lineup, but he'll have to get his feet wet first, not to mention there are still a couple young players (Nick Caamano, Ty Dellandrea) ahead of him on the depth chart.

David Farrance, D, Predators: He's a reason why the Predators might be willing to part with Mattias Ekholm, and he'll join the Predators right away and reunite with former Boston U teammate Dante Fabbro. Farrance follows a long line of talented defensemen to come out of Nashville's system, and his offensive upside — according to some — is elite. Farrance will still have to fight for his playing time on a stacked blue line, just like what Fabbro's doing now.

Cam York, D, Flyers: He's an offensive defenseman who can one day be a power-play quarterback and captained Team USA to a gold medal at the World Juniors. The Flyers defense is loaded with young talent so York has an uphill climb on the depth chart, but given how their season is quickly going down the toilet, they may give him a look at the end of the season. York leaves Michigan with 36 points in 54 games in two seasons.

Matt Kiersted, D, and Spencer Knight, G, Panthers: Kiersted made his NHL debut Saturday and led Panthers defensemen with four blocked shots in 12:47 of playing time as their seventh defenseman. Quenneville praised the game of Kiersted, who signed as an undrafted senior out of North Dakota, and it looks like Kiersted will see more playing time. Boston College alum Knight is the future of the Panthers' net, but with Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger playing well, it's unlikely he'll see any action, especially with Samuel Montembeault currently as the No. 3.