20 Fantasy Thoughts: Who to target, avoid for your league final

flames-mike-smith-makes-save-against-predators

Nashville Predators' Rocco Grimaldi, left, chases a loose puck past Calgary Flames goalie Mike Smith during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

Believe it or not, we’re now less than two weeks away from the end of another NHL regular season.

Firstly, some important hardware needs to be handed out. Congratulations to those of you closing in on a fantasy hockey title and good luck to all still chasing the dream. By the way, I fully expect a cut of your winnings.

Jokes aside, you can’t dispute math. Even with their downright dreadful second half numbers, I’m fully endorsing the Buffalo Sabres this week. Why, you ask? Well, there’s no way you can’t jump all over a team slated to play five times.

Yes, that’s right, the Sabres are the second team this season to be blessed with the golden unicorn of fantasy schedules.
Let’s take a more in depth look at the week of Mar. 25-31:

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1. Could Carter Hutton be primed for a monster fantasy week? Let’s hope Saturday night’s showing in Montreal was a calm before the proverbial storm.

On paper, the upcoming docket looks juicy for the Sabres. They’ll tangle with three bottom five teams (New Jersey, Ottawa and Detroit), the much-maligned Columbus Blue Jackets as well as the New York Islanders on Saturday.

2. From an offensive standpoint, I like how Alex Nylander and Casey Mittelstadt have looked recently. Hit that waiver wire and act accordingly.

3. In total, there are 52 games in the second to last week of the regular season. Aside from Buffalo, I’d target players on the following 11 teams: Boston, Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Los Angeles, New York Rangers, San Jose and Vegas.

Each is slated to play four times.

4. Yeah, maybe steer clear of Columbus, especially Pierre Luc-Dubois. The 20-year-old should be dropped from your roster immediately. Amazingly, he’s pointless through 11 games in March. Yikes!

5. Of the teams mentioned above, I’d take a closer look at the Flames, Rangers and Red Wings. In my eyes, they have the most favourable outlook.

Calgary Flames

Mon (LAK), Wed (DAL), Fri (ANA), Sun (@SJS)
Waiver Looks: Andrew Mangiapane, Mike Smith

New York Rangers

Mon (PIT, Wed (@BOS), Fri (STL), Sun (@PHI)
Waiver Looks: : Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich

Detroit Red Wings

Mon (@SJS), Thurs (@BUF), Fri (NJD), Sun (BOS)
Waiver Looks: Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou

6. On the other side of the spectrum, the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning will have plenty of practice time ahead. They place just twice.

You can pretty much cut any depth pieces.

7. With Marc-Andre Fleury dinged up in Vegas, be sure to scoop up Malcolm Subban. Similar to most backups, don’t expect anything earth shattering statistically outside of a general boost to the goalie wins department. The Golden Knights are 10-1-1 over the last 12 games.

Scary stuff, I know.

8. If for some inexplicable reason, Reilly Smith is available on your wire, go out there and get him pronto. He has four goals and five helpers for nine points over the last four contests.

9. Looking for a Max Pacioretty replacement? Personally, I’d venture outside Sin City. Jonathan Drouin and Nino Niederreiter, among others, should be contemplated.

10. San Jose’s Gustav Nyquist is another solid target option. Due to injuries and inconsistent play, the 29-year-old has creeped into the top-six picture for Peter DeBoer. Monitor that situation.

11. Speaking of the Sharks, did you know that Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s 12 points since Feb. 24 leads the team over that span? I call this the “Vlasic value play.”

12. The way he’s been playing for Colorado lately, Philipp Grubauer has unequivocally reached must-own territory. The German goalie is currently riding a steady four-game win streak. He’s allowed two goals or fewer in an impressive 10 straight appearances.

13. With Kris Letang once again healthy for Pittsburgh, move on from Justin Schultz. His fantasy value drops significantly with Letang back in the mix.

14. Keep tabs on Dallas’ Mats Zuccarello. The Norwegian forward has started practising with the main roster and is scheduled to accompany the team on its upcoming four-game road trip. That said, there’s still no timetable on a possible return.

15. I’m so thankful for Bob Nicholson’s critical comments about Tobias Rieder.

They prompted my colleague over at SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, Tyler Madarasz, to pose the simple Twitter question: who scores first this season – Tobias Rieder or Valeri Nichuchskin?

My money is on neither.

16. Despite all the disappointment in Southern California this year, there’s still plenty of fantasy stock to buy here late in the season. Have a look at the likes of Dustin Brown, Jakob Silfverberg and Adam Henrique. All three have been consistent contributors lately.

17. After a 10-game hiatus, Derek Stepan is back for the Coyotes. He’s currently skating on the second line with Lawson Crouse and Josh Archibald. Be advised.

18. Give me some Alex Edler. The Canucks defender has a goal and five helpers over a modest three-game point streak.

19. Great news for Sven Baertschi: It sounds like his return from a concussion is imminent. He’ll likely factor back into a top-six role for Vancouver. Keep that mind for a potential daily fantasy play.

20. Almost unbelievably, another season is winding down in the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool.

Again, don’t overthink it. Ride the hot hand and remember, it’s never a bad idea to dress players on teams that still have tons to play for.

Good luck and have fun!

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