By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
If you’re in a keeper league and currently occupy a lower spot in the standings, you’re probably wondering if — and how soon — your focus should shift to next season.
You may have come into this season with a talented lineup. You may have even started the first few weeks on fire, but when injuries and poor performance continue to pile up, it almost feels like fate is urging you to find a new hobby.
Never fear, because a rational decision is always near. If you’re holding a few valuable assets that can’t be carried over, you may want to start thinking about the future. Maybe hold on to a couple cheaper centerpieces and build around them. Look at other lineups and target players you think will do well in the coming years.
And if you come up with a solid selling strategy, try not to change it midstream — that is, unless your team suddenly turns it around and you believe a postseason/cash place is attainable.
While the preceding advice may look confusing, the following suggestions should be as clear as (center) ice…
(Yahoo ownership rates/stats as of Dec. 6.)
Nick Schmaltz, ARI (20 percent)
Schmaltz’s career path looked promising when he notched 52 points for Chicago last season, but his momentum slowed this year and he was subsequently traded. Since arriving in Arizona, the Madison native has picked up five points — including two power-play goals — in only four games while skating with Clayton Keller and Alex Galchenyuk on the first line. If you’re in one of the roughly 80 percent of Yahoo leagues where Schmaltz remains available, get him now.
Eeli Tolvanen, NSH (15 percent)
Without Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Kyle Turris, Nashville has lost a significant part of their offensive swagger. That’s probably why management called up Tolvanen, the flashy 19-year old who starred for Finland at the last Olympics. While the 11 points in 21 AHL contests won’t knock your skates off, he did tally a goal and assist in Saturday’s season debut. I managed to snap up Tolvanen in the highly-competitive Yahoo Friends and Family League during the game. That said, you may want to monitor how the coaching staff handles him over the next few outings before doing likewise.
Adam Henrique, ANH (16 percent)
While teammate Pontus Aberg may be teasing us once again with his latest exploits, Henrique provides the safer fantasy option by guaranteeing some form of consistency. The former Devil is enjoying a six-game point streak, while finding the scoresheet in nine of his last 10. Henrique also claims a place on Anaheim’s top man-advantage group, where he’s netted three goals and averaged 2:28 a night.
Mikkel Boedker, OTT (1 percent)
If you’re scoring at home (and please don’t admit if you are), Boedker makes seven Sens forwards discussed in this column’s nine weeks. While the Dane currently skates on what’s technically Ottawa’s third line, he’s part of its first power play. After posting 26 and 37 points in each of the last two seasons, Boedker has rediscovered his scoring touch with 17 — including a hefty 14 assists — in only 28 appearances.
Jimmy Vesey, NYR (3 percent)
Many teams were rushing to sign Vesey when he became a free agent after starring in college. Despite the hype and pedigree, the 2016 Hobey Baker winner would only register a total of 55 points over his first two years on Broadway. Vesey was held to three goals and zero assists during his first 12 games, but he’s turned it around in the second half with six goals and five assists over his last 16. Thanks to this success, his minutes have increased considerably while spending some time with No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad.
Marcus Johansson, NJ (1 percent)
Johansson has generally been reliable when it comes to scoring, averaging 48 points over his final four campaigns with the Caps. And despite missing most of his inaugural run in Jersey, he managed to post 14 points in 29 contests. This year hasn’t been kind to Johansson, although he’s pulled off a recent run of six points in five with 22 shots while skating 3:04 with the man-advantage. That body of work looks decent for any forward, let alone someone who patrols the Devils’ third line.
Carl Soderberg, COL (15 percent)
Another player from the bottom-six of the depth chart, Soderberg has been frustrating fantasy owners for a while. The 33-year old finally made it to the big leagues six years ago and posted three consecutive solid efforts across Boston and Colorado. Then he disappeared. A slight resurgence has pushed Soderberg back into the selection conversation, where he’s tallied 19 points — including eight PPPs — through 28 outings. Third-line centers aren’t normally the most sought-after service, but he’s performed better than several pivots who sit higher on their clubs’ depth charts.
Josh Leivo, VAN (7 percent)
Due to the William Nylander signing, Leivo became the odd man out in Toronto and was shipped to the West Coast. The 2011 draft pick spent most of his Leafs tenure in the AHL, notching 124 points over 171 games. He managed six points in limited action before the move, so it came as a surprise when he received a major role increase during his Vancouver opener. It may only be one appearance, but the fact Leivo scored a goal on a line with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser should at least be worth consideration in deeper leagues.
Gavin Bayreuther, DAL (1 percent)
Not many heard of Bayreuther before 2017, having gone undrafted and then signing with the Stars after four stellar seasons at St. Lawrence University. He received his first taste of the NHL thanks to a November call-up and has chipped in with two goals and three assists in 10 contests. But the most noticeable thing about the 24-year old is his inclusion on Dallas’s loaded top power play, where he’s assisted twice over the last week. That placement probably won’t continue when John Klingberg returns later this month, but Bayreuther is positioned to adequately contribute until then.
Jacob Trouba, WPG (51 percent)
Dustin Byfuglien’s injury may have hurt the Jets in terms of endurance and toughness, but it has also opened the fantasy floodgates for Trouba. In the four outings since Big Buff got concussed, the ninth pick from 2012 has gone off for five points, 12 shots, and 10 blocks while playing an average of nearly 27 (!) minutes. Trouba had previously struggled on offense but is usually counted upon to log heavy ice time, so only his special-teams time will take a significant hit once Byfuglien returns.
Nate Schmidt, VGK (7 percent)
We all know about Schmidt having to sit out the first 20 contests, but some of us may have forgotten the 36 points he registered in 2017-18. He was eased back into the lineup after being eligible to return, which may explain the first five scoreless efforts. The one assist on Vegas’s 13 subsequent goals didn’t help Schmidt’s cause, but the two goals and assist on Tuesday against former club Washington may be the start of something productive.
Jakob Chychrun, ARI (2 percent)
The key for Chychrun during the remainder of his third year is to stay healthy, since he’s suffered enough physical setbacks — including a couple injuries that covered 18 of the first 19 games. Although the minus-7 through eight appearances doesn’t help, the three-plus minutes with Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the Coyotes’ man advantage looks like it would help those in need of secondary blue-line scoring.
Adin Hill, ARI (34 percent)
Hill has come from virtually nowhere to produce four consecutive wins while posting a sparkling 0.56 GAA and .977 save percentage. This super-elite level of play can’t possibly be maintained, but there’s hope for the 6-foot-6 netminder. Even with Antti Raanta set to return soon, Hill will most likely be entrusted with the bulk of the starts until the incumbent settles in or knocks the newcomer off his throne.
Anthony Stolarz, PHI (2 percent)
With Brian Elliott still sidelined and Michal Neuvirth having recently been activated after an extended layoff, Stolarz sits alone when it comes to decent options for the Flyers between the pipes. A modest relief appearance for the now-departed Calvin Pickard on Nov. 24 started the Jersey boy’s adventure, but his biggest scalp came when he stopped 30 of 32 shots at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The veteran Neuvirth should eventually usurp Stolarz for first position, but at least give the new guy the chance to prevent that from happening.
Players to consider from past columns: Tyler Johnson, Alex Galchenyuk, Mikko Koivu, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Duchene, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Gustav Nyquist, Dustin Brown, Mika Zibanejad, Mikael Backlund, David Krejci, Brady Tkachuk, Travis Konecny, Kevin Fiala, Alex Kerfoot, Sam Reinhart, Cody Eakin, Brock Nelson, Alex Tuch, Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Strome, Kevin Labanc, Boone Jenner, Ryan Dzingel, Andrew Shaw, Kevin Hayes, Tom Wilson, Miro Heiskanen, Samuel Girard, Shea Theodore, Neal Pionk, Brandon Montour, Colin Miller, Mike Green, T.J. Brodie, Oscar Klefbom, Damon Severson, Hampus Lindholm, Mikko Koskinen, Curtis McElhinney, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard