While the rest of the free world is paying attention to the gridiron and Super Bowl 50, you can rest easy knowing that I've been watching over the NHL fantasy wires to find gems to add following the big game. When your friends are asleep on the coach from too many wings and slices of pizza, you can snag one of these players.
Sean Monahan C, CGY - While there's an unlikely chance that he's free in your leagues -- his ownership rates are in the high-60s -- it shouldn't go without mention that if he is free, you should be adding him to your team. While his numbers this year have dipped from his stellar sophomore season that he had last year, where he tallied 62 points in 81 games, he's still on pace to approach those totals. Considering how far Calgary has dropped year-over-year, that's no small feat. In 50 games so far this year, he's posted 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 points -- putting him on pace for 56 by year end. A clear advantage for fantasy owners: he's about even in goals-to-assists, and since most leagues tend to favor those players who light the lamp, his projected 25 goals would be far more valuable than many players who can hit the high-60-point mark with a ton of assists. He's also quite good at scoring on the power play: he has eight power play points, with more to come. His last 10 games have been above-trend for him, potting three goals and four assists. While his availability may be scarce, it's worth a check to see if he's around.
Jordan Staal C/W, CAR - You would be forgiven if you picked up the younger Carolina Staal by accident, thinking him to be the older, if you merely looked at his stat lines this year. Where Eric has traditionally been the fantasy darling, this year, Jordan is turning heads, and with an ownership rate of 20 percent, he's remarkably available. In 53 games, he has 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points along with a perfectly respectable plus-seven, seven power-play points and 12 PIM. Projected out, he's pacing for a career year of more than 50 points. What's more impressive has been his play over the last 10 games, where he's netted two goals and seven assists for nine points. He's also got the coveted dual-position eligibility in most leagues, so you can slot him in easily on those busy nights. Carolina is jockeying for one of the wild-card spots in the East, and for the first time in many years, it looks like they may have a shot at a post-season berth. Doing so will not be an easy task, and both Staal brothers will be leaned upon heavily to make that a reality; perhaps, this might be their only shot together as Eric becomes a UFA at the end of the season. If that's the case, all the more reason for Jordan to continue his scoring ways, and for fantasy GMs to take notice.
Vincent Trocheck C/W, FLA - I've been a fan of his for a few years now, and can remember recommending him last year when his ownership rates were well into the single-digits. Now that Florida has transitioned from a rebuilding franchise to a talented and hungry group, Trocheck is starting to get the recognition (and ownership rates) that he rightly deserves. In his second full season with the big club, the young Pennsylvanian has 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points in 51 games, 10 on the power play, three of which are game-winners. Also helpful, he's a plus-four on the year with 24 PIM. His last 10 has been equally impressive: five goals and three assists for eight points and a plus-six rating. At 25 percent ownership, he's the closest thing you're going to find to a five-tool threat on the waiver wire. Florida doesn't show any sign of slowing down on their march to the division title, a full five points up on second-place Tampa Bay, and recipients of points in six straight games at time of writing. Trocheck is sitting shotgun on the second line with Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith, a dangerous trio that doesn't show any sign of letting up anytime soon. Fantasy owners looking for a solid player on the wire would do well to recruit Trocheck.
Pat Maroon W, ANH - Let's label this option as a diamond in the rough -- depending on your situation and appetite for risk. Maroon is an ideal fantasy player when he's on his game -- a threat to hit the score sheet in both five-on-five or the man-advantage, a typically defensively-responsible player with reasonable plus-minus results, and a PIM magnet. A poor man's Scott Hartnell, if you will. Unfortunately, that player has been missing in action the entire year. Aside from the typically useful PIM tally that he has put up, his year has been a solid disappointment. In 45 games this year, he has two goals and nine assists for 11 points, along with a minus-nine, three power-play points and 47 PIM. With all that negativity over his year, his last 10 games have shown a glimmer of hope that he's turned the corner to return to his fantasy ways. Since the new year, he has a goals and five assists, a plus-one, and 14 PIM. In that time, Anaheim has also won nine of 10, and the entire team appears to have shed the poor start it accumulated in October. With an ownership rate at 2 percent, he's available in just about every league, and he's starting to turn things around. If you're in a deep fantasy league, and need some sandpaper at the bottom of your roster, take a chance on Maroon.
Eric Gryba D, EDM - Speaking of sandpaper, if you're looking for some giftwrapped PIM in a defensive package, look no further than this Edmonton blueliner. He's on pace to set career marks in points (12) this year -- but that's not the reason anybody picks up Gryba. The 6-foot-4 defensive defenseman averages about 1.5 PIM per game, and every now and again, picks up a fighting major to put the cherry on top. With Connor McDavid returning from his broken clavicle, the team has been invigorated, and there's a good chance that Gryba will be able to pick up the odd point as a result -- and have an improved plus-minus too. The result: you have a solid PIM category-killer who can also not kill your plus-minus. And if the puck happens to bounce off his posterior and go in the net every now and again, well, you can count your blessings. Flag him in your league, and pick him up if the PIM category is close heading into the weekend.
Alec Martinez D, LAK - Finding a solid offensive defenseman that isn't in the 90-plus percent owned grouping is a difficult challenge. Most available blueliners are solid PIM/plus-minus guys that chip in with the odd point (see Gryba above). Martinez poses an interesting option that I've recommended in this article more than a few times over the years. Sitting in the second defensive pairing behind the likes of Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin is hard to get noticed, but he's on pace to eclipse his career bests in every stat category typically used. At the 51 game mark this year, he's posted seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points, nine power play points, a plus-19 rating and 20 PIM. Those numbers put him in the top 50 for defensemen, with an ownership rating in the low 20s. He's also trending hotter than average: in the last 10 games, he's posted two goals and three assists. Considering the average team has four defensive spots, and the average league is 12 teams deep, he should be owned in almost every league, but he's not. Therein lies your opportunity. If you need help from the blueline for production categories, Martinez is your man.
Cam Talbot G, EDM - Let's put Saturday's catastrophe against the Montreal Canadiens aside, because it was an ugly game from start to finish for Talbot. Since the beginning of the New Year, he's played well behind a team that has been missing its star player for two months. Now that Connor McDavid has returned, and the prospect of some wins is in their future, the beneficiary seems to be Talbot. Their crease situation has largely been a game of spin-the-bottle since November between Talbot and Anders Nilsson. Now that the bottle has landed on Talbot, he has run with it, posting a 4-5-1 record in the last 10, but also posting a .926 SV% and a 2.21 GAA. Considering he's backstopping one of the worst teams in the league, those numbers look pretty damn good. I've been impressed with his game since watching him backstop the Rangers in relief of King Henrik; I've always thought his addition was a solid one by the Oilers. Now that the prodigal son has returned to Oil Country, I suspect Talbot's numbers will increase -- as will his ownership. He's worth an add if you're looking for help in net, and the alternatives are backups.