Which players should you acquire for your stretch run in hockey pools? Here are 20 names that could win your league for you.
Most fantasy hockey seasons have reached the turn, meaning it’s time to start negotiating magical trades to put your team over the top. Figuring out who to target is ultimately a buy-low, sell-high ballet, but at this time of year, it’s not so obvious. The sample sizes are big and less extreme than, say, a star player without a goal in his first 10 games. We have to factor history in much more, examining first and second-half splits.
Above all else, the key is to target any player you believe (a) will have significant value down the stretch and (b) can be had for his proper price or anything less, even the tiniest discount. That’s why you’ll see some big names on his list. It’s amazing how lazy certain GMs can be in any given league, placing such massive value on current numbers. Jakub Voracek is untouchable because “he’s the top guy in the whole game this year, come on.” Great player, but wouldn’t you still trade him for a John Tavares? And see if you can get the Tavares owner to add a sweetener because “Hey, Tavares has 11 fewer points, it’s gonna take more than him”?
Here are 20 names of varying value to consider in your negotiations, with positions listed according to Yahoo qualifications.
Tyson Barrie (D)
Before embarking on a rocky four-game road trip, the Avs offense showed real signs of life. Barrie exploded for 30 points in his final 39 games last season. He’s talented enough to produce at that elite level down the stretch again and won’t cost a ton to acquire.
Boston’s first line of David Krejci (C), Milan Lucic (LW) and David Pastrnak (RW)
The secret on the Bruins is out: they’re regressing to the mean and climbing the standings in a hurry. David Krejci’s lost games to injury, Milan Lucic’s slump and David Pastrnak’s rookie status make each of this trio a bargain-bin buy, as their numbers simply don’t look sexy on paper. But this is the top line on a hot team. Go get all three. Pastrnak should cost next to nothing and may not even be on a roster in your league.
Dan Boyle (D)
Boyle is back healthy, other than a pesky broken nose, and manning the point for a Ranger team that has really hit its stride. He should produce at least half a point per game and help in power play points going forward.
Dustin Byfuglien (RW, D)
If you’re lucky, some poor sap is still deploying Byfuglien at forward, where he has far less fantasy value and his numbers seem more pedestrian. As a D-man, he’s playing some of his best hockey ever. ‘Big Buff’ can anchor your blueline during your playoff push.
Sergei Bobrovsky (G)
‘Bob’ was a world beater after the Olympic break last year when he got healthy: 12-6-2, 2.13 goals-against average, .932 save percentage. His best months historically, by a wide margin, are March (21-10-7, 2.07, .931) and April (15-6-3, 2.24, .928). Of his 10 career shutouts, seven have come in March and April. Consider waiting a month to trade for him, though, as February is actually his worst month (7-13-4, 3.16, .895).
Taylor Hall (LW)
Whatever goes on behind closed doors in the tire fire that is the Edmonton Oilers, Hall stands to improve. He can’t be worse unless the Oilers are hiding a significant injury. He’s a first-round talent that can be had for, say, 75 cents on the dollar. I bet you can get Hall for Kyle Okposo in most leagues. Would you do it?
Victor Hedman (D)
The kid is ELITE but doesn’t seem to earn the fanfare of a P.K. Subban or Erik Karlsson. Capitalize on that. Injuries have limited Hedman to 28 games, during which he’s amassed 22 points. Only Mark Giordano, Kevin Shattenkirk and Kris Letang average more points per game than Hedman this season.
Phil Kessel (RW)
Use the Leaf media explosion and Kessel pile-on to your advantage. The entire team can’t hit the broad side of a barn and trade rumors engulf No. 81. But he’s still a stud of a goal scorer, better in fantasy than real life. For every slump, he has a hot streak, without fail.
Anze Kopitar (C)
The advanced stats crowd likely acquired Kopitar a month or two ago, knowing he was still influencing possession and scoring chances as well as ever. He has 25 points in 22 games since the start of December, but his horrible start has him tucked away in a tie for 44th in league scoring. General managers in casual leagues may not have noticed Kopitar’s return to form yet and may be willing to deal him away.
Nathan MacKinnon (C, RW)
The MacKinnon horse is beaten to a pulp in this space, but I’ll remind you his half-season point total last year and this year are identical. If MacKinnon went bananas in the New Year as a rookie, he can do it again as a sophomore.
Gustav Nyquist (C, RW)
Nyquist was The Guy who won many people their leagues last season thanks to his NHL-best goal production in the second half. Expectations soared after that, so his 11 goals and 15 points through 24 games elicited many a “meh.” But lookie here – Nyquist has 17 points in his past 13 games and three-straight multi-point efforts. It sure seems like Gus has commenced another binge. He won’t cost the moon, either, as he isn’t a brand name yet.
David Perron (LW, RW)
Because Perron’s numbers were so ugly to start the year in Edmonton, his production in Pittsburgh isn’t yet reflected in his season stat line. It’s barely a blip. That may mean it’s not too late to snag him. It’s clear he’ll be a difference maker in fantasy and real life for the rest of the campaign. In seven games with the Penguins as Sidney Crosby’s linemate: five goals, seven points and at least four shots in each contest.
Tuukka Rask (G)
Rask didn’t even sniff the All-Star Game roster. Wasn’t overly close. And that’s a shame considering he won the Vezina Trophy last season and went in the first round of most fantasy drafts. That’s OK. Milk that frustration from the Rask owner and pry Rask away. The Bruins are finally healthy, with Zdeno Chara, among others, back to full strength, and they’re playing much better at both ends of the rink. It’s no surprise Rask is 5-1-2 with a 1.60 GAA and .946 SP this month.
*To share a personal example: I got Rask in one of my leagues on Dec. 6 for Byfuglien and Jimmy Howard. Hurts to trade Buff, but you have to give something to get something.
Eric Staal (C, LW)
There are two reasons to pursue a Staal trade. For one, he’s a slow starter and strong finisher, with 0.83 points per game in October/November/December and 0.93 afterward. The points haven’t exploded yet, but Staal’s six goals in nine January games suggests he’ll play true to his splits again. Secondly, with just one more season on his mega contract paying him $8.25 million a year, he’s a real-life trade target. Staal in a new environment could be a pool-winner, depending on where he lands.
Steven Stamkos (C)
Don’t laugh. Just because Stamkos is a superstar doesn’t mean he can’t be had in a trade. He’s played great, but he’s slightly overshadowed by breakout studs like Voracek and Tyler Seguin this season. Maybe, just maybe, you can offer one of them for ‘Stammer.’ Isn’t that the guy you’d rather bet on in your fantasy post-season?
Derek Stepan (C)
The beauty of injury-shortened stat lines strikes again. Stepan’s 32 points seem pedestrian until you realize they’ve come in 31 games. OK, that’s no stunning revelation. But tack on Stepan’s finish last season and you get 53 points in his past 53 games. That’s borderline fantasy-first-round production, and there’s no way Stepan commands that price in a trade.
John Tavares (C)
See the Stamkos entry. The window has likely shut to get Tavares for 95 cents on the dollar. He’s caught fire already. But it can’t hurt to kick the tires.
Keith Yandle (D)
The Arizona Coyotes fire sale is upon us, and Yandle will be sought after between now and the trade deadline. He’s been a regular 50-point producer with little offensive talent in front of him with the Desert Dogs. What happens if a high-octane contender gets him? Trade for him before a real team does.
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