RotoWire Partners

NHL Waiver Wire: Midseason Magic

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.

As we approach the midway point of the season for many teams, a number of really good investments are sitting on the wire of most leagues. If you're in the market for a little production -- either because of injury or lack of performance -- I've trolled the ranks to come up with a number of options that should meet most of your needs.

Aleksander Barkov C, FLA -
With a little less than 50 percent ownership, it's amazing that Barkov's even remotely available given the run both he and the Panthers have been on in the last month. With Florida winning 11 consecutive, the hottest team in the league has a number of hot players who have been producing prodigiously, none better than Barkov. As the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, his pedigree has always been present, but this season has seen his awakening from future up-and-comer to current-day star. In 31 games, the young Finn has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points, to go with a fantastic plus-13 rating and seven power play points. While his PIM contribution leaves a little to be desired, there's no denying that he can provide in every other offensive category that your pool has to offer. On top of that, he's on fire: in his last 10 games, he's put up 13 points and a plus-15. I'm not convinced he's a perennial over-a-point-per-game player quite yet, but it's not out of the question given how dominant he's been in the last three weeks. Given the upside he has to offer, and the opportunities he's receiving in the Sunshine state, he's a great investment should he be available in your league.

Shane Doan W, ARI -
Historically, he's been a cornerstone of many of my teams for years for his grit and consistency he brings. Doan was a slam dunk for 50-plus points, 20-plus power play points and 60-70 PIM, but the last few years has seen his contributions wane in the desert. This season started out looking like a continuation of the downturn, with six goals and two assists in 21 games; recently the old Doan has magically reappeared. In his last 10 games, he has nine goals and two assists for 11 points and three powe-play points, including a hat trick against Chicago on Dec. 29. While he's lost a step on his PIM contributions, this doesn't seemed to have hurt any other element of his offensive game. He's also widely available, owned in only about 30 percent of leagues, and seems like a solid bet to take now. His history of solid play indicates that this resurgence might not be merely a hot streak, but a maintainable upspike in his production caused by catalysts around him such as Max Domi and Michael Stone.

Ryan Spooner C/W, BOS -
I wrote about Spooner a few weeks back and have been vindicated that his performance has continued to inspire investment. While his ownership rate has increased since -- now 23 percent -- it hasn't raised in lock-step with his performance, which is curious. In the last month, Spooner has four goals and 10 assists for 14 points, along with four PIM and four power-play points. While four of those assists came in one game against the bipolar Pittsburgh Penguins, he's riding a four-game point streak. Spooner doesn't get enough fantasy respect for the opportunities he has at his disposal: he's riding wing on one of the hottest power-play units in the league, and centering a very potent second line with Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson. His 28 points in 39 games with 25 PIM and 12 PPP indicates that his recent hot streak is more indicative of a solid year, and not anything temporary or transient. There appears to be little risk in taking a flyer on Spooner, and there's a lot of upside on the gamble. If you're in a mid-depth league or greater and looking for an injury replacement or someone to pick up at the bottom of your roster, Spooner is a great add.

Carl Soderberg C/W, COL -
His ownership rates have steadily increased since his relatively poor start to the season where he recorded only five points in October. His production in both November and December was solid and consistent, with 10 and 11 points, respectively. January appears to be running at the same pace; extrapolating this out to the rest of the season puts him at 56 points -- a career high with records in almost every category. While he's centering the third line -- a concern from an opportunity perspective -- he's also playing with both Gabriel Landeskog and Blake Comeau, two capable wingers. He's also riding wing on the top line power-play unit with Nathan MacKinnon, Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Francois Beauchemin on the back end. While Colorado hasn't been able to reproduce the success from a few years ago, they're solidly in the wild-card race in the West, and on a tear lately, claiming 14 of a possible 20 points in their last 10 games. From that combination of team success and opportunity, Soderberg should be able to not only maintain but potentially increase his performance from now to the end of the year. Given his ownership rate of 24 percent, keep an eye on him. If his performance continues to be solid as I expect, pick him up.

Tom Wilson W, WAS -
Nobody is going to confuse him and Alex Ovechkin on the scoresheet, but Wilson has been a solid contributor in secondary categories. His 13 points in 40 games has been anything but spectacular, but his 98 PIM is a category killer that warrants his addition on deep teams. He ranks third in the league in PIM, but he's the only one in the top five with a positive plus-minus rating, and he also has more points. It's a rarity to find a goon-like player with the ability to contribute occasionally in other categories and not hurt you in the plus-minus. Even though you might not think it, Wilson does have a very capable set of hands -- in the OHL, he was more than a point-per-game player and found worthy of being drafted in the first round. Simply relegating him to the goon ranks may be premature, though he has yet to really show the skilled side of his game. With a 9 percent ownership rating, he's available almost everywhere and a solid choice if your pool has PIM as a category.

Nino Niederreiter W, MIN -
I'm still maintaining a Watch rating on Niederreiter given his history of inconsistent play, but his recent performance has been worthy of investement -- and soon. While his 20 points in 40 games has been anything but stellar, examining his game log turns up quite a shift in his production. In the last 10 games, the young Swiss has eight points -- and more importantly, has produced points in six separate contests. He's also recorded a plus-six and six PIM in the same timeframe -- all very promising. This lies in stark contrast to his 12 points in 30 games prior, and hopefully shows that his position on the second line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville has paid dividends. Based on his recent play, it's unlikely that he'll be moved anytime soon. While he's sitting on the second line, his ownership rate of 8 percent is woefully inadequate, and offers an opportunity for GMs in deep leagues to piggy back the performance of both Granlund and Pominville -- two players who are having very good seasons in their own right. He's a gem in the rough, and if you're in a position to add a streaking player with the potential of holding for some time, consider Niederreiter.

Sean Couturier C, PHI -
Since being drafted in the first round by Philadelphia in 2011, Couturier has never really lived up to the burdensome expectations that have been leveled upon him. His career-best year was an uninspiring 39 points to date, and he doesn't seem to have it within him to take his production to the next level. It's little wonder that with numbers that low that fantasy ownership rates would be equally disappointing. That lack of desire to invest has given people paying attention an opportunity to grab a player exhibiting a hot streak. In his last 10 games, Couturier has put up 12 points, and hit the scoresheet on eight different evenings. He's always been very responsible defensively, but his last 10 games has seen his plus-minus rating jump by 12 points. That's a gigantic jump in a very short window. While the jury remains out on whether this is the makings of a solid second-half to a season, or merely a great stretch of 10 games, it is readily apparent that he's making the most of the opportunities he has available. In addition to getting big-time minutes on the second line with Michael Raffl and Brayden Schenn, he's also centering the second power-play unit with Raffl, Matt Read, Evgeni Medvedev and Michael Del Zotto. With only one power play point this year, it seems the opportunity to play with Schenn has been the more productive opportunity, but never discount the ability to play on the man-advantage. While his ownership hovers at 5 percent, he's a great pick if you're looking to ride a hot hand -- it looks like it might continue for a while longer.