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10 under-the-radar fantasy pickups for final stretch

by Matt Cubeta
It's never easy deciding on whether or not to drop a player from your fantasy roster, especially this late in the season, and even more so if it's a guy you grabbed on draft day and are afraid to part with because of emotional ties. We never want to give up on the players we drafted because we don't want to admit we were wrong with our expectations of that player. We're all the same and we'll always believe they could still turn their season around, despite a never-ending 60-game slump. But the simple fact remains: there are better players to be had.

The 10 players listed below are guys that will help you down the stretch in your fantasy league. From recently traded players to scrappy third-line forwards, these players may not jump out on paper to you, but they will definitely provide more value than some of your late-round draft choices from back in September or October. Most of them are flying under the radar and you may not even know who they are honestly, but regardless, they are players that should be owned in several more leagues than they are.

In alphabetical order, here are 10 players who should be owned in plenty more leagues and are certain to help your fantasy team out down the stretch:

1. Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators, G (owned in 77 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)
While Anderson is owned in three-quarters of the fantasy leagues, he should be owned in nearly all leagues based on his performances since joining Ottawa. Traded from the struggling Avalanche to the Senators seems to have done wonders for the 29-year-old netminder: in six starts with the Sens, Anderson has posted a 4-2-0 record to go along with a remarkable 1.16 goals-against average, .966 save percentage and one shutout -- this coming after he registered a disappointing 3.28 GAA and .897 save percentage with no shutouts in Colorado. Anderson is a year removed from his breakthrough season in which he won 38 games and finished within the top-15 overall fantasy goalies. Perhaps a change of uniform is all Anderson needed to get things back on track. Don't hesitate to add him if he's available.

2. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars, LW (owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)
I've been talking about him since preseason when I featured him in my 2010-11 fantasy sleepers story, so why not recommend him one last time. Benn is a highly talented and energetic forward that can offer a little bit of everything for his owners. He has 14 goals and 35 points in just 50 games of action this campaign, contributes with 40 penalty minutes and 123 shots on goal while also receiving a little over two minutes of power-play ice time per game. With Brad Richards' return coming soon, the Stars' offensive production should increase, and Benn will be a major contributor to that. As stated back in October, the 21-year-old chewed up the AHL prior to debuting in the NHL last season, and there's no reason to think he won't be a valuable player for the rest of the way this year.

3. Brad Boyes, Buffalo Sabres, RW (owned in 29 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

The 2000 first-round draft choice was dealt at this year's trade deadline from the St. Louis Blues to the Buffalo Sabres. In two games since joining Lindy Ruff's squad, Boyes has found the back of the net twice, one of them coming on the power play. With 14 goals, 43 points and a very good plus-12 rating, Boyes' new location should help even more -- he will now be looked at for primary scoring in Buffalo along with Thomas Vanek. Boyes is already one point above last season's disappointing total (42 points), and with 19 games still remaining on Buffalo's schedule, he should provide help for the Sabres as they make their playoff push as well as your fantasy team. Let's also not forget that Boyes scored 43 goals just a few years ago back in 2007-08 for the Blues, so the talent is clearly there -- hopefully the change of scenery will bring back those goal-scoring memories.

4. Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh Penguins, LW (owned in 14 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

Looking for some help in the penalty minute department? Grab this undervalued pest, who will also chip in a few points here and there. Cooke is one of only four players that has more than 10 goals, 20-plus points and over 100 penalty minutes -- the others being Brandon Prust, Scott Hartnell and Steve Ott. Another bonus to Cooke's game is that with all the injuries to the Penguins forwards, Cooke's offensive role has increased, and he has responded recently with 4 points in the past six games. It's hard to find a player that has the capability to score a few goals while totaling those kinds of sin-bin minutes, so why not give Cooke a shot if your team can improve overall in the PIMs category.

5. Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders, D (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

Speaking of penalty minutes, how about New York's up-and-coming defenseman Travis Hamonic. Since debuting in the NHL back on Nov. 24, the 20-year-old blueliner has totaled 87 penalty minutes in just 45 games. During a two week span in February, the 2008 second-round draft pick recorded at least 10 penalty minutes in four of seven games -- he seems to have a knack for majors, which will definitely help you gain ground in the PIMs category in rotisserie leagues. Hamonic isn't just a one-category player however; he also has 16 points on the season, which ranks sixth among rookie defensemen -- pretty impressive, considering he wasn't in the NHL for his team's first 20 games. Of course, playing for the Islanders he'll hurt you in the plus/minus category (currently a minus-7), but if you can afford to lose out a bit there, Hamonic can certainly be a valuable penalty minutes asset going forward.

6. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, LW (owned in 13 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

With only 12 goals and 22 points on the season, Pacioretty's numbers don't look too stellar, but you're forgetting the same thing everyone overlooks: he's played in just 35 games this season. Not too bad now, huh? Project his stat line across a full season and you're looking at one extremely solid fantasy contributor -- he would have somewhere around 25 goals and 50 points if he was healthy for the full campaign. Pacioretty is also averaging over a penalty minute per game and over three shots per game. Most impressive has been his consistency over the last 18 games with 9 goals and 6 assists. If this wasn't enough of a compelling argument for you to add Pacioretty to your roster, then grab him simply because he has a great nickname: Max-Pac.

7. Vinny Prospal, New York Rangers, LW (owned in 12 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

Like Pacioretty, Prospal has been forgotten about because he missed so much time due to injury this season, but he is healthy now and can be a solid depth forward on any fantasy roster. In 13 games since returning from his knee injury Prospal has totaled a respectable 3 goals, 5 assists, a minus-2 rating, 4 penalty minutes, 5 power-play points and 35 shots on goal. Last season Prospal put together an impressive stat line while gelling flawlessly with superstar Marian Gaborik -- 20 goals and 58 points in 75 contests. With Gaborik currently sidelined due to a concussion, Prospal's value isn't quite as noticeable, but once Gaborik returns, you can expect the two forwards to be reunited again, which should result in solid stats from Prospal.

8. Devin Setoguchi, San Jose Sharks, RW (owned in 36 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)
One of the hottest players in the league right now, Setoguchi is finally living up to his 2008-09 hype when he scored 31 goals for the Sharks. The 24-year-old forward started this season with just 2 goals in his first 21 games during the months of October and November, which resulted in a decrease of playing time -- he averaged a season-low 13:33 in 12 November games. He then struggled a bit in December and January as well; going 20 games without a single assist (he did score 8 goals in the 20 contests during the two months). However, in 13 games during the month of February, Setoguchi came alive with 8 goals and 5 assists to go along with a solid plus-6 rating while averaging nearly 16 minutes of ice time. He has been a major spark plug in San Jose and is one of the key factors to their current run in the Western Conference. Of all the players on this list, Setoguchi's ownership will probably skyrocket the most because people remember his breakout season from two years ago and because he's surrounded by so much talent in San Jose -- make sure you don't miss out on the energetic youngster.

9. Scottie Upshall, Columbus Blue Jackets, RW (owned in 6 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

Probably the least-known name and the most underrated player on this list, Upshall is a gritty winger that could be an extremely valuable bench forward on any fantasy roster. Prior to being shipped from the Coyotes to the Blue Jackets, Upshall had tallied 16 goals, 27 points, a plus-5 rating, 42 penalty minutes and 144 shots on goal in 61 contests. In two games since joining Columbus, Upshall has 2 goals, 4 penalty minutes and 9 shots. While he isn't a valuable asset on the power play (just three power-play points while averaging 1:05 of PP ice time per game), Upshall seems to be clicking early on in his tenure with the Jackets. Upshall is only averaging 13:35 of ice time per game, but with his new team he received 16:44 in his first game and then 19:14 in his second contest. Columbus coach Scott Arniel clearly likes what he sees in the early going, making Upshall an interesting fantasy player for the rest of the way.

10. Dennis Wideman, Washington Capitals, D (owned in 52 percent of Yahoo! Leagues)

With the recent trade from the Panthers to the Capitals, I've preached about Wideman's fantasy value a few times, and it still amazes me that he's owned in just 52 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. While he hasn't recorded a point in the two games since joining the Caps, he is a plus-2, which is really the only concern we had about Wideman in Florida. It's extremely hard to find a defender with 9 goals and 33 points, with 19 of those points coming with the man advantage -- his only downfall was that minus-26, which is already getting better. The former Panther is even more valuable for the immediate future because of the injury to Mike Green -- Wideman is now looked at as the team's No. 1 d-man offensively and has been manning the point on the power play alongside fellow newcomer Jason Arnott. Wideman is averaging nearly 24 minutes of ice time this season and should continue to do so in Washington, making him a potential top-25 defenseman for the remainder of the season.

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