As we enter the second half of the NHL schedule, the majority of fantasy leagues are nearing the stretch run before the playoffs. Whether you’re flexing at the top of the standings, or fighting for a chance to make the postseason, it’s important to take into account your team’s performance across all categories.
The beauty of multi-category leagues is there are so many ways to win. You can stack up on offensive talent, peripheral beasts, or pray for decent goaltending rates on a week-to-week basis. But by this point in the year, you should be pretty certain about which categories you’re proficient in, and in which areas you could use some help.
In this column, I’m going to take a look at players who can give you an edge in certain categories each week. We’ll talk about players who are providing value in shots, penalty minutes, hits, and blocks.
I’m going to keep this list to players owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues. But for those who are in shallower leagues looking for a boost in the peripheral categories, take a look for these players on your waiver wire: Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Graves, Mark Borowiecki, Ondrej Palat, Zack Kassian, and Dustin Brown.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (16 percent owned on Yahoo): While the 24-year-old winger is out with a rib injury for another few weeks, he should be stashed in more injury reserve lists than this. Bjorkstrand’s breakout began around mid-November, and he’s posted 17 points in his last 17 games. Beyond that, Bjorkstrand leads the league with 4.8 shots per game since December 1. The Blue Jackets winger likely went undrafted in your league, but if he remains unowned to this point and you have some IR space, get him on the squad. Of all the players here he’s the one who has legitimate season-long upside even in shallower leagues. His ownership rate should be closer to the players I mentioned in the paragraph above.
Lars Eller (14 percent owned): Eller is on pace for his most productive season since he posted a 53-point pace in 2013. While there’s very little chance he sees top line or first unit power-play work, Eller has been flip-flopping with Evgeny Kuznetsov in the second-line center role. While he’s in that spot, Eller is an interesting play. In his last 12 games he’s posted at least three shots on ten occasions.
Craig Smith (10 percent owned): Not much is going right in Nashville this season, and Smith hasn’t been immune to the struggle. He’s seen his average time on ice fall by two minutes since last year. However, he’s recently been firing a ton of pucks on net, with 34 shots over his last eight games. The right winger likely isn’t getting the ice-time or power-play deployment to top 20 goals again this year. But if you’re looking for shots in a tight matchup, Smith may be the waiver wire option to put you over the top.
Hits and Penalty Minutes:
Brendan Lemieux (7 percent owned): Like Bjorkstrand, an injury will keep the Rangers bruiser out of action for another two or three weeks. But if you have space on your injured reserve list, it could be a good idea to stash Lemieux in bangers leagues. In 2019-20, Lemieux is pacing for over 200 penalty minutes and 200 hits over a full season. No player in the league was able to come close to those averages in 2018-19.
Erik Gudbranson (4 percent owned): The third-overall pick from 2010 has bounced around the league the past few years, but he’s been a consistent provider of hits and penalty minutes this season. Gudbranson is pacing for 190 penalty minutes and 151 hits over a full season. The 6-foot-5 defenseman has also had four games with 10 penalty minutes or more. Those types of games can win the category for you single-handedly.
Connor Murphy (6 percent owned): When streaming in a player for blocks you want to make sure they’ve been consistent in the category, because there’s nothing worse than adding a player to help you in one category and they put up a goose egg. With Murphy, you’re getting an extremely consistent d-man, who has put up three or more blocks in eight of the past 11 games. That’s remarkable production for any defenseman not named Oscar Klefbom this year.
Roman Polak (2 percent owned): Polak hasn’t rung off as many three-block games as Murphy in the past month, but he is averaging over two blocks per game over his past ten matchups. Polak is the sort of player you’re targeting at the end of the week when the Stars have a back-to-back, and you’re trying to steal a couple categories on a Sunday night.
David Savard (3 percent owned): Savard is averaging 3.17 blocks per game over the past 30 days, a mark that bests the aforementioned Klefbom’s season-long pace. I’d be surprised to see him keep his rate at three blocks or more long-term, but since missing two games in mid-December, Savard has 22 blocks over his last six games. He may be worth a stream next week for Columbus’ Monday / Tuesday back-to-back.