Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 24 (2020)
A few numbers jumped out at me in week 24: the Los Angeles Kings (in 31st place in the NHL) have won five straight games, the Dallas Stars (with a top-10 record) have lost five straight, the Philadelphia Flyers have won nine straight, and Mika Zibanejad scored five goals in a game. As impressive as Philly’s streak is, I have to nod my head to Zibanejad, who became only the second player in NHL history to accomplish this feat (Sergei Fedorov, 1996).
While Dallas is listing badly in the Western Conference, four of the top six teams in the East are under .500 in the last 10 games. If you want to see a creature of habit, watch an NHL player prepare for a game. With all of the coaching changes and recent trades, it’s not that surprising to see some teams adjusting to new voices in the dressing room and new players on the ice. You will want to avoid starting players who might be gripping their sticks a little too tight this week.
As for who’s hot and who’s not, here are the teams with seven or more wins in their last 10 games:
- Philadelphia, St. Louis – nine wins
- Colorado, Vegas – eight wins
- Boston, Minnesota, Los Angeles – seven wins
Teams with three or fewer wins include:
- Pittsburgh, Columbus, N.Y. Islanders, Buffalo, Detroit, Dallas, Vancouver, San Jose
Vladislav Namestnikov (COL): 26%
With Mikko Rantanen’s injury, Namestnikov has won the winger’s lottery, playing alongside Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon. I could probably leave it at that, but it’s worth noting that Namestnikov is producing (five points in seven games since joining the Avalanche), so he has a good shot at holding down this spot until Rantanen returns. He also has center eligibility down the stretch.
Anthony Cirelli (TB): 31%
Another center taking advantage of an injury (to Steven Stamkos) is Cirelli, who’s currently on the second line with Alex Killorn and Blake Coleman. This is an underrated line for offense (63 goals) and grit (330 hits), and Cirelli has posted 44 points in 67 games to date. Jon Cooper seems to love these kinds of players, so look for Cirelli to keep playing over 18 minutes per game.
Pavel Zacha (NJ): 4%
Zacha has certainly not lived up to his draft status as a top-10 pick, but there’s still hope. He hasn’t exactly had much offensive help around him for his first few years, but now he has some serious young talent on his team. He’s only 22, displayed a pretty strong offensive game in junior, and can play in the shadows somewhat as the spotlight will shine on Hughes and Nico Hischier going forward. His six points and plus-four rating in the last 10 games are positive signs.
Zach Parise (MIN): 37%
Parise was thought to have been dealt to the Islanders at the trade deadline, but the deal apparently fell through at the last minute. To his credit, Parise has not let that drama affect his play, as he’s posted 10 points in his last 11 games for the Wild. Minnesota is currently one of the Wild Card teams and is 7-3 in their last 10 games, so grabbing some Wild players may not be a bad idea.
Dustin Brown (LA): 35%
The Kings are another team that’s been on a roll recently. Only one team has fewer points in the standings, and they are still -37 in goal differential, but some of their players have been stepping up lately. Brown is one of them, scoring seven goals and ten points in his last nine games. He already has 139 hits, and being minus one on this team is pretty impressive.
Jesper Bratt (NJ): 5%
Bratt is currently playing with Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev on a line that has scored 105 points so far. I could make a case for picking up all three players, as Gusev has 10 points in as many games, but Bratt has the hot hand with five goals (Gusev has two) and eight points in nine games. With the Devils trading a few forwards away recently, Bratt may see his ice time increase as well.
Duncan Keith (CHI): 28%
At 36 years old, Keith has slid out of fantasy relevance the last couple of years, but he’s clearly not done. He’s rarely been a big goal scorer (100 tallies in 1137 games), but he has more than five times as many assists in his career. He’s at it again with one goal and nine helpers in the last 10 games. He’s also plus seven in that span as Chicago is still trying to get back in the Wild Card race in the west.
Erik Johnson (COL): 15%
It’s easy to forget that Erik Johnson was the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft. He’s a big guy playing around 21 minutes a night, but he has never posted a 40-point season. I consider him a solid depth guy, though, as he hits (94), shoots (96), and usually has a decent +/- mark (currently +10). He’s also posted seven points in his last 11 games, so he might give you some production on a red-hot Avalanche squad.
Cam Talbot (CGY): 19%
In the last four weeks, Cam Talbot has played in seven games, winning five and posting two shut outs. He posted a 2.41 GAA and .922 save percentage. By contrast, the so-called number one goalie in Calgary (David Rittich) played in eight games. He won three of them and posted a 3.56 GAA and a .893 save percentage. The Flames have 12 games left and may not have a choice but to run with their hottest goalie down the stretch.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (RW – PHI): 1%
Aube-Kubel is a 23-year-old second-round pick of the Flyers, and he might be making a case for more ice time in Philadelphia. The Flyers are pretty deep up front, but Aube-Kubel has seven points in his last nine games, and he is plus five as well. He scored 76 goals and 164 points in his last 122 junior games, so he can score and is also delivering more than two hits per game. If he earns an audition on either of the top two lines, he could be a great late season surprise.