The NHL regular season is starting to wind down and with less than one-third of the schedule remaining, the opportunity to solidify your fantasy hockey teams are running out.
The reality is that fishing the waiver pool that late in the season are last gasp attempts at trying to stabilize teams. With injuries to names like John Tavares, Mats Zuccarello, and Paul Martin, there are holes to fill on teams. The regular season for head to head leagues is about to come to an end too and that means it’s time to stock the bench for a player run. Any way you look at it, waiver wiring is to replace players or bolster depth, not make a significant difference in roto or points leagues.
With the NHL trade deadline just over a week away and rosters being shuffled off the Olympic break, there are names to look at that can help your team down the stretch for various league depths.
Mikael Granlund – Minnesota Wild (ESPN Ownership: 38.2%)
The Winter Olympics were a sort of coming out party for Mikael Granlund as he finished T-3rd in scoring with seven points. Despite the naming of Teemu Selanne as MVP, it was Granlund who was Finland’s most consistent offensive threat.
I don’t believe in continuing momentum from a tournament but Granlund gets to go back to centering Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Those players complement Granlund’s ability to enter the zone efficiently and that’s a good position to succeed.
Granlund doesn’t shoot a lot which means he doesn’t score a lot. That can be an issue in roto leagues. One reason for hope is that Granlund’s (-2) rating has a lot of room for improvement: Granlund is a (-5) at five on five without Pominville and (+7) with him. The possession rates improve to acceptable levels as well so I wouldn’t expect a minus rating for him the rest of the season with some power play points, too. A solid bench stash, even more so in points-only leagues.
Michael Cammalleri – Calgary Flames (ESPN Ownership: 22%)
Cammalleri has always been one of those players and by one of those players I mean a perennial 20-goal scorer with 30-goal upside and those don’t come by very often. This hasn’t changed much over the last couple years as he’s managed a 0.31 goals/game pace since the start of the 2012-2013 season and that’s a 25-goal pace over an 82-game season.
The problem this year for Cammalleri is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy – he’s only played 41 games this year – and his team is pretty bad: Cammalleri’s (-22) rating is worst on the Flames and seventh-worst in the NHL this year. For a bit of context here, Cammalleri has never been known as a defensive forward but that team certainly isn’t helping matters.
Cammalleri is almost certain to be traded from Calgary and because of his expiring contract, he will be sent to a playoff contender. If he finds the right situation, Cammalleri’s penchant for shooting could see him score 8-10 goals for the rest of the season. The time to grab him off the waiver wire is now, not in a week when he finally is traded.
Erik Condra – Ottawa Senators (ESPN Ownership: 1%)
This is a name for deep-leaguers but the opportunities for success this late in the season don’t come often and Condra is getting one.
This tweet came out from Senators practice earlier today:
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Condra is a player who has spent most of his time in Ottawa’s bottom six but now gets a chance on the top line alongside Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur. That’s an optimal spot on that team for any player and gives Condra an opportunity for success offensively. He’s not just a plug-and-play guy for the team, either: Condra leads the Sens in FenwickCloseRelative% and is fifth on the team in his shot generation rate.
I wouldn’t expect much, if any, power play time and his peripheral stats are not outstanding. His line mates should prevent a minus rating and he can definitely contribute offensively at even strength. This is a must-add player in any sort of deep league (14+ teams).
Olli Maatta – Pittsburgh Penguins (ESPN Ownership: 44.2%)
Another player who stood out at the Sochi Olympics was rookie defenseman Olli Maatta. He displayed the same characteristics that had made him successful so far this year for the Penguins; vision and patience are hallmarks of his game. Maatta’s ability to generate offense from the blue line with good outlet passes and helping maintain puck possession going into the offensive zone are exactly what a team like Pittsburgh needs.
It’s never ideal to have players injured and to profit from it, but this is fantasy sports and there’s no room for emotion (though, best wishes to Kris Letang in particular as he recovers from his stroke). With Letang out and Paul Martin having broken his hand at the Olympics, it’s Maatta’s turn to step up behind Matt Niskanen as the Penguins’ puck mover from the blue line.
Maatta can generate shots on goal, will get second power play minutes and should consistently be paired with one of the Penguins’ top two lines. He also had 18 points in 29 games leading to the Olympics so he’s well on his way to becoming a star in the NHL.
Andrej Meszaros – Philadelphia Flyers (ESPN Ownership: 3.2%)
Hockey is a game that involves a lot of luck and that luck tends to average itself out over the course of a full season, or at least the next season. That luck can be measured in a lot of different ways, the best way is with PDO. Part of a PDO rating is on-ice shooting percentage, or the rate at which a team scores with a player on the ice. It’s hard for the wide majority of players to sustain high level for more than a season, but luckily we’re only talking about five or six weeks here.
On the year, Meszaros leads the Flyers defensemen in on-ice shooting percentage and that’s enabled him to put up 16 points in just 35 games this year. Even if he never became what some thought he was going to be after putting up 39 points as a 20-year-old, he’s still a 30-point defenseman and that’s valuable.
This is definitely a depth play in deeper leagues but Meszaros has shown offensive flashes in the past and is more than capable of riding a hot streak for the rest of the season. If he stays afloat in the plus/minus column, his penalty minutes and points can be helpful for stretch runs in fantasy leagues.
It’s not too late, you can still grab tickets to watch the best NHL teams live in person