Special to Yahoo Sports
More games generally yield better analysis. Trying to extrapolate player statistics from initial results doesn't seem like a reliable process, though it may help identify early trends. It could take a while to complete a proper individual assessment, but the problem is you really need that information now to evaluate available options.
Take James Neal, for example. After struggling last season in Calgary, he was dealt to Edmonton this summer. The former Star, Penguin, Predator and Golden Knight potted two goals last Friday versus Los Angeles in his second game as an Oiler. The Kings don't boast a reputation for their defensive strength, so perhaps people hesitated to pick up Neal heading into Tuesday's matchup against the usually stingy Islanders. Well, we all know how that turned out as Neal struck for four goals — including a natural hat-trick — and increased his rostership by more than 20 percent overnight. (In the highly competitive Yahoo Friends & Family League with daily transactions, I opted for Ondrej Kase at Detroit. And of course, Neal was gone mid-game.)
With that case in mind and the need to always stay on top of events, may we present the latest crop of lesser-rostered NHLers for your weekly perusal (and check the bottom of this piece every week for previous recommendations).
Yahoo rostership rates as of Oct. 10.
Sammy Blais, St. Louis Blues (36 percent)
You may not remember Blais from the Blues' Cup-winning run, probably because he didn't do much offensively. Thanks to a lack of left-wing options, the rugged forward has teamed up with Ryan O'Reilly on the second line and has counted two goals and two assists. Blais's fantasy resume is enhanced when you realize he's also dished out 15 hits, which qualifies him as a valuable commodity if he keeps up the energy.
Erik Haula, Carolina Hurricanes (31%)
Carolina has built a strong franchise with plenty of depth across the lineup. One of its new additions is Haula, who arrived from Vegas due to its salary cap crunch. The Finn lost most of last season to injury but did record 55 points in 2017-18. As the Canes' third center, Haula has already netted three goals and rotates between the power-play groups. Lining up with hotshot Martin Necas and hard-working Ryan Dzingel doesn't hurt either.
Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers (18%)
Buchnevich appears to have been rewarded for his strong play down the stretch last year, having been installed on the right side along with Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin for both even strength and man-advantage. The 24 year old may not hold on to this position for the long-term, but at least he doesn't look out of place among his elite linemates.
The Columbus captain has always been appreciated for his leadership and toughness but remains overlooked in fantasy due to prolonged bouts of inconsistency. Foligno will never be able to duplicate the 73 points from 2014-15, but he can help in various areas. In three games, he's produced a goal, two assists, 12 shots on goal and 14 hits. Few can beat that kind of versatility in multi-category formats.
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (12%)
Kerfoot is essentially filling the same role as Nazem Kadri did before the trade: Third-line pivot, main man-advantage member, forgotten figure behind Auston Matthews and John Tavares. The new Leaf may lack Kadri's truculence, but he's definitely not short of effort. Kerfoot is also dependable — or at least predictable — when it comes to scoring, having notched 43 and 42 points in his first two NHL seasons. By keeping out of the spotlight within a great offense, he might be able to crack the 50-point plateau.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings (11%)
When Kovalchuk returned to North America, the hockey world filled with anticipation. Guess that five-plus-year sabbatical made a difference, as he only managed 16 goals and 18 assists across 64 appearances. Let's just forget what happened then and move on. Because if he can pull off more classic Kovy performances like the three-point performance on Tuesday, there's once again reason to be excited. Just wait another couple games to see where this goes.
Jared McCann, Pittsburgh Penguins (10%)
Now that Pittsburgh has five significant forwards out or on IR, somebody's gotta step up and fill the void. McCann is reaping the benefits of Evgeni Malkin's absence by slotting in as the Pens' second center. He's taken advantage of the added responsibility by tallying three points Saturday and should continue skating major minutes with No. 71 projected to be out for at least two months.
Dominik Simon, Pittsburgh Penguins (0%)
Like McCann, Simon has already benefited from team health issues with a boost in ice time. He hasn't posted any points so far, but that could change since he practiced on Wednesday with the Pens' top power play. With Sidney Crosby by his side, Simon could build upon the partnership that started when he recorded three goals and five assists from the first 11 contests of last season.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Tampa Bay Lightning (46%)
Shattenkirk once ranked among the NHL's D-elite after four consecutive 45-plus point outputs. And then he arrived on Broadway for a two-year residency that received mainly negative reviews. After New York paid him off, it took less than a week for Tampa Bay to snap up the veteran for a bargain price. Even if Shattenkirk doesn't recapture his glory days, he's at least found the scoresheet in all three contests while being effectively deployed as a key component of the Bolts' formidable attack.
Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes (23%)
Hasn't missed time over the previous three seasons while averaging 32 points and almost 23 minutes a night. The main reason Slavin hasn't become a household name is the fact he barely participates on the power play. That doesn't matter to the 25 year old, who's kicked off the schedule with a pair of goals, an assist, 10 shots on goal, eight hits, and 11 blocks. Pretty solid stuff for a nobody.
Devon Toews, New York Islanders (11%)
Toews has carried out his best work in the opponent's zone, whether it was in junior, the NCAA or the AHL. He resumed this tradition last year when he combined for 37 points between the minors and the Islanders. Toews will need to improve his overall game to stay in the lineup, but any D who starts on the first man-advantage should be on more fantasy rosters.
Dennis Cholowski, Detroit Red Wings (4%)
After an up-and-down debut with the Wings, Cholowski is back as their primary power-play pointman. The chance to team up with a group of gifted skaters is any blueliner's dream, especially when that core is young and dynamic. And while Cholowski has been on the ice for a few goals, he's only registered one assist. He also doesn't receive a lot of ice time in other situations, though that should improve if he can prevent a repeat drop-off.
Ilya Samsonov, Washington Capitals (11%)
After being drafted 22nd overall in 2015, Samsonov continued in the KHL for three more years and then acclimatized himself to the smaller ice surface with a full AHL tour. His skills and instincts seem to match that of Braden Holtby, though the incumbent will ultimately earn a larger share due to his experience. The thing is, Holtby just turned 30 and his contract expires in June. If the Caps want to gauge whether Samsonov can eventually handle the lead role, they should provide him with added opportunities. With more stellar outings like the victory over the Islanders in his NHL opener, the Russian would be primed to steal a few starts.
James Reimer, Carolina Hurricanes (8%)
Following a decent campaign, Petr Mrazek was anointed Carolina's No. 1 between the pipes. But Reimer was also acquired at the end of June from Florida to provide some form of competition. The ex-Leaf filled in admirably for Roberto Luongo two years ago, and let's not forget a much older Curtis McElhinney excelled in tandem with Mrazek. The two have split the starts for the 4-0 Canes, with Reimer saving 79 of 84 shots compared to 43 of 49 for the Czech netminder.