Most head-to-head leagues are now in the semifinals. If you are fortunate enough to have made it this far, you don’t want to waste a season’s worth of work so close to the ultimate prize.
Now more than ever, it’s not about having the best players but rather having players who will perform this week. That might mean dumping some big names and going after some under-appreciated players. It doesn’t have to be pretty — it just has to win you the week.
The easiest way to gain an advantage is to load up on players who play multiple games and jettison the ones who don’t.
By that rule, avoid anyone on the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. Both teams have just one game remaining between Thursday and Sunday and it also happens to come during a busy Saturday slate. Odds are, the Senator or Sabre on your roster may not even fit into your lineup on the one night that they do play.
There are only four teams with three games between Thursday and Sunday, making them the key targets for waiver wire pick-ups: Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes.
It’s rather unfortunate that most of these teams would likely pop up as teams to avoid if not for their favourable upcoming schedules, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Here are a couple of players from each of those teams to target in your fantasy league this week:
Shallow Option: Chris Kunitz, LW — 61 per cent owned
Sidney Crosby’s linemate has been dynamite since the All-Star break with 19 points in 24 games. Plenty of folks have caught on, but Kunitz is still available in the shallower leagues and offers exposure to one of the NHL's superstars.
Deep Option: Justin Schultz, D – five per cent owned
In eight games since arriving from the Edmonton Oilers in a deadline trade, Schultz has three points, is plus-five and has 13 shots on goal. Not bad. Schultz has also been filling in for Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins’ top power-play unit, which gives him exposure to both Crosby and Kris Letang.
Shallow Option: Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW – 73 per cent owned
Still available in a quarter of all fantasy leagues, Palmieri has been an intriguing waiver wire option all season. With 10 points in his last 10 games, the streaky forward has been providing offence where we assumed there might be none left.
Deep Option: Devante Smith-Pelly, RW – 11 per cent owned
Smith-Pelly has been a hit since arriving in New Jersey at the trade deadline, having scored seven goals and 10 points in nine games for the Devils. He has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but nothing like this. It’s all likely an aberration, but why fight it at this point in the season?
Shallow Option: Jeff Skinner, LW/RW – 61 per cent owned
Skinner is probably the only Hurricane anyone wants to own at this point. He has nine points in nine games since the Eric Staal trade and has been productive in a bounce-back season.
Deep Option: Phillip Di Giuseppe, LW – one per cent owned
Unable to get Skinner in your league? Di Giuseppe is an alternative. He is Skinner’s linemate and has three goals and six points in the last seven games.
Shallow Option: There are no shallow-league options on the Canucks with the news that Jannik Hansen has suffered an injury setback. Virtually every player you would think to scoop in a shallow league outside of the Sedins has been injured and is done for the year. Only deep options on this team.
Deep Option A: Ben Hutton, D – two per cent owned
With Alex Edler done for the year, Hutton has manned the point on the Canucks’ top power-play unit. He has 10 assists in 21 games since the All-Star break. The plus/minus has not been pretty, but all that power-play time gives Hutton plenty of exposure to the Sedins.
Deep Option B: Sven Baertschi, LW – one per cent owned
Before going into a four-game scoreless spin, Baertschi had scored five points in five games. He’s a streaky scorer who gets some top power-play unit time.
Unhappy with some of the options above? Blame the NHL’s schedule makers. Odds are, just about anyone you scoop off the waiver wire will not fit into your lineup on Saturday, which really neuters anyone you might pick up off the Canucks or Hurricanes. Every team but the Devils and Penguins are in action on Saturday, which extremely limits your ability to maximize games played with a waiver wire pick up. Only players off the Devils or Penguins can give you the favourable Friday/Sunday weekend combo this week.
Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of Dobber Hockey. Follow him @SteveLaidlaw.