This is always a tumultuous time of year in the NHL. Teams are either gearing up for a deep playoff run, just trying to crack the final tournament, or winding down for the year. That leads to a lot of movement in the lineups for teams, so be sure to check the RotoWire depth charts. Thereís nothing more frustrating than using a player for daily fantasy only to find he had been demoted to the fourth line that morning.
All the skaters in this article are priced $4,000 or less. There will be a couple of goalies at the end to use on different days this week that offer a very low price point as well. Remember to check back through the week for updates.
Travis Zajac, $3,800
There is rationale behind recommending Zajac. Itís not typically advised Ė outside of a large-field tournament Ė to target players from low-scoring teams. Going into Monday nightís action, the Devils were 26th in team goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, ahead of only Edmonton, Buffalo, and Arizona. The mark of the Devils is 1.86 goals per 60 minutes.
Of course, not all lines score at that rate. Overall on the season, the Devils have scored 1.80 goals per 60 minutes with Zajac on the ice. When Zajac has played with Michael Cammalleri, though, that number is 2.51 goals per 60 minutes, and thatís in over 405 minutes of ice time. That mark is roughly what Blake Wheeler and Logan Couture produce for their respective teams. The team generates considerably more shot attempts with the two of them on the ice together, a solid indication that thereís some good offensive chemistry here.
New Jersey has a tough Tuesday game with Pittsburgh, but then get the Sabres on Friday. On that night, Zajac looks to be a solid play to reach value. I donít even mind using him for cap relief the next night in a GPP against the sliding New York Islanders and their 28th-ranked penalty kill.
Melker Karlsson $3,600
After going 11 straight games without a goal, Karlsson has scored three in his last five. Itís not the hot streak that intrigues me about Karlsson, itís what he was able to do despite going double-digit games without finding the back of the net.
After signing a contract with the team as a free agent after last season, Karlsson had 10 points in 20 games with San Joseís AHL affiliate before joining the big team this year. In 40 NHL games, he has 12 goals and 19 points.
Players come and go in the NHL, and normally itís not much to sign a 23-year old free agent. I found this interesting about Karlsson: in the calendar 2015 year, heís second among Sharks forwards in individual scoring chances at five-on-five (behind only Logan Couture). This isnít a player who has hit a couple hot streaks and then has disappeared; heís been among the Sharksí best offensive creators for two and a half months.
Playing on the line he does with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski most certainly helps him create offense. In the daily game, Karlsson is kind of similar to New York Islanders forward Anders Lee; he carries a lot of value because of who heís playing with, and it bears out in both the superficial and underlying numbers. With San Jose facing an ailing Winnipeg team and a bad Toronto team, Iím fine with Karlsson on both Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Nail Yakupov $3,400
Itís certainly not been a good season for the young Oilers (again). They are staring down the barrel of another top-three draft pick, and being at the bottom of the league will always depress fantasy value.
Yakupov is a first overall pick that has started to find his game a bit of late. With points in four straight games, Yakupov is on his second four-plus game point streak in a month in a half, and theyíre his only two such streaks this year. On top of that, in eight games going into Monday night, Yakupov had 27 shots on goal. Thatís over a shot-per-game more than his season average.
Edmonton is at home to Columbus on a short slate Wednesday night. Itís a light schedule, but with the Kings, Ducks, Rangers, and Blackhawks playing, there are a lot of expensive players. With a fairly bad team in their own right coming into town, Yakupov is fine for cap relief in a cash game, though more suited for a large tournament.
Alex Edler $3,900
Itís been a tough year for Edler offensively, but at the least, he has improved dramatically in the plus/minus department (plus-9) compared to last season (minus-39). Thatís important for a defenseman because with their low upside, a two-point loss because of plus/minus could cut a nightís production in half.
The particular reason for liking Edler this week is the Canucks' schedule: Vancouver has home games against Philadelphia and Columbus, then go on the road to face Los Angeles and Arizona. While the Los Angeles game is obviously a tough matchup, Philadelphia (29th), Arizona (26th) and Columbus (25th) are all in the bottom 20-percent of the NHL in penalty killing. In the Canucks most recent game, Edler played all the power-play time for defensemen.
The five-on-five matchups are more favorable against Columbus and Arizona specifically, but Edler is a fine cash game play against every team this week, save for the Kings on Saturday night.
Dustin Tokarski $6,500
Montreal suffered a loss on Monday night to Tampa Bay, but turn around for another game Tuesday against the Panthers. The key to the game against Florida is the opposing goalie: Roberto Luongo wasnít ready to play over the weekend for Florida, so it may be Dan Ellis in net again for the Panthers, a team whose play has declined steadily over the season at five-on-five.
Assuming Carey Price gets the night off, Tokarski is a great option for tournament plays. I will keep an eye on the goaltending situation, and if Price does indeed start for the second game in as many nights, I will add another goalie later this week.
*Some stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis, War On Ice, and Hockey Reference