You don't always win fantasy leagues with the best players in terms of a season-long body of work. There's no question it helps you to an extent, but players who get hot at the right time are often most responsible for fantasy championships in head-to-head leagues.
During the past 30 days, the most productive player at each position in Yahoo's performance-based rankings is hardly surprising: Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars has been the top forward (1st overall), Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks has been the top defenseman (2nd overall), and Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins has been the top goalie (8th overall).
MORE FANTASY COVERAGE: TOP 100 'F' | TOP 50 'D' | TOP 25 'G' | DFS PICKS: FEB. 17
But when looking any deeper on this list, you'll find a handful of players available in plenty of leagues who have been dominating lately from a fantasy standpoint. You've seen these names before in NHL.com's coverage, but it never hurts to remind fantasy owners just how good these must-own players have been in standard leagues since Jan. 18.
NOTE: Standard Yahoo categories include goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal for skaters, and wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for goalies.
-- Most fantasy owners are well aware that the Minnesota Wild are leading the Western Conference, but how good two of their forwards have been lately may still surprise you. Nino Niederreiter (LW/RW, 67 percent owned) is the third-ranked player in standard-category performance in the past 30 days after being drafted 163rd on average. He's a point-per-game player in the span (14 in 14 games) with six PPP, a plus-2 rating, 25 PIMs and 38 SOG. Jason Pominville (RW, 23 percent owned; 18th in past 30 days) has been even better in terms of point production; his power-play assist against the Dallas Stars on Thursday gives him 18 points in his past 14 games. The Wild have their NHL-mandated break Feb. 22-26.
Video: DET@MIN: Niederreiter nets Koivu's slick feed for PPG
-- One of the quietest bounce-back stars of the season has been Evander Kane (LW, 48 percent owned) of the Buffalo Sabres. He ranks 73rd overall in Yahoo and has catapulted that high because he's the fifth-ranked player over the past 30 days behind Benn, Burns, Niederreiter and John Tavares of the New York Islanders. Kane scored another goal against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, giving him 19 this season; he has 12 points, 24 PIMs, two PPP and a whopping 57 SOG in his past 13 games. Kane's teammate Robin Lehner (G, 65 percent owned) ranks 22nd in Yahoo during the past 30 days, going 6-4-1 with a .937 SV% and two shutouts. Buffalo has its break Feb. 20-24.
Video: COL@BUF: Kane makes a slick move, buries wrist shot
-- We've been harping on the low ownership totals of Islanders forwards Anders Lee (LW, 39 percent owned) and Josh Bailey (LW/RW, 20 percent owned) all season because of their exposure to Tavares at even strength and the power play. Each continues to cement his fantasy relevance by ranking seventh and 37th in the past 30 days, respectively. Lee has 14 points, seven PPP and 45 SOG in his past 13 games, and has climbed to 86th overall for the season. Bailey, who ended a four-game point drought with an assist against the New York Rangers on Thursday, has 10 points, a plus-4 rating, three PPP and 40 SOG in his past 14. The Islanders have had their bye and have played 56 games, fewer than more than half of the League as of Friday.
Video: NYR@NYI: Lee caps off pretty passing sequence
-- Jacob Trouba (D, 51 percent owned) of the Winnipeg Jets has come a long way since his early-season holdout (signed Nov. 7). Even with all the Jets' defensive issues, he has emerged as a viable fantasy option. He ranks 12th in Yahoo during the past 30 days, making him and Burns the best defensemen represented until Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals (79 percent owned; 34th in span). Trouba has 10 points, is plus-5 and has added 19 PIMs, two PPP and 51 SOG in his past 13 games. One drawback on adding Trouba is that the Jets have played more games (60) than any NHL team entering Friday; their bye is also on the horizon (Feb. 22-26).
Video: TBL@WPG: Trouba lifts puck over Bishop in close
-- The Arizona Coyotes are next-to-last in the NHL standings, but have been playing much better since the return of top forward Max Domi. In fact, their All-Star goalie Mike Smith (45 percent owned) ranks 49th overall in the past 14 days and 65th in the past 30. He's 7-3-1 in his past 11 starts with a .919 SV% and two shutouts. Remember, Smith returned from injury and finished strong in the final month of last season, going 5-4-1 with a .944 SV% and two shutouts. Right wing Radim Vrbata (RW, 11 percent owned) continues to be one of the most under-owned players in fantasy, ranking 43rd in Yahoo over the past 30 days with 11 points, four PPP and 46 SOG in 13 games. Even if Vrbata is moved before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline, he has a chance to land in another team's top-six and/or power-play equation. The Coyotes (56 games played) have already had their break in the schedule.
Other surprises in past 30 days: Viktor Arvidsson (LW/RW, NSH; 14th; 54%; already had bye), Carter Hutton (G, STL; 24th; 15%; bye is Feb. 21-25), Brandon Dubinsky (C, CBJ; 30th; 27%; bye is Feb. 20-24), Brady Skjei (D, NYR; 60th; 13%; already had bye), Oscar Klefbom (D, EDM; 64th; 20%; already had bye)