Every Monday, NHL.com contributor Matt Sitkoff identifies waiver-wire pickups, roster trends, schedule notes and a prospect to watch in fantasy hockey.
This weekend couples all over the world will be celebrating Valentine's Day with chocolates and flowers. The NHL is full of great duos that have been helping fantasy teams all year long, so in the spirit of Saint Valentine let’s hand out candy hearts to the top three pairs.
The Philadelphia Flyers have struggled to get wins but Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux have not struggled to produce points. They lead the NHL with 35 of their team's goals which both players have a point. The top defensive duo resides in Nashville as Shea Weber and Roman Josi have a combined 73 points, including 17 of their team's goals on which both players have a point. In goal the tandem that leads the rest is the St. Louis Blues' Brian Elliott and Jake Allen, with a little help from Martin Brodeur. With no one goalie starting more than 50 percent of their games, they enter play Monday tied for eighth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.45).
Brandon Pirri, Florida Panthers (owned in 4 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The 23-year-old is one of the Panthers' hottest forwards, with goals in four of the past five games, and in his past eight games he has six goals, one assist, two power-play goals and 29 shots on goal while playing 15:55 per game. After splitting the previous four seasons between the NHL and the American Hockey League, Pirri finally is getting a shot to stick in the NHL and making the most of it. The Panthers have a busy schedule with four games this week; they have home games against the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues sandwiched around a two-game road trip to the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. We expect the hot streak to continue for this talented forward.
Matt Tennyson, San Jose Sharks (owned in 1 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The first player to graduate from the Junior Sharks to the NHL Sharks, Tennyson has been making a name for himself lately with five points in his past six games. Extend his box scores during that same stretch and you will see he is earning points in multiple categories, with 11 shots on goal, four penalty minutes, five hits and 12 blocked shots while averaging 19:52 of ice time per game. The 24-year-old rookie defenseman also has been seeing time on the second power-play unit; that role could expand with defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic being placed on injured reserve. The Sharks play three of their four games at home this week, against the Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. That's good news for Tennyson, who has seven of his eight points this season at the SAP Center.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (owned in 13 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning finally made the decision to bring up the talented 20-year-old goaltender to be their backup goalie for the rest of the season after placing veteran Evgeni Nabokov on waivers. The 19th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft has four victories in his first six NHL games, and a 45-save performance in his only NHL loss. The Lightning know a healthy Ben Bishop is the key to a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so with that in mind expect Vasilevskiy to get at least 10 to 12 more starts the rest of the season.
Leading the charge --
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 9 GAMES
GOALS: 26 | ASST: 33 | PTS: 59
SOG: 160 | +/-: 11
A player who leads his team in scoring obviously can help your fantasy team. But a player who produces a large amount of the team's production is a player you have to get on your team. In the Eastern Conference the Columbus Blue Jackets
' Nick Foligno
and Ryan Johansen
have combined for 27.5 percent (98 of 356) of the Blue Jackets' points. In the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks
' Patrick Kane
has 13.8 percent (59 of 427) of his team's points. New York Rangers
power forward Rick Nash
's amazing season becomes even more impressive when you see he has scored 22.0 percent (33 of 150) of his team's goals. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski
has 18.5 percent (28 of 151) of his team's goals, tops among players in the Western Conference. These players are important to have, since how they play depicts how the team and the players around them will play for your fantasy team.
AHL Report -- The American Hockey League features some fantasy names you need to be paying attention to as they could be contributors down the line. With the Norfolk Admirals, Anaheim Ducks goalie prospect John Gibson is back playing well; with victories in four of his past five starts and stopping 153 of the 162 shots he's faced, he is showing he is ready if called upon in Anaheim. Two AHL rookies making the adjustment to North American rinks are producing; the Toronto Maple Leafs' William Nylander has four points in seven games with the Toronto Marlies, and the Nashville Predators' Kevin Fiala has five points in eight games with the Milwaukee Admirals.
STATS PRIOR TO FEB. 9 GAMES
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 7
SOG: 40 | +/-: -6
Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton Oilers -- The Oilers have struggled to find victories this season but one positive has been the development of Klefbom, the 19th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. In his past seven games he has one goal, four assists, 17 shots on goal and 10 blocked shots while averaging 21:36 of ice time per game. He also has a plus-5 rating despite the Oilers being outscored 23-15 in that seven-game stretch, which is a true testament to how well Klefbom is playing. With the NHL Trade Deadline coming at 3 p.m. ET on March 2, and veteran defensemen among those that could be traded away, the 21-year-old Swede could see even more ice time as the season continues.