Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: 2/28
With a very active NHL trade deadline officially passing, it is crunch time in the NHL season as we head for the final 20-25 games for each team. However, for fantasy, it has been crunch time for a while, and no matter the position of your team (unless you’re a 3-4 win team and completely out of it) paying attention to injury reports and waiver wires could make a difference down the stretch. Here are my waiver wire picks for this week at each position, once again with ownership under 50% according to ESPN fantasy hockey leagues.
Nino Niederreiter (MIN)
The Minnesota Wild have the best matchups for this stretch when it comes to playing four games all against iffy or average teams defensively. Last week, I went with Mikko Koivu, who turned out to still struggle and be unproductive. He could do well with these matchups this week, but for differentiation, I am going with winger Nino Niederreiter. Niederreiter only has seven assists to go along with his 15 goals this season, and that is the big reason he is only owned in 42.1% of leagues. However, he is still a talented player that can break out at any time for a Minnesota Wild team that is playing their best hockey right now, climbing into the third spot in the division, passing the Blues and Stars. In terms of matchups, they have four games, which obviously will spawn more points, and the matchups include all teams that are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to goals allowed. The first features the Arizona Coyotes, who are 5th worst in the league in goals allowed per game at 3.23. Also, with a team not playing for anything right now, there is going to be very little sense of urgency. The other three matchups include a road contest with the Colorado Avalanche, who are tied for 11th worst at 2.98 goals per game, and then two home matchups against the Detroit Red Wings (2.94 GAA, 17th) and the Carolina Hurricanes (3.00 GAA, 10th worst). The Wild have certainly had many different goal scorers and guys producing points on this current hot streak. Who says it can’t be Nino Niederreiter, a normally talented winger, to break out of his slump this week?
Nick Bjugstad (FLA)
Another team with four games and some decent matchups is the Florida Panthers. They aren’t as good as the Minnesota Wild’s matchups, but being I went with Koivu last week, I decided to vary it up with Nick Bjugstad. Bjugstad has had an interesting year so far, as he is on pace to pass his career high in assists but also has a lower than usual goal total. I believe a lot of that lost production from previous years has to do with the loss of Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Nevertheless, Bjugstad has just 11 goals but still has a respectable 20 assists, which as I mentioned is three shy of a career high. Not bad for a guy that is available in a whopping 94% of fantasy leagues and this week features some decent matchups, with the exception of next Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, a game is a game, and he’ll still get more points from that than not playing at all. The good ones to look at are the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, and Philadelphia Flyers. Both the Devils and Flyers recently have been overperforming in front of shaky goaltending. But the Devils (19th, 2.97 GAA) and the Flyers (11th, 2.75 GAA) still don’t have scary goaltenders or outstanding goals against averages. And of course, there is the Sabres, who have been the worst team in the league all year long. And their defense and goaltending have been just as bad as the offense, rounding out to a 3.25 GAA which is 4th worst in the league. The Florida Panthers have had front-loaded offensive production all year long, with four players accounting for 82 of the team’s 173 goals this season. However, Bjugstad has been surprisingly lost in that mix, which is why he is so widely available. That being said, don’t let his goal-scoring struggles scare you away with a great value for someone highly available and the good four games that come with this week’s matchups.
Darnell Nurse (EDM)
The Edmonton Oilers haven’t had a lot of things to like this season, but one thing (with the exception of Connor McDavid obviously) has been the play of Darnell Nurse. Fundamentally, he’s been off like a lot of the other defensemen this year. However, he still has six goals and 14 assists this year, which isn’t bad for a second pair defenseman. Add 121 hits and 118 blocks on the year, and statistically speaking his year for fantasy is still not bad. It was hard to pick defensemen because the other teams I listed, the Wild and Panthers, don’t have defensemen as good as Nurse that would be available in less than 50% of leagues. Not every matchup for the Edmonton Oilers is amazing, but they still play two teams in the New York Rangers and Arizona Coyotes that have struggled defensively, particularly recently. The other matchup is the Nashville Predators, who is the top team in the Central Division right now. However, a home game for the Oilers is still going to be a tough matchup as they have legitimate talent on their team. And if you need a good defenseman due to injury or in an effort to play matchups for the next week, I believe Nurse is a solid option.
Anton Forsberg (CHI)
Like with the defenseman position, goaltender is not as strong as other weeks. But four games is always a premium. Anton Forsberg has four games this week, and three of them are matchups against teams that are below average in scoring, and a fourth meeting with a Colorado Avalanche team that is good offensively but is struggling currently. They have slipped out of wild card position and are playing just average, 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. As for the other three matchups, they are playing against the three California teams, who are much more defensively sound than they are offensively. The Sharks and Kings are tied for the middle of the pack with 178 goals this season and the same goals for average of 2.83 goals per game. The Anaheim Ducks are even worse than that, averaging 2.69 goals per game. Now granted, all those games are on the road and that can be difficult for any traveling team, especially with the second and third games of those series. However, the combination of the Blackhawks having to rely on their goaltending with a defense that isn’t as strong as it once was and the fact that Forsberg is playing well with four games, it seems like he is the best option among goaltenders available in less than 50% of leagues.