Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: 3/7
For some leagues, dependent on the size of the league and number of playoff teams, the playoffs may be underway. For others, it is now within the final week or two of the regular season. Every matchup counts unless you’re in a league with a bye week or playing a team that hasn’t been checking their team. But for the other 99% of scenarios, every point counts. Here are my waiver wire picks for this home stretch and, for some leagues, playoff edition.
Zach Parise (MIN)
Another Wild player!? Could this be happening? Well, fans now realize that their recent resurgence has come at the hands of their very easy and backloaded schedule, and must have just had harder opponents in the beginning when they were struggling. Unfortunately, for those of you who I deceived last week, I apologize, as Koivu had one of his best weeks, whereas Niederreiter didn’t. But this week, I am going a different route with an overpaid, but still semi-talented player in Zach Parise who can break out in the home stretch for the Minnesota Wild. Parise, having played just 27 games this season due to back surgery, has five goals and seven assists so far this season. However, many hockey fans know that he’s capable of more than that, despite falling off in comparison to his play earlier in his massive eight-year contract he received in 2012. The matchups for Minnesota this week (March 7-13) include the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Colorado Avalanche, all of which have had shaky defense and goaltending this season. The Oilers are right now third worst in goals allowed per game at 3.3, while the Canucks are fourth worst at 3.24. Colorado is in a three-way tie for 11th at 2.95, and they have had one goaltender after another get hurt quite constantly. So once again, due to the easy schedule and their recent hot streak (six wins in their last eight games), I am encouraging all Wild players that are available. But the one that I think has the best chance to break out is the veteran Parise, who I think is just finding his stride and getting into hockey shape now. I believe he will be key for the Wild in this home stretch of games.
Mikael Backlund (CGY)
Backlund has had a down year when it has come to goal-scoring, with just 13. He has picked it up lately after a rough start, a start rough enough where I had to drop him after drafting him late in my league. However, I think he is worth an add this week. The Calgary Flames have an even better schedule than the Minnesota Wild this week, and have a chance to rise into the playoff picture. And even though he hasn’t been goal-scoring at his normal pace, Backlund is still valuable from a skillset perspective when it comes to goal-scoring. Not to mention, he still has 28 assists on the season, which is third on the team only behind Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, so he is still on good pace in that category. Now moving on to the matchups, they are as good as it gets. They have four games, which is already an added boost. And their opponents? The Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, and Edmonton Oilers. What do those four teams have in common? They are all four in the bottom five when it comes to goals allowed per game, all allowing over 3.2 goals per game. And with the Calgary Flames having a skilled offensive team, including some good offensive defensemen as well, this week should feature a lot of four- and five-goal games from the team, and I expect Backlund to be a big part of this goal parade.
Alex Goligoski (ARI)
Usually, in these articles I seem to be picking on the Arizona Coyotes as the opponent for my players to watch. This week, I am actually going to pick one of their players. The 32-year-old Goligoski has had a solid season for a struggling Coyotes team, with nine goals and 21 assists to go along with 101 hits and 112 blocked shots. He is playing first pair minutes as well, alongside talented defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. In terms of the matchups, the Coyotes also have four games, two of them against the Vancouver Canucks, and another against the Colorado Avalanche. The one tough one is next Tuesday, against the Los Angeles Kings, who are the second best only to the Boston Bruins in goals allowed per game. The only other thing to worry about with Goligoski is he has been on personal leave due to the birth of his child. He missed some games over the weekend due to that and he also might miss the first game against Vancouver. That being said, even if he does miss that one, he still has several other good matchups. And even though the Kings are tough, he can still use his physical identity to hit and block shots and accumulate points that way, if your league allows points for those categories. So overall, I believe he is a good risk to take with the matchups and the performance, but still continue to monitor if he will play in the first game this week just to be safe.
Darcy Kuemper (ARI)
The goaltending market for players owned in less than 50% of leagues is difficult for this week, because several goaltenders are coming back from injury (Cory Schneider, John Gibson) while others just don’t have the matchups. So my matchup pick this week is another Coyote, in Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper is playing for Antti Raanta right now, who is day-to-day with tightness in his lower body. It doesn’t seem like that significant an injury, but for a goaltender that relies on stretching his pads to get low and make saves, the coaching staff may want to be more cautious with him. That gives Kuemper a chance to shine, once again with two matchups against the Canucks and one against Colorado and Los Angeles. It is the opposite effect of Goligoski, where the Kings are the tougher matchup. From a goaltending perspective, the Colorado Avalanche are the tough matchup, as they have a good amount of offensive talent, leading to ranking ninth best at 3.14 goals per game. Likewise, the Kings are just middle of the pack (17th) at 2.88 goals per game, and Vancouver has been terrible all year long with the exception of the recently-injured rookie Brock Boeser. The Canucks are ninth worst in the league in terms of an offensive perspective at 2.71 goals per game. So overall, in a tougher goaltender market this week, I would consider Kuemper as a sneaky option if you need help at the position, especially if Raanta remains sidelined with lower-body tightness.