10 hidden-gem pickups to help you in the fantasy hockey playoffs

Matt Larkin
Devante Smith-Pelly. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

In most fantasy hockey leagues, it’s playoff time. Well, it is for head-to-head leagues. Standard roto leagues are merely going about their business with teams jockeying for position. Far more boring if you ask me.

Regardless of what format your league plays, however, we’ve reached the point in the pool season where deep waiver wire pickups can make or break your year. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the best desperation grabs this week, so I’ll offer up 10 to consider. I may as well make myself useful, as I failed to defend my title in my primary fantasy league, missing the big dance for the first time in 12 years. Selling high on Evgeny Kuznetsov and buying low on John Tavares killed me. But I digress. On with the list, assuming you still trust me after that confession.

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These five players gained fantasy value at 2016 trade deadline

Matt Larkin
Mikkel Boedker (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The team-swapping fun doesn’t change as soon as the NHL trade deadline ends. Now, we get to study the ripple effects across the league. We won’t know the true impact of every contender’s moves until the playoffs, and the sellers acquired pieces that may not bear fruit for years. In fantasy hockey pools, however, we’ll see immediate changes in player values. Some guys will benefit from being thrust into bigger assignments on new teams. Others will improve simply because they suddenly have better linemates. And vacancies left by seller teams may create room for youngsters to climb depth charts.

Here are five names enjoying value boosts for the stretch run after the trade deadline.

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Season savers: Grab these 10 players to start your fantasy pool comeback

Matt Larkin
Jaden Schwartz (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

A fascinating element about the fantasy hockey season at this juncture: I suddenly preach a tactic I never would leading up to the draft.

As players prepare their pool rankings, I consistently insist not to chase rumored line combinations and to instead go by talent, as things can change on a dime, especially early in the season, rendering a sexy sleeper useless. Halfway through the fantasy campaign, however, when times become desperate for certain GMs, we can change course. Snagging an available player suddenly thrust into an important role could save your squad. Even if said player ends up cast to the fourth line a week later, he’s worth the gamble, especially because the price is so low. It doesn’t cost a draft pick, as it would in September. It’s a mere waiver-wire grab, maybe even one to fill an open roster spot left by an injury.

Last season, lightly owned gems Andrew Hammond, David Pastrnak, Dennis Wideman and Radim Vrbata put many fantasy teams over the top in their championship pushes with second-half surges. What overlooked names might bring you back from the dead this time around? Here are 10 to consider, sorted by availability in Yahoo leagues. And don’t be afraid to cut bait if they don’t pan out. Most of these names are just as likely to fade back into oblivion as they are to help you – but every one of them at least has the potential to rescue you.

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Jakub Voracek and four other fantasy players to buy low

Matt Larkin
Jakub Voracek. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

I told you which players to sell high in fantasy hockey leagues yesterday, but that’s only half the battle. The best way to win a title is to replace your sell-highs with a bunch of buy-lows, underachieving players who should play their best hockey over the final three quarters of the season. You know the drill: if player X always gets 65 points and has just 10 points in his first 20 games, he’s likely to get 55 in his next 60 to balance things out, assuming external factors like injury and age haven’t caused the dip in his numbers. If player X scores on 10 percent of his shots for his career and hums along at one percent so far this year, he’ll probably regress to the mean and shoot closer to his career average the rest of the way.

I present my five favorite buy-lows in fantasy pools at the moment, ranked in order of how big of a potential return they can net you. This was a fun exercise because, for whatever reason, many big-ticket fantasy producers have struggled early on. I like Anze Kopitar, Sean Monahan, Alex Pietrangelo, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and Mark Giordano as buy-lows, and they couldn’t even crack my top five.

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Five players to sell high in fantasy hockey pools

Matt Larkin
Patrice Bergeron (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Most NHL teams have played roughly 20 games, give or take, in 2015-16, meaning we’re a quarter of the way done the season. The sample size is just big enough to start assessing your fantasy hockey rosters. The teams flying out to great starts should stop the chicken counting and start pondering which of their many great players will sustain elite production all year long. Knowing which guys to sell high separates the league winners from the second-half flameouts.

With that, let’s look at five hot starters to consider selling high, ranked in order of how big of a return they could net you on the trade market. Remember, putting someone on this list is not necessarily an indictment of his skills. It might simply mean he’s producing far above a long-established career norm.

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Fantasy hockey mailbag: The Panic or Don’t Panic edition, featuring Crosby, Giroux and more!

Matt Larkin
Sidney Crosby

That twisted, charred pile of skate blades, black tape and fiberglass used to be your fantasy hockey team. Alas, you WASTED your first picks on bums like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ryan Getzlaf. You’re in last place a week and a half into your season. You’re finished. FINISHED I say!

…or maybe not. Maybe the season is half a dozen games old for most NHL teams. Maybe you have the best team in the league, and it just had an off week, the kind that would go completely unnoticed in the dog days of February.

You shouldn’t panic. Or should you? That’s the theme of 2015-16’s first fantasy mailbag. Let’s calm a few panicked poolies – and stoke the fires of a few who may be onto something. Thanks to all who tweeted me which players are making them sweat the most. I compiled a list of the most frequent names that popped up.

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THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2015-16

Matt Larkin
Edmonton's Taylor Hall (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

OCT. 1 UPDATE: We enter the home stretch of fantasy hockey prep season, with the last league drafts happening this weekend or early next week. This edition of the rankings addresses some injury news, particularly the blow dealt to the Edmonton Oilers. Also, while I’ll make some tweaks based on the latest line combinations, be careful. Don’t get caught chasing coaches’ whiteboards. The minute Paul Stastny draws glowing reviews centering Vladimir Tarasenko, we get news Jori Lehtera’s recovery is ahead of schedule. Sure, you don’t want to reach for a young gun who winds up demoted next week. But, at this point, worry more about talent. Pick guys who are good at hockey, and they’ll find their way into opportunities.

This list blends goalies and skaters into a master breakdown tailored for anyone drafting in leagues with multiple stat categories. The rankings below are based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Did last year’s list steer you right? It helped me win both my pools, so hopefully that buys your trust. Remember, these rankings are about fantasy, not real life, so a few stars will be listed lower than you might expect. Enjoy, and feel free to debate the rankings – and let me know about any glaring omissions – in the comment section below.

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Five fantasy sleeper picks according to advanced stats

Dominik Luszczyszyn
Jonathan Drouin (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fantasy hockey season is in full flight and that means everyone is looking for that sleeper pick that will win them their pool. Our fantasy guru Matt Larkin has already posted his sleeper picks for the season, but I wanted to take a different approach to the concept (although there is one name on both lists who I just couldn’t leave off).

Rather than pick guys who will outperform their average draft position, this list is about guys who could really breakout if given the opportunity to do so. It’s the players who’ve scored at a high rate with low ice-time that could do damage in a bigger role.

Before getting to the list, though, it’s important to address some of the ‘controversy’ behind using rate stats like points-per-60. The biggest issue is usage. More minutes means tougher opponents and it’s harder to score points against Zdeno Chara than it is against Adam McQuaid.

The problem with that line of thinking is the assumption that top players always find themselves against top competition. That’s not true. If it were, players who saw an increase in ice-time would see a decrease in their points-per-60 as a result of playing against all those tough opponents, right? In reality, there is almost no relationship between the two, and if anything, points-per-60 actually increases. (This is 5-on-5 and forwards only, by the way.) Read more