Every week, we’ll mine the waiver wire for lesser-owned assets to help your squad, whether you favor dynasty or the redraft format, and we’ll also toss in some tips for DFS players out there. Finally, we will look at some former go-to fantasy assets who may be overvalued — either in the short- or long-term — for one reason or another.
Just over one month into the NHL season, Sean Allen takes a look at the members of “Team Zero,” those players who have yet to take the NHL ice this season, despite lofty expectations.
James van Riemsdyk, W, Philadelphia Flyers (68.8 percent rostered): Do I know what role he will return to in the Flyers lineup? No. Does his talent transcend that concern? Yes. Look, the Flyers have developed chemistry among a top-six that already doesn’t include Wayne Simmonds. It’s not easy to fit the van Riemsdyk puzzle piece back into a valuable role. That said, the Flyers didn’t sign him to a $7 million annual salary to play in the bottom-six. Oskar Lindblom probably takes the hit and moves to the fourth line when van Riemsdyk is ready to return from his leg injury. The local beat writers have circled Saturday for a potential return for “JVR.”
James Neal, W, Calgary Flames (5.9 percent): Hopefully we will one day look back at this moment as the low point of Neal’s tenure with the Flames. Coming off his longest stretch with consistent linemates in the top-six this season, Neal wound up being benched for the final period of Sunday’s loss to the Sharks. Will this be the wake-up call for the veteran who should still surely be counted upon for 25 goals? We’ll see. I know Elias Lindholm can’t stay this hot forever, and it’s not like Calgary’s top line is destroying the opposition at even strength. We’ve seen just nine goals for and 10 goals against for the Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan combination. Neal will have some spurts of fantasy relevance this season and perhaps this benching will spur one of them in the short term.
Andreas Athanasiou, C, Detroit Red Wings (3.2 percent): Back from a short injury absence, Athanasiou had a goal and assist in both his games over the weekend — both wins for Detroit. I profiled Athanasiou’s shot volume earlier this season, and his responsibility on the ice continues to increase. He was locked into a second-line role with Frans Nielsen and Gustav Nyquist in his return. If any Red Wings skater other than Dylan Larkin becomes a fantasy regular, I have Athanasiou down as my favorite bet. If his ice time can get closer to the 18-minute mark per game, then 30 goals and 250 shots are a real possibility.
Andrew Shaw, C, Montreal Canadiens (1.2 percent): Looking for a spark on offense, Montreal moved Shaw onto the top-six line on Thursday against the Sabres, alongside Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi. They got one goal from Shaw in that contest and another two on Saturday. Drouin and Domi have been flashing their skills this season and their linemate is going to be fantasy relevant, no matter who it may be. Shaw has had fantasy-relevant campaigns in the past thanks to his penalty minutes/points combination. On pace for 108 PIM this season, he should be on rosters for as long as he has a top-six role.
Frank Vatrano, C, Florida Panthers (0.2 percent): The Panthers are hot and are doing so at a time when Vatrano has nosed out Nick Bjugstad for a role on the team’s top two lines. Skating with Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau for the past few games, Vatrano is very quietly on pace for 30 goals this season. He’s also on pace for zero assists, but you can’t have it all with players rostered in less than one percent of leagues. The goal scoring for Vatrano is real, as he led the AHL with 36 goals in 36 games during the 2015-16 season. If he can stay near the top of the depth chart, he’ll provide fantasy-relevant goal scoring.
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Shea Weber, D, Montreal Canadiens (52.4 percent rostered): It’s time to stop playing chicken with the rest of your league and take the plunge on Weber. We’re probably just around one month until his return and the new captain of the Canadiens is returning to a much rosier picture than we had imagined back in the offseason. If Jeff Petry can be on pace for 63 points in this Montreal lineup, look for Weber to explode when he’s back on the ice to take back his role.
Miro Heiskanen, D, Dallas Stars (4.6 percent): At least for the next 2-3 weeks, Heiskanen will be in a prime position to showcase his offensive skills. John Klingberg is week-to-week with an upper-body injury and Heiskanen is really the only option with upside for the Stars on the power play. Besides, it’s not as if the rookie has had a leash on him this season up until now. He’s No. 3 on Dallas in ice time per game and No. 4 in shots on goal.
Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes (0.2 percent): He now has the better parts of two seasons under his belt, and he won’t turn 21 until next March, so it’s not a matter of if Chychrun breaks out for the Coyotes, but when. Admittedly, it still might be a season too early for him. Still, in deeper leagues, I want to be ahead of the curve, even if it costs me a dead spot on my roster for a few weeks just to see how Chychrun looks. His return from offseason knee surgery should be coming in a matter of days.
Jaroslav Halak, G, Boston Bruins (47.7 percent rostered): Tuukka Rask’s unexplained leave of absence sounds like it will be of the short-term variety, as there is some talk with him being back with Boston by Tuesday. That said, the way Halak handled the Maple Leafs on Saturday with the burden clearly on him as the starter really says something about the season he is having. Halak climbed back to No. 2 overall in save percentage and remains No. 2 in GAA this season, while sporting a 6-1-2 record for the Bruins. Rask is 4-4-0 and sits at No. 28 among qualified goaltenders in save percentage and No. 30 in GAA. Even without the “leave of absence” factor, Halak is currently a fantasy lock.
David Rittich, G, Calgary Flames (1.8 percent): The more time that goes by, the bigger the chasm grows between Rittich and Flames “starter” Mike Smith. Rittich has a 5-1-0 record, while Smith is 5-6-1. Rittich has a .935 save percentage (No. 5 in the league), while Smith sports an .877 mark (41st out of 43 qualified goaltenders). Rittich has a 1.91 GAA (No. 4 in the NHL), while Smith has a 3.51 GAA (36th in the league). We still have to see how Rittich responds once he gets tagged as the “starter,” but all indicators suggest he should at least be on your roster to see how it goes.
Brayden Schenn, C, St. Louis Blues (92.5 percent rostered): Unfortunately for Schenn, the Blues top line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Ryan O’Reilly is absolutely buzzing while Schenn nurses an upper-body injury. Together for three games, the trio has three goals for and zero goals against at even strength. The trio of Schwartz, Tarasenko and Schenn had produced two goals at even strength, and allowed five scores against. This is something that should get noticed by the coaching staff, so I don’t expect a rosy assignment for Schenn when he is again healthy.
Nico Hischier, C, New Jersey Devils (76.8 percent): With Jesper Bratt’s return from a broken jaw this weekend, and following a 6-1 thumping on Friday at the hands of the Maple Leafs, the Devils decided to get cute and break up the top line of Taylor Hall, Hischier and Kyle Palmieri on Sunday against the Jets. It didn’t go any better in a 5-2 loss. I feared that this might happen. The return of Bratt gives New Jersey just enough on offense for them to consider going with two scoring lines instead of one stacked unit. I expect some experimentation over the coming weeks before the Devils inevitably return to the top-heavy approach that has worked so far this season. The trio of Hall, Hischier and Palmieri has nine goals for and five against at even strength, which puts them arguably among the top-12 lines in the league. Here’s hoping it’s a short separation.