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NHL Waiver Wire: Category Winners for the Playoffs

Dan Waldner

Dan Waldner covers hockey for RotoWire, and has been involved in fantasy hockey pools for 15 years. He's a lifetime Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a passion his wife puts up with and his daughter is starting to emulate.

Hopefully, this cheat sheet helped a few of you secure a playoff spot (for those of you wrapping up the regular season) or get through the first round successfully. Most of you will be well into the thick of the post-season now, and I'll supply you with the lowdown on category winners you can grab in a pinch.

Goals

Mark Scheifele C, WPG -
His ownership rate is fairly high (67 percent) but there's a reasonable chance he's free in shallow-to-mid-depth leagues. His numbers in the last month are insane; 11 goals and eight assists in 15 games. Winnpeg plays Buffalo on Saturday, so there's a solid chance for goals there -- he has five goals in three games against teams near them in league standings.

Nino Niederreiter W, MIN -
With seven goals in the last month, three games this week, and ownership below 10 percent, he's the go-to waiver claim for goals in mid-to-deep pools. Minnesota is deep in the playoff race, and their week of LA-Calgary-Colorado will define their chances of playing in April. The game at home to Calgary on Thursday will be a must-win to keep pace; grabbing Niederreiter late in the week to play against the Flames and the Avalanche on Saturday looks to produce at least a goal or two.

Zack Smith C, OTT -
Ottawa has a rough stretch of games this week against Washington, the New York Islanders and Anaheim. Interestingly, the Caps and Isles are back-to-back Tuesday/Wednesday. Regardless of the likelihood of a double loss for the Sens, there's bound to be goals in those 120 minutes of hockey, and Smith is a good chance to play a part in some of them. At 20 percent ownership, he's probably only available at mid-depth and above, but he's another guy who can get you some needed goals -- he has five in the last eight games.

Assists

Mike Ribeiro C, NSH -
Really, I'd like to change my tune from week-to-week, but he's just so good at producing assists that I'd almost be criminally negligent if I didn't mention him yet again. Ownership rate is still at 20 percent, so if you need the category, most of you have no excuse to avoid him.

Sean Couturier C, PHI -
He's owned in less than 5 percent of leagues, so there's little worry about his availability. With six assists in the last seven games, there's nobody available and hot (with assists, mind you) that you can get. Philly also has a very beneficial schedule for the week, with four games against teams that will allow a bunch of points: Islanders (Mon), Blue Jackets (Tue), Avalanche (Thurs), and Coyotes (Saturday). For just this week, he might provide a better assist punch than Ribeiro.


Power Play Points

Alec Martinez D, LAK -
For exactly half of you, Martinez is an option. His ownership rate is 50 percent, and he quarterbacks the second unit of the L.A. power play. That's going to be critical this week, as the Thursday-Saturday matchups will be Winnipeg and Edmonton; two teams L.A. should be able to beat up on. Tuesday's matchup against the Wild pits them against one of the worst penalty killing squads in the league. Those are rather ripe opportunities for Martinez to take advantage of.

Cam Fowler D, ANA -
In the last 30 days, his power play performance is tied for fourth in the league with six points in 13 games. There's been a drop off the last six games, but this week has the medicine to fix what ails the Anaheim power play. Games against Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa present the Ducks with games against three teams out of the playoff race, and in Ottawa, the second-worst penalty kill in the league. His ownership is fairly high at 39 percent, but power play points are incredibly difficult to obtain this time of year.

Hampus Lindholm D, ANA -
If Fowler is gone (and there's a solid chance of that), don't be afraid to go with a very worthy alternate in Lindholm. His power play performance over the last 30 days has been equal to Fowler, but his ownership rate is a touch higher at 44 percent. His increased demand is a reflection of his better satellite statistics -- he's put up a few more assists and PIM to Fowlers. Regardless, Lindholm quarterbacks the second unit, which isn't as deadly as the first, which Fowler captains. The result: use Lindholm as a plan B if you're looking to capitalize on the Ducks power play this week.

Plus/Minus

Andrew Cogliano C/LW/RW, ANA -
At 2 percent ownership, he's open season to all pools. His plus-seven in the last six games is the best you'll find on the waiver wire, and third-best in the league for the same period. Grabbing him early next week allows you to take advantage of the wonderful schedule that Anaheim has -- as mentioned, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. He's also netted a goal and three assists in that same timeframe, so he's not just going to help the one category.

Antoine Vermette C/LW, ARI -
The hottest player in the league has to be mentioned in this article somewhere, and plus-minus is as reasonable a place as any. With ten points in seven games, he's white hot, and not looking to cool down anytime soon. Playing Dallas and Philly later in the week should cool him down a bit, but that game on Tuesday against Edmonton should be awesome. His plus-six in six games is fourth best in the league in that time, and only Jamie Benn has more power play points. Really, he's a can't miss opportunity that's less than 20 percent owned -- a bona fide diamond in the playoff rough.

Penalty Minutes

Patrick Maroon LW, EDM -
In addition to putting up seven points in the last month, he's also notched 27 PIM and three power play points. His arrival in Edmonton has really sparked his play, and he looks to be one of the best all-around-plus-PIM options right now. If you're looking at boosting the one category without a huge sacrifice to the others, Maroon is your man.

Marcus Foligno LW, BUF -
If you're looking at going more "all in" on your PIM category, something has possessed Foligno. Fantasy GMs can ride the wave of his bully-come-lately, as he's put up 31 PIM in the last six games -- all spaced out and predictable, not focused into one big game. He's also put up a pair of goals and a plus-four, so he's not going to likely wreck the rest of your categories. At 1 percent owned, he's available everywhere -- unless one of his brothers is playing in the league with you.

Goaltending

Joni Ortio G, CGY -
With an ownership of 10 percent, he might be all that's left in most leagues. With four wins in the last two weeks, he's actually tied for the most in the league. His 2.40 GAA/.914 SV% have been nothing to write home about, but let's face it -- you need a starter, and he's your best bet on the wire.

Chad Johnson G, BUF -
His 16 percent ownership is a smidge better than Ortio, but he's got much better numbers in GAA (1.62) and SV% (.944) over the last two weeks, and he's only got one less win. If you're hesitant or bullish on the prospects of a Calgary goalie, you're probably not too optimistic on Buffalo either, but Johnson's numbers will at least give you better odds in the other two categories.

Scott Darling G, CHI -
As Chicago comes down the stretch, they'll be looking to play Darling more and more, allowing Corey Crawford a chance to rest prior to the playoffs. Darling will almost certainly play one of the weekend back-to-back this coming week against Calgary and Vancouver, most likely the first of the two. Even though Chicago has hit a rough patch lately, it'll be a huge disappointment if they can't eke out a win against the Flames. Darling should be able to give you an obtainable win on Saturday night if you need one, or a solid start on Sunday, should they opt for that.