Special to Yahoo Sports
The injury bug has spread throughout the league. Players are dropping like unsustainably high shooting percentages, and it's terrifying the fantasy community, though not in a fun-Halloween-sorta-scary way.
IR slots are being overloaded, which leads to the temptation to release decent talent to accommodate additions. Unless it's an emergency, don't give in. Try to focus on longer-term progress, because that's what often leads to success.
Back to the waiver grind. Let's see which players shake out this week:
(Rostered rates as of Oct. 28)
Martin Necas, CAR (Yahoo: 44 percent rostered)
Necas produced decent numbers in his first three full seasons but nothing spectacular. Now that he's logging nearly 20 minutes a game, the stats are flowing. Eight points and 15 shots from the first six contests is a great start. Beyond his sizable ice time, Necas is set up to maintain his hot run and continue to succeed within the top six and as a new member of the Canes' top power play.
Reilly Smith, VGK (Yahoo: 24%)
Smith has been fairly reliable since joining the Golden Knights in their inaugural campaign. He immediately gelled with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, leading to three straight years of at least 53 points. Injuries have recently hindered Smith, though he's not having any problems racking up the fantasy points with a goal, four assists and 27 shots. He's also been reunited with his original linemates while chipping in with two power-play points.
Nick Robertson, TOR (Yahoo: 23%)
It's no shame being the second-best NHLer in your family, especially when your older brother is Jason Robertson. Nothing against Nick, who's achieved a point-per-game output at both the junior and AHL levels. He was promoted last week and immediately stole the show with a pair of goals (including the OT winner) against his more famous sibling. It looks like Robertson will stay with the Leafs, which should be fine with him considering he's on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander and participates in the second power play unit. Keep an eye on him to see if he doesn't drop to the lower half of the lineup, however.
Dawson Mercer, NJ (Yahoo: 20%)
Even though Mercer was highly touted coming into his rookie season, he exceeded expectations with a respectable point haul (42) and a sizable role spanning all 82 games. His responsibilities haven't necessarily increased, but he's definitely more active, firing an average of three pucks on net per game. Mercer has also moved up to Jersey's lead man-advantage, where he scored Saturday against San Jose. As a core piece of the organization's future, he's primed to receive enough offensive opportunities.
Jeff Carter, PIT (Yahoo: 14%)
After a couple of off-years in LA, Carter's career has been rejuvenated in Pittsburgh. It doesn't matter if he's the third-line center or a complementary winger since he generally gets the job done. As mentioned with Jason Zucker last week, the Pens' second power play isn't the forgotten group it used to be, and Carter is leading the way there with three power-play points. He'll be 38 on New Year's Day, but you don't have to wait until then to thank him because I know you'll be adding him to at least one of your fantasy lineups.
Kent Johnson, CLS (Yahoo: 8%)
2022 must feel like a blur for Johnson as he was part of a stacked University of Michigan squad and represented Canada at the Olympics, World Championships and World Juniors. Guess going through all that made jumping to the NHL feel like a breeze. Or at least that's how it's looked for Johnson so far, as he has a goal in each of his last three games. He's impressing while playing an average of just 12:37, so imagine what his totals would look like over a larger workload.
Brandon Hagel, TB (Yahoo: 7%)
When Hagel was dealt by the Blackhawks in March, he was arguably their best player, grabbing 21 points in 25 contests while skating over 19 minutes a night. In Tampa, his role significantly shrank except for a few times in the playoffs when he had to cover for injured teammates. Hagel's secondary status looked to be continuing into this season, yet he's logging significantly more ice time and has recently been placed in more favorable positions.
Four points may not sound like much, but consider they've all come in his three most recent appearances, including a power play goal on the second unit. At five-on-five, Hagel can be found alongside Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. There's a chance he slips down the depth chart, but for now, he's one to watch.
Derick Brassard, OTT (Yahoo: 1%)
With Josh Norris projected to miss the rest of the season, Shane Pinto (26%) has been featured by many — and rightfully so — to take over a significant chunk of his duties. If you happen to miss out on the Pinto frenzy, don't worry, as there's another Senator who's being overlooked. You may scoff at the idea Brassard can still do much at 35, what with him being scratched for Ottawa's opening five games. He went right into his second debut with the club by registering a goal in 16:05 of action, centering the second trio with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux and earning a spot on the backup power play. Pinto is destined to leapfrog Brassard as the No. 2 pivot, but you can at least take advantage of the potential the veteran could realize alongside above-average forwards.
Vince Dunn, SEA (Yahoo: 33%)
Dunn was mentioned in the opening column, earning a recommendation in the section covering Justin Schultz. Dunn went scoreless in three games before potting a goal on four shots Sunday and picking up a pair of assists two nights later. He's averaged well over 22 minutes while registering three power-play assists. Seattle's scoring average and power play have both significantly improved from last season, leaving Dunn and others with increased fantasy opportunities.
Matt Grzelcyk, BOS (Yahoo: 10%)
Grzelcyk missed the first four matchups following offseason shoulder surgery. He jumped back into the lineup just over a week ago and produced a helper in each of his first three contests supplemented by eight shots, three hits and six blocks. Grzelcyk has also reclaimed a man-advantage role, one that's seen him record at least five power-play points per season since 2018-19. With Charlie McAvoy projected to be sidelined until December and Hampus Lindholm patrolling PP1, Grzelcyk could provide adequate secondary output.
David Jiricek, CLS (Yahoo: 1%)
The sixth selection from this summer's draft has quickly adapted to North American play with four assists in his first five AHL games. Jiricek — who doesn't turn 19 until next month — was summoned to Columbus as a couple blueliners are hurt, including Adam Boqvist, who's scheduled to miss six weeks with a broken foot. Throwing a teenager into the NHL after only a couple of weeks in the minors may seem questionable, though the phenom had already played top-level hockey in his native Czechia for over two years. We'll see what happens when Jiricek debuts tonight, but don't be surprised if he logs time on the power play and gets on the scoresheet.
Juuso Valimaki, ARI (Yahoo: 0%)
Valimaki hasn't enjoyed much luck since the Flames took him with the 16th pick in the 2017 draft, highlighted by the ACL injury that caused him to miss the entire 2019-20 season. Calgary would ultimately waive him right before Opening Night, and Arizona claimed the spoils. Valimaki was immediately inserted on the second power play and has continued there at 3:18 per outing, registering a pair of assists. He may not be the most promising fantasy candidate, though you're not going to find many other D-men with this much power play duty and offensive upside.
Stuart Skinner, EDM (Yahoo: 19%)
Skinner got a taste of the NHL last season and looked decent. Oilers supporters have been clamoring for him to start more after two excellent years in the AHL, where he posted a combined 42-16-6 record. Jack Campbell has had some poor performances since signing in the summer while Skinner has impressed in a couple appearances, including saving 37 of 38 on Wednesday in St. Louis. There's no debating Campbell as Edmonton's current No. 1, but Skinner looks like he'll be entrusted with enough activity behind a pretty good offense.
Adin Hill, VGK (Yahoo: 15%)
After the recent goalie debacle in Vegas, it's nice to see the club doing well with two relatively unestablished keepers. Logan Thompson was anointed as the lead coming in and hasn't disappointed with a 2.03 GAA and .931 through five appearances. Hill was acquired in August to be the backup, with Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit out long-term. He's been solid so far, winning all three starts while giving up just six goals on 92 shots. It's early and the Golden Knights could regress defensively, but Hill should be rostered in more leagues.
(Players to consider from past columns: Travis Konecny, Gabriel Vilardi, Andrei Kuzmenko, Mason McTavish, David Krejci, Ryan Strome, Max Domi, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jake DeBrusk, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Calen Addison, Filip Hronek, Sean Durzi, Brandon Montour, Justin Schultz, Janis Moser, James Reimer, Jake Allen, Mackenzie Blackwood)