2022-23 NHL Wire Troll All-Star Team
Despite a serious injury, Mike Matheson’s first season in Montreal went very well. (NHL.com)
The 2022-23 NHL regular season wrapped up recently, so while you enjoy some fantastic playoff action, let’s review which of our Fantasy hockey waiver wire recommendations from the current campaign worked out.
Employing the wire can provide value in tons of ways. Sometimes, it offers temporary help for an injury issue or it’s simply a case of jumping on a player delivering short-term value. But when you pick up a player and he sticks on your team for the entire season — or even most of it — and contributes throughout, that is the true definition of waiver wire gold.
With this in mind, we rank players higher that were identified earlier in the season as they — in theory — had an opportunity to provide value for your team for a longer stretch, and therefore have a greater impact on your success.
Naturally, we had plenty of misses among our picks, and because of the bi-weekly nature of our column, it means that some hot free agents got scooped up and exceeded our ownership percentage limit of 50 per cent days before we could tout them. But the fact is that if you managed to wind up with two or three of these guys on your team, you probably did pretty well this season.
Without further ado, we present the 2022-23 NHL Wire Troll All-Star Team, listed in order of the value they provided…
The dates in parentheses represent when we first recommended each player.
Mike Matheson, D, Montreal Canadiens (Week Nine): Acquired last summer from the Penguins in the Jeff Petry trade, Matheson (when healthy) sure held up his end of the bargain, enjoying a career season. And even though he missed a good chunk of it with injury, he was still the top Fantasy hockey waiver wire pickup of the season. In fact, we recommended him twice — once in early December, and again in mid-March. It’s the second straight season that Matheson took his game to new heights, so we can’t wait to see what he’ll do if he can stay healthy in 2023-24. The skills have always been there (see video below), and now he’s developed the consistency to excel. Next step: good health.
Owen Tippett, RW, Philadelphia Flyers (Week Seven): Tippett took a big step forward this season, setting personal bests across the board while averaging three shots, but firing more and more rubber as the campaign progressed (82 shots over the final 21 games). Similarly, his ice time kept rising, leaving him logging serious minutes over the final quarter of the schedule as the Flyers gave him every opportunity to take the next step. Even so, it still feels like there’s another gear to Tippett’s game as he transitions from a potential bust just over a year ago to a potential breakout star in 2023-24. Let’s hope his development is also the start of better things for the Flyers.
Pheonix Copley, G, Los Angeles Kings (Week 13): The top waiver wire goalie of the season, Copley enjoyed some big save nights en route to stabilizing what had been a very shaky net situation in L.A. His reward? Having the Kings make a move at the deadline to trade for Joonas Korpisalo to act as their No. 1 goalie in the playoffs. Still, Copley started more games than ever and wound up saving a lot of rubber, and after winning 15 times through his first 20 games, he earned himself a one-year extension. Not bad for a third string goalie!
Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames (Week 11): It’s not clear that Backlund has any interest in re-signing with Calgary this summer, but what is assured is that he had a hell of a finale if he does choose to depart. The Swedish veteran played in every game for the second straight campaign, posting career-bests in assists and points while proving good power play support with five tallies on the man advantage.
After a superb season, what does the future hold for Mikael Backlund?
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 20, 2023
Tomas Tatar, LW, New Jersey Devils (Week Three): Tatar is on the smallish side by NHL standards, but he paid big dividends in his second season in the swamp after a disappointing debut in 2021-22. He was his usual durable self, playing every game while hitting the 20-goal plateau for the seventh time and even upping his PIM total this season. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Tatar again proved he has good hands and speed with the skill to put the puck in the net at a solid clip.
Morgan Frost, C, Philadelphia Flyers (Week One): Frost remains a bit sheltered (56 per cent of his starts were in the offensive zone), but finally established himself as a legitimate NHL player, if not a potential building block for the rebuilding Flyers. In fact, despite seeing an increase of just 26 games, he nearly doubled the number of shots he recorded. Frost remains most intriguing as a playermaker, but also proved he can put the puck in the net this season, just missing his first 20-goal effort thanks to eight tallies over the final 21 games.
Lawson Crouse, LW, Arizona Coyotes (Week 11): Crouse fired a personal-best 151 shots on net this season en route to his finest campaign yet, featuring career-bests across the board. He reached 45 points for the first time and over the last two seasons has really started to deliver on his promise as the 11th pick in the 2015 draft. Best of all, Crouse has seen an increase in PT five straight seasons, while playing with more discipline in 2022-23. It feels like there could be further growth in his game, but if this is the ceiling, he’s become a good NHL player.
Sam Montembeault, G, Montreal Canadiens (Week Seven): Oh man, his old team (the Panthers) sure gave him hell this season (5.78 GAA over four games), but Montembeault was solid otherwise, setting career bests in wins and save percentage while facing more rubber than ever. He finished third in the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy, “awarded annually to the member of the Canadiens who played a dominant role during the regular season, without earning any particular honor,” as per NHL.com. Pretty vague definition, if you ask us, but there was nothing vague about Montembeault’s contribution to the Habs this season.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Formed in San Jose, The Doobie Brothers had a sound that really crossed over genres. Here’s another track from their live album Farewell Tour — “What a Fool Believes” a gem that was penned by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins.