Welcome back to another week of Fantasy hockey. We’re now just over a month away from the start of the NHL playoffs, so it’s homestretch time for your Fantasy leagues. Keep your eye on the wire!
This week, Dallas suffered a blow when it was announced that Martin Hanzal will need season-ending back surgery; despite the fact the Capitals have slipped this season, they’ve signed GM Brian MacLellan to a contract extension; and just as Buffalo has started to hold its own lately, it’s going to lose forward Kyle Okposo indefinitely because of his second concussion in a year.
And now, let’s get to this week’s Fantasy hockey waiver wire recommendations…
Nick Bjugstad, C, Florida Panthers (ESPN: 30 per cent; CBS: 27 per cent): Playing on the top line with Panthers, who are red hot, has helped Bjugstad turn it on of late. He’s recorded points in every game so far this month, scoring four goals (all in the last two) and four assists with a whopping +10 rating. Bjugstad started ramping up his play in February, matching his season high with nine points, but he’s taken that to a whole new level this month, making him a must grab player. He’s already surpassed his game total from last season and looks poised to set a new career high in points. Bjugstad has ripped 11 shots on goal over the last two games, but his ice time has fluctuated. If he can regularly start seeing over 19 minutes of action as he did Tuesday (albeit, in an overtime game), he’ll really take off. It’s clear that Bjugstad is starting to use his massive frame (6’6″, 218) — especially large for a centre — to his advantage.
Riley Nash, C, Boston Bruins (ESPN: 10 per cent; CBS: 11 per cent): Nash is another former first round pick that has flourished in a new role, moving to Boston’s top line with Patrice Bergeron out. Nash scored on Thursday after logging a pair of assists on Tuesday, and now has three goals, four assists and a +4 rating over his last five games. He’s enjoyed a shooting percentage of at least 20 per cent in every month since January, so if those shots start rising, he could really explode. Nash has already established a new career of 35 points as he finally is living up to his draft billing. Given that he’ll keep the No. 1 centre gig until Bergeron returns, Nash is a must add right now, especially with linemate Brad Marchand as hot as he is right now. Even better, Nash has the talk-for-a-while-but-say-nothing sports interview down pat (see video below).
Jonathan Bernier, G, Colorado Avalanche (ESPN: 15.3 per cent; CBS: 31 per cent): Bernier has been out with a concussion but will return to action Saturday against Arizona. He had been struggling last month before getting hurt, giving up 15 goals in five games (all starts), but was red hot in January. Semyon Varlamov has carried a heavy load recently, so Colorado will definitely try to ease his burden by playing Bernier fairly often, making him a viable play down the stretch. Bernier is capable of better than he’s shown this season, and we think he’s going to get that chance over the final few weeks.
- Columbus is starting to put some pressure on the top three in the Metro Division and you can thank defenceman Seth Jones for some of that. He scored two goals in the second period on Friday, giving him three goals and two assists over the last two games. He now has set career highs in goals, assists and points as the 23-year-old evolves into an elite NHL blueliner.
- Detroit centre Darren Helm looked pretty good last month (4-6-10), but had gone into the tank in March until scoring on Friday. He needs one more for his sixth double-digit goal season. Despite his February surge, Helm is only an asset in very deep leagues.
- Calgary backup goalie David Rittich is looking real sharp lately, giving up just one goal for the second straight start, missing his first career shutout Friday by just 7:05. The rookie is worth monitoring down the stretch.
- Arizona centre Nick Cousins has picked up minor penalties in four straight games, but is $2,000 poorer after being slapped with a fine for embellishment as the league tries to crack down on diving. Meanwhile, Cousins is still seeking his first goal of the month, but he’s reached double digits this season for the first time in his career.
- It was Ottawa centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau who broke Rittich’s shutout bid on Friday. For Pageau, that’s his third goal in the last five games, so give him a look as he’s widely available and is seeing way more ice time lately.
- Pittsburgh defenceman Olli Maata had a hell of a rookie season back in 2013-14 (9-20-29), but has failed to build on that since. However, with a two-goal game earlier this month, he now has seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points, putting him on pace for his first 30-point effort. You can do worse among blueliners that are generally available on the wire.
- Dallas’ offense has been struggling recently, but Jamie Benn has been doing his part, ripping a goal and an assist Friday to give the Stars a much-needed 2-1 win. He’s got two goals and five assists over his last seven games, turning things around after a somewhat sub par February.
- Minnesota defenceman Nick Seeler (biceps strain, flu) didn’t travel with the team Friday to Vancouver and is unlikely to play against Edmonton on Saturday, barring an injury to another blueliner. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Wild, but not yet one worthy of any Fantasy attention.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who your favourite Fantasy hockey waiver wire pick of the week is.
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