Zajac Strikes Back

Ryan Dadoun
Zajac Strikes Back
Ryan Dadoun tells us it may be the right time to pick up Travis Zajac

The holiday break is behind us, the Winter Classic is around the corner and we’re basically in the middle of the 2013-14 campaign.  It’s a great time to take stock of your team’s performance and try to determine which strategies and players haven’t worked out and which have.  If you have a guy who hasn’t worked out all season, this might be the time to drop or, if you can, trade him.

With that being said, let’s look at some of the better prospects that you might be able to pick up…

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Travis Zajac (NJD) – C – Owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues

When Ilya Kovalchuk left town, Zajac was one of the players the Devils were counting on to step up.  That didn’t happen early this season, but at least he’s been hot lately with three goals and eight points in his last 10 games.  We hesitate to read too much into his recent outburst, but he at least has the potential to have a strong second half, given that he’s primarily playing alongside Dainius Zubrus and Jaromir Jagr.  He’s also been among the team leaders in power-play ice time, so while Zajac is at the very least worth a look if all you’re after is a short-term option.

Reilly Smith (BOS) – RW – Owned in 32% of Yahoo! leagues

The Bruins have been hit hard by injuries this season and among their wounded is Loui Eriksson, who is out with his second concussion since being the centerpiece of the Tyler Seguin deal.  As unfortunate as that is, Boston has at least managed to get by lately, thanks in no small part to one of the other players from that deal: Reilly Smith.  He has an incredible nine goals and 13 points in his last 11 contests, bringing him up to 14 goals and 30 points in 39 games this season.  He’s going to cool down, of course, but the 22-year-old has enough potential and success at this point to make him well worth the risk.  Pick him up if you’re in a position to do so, because he likely won’t be available for much longer.

Evgeni Nabokov (NYI) – G – Owned in 41% of Yahoo! leagues

Nabokov got off to a rough start in November and then missed about a month with a groin injury.  Combine that with the Islanders’ struggles and he seems to have fallen off of a lot of people’s radars.  However, if he’s available in your league, he’s worth grabbing.  Undisputed number one goaltenders are hard to come by, but beyond that, he’s held his own despite his team’s shortcomings.  Since returning from a groin injury, he has a 1.97 GAA and .926 save percentage.  If he can stay healthy, he should at least be solid in the second half of 2013-14.

Hampus Lindholm (ANA) – D – Owned in 12% of Yahoo! leagues

Lindholm does not amass significant penalty minutes. He is an average shot blocker and does not record a high number of hits. So why are we recommending him? Lindholm’s high fantasy value is primarily due to his excellent plus/minus rating. Lindholm leads all NHL defensemen with a plus-21 rating over 37 games and he’s not likely to slow down significantly in the second half.  That makes him a nice counterbalance to an offensive player on a poor team like, for example, John Tavares or Taylor Hall.  On top of that, Lindholm is holding his own offensively, so while he won’t turn heads in that regard, he will at least chip in enough to contribute in two standard categories.

Brenden Morrow (STL) – LW – Owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues

Morrow used to be a no-brainer, but he’s on the decline at the age of 34.  The St. Louis Blues have used him mostly as a depth player this season, but they’ve been leaning on him a little bit more lately. He’s averaging 13:01 minutes per game this month, up from 11:30 in November.  He’s responded by scoring a goal and six points in his last seven contests.  He’s still got a fair amount of upside if he can work his way up the depth charts and there’s certainly an opportunity to do just that with Alexander Steen sidelined due to a concussion.  If he’s available and you have a spot free, he’s worth the gamble going into the second half of the campaign.  Just don’t be afraid to drop him in a couple weeks if he goes cold and his ice time doesn’t rise above its current levels.

Derick Brassard (NYR) – C – Owned in 25% of Yahoo! leagues

The Rangers got Brassard as part of the Marian Gaborik deal last season and he immediately took off once he arrived in New York.  He had five goals and 11 points in 13 contests after the trade to close out the shortened campaign and while he got off to a slow start this season, he’s been picking up steam lately with two goals and 10 points in his last 14 games.  His playing time can be a bit erratic, but it’s worth noting that he’s also logged at least 16 minutes in five of his last seven games.  He’s not going to turn a lot of heads in 2013-14, but the 26-year-old could end up coming close to the 50-point mark, even if his current pace puts him well below that.

Artem Anisimov (CLM) – C/LW – Owned in 5% of Yahoo! leagues

Anisimov was involved in the other blockbuster deal between the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets that sent Rick Nash to New York.  And like Brassard, Anisimov is hot right now with four goals and seven points in his last seven contests.  The knock on Anisimov is that he doesn’t get many power-play points despite getting a decent amount of playing time with the man advantage.  In fact, he’s tied for second on Columbus in even-strength points, but is tied for fourth overall with 20 points in 38 contests.  Unless that changes, it’s hard to see him as a viable long-term option in standard leagues, but if you like riding hot streaks, especially when coping with one or more injured regulars, then Anisimov isn’t a bad bet.

Craig Smith (NSH) – C/RW – Owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues

Smith had a disappointing sophomore campaign, but he’s bounced back in his third season with 10 goals and 21 points in 36 contests.  Nashville is among the worst teams offensively and there are consequently not many forwards worth owning on that team, but Smith is about as close as you can get.  He’s a decent option in deeper keeper leagues as the 24-year-old should take another step forward next season and he’s a fine gamble in the short-term after a stretch of four goals and five points in three contests just before the holiday break.