April 15, 2024

Fantasy hockey preview: Adds, drops for championship round

Whether you’re battling through your penultimate playoff round, or already sit entrenched in the early stages of ESPN.com’s championship matchup, there’s no more appropriate time to take the most callous approach to your fantasy roster.

If that means dropping an unproductive/now-ill Tyler Toffoli for, say, Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz, or showing a currently quiet Noah Dobson the fantasy door, so be it. After serving as one of this season’s finest fantasy surprises, Frank Vatrano is now struggling further down Anaheim’s lineup. Time to call it and dip into the free-agent pool for more productive options.

Of course, as always, the schedule plays into making such calculated decisions. Some highlights from this somewhat balanced Wednesday (five games), Thursday (nine), Friday (six) stretch includes a back-to-back set for the Avalanche, in which we’ll likely see Justus Annunen play in net versus either the Wild or Oilers. Colorado’s No. 2 has been generally solid in relief of Alexandar Georgiev. The Kings appear in position to get back on track with a set against the Kraken and Sharks, Wednesday and Thursday. More on one goalie you might like to stream in that miniseries below.

The Lightning could make a fair bit of productive noise in Toronto and Montreal, Wednesday and Thursday, while the Rangers might also put up serious fantasy points in tilts with the Devils (Wednesday) and Red Wings (Friday). If Alexis Lafreniere remains available in your league, now would be a fine time to bring him aboard.

Stock Up

Nick Bjugstad, F, Arizona Coyotes (Available in 92.8% of ESPN.com leagues): Centering a top line with Clayton Keller and the aforementioned Schmaltz, Bjugstad has scored in four-straight, and eight goals altogether (plus five assists) in his past 12. The Coyotes play the wobbly Canucks Wednesday and Vegas on Friday.

Anthony Cirelli, F, Tampa Bay Lightning (Available in 91.5% of ESPN.com leagues): Tampa’s second-line center has four goals in his past quartet of games and that’s not counting (obviously) the pair called back against Detroit. When in a groove, which Cirelli is right now, the gifted two-way forward serves as a coveted fantasy commodity, and not only because of his penchant for logging short-handed points.

Mikael Granlund, F, San Jose Sharks (Available in 79% of ESPN.com leagues): Another gentle reminder that competent players on lousy teams often make for great fantasy assets. Like San Jose’s top center, who has five goals and 11 assists in his past 15 games – a good percentage of those points counting on the power play. The Sharks host the Kings, Blues, and Coyotes in the next five days.

Mattias Ekholm, D, Edmonton Oilers (Available in 62.0% of ESPN.com leagues): Making his third appearance in this column space in the span of two weeks, Ekholm added another two goals and three assists in the two games since last mention. Plug him in your lineup ahead of Wednesday’s match in Dallas and Friday’s tilt in Colorado. The defender is usually good for a bundle of blocked-shots as well.

Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Pittsburgh Penguins (Available in 95.2% of ESPN.com leagues): Winner of four of his past five – totalling 23.0 fantasy points in a span of eight days – Pittsburgh’s current starting netminder could conceivably help drag his club into a playoff position. The Penguins face the Capitals Thursday.

See also: JJ Peterka, F, Buffalo Sabres (Available in of 82.5% of ESPN.com leagues) Tom Wilson, F, Washington Capitals (Available in 74.4% of ESPN.com leagues)

Stock Down

Frank Vatrano, F, Anaheim Ducks: One goal and four measly assists in more than a month ain’t gonna cut it. Not coincidentally, he’s also tumbled off the Ducks’ top line.

Carter Verhaeghe, F, Florida Panthers: Sustaining an upper-body injury in Toronto on Monday, Verhaeghe is likely out for the rest of the regular season. Drop him.

Casey DeSmith, G, Vancouver Canucks: Although he deserves only a fraction of the blame, fact is DeSmith hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion as substitute for an injured Thatcher Demko. That he hasn’t cost his managers points over the full, total stretch of relief service in ESPN.com fantasy leagues is the only positive takeaway. Now we’re hearing that Demko is back practicing, at least on his own. Also, AHL call-up Arturs Silovs is pegged to start against the Coyotes Wednesday.

Streamer Specials

David Rittich, G, Los Angeles Kings (Available in 96% of ESPN.com leagues): The Kings’ backup presents as a solid streaming option in San Jose Thursday, following Wednesday’s contest with the Kraken. The Sharks are 3-17-4 since January 31st.

Semyon Varlamov, G, New York Islanders (Available in 89.2% of ESPN.com leagues): If he gets the start against the Blue Jackets Thursday, absolutely. Varlamov has been solid-to-great in relief of a struggling Ilya Sorokin (if better in Tuesday’s win against Chicago) of late.

Ivan Fedotov, G, Philadelphia Flyers (Available in 99% of ESPN.com leagues): The only player in John Tortorella’s good graces at present, this NHL newbie appeared comfortable enough in his debut against the Isles Monday. I like the big fella’s chances at nailing down his first victory against either the Sabres Friday or in Columbus on Saturday. The rest of the Flyers have three full days off to marinate on their coach’s latest outburst in the meanwhile.

Shane Wright, F, Seattle Kraken (Available in 99% of ESPN.com leagues): Not to make too much of the one goal scored in his first game since mid-November, but Wright’s also skating on a scoring line with Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle. I might give him a streaming whirl before he’s sent back down, for instance in L.A. Wednesday and Anaheim on Friday.