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Fantasy All-Access: Sutter among early wire targets

by Sean McCullen / NHL.com

Every Monday, NHL.com staff writer Sean McCullen identifies potential waiver-wire pickups, and points out lineup moves and schedule impacts for fantasy hockey.

The 2015-16 NHL season is 31 games old. There are 1,199 to go. Don't make any rash decisions if your fantasy team didn't light it up through the first five days; there's plenty of time for it to become the juggernaut you envisioned as you were leaving your draft.

Just as you shouldn't drop Tuukka Rask because he gave up eight goals in the Boston Bruins' two season-opening losses, you shouldn't add Mike Smith because he made saves on 67 of 69 shots to help the Arizona Coyotes to a 2-0-0 start.

None of which is to say you can't offer up some of your late-round draft picks to play the waiver wire. Tread lightly, though. No one wants to be that guy who drops Vladimir Tarasenko in Week 1 only to watch him carry some other owner to the championship.

WAIVER-WIRE WATCH

Brandon Sutter, C, Vancouver Canucks (owned in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues) – In a surprising move by coach Willie Desjardins, Sutter is playing right wing on the top line with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin to begin his first season in Vancouver. That makes him worth adding. It remains to be seen whether Yahoo gives Sutter dual eligibility, but if he does get that coveted two-position status, he becomes a must-add. My advice: Pick him up before that happens. Players benefit from playing with the seemingly ageless Sedin twins. Look at Radim Vrbata last season; he went from 20 goals in 80 games with the Coyotes in 2013-14 to 31 playing mostly with the Sedins in his first season in Vancouver. Sutter, who has played center his entire career, might not score 30 goals, but it's certainly not an impossibility playing on that line. You have to think his career-high 21 is in serious jeopardy.

Paul Stastny, C, St. Louis Blues (40 percent owned) – Have you watched Tarasenko play? If not, do yourself a favor and check out a Blues game. While you're at it, add Stastny, who is centering Tarasenko's line. Stastny admitted he took a bit of a back seat to some other veterans in his first season in St. Louis in 2014-15, when he had 46 points (16 goals) in 74 games after he had 60 (25 goals) in 71 games in his final season with the Colorado Avalanche. Putting Stastny between Tarasenko and left wing Alexander Steen on the top line is a sure sign Blues coach Ken Hitchcock doesn't want him taking a back seat, so let him help put your fantasy team in the driver's seat.

Oscar Lindberg, C, New York Rangers (11 percent owned) – The 23-year-old rookie scored in each of New York's first three games, including two goals in the first period Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although he was hardly mentioned in preseason discussion about a very talented rookie class, his four goals are three more than any other first-year player in the League so far.

Dylan Larkin, C, Detroit Red Wings (25 percent owned) – Another rookie who is off to a flying start, Larkin had a goal and an assist in his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and had another assist Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Many figured the 19-year-old made the Red Wings roster only because center Pavel Datsyuk is out until at least early November following offseason ankle surgery, but it would be very difficult for coach Jeff Blashill to part with Larkin, Detroit's first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2014 NHL Draft, if he keeps up this kind of production.

Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, Detroit Red Wings (49 percent owned) – Abdelkader's four goals through two games are reason enough to consider adding him, but it's the 28-year-old's category coverage that would make him worth keeping. He had eight power-play goals (T-30th in NHL), 154 shots (121st) and 153 hits (T-53rd) last season, when he scored an NHL career-high 23 goals, including 10 in his final 17 games.

Antti Niemi, G, Dallas Stars (64 percent owned) – Niemi's season-opening 37-save shutout against the Pittsburgh Penguins isn't why he's worth adding, though his owned percentage jumped by seven in Yahoo leagues from the final horn Thursday through the start of the Stars' game against the Avalanche on Saturday because of it. He's worth adding because it's very likely that he's going to be the No. 1 goalie for Dallas, which is going to contend for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. The Stars wouldn't have traded for Niemi and signed him for three years if they believed in incumbent Kari Lehtonen. It's Niemi's job to lose, and he didn't lose it by allowing six goals on 28 shots against Colorado. Niemi had 31 wins, a 2.59 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage with the San Jose Sharks last season, the worst of his NHL career. But in 340 NHL games, he has a 2.40 GAA and .916 save percentage – numbers that are more than good enough to win fantasy matchups.

SCHEDULE NOTES

Strength in numbers – The more games a player has, the more opportunities he has to put up numbers. It's a simple concept but one that's all too often overlooked by fantasy owners. This week, before you even begin looking over players available on the waiver wire, consider the following: The Blue Jackets, Blues, Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Winnipeg Jets each play four games Monday through Sunday to wrap up the Week 1 fantasy scoring period.

The Ducks play all four at home, and that bodes well for owners of forward Corey Perry, who had 45 goals in 74 games at Honda Center compared to 31 in 74 road games over the past two seasons. The Blues play all four on the road.

The Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs will play two games over the seven days; the rest of the League will play three.

Home at last – The Oilers, Jets and Montreal Canadiens each return home later this week after season-opening road trips of three games or more. Edmonton, which opens with three straight on the road, plays St. Louis in rookie center Connor McDavid's Rexall Place debut Thursday; Winnipeg, which had a four-game East Coast trip to open its season, hosts the Calgary Flames on Friday; and the Canadiens come home to face the Rangers on Thursday after four straight away from Bell Centre.

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