Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire Pickups & Advice: Week 17 (2023)
As I noted in yesterday’s buy/sell advice, now is a great time to sit down and evaluate your fantasy hockey roster. The All-Star break is officially here, and regular-season action doesn’t resume until Monday, Feb. 6.
In that regard, let’s take advantage of the break and check out some names worth adding off the waiver wire.
*Rosterships courtesy of ESPN
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NHL Fantasy Hockey Week 17 Waiver Wire Advice
Nicklas Backstrom (C – WSH): 15.1% rostered
There’s a good reason why Nicklas Backstrom is a hair over 15% rostered. He’s appeared in just 10 games following offseason hip surgery, while an illness recently cost him an additional game.
Now, I’ve never been a massive fantasy fan of Backstrom, as he doesn’t exactly deliver much in the peripheral categories, but his track record deserves a flyer. Backstrom has tallied a goal and five points in his 10 games this season, along with 22 shots, nine hits, two penalty minutes, one power-play point and a minus-five rating. Not exactly sterling production from the long-time Caps pivot.
However, Backstrom remains a key member of the Capitals’ top power-play unit, and while he’s not skating with Alex Ovechkin at five-on-five (at the moment), we know the center-ice position is always a fluid one for this Capitals team. Don’t rule out a promotion back to the top line alongside his long-standing running mate to get his production going for a Caps team that needs all the wins they can get in the season’s second half.
With just one goal on those 22 shots, we can certainly expect positive regression from his current 4.5% shooting rate considering his lifetime 12% mark. He might be 35 years old with plenty of mileage on his body, but he said he felt great following the offseason hip surgery. Coming from a player who notched 53 points in 55 games as recent as two seasons ago, Backstrom should be able to get his production up with more consistent game action.
He’s not a cross-category beast and never has been. However, he could still be a solid source of assists, power-play points, and even goals moving forward, given the poor puck luck to this point.
Brock Boeser (RW – VAN): 49.7% rostered
Brock Boeser has had another uneven season in what appeared to be a bounce-back opportunity in the 2022-23 campaign.
Between off-ice drama and a lack of on-ice production, Boeser has registered just 30 points in 41 games. Not a horrible figure, but he’s also a minus-nine with six power-play points, 19 hits and 2.2 shots per game on the campaign. He’s left plenty to be desired for those who foresaw a bounce-back from the American winger.
However, I like the upside moving forward. For one, we can’t rule out that he could be the next Canuck traded on the heels of the Bo Horvat deal. It appears both he and the organization wouldn’t mind parting ways, as the Canucks could clear his $6.65 million cap hit off the books for the next two seasons after this one, assuming no salary is retained. For Boeser, a change of scenery wouldn’t be the worst idea, given his stagnant on-ice production and off-ice differences with the organization that reared its head this season.
For the time being, however, Boeser has a nice opportunity on this Canucks roster. With Horvat out of the picture, it appears Boeser will skate on the team’s top line alongside Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko while sliding into Horvat’s vacated spot on the club’s top power-play unit. That’s as good as an opportunity you can have on this Canucks roster right now.
He does have three points over his last three games – all assists – while skating nearly 19 minutes in two of those three and more than 17 minutes in all of them. Remember, this player scored 55 goals through his first two full NHL seasons across 131 games between the ages of 20 and 21. Still just 25, it’s hard to believe his offensive ability has cratered.
With a few scenarios as to how Boeser can pick it up a few notches moving forward, he could be worth a flyer now before he is the next one shipped to a contender.
Erik Gustafsson (D – WSH): 20.1% rostered
Nothing is new when it comes to the situation Erik Gustafsson finds himself in.
Gustafsson took over the lone d-man role on the Capitals’ top power-play unit when John Carlson went down back on Dec. 23. Carlson took a slap shot off the face that evening. While he has resumed skating, it’s going to be a while until he returns to game action. While it may just be a short-term add, Gustafsson makes plenty of sense for managers needing a blueliner.
Since Carlson’s injury, Gustafsson has recorded 12 points in 17 games, third-most on the Capitals, behind only Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. He’s just one point behind The Great Eight in Carlson’s absence. While the PP1 duties help, just two of those 12 points have come on the man advantage, meaning Gustafsson has been a threat at even-strength as well.
Again, during Carlson’s absence, Gustafsson has averaged 21:24 of ice time per game and averaged 2.4 shots per game in that time. He’s been a worthwhile addition, and the rostership has not been a reflection of that. Simply plug Gustafsson into an injured d-man’s spot for the time being and let Carlson’s injury situation play itself out.
Pavel Zacha (C, LW, RW – BOS): 10.6% rostered
It’s rather surprising to see Pavel Zacha approaching single-digit rostership given the season he’s having.
With 11 goals and 35 points across 51 games, Zacha certainly isn’t producing at a top-tier level. His 83 shots, 10 penalty minutes and three power-play are nothing to write home about. However, Zacha is also an impressive plus-16 on a league-best Bruins team, contributing 43 hits on the season.
Zacha has been a second-line staple for the Bruins this season, and this bodes well for when Jake DeBrusk returns to the lineup. Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery recently told Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald that he would be “shocked” if DeBrusk wasn’t ready to return to the lineup when the Bruins return from their All-Star break on Feb. 11.
Why is this important for Zacha? Because David Pastrnak and his 38 goals – second in the NHL – could very well move onto a line with Zacha and David Krejci, just as was the case prior to DeBrusk’s broken fibula at the Winter Classic on Jan. 2. Zacha has spent the 14 games DeBrusk has missed without Pastrnak on his line but has still managed to produce three goals and five points over his last five games most recently.
Don’t expect shots, power-play points or penalty minutes from Zacha, but the goals and assists should continue to remain steady and likely increase upon a potential reunion with one of the game’s elite goal-scorers in his return from the All-Star break.
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