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Fantasy Hockey pickups: Navigating NHL holiday schedule

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, a popular preseason breakout candidate, is starting to perform. (AP Photo/John Locher)

By Neil Parker, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports

Take notice of the NHL schedule around the holidays and plan roster decisions accordingly. The World Junior Championship also begins next week, and nothing can skyrocket or tank a prospect’s value as quickly as a two-week, high-stakes tournament featuring the best teenagers in the world. Dynasty owners will want to watch for potential sell-high, buy-low opportunities.

Here’s the schedule for the next scoring period from Dec. 25-31:

Two games: Sabres, Panthers, Kings, Rangers, Flyers, Sharks, Canucks

All other teams play three games next week.

Ensure to keep tabs on who is cut in your leagues, and also remember to check the handful of the previously covered players listed below.

Yahoo ownership rates as of Dec. 21.

FORWARD

Kevin Fiala, NAS (40 percent): Fuelled by an active eight-game point streak (seven goals, four assists and 29 shots), Fiala is up to a high-end 3.24 points per 60 minutes for the campaign. He should be universally owned considering his pedigree, career trajectory, top-six role and current form.

Tyler Johnson, TB (44 percent): The flu bug cost the American pivot Tuesday’s game, but he still sports a seven-game point streak with four tallies and eight helpers. The return to a top-six role has been a huge boon to his fantasy value, and Johnson’s track record of offensive success shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Mikko Rantanen, COL (48 percent): Deemed an NHL-ready prospect coming out of the 2015 draft, Rantanen has quietly put together an excellent start to the campaign. He’s up to 10 goals, 29 points and 77 shots through 33 contests, and skating with Nathan MacKinnon has been an excellent fit. The duo has combined for an impressive 4.67 goals per 60 minutes, after all.

Danton Heinen, BOS (25 percent): With six goals and 15 points through his past 16 games, Heinen is quickly establishing himself as a reliable scorer at the highest level. The British Columbia native was a solid scorer for the University of Denver and has the skill set to be a respectable contributor. Just note that his current stretch is likely a bit of a mirage.

Alexander Wennberg, CLM (29 percent): At this point of the campaign last season, the Swede had 28 points through 31 games, so his start to 2017-18 has been a major disappointment. The tides appear to be turning, though. He sports a four-game point streak, and with Brandon Dubinsky (eye) out long term, Wennberg’s role should expand.

David Perron, VGK (41 percent): Scoring at a point-per-game pace for the season, Perron hasn’t skipped a beat since returning from an upper-body injury. He’s skating in a top-line gig with power-play time and has a goal, seven assists and eight PIM through six games.

Jake DeBrusk, BOS (4 percent): Dating back to the beginning of November, the rookie has collected six goals, 14 points, 44 shots, 19 PIM and a plus-8 rating. Those numbers move the fantasy needle in most settings. While the jury is definitely still out on just how much offensive potential the second-generation NHLer owns, he’s currently proving to be a serviceable asset.

DEFENSE

Shea Theodore, VGK (17 percent): A popular preseason breakout candidate, Theodore toiled needlessly in the minors for the majority of October. He’s fresh off a four-point showing against the Lightning on Tuesday and has carved out the quarterback gig on the No. 1 power-play unit. The offense might be a little inconsistent moving forward, but Theodore should be able to post solid numbers in the majority of settings.

Colin Miller, VGK (37 percent): There’s a lot to like about Miller’s game, and recently, it’s translated into excellent fantasy results. He’s collected two goals, six assists, 30 shots, 12 PIM, 13 hits and a plus-5 rating through his past nine games. The 25-year-old defender also ranks seventh in points per 60 minutes (1.87) among all defensemen with at least 600 minutes this season.

Anton Stralman, TB (20 percent): Owning good players on good teams usually pays off over the course of the season, and Stralman is particularly helpful in the plus-minus column with a plus-24 mark through 33 contests. He’s not receiving power-play time and has just 11 points for the campaign, but there’s enough cross-category coverage to tilt the scales in deeper settings.

GOALIE

Aaron Dell, SAN (34 percent): At some point, Dell’s going to be handed a larger timeshare of starts for the Sharks. He sports a career .934 save percentage and 1.91 GAA, and this season’s .939 and 1.75 marks are the best in the league. Martin Jones has allowed at least four goals in each of his past six starts for a 1-3-2 record, .868 save percentage and 4.08 GAA, too.

Alex Stalock, MIN (37 percent): With Devan Dubnyk nursing a lower-body injury, Stalock could see a few extra starts over the coming weeks. He’s struggled of late with at least three goals allowed in each of his past three outings, but had won his three previous starts with a .949 save percentage, so the potential is there. At worst, he’s a matchup-based option and/or Dubnyk handcuff.

David Rittich, CGY (2 percent): The Czech rookie has won all three of his starts and sports a respectable .919 save percentage and 2.10 GAA through four appearances. Mike Smith is locked into a huge workload, but Rittich could prove to be a nice streaming option or handcuff in cavernous settings. His value would obviously skyrocket if Smith ever sustained an injury.

Players to consider from past columns: Josh Anderson, Kyle Connor, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi, Marian Gaborik, Sam Bennett, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alex Galchenyuk, Jesper Bratt, Reilly Smith, Tomas Hertl, Micheal Ferland, Craig Smith, Phillip Danault, Tyler Myers, Mathew Dumba, Erik Johnson, Matt Niskanen, Brady Skjei, Darnell Nurse, Esa Lindell, Antti Raanta, James Reimer, Jacob Markstrom, Steve Mason, Anton Khudobin, Philipp Grubauer, Darcy Kuemper, Malcolm Subban.