Today, From the Press Box:
We keep an eye out for the hottest players who are very likely to be available in your pools by position. You ought to consider these free options ahead of any potential trades that you might consider as alternative. There are some interesting players at each position who are producing well at the moment.
One thing that you will see by examining the names below is that not many of them play for the top NHL teams. The pickings should be slimmer at this stage of the season, so now you are left to examine who among these hot players is in the best position to continue their current trends. The most telling aspect of these forecasts has to include consideration of player ice time and special teams involvement---specifically on the power play.
This is one way that I look at my weekly opportunity to upgrade my team without venturing into the trade market.
Antoine Vermette, Phoenix 7 g, 3 a, in last seven games
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota, 2 g, 6 a, in last six games
Mikael Backlund, Calgary, 5 g, 3 a, in last six games
Travis Zajac, New Jersey, 2 g, 6 a, in last six games
Ryan Johansen, Columbus, 4 g, 2 a, in last seven games
Derek Mackenzie, Columbus, 4 g, 2 a, in last seven games
Tyler Johnson, Tampa, 5 g, 1 a, in last six games
Vermette is the pick of this litter as he is currently riding a seven-game point streak and he's getting a regular turn on the power play, for a team that has a winning record. He looks like a very safe pick right now. The same can almost be said of Ryan Johansen, who has emerged into a fine offensive pivot, with 22 goals and 20 assists for the streaking Blue Jackets. Tyler Johnson has made the most of the opportunity to move up into top-six minutes due to Steven Stamkos' injury. He may get even more ice time with Valtteri Filppula's recent lower body injury.
Eric Nystrom, Nashville, 4 G, 3 a, in last seven
Jamie McGinn, Colorado, 4 g, 2 a, in last six
Jiri Tlusty, Carolina, 2 g, 4 a, in last seven
Lauri Korpikoski, Phoenix, 6 a in last seven
Sean Bergenheim, Florida, 3 g, 2 a, in last seven
Nick Spaling, Nashville, 3 g, 2 a, in last six
Left wing has been the one position where league-wide depth is at the lowest ebb. That's why some of these unheralded names make this list. We spoke of Tlusty's slow start and his recent spark of offensive output last week and he looks like the best option here, especially if the Hurricanes mount a push toward a playoff spot.
Lee Stempniak, Calgary, 1 g, 5 a, in last six
Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas, 2 g, 2 a, in last six
Corey Troup, Columbus, 4 a, in last six
Martin Erat, Washington, 4 a, in last six
David Moss, Phoenix, 1 g, 3 a, in last seven
Mats Zuccarello, NY Rangers, 2 g, 2 a, in last six
Zuccarello has shown flashes of special offensive skills and needs to continue to push for top-six minutes. With the talk of some other Ranger veterans in trade talks (Ryan Callahan), The slick Norwegian has emerged as a critical source of secondary scoring with 39 points in 55 games, for a team that has been challenged to score enough to be a playoff contender. Valeri Nichushkin has been highly touted by no less than Jaromir Jagr, who anticipates that the 6'3”, 19-year old will soon become a dominant force in the NHL. He has been getting some time with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn on the top offensive unit with the Stars and not looked out of place. He seems to understand his defensive responsibilities, in posting a +16 to go along with 26 points in a fine rookie season.
Roman Josi, Nashville, 3 g, 4 a, in last seven
Tom Gilbert, Florida, 6 a, in last seven
Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo, 3 g, 3 a, in last six
Sergei Gonchar, Dallas, 1 g, 4 a, in last seven
Tyson Barrie, Colorado, 2 g, 3 a, in last six
Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg, 5 a, in last six games
The recent coaching change in Winnipeg, bringing in Paul Maurice, has been a catalyst to the whole team, which has an 8-2 record under their new bench boss. He has taken the pressure away from his players with the implementation of a system, which focuses on team development and growth. No one has thrived more than former first round pick, 19-year old Jacob Trouba. The teenager has three goals and five assists in his last eight games. The high-scoring defenseman could well be a long-term keeper if this recent sample is an accurate representation of his capabilities. At the other end of the spectrum is veteran Sergei Gonchar, one of the NHL's most prolific scoring defensemen in recent years. Even as a 39-year old, he has chalked up 18 points and remains a key part of the Stars power play unit. If Josi did not start this season with injury woes, there is no way he would not be claimed in most pools by now, but recently he has really rounded into form and is the hottest scoring defenseman on the fantasy free agent wire, with his recent scoring binge.
Anton Khudobin, Carolina, 5 w, 2 l, last seven games
Carter Hutton, Nashville, 4 w, 1 l, last six games
Corey Schneider, New Jersey, 3 w, 1 l, last six games
Chad Johnson, Boston, 3 w, 0 l, in last four games
Reto Berra, Calgary, 2 w, 0 l, in last three games
Ben Scrivens, Edmonton, 2 w, 2 l, in last four games
Sure Ben Scrivens has grabbed some recent headlines, which his NHL record 59-save shutout of the Sharks and Reto Berra has made a habit of highlight-reel saves for the suddenly competitive Calgary Flames, but I look at two other goalies on this list. Corey Schneider is pushing the legendary Martin Brodeur into the realization that the future Hall of Famer is clearly second best right now in New Jersey. Schneider will get the lion's share of the workload going forward and for however long the Devils can entertain playoff hopes. He is the future of goaltending there beyond this season as well. A surprise entry on this list, at first glance, is Anton Khudobin, but his recent streak of effective play are giving rise to trade rumors surrounding longtime starter Cam Ward. In addition the Hurricanes have seen Ward succumb to injury woes. Khudobin's 12-4 record, backed by a 2.16 gaa and .927 save percentage make him a viable candidate for the number one goalie role here.
I encourage you to take this analysis as a sample that you ought to adopt in planning your upcoming waiver claim opportunities. It's safer than losing in a trade, where you may be giving up more than you get in return.