The Wire Troll: Baby Shark Breakout
William Eklund is living up to his draft status. (Dean Tait)
Welcome back to another week of Fantasy hockey. Christmas is around the corner and we’re over a third of the way through the season. Don’t forget to find some presents for your team on the waiver wire!
This week, Kyle Connor has hit the IR (see below); Jordan Kyrou got emotional about the fallout from the Blues’ coaching change; and Kent Johnson helped the Jackets avoid an embarrassing loss.
And now, let’s get to this week’s…
Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire Picks
William Eklund, LW, San Jose Sharks (ESPN: 5.4 per cent; CBS: 22 per cent): Eklund got off to a sluggish start but is now averaging 0.5 PPG thanks to a big December so far (six points in six games, including contributions on the power play). The fact that he’s playing on the top line with Tomas Hertl is definitely helping as the pair seem to have developed some real chemistry (and really have since Eklund potted his first NHL goal in mid-March — see video below). Eklund, taken seventh overall in 2021, lacks size but certainly not skill, so grab him while you can because he’s breaking out right before our eyes.
Gabriel Vilardi, RW/C, Winnipeg Jets (ESPN: 36.2 per cent; CBS: 39 per cent): Vilardi caught our eye early last season when he showed signs of breaking out for the Kings. He slowed down after that blazing start, but still produced a career-best campaign. Vilardi’s reward was to be shipped north to the Jets this offseason, and after being sidelined for six weeks with a knee woe, he’s back now and finds himself on the top line with Connor (knee) out 6-to-8 weeks. Having recently scored his first goal as a Jet (a game-winner to boot), Vilardi is being given a prime opportunity to show how good a playmaker he is, so he’s a must add before the rest of your league catches on.
Mikael Granlund, C, San Jose Sharks (ESPN: 26.2 per cent; CBS: 29 per cent): The last time we checked in on Granlund it seemed he was taking his game to the next level, and while he continued to be extremely productive for another few weeks, once the calendar turned to 2019, his play really petered out, and other than a fine ’21-22 campaign, it’s been mostly downhill since — until now. In his first season as a Shark, he’s back to flirting with a point per game pace as he had racked up a dozen points in the first six games this month before posting a goose egg on Friday. Hell, Granlund is even an almost break even player at the faceoff dot, something he’s only done twice in his 12-season career.
Darren Raddysh, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (ESPN: 0.2 per cent; CBS: 1 per cent): Raddysh is a nice short-term add as he’s getting PP time while Victor Hedman is out. Raddysh has yet to light the lamp this season, but has logged two helpers in the past three games and he’s always been a good playdriver, having never recorded a CF percentage below 52.3.
Tyler Pitlick, C, New York Rangers (ESPN: 0.1 per cent; CBS: unowned): Nearly a decade ago, Pitlick was on the top line in Edmonton. Since then, he’s bounced around from team to team and now finds himself being a speculative add in very deep formats given that he’s getting a chance to play as long as Filip Chytil remains out. Toiling on the Rangers’ fourth line with Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow, Pitlick hasn’t managed a point in three weeks, but he’s seeing more ice time in recent games, so the opportunity is there.
Jonathan Quick, G, New York Rangers (ESPN: 43.5 per cent; CBS: 40 per cent): It’s been mostly downhill since we last gave Quick some Fantasy love, but hot damn, have you seen his save percentage this season? As great a career as he’s had, he’s never turned aside rubber at this rate (.926) before, and judging by his last two games (54 saves on 56 shots), he’s in no rush to regress to the mean. Quick is seeing a bit more action with the Rangers than he did in Vegas last season, and frankly, he deserves even more given that he’s outplaying starter Igor Shesterkin. Even in limited PT, Quick is performing like a top 25 goalie.
Scott Wedgewood, G, Dallas Stars (ESPN: 2.6 per cent; CBS: 16 per cent): Wow, you’ve got to go back to his rookie season to find the last time we pimped Wedgewood, and realistically he hasn’t given us much reason to pay attention until he arrived in Dallas halfway through the 2021-22 season. Last season he was solid in a backup role, and while he hasn’t been nearly as sharp so far in 2023-24, he’s going to be leaned on for the short term while Jake Oettinger is out. Given how Wedgewood looked on Friday (25 saves on 27 shots), he could be worth a look if you need goaltending help.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
L.A. hard rockers Guns N’ Roses have been at it since 1985. In 1991, they released their third album, Use Your Illusion I, and the third and final single from this effort was “November Rain.”