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Fantasy buzz: Top 10 waiver wire pickups for Week 1

Namestnikov, Hartman, Butcher emerge as valuable assets based on lineup placement

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Senior Fantasy Editor

All season long, NHL.com's fantasy hockey staff will have you covered with daily lineup news, production trends and injury notes from around the League. We will identify how these developments affect fantasy owners in year-long (Yahoo) and daily (DraftKings) formats.

Pushing the right buttons on the waiver wire early on in the season can help you win your fantasy league. Here are 10 players who have made an immediate impact and are worth adding in fantasy:

 

MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: Top 100 forward rankings | Preseason cheat sheet

 

FORWARDS

Mika Zibanejad, C, NYR (55 percent owned) -- He's quietly tied for second in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin (seven goals in two games) with four goals, three on the power play, on 15 SOG over three games. He's playing on the top line with left wing Chris Kreider and right wing Pavel Buchnevich (LW/RW, 5 percent owned), who's worth considering in a deep league given his expanded role early on.

Jakub Vrana, LW/RW, WSH (44 percent owned) -- Speaking of Ovechkin, his chemistry with Evgeny Kuznetsov (seven assists in two games) has taken the rookie Vrana along for the ride. Vrana, 21, has three assists, six SOG and is plus-4 through two games. Andre Burakovsky (LW/RW, 69 percent owned) remains a breakout candidate alongside Nicklas Backstrom, but the early results and corresponding ownership spike clearly favor Vrana.

Vladislav Namestnikov, C/LW, TBL (28 percent owned) -- There's a case to be made for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point (C/RW, 36 percent owned) as well, but Namestnikov has the better lineup placement on the top line and first power-play unit with elite fantasy assets Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. He has two goals, one assist, two power-play points and six shots on goal through two games this season.

Video: TBL@FLA: Namestnikov sweeps home errant pass

Clayton Keller, C/LW, ARI (33 percent owned) -- If you're looking for a dual-eligible forward with a top-line, first power-play role for an improved team, look no further than Keller. The rookie scored a goal in his NHL debut and is a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate if he sticks alongside proven fantasy assets in Max Domi and Derek Stepan. He has nine SOG through two games and could do more damage in games this week against the Vegas Golden Knights and Detroit Red Wings.

Ryan Hartman, LW, CHI (33 percent owned) -- The coveted left wing spot alongside high-scoring right wing Patrick Kane has gone to Hartman, who has taken full advantage with six points (one goal, five assists), a plus-5 and four SOG over his first two games. Nick Schmaltz (C/LW; 26 percent) is a great add as well, but the versatile forward is currently day to day with an upper-body injury. There is some fantasy risk in adding Hartman, though, because he could be substituted off the top line in favor of Alex DeBrincat or Patrick Sharp at any point if/when he cools off.

Tyler Bozak, C, TOR (14 percent owned) -- Even after an NHL career-high 55 points (18 on power play) last season, Bozak remains undervalued on the same line and power-play unit with James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner. The Toronto Maple Leafs are tied with the Blackhawks for the NHL lead in goals (15 through two games), and Bozak is in the thick of their scoring arsenal on a nightly basis. He has three points (one goal, two assists) with one PPP and four SOG through two games. Zach Hyman (C/LW, 7 percent owned) and Leo Komarov (C/LW, 15 percent) are also off to fast starts and offer exposure to Toronto's loaded top nine.

Other forwards to consider: Jason Pominville (RW, BUF; 13 percent owned), David Perron (LW/RW, VGK; 19 percent), Sean Couturier (C, PHI; 9 percent), Bryan Rust (RW, PIT; 6 percent), Martin Frk (RW, DET; 3 percent).

 

DEFENSEMEN

Will Butcher, D, NJD (22 percent owned) -- Of all the stellar rookie debuts early on this season, Butcher may be one of the biggest fantasy developments based on position scarcity. Power-play defensemen are all the rage these days in fantasy, and Butcher had three power-play assists in the New Jersey Devils opener against the Colorado Avalanche. He reaped the early benefits of playing on a power-play unit with bounce-back candidate Taylor Hall.

Video: Butcher produces three assists in Devils' 4-1 victory

Olli Maatta, D, PIT (22 percent owned) -- It's obvious that Kris Letang and Justin Schultz are the top fantasy defenseman options for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it's great to see Maatta healthy and as productive as ever with three points (two goals, one assist) and eight SOG through three games. Still only 23, Maatta brings exposure to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at even strength and has a chance to be a plus/minus asset over the course of a full season.

Jan Rutta, D, CHI (6 percent owned) -- Speaking of plus/minus, Rutta leads the NHL in the category (plus-7) entering Monday. The 27-year-old has two points (one goal, one assist) and four SOG and is playing nearly 20 minutes per game (19:59). With Charlie McAvoy and Butcher getting more fantasy love among first-year D-men, don't sleep on this Czech Republic native, who's made a seamless transition to the NHL game so far.

Other defensemen to consider: Ivan Provorov (PHI; 57 percent), Mike Green (DET; 43 percent owned), Alex Goligoski (ARI; 27 percent), Nate Schmidt (VGK; 3 percent owned).

 

GOALIES

Semyon Varlamov, G, COL (34 percent owned) -- It may be only two games, but Varlamov has reminded fantasy owners and teams around the League that he gives the Colorado Avalanche a chance to be competitive on a nightly basis when healthy and in form. He stopped 37 of 39 shots faced in his season-opening win at the New York Rangers on Thursday, and followed that up with a 29-save shutout at the Boston Bruins on Monday. He plays in the tough Central Division that will naturally bring some ups and down, but is guaranteed a heavy start volume. His Yahoo average draft position (182.2) is also low enough for him to return value.

Other goalies to consider: Jimmy Howard (DET; 50 percent owned), Antti Raanta (ARI; 46 percent owned), Jacob Markstrom (VAN; 14 percent)

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