Strength of schedule puts Oilers’ Nugent-Hopkins on buyer’s list


Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a goal. (Jason Franson/CP)

As the season gets shorter for the teams left in the battle for first place, the number of players worth adding continues to increase. Which player you add will depend more heavily on strength of schedule, as well as other factors that affect your team all season such as league settings (points only vs. multi-category), other available players, and team needs.

With many teams on a push toward a championship, this week’s focus will shift toward using the schedule to your advantage, with players mainly selected from specific teams.

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Teams with most games (3) rest of the week (March 22-25): Edmonton, Nashville, Vancouver

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C
Playing on Connor McDavid’s line can be a recipe for success. It certainly hasn’t hurt for Nugent-Hopkins, who has eight points (4g-4a) over his last nine games. He has also helped multi-category teams in other categories as well with a plus-6 and 30 shots on goal over that span. If the Nuge somehow isn’t available in your league, the other player on that line could be. Ty Rattie has three points (2g-1a) in five games since being recalled from the AHL. So either option could be worthwhile depending on how deep your league is, as the Oilers play three games over the next four days.

Alexander Edler, D
In spite of the Canucks’ offensive struggles, Edler can still help your fantasy team in other ways. He is one of five defensemen with at least 140 blocked shots and 140 hits, and he is currently third in the NHL with 174 blocked shots. With 28 points, Edler has more points than any of the five defencemen in that group, so there’s some offensive upside as well. Edler also earns first-unit power-play time, which is worth remembering when (if) the Canucks break out of their scoring slump. Either way, he should quickly add to numerous category totals.

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Teams that play on both “off-days” (non-busy Friday and Sunday): Anaheim, Boston, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Winnipeg

Ryan Donato, C
Harvard’s leading scorer (26 goals in 29 games) has taken the NHL by storm. In his first two NHL games this week, Donato has scored two goals and two assists on eight shots. He even saw some first-unit power-play time on Wednesday, which is where he scored his second NHL goal. Keep in mind that the Bruins are battling some injuries, so ice time could drop once the team becomes fully healthy. But for now, Donato is worth burning a waiver-wire claim on. He was just recently added to the Yahoo player pool, in case you searched and couldn’t find him.

Bryan Rust, LW/RW
Pittsburgh forwards often have the benefit of playing alongside some elite scorers. After lining up with Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard on what would be considered a strong third line, Rust was grouped with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on Wednesday, when he recorded an assist on Crosby’s goal. Rust has also been relatively hot recently, scoring four points (2g-2a) over his last four games. Rust is ideal as a fill-in on fantasy rosters as needed, but it’s worth mentioning that he’s on pace for his first 40-point season.

Jamie Oleksiak, D
If Edler is unavailable, Oleksiak is worth a look for his contributions in penalty minutes and hits. Since being acquired by the Penguins from the Stars earlier this season, Oleksiak has racked up 61 penalty minutes in just 39 games. As well, he has been averaging just over three hits per game since joining the Penguins, which would make him a top-10 option in that category. Oleksiak will never be known for his scoring touch, but he has also recorded four points over his last seven games.

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Injury replacement goalie

Malcolm Subban, G
Marc-Andre Fleury left Tuesday’s game against Vancouver with an injury and didn’t travel with the Golden Knights to San Jose for Thursday’s game. So Subban is a must-add for teams that need goaltending help, as he should start that game. Subban played well during his time filling in for Fleury earlier this season until he was injured himself. The Knights have surprised everyone as a great option for wins, which should make Subban a reliable option down the stretch. Don’t be surprised if Vegas shuts Fleury down until the playoffs if his injury is concussion-related.

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