Ilya Kovalchuk has fit in well in Montreal. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes)
Welcome back to another week of Fantasy hockey, our first column of the new decade! We trust you had a good break and are now ready to make your second half push for puck glory.
This week, Pekke Rinne became just the 12th goalie in NHL history to score a goal; Shayne Gostisbehere‘s fall from stardom has continued and now he’s out for three weeks following knee surgery; and Dallas blueliner Stephen Johns is nearing a return after missing over a season and a half because of headaches.
And now, let’s get to this week’s Fantasy hockey waiver wire recommendations…
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Montreal Canadiens (ESPN: 20.6 per cent; CBS: 38 per cent): The last time we checked in on Kovalchuk, he was coming out of a slump for the Devils. Much has happened since then, and he now finds himself in Montreal, with some very promising early returns, including three helpers in two games before getting shut out on Thursday. Not bad a for a dude that hadn’t played a game in almost two months. Kovalchuk is seeing much more ice time with the Habs, including duty on the first power play unit, which is what makes him an attractive addition right now. This is one gifted offensive player and, man, can he ever shoot the puck. Not only that, but Kovalchuk has already proved himself for Montreal — in the virtual world (see video below).
Antti Suomela, C, San Jose Sharks (ESPN: unowned; CBS: unowned): Looking for a deep league sleeper? Suomela only recently returned from a stint on the IR, and hasn’t played much this season, but saw an uptick in PT on Thursday, topping 12 minutes. With Logan Couture out six weeks with busted ankle, now is Suomela’s chance to move up the depth chart and stat producing. Suomela showed some decent playmaking skills last season, and the chances are starting to come (four shots in the last two games). He’s averaging a hit per game, and we expect some point numbers to follow soon.
- Boston winger David Pastrnak continues to make a mockery of the NHL, scoring three goals on Thursday, giving him goals in four straight and points in 12 in a row. He’s already topped his December goal total, reaching 35 for the third straight season. Pastrnak is on pace to flirt with 65 goals this season. Yikes.
- Matt Duchene is heating up for the Predators. He scored a goal with four hits and +1 rating on Thursday, giving him a four-game point streak (2-4-6). Duchene started the season well, but has been sliding since, so it’s good to see him coming on now. After scoring a career-high 31 goals last season, he’s only on pace for 20 this season, but should reach 40 assists for just the third time in his career, so the news isn’t all bad.
- Kyle Connor continues to improve, scoring a goal with an assist on Thursday, giving him points in back-to-back games and a 2-4-6 line over the last five. He’s not only getting better season to season, but month to month within this season. Connor is quietly on pace for career highs across the board (40 goals, 40 assists, 80 points).
- It’s high time we gave some Fantasy love to Chicago left winger Dominik Kubalik. A seventh round pick by the Kings in 2013, he’s coming into his own now, scoring in three straight games. Kubalik has improved as his rookie season has gone along and is now on pace for 26 goals and 45 points.
- The Wings are playing a bit better lately, but it’s been a damn tough season in Motown. Dylan Larkin scored on Friday, giving him points in five straight games. After a strong start to the season, he slumped in November, but has turned it on since. Still, Larkin will fall far shy of his career season from 2018-19 when he averaged nearly a point per game.
- Jake DeBrusk came up big on Thursday with a pair of goals (including the go-ahead marker in the third) and an assist, giving him four points over the last two. He’s gotten better each month and is now on pace for a career best in points this season.
- Tyler Ennis picked up a power play assist on Friday, giving him four points in the last four games. He started slowly in Ottawa, but has gotten better each month, and is now on pace to tie his career high with 21 goals. Ennis is even getting more chances in the shootout now that he’s with the Senators (he’s 1-for-3 so far this season).
- Andrew Copp scored on Thursday, giving him two goals in the last three games. He seemed to be breaking out in November but dealt with an upper body injury that slowed him last month. Now, Copp is continuing his breakout season, on pace for career highs in goals and points.
- Petr Mrazek finally had his first good game of the new year on Friday, tossing a 32-save shutout at the Arizona Coyotes. Despite only looking strong in two of his last five, he’s posted a .918 save percentage over this stretch. Mrazek began the season very strongly, slipped in November, bounced back somewhat in December, and is looking even better this month. He’ll need a huge second half to match his GAA and save percentage from last season.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Sam & Dave consisted of tenor Sam Moore and baritone/tenor Dave Prater. Here’s another track from their 1969 compilation, The Best of Sam & Dave, “Still is the Night,” a track written by Booker T. Jones and Eddie Floyd and co-produced by Isaac Hayes.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who your favourite Fantasy hockey waiver wire pick of the week is.