Spring is here. Weather is, much too slowly, getting nicer and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are just around the corner. That means it’s time for playoff pools.
Playoff pools offer a different challenge to fantasy owners because team success plays such a large part in determining which players will ultimately accrue the most postseason value. The potential variance in games played obviously matters.
Even with that being the case, don’t be afraid to take underdogs. Aside from the Tampa Bay Lightning, there isn’t a team that would be such a prohibitive favorite, so it’s certainly possible that players on underdogs may offer better value. Getting top players on slight underdogs likely offers more potential value than secondary players on slight favorites.
The objective here is not to give obvious tips. It should be self-evident that Nikita Kucherov, the league’s leading scorer on the league’s top team, would be a good pick.
Here are some more forwards to target or consider for late-round value that could help put your team over the top:
David Pastrnak, RW, Boston Bruins: He has missed some time with injuries, but the 22-year-old Bruins winger is worth a premium selection. He’s a force on the power play, scoring 33 of 64 points with the man advantage, has 22 points in the 15 games that he has played since the All-Star break, and in 22 career (regular season plus playoff) games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston’s first-round opponent, Pastrnak has 16 goals and 16 assists for 32 points.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues: After a tough start to the season, scoring 11 goals and 11 assists in his first 37 games, the Blues sniper kicked into gear and put up 21 goals and 21 assists in his next 37 games. Although his playoff point production (32 points in 44 games) is solid, his 22 goals in 44 playoff games is a good sign that he can elevate his game when it matters.
Jake Guentzel, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins: There’s no flying under the radar when you score 38 goals and 73 points, as Guentzel has this campaign, but this season has just been fulfilling the promise that Guentzel had flashed in the past two playoffs, when he scored 23 goals and 19 assists in 37 games. Skating with No. 87 has its benefits, and Guentzel has been a great fit.
Teuvo Teravainen, RW, Carolina Hurricanes: The 24-year-old winger has tallied a career-high 73 points, thanks to a strong finish, putting up 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists) in the past 37 games. With Jordan Staal returning from injury, Teravainen also gets the benefit of playing with a dominant two-way center.
Paul Stastny, C, Vegas Golden Knights: Though injuries have limited the veteran center to 48 games played in his first season with the Golden Knights, he has put up six goals and 10 assists in 15 games since Vegas acquired Mark Stone at the trade deadline. The trio of Stastny, Stone and Max Pacioretty has also averaged 4.42 expected goals per 60 minutes, the second-best rate in the league, so that line could be a difference-maker in the postseason. Stastny was also a force in last year’s playoffs, producing 15 points in 17 games for Winnipeg.
William Nylander, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs: That he has just 26 points in 52 games is precisely why Nylander is likely to last longer in a playoff draft, but he’s back with Auston Matthews and is starting to find his range, with nine points and 42 shots on goal in the past 11 games.
Tomas Hertl, C, San Jose Sharks: After a strong showing in last year’s playoffs, when he had nine points and 34 shots on goal in 10 games, the 25-year-old took a major leap forward this season, producing a career-high 35 goals and 36 assists in 75 games.
David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins: The 32-year-old center has 71 points, two points off his career high with two games left on the schedule, has a strong playoff track record which includes twice leading the postseason in scoring, and he’s finishing strong with seven goals and 21 assists in the past 24 games.
Nazem Kadri, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: After back-to-back 32-goal campaigns, Kadri has stumbled to 16 goals this season, but he has run into some bad luck along the way. Kadri is one of nine players to have hit iron (posts + crossbars) 10 times this season, so he’s getting chances, but could use the pendulum of luck to swing his direction.
Reilly Smith, RW, Vegas Golden Knights: Even though he plays big minutes on the Golden Knights’ first line, the unheralded winger has 10 goals and 16 assists in his past 25 games and has produced 35 points in 38 career playoff games.
Tyler Johnson, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning: Once the stars are off the board for the Lightning, consider Johnson. Even though he has 10 goals and just two assists in the past 34 games, Johnson also has an impressive playoff track record, which includes 24 goals and 26 assists in 64 career postseason contests.
Jakub Vrana, LW, Washington Capitals: While there are bigger names on the Capitals roster that will go early, this speedy winger is a solid complementary option. He does his damage at even strength, scoring 23 of his 24 goals and 43 of 47 points at evens.
Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal Canadiens: If the Canadiens manage to squeeze into a playoff spot, their bulldog of a winger will play a big part. Down the stretch he’s buried 10 goals and added five assists, along with firing 80 shots on goal in the past 20 games.
Alexander Kerfoot, RW, Colorado Avalanche: For as long as Mikko Rantanen is out of the Avalanche lineup, there is a better opportunity awaiting Kerfoot, the sophomore forward who is skating alongside Nathan MacKinnon on Colorado’s top line, producing four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak.
Roope Hintz, C, Dallas Stars: The Stars rookie has produced four goals and six assists in his past 12 games and is now centering a line with Jamie Benn and Mats Zuccarello on the wings. Zuccarello is another potential value play. He broke his arm in his first game with the Stars but has returned to the lineup and his 0.83 points per game this season is a career high.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets: Beyond the big guns for the Blue Jackets, there may be value in this 23-year-old winger who is riding high, with seven goals and 30 shots on goal during a late-season six-game goal-scoring streak.
Jared McCann, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins: The 22-year-old is getting a new lease on life with his third NHL team, and where better to jumpstart a scorer than on Sidney Crosby’s wing? McCann doesn’t contribute on the power play yet he still has eight goals and five assists, with 41 shots on goal, in the past 18 games.
James Neal, RW, Calgary Flames: It’s been a disastrous first season in Calgary for the veteran scoring winger, and he has just 19 points in 62 games, but he has four points in the past four games and while he has 55 points in 100 career playoff games, Neal also has 351 shots on goal and that ability to get pucks on net could give him a shot at bouncing back in the postseason.