Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: Pickups that can make a big difference in the second half
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’ve officially hit the NHL All-Star break. The ceremonial halfway point of the regular season … even though most teams have played at least 60 percent of their games. The stop in action is a perfect time to analyze your fantasy rosters for what they’ve achieved so far and what they can do down the road. Trades may be difficult in some leagues due to deadlines already passing or coming up soon. If that path to acquisitions has been closed, there’s always talent in the free-agent pool.
Let’s look at a few still widely-available players who should be able to make a difference in the second half.
(Rostered rates as of Feb. 3)
David Krejci, BOS (Yahoo: 44%)
A player who’s notched 42 points in 46 games for the top team would normally be gone in a large percentage of leagues, but Krejci hasn’t gotten there quite yet. Maybe it’s because he’s not one of Boston’s Big Three up front — or Four if you want to include Taylor Hall. Or it could be the age factor, where people just assume Krejci’s performance will eventually tail off. But it’s tough to argue with a goal and 10 assists from the last nine contests combined with steady minutes, a prominent power-play position and decent offerings in a few categories.
Matty Beniers, SEA (Yahoo: 44%)
Beniers was forced to sit out the last two matchups but should be available when the Kraken resume play on Tuesday. He’s the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy and is projected to end up somewhere in the 50-to-60-point range. There’s no need to tab Beniers as Seattle’s future No. 1 center as he’s already claimed that honor with 17 goals, 19 assists and a substantial 92 shots. The team currently leads the Pacific Division and will need every bit of Beniers’ talent to stay on top and go on a deep playoff run.
Boone Jenner, CLS (Yahoo: 34%)
After a month out of the lineup, Jenner is back to being his best, underrated self while contributing across the board. Playing within a weak Columbus attack will tend to lower one’s rostered percentage, yet there’s a certain perk to teaming up with dynamic wingers like Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. Jenner hasn’t wowed anyone with his output, though any skater who logs over 20 minutes per game, posts points at a decent rate and averages around three shots and two hits should be much less available.
Scott Laughton, PHI (Yahoo: 31%)
Speaking of multi-tool performers, Laughton has quietly risen to fantasy stalwart this season (of course, that depends on what stats your league counts). He was never a big scorer yet has already accumulated 12 goals and 17 assists — including a career-high of eight power-play points. Add in 105 shots and 103 hits on 18:43 a night with lead placement on both special-teams units and Laughton could be the long-term fill-in you need.
Evan Rodrigues, COL (Yahoo: 26%)
Anyone who can build a prolonged rapport with Nathan MacKinnon is bound to see their production skyrocket, and Rodrigues is no different. Since returning from injury in mid-December, he’s gone off for 17 points and 62 shots while averaging 20 minutes — with over two of those coming on the man-advantage. The Avalanche will look to bolster their roster, though Rodrigues won’t be leaving since he’s proven to be invaluable. He can be just as useful for your fantasy roster, as he qualifies in Yahoo at all three forward positions.
Max Domi, CHI (Yahoo: 24%)
Domi has rediscovered his scoring touch in Chicago, having supplied 14 goals and 21 helpers while sitting only one PPP short of matching his peak total of 15. He’s also figured into other areas with 109 shots and 58 PIM. The Blackhawks may finally be rebuilding after a few disappointing seasons, and Domi’s name has come up in trade rumors. Moving to a sixth franchise in eight years may not be ideal for him, but it could lead to similar scoring and — most likely — an improved plus-minus.
Viktor Arvidsson, LA (Yahoo: 21%)
Unlike recent seasons, Arvidsson has avoided injury (knock on wood) and is on pace to record his best point total since 2017-18. He’s currently at 34, with a personal best of 12 coming while up a man. Arvidsson has come up dry of late though, having only managed one goal from eight games, yet he still fires plenty of pucks on net while being provided with extensive ice time. As long as he stays active and within the top six, a turnaround is bound to happen.
Ivan Barbashev, STL (Yahoo: 14%)
The Blues have mainly been disappointing, with only a few exceptions scattered throughout the lineup. Barbashev broke out last year, registering career-highs in goals (26) and assists (34), and currently stands at nine and 15. He’s averaged a 19.2 shooting percentage while in the NHL, so his 11.8 percent mark is due for a correction. He enters the break having tallied three times over his five most recent appearances. With Vladimir Tarasenko recently returning and Robert Thomas slated to come back soon, maybe the trio will be reunited, giving them the chance to recapture their magic.
Jake Sanderson, OTT (Yahoo: 30%)
There’s no debating Thomas Chabot‘s status as Ottawa’s top blueliner, but Sanderson isn’t too far behind, which is saying a lot for a rookie. He’s contributed on both ends of the ice with 20 points, 84 shots and 86 blocks. Sanderson has also registered 11 PPPs while skating over 22 minutes a night since the start of the year. The Sens go into the break with a winning record and will be relying on the 2020 first-rounder to carry a significant workload as they push for a postseason berth.
Adam Boqvist, CLS (Yahoo: 6%)
Boqvist has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, though he should be ready when the Blue Jackets next see action on Feb. 10. He’s had trouble staying healthy this season, but has performed when available with 10 assists across 19 appearances. Zach Werenski won’t be back until next fall, leaving Boqvist as the primary offensive defender and power-play quarterback. While a few contenders may be tempted to acquire him to boost their back-end scoring, Columbus may be reluctant to trade the 22-year-old and could suggest Vladislav Gavrikov as the better two-way option.
Mike Matheson, MON (Yahoo: 5%)
Sometimes two things go together so well that you may wonder how it didn’t happen sooner. Like PB and J. Or PB and chocolate. Or PB and bacon. It’s been a long time coming, but we may have a new inseparable pair with Matheson and the man-advantage.
Sure, there were bits thrown his way during the previous seven seasons, though nothing as clear-cut as the current offering. Matheson being out for over two months hasn’t helped his cause, yet he’s averaged almost four power-play minutes in 17 matchups and has produced three PPAs. There’s no guarantee he’ll retain this role, but it doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
Janis Moser ARI, (Yahoo: 3%)
With Shayne Gostisbehere sidelined for at least another month and Jakob Chychrun almost assuredly heading elsewhere, Moser is set to lead the line. While scoreless in the last 14 outings, he proved he could handle the extra responsibility at the start of the campaign when Chychrun was out for six weeks by recording 13 points, with six of those on the power play. The Coyotes’ fifth-worst offense may deter poolies from adding Moser, but he’ll have plenty of chances to add to his totals the rest of the way.
Karel Vejmelka, ARI (Yahoo: 47%)
The Coyotes may carry a bottom-10 defense, yet Vejmelka has (literally) saved his side many times this season. Despite the mediocre 13-17-4 record, 3.19 GAA, and .907 save percentage, he ranks eighth in both Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Vejmelka operates as Arizona’s workhorse but could be pursued by clubs looking to upgrade in net at the deadline. While the promise of a potentially better D could boost his fantasy profile, he should be a solid play even if he stays in the desert.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, BUF (Yahoo: 41%)
With the Sabres retaining three goalies on the active roster, one would assume some form of rotation. That hasn’t been the case considering Luukkonen has started 13 of the last 16 going back to Dec. 19. Craig Anderson and Eric Comrie had mainly been covering the appearances before that, but UPL has impressed during this latest stretch — even as he’s given up over three goals a game. As Buffalo is fighting for a playoff spot and continue to be one of the league’s top attacks, it looks like the youngster is being entrusted as their No. 1 for now and the foreseeable future.
Players to consider from past columns: Logan Couture, Martin Necas, Dylan Cozens, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jeff Skinner, Andrei Kuzmenko, Phillip Danault, Dylan Strome, Kevin Hayes, Trevor Moore, Nick Schmaltz, Mason McTavish, Lucas Raymond, Brock Boeser, Filip Chytil, J.T. Compher, Owen Tippett, Jared McCann, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Conor Sheary, Cole Perfetti, Jack Roslovic, Brandon Hagel, Gabriel Vilardi, Sam Steel, Jordan Eberle, William Karlsson, Juuso Parssinen, Eeli Tolvanen, Anton Lundell, Ondrej Palat, Andre Burakovsky, Jason Zucker, Nick Paul, Seth Jarvis, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Raddysh, Kirill Marchenko, Seth Jones, Brandon Montour, Cam Fowler, Brady Skjei, Noah Hanifin, Brett Pesce, Sean Durzi, Vince Dunn, Erik Gustafsson, Calen Addison, Adam Larsson, Samuel Girard, K’Andre Miller, Mark Giordano, Sebastian Aho, Vitek Vanecek, Martin Jones, Pavel Francouz, James Reimer, Sam Montembeault, Dan Vladar, Anton Forsberg, Antti Raanta, Stuart Skinner, Pheonix Copley