NHL Fantasy Hockey: Finding gems on the early-season waiver wire

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Finding gems on the early-season waiver wire

Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009.

Usually when I do this column I run through some of the hot and cold sticks from around the league. But of course we're just one day in - eight teams have played one game - so that's obviously not going to get us anywhere. Although Phil Kessel is pointless in one game so you should probably drop him.

We do have some preseason data, via Frozen Pool, and I ran the league leaders in hits in the preseason. Note that a handful of games were without data, so not all the games were entered here:

Dobber Hockey
Dobber Hockey

It looks like Kane is on a mission, which is a good sign if you're a Kane owner. But it's interesting to see some of the young players such as Chaput and Bjorkstrand on here as we're generally not privy to information on hits in the AHL and Canadian Junior ranks.

Waiver Wire

As the season kicks off, let's take a look at some of the best players available on your waiver wire. These guys are 7% owned or less in Yahoo! leagues. If you're looking to replace an injury, or you're already changing your mind about one of your Anders Lee picks, here are some suggestions.

Forwards

Nick Bjugstad, Florida Panthers - Bjugstad is coming off a 38-point rookie campaign and has a better team around him. Furthermore, the Panthers have Roberto Luongo between the pipes, which is bound to improve the ugly plus/minus. Then again, scraping a two-inch pile of snow along the crease line would improve that plus/minus. Bjugstad is worth stashing on the bench as anyone's No.5 center, to be put in when he gets hot or when someone else gets hurt. 

Patrick Maroon/Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks - While Dany Heatley hides from the fact that he's lost his mojo nurses an injury, Maroon and Smith-Pelly get to audition there. At 455 pounds between the two of them, either one could provide a huge body on the left side of the Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry line, and each of them have the talent to keep up with the two stars. Maroon is the first choice here because he provides nice penalty minutes, but if your league is one of the 5% that owns him, then Smith-Pelly is a good consolation prize.

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning - How a player who led the preseason in goals (six) and coming off his 20-year-old season in which he had a pro-rated 14 goals is only drafted in 6% of the leagues is beyond me. At the very least he's worth keeping on the bench for a few weeks to see what line he settles in on and how he performs. 

Jiri Tlusty, Carolina Hurricanes - Tlusty is playing with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin and this has been the case for nearly two years. Last year's terrible production can be attributed to the fact that at any point in time, one member of the trio was injured. With all three of them healthy, watch them take off. Don't get left behind here, Tlusty should be picked up and even activated.

Anthony Duclair, New York Rangers - There is a good chance that this is just a nine-game trial for the youngster Duclair. But he scored four times during the preseason and has the drive and work ethic to keep it up. And the way Rick Nash played back in May, I'm just about ready to say "hey look, Nash gets to line up with Duclair" rather than the other way around.

Elias Lindholm, Carolina Hurricanes - With the Canes now without Jeff Skinner and Jordan Staal, the teenaged sophomore suddenly finds himself in the top six. His recent preseason hat trick should have garnered him more attention than from just 3% of all Yahoo! leagues.

Eric Fehr, Washington Capitals - Fehr is playing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He's also been Washington's best possession player over the last two years. If he can stay healthy, he'll be huge.

Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues - Berglund will be a winger on the TJ Oshie-David Backes line for a deep Blues team. Poolies have been waiting for five or six years for this youngster-no-longer to break out. While it may not ever happen, it looks pretty promising for the short-term. Look for him to get LW eligibility added before too long.

Defensemen

Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild - Although he's a certified Band-Aid Boy, Spurgeon's offensive game has been improving steadily. During those spurts of health, he has shown the ability to post a point every two games. Most leagues have an IR, so Spurgeon can be owned without causing damage to your team. 

Brenden Dillon, Dallas Stars - One of the up-and-coming stars in the game when it comes to the hits category, Dillon is a must-own in all leagues that count that stat. He's looking at 200 hits and 150 blocked shots to go with 20-plus points in the coming campaign. And 80 to 90 PIM helps, too.

Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks - Vatanen is not proven enough to convince poolies to take a chance on him. So if you want to wait until he puts up some numbers then you'll risk losing out. Vatanen is the one of the most promising rookie or sophomore defensemen in the league when it comes to immediate offensive results.

Danny DeKeyser, Detroit Red Wings - DeKeyser had eight points in 10 games last November before suffering a separated shoulder. The injury interrupted an intriguing hot run that showed that he has more offensive potential than we gave him credit for. Blocking 150 shots this season goes without saying, but if he can add 35 points to that he'll be a solid defenseman to own in those leagues. 

Goalies 

Viktor Fasth, Edmonton Oilers - While Scrivens would seem to have a hold on the No.1 job (by his fingernails), are you so certain of this that Fasth should be owned in just 7% of all leagues? If you have room for a fourth goaltender, Fasth is perfect for the role - he has the potential to become an NHL starter with over 50 starts. If that happens, you could move your No.3 goalie to help your team in other areas.

Chad Johnson, New York Islanders - Although Jaroslav Halak is a safe bet for 50 starts, he is also a safe bet to get hurt for several weeks. When that happens, Johnson will put up very good numbers behind a re-vamped Islanders team. Another good No.4 goalie to own - and if your league has 50% goaltender categories, then you should have four goalies.

Michael Hutchinson, Winnipeg Jets - He's behind Ondrej Pavelec. Give this a few weeks. Of all the backup goaltenders, Hutchinson is the one guy who best has an opportunity to take the top job before Christmas.

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