With the season winding down and teams having between 14-19 games, it is time for every contending club to sprint. Fantasy owners should do the same.
Owners have exactly one month from Thursday to make any last-minute pushes to win their league championship. Most leagues aren’t going to have many impactful players available on the waiver wire, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t free agents that can make a difference. In many ways, it is easier to pick up a hot player on the waiver wire at this point because there is no need to worry about him maintaining his production.
Let’s run through the step-by-step process owners should take in making good additions this late in the season.
At this point, there is much less of a need for five or six category players because in many instances teams have a huge lead or giant deficit in one category that isn’t going to change over the next month.
For instance, if Team A is ranked fourth in goals and is 10 or 15 scores behind third place, then the third-place team (Team B) doesn’t need more scoring to maintain its standing. In this hypothetical, let’s also say that Team C is in second place and 10 goals ahead of Team B.
In other words, Team B is stuck in third place for the goals category. There is no need for Team B to address goal scoring with its waiver wire additions.
Here is another example. Team Z might have a huge lead in the plus/minus category with a plus-150 rating. Team Y is second at plus-100.
Fantasy hockey isn’t like head-to-head fantasy football where every yard in any category matters. Once a certain place in a category is secured, there are no bonus points for margin of victory.
Therefore, step one in the process of sprinting toward the finish line is to identify the categories your team could still move up or down. After that is complete, the next step is finding a player that addresses that particular need and then dropping the worst player in that category.
Here are three players that can help in three different categories over the last month of the season.
Need: Scoring Categories – Craig Smith, C, Nashville
It is hard to find a hotter player on the waiver wire than Smith. He has five goals and 12 points in the last 10 games. During that time, he has a plus-eight rating and is averaging 2.5 shots per game.
After posting a shooting percentage of just 7.7 percent in the first 56 games this season, Smith has a shooting percentage of 20.0 since Feb. 15.
He won’t maintain that, but he doesn’t have to for very long. Smith is averaging 2.0 points in each of his last five games, and his Corsi For percentage is at least 50 percent in nine of the most recent 11 contests.
Smith is owned in just 32.3 percent of ESPN leagues. Owners who need help with goals, assists and shots should add him and ride the hot streak.
Need: Plus/Minus – Olli Maatta, D, Pittsburgh
Smith wouldn’t be a bad choice, but Maatta leads all defensemen in plus/minus this season, so he is the best addition for the category, particularly if there is room on your fantasy blue line. Overall, Maatta is fourth in the category behind only Evgeny Kuznetsov, Chris Kunitz and Tyler Toffoli.
In the last seven games, the 21-year-old has a plus-seven rating, and he only has two contests with a negative rating since Feb. 15. In 37 games under coach Mike Sullivan, Maatta has a plus-16 rating.
He won’t get many goals or assists, but if owners solely need plus/minus help, Maatta is the guy. He is owned in 34.7 percent of ESPN leagues.
Need: Penalty Minutes – Derek Dorsett, RW, Vancouver
This is an easy one.
Dorsett leads the NHL with 153 penalty minutes and five misconducts. Furthermore, he is third with nine fighting majors and his 2.47 penalty minutes per game are the most among players with at least 25 games played.
Over the last 10 contests, Dorsett is averaging a whopping 3.6 penalty minutes per game. He has at least five penalty minutes in four of the last seven games.
He is going to hurt pretty much every other category, which is why he is available in more than 96 percent of ESPN leagues, but if owners solely need help in PIM, it doesn’t get any better than Dorsett.