The Waiver Wire – For the Week of December 7th – December 14th
Better Than You Think
Tyler Johnson C, TBL – After a solid starting season, it’s common for an exceptional rookie – especially one who snagged a Calder nomination for his efforts – to take a step back in his second year. His performance a quarter of the way through this season, though, shows us just how uncommon his talent is. He’s currently sitting at above a point-per-game pace, with 28 points in 27 games, but also a fantastic plus-16 rating with 71 shots and a handful of PIM. He’s highly owned – currently sitting in the low-80s – but it’s very likely that the owners who have him don’t yet place the value on him that they should. He’s not a household name just yet, but that’s not going to last forever. Remember, there was a time that Patrick Sharp wasn’t known either. See if you can pry Johnson away from whoever owns him in your league – he’s going to be valuable commodity for a long time.
Joffrey Lupul W, TOR – Few people who have ever watched him play doubt his skill or his ability to put the puck in the net; his biggest knock has always been his ability to stay healthy. He’s been in the NHL for 11 years now, but only managed to play in 613 games (an average of 56 games a season). When he is able to play, though, he’s been dynamite. In the four and a half years he’s been in Toronto, he’s averaged just under a point-per-game. Since his return from his most recent injury - a broken bone in his hand – he has five points in four games, and looked great in doing so. His ownership levels indicate that he’s about fifty-fifty for availability in your league, and if you want to grab him and ride the wave until he gets hurt again, you’ll be in for a good time. Bonus points if you can ride the wave and trade him before he takes a puck off the wrist or sprains a knee.
John Carlson D, WAS – He may not have the cache of the similar sounding Erik Karlsson, nor the numbers to necessarily compare, but he’s been a quietly awesome fantasy defenseman for the last five years for Washington. We suspected that with the arrival of Barry Trotz as coach, the biggest winners would be the defensemen, as his system largely stresses solid back end play. Carlson has four goals and 14 assists for 18 points in 25 games, and has seven points in his last five games. Keep in mind that five of those points have come on the power play, where he quarterbacks the top unit, and his fantasy value starts to become clear. His ownership rates have spiked in the last week with his string of points, but he’s still available in some leagues. He’s becoming less “hidden” as days go by, so you’d better grab him if you can.
Mike Santorelli W, TOR – This journeyman has been a surprise now for two consecutive seasons. Playing in Vancouver last year – his fourth team – he was one of the few bright lights on a team that woefully underperformed. This season in Toronto, he has four goals and 14 assists in 25 games, with a plus-13 rating on the third line. He’s always conspicuous on the ice for putting in maximum effort, and either grinding dutifully along the boards, playing a solid defensive game in his own end, or of late, throwing up a boatload of points. While 18 points in 25 games is nothing to shake a stick at, he has nine points in his last six games, and in that stretch has been a plus-seven, and a big reason why the Leafs have been able to climb through the standings. He’s also 7% owned, which is a travesty considering how he plays. If you’re in a deep league, get him for at least the next two weeks – you’ll thank us.
Karri Ramo G, CGY – Last year was a rough one for the Finnish netminder, posting a 17-15-4 record with a 2.65 GAA / .911 SV%. Expectations were high, and he wasn’t able to solidify the thought that perhaps he was the goalie of the future for the Flames. Fast-forward to this season, and you can slowly see how he’s being groomed for the future number one position in a post-Jonas Hiller team He has six straight wins stretching over the last month where he has two shutouts and a GAA under two. His 8-2-1 record is reflective not only of his improved play, but also of the generally fantastic play of the entire team. Combine his currently stellar play with the poor recent performance of Hiller, and the future may be closer than we think. If you’re in a deep pool and can take a chance, or have Hiller in a mid-depth pool and want to protect your investment, grab Ramo now.
Rob Klinkhammer W, PIT – After being traded Friday to Pittsburgh, Rob Klinkhammer’s fantasy value is riding at an all-time high right now. Before you jump too quickly, that value is still not that high – he’s now on his fifth team in his fifth season in the NHL, and his career best was a 20-point season in Phoenix last year. What can we say about Klinkhammer? He’s responsible defensively – never posting a minus season in his career – and he has a decent ability to score points given enough of an opportunity. In Pittsburgh, he may find a good home on the third line with Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie. He may also find himself popping up onto the top six as injuries persist. Right now, the top line has seen Jayson Megna, Nick Spaling, and even Marcel Goc patrolling the wing – Klinkhammer could find some success up there, and early investors may find an amazing return. If you’re in a deep pool, he’s a good person to pick up on the off-chance for success.
Antti Raanta G, CHI – This bet is really a no-brainer – Raanta is a very capable backup goalie, and starter Corey Crawford is out for about three weeks with a foot injury. Chicago is a powerhouse team in the West, and even a cardboard cutout would be a great pick in most leagues. Raanta’s numbers indicate he’s anything but that, posting a 2.02 GAA / .942 SV% in five starts. Obviously, it’s highly unlikely that Raanta has any real hopes of stealing the job from Crawford, so this bump is very much a temporary thing, but any time you can grab the starting goalie from a top team in the league, it’s a win. Ride the wave as long as you can, and on the off-chance that Crawford’s injury is worse than believed, you’ll have hit a home run.
Nick Holden W/D, COL – Holden was one of our deep sleeper picks in the draft - one that really didn’t turn out as well as expected to start the season. He has two goals and three assists in 27 games for the Avs, and really hasn’t looked as good as we had hoped. However, his fantasy value turned on a dime this week when coach Patrick Roy put him as a fourth-line winger against the Flames where he potted a goal. If he sticks as a forward – even as a fourth-liner – his value becomes astronomically higher. The ability to put a winger in a defenseman spot is extremely rare in most leagues, and almost always beneficial to the owner. Last year, Brent Burns was one of the highest scoring defensive-eligible players in any league, even though he wasn’t playing the position. Mid-depth teams should flag him; deep teams should immediately grab him.
Jason Zucker W, MIN – We mentioned him in our November 1st article, and we think it bears repeating – keep an eye on Jason Zucker. He has six points in eight games to go along with four PIM and a ton of shots, and has looked really good in that stretch. His current assignment is alongside Mikko Koivu and Erik Haula on the third line, which bodes well for the 22-year old. Koivu is a fantastic center, and will boost Zucker’s numbers as long as he’s given the assignment. Minnesota has been underperforming this year by our estimation – something we’re sure to improve in the second half. If we’re right, Zucker will be one of the beneficiaries of that improvement. Flag him for follow up in a few weeks, or invest now if you’re in an exceptionally deep pool.
Brett Connolly W, TBL – He’s still quite young at only 22 years old, however, Connolly is trying to solidify a spot in the NHL, and he’s starting to show that he belongs. After 15 games this year, he has five goals, a plus-two and 17 PIM on Tampa Bay’s third line with Cedric Paquette and Valtteri Filppula. More importantly for trending, he has three goals in three games, and has looked very good with that troika. He’s also getting a decent amount of power play time this year, which on Tampa, is always a fantastic opportunity. While he was in the AHL last year, he was nearly a point-per-game player, so we know he has the ability to score. We think that this recent stretch isn’t a hot streak, but rather an indication of good things to come.
Vincent Trocheck W, FLA – Among the big surprises in Florida this year has been the stellar play of this 21-year old youngster. He started the season down in the AHL, where he put up six points in eight games before getting the call up to the big club. Since his promotion, he has two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 15 games, along with an unusually responsible plus-eight rating. Florida is notorious for developing players properly and with a long-term approach in mind, so don’t expect first-line minutes yet for him, but based on his play, he’ll start next season in the top six for Florida – a team that is becoming remarkably deep through drafting and development.
Drew Doughty D, LAK – With no points in five games, it looks like the two-time Stanley Cup champ is in the midst of a slump, or perhaps, a bad year. If you inspect his game log, aside from a hot streak of seven games in mid-November, where he scored seven points and put up typical Doughty-like numbers, he’s been in a funk all year. In his last five games, he’s been held off the score sheet, and only has four PIM to show for his presence at all fantasy-wise. Now, in a keeper league, his value is undeniable, no question, but since most leagues are single-season, it may be advisable to cut bait at this point and try to get value for him. His name rightly holds a lot of cache, and may allow you to put together a trade that would otherwise be impossible because of his reputation.