By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Keeping focus in fantasy may be the difference between finishing first and becoming an also-ran. Or, it won’t make a difference at all.
The key is to stay active. Whether your team is struggling or becomes saddled with injuries, you should make sure to stay on top of your lineups and acquisition opportunities. In more competitive formats, the window to grab the hottest achievers is extremely small. If you’re not available to do so in-game or soon after, there’s a decent chance you’ll miss out.
In the interest of setting you up on this routine, here are a few players whose ownership levels don’t quite match their output/potential/situation…
(Yahoo ownership rates/stats as of Nov. 29)
Brady Tkachuk, OTT (44 percent)
Thanks to the league’s fourth-best attack, Tkachuk represents the sixth-different Senator forward mentioned in this column’s eight weeks. Ottawa selected Matthew’s younger brother with the fourth overall pick in June and ultimately opted to keep him in the NHL. Tkachuk paid immediate dividends with three goals and three assists in his first four contests, but a leg injury kept him out for two weeks. In his last nine since returning, the 19-year old has racked up 10 points, 13 PIM, and 28 shots while seeing almost three minutes a night on the Sens’ top power-play unit.
Bryan Little, WPG (12 percent)
Imagine how exciting it would be to center a line between Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. That dream has manifested itself into reality for Little, who assisted on four of Laine’s five tallies Saturday. While the veteran has only registered a single goal with the man advantage, he’s managed 14 points on the season. As long as Little is surrounded with the same type of talent and remains in the top six, he should continue to be a viable fantasy producer.
Josh Anderson, CLS (42 percent)
Anderson improved upon the 17 goals from 2016-17 with 19 in 15 fewer outings last year. He managed four in six in limited action to start this campaign, leading to a reward of added ice time. Anderson has tacked on another seven markers while firing 71 shots and 60 hits through 24 games. The 6-foot-3 winger has also recently been tested on the Blue Jackets’ top power play, where he recorded an assist against Detroit on Monday.
Dylan Strome, CHI (8 percent)
Never able to do much during his time with the Coyotes, Strome was recently sent to the Windy City. The third selection from 2015 has been given a fresh start, complete with some awesome supporting talent. In his debut, Strome skated with superstar Patrick Kane and former junior teammate Alex DeBrincat on Chicago’s second line. He ended up with a goal and an assist. If he can keep the momentum going for a longer stretch, expect the points to keep flowing.
Brandon Saad, CHI (17 percent)
As much as Chicago is struggling on the defensive end, its top two lines have continued to post respectable numbers. Following his Blackhawks reunion, Saad didn’t quite live up to replacing Artemi Panarin, posting only 35 points over 82 appearances. The prospects didn’t seem to improve after he started this season with two assists in eight, but the Pittsburgh native has exploded for 12 points over his last 15 while representing the main target for Jonathan Toews on the left side.
Kevin Fiala, NSH (25 percent)
After 48 points during his first 80-game run, further progress was expected from Fiala. No offense from this season’s opening six encounters left Preds fans and fantasy owners disappointed. Even though Fiala’s scoring has mainly come in bunches, his current selling point is a promotion alongside Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen. He’s also maintaining a three-game point streak and has directed 18 shots on net over his last five contests.
Andrei Svechnikov, CAR (33 percent)
Taken two places ahead of Tkachuk last summer, it was understood Svechnikov would earn a spot in Carolina right away. The 18-year old came out the gate with two goals and two assists in four matchups. He then dramatically fell off with eight straight scoreless entries. The subsequent seven points in 12 may not be eye-popping, but the young Russian has appeared to acclimate himself to the pros.
Alex Chiasson, EDM (8 percent)
Based on the high turnover rate, it seems difficult to find a third to join Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the long-term. Drake Caggiula served as the most recent test subject, but a dip in form dropped him down the depth chart. The Oilers have opted to switch strategy and go for a more physical presence, which is where Chiasson comes in. Since earning his golden ticket, the 6-foot-4 forward on his fourth franchise in as many years has potted three points — including two PPPs — while acting as the net-front presence on Edmonton’s top power play.
Shea Weber, MON (66 percent)
For those who drafted Weber, most retained him on injured reserve while he sat out the first 24 games. The upside is that he’s still available in roughly one-third of Yahoo leagues, but you’ll need to act quickly to obtain his services. The 14th-year rearguard made his debut Tuesday and looked like his old self by notching an assist in over 25 minutes, including 3:44 with the man advantage.
Noah Hanifin, CGY (26 percent)
Hanifin averaged 28 points during his first three NHL seasons in Carolina but was moved to Calgary in June as part of a deal for Dougie Hamilton. Among the Flames’ loaded D, one can’t blame Hanifin for starting slowly. But since Nov. 1 — a span of 11 outings — last year’s All-Star has picked up two goals and seven assists to go along with 14 shots, 10 hits, and 15 blocks.
Alex Goligoski, ARI (4 percent)
With Oliver Ekman-Larsson dominating the minutes and Jakob Chychrun projected as the next breakout blueliner, someone like Goligoski will often be overlooked. Before going down with a lower-body problem earlier in the month, the 33-year old enjoyed a three-game stretch where he delivered six assists. Goligoski will probably never match the 46-point peak from 2010-11, but he’ll net you at least 25-30. And in fantasy speak, that provides a solid floor.
Ryan Pulock, NYI (33 percent)
Scott Mayfield has surprisingly stood out among the Islanders’ defensive crew with 10 points, but that pace can’t last over a full season. Nick Leddy disappointingly checks in at six points, while fellow veteran Johnny Boychuk is stuck on three. That leaves the younger Pulock with the task of carrying the offensive load. And although the 15th pick from 2013 has been shut out in 19 contests — including 10 of the last 12 — he’s managed to fire 24 shots on goal over eight appearances. He’s gotten in over two minutes of power-play duty per outing as well.
Casey DeSmith, PIT (54 percent)
Before Matt Murray went down with another injury, he had been struggling with a 4.08 GAA and .877 save percentage. On most nights the back-to-back Cup champ was pulled, DeSmith stepped in and performed decently. As a result, the UNH product received more starts and has won his last three. He should continue to get most of the work, as the extent of Murray’s issue is still unknown.
Mikko Koskinen, EDM (31 percent)
Cam Talbot hasn’t tasted victory since Oct. 28, slumping to a 4.33 GAA and .855 save percentage through six consecutive defeats. Over the same period, Koskinen has pulled off a 5-2-1 record while pitching two shutouts. The 6-foot-7 Finn excelled in the KHL for six seasons before his recent return to North America, though others in similar situations have failed in the past. Talbot will fight to reclaim the top job, but Koskinen appears as though he won’t give it up that easily.
Players to consider from past columns: Alex Galchenyuk, Mikko Koivu, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Duchene, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Gustav Nyquist, Anthony Mantha, Dustin Brown, Mika Zibanejad, David Krejci, Travis Konecny, Travis Zajac, Alex Kerfoot, Sam Reinhart, Cody Eakin, Brock Nelson, Alex Tuch, Andreas Athanasiou, 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, Dennis Cholowski, Oscar Klefbom, Damon Severson, Ben Hutton, Brent Seabrook, Jacob Markstrom, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, David Rittich