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NHL Waiver Wire: This Jet is Taking Off

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 the trade deadline looms on the horizon, and players begin to look for new homes in other cities, the waiver wire is more dangerous now than ever. I've pulled together a few solid names given recent circumstances that will likely still be in the same area code come March 1:

David Perron W, ANH -
It seems as though the trade to acquire the rough-and-tumble winger in early January has paid immediate dividends for the surging Ducks. Since the trade, Perron has played in 10 games and recorded four goals and six assists along with a fantastic plus-nine rating and 10 PIM -- a fantastic stat line for a player who barely achieved more with the Penguins throughout the first half of the season. The top line combination of Perron, Ryan Getzlaf and Mike Santorelli has been an immediate -- if not unlikely -- success. While Getzlaf's pedigree is undeniable, both Perron and Santorelli have not found point-per-game production while at the NHL level. In fact, Perron's best seasons to date was the year he spent in Edmonton, where he potted 57 points in 78 games in 2013-2014. Over this stretch, Anaheim has continued its torrid pace with seven wins, and Perron has been a key part in their climb up the standings. His ownership level of 29 percent is still well below where his new projections put him, so owners who are looking to replace an injured third- or fourth-line winger on their rosters would be well advised to grab him now. His ability to accumulate production across categories is hard to find, and his recent uptick will make him a rarity in a few weeks. Get him while you can.

Benoit Pouliot W, EDM -
With the second coming of Connor McDavid, the most immediate recipient of his production will be Jordan Eberle -- who is largely unobtainable with an 84 percent ownership rate. Largely forgotten, though, is fellow linemate Pouliot who has a far more reasonable ownership of 21 percent. Where Eberle has 10 points since McDavid's return and has seen a doubling of his ownership rate, Pouliot has exactly the same -- with no such surge. That spells an opportunity for GMs paying attention -- one that's not likely to be around for much longer. It's readily apparent that Pouliot is the weakest of the three on that line, but he's been given the opportunity to play, and has shown that he can in fact keep up. His success, however, is in feeding the young phenom the puck and making himself available to distribute where necessary. His two goals and eight assists in the last six games show precisely those facts: he knows how to pass, and he is able to take advantage of two very talented linemates. Interesting to fantasy GMs: in addition to playing on the power play, he also routinely does duty on the penalty kill, recently netting his first SHG of the season. He's also able to add PIM on occasion, which makes him a very valuable commodity these days: someone who can assist in all ends of the typical fantasy rotisserie. Given his position, it would make a lot of sense to take a gamble on him should you have a gap in your roster, or someone who isn't pulling their weight.

Nikolaj Ehlers W, WPG -
While his season stat sheet looks a little bare, his last 10 games has seen a dramatic uptick in his play -- one that should be noticed by fantasy GMs on the hunt for young (potentially rookie-protected) talent. Many leagues have rookie keeper slots, and few would look better right now than the young Jet. In 54 games, he has 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points -- nothing that would turn many heads. Interestingly, however, in his last 10 games, he's put up five goals and four assists, along with seven PIM and three power-play points. It's not that uncommon to see a midseason surge from rookies as they finally piece together what it takes to play in the adult league; I recall Steven Stamkos having a tough first-half to his rookie season. While I wouldn't go so far as to put Ehlers in that league just yet, I think the performance we're seeing lately is more reflective of the player he's going to be in a few years: a high-scoring goal producer who is not opposed to taking some penalties and mixing things up. With an ownership rate of 17 percent, he's far lower than he should be, and based on his last 10 games, he probably won't be for much longer. If your team needs a winger, and neither Pouliot or Perron are free, I don't think Ehlers is a big chance. If your pool has any rookie keeper spots, Ehlers is up there on players I would be considering protecting, or acquiring if possible.

Andre Burakovsky W, WSH -
There's not much to say about Burakovsky that I didn't just say about Ehlers that doesn't ring true. The only difference, I would say, is that this young Austrian is in his sophomore year after having a relatively mediocre rookie campaign. With just about the same number of games played as last year, and having about the same points, at first glance it looks like we know what we can expect from him. Those glances don't really tell the whole story. Ten games ago, Burakovsky had four goals and 10 assists in 40 games and actually looked like he had regressed. Fast forward to today, and he's one of the hottest players in the league. His last 10 has seen him go on an eight-game point streak where he put up six goals and four assists in that stretch -- all on even-strength. His linemates -- Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams -- are a nice blend of both finesse and grit that are benefiting the youngster's progress. And really, who doesn't appreciate riding a hot hand when one presents itself? With a 16 percent ownership rate, you have the opportunity to acquire a player on one of the hottest teams in the league, who himself, is one of the hottest players on that team. Seems like a no-brainer.

Charlie Coyle C/W, MIN -
If you're looking for a dual-position player for double duty, your best option is Charlie Coyle. With a 9 percent ownership rate, he's widely available in all but the deepest leagues. His season numbers aren't head-turners -- with only 28 points in 54 games, he's not going to get confused with fellow Wild teammate Zach Parise anytime soon. What he does offer right now is a solid second-line center position with linemates Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter, both of whom are solid fantasy picks. He also is sporting a very healthy last 10 games, where he was able to put up five goals and an assist for six points, six PIM and a pair of power-play points. During this time, the Wild went a dismal 1-9, and basically fell out of any sort of playoff contention. If the Wild are able to recover some of their earlier successes now that head coach Mike Yeo has been fired, Coyle will be front and center in that. At very least, his recent success and dual position eligibility will make him a solid bottom-of-the-roster player for your deep team, and one that's largely available.

Mattias Ekholm D, NSH -
So, it seems the winner of the Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen trade might actually be Mattias Ekholm. Jones' trade to Columbus opened up a coveted spot on the second pairing in Nashville that Ekholm has made his own. Since the trade, the 26-year old Swede has turned up the juice, producing at a rather prolific rate. In those 16 games, he's put up a goal and 10 assists for 11 points. When you consider that he posted 18 points in 80 games all last year, the sharp tick upward seems all the more unexpected. Ironically, Seth Jones only has eight points in the 15 games he's played with the Blue Jackets, and only had 11 points with Nashville the first half of the season. So, it seems Nashville managed to improve their defensive scoring while also acquiring a bona fide first-line center. Not a bad trade indeed. What's nice for fantasy GMs is that Ekholm has completely flown under most radars, and only has a 15 percent ownership level. That's a wonderful diamond to find in the rough, especially when a good producing defenseman who can also add PIM and PPP categories is fairly difficult to find. If your team is looking for a fifth or sixth defenseman in a relatively large team, you're not going to find many better on the wire than Ekholm. Add him if you can.

Alex Petrovic D, FLA -
Following my note from last week about Eric Gryba, Alex Petrovic is now my go-to goon of the week for fantasy GMs needing some PIM help. His two goals and seven assists in 42 games aren't going to turn any heads, and his ownership rate of 1 percent is not in any jeopardy of blasting through the ceiling anytime soon. What he does offer is solid defensive play with a ton of hits and PIM -- 115 and 68, respectively. That's about three hits per game and about a minute and a half in the box. This week was a particularly awesome week for him, actually. He has two points, a plus-four and 29 PIM in three games. With the type of game Florida has been playing recently, it doesn't seem there's a bad Panther in the Waiver Wire. While I wouldn't recommend running out to grab him in a rush, fantasy GMs playing in very deep leagues could use his grit contribution given an injury far down on their rosters. The hardest skating position to fill is defense, and in a deep pool situation, often the best choice for a GM is a goon on that last D spot. There's a number available, and if you can find one like Petrovic who can occasionally chip in offensively, while not posting double-digit negatives on the plus-minus, all the better.