Every Monday, NHL.com contributor Matt Sitkoff identifies waiver wire pickups, roster trends, schedule notes and a prospect to watch in fantasy hockey.
The holiday season is upon us, and that means a perfect time to pass out some fantasy hockey gifts to some players in much need for a holiday boost.
We are giving the present of good health to Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry. He has been a fantasy stud with 22 points in 23 games, but has missed 12 games this season due to the mumps and a knee sprain. A healthy Perry will go a long way to a fantasy championship.
A gift of a goal for Calgary Flames defenseman Kris Russell, who has played in 33 games this season and has the most assists (14) without scoring a goal. His fantasy status would be boosted if he started finding the net.
For New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider, some much-needed rest; he has already played 1,774 minutes and faced 893 shots. With a huge lead in both categories, some rest during the holiday break could go a long way for fantasy owners of Schneider as the season moves on.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators (owned in 5 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- After missing the first 21 games this season with an Achilles injury, the veteran center has been making an impact since his return. In 10 games he has two goals and four assists while averaging 18:14 per game and winning 54 percent of his faceoffs. Despite the holiday break the Predators are busy this week with three games scheduled, on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins and home to the Philadelphia Flyers. Fisher, who has put up 40-plus points six times in his career, should continue to make up for lost time.
Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets (owned in 48 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- If you look pass the NHL-worst minus-19, the Blue Jackets defenseman is having a great offensive season. The third pick of the 2005 NHL Draft has points in five of his past seven games, with two goals, three assists, 12 shots on goal, 21 hits, 10 blocks and a minus-2 during that stretch. The Blue Jackets only have two games this holiday week, home to the Predators and Bruins. That's great news for Johnson, who has eight points in 16 home games.
Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings (owned in 11 percent of Yahoo Leagues) -- Jimmy Howard
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 22 GAMES
GAA: 2.24 | SVP: .927
is currently out with a lower-body injury. Although it's not considered to be serious and the upcoming holiday break should allow him to heal, his backup is becoming a fantasy option for owners. Since being recalled on Nov. 7 to replace an injured Jonas Gustavsson
, Mrazek has a 3-2-1 record with 164 saves on 177 shots (.927 save percentage). With Gustavsson still expected to miss another month and the injury concerns for Howard, the 22-year-old should get more chances to strut his stuff.
Edmonton Oilers new coach -- The Dallas Eakins era is over in Edmonton, and with a new coach usually comes different fantasy options. The first three games under interim coaches Craig MacTavish and Todd Nelson have seen an increase in time and production for left wing David Perron, who has two assists and five shots on goal while playing over 17 minutes a game. On defense, Justin Schultz has two assists and seven shots on goal in the three games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is owned in many formats but could be a buy-low candidate, as he has two goals, one assist and eight shots on goal while playing over 21 minutes a game.
Defense scoring --
STATS PRIOR TO DEC. 22 GAMES
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 14
SOG: 53 | +/-: -1
As we hit the holiday break it is a great time to take the pulse of defensive scoring around the NHL and know which teams to target that are getting production from their back line. The Flames pace the League with 25 goals and 92 points from their defense, with 88 of those points coming from their top four of Mark Giordano
, TJ Brodie
, Dennis Wideman
and Russell. At the bottom of the League are the Oilers, with only 38 points from defensemen and only one player with double-digit point production, Schultz with 13. The Bruins lead the way with all 10 defensemen they have dressed this season having recorded a point. Finally, the Predators, Vancouver Canucks
and Washington Capitals
have dressed only seven defensemen this season and have points from all of them.
Jack Eichel -- The World Junior Championship starts Friday with the United States opening the tournament against the defending champion, Finland. Leading the charge for the Americans is one of the top prospects of the 2015 NHL Draft, Jack Eichel. The 6-foot-1 Boston University center finished last year's tournament with one goal and four assists in five games as the U.S. finished in fifth. Eichel, along with the other top prospects of the draft, Canada forward Connor McDavid and U.S. defenseman Noah Hanifin, will be worth watching and also scouting for your fantasy draft next season.