The NHL is constantly in flux league-wide. Just a week ago, one of the players that will be named in this column (Ales Hemsky) was fixated on Dallasí fourth line. Now, heís nearly a must-play. Injuries, recalls, suspensions, and general line blending can wreak havoc. Itís important to stay on top of changing situations, so keeping an eye on the RotoWire depth charts is a must.
Here are some players this week that have been put in fortuitous situations to succeed offensively. All of the skaters mentioned will be under $4,000 to start the week, but salaries fluctuate so they may be higher or lower as the week wears on.
Matthew Nieto, San Jose ($3,600)
Of all teams this week, San Jose might have the easiest schedule in matching up against Buffalo, Florida, and Arizona on the docket, with those last two games coming at home. While the Sharks have jumbled their lines at times this season, Nieto has been a fairly consistent fixture among the top-six forwards, and is currently playing on a line with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture.
Nieto is a very skilled forward who was thrust into the top-six last season because of injuries. Heís stayed there for the most part, but hasnít really produced so far like fantasy owners may have hoped. Like Hemsky, though, Nieto has probably been the recipient of a bit of bad luck, so that minus-2 rating heís sporting so far shouldnít dip any further.
The Sharks control 58.3 percent of unblocked shot attempts with Nieto on the ice at 5-on-5, a number that leads the team. That strong percentage, along with some better expected luck for when the teamís goaltenders decide to make saves, should allow Nietoís plus/minus to rebound. Heís also playing on the second power-play unit. Considering the schedule of games coming, his position with the team, and the misfortune heís encountered so far, it will be tough to leave Nieto out of lineups every night he plays for the next few games.
UPDATE: Nieto was moved to the third line at Tuesday's morning skate. It looks like he's still getting power-play time, and because of how favorable his matchups are this week, I still feel he'll deliver some profit for at his listed price.
Mike Richards, Los Angeles ($3,500)
This selection is purely about opportunity, and has almost nothing to do with underperformance or bad luck. The Kings had a dominating second line to begin the season, with all of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson scoring at torrid paces. With the return of Marian Gaborik -- and the teamís struggles in general -- the lineup has been flipped a bit. The last incarnation has seen Richards on a line with Toffoli and Pearson. Heís also been given second-unit power-play minutes.
Richards is shooting less on a per-game basis than he ever has, and for the season, heís averaging the fewest minutes he has at any point in his NHL career. All this is about is a cheap DFS asset getting a good offensive opportunity. The Kings have Florida, Dallas, and Carolina on the schedule this week, and the first two teams in that list are in the bottom-half of the league in shots allowed per game. None of their opponents are deep down the middle, either, so they are seemingly good matchups for Richards.
Ales Hemsky, Dallas ($3,300)
The cushy right wing position on Dallasí top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin was supposed to belong Valeri Nichushkin. Nichushkin was injured, and re-injured, and now will be out until late in the season. It was also given to Patrick Eaves, who was also injured. There were times Jason Spezza moved to the top trio as part of a superline, but that was broken up recently. It was at that point that Ales Hemsky was put on the top line. In Tuesdayís practice, though, he was moved back to the second line with Spezza.
To be sure, itís been a bad year so far for Hemsky. On a per-game basis, heís averaged his lowest shot rate since the 2004-05 lockout season. To date, he has zero goals and two assists in 17 games.l That doesnít really tell the whole story, though.
So far this season, Dallas is exactly a break-even team possession-wise when Hemsky is on the ice (via War On Ice). That might not sound very good, but heís almost neck-and-neck with Jamie Benn in that regard. By on-ice save and shooting percentages, thereís a good argument Hemsky has been very unlucky so far this season (via Behind The Net). In fact, that measure of luck is called PDO, and Hemsky is in the bottom 30 forwards of the league in that category.
Dallas will face Carolina, Arizona, and Los Angeles this week. Two of those three games are very good matchups, and Hemsky is getting secondary power-play time on top of his placement with Spezza. Thereís value to be had here.
Matt Dumba, Minnesota ($3,100)
The Wild recently welcomed back Marco Scandella from an illness, but theyíre still without Jonas Brodin. Brodin was being used on the power play at times this season. At this point, Dumba is being used as the lone defenseman on what would be Minnesotaís second power-play unit. Thatís a pretty good spot to be, because at some point sooner or later, that unit will have to run its offence through Dumba.
For hockey fans that may be unfamiliar with the young defenseman, Dumba was the No. 7 overall pick a couple of years ago for Minnesota. He did appear with the club in 2013-14, but heís technically a rookie this season. Dumba can see the ice very well, and has a shot that is worthy of being the lone defenseman on a power play.
Minnesota has struggled mightily with their power-play conversions this season, but they are generating unblocked shot attempts at a rate that is higher than top-10 power plays like Boston and St. Louis. That would indicate that Minnesotaís power play should turn around, and their next three games are against penalty kills ranked 13th, 20th and 29th in the NHL by conversion percentage. For a near-minimum price, Dumba is one of the best punt options on defence this week.
Antti Raanta, Chicago ($7,100)
Recently, Raanta was shipped back to the AHL in favor of Scott Darling. It was likely borne out of a desire by coach Joel Quenneville to get Raanta some starts rather than just rotting on the bench behind Corey Crawford. On Monday, Raanta was recalled by the Blackhawks for their upcoming six-game road trip.
Raanta hasnít been anything special since arriving in the NHL. Last season, there were 55 goalies with at least 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 time, and Raanta was last in save percentage at .894. This season, that number is .922, but heís only appeared in three games. Thereís no baseline of what to expect, so league-average goalie production would seem to be the best projection to use for Raanta.
This weekend, Chicago has back-to-back games in Edmonton and Vancouver. While Edmonton would be the easier matchup, neither is awful for an elite Chicago team. If Raanta gets Edmonton, heís a great cash or tournament play. If he gets Vancouver, heís still a solid tournament option.
Good luck this week!