Every Monday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey contributor Matt Sitkoff will provide you with fantasy hockey advice in his weekly piece: "Fantasy All-Access." From the waiver wire watch to roster trends and prospect rumblings, Sitkoff is here to help you all season long.
Later this week you will get the NHL.com fantasy midseason awards as well as a Google+ #NHLHangout as our crew gives their picks for some of the top awards. With that in mind, in this week's Fantasy All-Access let's hand out some more hardware.
The "Glad I Drafted That Guy Award" goes to John Tavares. While most people got to select Crosby, Malkin or Stamkos with their first-round picks, others were getting Ovechkin, Lundqvist and Quick. In steps Tavares, who was picked on average 9.9 in Yahoo! leagues and has lived up to his late first-round status and made fantasy owners glad they got him over some struggling superstars.
The "Thankful My Waiver Priority Was Top That Week Award" goes to Viktor Fasth. I do tip my hat to those who actually drafted the 30-year-old goalie, but for the majority of leagues whoever swiped this Swedish import off the waiver wire has been enjoying his early success.
The "Can I Drop This Guy Already Award" goes to Brad Richards. This is a guy who was picked around the fifth round in most Yahoo! drafts, and all he has done is not produce. He did finally break his 15-game goalless drought last week and has goals in two-straight, but we will not be surprised if he starts another long streak of not producing. Worst of all, he is still owned in 86 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Michael Ryder (owned in 47 percent percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- The welcome back party for the 32-year-old forward has been a good one. Playing mostly on a line with Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec, he has two goals and seven assists in seven games playing in Montreal. Ryder has 165 career power-play points; combine that with P.K. Subban back and a healthy Andrei Markov, and you could see a boast in your fantasy team's power-play production. Although the Canadiens have only two games scheduled this week (OTT, @NJD), Ryder, a UFA at the end of the season, has something to play for as the Habs are one of the top teams and best surprises of the first half.
Slava Voynov (owned in 61 percent of Yahoo! leagues) and Jake Muzzin (owned in 6 percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- We couldn't decide on which young Kings defender to suggest to pick up, so if you are lucky that either is available pick them up immediately. The 23-year-old Voynov leads the defending champs' defensemen in points (16), while the surprising 24-year-old Muzzin leads the Kings' D in goals (5). They are both scoring at a torrid pace while still playing sound defense, as Voynov is a plus-11 and Muzzin a plus-10. If game-winning goals is a category then Voynov has been a star, as he already has two of them this season. The Kings have four games scheduled this week (CGY, @PHX, @SJS, SJS), and we predict a continuing rise of these young blueliners.
GAA: 2.42 | SVP: 0.910
Blackhawks streak is over -- On Friday, we saw one of the best streaks in pro sports finally end when the Blackhawks lost in regulation for the first time in 31 regular-season games. Fantasy owners of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Cory Crawford and Ray Emery all sat back and saw the points and wins stream in. Fear not, as this team is still one of the best in the NHL and we expect to see other players step up and into the fantasy spotlight for the Hawks as they search for their second Stanley Cup in the last four seasons.
Slow work week -- Last week we focused on one of the busiest schedules, and this week we see some of the top teams not heavily scheduled. The Blackhawks, Canadiens, Islanders and Flyers all play only two games this week. All of those teams have big name fantasy players, so try to load up your other spots with teams with three or four games this week -- or even better, grab some Bruins like we mentioned before, as they have five games scheduled this week.
SOG: 71 | +/-: -3
Jonathan Huberdeau -- Last week was a big one for the Panthers rookie, as he became the second rookie in NHL history to score two penalty-shot goals in one season and joined the company of Teemu Selanne, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby as one of five active players to score 12 goals in their first 25 NHL games. The patience the organization showed with the 19-year-old is paying off, as he has instant chemistry with fellow rookie Drew Shore and free-agent signing Peter Mueller. Injuries have forced the rookie to play big time minutes for the defending Southeast Division champions. He leads the Panthers forwards in power play minutes (74:18) and ranks third in total minutes played for forwards (435:35). The 6-foot-1 center is still only owned in 49 percent of Yahoo! leagues and should be a target in keeper leagues.