At this point in the fantasy season the head-to-head playoffs are just weeks away and there are little to no options to help your struggling team out right now. The trade deadline has likely passed you by and the wire was long ago picked clean, or was it? There are always late season additions that can help if you’re quick enough to the oh-so-thin late season free agent pool and sometimes that requires you let go of old biases and wounds and give a guy that may have burned you earlier in the year another chance. Enter Mikael Granlund, C (1 A, 1 SOG, +1) who has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) in his last 19 games centering the streaking Wild’s top line and is definitely worth picking up in all formats.
Last year Granlund came on strong late in the season putting up 26 points (5 G, 21 A) over the last three months and everyone, including me, was stoked to see what he could do coming out of the gates in 2014 with top six role on what looked like a very solid Wild squad. Fast forward to this January and he’d put up just 15 points through the first four months of the season prompting many to drop him after high early season ownership numbers. But that’s all the better for us, because he’s owned in just 14% of Yahoo leagues, 19% of ESPN leagues and 40% of CBS leagues at the moment making him readily available if you’re looking for a helper happy pivot with plenty of offensive firepower on his wings to help keep the juice alive through your fantasy playoff run. Despite the early season debacle the Wild are rolling right now and with linemates Zach Parise, LW (2 A, 4 SOG, +1) and Jason Pominville, RW (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) firing on all cylinders recently there’s no reason to avoid picking the guy up, unless you have something against winning. Not only does Grandlund skate on their top line but he also gets top unit power play minutes as well, so there’s plenty to be optimistic about over the last month and change of the season.
The Wild were a bit of a mess on whole to start the year and Granlund suffered through some nagging injuries as well, so don’t let the horrible offensive numbers through the first half stop you from making the right move now. While it’s understandable that you’d be gun shy on pulling the trigger to add Granlund at this point it’s time for some tough love. Get over it already! When a skater is scoring and has a top six role you take a flyer, it can’t hurt, right? Right. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Ryan Spooner, C (2 G, 4 SOG, +1) – A spoonerful of Ryan helps the competition weap and fantasy owner rejoice. The slick skating young pivot has points in seven of his last eight games since getting called up in late March and is making a home for himself on the Bruins’ third line. Like any rookie this could dry up at any time, but he’s an extremely talented offensive talent that’s worth a flyer in all formats right now.
Cam Talbot, G (W, 29 SV, 1 GA, .967%) – When Talbot initially took over for the injured Henrik Lundqvist he was pretty shaky and routinely coughed up at least three goals. My, oh my, how the Goalbuster’s starts have changed. Over his last four games he’s held the Preds and Isles to one goal apiece, shut out the Blackhawks and barely lost a tight one in OT to the Wings 2-1. Over his last five games he’s stopped 142 of 149 shots against for a .953 save percentage and has proven that he can hang against some of the league’s best teams. Granted this has a lot to do with the Rangers deep defense, but either way, Cam’s delivering for his owners. He’s graduated from risky start to a must start until Hank returns.
Jaroslav Halak, G (L, 20 SV, 2 GA, .909%) – The Isles dominated the Rangers in the first period and generally gave them little room to work and that equated to very few shots on goal for much of the first half of the game. Halak wasn’t beaten cleanly on either of these goals, so I’d expect to see him back in there for the Isles’ next tilt. Michal Neuvirth still looms in the shadows, however.
Kevin Hayes, C/RW (1 G, 2 SOG, 2 PIM) – Hayes’ goal was a beaut that he had to fight for but his strength and determination made it happen. That tally might have been his first in five games but his 30 points in 62 games so far is pretty impressive for the rookie. He’s not going to win the Calder, but he’s showing all kinds of positive signs for a bright, bright future in the NHL. I expect him to take another step forward next year and flirt with 55 points and 20 goals continuing his third line role.
Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – JT and Okie weren’t paired on the same line until late in the game after the Isles fell behind 2-1, but that’s not super important at the moment. What is important is Lee was the one who fell from the Isles’ top line in this game. When JT and Okie were paired up it was Josh Bailey, LW (4 SOG, 2 PIM, -1) on their wing, not Lee. That didn’t matter though as Lee potted the only goal for the Isles in the 2-1 loss. That extends his point streak to six games and puts him second overall among rookie goal scorers with 23 as he moves into Calder consideration. He remains a no-brainer keeper.
Kyle Okposo, RW (3 SOG) – In his first game back in nearly two months Okie looked solid but unspectacular. He’ll need a few games to shake off the rust but there were a few good signs here. First, he ended up back on the Tavares line when it counted. Secondly, he was immediately put back on the team’s top power play unit. I would imagine Okie and JT will reunited permanently sooner than later and despite my belief that Lee would be the guy to stick with them, it seems like it might actually be Bailey.
Kari Lehtonen, G (W, 25 SV, 1 GA, .962%) – Every time Kari has a decent game, as rare as that has been this season, I get cranky because he’s on my bench. Then I realize he’s basically always on my bench because I can’t ever trust him and the only reason he’s still on my bench is because I’m too paranoid that if I do drop him, someone else will pick him up and he’ll go on a run. I doubt that would happen, but I’m too paranoid to allow it to. Eff you, Kari.
Steve Mason, G (L, 37 SV, 2 GA, .949%) – Oh sure, I start talking about how I might have underestimated Mase and he loses three straight coughing up five goals to the lowly Devils on Sunday in the process. Gross. I guess that doesn’t change much, but still, come on guy. Throw me a bone!
Sergei Bobrovsky, G (W, 29 SV, 3 GA, .906%) – Bob looked solid albeit unspectacular in this one stopping 29 of 32 shots for a 4-3 victory in the shootout last night. He’s been pretty rough since returning from injury recently coughing up 13 goals on his last 120 shots for paltry .892 save percentage over his last five games. The Jackets are a bit of a mess and Bob’s season has long since been lost. If you’re relying on him to carry you deep into the playoffs, I have some bad news for you.
Scott Hartnell, LW (2 G, 7 SOG) – Hartnell is on fire lately with six points (4 G, 2 A) over his last five games. Three of those goals come by way o’ the power play, too. He seems to be feast or famine on a game-to-game basis but if you roll him out consistently you’ll get decent to outstanding production lately.
Cam Ward, G (L, 29 SV, 3 GA, .906%) – Ward’s season line fell to 18-20-5/2.47/.909 in 43 games played so far this season and it’s not going to get better over the last month. The Canes are hot garbage and so is Ward.
Eric Staal, C (1 G, 6 SOG) – Staal is another stud who is putting up a wholly forgettable campaign, but he still has some magic left potting a goal on six shots right on the heels of a four helper game against the Oil on Sunday. If you own him, don’t drop him, he’s capable of putting up monster games like this at any time.
Justin Faulk, D (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG) – I love Faulk but I hate his team. It’s a brutal love affair, mostly masochistic on my part, but what can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. In 65 games this season Faulk has 45 points and he’ll easily cross the 50-point marker and should end up somewhere around 55. That’s beast. What’s more, he’ll put up 15 goals doing it. That’s even more beast. The team hate part? He’s sporting a minus-10 with the rest of those gaudy numbers. That hurts, man.
Loui Eriksson, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Once upon a time Loui was a perennial 70-point guy but those days are long gone and he’ll be lucky to flirt with 55 by the end of the season, but he will end up with north of 20 goals, so there’s that. He extended his point streak to four games with last night’s goal and has a couple power play points mixed in during the streak. He’s not going to blow up anytime soon, but he’s providing steady offense right now and he’s worth a flyer in deep leagues.
Dougie Hamilton, D (2 A, 2 PTS, 4 SOG, +1) – Why do you suppose a grown man goes by “Dougie”? Doug is a solid name. Douglas just reeks of manly professionalism. Dougie sounds like a 4th grade school boy. Either way, he doesn’t play like a 4th grade school boy and added two more helpers to bring his total to five over his last five games. He’s going to flirt with, but fall sort of 50 points this season, but next year he’ll be a top 15 option on your fantasy blue line.
Craig Anderson, G (W, 19 SV, 3 GA, .864%) – Ah, now this is the Craig Anderson I remember! In two games since returning from a broken hand he’s allowed seven goals on 61 shots barely holding on to beat the Flames 5-4 and losing to the Bs 3-1 last night. I don’t know about you, but I smell another Hamrew start coming soon.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 19 SV, 1.000%, SHO) – That whole consistent rest for your starter down the stretch thing is a pretty solid strategy. It might bother fantasy owners, but only those of us not smart enough to play the handcuff. When there’s a goal time split that won’t change you have to own both guys if they’re worth owning. Bish and Andrei Vasilevskiy are in that camp. Either way, Vas is giving Bish the rest he needs to be more effective, so I’m pleased.
Carey Price, G (L, 35 SV, 1 GA, .972%) – Even when Price loses he only allows a goal. He’s been unreal this season and despite the loss his goals-against average sits at a microscopic 1.87 and his save percentage a robust .937. The Habs aren’t that good, but Carey will carry them deep into the playoffs and he’ll do the same for his fantasy owners.
Tyler Johnson, C (1 G, 6 SOG, +1) – The diminutive pivot remains one of the top options in fantasy hockey and will continue to do so next season as well. Over the course of the season Johnson is third overall in the NHL with 1.13 points per 20 minutes of play. That’s ridiculous. If you don’t keep him for next season you should stop playing this game, maybe try solitaire?
Devan Dubnyk, G (W, 30 SV, 2 GA, .938%) – It’s a really good year for goalies, man.
Cory Schneider, G (L, 25 SV, 5 GA, .833%) – I’d say its been better for some than others, but everyone has an off night. As long as your league doesn’t count losses, Schneids is giving you everything you’d want from him. The Devils are rebuilding, but they’re rebuilding around Cory and have some solid youth. They’ll be rough around the edges in 2015, but Cory will still be money.
Chris Stewart, RW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – I’m still gun shy about recommending Stewie, but he’s looking pretty solid in the Wild top six. Since the move he has four points (2 G, 2 A) in five games skating on their second line with Mikko Koivu, C (1 A, 1 SOG, +1) and Nino Niederreiter, RW (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) and it seems to be working. He’s probably still on the wire in your league and if so, he’s definitely worth a flyer. Don’t be surprised if he falls apart, though. He does that.
Thomas Vanek, RW (2 G, 3 SOG, +1) – I think Vanek is going to rebound next season. I don’t think he’s going to return to his old 40-goal form, but I could see him put up 60 or so points next season with 25 goals mixed in. As for the rest of this season, he seems to be settled in on the third line, so that doesn’t help his offensive prospects, but he’s making it work lately with three goals in his last two games. Like Stewie, he’s worth a flyer if he’s out there and if you own him you might as well hang on if you’ve held on this long, the Wild are flying.
Scott Gomez, C (1 G, 2 SOG) – Gomez is still alive! Good for you, buddy.
Brian Elliott, G (W, 12 SV, 4 GA, .750%) – Elliott won this game but it was a brutal slugfest. He was only able to fend of 12 of the 16 shots he faced but held on because the high octane Blues provided ample offensive support. He’ll be fine, but I remain worried about fatigue as the starts mount.
Ondrej Pavelec, G (L, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – Pavs took the loss in this one but the blame should rest squarely on the young, talented shoulders of Michael Hutchinson, G (L, 3 SV, 4 GA, .429%) who coughed four goals on just seven shots. Lovely. Expect to see Pavelec between the pipes for the Jets’ next tilt. As for Hutch, he’s a rookie, so this kind of thing is bound to happen. When you roll with a rookie tender you take the good with the bad.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG) – I’m out of contention in the RCL and I tried to trade Crosby for Tarasenko and got rebuffed. I can’t say I blame the guy for rejecting it, believe it or not there’s not much of a difference between them this year and by the looks of it, that won’t change anytime soon. It goes without saying, though I’ll say it, Tarasenko is the most valuable non-first rounder keeper in fantasy hockey. If you own him, hold on for dear life.
Calvin Pickard, G (L, 5 SV, 3 GA, .625%) – Semyon Varlamov tweaked his groin for the 59th time this season so they called up Captain Pickard to handle the crease until his return and man did that go poorly. The Kings chased the young netminder pretty quickly after he coughed up three goals on just eight shots. Reto Berra, G (L, 20 SV, 2 GA, .909%) came in and did a much better job, but if Varly is out for an extended period of time, Pickard will probably take the number one reigns again despite this rough start. There is still no word on how long Varly may or may not be out but one this is for sure, the Avs aren’t playing for much right now, so there’s no reason for them to rush him back.
Tyson Barrie, D (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Over the last few weeks Barrie has been one of the best offensive options in fantasy hockey period. Over that span he has two goals, six assists, four penalty minutes, three power play points, 15 shots on goal, six hits, seven blocks, a plus-5 rating and a partridge in a pear tree. The Avs might be a bit of a mess but they’ve been showing the signs of life that made us all really excited to own a lot of their guys to start the season.