The Wire Troll: Valeri Nichushkin Coming of Age in Colorado
Valeri Nichushkin has become an impact player. (NHL.com)
Welcome back to another week of Fantasy hockey. We’ve reached the middle of December, meaning we’re nearly a third of the way through the season. Don’t you dare ignore the waiver wire.
This week, Marc-Andre Fleury became just the third NHL goalie ever to reach 500 career wins; Jake Guentzel — one of the hottest players in the league — is now out week-to-week with an UBI; and the upstart Rangers have won three straight on the road to move into second in the Metro.
And now, let’s get to this week’s…
Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire Picks
Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Colorado Avalanche (ESPN: 19.4 per cent; CBS: 48 per cent): It’s been a really long time since we thought about Nichushkin as a potential Fantasy asset. Of course, the fact that he buggered off to the KHL for a couple of seasons last decade didn’t help matters. Suddenly, however, he finally seems to have blossomed and is delivering on the promise that made him the 10th overall pick in 2013. With points in back-to-back games, and six over his last six contests, Nichushkin is really producing. He missed nearly a month early on, but man is he rolling now, recently firing home six goals in the span of nine games (and showing he can really pick the corners — see video below). Nichushkin’s production has led to an uptick in PT; on both Wednesday and Friday, for instance, he paced all Colorado forwards in ice time. At 6’4″, 210, he has amazing size for a winger, and given how powerful his skating is, there’s amazing upside here. If Nichushkin is finally developing a bit of consistency and will battle game in and game out, look out.
Sonny Milano, LW, Anaheim Ducks (ESPN: 15 per cent; CBS: 47 per cent): When Columbus drafted Milano 16th overall in 2014, we were super high on him, lauding his speed, smooth hands and scoring touch. He showed early promise, scoring 14 goals in 55 games in his first taste of being a full-time player, but scuffled after that and was dealt to the Ducks in late-February 2020. Milano barely saw any action last season, but man, is he ever breaking out now. Before getting shut out Thursday, he had racked up seven points in four games, giving him 20 points already on the young season. Heading into this season, Milano had just 22 goals in 131 games, but he added another one in five October games, four more in 13 games in November, and three already in five December contests. Now that he’s playing on the top line with breakout star Trevor Zegras, you better move fast.
- With both Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point still out, Tampa Bay has really been leaning on Steven Stamkos, and he’s been delivering — while also solidifying his spot on the Canadian Olympic team. Stamkos potted a goal with three helpers on Thursday, giving him points in nine straight games. He’s absolutely killing it this month (5-2-6-8) and is now just two points away from tying his 2020-21 season total — in 13 fewer games.
- Minnesota is on fire with eight straight wins, and one reason is the sudden contributions it’s getting from LW Jordan Greenway. He had a pair of tallies Thursday, giving him four goals and two assists over the last six games. Greenway has been getting better as the season has progressed and is now seeing time on the second PP unit, so it’s clear his slow start is now a thing of the past.
- Don’t look now, but Toronto has another scoring threat. Ondrej Kase got off to a very slow start, but he’s rolling now with two more goals on Thursday for four markers and two helpers over the last six games. He showed signs of life in November, but is blazing now, and it’s great to see him healthy after the concussion issues he dealt with during his time in Boston.
- A dude you might want to consider picking up is San Jose centre Jonathan Dahlen. He’s been playing on the top line and producing, picking up a goal and an assist on Thursday for four points over the last three games. While Dahlen scored four times last month, those were his only points in 11 games, but he already has five points in five games in December. He’s quietly putting together an excellent rookie season.
- Just over a month ago, we wrote about the shit show in Chicago and how Fleury was getting shelled. Well, he’s been vastly better since, only getting caved in for more than three goals once over his last 10 games. Fleury hasn’t been quite as strong so far in December (skewed by one by start, really), but was excellent in November. He still has some work to do to get back to his normal levels, but is definitely on the right track.
- Elias Petterson had that amazing rookie season (in which he got hurt), and has never quite duplicated that level of success since. Those struggles are continuing, as over his last 15 games, he only has a goal and three assists, but perhaps his shootout game winner on Friday will spark something. Petterson has sunk to a -5 this season, but at least he’s been doing a good job as a facilitator on the power play.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy first launched in 1969, remaining active until 1983. The band reformed in 1994 and then again in 1996 through 2009. Then they got back together in 2010 through 2013, and again in 2016-17 and for a final time in 2019. Phew. In 1976, Thin Lizzy released its sixth album, Jailbreak, which acted as its breakthrough into the U.S. From this comes the iconic, “The Boys are Back in Town,” the band’s biggest hit ever.