Fantasy hockey waivers: Big upside for Nathan Beaulieu

Nathan Beaulieu and Max Pacioretty. (Graham Hughes/CP)

Every season many undrafted players turn out to be difference-makers in fantasy leagues. Think Artemi Panarin last season, who went from relative unknown to scoring 77 points as Patrick Kane’s regular linemate.

Striking gold like that on the waiver wire is rare, but that’s where you can get players who will help your team in some way. Think beyond goals and assists. What scoring categories count in your league, and which available players specialize in those categories?

Selecting the right player from a lengthy list can be overwhelming. So hopefully the suggestions below can fill a void on your team.

Sean Couturier, C, PHI
Centre is a deep position and Couturier has the reputation of being more of a two-way forward than an offensive weapon. But Patrice Bergeron experienced the same problem earlier in his career, and look where his numbers are now. Couturier’s 39 points in 63 games from 2015-16 projects to 50 points over a full season. With three goals in four games Couturier has clicked with linemates Jakub Voracek and Travis Konecny so far this season. By the way, keep an eye on Konecny as a potential keeper candidate.

Jonathan Marchessault, C, FLA
Jonathan Huberdeau’s injury has helped Marchessault’s fantasy value more than any other player, since he has moved up to the Panthers’ top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr. With his assist on Thursday, Marchessault is now up to two goals and three assists in four games. With Barkov as the de facto centre on the line, Marchessault could finally earn wing eligibility in fantasy, which could help his ownership percentage. Add him now, but be aware that Nick Bjugstad will be back in a couple weeks from a broken hand and could steal away some minutes.

Artem Anisimov, C, CHI
If linemate watching is your thing (and there’s no better place than Dobber Hockey to do that), then Anisimov should be at the top of your list. Few players have linemates the calibre of Panarin and Patrick Kane, who Anisimov is fortunate enough to play between. After notching just one assist over his first three games, Anisimov exploded for two goals and two assists on Tuesday against Philadelphia. It’s a wonder he didn’t crack 50 points last season, but maybe this is the year.

Lee Stempniak, RW, CAR
Perhaps Stempniak is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NHL, since he can’t get no respect from NHL teams or fantasy owners. Yet here he is again, putting up solid numbers for teams in need of scoring. Last season’s most unlikely 50-point scorer has now scored three goals and two assists in his first four games for his 10th NHL club. Live in the moment and keep him on your team until he starts playing like a typical player who bounces from team to team.

Nathan Beaulieu, D, MTL
This could be the season in which 2011 first-round pick Beaulieu becomes worth owning in fantasy leagues. After serving as mainly a bottom-pair defenceman in his first two full seasons, Beaulieu is now averaging more than 20 minutes per game, including nearly two minutes of power-play time. More importantly, he’s logging minutes with new blue line leader Shea Weber. Beaulieu once posted a point-per-game season in the QMJHL (52 points in 53 games in 2011-12), so the offensive upside is there.

Michael Matheson, D, FLA
The hockey community at large took notice of Matheson playing for a stacked Canadian team at the World Hockey Championship last spring, where he scored six points in 10 games. Now, he appears to be a dark horse candidate for the Calder Trophy, looking NHL-ready while playing top-four minutes. Fantasy owners looking for blue line help should take note that he has scored goals in back-to-back games with a total of three points in four games. His only drawback is the presence of Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad will limit his power-play time.

Jacob Markstrom, G, VAN
Raise your hand if you predicted the Canucks would win their first four games of the season. Better yet, Markstrom has earned three of those wins, allowing just five goals over that stretch. Because Ryan Miller has felt tightness recently, Markstrom has been handed a heavier workload than we had projected. Don’t be surprised if when all is said and done, Markstrom starts half of the Canucks’ games this season, since Miller is now 36 years old, in the final year of his contract, and the subject of trade rumours. Ride the hot goalie.

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