Finding fantasy value: Matt Duchene in line for a rebound season

Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene fires home his second of the season on a blistering shot that beats Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

For those of you who are in shallower leagues, you’ll be able to get most of the players below on the waiver wire. But for those of you in deeper leagues, at least some of these players will already belong to other fantasy teams. In those cases, these guys may be of interest to try and acquire via trade.

In this new weekly article, we will be listing players to target in your fantasy league, whether that be through waivers or a trade with another owner. You’re going to find players who are heating up, or ones who are just about to because of a recent change such as line juggling, an injury, or a trade.

We won’t be listing truly elite players because 1) It’s unlikely the player’s owner will be willing to trade him, and 2) If the owner happens to be willing, will the cost to your team be worth it? Finding value is all about making your team better overall. (Plus it’s no secret that elite players are elite.)

With that in mind, here are some players who could provide some early-season value and possibly more.

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Matt Duchene, C, COL
Let’s start with a player who plummeted down draft boards in many leagues. Duchene owners held their breath that he would be traded during the off-season or pre-season, yet nothing materialized. Duchene seems to have put aside the fact that he is unhappy with his lot in life by scoring five points (2G-3A) in his first four games. If the Avs are even marginally better than they were last season, Duchene could be in for a rebound. At the moment, he should still be inexpensive to acquire through a trade.

Will Butcher, D, NJ
Now that the Devils have scored 16 goals in just three games, playing the point on the team’s power play is a much more profitable venture than it appeared to be less than two weeks ago. Because of the lack of depth on the blue line, Butcher has been thrust into that role as a rookie. The Hobey Baker winner has made good on that opportunity with five points (including three power-play points) in just three games. The Devils as a team will cool off, but he’s a must-add at the moment.

Jesper Bratt, LW, NJ
No one had Bratt on their radar prior to training camp – maybe not even the Devils. But following an impressive training camp, the 2016 sixth-round pick has found his way on to a Devils’ scoring line – and delivered. Bratt has scored six points (3G-3A) with a plus-5 in just three games. Like teammate Butcher, Bratt obviously won’t score at this pace all season, but this small sample should be enough to warrant at least a short-term pickup. It also places him into the keeper league discussion.

Vladislav Namestnikov, C/LW, TB
There’s no better opportunity to thrive when your linemates are Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (more line combinations here). We’ve seen this happen with Namestnikov before, yet he hasn’t been able to sustain consistent production over the long term. But with two goals and an assist and eight shots on goal in three games, he’s at least pulling his weight on that line. Plus he’s entering that fourth season in which many players finally break out. Who better to help him with that than Stamkos and Kucherov?

Artturi Lehkonen, LW, MON
Although Lehkonen won’t be at the top of the list of waiver-wire adds because he has yet to score a point this season, there are signs that he is about to post some solid fantasy numbers. Lehkonen was recently added to the Canadiens’ top line alongside Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin, playing nearly 20 minutes on Tuesday against Chicago. Lehkonen has also averaged three shots per game this season, up one shot per game from last season. Keep an eye on him.

Nail Yakupov, RW, COL
Yes, this would be an easy pick to snub, since Yakupov has almost run out of NHL opportunities. But with a goal and an assist on Wednesday, the 24-year-old Yakupov is up to five points in four games. The Colorado situation seems to be working so far because the Avs have nothing to lose inserting him on a scoring line, something that would be a major risk for a more established team. A total of 45 points might not be out of the question here if Colorado doesn’t fall into another black hole this season. He’s at least worth flier material in deep leagues.