For most of us the time is nigh, fantasy playoffs have arrived. Whether you’re dealing with a groin injury to Erik Karlsson or an ankle injury to Dustin Byfuglien, you may be in need of a waiver wire add or spot start for your playoff run. We must consider doing anything necessary to win our matchups this week in order to survive and make it to next week. If you’re in a one-year league or limited keeper then dropping Karlsson at this stage for an extra man game or two is quite possibly a no-brainer, as counterintuitive as it may feel. The question then becomes who to replace him with. I’m going to focus on a few defensemen from non-playoff teams that may have some stream value for you to consider adding this week. It’s time to maximize man-games, off-night starts, and target weaker opponents. Whatever it takes to make it to the next round.
Line combinations from our Frozen Tools.
New Jersey Devils (TUE/WED/FRI/SUN)
Not exactly a star-studded power play, I know. The potential diamond in the rough this week is the 24-year-old Severson. Drafted 60th overall by the Devils in 2012, the offensive-minded D-man has quietly put up a career high in points (34) and has recently been on the receiving end of some great deployment. He has spent almost 80 percent of his even strength time-on-ice paired with veteran Andy Greene this season, which has allowed him to jump up in the play at the offensive end. In the month of March, Severson’s TOI is up to just under 23 minutes-per-game and he’s averaging almost three minutes of first unit power play time. During that span he has four points (2g, 2a) in five games, four hits, six blocks, nine shots, minus-1, and two penalty minutes. Combine all of this with the Devils off night schedule and the plumb West Coast matchups, where three of the teams the Devils face are currently out of the playoffs (EDM, VAN, COL), and you have yourself a fine looking replacement defenseman for the week. Severson is currently owned in 11% of Yahoo leagues, 28% of ESPN leagues, and 49% of Fantrax leagues so there’s a decent chance he’s available.
Anaheim Ducks (TUE, THU, FRI, SUN)
Anyone notice that both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were missing from the Ducks top power play unit? Don’t expect that to last. Regardless of the forward juggling going on in Anaheim, one consistent player on the top unit for the Ducks is Cam Fowler. He’s averaging 23:29 TOI/game and 2:37 on the power play this season. Given the season the Ducks are having it’s not all that surprising to learn that a ton of GMs have given up on Fowler and dropped him. He is owned in only 21 percent of Yahoo leagues, 42 percent of ESPN leagues, and 51 percent of Fantrax leagues. Top-end deployment on a bad team is still top end deployment and Fowler’s stats during his last five games aren’t too shabby: four points (1g, 3a), three PPP, eight shots, six hits, seven blocks, plus-2, and he is receiving 57 percent of the teams power play time. Prior to the last five games, Fowler went six games without recording a point and had only a single assist in the past 13 games. There is definitely some streakiness to Fowler’s game so buyers beware. But catch him at the right time and you could be rewarded. The Ducks have actually been playing quite well lately, winning four of their last six games. Their final three games this week come against non-playoff teams (ARI, COL, FLA) and as usual they have a nice off-night schedule. Fowler could be a quality addition to a team in need of PPP.
Florida Panthers (THU, SAT, SUN)
Defensive pairing: Keith Yandle – MacKenzie Weegar
If you’re in a multi-cat league there’s a high probability that you may have a difference maker for this week available in your league. Weegar is only owned in two percent of Yahoo leagues, less than one percent of ESPN leagues, and six percent of Fantrax leagues. The 25-year-old right-handed defenseman was taken in the seventh round by Florida in 2013 and has only seen significant NHL time over the last two seasons. Weegar rejoined the Panthers lineup on March 3rd and during the past four games he has averaged 20:48 of ice time. A whopping 72 percent of that time has seen him paired with the offensive minded Yandle, and the way things have gone for him I would expect that to continue through this week. In a four game-span, Weegar has put up four points (2g, 2a), seven shots, 14 hits, 13 blocks, 0-PIM, and is a plus-5. It’s a small sample size but Weegar has been an absolute beast since his return. The downside to Weegar is that he isnt’ getting a sniff on the power play and that likely won’t change. If you can live without the power play production and find yourself chasing hits or blocks at the back end of this week, then Weeger could become a must add. Florida plays three games in the final four days of the week and the last two are against non-playoff teams (ANA and LAK). If you’re in a cap league the news gets even better as Weegar comes in at a measly 900k hit this season likely leaving room for him even if you’re near the top end of your cap limit.
Simply put, ice time and deployment matter in fantasy hockey. Even on a bad team you can get some great fantasy production. Forget about what’s happened so far this season and what may happen next season, fantasy playoffs are all about what you can do for me right now. The three players we looked at might not be long-term solutions for your fantasy team but if available, they have good schedules against generally weaker opponents as well as recent production that could help your team right now, when it matters most.