What unsung waiver-wire hero might save your fantasy hockey squad from playoff elimination? Consider these 10 names.
In most fantasy hockey leagues, it’s playoff time. Well, it is for head-to-head leagues. Standard roto leagues are merely going about their business with teams jockeying for position. Far more boring if you ask me.
Regardless of what format your league plays, however, we’ve reached the point in the pool season where deep waiver wire pickups can make or break your year. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the best desperation grabs this week, so I’ll offer up 10 to consider. I may as well make myself useful, as I failed to defend my title in my primary fantasy league, missing the big dance for the first time in 12 years. Selling high on Evgeny Kuznetsov and buying low on John Tavares killed me. But I digress. On with the list, assuming you still trust me after that confession.
DEEP PICKUPS (30% owned or less in Yahoo leagues)
Mikkel Boedker, LW/RW (25%)
I don’t get it. What are people waiting for? I made him the poster boy for pickups after the trade deadline. He has seven points in nine games as an Av and five in his past five games. His value dips with centers Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon out at least a couple more games apiece, however, so Boedker wouldn’t be the first name on this list I’d grab if you only have room for one pickup.
Other deep pickups to consider: Troy Brouwer (27%), Jakob Silfverberg (27%)
DEEPER PICKUPS (20% owned or less)
Zack Smith, C (20%)
Somehow, 80 percent of the fantasy hockey community is asleep at the switch on Smith. It’s not like he’s been hot for a week. He’s been a beast since the start of February, with 12 goals and 20 points in his past 23 games. The Sens have him riding shotgun with Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau on an unlikely yet productive top line. Smith’s league-best shooting percentage of 19.8 suggests an obvious and drastic regression looms, but why not ride him until then?
Chad Johnson, G (16%)
Reliable goaltenders are nearly impossible to scoop off the wire at this time of year. Anyone reeling from an injury to, say, Cory Schneider might even be streaming, chasing quality backups like Al Montoya whenever they’re announced as fill-in starters. Johnson, though, has quietly manned Buffalo’s crease as the No. 1 three times in a four-game stretch, posting a .926 save percentage. He’s also won five of his past six starts. If you’re desperate, you could do a lot worse.
Andre Burakovsky, LW (14%)
Burakovsky has settled into Washington’s top-six forward group. He belongs there. He didn’t enter the NHL with the same hype as mega-prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, but Burakovsky was a first-round pick in 2013. He has high-end offensive skill. When a player of his caliber and pedigree starts producing at age 21, don’t write it off as a fluke. Burakovsky has points in five of his past seven games, and he lines up on the Caps’ second line with Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie at the moment.
William Nylander, C/RW (14%)
So much for Toronto being a media hype machine. Nylander’s minuscule fantasy ownership number contradicts that theory. That’s good news for anyone hoping for a high-ceiling add to save their season. Nylander is still learning what it takes to be an NHLer and thus won’t be a world beater every night, but he’s so talented that he can go off any given night, as he did Monday, when he posted a goal and three points. The kid has two straight multi-point efforts and five points in his past two games. Seriously, why isn’t he owned in more leagues?
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW (11%)
Smith-Pelly may be the gem to grab right now, and he’s available in a whopping 89 percent of pools. The burly power forward has, pardon the pun, seemingly struck a deal with the devil since he joined the, uh, Devils. He’s positively scorching, with seven goals and 10 points in nine games. Wow. Somebody needs to hop on this train. Smith-Pelly struggled as a Montreal Canadien but was a decent prospect as an Anaheim Duck, and he’s still just 23. Maybe he’s realizing some legit untapped potential.
Other deeper pickups to consider: Antoine Vermette (19%)
DEEPEST PICKUPS (10% owned or less)
Jamie McGinn, LW/RW (10%)
I’ve been pounding the McGinn drum as long as I have the Boedker drum, yet McGinn’s ownership has barely risen since he was traded to Anaheim. Goals in three straight games and five in 10 games as a Duck haven’t moved the needle. It was thrilling to see McGinn lining up in a plum spot with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf last week, but David Perron’s injury could shake up the depth chart. More on this situation later…
Trevor Daley, D (10%)
Daley has entrenched himself among the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top four defensemen and plays close to 20 minutes a night. This team (a) needs him and (b) is on fire, so the opportunities are there for Daley, who has scored goals in back to back games and gets minutes on the second power play unit.
Cody Eakin, C (9%)
If Smith-Pelly and Smith are taken, Eakin is the next-best guy to snatch right now. With Tyler Seguin injured, Eakin has leapfrogged Jason Spezza to become the Dallas Stars’ temporary No. 1 center. Eakin has six points in his past four games and has Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp flanking him on either side. He’s set up for a nice little hot streak when poolies need it most.
Brandon Pirri, C/LW/RW (9%)
Continuing the McGinn discussion, keep an eye on the Ducks’ line deployments. Pirri will get a chance with Getzlaf and Perry, and Pirri proved last year he’s capable of short-term scoring binges. He’s probably the better add than McGinn right now.
Other deepest pickups to consider: Dmitry Orlov, Mikko Rantanen, Frank Vatrano
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin