There’s about six weeks left in the regular season and that means we’re officially in the stretch run for fantasy hockey. Given there’s only a month or so left before the fantasy playoffs kick off it’s more important than ever to keep your eye on the waiver wire for those diamonds in the rough. It really doesn’t matter what a guy has done to this point in the season, if he’s scoring now he’s worth picking up if it’s going to help you get those precious points to secure your spot in the post season and beyond. To that end I turn your attention to the the Islanders, who have become a source of fantasy gold lately with Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, 2 PIM) and Josh Bailey, LW (2 SOG) both making strong cases that they should be picked up just about everywhere.
A big, strong winger with good speed, soft hands and a host of natural offensive talents, Anders Lee is coming on strong as of late. After finding the back of the net yet again last night Lee has 11 points (6 G, 5 A) in his last nine games. Most of that scoring has come since joining the top line along side superstar pivot John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) and Bailey. I dissed him in Monday’s post and for that I apologize both to you, the reader, and to Anders because damn son, you’re on fire! There’s no reason to think Lee’s redonkuluous play will end anytime soon so long as he sticks on that line. Owned in just 12% of ESPN leagues, 44% of CBS leagues and 37% of Yahoo! Leagues, you still have a chance to grab him but the window should be closing fast, so don’t wait any longer to make the move and ride him while he’s hot. If he does slow down, which is a distinct possibility, consider him a keeper for 2016.
Lee isn’t the only Isle who is widely available and absolutely worth adding; the aforementioned Josh Bailey has been tearing it up on that line as well. Owned in just 8% of Yahoo! Leagues, 3% of ESPN Leagues and 13% of CBS leagues the former 9th overall pick has 15 points in his last 20 games and should be given a look everywhere if you need a boost on offense. It’s still kind of hard to accept that the New York Islanders, of all teams, is chock full of fantasy gold but don’t let your past prejudices stop you from tapping the mine and riding it all the way to your league title. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Valeri Nichushkin won’t be back this season after his doctors informed him he’s still at least 4-6 weeks away from returning to the lineup. At this point it’s best for his long-term health and value that he sits the rest of the year out and starts fresh and healthy in 2016, so he’s pretty droppable in most leagues these days. I don’t know that I’d consider him as a keeper, either. The talent is there, but hip problems are a big red flag and you probably have more productive guys to keep for next season.
Teemu Pulkkinen was recalled by the Red Wings and skated with their top line in practice. Before getting the call he potted his AHL leading 30th goal, and though he may have limited value this season, he’s going to be a monster moving forward. He’s worth a flier if he sticks on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader he’s worth a flier, but is true value is as a keeper.
Malcolm Subban was recalled by the Bruins and will start tonight against the Oil. He makes for a solid spot start because he’s facing Edmonton, but rumor has it he’s only up for the one start as a showcase for a potential deal before the deadline.
Sami Vatanen is out for 4-6 weeks with a lower-body-injury and that means his regular season is likely over. I’d stash him on IR for now, but if you need that slot to make room down the stretch Vats is a guy you can part with to make room unless he’s one of your keepers. With this injury the Ducks are going to be after some help on the blue line and the big name out there is Andrej Sekera, who would see a significant boost in value if he was moved to the Ducks. Stay tuned.
Matt Beleskey is also out, but at he’ll be back in 2-4 weeks. Belly is rocking it with 21 goals but offers little else, so this isn’t a huge loss. Stash him on IR for now.
Brock Nelson, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – When Kyle Okposo was healthy it didn’t seem to matter who occupied the third slot on the top line for the Isles, they produced while there and Nelson was no exception. That said, he’s slowed significantly after his early season streaks and has just seven points (2 G, 5 A) in his last 21 games. He could finish with 25 goals, but I doubt it.
Chad Johnson, G (W, 37 SV, 1 GA, .974%) – In his first start in 10 days Johnson pushed aside 37 of 38 shots to help down the Canes 4-1 last night. Given how shaky starter Jaroslav Halak has been over the last month or more, Johnson could be in for more starts down the stretch. Despite the fact that he hasn’t offered up the stellar numbers that he put up in Boston last season, he’s worth considering as a streamer and will definitely be in line for some wins when you need them the most.
Anton Khudobin, G (L, 6 SV, 3 GA, .897%) – Dobby started the season like crap, had a solid mid-season stretch of play that made everyone wonder if he’d challenge starter Cam Ward for his job again, and now he’s returned to crapsville allowing 13 goals over his last three games, all losses. Yeah, the Canes are hot garbage and I wouldn’t own either of their goalies with your team.
Ray Emery, G (L, 20 SV, 4 GA, .833%) – Remember the original “Major League” movie where the owner of the Indians wants them to be terrible so she can move the team to Florida? To make that happen she makes sure the team is made up of the worst possible players available. Heh, memories. Anyway, if that ever happened in real life, and in the NHL, the goalie duo would absolutely have to be Emery and Mike Smith. They’d never win a game! Am I showing my age with this reference? Oi.
Brandon Dubinsky, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Don’t look now but Dubs is on a streak with five points (3 G, 2 A) in his last three games with at least a point in each contest over that span. He hasn’t missed a beat since returning from the same abdominal surgery that sidelined Kevin Shattenkirk until early April and remains one of the best multi-category contributors in fantasy hockey.
James Wisniewski, D (1 G, 1 SOG) – After word came out that the Wiz’s parents effed him over hard by stealing his money and taking out crazy loans against his future earnings, his on ice performance suffered so it’s hard to gauge whether last year’s monster performance was a fluke or not. Given the fact that he’s on pace for around 45 points this season, I’d say it wasn’t. He has five points (2 G, 3 A) over his last five games after putting up seven points (3 G, 4 A) over the entire month of January and could be a solid contributor from the blue line down the stretch. I’d wager he’s good for another 13-15 points before the fat lady sings.
Michael Del Zotto, D (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – MDZ had that monster rookie year and then went the route of hot garbage for a while. He was terrible offensively, terrible defensively, and it looked like he was rapidly losing his grip on his NHL career. Starting this season with just eight points in his first 25 games didn’t help, but since returning from an injury that limited him to just three games in December he’s been a new man posting 13 points (4 G, 9 A) over his last 20 games. When I lost Shattenkirk I picked him up and he’s been solid, so if you’re in a deep league and need help at the back end of your blue line, he’s absolutely worth adding.
Wayne Simmonds, RW (1 G, 5 SOG) – I’ve preached patience with Simmonds and he’s delivering with seven points (4 G, 3 A) over his last five and 11 points over his last nine games. He will definitely top 30 goals this season and will likely be a fixture on many championship teams this season.
Steve Downie, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1, 14 PIM) – Downie snapped an eight game skid scoring the only goal for the Pens adding in 14 penalty minutes to sweeten the deal last night. There are trade rumors swirling around Downie and he may end up getting moved, but I hope not, he’s been the Downie of old this season and though his TOI has dropped significantly over the last few games, the potential for huge PIM and a point or two in any given game make him a must own in deep, category rich leagues.
Cory Schenider, G (W, 24 SV, 1 GA, .960%) – It’s always nice to see Schneids get a win, he’s a good guy. That said, his team is terrible and they’re not going anywhere this season. Regardless, Schneider is so good he’s fighting his way back to .500 and the win last night pushes his record to 20-22-5 on the year. That’s meh, but the 2.27 goals-against average and robust .924 save percentage certainly make up for it, especially if you own him in a league that doesn’t count losses. He has quietly been one of the more valuable fantasy netminders this year.
Michal Neuvirth, G (W, 34 SV, 1 GA, .971%) – When Jhonas Enroth was traded to the Stars recently Newbirth became the starter for the lowly Sabres and he’s responded allowing just three goals on 62 shots in the two games since the trade. The Sabres lost both games 2-1. Typical. He has a chance to put up some solid numbers, but really, I wouldn’t risk it.
Nick Bjugstad, C (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – I love Jugs. Who doesn’t? With goals in back-to-back games and four goals over his last five games his march to a 30-goal rookie season remains on pace. He’s going to be huge next season.
Jimmy Hayes, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Jimmy’s taking a page from his brother Kevin’s playbook and found the back of the net for his 17th goal of the season last night. I would say Kevin is a better prospect than Jimmy, but honestly, they’re so similar, you can just take your pick. In the past the Cats were horrible enough that just being in Florida would hurt Jimmy’s value, but not anymore.
Phil Kessel, RW (1 G, 6 SOG, -1) – Sure, Kessel is going to give you 30+ goals, barely, but is it really worth it? The minus-50billion rating he’s going to sport by the end of the season says no, it’s really not worth it. After posting three straight point-per-game or better seasons Kessel may not even find his way to 70 points by season’s end and honestly, it’s not his fault. The Leafs are that bad.
Tyler Bozak, C (1 G, 2 SOG, -1) – Bozo is another guy that the trade rumors are circulating around and if he gets dealt to a contender his value will skyrocket over night. He’s not Phil Kessel, but he’s suffering from the same problem; he plays for the Tornoto Maple Leafs. A trade would fix that issue nicely.
Jonathan Bernier, G (L, 14 SV, 3 GA, .824%) – Over his last 13 starts Bernier is 1-9-2. Yeah, that’s not a typo, his record is actually 1-9-2 since the start of the New Year and he’s getting worse as the season wears on. Ugh, Toronto.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 27 SV, 1 GA, .964%) – Since his team traded for Jhonas Enroth Lehtonen has responded with back-to-back wins allowing just one goal 64 shots. Maybe all he needed was a little competition in net? Lord knows Anders Lindback didn’t offer any at all, but now that Enroth is in town maybe Kari has been scared into playing well? Hope springs eternal, eh Lehtonen owners?
Brian Elliott, G (L, 3 SV, 3 GA, .500%) – A buddy of mine went to this game and was a bit delayed getting there so by the time he sat down, just a few minutes into the game, he assumed Jake Allen started the game and that’s why the score was 3-nil already. Not so much as Elliott got rocked for those three goals on just six shots before getting the hook less than 9 minutes into the game. Ouch. Fatigue may be catching up with the perennial backup turned starter, so be careful about trading for him down the stretch, he’s a bit more of an unknown than his stellar numbers would indicate.
Jamie Benn, LW (3 G, 6 SOG, +2) – With Tyler Seguin out the Stars needed Benn to step up and he did so in a big way putting up the first hatty of his career in a 4-1 win over the Blues last night. With Seguin out Jason Spezza moved to the top line alongside Benn and will likely stick there while Seguin is out.
Jason Spezza, C (3 A, 4 SOG, +2) – After putting up just 14 points in 26 games in November and December I thought Spezza’s season was basically lost, but the Seguin injury has actually provided a ripe opportunity for him to finish the season strong playing with Benn on the top line and top power play. He cashed in last night with three helpers giving him a massive nine points (3 G, 6 A) over his last five games. He was scoring before the move to the top line, too, so this only adds more fuel to the fire.
Pekka Rinne, G (W, 42 SV, 1 GA, .977%) – The God of Goalies put up another ridiculous performance pushing aside 42 of 43 shots for the 5-1 victory last night. I’d detail how many games he’s won recently, but he loses so rarely that I’m just going to write out his season line and we can all gather ‘round and bask in it’s warm, comforting glow; 34-7-2/1.94/.932 in 43 games. So toasty! If you own him and you’re not contending for your league title you dun’ effed up, son!
Alex Stalock, G (L, 32 SV, 5 GA, .865%) – The chances of Stalock earning the starting job next season are basically gone at this point. I mean, he could have an awesome camp and snag it, but he’s been so bad this season that I have my doubts now. That said, Antti Niemi hasn’t been very good either, so the Sharks might end up with a completely new look in net in 2016. Either way, Stalock has zero value now. Sad days, I like the guy.