When it comes to winning in fantasy sports due diligence on the waiver wire is probably the most important factor I can think of. Yeah, you can draft a perfect team but how often does that happen? Injuries, untimely trades, down years, you name it, there is going to be a host of problems with the team you drafted and there are only two options to fix the damage; trades or the wire. Trades are great, but you often overpay to get what you need, but the wire? The wire provides for free! Ah, my favorite price point. With the fantasy playoffs looming just around the corner and the trade deadline long over it’s never been more important to keep your eye on the wire because it’s the guys you pick up on the cheap or free that often make the difference between advancing to the next round and crying in your cornflakes on Monday morning. To that end, I submit for your consideration the most current waiver wire gem and his name is Mark Stone, RW (1 G, 3 SOG).
Truth be told Stone has been on fire for about two full months and it’s my bad that he hasn’t been featured like this until now. To be fair he plays for the Ottawa Senators and that’ll kill my attention span really quickly, especially this season, but that’s no excuse. Luckily for you and I, I’m not the only one who let the wiry winger slip under their radar and his ownership numbers are pretty abysmal in most formats. That’s all the better for us as he’s widely available should you want to take a chance on him, and you should. Over the last two months Stone has put up 27 points in his last 30 games. Yeah, you read that right. Dude is rocking a near point-per-game pace skating on Ottawa’s second line with Kyle Turris, C (1 SOG, -1) and the recently rejuvenated Milan Michalek, RW (2 A, 1 SOG, +1) who unbelievably or not make up three fifths of the Sens’ top power play unit now, too. You’d think it would be the Bobby Ryan, RW (3 SOG, -1), Mika Zibanejad, C (Zip, Zilch, Nada), Mike Hoffman, C (3 SOG, 2 PIM) line that’d make up their top unit, but no, it’s not. With top six minutes and power play time Stone has gone to work and with six points in six games so far in March he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Stone has few weaknesses in his game but if you had to pick and choose, it’d be his skating, which is choppy at best. Despite that the streaking sophomore makes up for it with a high hockey IQ, great vision, solid hands, and an ability to find the open man. Pair that with a deceptive release on his underrated shot and you’ve got a receipie for, well, putting up nearly 30 points in his last 30 games. Do you need more convincing? You shouldn’t. He’s worth a flyer in all formats and lucky you, he’s owned in just 16% of Yahoo! leagues, 23% of ESPN leagues and 53% of CBS leagues. Oh, CBS managers, you never fail me. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
John Gibson is between the pipes tonight despite coughing up six goals in his last game, so get him back in there. It’s an interesting move going back to Gibsy, but if you’ve been reading this blog you know that he’s in the NHL to play, not sit, and the number one job in Anaheim is completely up for grabs still. A lot of people are saying Frederik Andersen is the man this season, and he was earlier this year, but at this point in the season the hot hand wins and Gibson can definitely get hot again.
Roberto Luongo remains out with a shoulder injury and won’t start tomorrow. He is travelling with the team, however, so he should be back between the pipes sooner than later.
Ben Bishop, G (L, 28 SV, 2 GA, .933%) – Earlier this season I was starting to get worried about Bish, to the point that I was considering not keeping him for next season. Those worries are long gone and even when he loses lately he looks good doing it.
David Pastrnak, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Pasta extends his point streak to three games with another goal last night. He has four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last five and what I wrote about him yesterday only rings truer today. He might have had a bit of a cold spell after making a big splash earlier this season, but he’s been scoring consistently for a few weeks now and getting top six minutes as a result. Don’t sleep, he can help you right now.
Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – I pegged Eebs for 70 points this season and despite his team being a complete debacle he’s probably not going to finish too far south of that mark. I’d say 60 points is probably the ceiling, but he has an outside chance to end up with a bit more than that by the end of the season. If the Oil get their act together anytime in the next few years, Eberle could finally get the just dues he deserves. He’s certainly been one of the only guys in Edmonton doing their job this year.
Steve Downie, RW (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Downie Soft might not be the scoring goon he once was, but he’s rocking 197 penalty minutes to go with 12 goals, 14 assists, a plus-8 rating and 92 hits in 59 games so far this season. Sure, it’d be awesome if those peripherals came with 20 goals instead of 15 and 50 points instead of 40, but the NHL’s leading sin bin resident has value in all formats regardless.
Patric Hornqvist, RW (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – Horny has yet to regain his early season form but he’s put up six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last six games and looks like he might have finally rediscovered the juice that helped him post 25 points in his first 23 games. He’s never been a big point producer, but then he’s never played with as much talent as he does now in Pittsburgh. The same can be said for James Neal, RW (3 SOG, 2 PIM) and we’ve seen how well that’s worked out for him, but luckily for his owners, Horny went the other way.
Sidney Crosby, C (1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, 4 SOG, +2) – Yeah, so do this every game for the rest of the season and you’ll meet your preseason expectations. Yah?
David Perron, LW (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG) – The hope was that when Perron was dealt away from the hapless Oilers to the high octane Pens he would get a solid boost in value and sure enough he posted nine points (6 G, 3 A) in his first 11 games in a Pens uniform. He’s fallen off significantly since then, however, putting up just 11 points in his last 18 games since. The latter pace is probably what you should always have expected from him and I warned that after the initial boom he would probably settle in for a less than exciting pace. Luckily he’s also delivered 28 penalty minutes and 64 hits in 29 games since the trade, so it isn’t all bad.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 15 SV, 3 GA, .833%) – I took a chance and started Kari because my goalie stats were pretty awful so far this week and I figured “How much worse can it get? Maybe I’ll get lucky.” Well, I guess coughing up only three goals on 18 shots and netting a win in the process is pretty damn lucky for Let-one-in this season, so I guess I’ll take it? Ugh. Why haven’t I dropped him yet?
Anton Khudobin, G (L, 27 SV, 4 GA, .871%) – Man, Carolina sure is terrible.
Victor Rask, C (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG) – Well, they aren’t completely terrible. Rask is on fire lately and has six points (2 G, 4 A) over his last three games. Those six points come with a couple power play points, too. Mix in a handful of faceoff wins and you have yourself a fairly valuable streamer. His plus/minus might leave a bad taste in your mouth, but he’s contributing on a host of other fronts for the time being, so grab him while he’s hot and drop him when he’s not.
Andrej Nestrasil, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – The former Red Wings prospect is finally starting to find a bit of a stride in Carolina and has 12 points (5 G, 7 A) in his last 15 games dating back to early February. He also has 27 hits, 9 blocks and 34 faceoff wins in 25 games this season and is starting to show why the Wings bothered with him in the first place. Like Rask his plus/minus might make you cringe, but for the moment he’s producing in a lot of categories and he’s available in a ton of leagues, so he’s worth a flyer if you need a streaking multi-category contributor. Who doesn’t?
Andrew Hammond, G (W, 27 SV, 2 GA, .931%) – The Sens tried to go back to Craig Anderson but in typical Andersonian fashion he was pretty meh. So naturally they went back to the well and gave Hamrew another start and wouldn’t you know it, he pushed away 27 of 29 for the 5-2 victory over the Habs last night. It’s pretty clear who is playing better hockey right now between the two netminders and I’d imagine that Hamrew is going to get a few more starts before the fat lady sings. Hold him and start him freely for now.
Erik Karlsson, D (2 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – Wow, only 53 points in 66 games this season? What a bust!
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 41 SV, 1 GA, .976%) – Bob looked like his old self in this one, but don’t get your hopes too high, the Jackets’ season is mostly lost at this point. If you own Bob you have no choice but to roll him out there when he’s between the pipes, but it could go either way on any given day. On the bright side he’s definitely been playing better lately than he has all season, so there’s hope he can help you in the fantasy playoffs, or at the very least, not kill you.
Jimmy Howard, G (L, 23 SV, 3 GA, .885%) – Howie has been a bit skaky since returning from injury, but he’s managed to keep the ship mostly pointed in the right direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if Petr Mrazek picked up a start or two over the next few weeks, but otherwise it’s all system’s go with Howie as he backstops one of the best teams in the NHL today.
Scott Hartnell, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – On the heels of a two-goal game this past Tuesday Harts follows it up with another goal last night. He’s streaky, but he delivers in various categories and right now he’s scoring and is there a better time to get hot for fantasy owners than right now? The scoring won’t last, but everything else should.
Justin Abdelkader, LW (1 G, 3 SOG, 7 PIM) – Abs might only have 36 points (18 G, 18 A) in 59 games so far this season but his 133 hits, 23 blocks and 45 penalty minutes help offset the lack of offensive production a bit. Still, he’s going to net a career high 20 goals this year and I could see him take another step forward in 2015 and push up to 25 goals and 50 points to go with around 150 hit making him pretty damn valuable in most hits leagues.
Dan Ellis, G (W, 18 SV, 2 GA, .900%) – Hey! Dan Ellis with a win. It’s almost as rare as a Mike Smith win!
Michael Hutchinson, G (L, 16 SV, 3 GA, .842%) – Yeah, fatigue is definitely a factor at this point. Losing Dustin Byfuglien to injury for the next two to four weeks doesn’t help matters either. Start him with caution.
Nick Bjugstad, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Jugs extends his point streak to three games with a goal last night and has four points (2 G, 2 A) over his last five games. That gives him 24 goals as he continues to try to reach for that elusive 30-goal rookie season. Regardless of whether he gets there or not he’s an elite talent, an elite keeper and he’s going to be a beast in 2015. As for the rest of this season, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be a solid contributor through the fantasy playoffs as the Cats fight for the final playoff spot in the East.
Brian Elliott, G (W, 28 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – There’s nothing like a game against the hapless Flyers to fix what ails ya!
Steve Mason, G (L, 35 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Poor Mase, he puts up a shutout and he still can’t buy the win. I’m sorry for the hate over the last couple years buddy, you’re clearly not that bad.
Semyon Varlamov, G (W, 23 SV, 1 GA, .958%) – Good news for Varly owners, his 107th groin pull this season was just a tweak and after missing just one start he was back between the pipes for the fading Avs and put up another solid start pushing away 23 of 24 shots for the 2-1 victory last night. He should be fine moving forward but as ever, the porous Colorado D is going to make it hard for him to consistently get wins, but otherwise, he should be money. And by money I mean bleh goals-against average to pair with a stellar save percentage. Now that Varly’s cleared and healthy Calvin Pickard was sent back to the AHL to get more reps.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 17 SV, 1 GA, .944%) – Crow was definitely off after returning from his broken foot, but he has righted the ship in a big way recently allowing more than one goal in a game just once over his last five starts. He’s pushed away 145 of 150 shots he’s faced over that span, good for a .967 save percentage and a 4-0-1 record. This is the Crawford you drafted and he should be fantasy gold for the rest of this season. Start him with confidence.
Mike Smith, G (L, 42 SV, 2 GA, .955%) – I’ll give credit where credit is due, over his last five games he’s faced a ton of shots (166) and stopped a ton of shots (154) and his stellar save percentage over that span (.928) has pushed his season mark to .899. Who wants to take bets on whether he can finish the year with a GAA north of .900? Anyone? I can’t say the odds are very good.
Tyler Toffoli, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – This tally gives Toffy 20 goals on the year and that’s a solid achievement for the young, up and coming pivot. He’s suffered through some injuries, line shuffles and the general disarray of the Kings this season, but he’s taken a step forward this season and I expect him to take another step forward in 2015. Do I hear 30 goals and 60 points knocking next year? Why yes, yes I do.
Marian Gaborik, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – Bum, bum, bum, bum. Bum, bum, bum, bum, buuuuuuum! Oh shiz, sorry, did he just get hurt? Oh, just his feelings? Crap, he’ll be out 3-4 weeks now.
Pekka Rinne, G (L, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – After the wheels kind of, sort of came off for Rinne recently he’s righted the ship lately with his usual stellar play. Unfortch for him and his owners (me) the rest of the Preds haven’t followed suit and they’re losing more often than not. I suppose a correction was bound to occur after the Preds dominated the league for most of the season. Either way, you can’t do anything but roll Rinne out there every time he starts.
Antti Niemi, G (W, 35 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – Meh, he’s still not very good.
Tommy Wingels, C (1 G, 1 SOG) – Pickles! We missed you, buddy.
Tomas Hertl, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – What happened to the kid who was scoring like seven goals a game last year? Oh right, he blew out his knee and needed major surgery to repair it. That’ll slow you down for a few years. The talent is still there, though, and I have a feeling at some point in the next season or two he’s going to remember he can score at will and blow up, but who knows when that’ll be.