Fantasy Hockey Pickups: Underrated waiver wire options to consider ahead of Week 16
By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Vacation time is meant for relaxation. Escaping the regular grind can also provide a significant emotional boost. So maybe flying to a three-day Scrabble tournament in New Orleans wasn't the best way to release stress, especially when there are tense moments throughout and you end the event losing three of the last four games to miss out on first place or even cashing.
And as it turns out, I didn't heed my advice from last week regarding staying vigilant with fantasy activity. With my focus firmly directed toward the lexical arts over the long weekend, I managed not to set any lineups or pursue any acquisitions. That's left my teams in disadvantageous positions, and I've only started to recover from these setbacks.
The lesson is not to go anywhere. Ever. Stay inside and make sure your rosters continue to perform at optimum levels. And if you've already exhausted internal checks and the trade route, here are some free agents who can be had for, um, free.
(Rostered rates as of Jan. 20)
Andre Burakovsky, SEA (Yahoo: 44%)
Burakovsky represents Seattle's seventh forward mentioned this season, and that's not surprising considering the club ranks fourth in goals per game. He ended his time in Colorado with a career-high of 61 points and then signed a four-year deal to head to the Emerald City. Burakovsky immediately produced with his new team and would eventually accumulate 10 goals and 18 assists in the first 30 contests. And then — shock! — a six-game slump. But he's back in form with 10 points — including three on the power play — since Jan. 5 while being paired with Matty Beniers.
Jason Zucker, PIT (Yahoo: 31%)
After notching four points over the opening four outings, Zucker found his way into this column. That would soon be followed by 11 in 11, supplemented by 32 shots and 30 hits, before a few inconsistent efforts. Zucker continues to play alongside Evgeni Malkin during even strength and on the Penguins' second man-advantage. He's also garnered more interest of late, having managed four goals, two assists, 10 shots and a whopping 26 hits across the last seven.
Calle Jarnkrok, TOR (Yahoo: 8%)
Jarnkrok has never hit it big in North America, though he's generally been a solid producer. He had a nice haul last season with the Kraken before being traded to Calgary at the deadline, yet not a lot was expected from him offensively in Toronto. That prediction would hold for the first five-plus weeks with only six points to show, but then Jarnkrok hit the jackpot, moving up to a line joining John Tavares and Mitch Marner. The standard short-term injury would creep up, but he's looked great, piling up five goals and 10 assists from the last 18 and even contributing a pair of PPPs on the backup group.
Conor Garland, VAN (Yahoo: 8%)
Garland got off to a good start in Vancouver with 52 points and 203 shots. The same trend appeared to be repeating itself this campaign after three goals, five assists, and 19 shots in the opening month. A prolonged decline over 12 games would ensue, during which he'd only register two assists, though he still fired 23 pucks on net over that stretch. While recent logs may show Garland hasn't done a lot of scoring, his minutes have increased and he's back on the Canucks' top man-advantage while skating with Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller at five-on-five.
Juuso Parssinen, NSH (Yahoo: 6%)
Like many others, I was enticed by Parssinen after he went off for five points in his first four NHL outings. And following 12 scoreless showings, I believed it was time to send him back to the waiver pool. I'll readily admit to being wrong on that assessment as he's been outstanding since the end of that slump, with two goals, 11 assists, and 25 hits in 15 games. Parssinen has also notched six PPPs on Nashville's first unit but may be less productive at even strength, as he was just moved down to third center.
Kirill Marchenko, CLS (Yahoo: 2%)
Remember last week when I briefly mentioned Marchenko in the Gustav Nyquist section? He didn't add any offense to the nine goals he'd already posted, though he got a minutes boost the last three games — including a place on the lead power play — while tallying 11 shots and four blocks. Marchenko boasts the talent and has already notched a hat trick, so let's see what he can do with extra opportunities.
Dylan Guenther, ARI (Yahoo: 2%)
Mason McTavish, the hero for Canada in the summer edition of the WJC, came up again in the previous column. Fast forward five months, and it's Guenther who became the latest in a line of Canuck legends, as he scored the gold-medal-winning goal against Czechia. The ninth pick from 2021 made the Yotes' roster in the fall and got off to a quick start with six points — four of those PPPs — in eight matchups. Since returning from the tournament, Guenther's ice time has skyrocketed, and he's now within the top six in addition to his regular man-advantage duty.
Taylor Raddysh, CHI (Yahoo: 1%)
On Dec. 2, when Raddysh was initially presented here, he sat at one percent. 49 days later, he's at … one percent. Which sounds kind of odd for someone who's managed 12 points, 37 shots, 20 hits and 17 blocks during those seven weeks while continuing to work on Chicago's top power play.
Guess a lot of folks are staying away from the non-stars on a team that sits 31st in offense. But c'mon, Raddysh reeled off a goal and two helpers on Saturday and has found the scoresheet in four straight. I said to give him a chance the last time he was mentioned, and I'm going to repeat the same sentiment here.
John Klingberg, ANH (Yahoo: 39%)
Klingberg was signed by Anaheim in the summer to a one-year contract after averaging 47 points during his eight years in Dallas. The 30-year-old performed well enough in his first 13 games, with seven assists — including three PPAs — 19 shots, 11 hits and 16 blocks. But then the scoring significantly dropped off the next 19 with four goals and no helpers, which also covered a brief lower-body injury, a minus-15 and a demotion to the second power play. The Ducks may still be anemic on offense, but Klingberg appears to be getting back on track with four points, 15 shots, 10 hits and 11 blocks from his last seven outings.
Brett Pesce, CAR (Yahoo: 12%)
After being discussed in early December, Pesce would only notch a lone assist across the next nine contests. A pair of PPAs soon followed, and so would a jump to the Canes' lead man-advantage. Pesce has produced 10 points, 30 shots and 16 blocks in his last 12 while averaging just under 23 minutes. No one is debating Brent Burns' status as Carolina's top blueliner, but Pesce is doing enough on the scoresheet while contributing plenty elsewhere to warrant additional fantasy attention.
Samuel Girard, COL (Yahoo: 11%)
Girard was first featured at the start of the campaign based on his consistent offensive history and the fact that the Avalanche are generally among one of the league's top attacks. His output would soon plummet, with only three assists through the next 22 games, and so did his coverage numbers. Fortunately, Girard has rediscovered his touch, registering seven points across 12 games along with 17 shots, 11 hits and 17 blocks. He won't net you what Cale Makar or even Devon Toews usually achieve, yet he's solid enough as a lower-roster addition.
Jake Walman, DET (Yahoo: 7%)
Some players don't do much for a long time and then suddenly break out. Walman missed the opening 15 matchups recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and then only logged 16:54 a night for the next 15 games. But as he was performing well defensively, more ice time was provided, and that eventually led to a partnership with Moritz Seider. Walman has gone on to rack up four goals, two assists, 34 shots, 12 PIM, 16 hits and 32 blocks, highlighted by an OT winner in Pittsburgh and a PPA versus Toronto during a cameo with Detroit's first unit.
Pavel Francouz, COL (Yahoo: 41%)
Francouz has been plagued by injuries, yet he's posted a career 2.48 GAA and .920 save percentage. He won back-to-back appearances before missing four weeks with a lower-body problem. Francouz returned last Thursday and got the nod in three straight while picking up a pair of wins and shutting out Ottawa. Alexandar Georgiev operates as Colorado's No. 1 but has been erratic since Dec. 27, posting a 3.69/.890 line. That's left the door open for Francouz to go on his latest run and potentially earn more starts.
Alex Lyon, FLA (Yahoo: 2%)
Spencer Knight has already been out over a week and Sergei Bobrovsky left Thursday's contest early with a lower-body issue, which forced Lyon — with all of 24 NHL appearances over five seasons coming in — to step up and stop 23 of 25 Montreal shots. With Knight not back yet and the severity of Bobrovsky's injury not yet known, Lyon should at least hold some fantasy worth behind a Panthers' offense that's recently scored plenty of goals.
Players to consider from past columns: Logan Couture, Martin Necas, Dylan Cozens, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jeff Skinner, Andrei Kuzmenko, Matty Beniers, Phillip Danault, Dylan Strome, Kevin Hayes, David Krejci, Trevor Moore, Nick Schmaltz, Max Domi, Mason McTavish, Lucas Raymond, Alex Iafallo, Brock Boeser, J.T. Compher, Owen Tippett, Jared McCann, Conor Sheary, Jack Roslovic, Brandon Hagel, Gabriel Vilardi, Sam Steel, Jordan Eberle, William Karlsson, James van Riemsdyk, Viktor Arvidsson, Eeli Tolvanen, Jason Zucker, Nick Paul, Seth Jarvis, Tyler Bertuzzi, Seth Jones, Brandon Montour, Shayne Gostisbehere, Jake Sanderson, Noah Hanifin, Cam Fowler, Ty Smith, Sean Durzi, Vince Dunn, Adam Boqvist, Janis Moser, Justin Schultz, Erik Gustafsson, Calen Addison, K'Andre Miller, Vitek Vanecek, Martin Jones, Charlie Lindgren, James Reimer, Karel Vejmelka, Antti Raanta, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Stuart Skinner, Pheonix Copley, Samuel Ersson, Craig Anderson, Casey DeSmith