Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 5
I’ve found fantasy hockey a great game for waiver pickups. With some sports the pickings are slim, but even with deep-bench hockey leagues, you can often find a solid contributor week in and week out. I’ve also seen future superstars picked up on waivers so I enjoy writing about this vital strategy. I’ve consistently observed the most successful owners work the waivers harder than their rivals and it usually pays off handsomely, so let’s take a look at some current options.
Joe Thornton (SJ): 23%
This might sound like low-hanging fruit, but Thornton’s one of those names owners are starting to shy away from. He is 39 years of age, which is pretty ancient for forwards in this game, but he was scoring at a 63-point pace last year and San Jose’s offensive production could be at its apex with Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane contributing this year. The Sharks are tied for sixth in scoring, and while you may be rolling the dice with Joe staying healthy, you may be able to pick him up at a senior citizen discount.
David Krejci (BOS): 19%
Another familiar face and a bit surprising to me to see him at this level of ownership. Krejci has been around for a while now but at 32 should have a couple of productive seasons ahead of him. He’s also had his share of injuries (64 games last year), but was on a 57-point pace. Boston’s had an uneven start, but Krejci’s nine points in his first 11 games indicate he’s playing pretty well for a potentially high-scoring team.
Jason Pominville (BUF): 28%
Another old guy (at 35), I’m including Pominville in this article due to his current lineup status (playing on the top line with Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner). Skinner is red hot right now and both he and Eichel are scoring at a point per game rate. Pominville has nine points in his first 11 games, so he’s chipping in for now. He has a tendency to wear down and slow down as the season progresses but if you have some injuries or holes to plug in your roster, he will probably hold the fort for a while.
Nick Bjugstad (FLA): 18%
Bjugstad looked like a future stud as a first-round pick, but his offensive game regressed in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Last year he began to get his sea legs back, and now he finds himself on the Panthers’ top line with Aleksander Barkov and Evgeny Dadonov. If he can keep up with those two he’s a pretty good bet to beat his career-best point total of 43. He is another sleeper you should be able to pick up on the cheap.
Ondrej Palat (TB): 13%
The left-wing options are not currently awesome (so look for multiple-position eligibility), but Palat is worth a flyer. He’s a guy that is pretty dependent on a top-six posting to deliver, but in Tampa Bay the third line can still be pretty talented. He’s day to day right now, so he would have to be a stash, but should come cheaply and his three-year average of 54 points is pretty decent.
Alexander Steen (STL): 12%
Like Palat, Steen is a solid contributor (50-point average the last three years), is somewhat line dependent, and plays on a high-scoring team (currently ninth in the league). He is also day to day with a lower-body injury but has a multitude of potent linemates he could play with when he returns.
Oscar Klefbom (EDM): 23%
One tends to dismiss Oiler defensemen, as there has been a long drought on the prairies. Klefbom helped that narrative last year by regressing offensively but did chip in with 38 points in 2016 (including 12 goals). Although not a big hitter (eight to date), and a plus-minus concern if your league uses those categories, Klefbom logs the most ice time by a wide margin. He is also firmly situated on the first power-play unit with some big-time talent.
Sami Vatanen (NJ): 18%
Vatanen looked like a young stud in Anaheim, but injuries have stunted his growth somewhat. Another minute muncher, he leads the Devils in ice time at 24:20 per game. He’s averaged 31 points the last three years (in 71 games) and the Devils are quietly amassing more talented offensive players.
David Rittich (CGY): 17%
Picking up a goalie on waivers is typically a roll of the dice. You are hoping a young prospect bursts on the scene (shortly after you stashed him), or the starting goalie suffers an injury or a case of the yips. Mike Smith is prone to both of those conditions (especially injury), and Rittich has really outplayed Smith to date this year (2.37 GAA and 0.933 save percentage vs. 3.55 GAA and 0.878 save percentage for Smith). It’s early in the season and Smith got clobbered vs. Pittsburgh (six goals on 21 shots), which has tilted his stats, but Rittich is a guy to watch.
Scott Darling (CAR): 16%
Darling lived up to his name in Chicago and parlayed that into a four-year contract with the Hurricanes at north of $4 million per year. He is coming off an injury and will have to prove himself to a new coach (and owner), but he’s the contractual starter and will be given every chance to justify that deal. Last year was an unmitigated disaster, but the Canes are off to a good start this year. If he finds his Chicago groove, Darling could be a huge waiver pickup.
Ryan Dzingel (OTT): 9%
With winter coming, it’s nice to have a dumpster fire to keep everyone warm (or so the joke goes in Canada’s capital). The Senators have become a national amusement, but have actually played surprisingly well so far this year. One thing this franchise has always done well is uncovering late-round gems (Daniel Alfredsson and Mark Stone for instance). They may have another in Dzingel, who could have played a round of golf before he was chosen (204th) in the 2011 NHL draft. He was fifth in team scoring last year with 41 points and is playing on the top line with Ottawa’s two most talented forwards, Matt Duchene and Stone.
Sheldon Curtis is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Sheldon, check out his archive.