If you are in a head-to-head league, now is the time to prepare for the fantasy playoffs. Actually, if you are in any league, now is the time to prepare for the last month of the season.
Fantasy owners should now look beyond who is hot and who is not. How many games does a player have left? How many games does that player have during an important fantasy playoff week? Is there adequate coverage on “off-nights” – days in which not many games are scheduled? Are any players on your roster simply dead weight?
If the last question in particular pertains to you, here are some players you should consider adding.
Bo Horvat, C, VAN
We featured Horvat in this column earlier this season, but fantasy owners at large seem to need another reminder. Horvat has cracked the 20-goal mark for what should be the first of many seasons. You could also argue that Horvat has supplanted the Sedins as the go-to offensive weapon for the Canucks, since he leads the team with 46 points. The fact that he plays at the deep centre position might explain why his ownership is so low. But you may want to check your team to see if you have an underperforming centre who you could swap for Horvat.
Nick Bonino, C, PIT
Bonino’s production can come and go, but he appears to be on the upswing at the moment. He currently has a three-game point streak, which includes a hat trick on six shots on goal against Winnipeg on Wednesday. He’s back on a line with Phil Kessel (more line combinations here) and also now with up-and-coming Jake Guentzel. The Penguins have a favourable schedule during fantasy playoffs week and Bonino’s owned in very few leagues. Also remember his success in last season’s playoffs (18 points in 24 games) if you participate in any decent-sized playoff pools.
Mark Streit, D, PIT
With Kris Letang out longer than expected, Streit has made his mark in Pittsburgh. With two assists against Winnipeg on Wednesday, Streit now has four points in three games as a Penguin. Streit has always had offensive flair, but at age 39 it remains to be seen how much he has left. Although he will probably fall down the depth chart once Letang, Trevor Daley, and Olli Maatta return, Streit makes a great short-term pickup since he is receiving valuable power play time on a potent Penguins’ squad.
Jaccob Slavin, D, CAR
Slavin had posted assists in five consecutive games entering Thursday’s game, making him a 20-plus point player in both of his NHL seasons. What may be more impressive is the fact he’s a plus-15 on a Hurricanes team that features only three plus players. He has also logged the highest ice time total per game (23 minutes) of any Hurricane this season. Slavin may be one of those players you want to stash on your roster for the fantasy playoffs, since the Hurricanes play a rare yet plentiful five games during the week of March 13-19.
Antti Raanta, G, NYR
When a starting goalie goes down to injury, fantasy owners need to be on top of scooping up his replacement, even if that injury is short-term. Henrik Lundqvist missed Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury, so Raanta was between the pipes against Carolina. Even if Lundqvist returns shortly, he hasn’t been the dominant force that he has been through his career. Raanta has already cut into that workload this season, so the Rangers may use this opportunity to rest King Henrik as much as possible down the stretch.
Jonathan Bernier, G, ANA
Speaking of backup goalies, Bernier has filled in admirably for John Gibson while the latter is on the IR. Bernier posted a spectacular 43-save shutout of the Blackhawks on Thursday, which happened to be his seventh consecutive start. Gibson is back facing pucks, so his return may not be far off. But keep in mind that Gibson has never played this many games (48) in any of his four NHL seasons. So to keep Gibson fresh for the playoffs, don’t be surprised if Bernier makes a few more starts before the regular season ends.