Fantasy hockey: Waiver pickups to target this week

Working the waiver wire is a crucial part of any championship fantasy hockey season. Finding players to work into your lineup every single week that can add points to your total is the number one way you can control the outcome of your matchup.

In this weekly article, I’ll be going over players at every position, and at different levels of rostership, so you can fill out your fantasy squad with the best players available. Let’s dig in:

Forwards

Rostered in 41-50% of Leagues: Blake Wheeler, RW - WPG (43% rostered)

It’s an odd week schedule-wise the NHL, with not a lot of off-night availability due to American Thanksgiving changing how a week might normally be set up. The Jets play four games with one off-night which is about as good as it gets, and former captain Blake Wheeler has been showing signs of rejuvenation in his advanced numbers including individual scoring chance generation. I think Wheeler stands a solid chance of being the best pickup of the week as a key member of an underrated Winnipeg team.

Blake Wheeler might be the best waiver wire option for fantasy hockey managers right now. (Getty)
Blake Wheeler might be the best waiver wire option for fantasy hockey managers right now. (Getty)

The Jets’ schedule this week includes dates with the struggling Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks, so Wheeler should find ample opportunity to pot some points.

Honourable Mentions: Max Pacioretty, LW - CAR (43%) and Ryan O’Reilly, C - STL (43%)

Rostered in 31-40% of Leagues: Logan Couture, C - SJS (33% rostered)

Couture is on a bit of heater currently with seven points in his last six games. While the Sharks don’t have a ton of offensive talent to supply Couture’s wings, he’s found some chemistry with Alexander Barabanov and still has plenty of exposure to San Jose stars Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson via the Sharks’ top power play unit. Couture may not be the sexiest name available on the waiver wire in your league, but with the Sharks playing four games this week, it’s a good time to jump on Couture while he’s hot.

Honourable Mentions: Seth Jarvis, LW/RW - CAR (31%) and Andrew Mangiapane, LW/RW - CGY (35%)

Rostered in 21-30% of Leagues: Kevin Hayes, C - PHI (24% rostered)

Similar to Couture, Hayes doesn’t have a lot to work with in terms of even strength linemates currently, toiling his last game alongside household names like Max Willman and Patrick Brown. But Hayes also benefits from consistent PP1 deployment, averaging nearly 20 minutes total TOI per night. Hayes is currently hot as well, netting six points in his last five games. Hayes has fired four or more shots in three of those five games, lending some credence to this hot streak and its potential sustainability. Hayes is a great look in leagues that don’t count plus/minus, and even then you can probably look past the plus/minus since he’s a solid contributor across all categories.

Honourable Mentions: Arthur Kaliyev, LW/RW - LAK (21%) and Andrei Kuzmenko, LW - VAN (25%)

Rostered in 0-20% of Leagues: Evan Rodrigues, C/LW/RW - COL (10% rostered)

Rodrigues is in a unique position in Colorado currently, seeing 19-plus minutes per night including PP1 work while Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin remain sidelined for some time. Rodrigues has fired at least three shots in four of his last five games, making him a volume option at the very least. Recall that Rodrigues had a long hot streak to start the 2021-22 season as well, scoring 26 points in his first 31 games — there’s at least some pedigree here to suggest that Rodrigues can convert opportunity into counting stats for us fantasy players.

Honourable Mentions: Tomas Tatar, LW/RW - NJD (18%) and Owen Tippett, LW/RW - PHI (7%)

Defensemen

Rostered in 26-50% of Leagues: Jake Sanderson - OTT (46% rostered)

Sanderson is a priority add for me currently, firing at least three shots in four of his last six games and undertaking a bigger role since Thomas Chabot went down with a concussion. Sanderson immediately assumed PP1 and top-pair minutes and continues to impress in his rookie campaign. The Senators are off on their annual California road trip this week, and Sanderson should benefit from the soft schedule of San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles (although he will have to face the Vegas Golden Knights as well). Sanderson showed his ceiling in the Senators’ 4-1 win over Buffalo last week, netting two assists, four shots, two hits, and five blocks. If you need a defenseman to stuff categories, look no further than Sanderson for this week.

Honourable Mentions: Jakob Chychrun - ARI (45%) and Vince Dunn - SEA (35%)

Rostered in 0-25% of Leagues: Cam Fowler - ANA (6% rostered)

Fowler has reclaimed the PP1 job from newcomer John Klingberg recently, and immediately set about cementing his grip on the role with six points in his last three games. Fowler hasn’t played less than 23:54 in the last two weeks and that kind of time on ice volume all but guarantees a chance at some points. Fowler isn’t much for hits and blocks, but he’s been shooting a ton (six shots in Saturday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues) and given that Anaheim has the most off-nights of any team this season, Fowler may end up fitting into your team’s lineup long term if he’s able to maintain his current usage.

Honourable Mentions: Mike Matheson - MTL (6%) and Colton Parayko - STL (9%)

Goalies

Rostered in 26-50% of Leagues: John Gibson - ANA (42% rostered)

Gibson has not had a good season thus far, but showed some signs of improvement last week and remains a volume starter in Anaheim. It may not be pretty, but in points leagues that give strong weighting to saves, Gibson will likely return G2 value all season given his bellcow status on the Ducks. With Anaheim playing four games this week, it seems like a solid bet that Gibson will churn out another three starts this week, putting up a ton of volume at the very least. It seems inevitable that Gibson’s season long numbers will even out a little over the course of the season, and I’ll make a bet that it starts this week.

Honourable Mentions: Karel Vejmelka - ARI (34%) and Pyotr Kochetkov - CAR (27%)

Rostered in 0-25% of Leagues: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (5% rostered)

UPL got called up this week due to Eric Comrie’s injury and was promptly thrown to the wolves versus Toronto, who fired five goals past him. Buffalo seems reluctant to play the 41-year-old Craig Anderson more than one game at a time, so Luukkonen is a good bet to see at least 50 percent of the Sabres net while Comrie is out. UPL put up a .917 save percentage for the Sabres in a nine-game stint last year, and while the wins haven’t been there recently, the Sabres have been out-chancing their opponents at even strength. I wouldn’t be surprised if a reversal of fortunes for the Sabres as a team coincided directly with a few strong UPL starts this week, and I imagine he’ll get a real chance to run with the net if he can string a few quality starts together in a row.

Honourable Mentions: Filip Gustavsson - MIN (19%) and Joonas Korpisalo - CBJ (12%%)

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Nate Groot Nibbelink is the creator of Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey and the originator of the #ZeroG draft strategy. You can find him pontificating about obscure fantasy hockey strategy topics in the Apples & Ginos Discord Server or on Twitter @applesginos.

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