Fantasy Hockey: Buy low, sell high picks for playoffs

5 wins in a row, some of them against teams already in the Playoffs. Minnesota has 4 games left this week and both Nino Niederreiter and Mkiko Koivu can help you pile up the points and man games.

Before the final buy-low and sell-high recommendations for 2015-16, let’s focus on goalies, since often they’re most directly responsible for winning or losing fantasy leagues. The big question this time of year is how to rank goalies for retention or redrafting. To that end, a good place to start for netminders (or, for that matter, players at any position) is by examining league-wide trends.

For 2015-16, maybe seven or eight goalies at most should finish with 35+ wins, while it’s likely that no goalie will start more than 66 games. Compare that to just five seasons ago, when in 2010-11 there were 11 goalies with 35+ wins and six started 67+ games. Among goalies who have appeared in 35+ games, through the weekend, there were 25 with a SV% of .915 or higher, versus only 18 in 2010-11.

What are the takeaways? True “stud” goalies have become rarer, so poolies should increase their relative value not only among goalies but also with respect to all positions. At the same time, more goalies posting a reasonable SV% means it’s now easier to obtain decent netminders, meaning run of the mill goalies should be valued less than in previous seasons. Also, with proposed equipment changes on the horizon, the number of elite goalies could shrink even further in the near future.

Onto this week’s buy-low and sell-high players. Be sure to stop back here next week for thoughts on Eastern Conference playoff pool dark horses.

Buy Low

Max Pacioretty: An argument could’ve been made that, entering this season, Pacioretty was at least somewhat overrated in fantasy. But when a high profile player disappoints, as Pacioretty has, he can quickly morph into being underrated. The fact remains, Pacioretty’s 124 goals from 2011-12 to 2014-15 were the fifth most in the NHL during that period (only four away from third). Now is a good time to try and steal him away from a pessimistic owner for a fair price.

Nino Niederreiter: El Nino is morphing into a solid fantasy player before our eyes, with 2015-16 likely marking his second straight season of 20+ goals and both 1.5+ hits and 1.5+ SOG per game. That puts Niederreiter in select multi-cat territory despite him playing mostly third-line minutes. With Jason Pominville seemingly losing a step, Niederreiter could assume a larger role next season, in which case his stats should improve. He’s worth getting now to ensure your team can benefit if that happens.

Jake Gardiner: It’s no coincidence that since the departure of Dion Phaneuf, Gardiner’s full season scoring pace has risen to just under 45 points. But because Gardiner’s early season stats were poor and the fantasy blue-liner spotlight in Toronto shines brightest on Morgan Rielly, these recent trends are well hidden, resulting in Gardiner being a solid target to acquire.

Marko Dano: What makes Dano a nice buy-low is his talent and potential are arguably the same as this time a year ago (when he posted 21 points in 35 games at age 20), but poolies might have wrongly written him off due to his high-profile lack of success with Chicago. After being held scoreless in his first five games with Winnipeg, Dano’s EV and PP ice time has been bumped up and he responded with a stretch of five points in five games. Dano is worth obtaining in deeper fantasy leagues, since the Jets would love nothing more than to see him succeed.

Sell High

James Reimer: For better or – mostly – worse, playing in Toronto raised Reimer’s fantasy profile. Now that he’s posted solid numbers in his brief tenure with San Jose (including more shutouts in his first four games there than in his previous 104 with the Leafs), some poolies are having visions of Reimer going to another team as a UFA and playing like the number one goalie many thought he’d be. But the question is: will a team sign him with a chance to be a true number one? And if so, who’s to say he’ll perform as “the guy” when in the past he’s been unable to lock down a starting job? Best to see about selling Reimer now if a GM in your league is convinced – wrongly – that he’s turned a corner.

Radko Gudas: All it took was Gudas posting 11 points in 16 recent games for poolies to wonder if he might be showing signs of adding fringe scoring to his already stellar multi-cat resume. But what we have to keep in mind is those 11 points nearly quadrupled what he’d accumulated in 50 previous games this season. Gudas remains a non-scorer but if you can find someone who mistakenly thinks otherwise and is willing to overpay to pry him from you, it’s likely a trade worth making.

T.J. Oshie: Despite lining up alongside some of the best offensive talents in the NHL and getting plenty of PP time, Oshie is headed toward posting his lowest scoring pace in five seasons. If he hasn’t managed to put things together this season, then chances are it’s not going to happen for him down the road. The good news is you should still be able to use his high profile to get a good price when trading him away, so make sure to do so before next season, when he stands to lose much of his current luster.

Frans Nielsen: Despite this being his sixth full season, 2015-16 could mark just Nielsen’s second time posting 50+ points. That’s a concern when you figure that the last time he posted 50+, he dipped back to 43 the following season. Plus, he turns 32 in April and is set to be a UFA this summer, so we have to view his output this season with even more skepticism. You should see about trading him now, while he’s still doing well.