Players to watch, all formats:
1) David Backes, Boston, (38% Yahoo ownership): Whatever his health issues may be, it doesn’t seem to be hurting his play lately. Over his last 7 GP Backes has 11 PTS (including 4 consecutive 2-point games). I’m not sure how sustainable this hot streak will be, but he’s a hot hand you can certainly ride in the short term. He may get you some PIMs too.
2) Mikko Rantanen, Colorado, (55% Yahoo ownership): The kid has scored 11 PTS in his last 10 GP and has become a legit scorer in the NHL. He’s on pace for 73 PTS this season and should probably be owned in most standard leagues.
3) Cam Ward, Carolina, (29% Yahoo ownership): It looks like he’s become the #1 guy in Carolina with Scott Darling struggling. In his last 4 GP, Ward is 4-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .951 SV%. He won’t sustain those numbers for the rest of the season, but he’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re desperate.
4) Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Edmonton, (39% Yahoo ownership): He’s on pace for a career best 63 PTS and has been one of the few bright spots on the Oilers roster, scoring 7 PTS in his last 6 GP. His ownership should be in the 50% - 70% range. He’s the 4th most added player in Yahoo today, so that number is climbing.
5) Thomas Vanek, Vancouver, (18% Yahoo ownership): I would have said that Vanek’s 4-point game on Dec 19 was a fluke, but then he put up a 5-point game on Dec 28. That gives him 10 PTS in his last 5 GP. Obviously that pace is not sustainable in the long-term, but by all means ride the hot streak while he’s playing top line minutes with Brock Boeser.
Going Deep: players owned in 10% of leagues or less:
1) Daniel Sprong, Pittsburgh, (6% Yahoo ownership): The kid has been one of the best scorers in the AHL this season and has been recalled to the Penguins. He’s already up to 6% ownership without having played a game yet, so there’s more than a few people anticipating his recall.
2) Calle Jarnkrok, Nashville, (6% Yahoo ownership): The injury to Forsberg has created an opportunity for Jarnkrok to climb the depth chart. He had been playing at a 40-point pace prior to the promotion and could be standard league relevant so long as Forsberg is out. He should be owned in all leagues with 14+ teams.
3) Ryan Spooner, Boston, (2% Yahoo ownership): Spooner has had some trouble staying in the line-up this season and only had 3 PTS in 8 GP by Dec 1. Since then however, he’s scored 8 PTS in 9 GP in December. He had fallen off from the 49 PTS he scored at age 23 in 2016, but is back on the ice scoring PTS. Add him to your Watch List.
4) Nikita Zadorov, Colorado, (5% Yahoo ownership): Zadorov has been getting tons of ice time in Colorado this season and has 5 PTS in his last 6 GP. He’s still just 22 years old and could still develop into a quality offensive player. He’s on pace for 26 PTS, which would be his career best to date. He’s somebody worth keeping an eye on.
5) Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton, (8% Yahoo ownership): I hope my friend isn’t reading this, after I recommended that he drop Puljujarvi and add Zac Rinaldo a few weeks ago. In my defense, JP had just been a healthy scratch and my friended really needed PIMs and Hits. Jesse has been seeing ice time with Connor McDavid and has 6 PTS in his last 10 GP. He’s not on the standard league radar just yet, but has some interesting upside for deeper formats.
The 1%: Top 3 Players to Add that are 1% Owned or Less
1) Riley Nash, Boston: He’s not the most exciting fantasy option, but he’s got some value in really deep leagues, on pace for a 37-point season with 5 PTS in his last 5 GP. The Bruins have been hot. He’s a guy to watch if you’re in a league deep enough to add 1% players.
2) Kyle Brodziak, St. Louis: At 33 years old he doesn’t have too much value, and hasn’t for a few years now. Sometimes he’ll end up on my roster in our 18-team super league if I need a few extra face-off wins. I wouldn’t get too excited about him scoring 5 PTS in his last 5 GP, but that’s still enough to put him on the weekly leaderboard of 1% owned players.
3) Tobias Rieder, Phoenix: Toby ranks on my list of players who are better in real life hockey than they are at fantasy. He gets plenty of ice time but the offense is limited. He does have 3 PTS in his last 3 GP and gets a decent number of Shots. His +/- could hurt you if that’s something you care about.
1) Tom Wilson, Washington, (44% Yahoo ownership): It looks like Wilson has been demoted to the 3rd line, which does hurt his value. If you’re counting PIMs and Hits, he can still add some value to your roster. Just don’t expect those same offensive numbers if he’s not playing on the top lines.
2) Claude Giroux, Philadelphia, (98% Yahoo ownership): Giroux is on pace for a career high in points at age 30, and has scored 18 PTS in his last 11 GP. I own him in a standard league and he’s been one of my best players. I haven’t been putting him in trade offers, but his trade value will probably never be higher than it is right now. If I owned him in a keeper league, I’d be diligently trying to trade him.
3) Sean Monahan, Calgary, (92% Yahoo ownership): He was great earlier in the season, but only has 2 PTS in his last 9 GP. I don’t think his recent slide is in any way permanent, so it’s an opportunistic time to make a trade offer.
1) Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh, (100% Yahoo ownership): He’s 30 years and has put a few too many miles on the odometer the past few seasons. He’s currently on pace for the worst healthy season in his career sitting at under a point per game. His days of 100-point seasons are probably over. You might be able to acquire him at a discount, but be aware that his best productivity is behind him.
2) Kevin Shattenkirk, Rangers, (98% Yahoo ownership): He’s on pace for 47 PTS with 22 in his first 38 GP. However, he has gone cold in December with only 2 PTS in his last 11 GP. I wouldn’t recommend dropping him in standard leagues, but I did need to take a moment to think about whether or not he belonged in “buy low” or “be concerned”. It’s probably a little bit of both.
3) Brayden Schenn, St. Louis, (96% Yahoo ownership): He started the season on fire, but has cooled off considerably since the injury to Jaden Schwartz, scoring only 4 PTS in his last 10 GP. Eventually his line-mate will return to the line-up and the problem should be solved. In the meantime, his owner might be losing some patience, creating a trade opportunity.
1) Max Pacioretty, Montreal, (92% Yahoo ownership): He’s on pace for 43 PTS, which would be his worst season since he was sophomore. He has only scored 4 PTS in 12 GP this month and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. He’s still under the age of 30 and could rebound if they put the right players around him, I just don’t expect that to happen this season. He should not be 92% owned. You can safely drop him in standard leagues.
2) Oliver Ekmanlarsson, Phoenix, (89% Yahoo ownership): It has been a down year for one of the better defensemen in fantasy hockey. He has only scored 1 point in his last 12 GP, over which span he’s -19. He is -29 on the season, which leads the NHL by a wide margin. He’s not getting you PTS and he’s killing your +/- if you play that category.
3) Thomas Greiss, Islanders, (33% Yahoo ownership): Over the last 30 days Greiss has only played in 6 games with 1 Win, a 4.97 GAA and .828 SV%. He’s been hurting you more than he helps you and should be dropped in every standard league.