With the Olympic break approaching and the fantasy playoff picture beginning to take shape, owners are looking for ways to boost their chances on the waiver wire.
But while scoring-related categories (goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, rating) are usually most coveted, owners in rotisserie leagues or ones that take real-time stats into account are looking for ways to satisfy their league-specific needs.
Here are four readily available players that should be considered specialists in non-offensive categories. Their high level of production in their respective categories, along with a touch of offensive capability, could pay dividends for your team down the stretch of the season.
Yahoo ownership: 3 percent
Kassian and St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart are the only players League-wide with 10-plus goals and 90-plus penalty minutes. After missing time to start the season due to a suspension, Kassian is picking up steam offensively of late. With two goals and three assists over his past eight games, Kassian is seeing more meaningful minutes and reaping the benefits on the score sheet. His 99 penalty minutes rank eighth in the NHL and he logged a season-high 18:26 on Wednesday with an assist and two shots. Alexandre Burrows is healthy and back in the equation and things will shake up again once Henrik Sedin returns, but Kassian's goal-scoring ability and physical demeanor will give him an opportunity to make an impact regardless of lineup placement.
Yahoo ownership: 11 percent
Columbus' forward depth is off the charts at this point and Foligno often gets lost in the shuffle. He's been a points-hits-penalty minutes commodity in the past (47 points, 124 penalty minutes, 196 hits in 2011-12 with the Ottawa Senators) and has produced at a notable rate in those categories again this season. Among players with 140-plus hits this season, Foligno is one of nine with 10-plus goals. He has skated mostly with budding star Ryan Johansen, but was switched to a line with Artem Anisimov and RJ Umberger on Thursday and still rewarded his owners with 17 penalty minutes and two hits. His category coverage comes at a premium and he should be treated as such.
Yahoo ownership: 6 percent
Torey Krug (2:36 power-play ice time per game, 15 power-play points) and Eric Gelinas (2:10, 13 power-play points) see more ice time with the man advantage than Maatta (0:51, 1 power-play point), but it's not crazy to say the Penguins blueliner has been the most efficient rookie blueliner League-wide. He has picked up the slack for a Pittsburgh unit that has been decimated by injury at points this season. Among the eight rookie defensemen who have been on the ice for 40-plus team goals this season, Maatta (45 goals for) has been on the ice for the fewest goals allowed (30). Among rookie defensemen, Maatta is tied for third with 20 points, third with a plus-11 rating and second with 86 blocked shots (behind only Radko Gudas' 94). He has displayed offensive flair but has also continued to develop his game as a steady force on the back end for one of the NHL's best teams. If Maatta's 53-game sample size is any indication, it's only a matter of time before the 19-year-old emerges as one of the game's rising stars at his position.
Yahoo ownership: 31 percent
Vermette has gotten more attention (http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=702656) after his breakout performance Sunday, when he became the fifth player with multiple hat tricks on the season. He has followed that up with goals in each of his next two games. But Vermette is most valuable in leagues that take faceoffs into account, as he ranks third League-wide with 666 faceoff wins behind only Patrice Bergeron (696) and Sidney Crosby (673). He leads Phoenix forwards with 19:04 of ice time per game and his faceoff conversion percentage (56.1) is 10th in the NHL. Vermette has become a must-own player in leagues that count draws because of his multi-category production (20 goals, 119 shots on goal, 9 power-play points). General manager Don Maloney called Vermette the Coyotes' most valuable player to this point (http://www.nhl.com/ice/blogpost.htm?id=25746), so fantasy owners shouldn't wait any longer to give this dual-eligible asset a test run.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
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