Olli Maatta should see heavy minutes for now. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)
Welcome back to another week of Fantasy hockey. With the Winter Classic just two and a half weeks away, it’s time to keep mining the wire for potential gems.
This week, Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko has landed on the IR with a concussion; Chicago will be without defenseman Calvin de Haan after he re-injured the shoulder he had offseason surgery on (see more on this below); and former Bruin star goalie Tim Thomas opened up about the brain damage he suffered in his final NHL season five years ago.
And now, let’s get to our Fantasy hockey waiver wire recommendations, this week heavy on the back end with blueliners and netminders, plus one forward thrown in for good measure…
Olli Maatta, D, Chicago Blackhawks (ESPN: 0.9 per cent; CBS: 4 per cent): Maata dealt with an UBI last season and just returned this week after missing another four games with an illness, enjoying a solid effort Thursday with three shots, three hits and two blocks. With de Haan out, Maatta is in line for extra PT, and while he’s no offensive stud, he’s been contributing more in his first season in Chicago. Maatta is a big dude (6’2″, 206), and while he pitches in with the occasional goal (see video below), he’s never really lived up to the offensive promise he showed as a rookie. Let’s see how he does with extra responsibility now.
Anton Stralman, D, Florida Panthers (ESPN: 1.0 per cent; CBS: 3 per cent): After five seasons of declining offensive production with Tampa Bay, Stralman signed as a free agent with the other Florida team last summer. And while he’s been quiet on offense lately, he does have 10 points already, putting him on pace for his highest scoring season since 2015-16. As usual, Stralman is logging heavy minutes, at 21:11 per game, even more than last season. With 41 blocks, 30 hits and 19 takeaways, he’s on pace to top his numbers from last season across the board, making him a nice deep league consideration.
Pavel Francouz, G, Colorado Avalanche (ESPN: 8.7 per cent; CBS: 30 per cent): Wow, Francouz really did a number on a hot Flyers team on Wednesday — especially in a second period dominated by Philly. All told, he made 32 saves on the night, then followed that up with an even sharper performance Friday (37 saves on 38 shots), and he’s now looked really strong in five of his last six games. After looking superb in a couple of relief appearances last season, Francouz is putting together a really nice rookie campaign. Heading into Friday, he was 3-0-1 with a 2.14 GAA and .934 save percentage over the previous four, really taking advantage of an injury to starter Philipp Grubauer.
Juuse Saros, G, Nashville Predators (ESPN: 9.2 per cent; CBS: 29 per cent): Saros wasn’t at his best on Thursday, but still made 28 saves and has been getting better month by month. He still lacks consistency, and there are concerns that his numbers have generally gotten worse the more PT he receives, but as mentioned, he’s been turning things around as the season has progressed. Starter Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, has seen his numbers slip in each of the last two seasons, so perhaps Saros’ long wait to replace his idol as the No. 1 in Nashville will finally be rewarded in the not too distant future.
Anthony Duclair, RW, Ottawa Senators (ESPN: 27.6 per cent; CBS: 45 per cent): Ever since he was dealt away from Columbus, Duclair has been on the rise, and the fact that he’s outscoring everyone on the Blue Jackets this season is ironic. With five goals over the last four games, he’s on pace to flirt with 40 tallies this season — potentially doubling his career high. Ottawa is giving Declair more responsibility — he’s been on the ice late protecting leads, and killing penalties — and he’s responding.
- Vegas LW Max Pacioretty scored the OT winner on Friday, adding an assist, giving him goals in three straight (3-1-4). He’s really settled in during his second season in the desert, and is now on pace for a career-best 70 points.
- On Friday, Taylor Hall was pulled from the lineup for precautionary reasons, likely only fueling the rumours that the struggling Devils may trade him. He’s expected to travel with the team for Saturday’s game, but it’s unclear if he’ll suit up (he’s reportedly not injured). With four points in his last four games, Hall had been starting to come around, and at the very least, he’s been healthier than last season.
- Jamie Benn is on pace for his lowest full-season point total yet, but with two goals over the last four games, perhaps he’s coming out of his slump.
- Gabriel Landeskog is starting to look like he’s past his injury issues, on Friday scoring his third goal in the last five games. Despite missing half of Colorado’s 32 games, he’s on pace for a third straight 25-goal campaign.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Today, we’ve got yet another tune from one of Pink Floyd‘s classics, The Wall. The album, which reached No. 3 in the U.K., produced many hits, but “The Trail” certainly wasn’t one of them. It was, however, co-written by producer Bob Ezrin, so there’s that.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below who your favourite Fantasy hockey waiver wire pick of the week is.