20 Fantasy Thoughts: Trade for Zach Werenski immediately

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Columbus Blue Jackets' Zach Werenski tries to clear the puck. (Jay LaPrete/AP)

After Saturday’s nine-game slate, another NHL regular season is now officially past the midway point. Now, it gets interesting leading into the all-star break and the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

The month of January is as crucial a time as there is in the fantasy hockey world. It routinely separates the contenders from the pretenders. This year will be no different.

It’s time to ditch the patience and ignite the aggressiveness and assertiveness.

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1. If I had to rank the four NHL newcomers in net in order of ownership priority, I’d go Collin Delia, Carter Hart, Thatcher Demko and then MacKenzie Blackwood.

2. When it comes to Demko, Jacob Markstrom isn’t going to just hand him the crease. He’ll have to earn every start. Markstrom is currently 17-12-3 with a 2.86 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage. Temper your expectations!

3. Meantime, the newly acquired Anders Nilsson is now the de facto No. 1 for the Senators while Craig Anderson continues to nurse his concussion. Unless you’re strapped for options, stay away from Ottawa’s crease at all costs right now. The Sens are dead last in the NHL, averaging 3.98 goals against per contest. Mercy.

4. It’s time to move on from both Cam Talbot and Mike Smith in Alberta. In Edmonton, the Oilers definitively prefer Mikko Koskinen but even he’s had his issues lately. In Calgary, David Rittich has won the job. Nothing to see there.

5. I believe in what Robin Lehner is doing for the Islanders. The former Sabre has powered his way ahead of Thomas Greiss on New York’s depth chart. Again, Mitch Korn deserves an abundance of credit for this development. Lehner has won seven straight appearances and currently ranks first in the league in goals-against average (2.18) and second in save percentage (.927).

6. Looking for a veteran goalie with pedigree? Make a move to obtain Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk. After a dismal December, he’s starting to heat up and should be considered as an exceptional buy-low candidate right now. The 32-year-old has been one of the most consistent goalies over the last couple of years. He’ll figure things out. You won’t regret the addition.

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7. Buffalo rookie Casey Mittelstadt saw some time alongside Jeff Skinner on Saturday night in St. Louis. Depending on how much longer Jack Eichel is out with his upper-body issue, I’d take a flier on Mittelstadt. Stream away.

8. With Dustin Byfuglien sidelined for the foreseeable future, it’s time to hop back on the Joshua Morrissey bandwagon. Already on pace for career-highs across the board, the 23-year-old has already demonstrated the ability to step up offensively – if need be – earlier this season. Grab him.

9. Jack Roslovic is fantasy relevant for the first time this season. The 21-year-old will see top-six minutes now that Nikolaj Ehlers is lost for at least a month with a shoulder problem. Make the move.

10. Thomas Chabot is almost impossible to replace. Maxime Lajoie is an option but don’t expect much. Scour the waiver wire for names like Erik Gustafsson or Jake Muzzin to fill that massive void for you.

11. Now’s the time to pick up Islanders blue-liner Ryan Pulock. After a slow offensive start, the 24-year-old has a goal and seven helpers over the past 10 contests. There’s plenty more where that came from.

12. Trade for Blue Jackets stud defender Zachary Werenski immediately. The Michigan native just had his six-game point streak (4 G, 3 A, 7 P) snapped on Saturday night. Keep this in mind: Werenski’s entry-level contract concludes following this season. He’s looking to get paid, so don’t be shocked if this hot streak continues. Value!

13. Is Dougie Hamilton showing early signs of finally breaking out? Well, he’s currently riding a modest two-game goal streak, so it’s a start. Considering his first half, that’s already a win for last season’s leader in goals (17) by defenceman. You would think that 3.8 shooting percentage Hamilton currently boasts will improve eventually.

14. After a 15-game hiatus because of a hand injury, Anthony Mantha is back for Detroit and he should be on your radar. Exposure to the red-hot Dylan Larkin should be enough for you to pull the waiver trigger.

15. There’s no way Brandon Pirri is stealing Max Pacioretty’s job anytime soon. The former Canadiens captain scored the game-winner against Anaheim in his return to the Vegas lineup on Friday night. The perennial 30-goal scorer is back on the second line with Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch. Buy low!

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16. If Jason Zucker doesn’t figure it out soon, cut bait. At this point, he’s an anchor on your roster and not providing much. It was always going to be difficult to replicate his breakout from last season. Swallow your pride and think about moving on.

17. I’ve had enough of the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s nearing time to cut your losses on youngsters like Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov on the back end. Meantime, if you can get respectable value for perennial stars like Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

18. Take note – Filip Forsberg is closing in on a return to the Nashville lineup and will likely take his familiar spot on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. The trio is one of the best in the NHL right now. Get a piece of that pie!

19. Vincent Trocheck is worth stashing on your roster. Miraculously, the Panthers pivot is back skating after sustaining a gruesome leg injury back in November. He’s not close to returning but may turn out to be a massive long-term play for you, especially come playoff time.

20. The week of Jan. 7-13 will feature a total of 53 games in the NHL.

When constructing your lineup for the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool, zone in on the likes of CAR, CGY, CBJ, FLA, MIN, MTL, NSH, NYI, NYR, PHI, SJS, STL, TBL & WPG. Those 14 teams will play four times. Stay away from Vancouver. The Canucks have just two games on the docket after wrapping up their lengthy six-game road trip.

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