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The Waiver Wire: Blue Line Bomber

Mike Wilson

Mike Wilson writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

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.

The Waiver Wire – For the Week of December 14 - 21

Better Than You Think

Kevin Shattenkirk D, STL – We have been fans of his since his days in Colorado, and were absolutely floored when both he and Chris Stewart were traded to St. Louis for Erik Johnson and a 1st round pick. Three years later, Shattenkirk has emerged as one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, much to the shagrin of the Avalanche. In 29 games this year, he has three goals and 21 assists with a plus-12 rating, 25 PIM, 15PPP and 69 shots. From a fantasy perspective, that puts him second in most scoring styles – behind only the exceptionally hot Mark Giordano. Every owning fantasy GM rates him high on their charts, but specifically for keeper leagues, Shattenkirk is one of the most valuable long-term assets in the NHL right now – and not being treated as such by most keeper GMs. Not only is he continuing to get better at what he does – as evidenced by his continuing increase in points year-over-year – but he’s young, has no history of serious injuries, and is playing on one of the best teams in the league, with one of the best defensive structures. If you’re contemplating making a move to get him, don’t be afraid to open up the wallet to do so.

Andrew Ladd LW, WPG – From a fantasy perspective, Andrew Ladd is one of the most dependable players in the NHL. He puts up roughly the same numbers year-over-year, regardless of how well or how poorly his team is performing. This year, however, he’s found a new gear that has benefitted both the Jets and his fantasy owners. Thirty games into the season, he has 11 goals and 12 assists with a plus-four and 30 PIM; that would put him on pace to record career-highs in goals and assists, and put him in the top 25 in scoring by year end. If you assume that prediction to be more-or-less accurate, his ownership rates are low enough that most fantasy owners would be willing to trade him given the right package. Consider trading away someone who is in an overperform situation right now to try and capture his long-term stability.


Good Bets

Scott Darling G, CHI – Color us surprised; when Corey Crawford went down with an injury, the natural course of action would have had Darling get promoted to ride the pine while able backup Antti Raanta got the crease. For the first two games, that looked like the game plan, but Darling has started in three straight games, and will get the start on Saturday night against the Islanders. In those three games, he’s allowed only five goals total, and has three wins. His season totals of 1.80 GAA and .939 SV% have been superlative, and while he continues to get the nod in the Windy City, he’s a great bet in deep leagues.

Mathieu Perreault C, WPG – After a great season with Anaheim last year, he became an off-season enigma by signing in Winnipeg. While in California, he notched career-highs in both goals and assists, and was looking to take a step up a weaker depth chart with the Jets. To start the season, it had looked like a poor decision; he had only recorded three points in 20 games by mid-November. In the last nine games, however, he’s found his spark – tallying four goals and four assists, to go with a plus-six, four PIM and a pair of power play points. He’s also been rewarded with much more ice time, and looks to have solidified himself on the second line. With an ownership level of 4%, he’s readily available in almost all leagues, and will prove himself a good grab in deep pools.

Justin Braun D, SJS – As with any team, it takes a bit of time to figure out the ramifications of a trade, such as the one that San Jose made, shipping off Jason Demers for Brenden Dillon. What appears to have happened is that Justin Braun has emerged as the key beneficiary. Since that trade at the end of November, Braun has five points in nine games, and has logged big first-line minutes. He doesn’t get much time on the power play, but he seems to provide consistent point and PIM output. He’s also playing on a team that is underperforming right now, so his ownership levels are at a low. While you’ll never confuse him for Erik Karlsson, deep-pool teams need depth defensive talent, and right now Braun is looking good for exactly that. If you have six or more defensive spots, grab him for that last position.

Hidden Gems

Tyler Ennis C, BUF – We never thought we’d see the day in the season where we’d be recommending a Buffalo player as a hidden gem, but then again, we never thought there’d be a team (let alone many teams) worse than the Sabres. In 29 games this season, he has eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points, to go along with 25 PIM. That’s a respectable amount, but if you look at the totals recently, he has three goals and eight assists in ten games, along with six PIM. That’s great for a guy who isn’t well owned (13%). Of course, his plus-minus is bad at minus-eight and likely to get worse as the season progresses. If you’re in a league without plus-minus, or you’re strong enough to be able to support a mid-teen minus, grab him. He’s looking like a good point producer.

Mika Zibanejad C/W, OTT – He’s a streaky player, but one that is great to pick up whenever he’s “on”. We think his last week qualifies as that; in five games he has four goals and three assists for seven points. With the recent firing of Paul MacLean, we’re unsure how this is going to help or hurt Zibanejad, but we suspect that with Dave Cameron taking over it will only help. Cameron has a history of helping to develop young players, and Zibanejad needs to learn consistency at the NHL level before he can take that next step of being a star in the league. His 8% ownership level is reflective of his play this season so far, but not his hot streak. Grab him now and ride the wave; re-evaluate every few games to see if the streak is broken, and dump him back to waivers when the ride ends.

Peter Holland C, TOR – Both Holland and Nazem Kadri were drafted in the 1st round of the 2009 draft, but where the latter has both excited and disappointed in equal measure, the former has quietly, diligently worked and honed his craft. Holland’s game has become a solid two-way effort, excelling at shutting down the opposition’s best players while simultaneously providing a bit of a scoring punch. In 28 games, he has seven goals and five assists, and is a minus-two, but those statistics don’t show how his game has developed in the last dozen games – in the last three games, he has two goals and an assist, while posting a plus-four, and representing what we think we can start to expect from him going forward. Based on this progression, a 40-point, plus-ten season is not out of the question for him. That’s an excellent haul for someone who is available in virtually every league.

Watch

Adam Lowry C, WPG – Someone that you’re going to want to watch is the development of Adam Lowry. In the last three games he has four points with a plus-three, and has solidified his spot on the third line with Evander Kane. Having someone with the skill of Kane on the wing is a big boost to his potential production, and after a fight in Buffalo, he’s also willing to drop the gloves if necessary. After a stretch in mid-October to mid-November where he barely touched the scoresheet, he looks to have gotten his act together, and this may be something more permanent than not. Flag him for follow up in a week.

Tomas Fleischmann C, FLA – While it seems that he’s lost a step in the past few years in Florida, we believe greatly in his ability and his status as a perennial underdog. This year hasn’t looked good until very recently; he was a healthy scratch at the end of November, and it seems the message was well received. Since his benching, he’s put up two goals and four assists in eight games, to go with a plus-six and two PIM. That’s the type of thing we would like to see more of from him before committing to an investment. He’s a skilled guy, but has had a lot of bad luck with linemates; if he can find the right chemistry, we think he can be a 50-point guy again.

Barret Jackman D, STL – We love him as a non-fantasy defenseman, but he’s been very difficult to consider investing in over the years in any pool we’ve been in. With a career high of 27 points in a season, you won’t be winning any trophies by filling your roster with guys like him. As the saying goes, every dog has his day, and in this case, every dog has his week. In three games, he has a goal and three assists and a plus-seven rating – certainly not too shabby. We doubt this will continue, but flagging a player costs you nothing, and in Jackman’s case, you might see the start of a career-year forming.

Be Careful

Anze Kopitar C, LAK – Talk about a terrible start to a season; almost a third of the way through the season now, and Kopitar is on pace for under 50 points and career-worsts in virtually every stat category. His performance has been so bad that we’ve started to see people in mid-depth teams dumping him in favor of typical waiver wire acquisitions like Kris Versteeg or Jori Lehtera. No disrespect to either of those gentlemen, but Kopitar has been such a stud since he entered the league that this level of performance is more indicative of a lingering injury than anything else. Be careful when contemplating a trade for him; keeper leagues should have an easy time investing in him, but single-season pools should be very wary of investing.