By Neil Parker, RotoWire Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
Keeping an eye out for players climbing into scoring roles or power-play time because of injuries is important at this stage of the season. Teams looking ahead to the playoffs are going to be cautious with their top talents, and it’s common for secondary contributors to capitalize on extra playing time.
On the flip side, eliminated teams are eager to extend minutes to younger players to provide them the opportunity to showcase themselves at the highest level.
In both cases, there can be sneaky value to be plucked off the waiver wire.
Here’s the schedule for the next scoring period, March 12-18:
Two games: Sabres, Penguins
Four games: Ducks, Hurricanes, Avalanche, Stars, Red Wings, Oilers, Kings, Canadiens, Senators, Flyers, Sharks, Blues, Golden Knights, Capitals, Jets
All other teams play three games
Remember to keep an eye on who is cut in your leagues because potential upgrades come in all forms. Also, note the players previously covered in this space listed below this week’s recommendations.
(Yahoo ownership rates as of March 8.)
Matt Duchene, OTT (5 percent): It took time for Duchene to find his game in Ottawa, but he’s been scoring consistently over the past two months, and arguably playing his best hockey since the 2015-16 campaign. The 27-year-old center is up to 12 goals, 14 assists and 70 shots through his past 27 contests, and he’s been especially valuable in settings excluding plus-minus rating.
Nick Bjugstad, FLA (Yahoo: 23 percent): The Panthers are putting together a strong playoff surge, and Bjugstad’s improved production has been a huge reason why. The 6-foot-6 forward has collected 16 points — five goals — through 16 games since the beginning of February, and he’s combined with linemates Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov for an elite 5.05 goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five this season.
Riley Nash, BOS (Yahoo: 11 percent): With Patrice Bergeron (foot) out indefinitely, Nash has slotted in between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Surprisingly the Boston top line has hardly skipped a beat, and the 28-year-old center has recorded two goals, four assists and three multi-point showings through his past four contests. There’s a legitimate chance Bergeron’s injury will keep him sidelined until late in the season with the Bruins closing in on securing a playoff berth.
Brendan Leipsic, VAN (Yahoo: 8 percent): With another assist Wednesday, Leipsic now has two tallies, four helpers and 14 shots through four games since joining the Canucks. The relocation has obviously been a nice fit, and the 23-year-old winger has a noteworthy offensive track record after recording 38 goals and 105 points through 114 AHL games the previous two seasons. His current assignment alongside Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen is also encouraging.
Max Domi, ARI (Yahoo: 26 percent): It’s rare for a player with Domi’s offensive skill and pedigree to slump so poorly in his third season, and the 23-year-old forward’s definitely one of the bigger fantasy busts of the season. Still, this could prove to be a buy-low point. He’s currently skating with Christian Dvorak, and the duo has generated an impressive 15.15 high-danger scoring chances per hour this season. Don’t forget, their chemistry dates back to their time with London in the OHL.
Jamie McGinn, FLA (Yahoo: 1 percent): The 29-year-old veteran is currently lining up in a cushy fantasy setup alongside Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau. McGinn hasn’t fully cashed in on the opportunity, but his three points, 10 shots and 15 hits through the past six games could be useful in cavernous settings. Additionally, there’s upside for better marks if he sticks in the top-six gig.
Sami Vatanen, NJD (Yahoo: 38 percent): The ownership percentages don’t match Vatanen’s recent production. He’s marked the scoresheet in 10 of the past 13 games for 13 points and 30 shots while averaging a hefty 24:06 of ice time (2:31 on the power play) during the heater. Sharing significant minutes with Taylor Hall both at even strength and with the man advantage is a bonus, too.
Jeff Petry, MON (Yahoo: 38 percent): Already up to a career-high 32 points, Petry has also posted excellent cross-category numbers. He’s collected two goals, four assists, 12 shots, 18 hits, 16 blocked shots and a plus-3 rating through his past nine games. While there’s a little risk of his numbers declining because of Montreal’s slew of injuries, Petry’s significant role — including on the No. 1 power-play unit — mitigate the concern.
Mike Reilly, MON (Yahoo: 1 percent): The deadline acquisition has logged over 20 minutes in three of four games with the Habs, and he’s recorded four assists, five shots and nine hits during the stretch. Montreal projects to give Reilly a long look, and he’s been pairing with Jeff Petry atop the depth chart while also skating with the No. 1 power-play unit. Reilly’s numbers with the University of Minnesota and in the AHL were impressive, too.
John Gilmour, NYR (Yahoo: 1 percent): There’s some deep-league appeal here. Gilmour has been quarterbacking the No. 1 power-play unit of late, and he’s collected a goal, an assist and 10 shots while logging 21:57 of ice time (2:09 with the man advantage) through his past four contests. Just note that his fantasy floor and ceiling are probably both low.
Tristan Jarry, PIT (Yahoo: 32 percent): With Wednesday’s win, Jarry now sports a 13-5-2 record, .914 save percentage, 2.66 GAA and two shutouts through 21 starts. He appears to be in the driver’s seat as the No. 1 starter in Pittsburgh until Matt Murray (concussion) is healthy, so there aren’t many fantasy settings where Jarry isn’t a strong option. Expect Casey DeSmith to also see some time, and Murray will likely take over starter duties once healthy, though.
Kari Lehtonen, DAL (Yahoo: 25 percent): With Ben Bishop’s (lower body) return timeline up in the air, Lehtonen is a worthwhile grab in most settings. The veteran Finn is having a nice season in backup duty with a .919 save percentage and 2.30 GAA, and the Stars have also surrendered the fewest high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at five-on-five (9.28) in the league.
Steve Mason, WPG (Yahoo: 7 percent): The first-year Jet proved his health with a 31-save shutout over the Rangers on Tuesday in his first start since Jan. 9. While Connor Hellebuyck is the clear-cut No. 1 starter for Winnipeg, Mason still offers some standalone value and is a worthwhile handcuff for Hellebuyck owners. The backup should receive a few more starts through the end of the season.
Players to consider from past columns: Tomas Tatar, Kevin Fiala, Kyle Connor, Derick Brassard, Sam Reinhart, Tom Wilson, Zach Parise, J.T. Miller, Timo Meier, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Anthony Mantha, Kevin Hayes, Dion Phaneuf, Brandon Montour, Justin Braun, Vince Dunn, Matt Niskanen, Alexander Edler, Antti Raanta, Ryan Miller, Casey DeSmith, Juuse Saros, Tristan Jarry, Antti Niemi, Jacob Markstrom, Charlie Lindgren.