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By Neil Parker, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
One of the most difficult parts of in-season fantasy management is knowing which players should be left to the waiver wire and which depth pieces should be on your roster. After all, there are a slew of interchangeable assets in the majority of settings.
There is a group of 31 players with five points and another 59 with four. There are only 70 skaters with at least six points this season. Because the difference between many of these depth options is marginal, it’s critical to focus on linemates, minutes, power-play time and upcoming schedules to maximize your moves and the upside of your roster.
Here’s the schedule for the next scoring period Oct. 23-29:
Two games: Bruins, Devils, Canucks and Golden Knights
Four games: Ducks, Flames, Hurricanes, Kings, Penguins
All other teams play three games next week.
(Yahoo ownership percentages as of Oct. 20.)
Vladislav Namestnikov, TAM (53 percent): It’s last call for Namestnikov. The 2011 first-round pick continues to skate with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov in all situations, and Namestnikov is up to three goals, seven points and 20 shots for the campaign. He should be viewed as a universal asset until proven otherwise.
Brock Boeser, VAN (14 percent): With a two-point showing Tuesday, Boeser is up to six goals, nine points and 32 shots through 12 career games. He’s locked into a go-to role and owns the offensive tools to make an immediate impact in the majority of settings. If there’s still an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, go for it.
Sean Couturier, PHI (38 percent): The 24-year-old center is in the heart of his offensive prime and clicking with linemates Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. With four goals, seven points and a league-best plus-9 rating, Couturier demands more fantasy attention. He’s flashed offensive upside in the past and is now locked into a go-to scoring role.
Nick Schmaltz, CHI (25 percent): The 21-year-old center returned from an upper-body injury to face St. Louis on Wednesday and logged 18:07 of ice time, including 5:01 with the man advantage. Schmaltz skated with Patrick Kane in all situations, which is obviously a boon to his fantasy value. The sophomore is a low-volume shooter, but he should pile up helpers as long as he’s locked into an offensive role.
J.T. Miller, NYR (40 percent): After a strong 56-point showing in 2016-17, Miller has kicked-started this season with two goals and seven points through seven games. He’s locked into a scoring role and in his offensive prime, so look for Miller to take another small step forward during his age-24 campaign.
Jakub Vrana, WAS (39 percent): Skating with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov is an ideal setup for the 2014 first-round pick. Vrana has cashed in early on with two goals, five points and 17 shots, and he’s also rolling out with the No. 2 power-play unit.
Jason Pominville, BUF (21 percent): The veteran winger has exploded out of the gate in his return to Buffalo with four goals and nine points through seven games. He posted an impressive 2.4 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five last year, and now Pominville is receiving power-play time with the No. 1 unit. Remember, too, the Sabres’ 24.5 power-play percentage paced the NHL last season.
Bryan Rust, PIT (21 percent): Skating with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel at five-on-five, Rust is in position to move the fantasy needle for the duration of his stay in a top-six role. He’s likely still going to have game-to-game volatility, but he’s already registered eight points — one goal — through seven games this season.
Jake Muzzin, LA (55 percent): With an assist in Wednesday’s win over Montreal, Muzzin extended his point streak to five games. He had a down year in 2016-17, but also recorded consecutive 40-point campaigns before last season’s dip in production. He’s up to five points, 17 shots and 10 blocked shots already and should be owned in all settings.
Mikhail Sergachev, TB (7 percent): The rookie played a season-high 13:38 of ice time (2:19 with the man advantage) during Tuesday’s win over New Jersey. Sergachev also collected a pair of assists in the outing, and he’s now up to four helpers for the campaign. He’s likely to be eased into a bigger workload, but talent isn’t a question, and the Lightning are scoring in bunches.
Olli Maatta, PIT (47 percent): It’s been an impressive start to the season for Maatta. He’s marked the scoresheet in six of seven games for two goals, seven points and 14 shots. He’s interestingly logging just 17:39 of ice time per game and is unlikely to carve out a meaningful power-play role. However, the early-season numbers are hard to ignore.
Anthony DeAngelo, NYR (5 percent): While more of a deep-league candidate for now, DeAngelo owns oodles of offensive upside. Additionally, he’s being deployed favorably with 76.9 percent of his five-on-five shifts beginning in the offensive zone. He collected his first point of the season Tuesday and logged 3:21 of power-play time, and there is potential for his role to grow.
Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (51 percent): With Steve Mason now sporting an 0-3 record and disastrous ratios (.846 save percentage and 5.96 GAA), Hellebuyck might have already established himself as Winnipeg’s No. 1. After all, Hellebuyck is 3-0 with impressive .937 and 2.11 marks. He should be owned in all settings.
Anton Khudobin, BOS (4 percent): Tuukka Rask had to exit practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury, so Khudobin jumps to the top of the depth chart. If Rask sustained a serious injury, Khudobin would handle a starter’s workload and receive a significant fantasy boost for the duration of Rask’s absence. A speculative add could pay off handsomely.
Michal Neuvirth, PHI (9 percent): The Philly No. 2 turned away 40 shots last time out and boasts a .956 save percentage and 1.51 GAA through his first two starts. Brian Elliott projects to remain the starter, but his .884 save percentage and 3.25 GAA certainly aren’t distancing him from Neuvirth. Philadelphia’s new-look lineup is clicking to start the campaign, too.
Malcolm Subban, VGK (29 percent): Marc-Andre Fleury is out with a concussion, so Subban has started consecutive games for the Golden Knights. With the finicky nature of concussions, Subban is in line to see a starter’s workload for an unknown stretch, and there is plenty of value in volume. However, his limited body of work in the NHL isn’t encouraging (.859 save percentage and 3.55 GAA).
Players to consider from past columns: Paul Stastny, Elias Lindholm, Nail Yakupov, Kevin Fiala, Kevin Labanc, Evgeny Dadonov, Pavel Buchnevich, Jordan Weal, Mattias Ekholm, Nate Schmidt, Damon Severson ,Victor Mete, Jan Rutta, Peter Budaj, Philipp Grubauer, Joonas Korpisalo, Juuse Saros.