Fantasy All-Access: All-Star team of unsung heroes

Monday, 01.25.2016 / 11:00 AM
Sean McCullen  - NHL.com Staff Writer

Every Monday, NHL.com staff writer Sean McCullen identifies potential waiver-wire pickups and points out lineup moves and schedule impacts for fantasy hockey.

All-Access is about providing information on those NHL players who are available to a majority of fantasy hockey owners. This is not where you click to find breakdowns of Patrick Kane's 26-game point streak or Braden Holtby's brilliance in the first half.

This column is where I point out (sometimes, admittedly, with my fingers crossed) the unsung heroes of the fantasy game, the players who can help give you the edge you need in highly competitive leagues.

Ahead of the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game in Nashville this Sunday, I've put together an All-Access all-star team -- a team of the best players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues.

G – Louis Domingue, Arizona Coyotes (45 percent owned): He gets the nod by a hair over Michal Neuvirth of the Philadelphia Flyers, mainly because he figures to see more action down the stretch; the Flyers seem to be leaning toward more starts for Steve Mason. Domingue is 8-4-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and two shutouts since being recalled from Springfield of the American Hockey League after Mike Smith was injured in mid-December.

D – Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks (45 percent owned): It's pretty remarkable that a player as good as Vlasic, who won gold with Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, flies under the radar, but that's what he has done his entire NHL career. No more. It's been a breakout offensive season for Vlasic under first-year coach Peter DeBoer; he has seven goals and 17 assists in 44 games, putting him on pace to easily surpass his career high of 36 points (2008-09).

D – Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (46 percent owned): The 22-year-old leads NHL rookie defensemen in goals (eight) and points (19) despite playing in 27 games after being recalled from Lehigh Valley of the AHL in mid-November.

LW – Kris Versteeg, Carolina Hurricanes (13 percent owned): Versteeg has 10 goals and 20 assists in 49 games in his first season with the Hurricanes. Also eligible at right wing in Yahoo leagues, he has five goals and three assists in the past nine games, and has been playing on the top line with center Eric Staal and Elias Lindholm.

C – Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche (34 percent owned): Of Soderberg's 34 points, 12 have come on the power play, tied for 16th among NHL centers. The 30-year-old makes this team based on his strong recent play; he has three goals and five assists in the past nine games.

RW – Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs (44 percent owned): Although Komarov is eligible as a center and left wing in Yahoo leagues, he's been at right wing on Nazem Kadri's line most of the season, so that's where he'll skate on my team. Not only does the 29-year-old have 16 goals, 15 assists and a plus-5 rating in 46 games, but he has 209 hits, making him an absolute must-own in hits leagues.

Any of the six players listed above are worth adding in leagues of 12 or more teams. Here are four more to keep an eye on:

WAIVER-WIRE WATCH

Carl Hagelin, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins (18 percent owned): Hagelin has been rejuvenated playing with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel since the Jan. 16 trade that brought him to the Penguins from the Anaheim Ducks. He has three points in four games with Pittsburgh after he had 12 in 43 with Anaheim. Beyond the score sheet, the 27-year-old is again utilizing the speed that made him dangerous with the New York Rangers the past four seasons.

Brayden Schenn, C/LW, Philadelphia Flyers (35 percent owned): Playing right wing on a line with center Sean Couturier and left wing Michael Raffl has benefited Schenn, who has four goals and five assists in his past nine games.

Mike Ribeiro, C, Nashville Predators (16 percent owned): Ribeiro, a natural center, was at left wing on a line with center Ryan Johansen and right wing James Neal in a 4-1 win Saturday at the Edmonton Oilers. He's the fourth player coach Peter Laviolette has used on his top line since Johansen was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 6. If Ribeiro stays there, he's worth adding, particularly if Yahoo makes him eligible as a left wing.

Derek Stepan, C, New York Rangers (42 percent owned): Stepan had a four-game point streak come to an end in a 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday. He has three goals and four assists in his past nine games after starting slow upon returning from a 10-game absence Nov. 28-Dec. 17 because of broken ribs.

LINE CHANGES

-- After skating at right wing on a line with center Vincent Lecavalier and Marian Gaborik the first two games last week, Jeff Carter was back at center for the Los Angeles Kings the past two games with Dwight King at left wing and Dustin Brown at right wing. Brown scored on a rebound of a Carter shot in the second period against Arizona on Saturday. Lecavalier (14 percent owned), who has four goals and an assist in nine games since being acquired from the Flyers on Jan. 6, is centering the third line with Gaborik to his left and Trevor Lewis to his right.

-- Rookie forward Dylan Larkin was back on the Detroit Red Wings' top line with Justin Abdelkader and Henrik Zetterberg the past two games after he played next to Pavel Datsyuk and opposite Tomas Tatar on Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues.

-- The Boston Bruins had Ryan Spooner up at right wing on their top line with center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand for the first time Saturday. Spooner had two goals and nine assists as second-line center with David Krejci out 10 games because of an upper-body injury; when Krejci returned Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, Spooner found himself at third-line center.

SCHEDULE NOTES

This accounts for games over the next two weeks. Yahoo's Week 16 covers Jan. 25-Feb. 7 because of the Jan. 28-Feb.1 All-Star break.

-- The Montreal Canadiens and Flyers each will play an NHL-high six games.

The Blues, Canucks, Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning have an NHL-low three games on their schedule over the 14 days.

The following teams will play five games: Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Bruins, Coyotes, Maple Leafs, Predators, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals.

The following teams will play four games: Ducks, Hurricanes, Oilers, Penguins, Rangers, Red Wings, Senators, Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils and Winnipeg Jets.

-- All six Canadiens games will be part of a back-to-back set, including a home-and-home with the Blue Jackets on Monday in Columbus and Tuesday in Montreal.

-- The Bruins and Sabres have a home-and-home Feb. 4 in Buffalo and Feb. 6 in Boston.

-- The Blues and Oilers each will not play again until Feb. 2. St. Louis has eight days off between games, and Edmonton has nine.

Follow Sean McCullen on Twitter: @McBrooklyn77

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