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Ranger Surprise Zuccarello

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Ranger Surprise Zuccarello
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Ryan Dadoun is high on Matts Zuccarello!

This year’s trade deadline could be a little different than in year’s past.  The Olympic break might create an early, mini-deadline as teams look to get their house in order before the NHL closes its doors and its best players leave for Sochi.

Deals have the potential to significantly impact a players’ fantasy values’ and some of the down-on-their luck players getting a change of scenery will end up in future Waiver Wired editions. We’re already seeing the start of that this week…

John-Michael Liles (CAR) – D – Owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues

Liles’ time in Toronto didn’t do him any favors.  With the Colorado Avalanche he recorded at least 30 points in seven straight campaigns and surpassed the 40-point mark three times.  He got 27 points in 66 games in his first season with the Maple Leafs and it went downhill from there to the point where he spent some time in the minors this season.  Fortunately he’s being given a fresh start with the Carolina Hurricanes.  He’s only played in five games with them, but he’s averaging 3:02 power-play per contest with them.  There’s no doubt he’s a big risk, but he’s one of the best defensemen to take a chance on if you can reasonably make room for him on your roster.

Loui Eriksson (BOS) – LW/RW – Owned in 67% of Yahoo! leagues

Obviously we don’t usually highlight guys who are owned in that many leagues, but the fact that Eriksson was dropped in roughly one-third of Yahoo! leagues in the first place is noteworthy.  It’s understandable that fantasy owners might have been spooked given that he’s already suffered two concussions this season, but now that he’s back, he has tremendous potential.  Even granting that his health is a concern given his recent history, he still should be owned in all standard leagues.  If he’s available in your league, he has a real shot of being your best pickup of the campaign.

Aleksander Barkov (FLA) – C – Owned in 9% of Yahoo! leagues

Barkov is an underdog in the Calder Trophy race right now, but he shouldn’t be overlooked.  He enjoyed a six-game point streak from December 23rd-January 6th and has three goals and nine assists in his last 14 contests.  Just as importantly, his playing time has ballooned in January to 19:48 minutes per contest.  If the Panthers trust him with that level of responsibility throughout the second half, then he could finish his rookie campaign on a very strong note.

Nino Niederreiter (MIN) – RW – Owned in 13% of Yahoo! leagues

The Minnesota Wild have been trying to get by without top forwards Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. Fortunately Niederreiter has stepped up lately with three goals and seven points in his last seven contests.  He's logged at least 17 minutes in each of his last three contests and there’s a fair chance that will continue in the short-term given that Koivu and Parise are close to returning from their respective injuries.  Niederreiter has a ton of offensive upside, so while we’re primarily recommending him as a stopgap pickup, he might end up surprising people with 25 or so points in Minnesota’s last 35 games.

Mats Zuccarello (NYR) – LW – Owned in 29% of Yahoo! leagues

Zuccarello was scoreless in his first seven contests this season, but he’s been pretty consistent since then.  He hasn’t gone more than two games without recording a point since November 21st.  He’s quietly having a strong season with 11 goals and 32 points in 45 games this season.  He should be able to maintain that point-per-game pace, which is reason enough to give him serious consideration if you need a left winger.

Michael Ryder (NJD) – RW – Owned in 13% of Yahoo! leagues

Ryder’s endured some pretty nasty cold streaks this season, but he’s bounced back in a big way lately.  He has scored in each of his last four games, has five goals in his last six contests, and 11 markers in 19 matches since the start of December.  Goal scorers can be pretty streaky so it wouldn’t be shocking if he ends off cooling off again and he won’t help you much in any other category.  However, if you’re coming up short when it comes to goals, he’s at least worth grabbing in the short-term.

Vladimir Sobotka (STL) – C – Owned in 10% of Yahoo! leagues

In contrast to Ryder, Sobotka doesn’t excel in any one category, but he can help you in a lot of different areas.  He’s hot right now with two goals and 11 points in his last nine games, so he’s not a bad temporary pickup for that reason alone.  However, he’s not a bad guy to have under normal circumstances with 24 points, a plus-14 rating, and 42 penalty minutes in 38 games this season.  If your league values faceoffs than Sobotka should already be on your radar given that he has won 62.1% of his draws.

Ondrej Palat (TBL) – LW – Owned in 8% of Yahoo! leagues

Palat slipped to the 208th pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but he did everything he could to prove himself last season by recording 52 points in 56 AHL contests and another 26 points in 18 playoff games.  He’s spent the entire 2013-14 campaign in the NHL, but wasn’t getting much playing time initially.  That’s changed dramatically as he’s become one of forwards Tampa Bay has leaned on the heaviest since Steve Stamkos was sidelined.  That didn’t initially translate into a lot of production offensively, but he’s just coming off of an eight-game point streak.  He’s still a big risk as that hot streak could prove to be an anomaly, but he’s not a bad guy to consider if you’re in the mood for a gamble.

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