Every Monday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey contributor Matt Sitkoff will provide you with fantasy hockey advice in his weekly segment: "Fantasy All-Access." From the waiver wire watch to roster trends and prospect rumblings, Sitkoff is here to help you all season long.
We celebrated Groundhog Day this past week, and our favorite woodchuck Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. Some players need to wake up from their hibernation, or it will be an early spring for their owners' fantasy teams.
Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is near the top of the National Hockey League in shots on goal (36) but has yet to score his first goal. I predict an early spring for him, as he will not wake up from his hibernation in the wake of losing his linemate Joffrey Lupul, while others (James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin) have taken scoring opportunities away from the four-time 30-goal scorer.
Predators captain Shea Weber has not gone this long in his career without scoring a point. I predict he will wake up from his hibernation; the team has struggled to score early as they try new players out in new roles, but I see the Norris Trophy candidate breaking out of his slump and helping fantasy teams soon.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Mikkel Boedker (owned in 3 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- The 23-year-old has solidified the top line for the Coyotes. The 2008 first-round pick has played the most of any Coyotes forward this season (176:49) and plays in all situations. Boedker leads the team in power-play points (4) and power-play goals (2). Phoenix has a tough schedule this week (MIN, CHI, @SJS), but that means it could be a test of the Danish forward's fantasy staying power which we think he will pass.
Travis Hamonic (owned in 20 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- The Islanders are off to a hot start offensively, and the third-year pro is a big part of it from the back line. Captain Mark Streit gets all the headlines, but Hamonic is becoming the Islanders' most complete defender and fantasy owners will reap the benefits. The 22-year-old has 54 points in 143 career NHL games, but also solid contributions to other categories like 182 career PIMs and 252 career shots on goal. This week, the Islanders are facing teams (PIT, @NYR, BUF) that he has 17 career points and 79 career PIMs against.
James Reimer (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- When Ben Scrivens came out and started the Maple Leafs' first two games this season and performed well, we thought we saw the last of "Optimus Reim" as a viable fantasy starter. Flash forward, and the third-year goalie has started the last four games, winning two of them and stopping 119 of the 129 shots faced. The Leafs have a busy schedule this week, including a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday (CAR, @WSH, @WPG, @MTL); with some of those teams struggling to score, expect his recent success to continue.
When to drop an injured player -- Out indefinitely, out three-to-four weeks, day-to-day … these are phrases fantasy owners are getting used to hearing as the season drags on. With most leagues having one or two IR positions, some teams are dealing with the dreaded question of, "Do I drop a player not knowing what their future holds?" My advice is to of course use IR if you can, but be smart about it; with points being at a premium with the condensed schedule, the difference in not starting an extra forward for a week is huge. If a player is day-to-day and misses two games, that could have been another category you snag by picking up a player with a heavy schedule that week. Use IR for the superstars that would not survive a waiver wire, but if a fringe player is dealing with an ailment drop him immediately and be a smart owner -- monitor his status and be the first to pick him back up, but do not leave points off the board by hoping the player heals quickly.
Who is the starter? -- We are down to four lone goalies to start every game for their team: the Flames' Mikka Kiprusoff, the Red Wings' Jimmy Howard, the Oilers' Devan Dubnyk and the Kings' Jonathan Quick. With that in mind, there are still definite starters on some teams but a blurry line on others. The teams that have started one goalie for fewer than 60 percent of the time early are the Hurricanes, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Blue Jackets, Wild, Blues and Canucks. If you have a starter on one of those teams, either target the other in a trade or take advantage and trade away the joint starter for another player that can contribute to your team. Make sure you get the latest and follow @NHLFantasy and @msitkoffNHL on Twitter as we continue to break down goalie starts for you.
Brendan Gallagher -- We at Fantasy All-Access featured an undersized rookie in our first post, and all Cory Conacher has done is lead rookies in points. Now another undersized forward is starting to turn fantasy owners' heads, as the Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher has five points in his first six NHL games. Listed at 5-foot-9, the 147th pick of the 2010 NHL Draft has instant chemistry with fellow rookie Alex Galchenyuk, who has the primary assists on all of his goals this season. The 20-year-old is the Vancouver Giants' all-time leading scorer (280 points in 244 career games), and had 20 points in 36 games played in AHL this season. He should be on your fantasy radar.
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