Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: 2/7
With about a month and a week remaining in the Fantasy Hockey regular season, every matchup counts. And where every matchup counts, every addition that a team makes could be the difference in the most crucial matchups. And picking the players who have the right matchups is extremely important, especially this late in the season where some teams don’t have a sense of urgency, such as the Arizona Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres. Here are my picks for the best waiver wire options of the week, all owned in less than 50% of leagues.
Kevin Fiala (NSH)
One of the hottest teams in the NHL right now is the defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators. This year, and especially this stretch, they have proven they are a lot better than an eight seed. And one of their hottest players is Kevin Fiala, a guy that has stepped up nicely in place of injured top line Predators, and in the case of recently suspended top line Predators (Filip Forsberg). Fiala hasn’t just substituted nicely, he’s been among their best offensive players, with four goals and one assist in their last three games.
Andthis week, the Nashville Predators feature some other nice matchups. They face three Eastern Conference Canadian teams in a row, all of which are in the bottom half of the league in goals allowed. I’ve picked on the Ottawa Senators (3.35 GAA) and Montreal Canadiens (3.06 GAA) many times in previous articles, and I’m going to do it again. I am also picking on a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has a 2.78 GAA, which is improved from where it was in previous years but still isn’t amazing. The Leafs are getting some defensemen back from injury, which could help, but fantasy owners should not be afraid of Frederik Andersen. Their other matchup is the St. Louis Blues, a team Nashville has played well and despite doing well defensively (2.48 GAA, 3rd in NHL). Jake Allen isn’t a goaltender I would be afraid of in a more physical matchup. The 21-year old Fiala is having his best season, with 17 goals and 18 assists on the year, and also has been a more crucial part of the Predators’ power play (four goals, seven assists), which gives boosts in some leagues. And this week, since he has been a hot goal-scorer and is being presented an extended role with the Forsberg suspension, he should be able to continue his success with these matchups.
Mikko Koivu (MIN)
The Minnesota Wild have been streaky all season long, and a lot of players have underperformed this year. Granted, they are still in a playoff spot, but it still hasn’t been as clean of a year as we’ve seen in the past. One of those players has been Koivu, who has just six goals and 20 assists on the season. The 20 assists is a solid total to this point in the season, but the six goals is certainly concerning for any player that is a top line player for this team. As a result of this disappointing season, he is only owned in 42.8% of leagues. However, if there is any week for him to break out and find his groove again, it is this week.
Minnesotaplays against the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and New York Rangers, all teams with iffy performing defenses or goaltenders. The Coyotes (3.42 GAA- 30th in NHL) and Rangers (2.98 GAA- 22nd in NHL) are in the bottom 10 in goals against. The Coyotes don’t have a good defense, and the Rangers have had an underperforming defense. The Blackhawks GAA is in the top half of the league despite lacking Corey Crawford (2.77 GAA- 11th in NHL), but I’m still not scared of a team that has lost a lot of its top defensemen, is struggling more than usual this season, and a team with a young goaltender in Anton Forsberg. With that in mind, I expect Koivu to get the offense going again, likely with goals but it can still happen with assists too. With underperfomers comes some overperformers too for a team that is still technically in a playoff spot, and those have been Eric Staal and Jason Zucker, both 20+ goal scorers this season. If Koivu rejuvenates himself and plays those more crucial minutes, he can also go back to playing with them, like he did in previous years, which will help his numbers as well. And I believe this week will be a statement for Koivu for his individual stats and for an urgent-playing Minnesota Wild team trying to solidify a playoff spot.
Esa Lindell (DAL)
There are four teams this season that are Top 10 in goals for and goals against average, three of which are some of the top teams in the league, in the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vegas Golden Knights. The other one is the Dallas Stars, a team only in the first Wild Card spot in the west, but still 6th in goals for and 8th in goals against. And with that rise from a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year, there has to be some overperformers on both ends of the ice. One of those is defenseman Esa Lindell, who has six goals and 17 assists so far this season, to go along with 86 blocks and 57 hits. He also has two power play goals and six power play assists, which is good for a guy who isn’t a high level overall defenseman.
Withthat in mind, I expect him to be able to up his game even further for this Dallas Stars high-powered offense with some good matchups this week against the Blackhawks, Penguins, and Canucks. I mentioned with Koivu how Anton Forsberg has overperformed for Chicago in net this year, but his GAA is still close to three, and I wouldn’t be afraid of that when dealing with a top offense like this. Lindell has been the second best offensive defenseman after NHL defense assist leader John Klingberg (44 assists). And with a team that has been good in both categories this season, expect them to rise above the Wild Card with this scheduling, with the Penguins being the only team really to be afraid of with how well they have played in the second half. And I expect Lindell, who is owned in less than 25% of leagues, to be a big boost for teams seeking defenseman help due to this scheduling and the talent around him for a team that definitely is a contender to be better than they are right now in the playoff hunt.
Jaroslav Halak (NYI)
Halak has been the definition of a streaky goaltender this year, and mostly bad than good for an Islanders team that has been great at scoring goals but has been outscored this season (-18 goal differential) because of shaky goaltending. However, if there is any stretch for Halak to wake up, it is this week. The Islanders have four games in this article week (February 7 through February 13) all against teams in the bottom half in terms of goals per game and three in the bottom five. The Sabres (2.25 goals for- last in NHL), Blue Jackets (2.52 goals for- 29th in NHL), and Red Wings (2.55 goals for- 28th in NHL) are all struggling offensively this year. And their other matchup is a home game against the Calgary Flames, who despite having a lot of talent, are still in the bottom half of the NHL in goals per game at 2.79. The Flames, who were in a playoff spot just last week, are in a small slump right now as a bonus. Obviously, with the Islanders in a goaltender platoon, you will have to monitor whether Halak is starting or getting a day off for Greiss. But, as a veteran goaltender and a goaltender in general, if he does play, Halak can’t be bad forever. And I believe this stretch will be one of his good stretches this season, maybe the last time I say that for a team that has struggled defensively all year. So if you need a matchup goaltender as an exclusive short-term option and are in a deeper league looking for goaltenders, I wouldn’t be afraid to snatch up Halak. But once again, be careful in terms of how much he is playing, as the Islanders like to platoon him and Thomas Greiss quite often.