(photo: ducks.nhl.com)

Line Check: A Guide to Fantasy Hockey Success

Every fantasy hockey roster has them. Yours does too.

These guys are the bottom-dwellers; typically your worst players who makeup the bottom portion of your roster.

You figure they won’t make much of a difference in your matchup, but that’s where you’re wrong- and have been all along. Most of those players produce at a much higher clip than you’d expect, contribute in more categories than one, and can make a huge difference from one head-to-head matchup to the next.

One of my most stressed, most successful and consistently most beneficial fantasy hockey strategies is to simply keep up with NHL line changes.

From the Anaheim Ducks to the Winnipeg Jets, line juggling is a common practice of each and every NHL team, with many of those bottom-roster players reaping the benefits. A guy’s skillset is one thing, but his actual production could skyrocket or suffer based simply on lineup positioning.

Now, I don’t want to do your job for you; but with the help of Brock Seguin and www.dailyfaceoff.com (a needed asset for any true fantasy hockey guru) lets take a look at some waiver wire studs that could give you fantastic depth and an edge over the competition.

ANAHEIM DUCKS:

Patrick Maroon (LW) Devante Smith-Pelley (RW):

While Smith-Pelley initially got the fantasy boost, previously replacing Dany Heatley on Anaheim’s top line and playing alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, he’s since been demoted. Patrick Maroon (who recently came back from a knee injury,) is now slated to skate on that top line, with Smith-Pelley moving to Ryan Kesler’s wing on the second line. Both players played phenomenal for Anaheim down the stretch last season, and are viable fantasy assets widely available in most fantasy formats. The Ducks are true Stanley Cup contenders, which only boosts these two player’s value. Keep in mind that Maroon (penalty minutes, hits) and Smith-Pelley (hits) can help you in more ways than one as well.

BOSTON BRUINS:

Reilly Smith (RW) Seth Griffith (RW, C):

If Smith is available for pickup, I’d jump on him now. While Boston’s second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and smith struggled mightily out of the gate, they’ve looked much better of late and closer to regaining that dominant form. When this line is clicking its one of the NHL’s best, and Smith, who surprised many with his outstanding first half performance last year, has shown he can bury the puck. With Boston’s lack of finishers imminent, he will continue to be relied on to score goals for this potential Stanley Cup contender. He’s also showed great power play chemistry with Carl Soderberg and the rest of that second unit, only adding to his value. In much deeper pools, Seth Griffith is another player you could target. He’s solidified his spot on the first line for now, and is seeing power play time as well. If Griffith continues producing the Bruins wont look elsewhere, and an extended gig as Boston’s first line right-winger is a very intriguing situation.

BUFFALO SABRES:

Tyler Ennis (C, LW):

I know. I know. You’re probably reading this and saying “Tyler Ennis?! On the Buffalo Sabres, the worst team in the NHL, are you kidding me?!” Hold off on the commentary though please, at least for now. In deeper pools, Ennis is absolutely someone to keep an eye on. Any first line center in the NHL possesses some, at least for the time being, fantasy value, and that’s where Ennis finds himself right now. A highly skilled forward who some even predicted as this year’s breakout star, Ennis as a first line center and top power play center is someone you need to watch. It could only be a matter of time before he starts piling up points.

CALGARY FLAMES:

Curtis Glencross (LW):

A guys who’s scored 15 + goals four times in his career, and is currently manning the top left wing spot on a surprisingly decent Calgary team, Glencross could be the guy for you. A combination of points, hits, PIM and power play production, Glencross is off to a decent start this season and looks to be heating up recently. Surrounded by an abundance of youth, Glencross is a fairly consistent veteran forward I expect the Flames to rely on somewhat heavily moving forward.

CAROLINA HURRICANES:

Jiri Tlusty (LW):

The former 13th overall pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tlusty has found a home on Carolina’s top line. A fantasy breakout performer when he scored 23 goals just a couple of years ago, Tlusty, who has six tallies already on the young season, could give your team an offensive boost. Seeing power play time as well, Tlusty has a sniper’s shot and all the opportunity in the world to produce. If you need scoring help, this is a guy I would jump on.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS:

Andrew Shaw (C):

If you’re a big NHL fan you know Shaw’s game by now: Gritty, nasty, grinder, the dirty areas, all of it. One thing you may not know is that he’s currently skating alongside Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, two highly skilled players. Shaw, who hasn’t produced much in the early goings of the season, is racking up his usual hits and using his net-front presence on the power play. While he might not be that intriguing at first, Shaw has the speed/skill to score 20 goals at the NHL level; he could easily find himself there by season’s end, centering the second line on a powerhouse of a Chicago team.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS:

Nick Foligno (LW):

Career highs of 18 goals and 210 hits last season, if Foligno is still available in your league grab him now. A jump in early season production due to injuries to both Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner, Foligno’s found himself in position to produce and taken off with the opportunity. A mix of both tenacity and skill, on a team with an almost unmatched work ethic, Foligno should be a fantasy asset all season long; and is one of the best waiver wire pickups to date. Go get him now.

DETROIT RED WINGS:

Justin Abdelkader (LW, RW):

With five goals, ten points, and 28 hits in just 11 games played, Abdelkader is shaping up to be a fantasy stud in his eighth NHL season. A Ryan Callahan do-it-all type, Abdelkader, playing with the ageless wonders of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, is must-own in all fantasy hockey formats. A stat/category filler to say the least, Abdelkader is the perfect guy to make up the bottom portion of your roster. Even if the scoring slows down, he will provide good +/- numbers and hits as well. If Abdelkader is still available in your league pick him up immediately.

MINNESOTA WILD:

Nino Niederreiter (LW, RW) Charlie Coyle (C, RW):

The Minnesota Wild have a very deep lineup. At least one highly skilled forward on each of the top three lines gives a number of players increased fantasy value. I left Jason Zucker off this list, and instead went with the more proven Niederreiter and Coyle. We all saw how well “el Niño” produced in the playoffs last year, and the season as a whole after the New York Islanders gave up on him way too soon. Coyle, on the other hand, has improved with each and every NHL season, steadily becoming a great all-around player. Both guys are off to decent starts production wise, but providing hits as well. Jump on either of these wingers if you’re looking for help, they should only continue to get better. Niederreiter in particular really turned it on down the stretch last season.

MONTREAL CANADIENS:

David Desharnais:

The top line center in Montreal, Desharnais is currently a must own in all fantasy formats. Playing alongside the stellar Max Pacioretty, a duo that also makes up Montreal’s top power play unit, Desharnais’ stellar vision/hands makes him a dynamite waiver wire pickup. He’s well on his way to another 50 plus point season, and his improved chemistry with Pacioretty and power play minutes could only add to that number. If offensive production is what you need, jump on Desharnais as soon as you can.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS:

Craig Smith (C, RW):

The Nashville Predators are hot and so is the former Wisconsin Badger star. Smith, who notched career high’s in both goals/assist last year, scores in bunches and is on a roll right now. Smith is someone you might not hold onto the full season, but if you grab him now you may very well ride one of his impressive hot streaks. Playing with Derek Roy and Matt Cullen, seeing power play time as well, Smith has thrived and is someone you might want to take a chance on.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS:

Adam Henrique (C):

With nine total points, and four coming on the power play, Henrique is off to a sneaky good fantasy start this season. After setting a career high in goals last year with 25, Henrique’s second line center status and first unit power play time should continue to prove dividends in regards to his production. A streaky player, be prepared to drop Henrique if he hits one of his extended point-less streaks. That being said, he’s one of the most highly skilled players on that New Jersey team, and should be targeted if you need offense and need it now.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Derrick Brassard (C)

Michael Raffl (LW)

Matthew Nieto (LW, RW)

Nikita Kucherov (LW, RW)

Nick Bonino (C)

 

 

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