Rookies, rising youngsters, vets and a terrible “Dad” pun (you know, the knee-slapper that has you laughing in your best George McFly impersonation) — this week’s edition of The Wire Troll has it all! And so we begin…
Frank Vatrano, C, Boston Bruins (ESPN: 0.7 per cent; CBS: 6 per cent): There’s something special brewing in Beantown. In Canadian cities, and the great state of Minnesota, it’s not uncommon for local talent to be drafted or signed by the hometown team. It’s another matter in a place like Boston.
This season, Bruins fans are experiencing a real treat in watching a 21-year-old East Longmeadow, Mass. native take the ice with Original Six Boston on a nightly basis. Vatrano has rewarded coaches, management and fans with quite solid production on both sides of the puck, including his first hat trick in a 6-2 thrashing of Pittsburgh on Friday (check out the video below for his first of the game). He added a plus-4 rating, 10 shots on goal and five hits in three games last week. Through 17 games, the rookie has five goals, six points, a plus-5 rating, four penalty minutes and a solid 48 shots on goal for an average of 2.8 shots.
A product of the Boston Jr. Bruins, the USHL’s U.S. NTDP and (briefly) UMass (Amherst), Vatrano is making the jump to the game’s highest stage with confidence, and a level of success we don’t think anyone predicted he’d have this soon. Is he going to be Boston’s Vince Papale (Philadelphia Eagles) or Zach Parise? Probably neither one, but maybe a mix of both. Regardless, to quote Brad Pitt’s character, real life former Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane: “How can you not get romantic about rt your favourite sport, we’re going with hockey]?”
For more on Vatrano, here’s a great read from SI.com’s Alex Prewitt. Trust us, it won’t disappoint.
Fantasy advice: Don’t buy in just yet, but keep your eyes on Vatrano as he appears to be a promising candidate as a future TD Garden staple.
Michael Grabner, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (ESPN: 0.0 per cent; CBS: 4 per cent): Grabner barely registered a blip on the Fantasy radar this season until last week, collecting three goals, five points, a plus-4 rating, seven shots on goal, three hits and a block in three games with the Leafs. It’s pretty impressive, still, he has just four goals, eight points, a plus-6 rating, four penalty minutes and 36 shots on goal in 29 games played this season.
Reilly Smith, RW, Florida Panthers (ESPN: 19.4 per cent; CBS: 32 per cent): Former Bruin Smith is having a very respectable season with the rising Panthers, with 11 goals, 19 points and a plus-6 rating through 33 games so far this season. In three games last week, he had three goals, four points, five shots on goal, two hits and two blocked shots.
Marek Zidlicky, D, New York Islanders (ESPN: 1.9 per cent; CBS: 36 per cent): There was a number of defensemen that notched exceptional weeks of Fantasy play over the past seven days, but the best one available on your league’s waiver wire might just Zidlicky. In four games last week, the veteran had two goals, four points, five shots on goal, a hit and eight blocks. Zidlicky has three goals, 12 points, a plus-3 rating and 12 penalty minutes while skating 15:02 per game.
Karri Ramo, G, Calgary Flames (ESPN: 41.8 per cent; CBS: 44 per cent): Looking for a second or third goalie? Ramo is your man-o! Cue George McFly, and, please, save those tomatoes for eating, not our faces. In three appearances last week, Ramo managed two wins, a 1.67 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. He has 11 wins, a 2.81 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 21 games played this season. Ramo will do as your team’s No. 2/3 in a pinch.
Fantasy Tip of the Week: Minnesota Wild’s “KapFinn,” Mikko Koivu, is on a tear, punching his ticket as the league’s best player of the Fantasy week with three goals, eight points, a plus-4 rating, six shots on goal and two hits in three games played. Koivu (ESPN: 100 per cent; CBS: 75 per cent) is currently on a four-game point streak with four goals, nine points, a plus-5 rating and nine shots on goal in that span. With eight goals and 29 points on the season, the greatest scorer in Wild franchise history is on pace for his best season yet with 21 goals and nearly 77 points in a full 82-game season if he can keep it up. That’s a massively huge “if,” however.
Plucking Koivu out of the clutches of other Fantasy GMs could be a doozy, but you might take a look at who the Finnish star has been playing with. He’s a guy that always seems to have chemistry with the team’s lesser players (the cement-blocks-for-skates Andrew Brunette, and highly inaccurate Antti Miettinen, for example). That’s changed this season, particularly more recently, when he’s been playing the best hockey of his career between wingers Thomas Vanek (ESPN: 100 per cent; CBS: 80 per cent) and Jason Zucker (ESPN: 31.1 per cent; CBS: 37 per cent). If you can manage to snag anyone out of this trio, you’ll be sure to see the results almost immediately.
From our hearts to yours, have a happy and most blessed holiday season!
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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