In this week’s Eastern Edge, we’ll take a look at players that you should add in your fantasy leagues. Obviously, I understand that Yahoo’s ownership numbers aren’t exactly an accurate representation of whether or not a player is available in your league, but I think low ownership can work to your advantage even if you’re trying to trade for a player. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think there’s a psychological aspect of trading, where it’s easier to part ways with a guy who’s owned in less than 60 percent of leagues, just because that player doesn’t appear to be highly sought after by others. As always, shoot me a message on Twitter @BrennanDeSouza, if there’s something you want covered in future articles!
Brock Nelson (Owned in 53 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
If your fantasy hockey league counts faceoff wins as a category, then you know the value of having a center with winger eligibility. Most formats only let you play a couple of centers each night, so getting those extra faceoff wins from your wingers gives you a huge advantage in that category. Unfortunately, there aren’t many left wingers who can win faceoffs and also contribute to other categories. Leon Draisaitl and Steven Stamkos represent the cream of the crop in this regard, with guys like Claude Giroux, Tomas Hertl, Brayden Schenn, J.T. Miller and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jamie Benn and Max Domi making up the next tier. The thing is, it’s unlikely that you’ll find any of those guys on the waiver wire. Even Max Domi – who has struggled this season with 20 points in 33 games – is still owned in 68-percent of Yahoo Leagues. Enter Brock Nelson, who’s on pace for 66 points this year and ranks in the top 20 for faceoff wins. He’s seeing just under 19 minutes of ice-time per night, a step up from last year’s career-high of 18 minutes. In addition, he’s shooting the puck way more than he ever has before. Coming into the 2019-2020 campaign, the most shots he had taken in a season was 190 and that was back in 2014-2015. He’s on pace for 250 shots this year!
Joonas Korpisalo (Owned in 51 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
At this point in the season, it’s really hard to find good goaltending options on the waiver wire. The goalies that are available in your league probably fall into two categories: those that don’t get enough starts and those that are so bad that you wish they got fewer starts. Fortunately, there’s a guy who’s available in almost half of Yahoo fantasy leagues and I’d say he’s escaped those two categories. Coming into this season, there was a lot of talk about a goalie controversy in Columbus. Elvis Merzlikins – who had posted impressive numbers in the Swiss League from 2013-2019 – had potential to steal the role of starting goaltender for the Blue Jackets. That initial optimism has died down recently, as he’s failed to register a win in eight starts this season, posting a 3.41 GAA and .889 save percentage in the process. While he might still have a bright future in the NHL, I don’t see him having much value in fantasy leagues for the rest of the year. Coincidentally, the fall of Elvis has allowed for the rise of Joonas – if there’s an award for goaltending tandem with the best names, Columbus has to win right? Joonas Korpisalo has been one of the league’s best starting goalies over the past month, winning six of his 10 starts while putting up an impressive .927 save percentage and 2.06 GAA. He’s started nine of the team’s last 11 games and has taken a firm grip on the starting role – which I don’t see Merlikins prying away from him anytime soon. Columbus is a strong defensive team and while they may not score enough for Korpisalo to rack up the wins, I think he’s capable of posting strong numbers going forward.
Bryan Rust (Owned in 49 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
The 27-year-old forward has 22 points in 19 games this year, that’s a 95-point pace from a guy who’s been a 40-point player over the last three years. A long list of injuries in Pittsburgh have given Rust a bigger opportunity with the team than he’s ever had before. Coming into this season, he had a grand total of five power-play points through 253 NHL games. That’s not all that surprising when you consider the abundance of offensive talent that Pittsburgh has had over the past few years. It was basically impossible for Rust to crack the top power-play unit while Phil Kessel, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist were in the lineup. With Kessel in Arizona and Crosby & Hornqvist out with injuries, Rust has been averaging nearly three minutes of power-play time over his last 10 games. Remarkably, he’s tallied five power-play points in those 10 games. When the Penguins return to full health, Rust is at risk of losing his spot on the top power-play, which will probably hurt his fantasy hockey value. However, until that happens, I say you pick him up and enjoy the ride. Trust in Rust!
Filip Hronek (Owned in 25 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
The 22-year-old sophomore has 18 points in 33 games this season and is seeing 23 minutes of ice-time a night – with an average of two minutes and 40 seconds on the power play! Sure, Detroit’s roster is pretty underwhelming, but they have a few players who are offensively gifted that will continue to help Hronek’s point totals. Unfortunately, his production is limited because the team doesn’t give him the lion’s share of power-play time. Dennis Cholowski leads Detroit’s defensemen in PP ice-time, playing nearly three minutes a night. Mike Green averages two minutes and 20 seconds with the man advantage.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (Owned in 12 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
With just 18 points in 33 games, his overall numbers are far from impressive. However, a closer look reveals that he has 12 points in his last 14 games. What’s even more encouraging is that he’s seeing more ice-time during this recent stretch of success – at both even strength and on the power play:
Bjorkstrand has taken on a much bigger role this season compared to last year, when he was playing just 12 minutes per game. He’s been shooting the puck a lot recently and is currently on pace for 278 shots. To give you some perspective, only 10 players took more than 278 shots during the 2018-2019 campaign. Bjorkstrand isn’t getting enough attention in fantasy leagues because he had a poor start to the season, and he plays for a low-scoring team. Given his recent success, I think you’d be wise to add Bjorkstrand if he’s sitting on your waiver wire.
Zach Hyman (Owned in 12 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
He missed the start of the season while recovering from a torn ACL but worked incredibly hard to stay in peak physical condition while he was out of the lineup. As a result, he didn’t look out of place when he returned to action after missing the first quarter of the campaign. Hyman’s diligent play has solidified his role as a member of Toronto’s top-six forward core. He tallied 21 goals in 71 games last year and was extremely effective alongside Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Hyman has five points in his last five games and is seeing 18 minutes of ice-time a night. While Toronto’s big names are already owned in your fantasy league, Hyman is a quality asset that’s probably still sitting on the waiver wire.
Nick Suzuki (Owned in six percent of Yahoo Leagues)
The 20-year-old rookie is an extremely smart player who has taken on a bigger role while Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron are out with injuries. His ice-time has increased from 14 minutes in the first quarter of the season, to 15 and a half minutes during this second quarter of the campaign. With center and right-wing eligibility, he can add to your faceoff win totals, without taking up the center slot on your roster. There’s no denying Suzuki’s offensive abilities, but his offensive output will be stay limited in one-year fantasy leagues until coach Claude Julien plays him with line mates that are more offensively inclined than Nick Cousins and Jordan Weal.
Tyler Bertuzzi (Owned in 47 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
Detroit’s roster may be bad, but their top line of Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi is quite talented and continues to put up points. Bertuzzi sees over three minutes of power-play time per game and skates for nearly 20 minutes a night. He has 27 points in 35 games this year and is very much capable of finishing the season with 60 to 65 points.
Linus Ullmark (Owned in 35 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
Has started six of Buffalo’s last seven games and is running away with the starting role as Carter Hutton continues to struggle. The Sabres look to be in a playoff hunt thanks to the strong play of Jack Eichel – who leads the league with 29 points in 16 games over the past month.
Josh Bailey (Owned in 17 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
He’s scoring on 21.6 percent of his shots, which isn’t sustainable. However, he has eight points in his last eight games after a poor start that saw him put up just 14 in his first 23. A 60-point winger should probably be owned in more than 17-percent of Yahoo Leagues, right?
Anthony Cirelli (Owned in 12 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
Twelve points in his last 14 games while averaging 19 and a half minutes of ice-time.