Few pucks have gotten past Alex Stalock; players, however, is a different story. (Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)
Welcome back to another week of Fantasy hockey. We’re into mid-December, and this weekend marked the 2017 Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic, featuring Montreal against Ottawa.
This week, Tampa Bay right wing Ryan Callahan had his arm in a sling after Thursday’s game and is now out indefinitely; Minnesota has lost goalie Devan Dubnyk to a lower body injury that will have him out week-to-week; and Auston Matthews (upper body) has missed the last four games for the Leafs.
And now, let’s get to this week’s Fantasy hockey waiver wire picks of the week…
Alex Stalock, G, Minnesota Wild (ESPN: 12.6 per cent; CBS: 21 per cent): With starter Dubnyk out (as mentioned above), Stalock is enjoying life as the starting goaltender in Minnesota, as he looked better in each of his three starts since Dubnyk’s injury — all wins, before a weaker effort Saturday. After a so-so effort against the Sharks on Sunday, Stalock looked very sharp in beating Calgary on Tuesday and then capped it off against Toronto with his first shutout of the season (see video below for his reaction). He’s already seen way more action than he did last season and is up to his highest win total since 2014-15. Even though Stalock was unable to bag his fourth straight win on Saturday, Coach Bruce Boudreau is sure to ride this athletic netminder hard until Dubnyk returns. Need a goalie on a short-term basis? Stalock is the one you want, especially while he’s on a roll, as he is known to be streaky, so when that turns bad, you’ll want to be ready to find another option.
Cam Ward, G, Carolina Hurricanes (ESPN: 3.4 per cent: CBS: 12 per cent): It was just over a year ago when we last recommended Ward in this space, and it was a good call as he had his best month in November (.935 save percentage) and remained strong in December before cooling though January and February and finishing strong in March. He’s no longer the No. 1 in Carolina, but he faced a barrage of 41 shots on Friday and still came away with the win, to move to an impressive 6-2-1. Ward’s been horribly inconsistent and his GAA is unsightly this season, but his save percentage is actually improved. At this stage, if you are seeking a veteran goalie that you can use for specific matchups, he’s a decent option.
Erik Haula, LW, Vegas Golden Knights (ESPN: 28.7 per cent; CBS: 23 per cent): Getting a crack on an expansion team comes with its perks, as you’re generally going to get a way bigger opportunity to play a key role than on your previous team. Such is the instance with Haula, whose PT is up nearly three and a half minutes per game and he’s responded big time. With assists in the past two games, he now has four helpers to go along with three goals over the last five. Haula is averaging over a point per game this month and he’s already within shouting distance of tying his career high of 15 goals, set last season. Better yet, his recent goals have been massive. Last week, Haula scored the tying goal in the last five minutes of back-to-back games, becoming the first player to do that since Teemu Selanne in 2011.
Kevin Fiala, C, Nashville Predators (ESPN: 21.2 per cent; CBS: 45 per cent): After ending November in a slump, Fiala has absolutely been on fire this month, getting points in all seven games (six goals, three assists). His +6 rating in December has him back to even. Through just 31 games, Fiala has already tripled his assist total from all of last season. In fact, since playing his first NHL game in 2014-15, he had accumulated five helpers in 60 games. In basically half the number of games this season, he has 15 helpers. Can you say breakout?
Chris Tierney, C, San Jose Sharks (ESPN: 0.7 per cent; CBS: 1 per cent): This is strictly a speculative pickup based on Logan Couture leaving early Friday with a suspected concussion. If the Sharks’ No. 1 centre is out for any length of time, Tierney is likely to see an uptick in minutes, even above the last week, when he’s been playing extra and responding, drilling three shots Friday after scoring a goal with an assist the night before. His PT has risen each month, and he’s on pace to shatter his career high in goals while topping his assist total from last season.
Carter Hutton, G, St. Louis Blues (ESPN: 5.2 per cent; CBS: 13 per cent): It’s the week of the backup goalies, apparently! Hutton (foot) was activated off the IR on Friday and thrown right into the fire on Saturday at home against the Jets. There are few backup goalies in the league that can offer the kind of numbers he’s put up this season, and despite not having an easy matchup in his return against one of the top offensives in the NHL, all he did was turn away all 48 shots for his first goose egg of the season.
Aaron Dell, G, San Jose Sharks (ESPN: 12.4 per cent; CBS: 20 per cent): Did we mention we love a lot of backup goalies this week? Dell saved 32 of 34 shots on Thursday in another fantastic effort, and as good as he was as a rookie last season (2.00 GAA), he’s been even better so far this season (1.75 GAA). Talk about a dude that needs a No. 1 job. Dell is now 6-3-1, having won his last four starts.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who your favourite Fantasy hockey waiver wire pick of the week is.