At this point in the season, we have a good grasp on what to expect from each team each night. We know that the Minnesota Wild are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and that the Tampa Bay Lightning aren't exactly who we thought they were (a consensus Cup favorite).
What does all of this have to do with fantasy? The answer is everything.
The legitimacy of a team is crucial in determining which players to add in the final months of the regular season. Even though the race towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs is extremely tight, we are beginning to see that some teams are pushing harder than others. One of those teams is the New York Islanders.
Since replacing coach Jack Capuano with Doug Weight on Jan. 17, the Islanders are 5-1-2, and plenty of their players have emerged as fantasy assets. Outside of superstar center John Tavares, there isn't an Islanders player owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues. New York's top two defensemen, Nick Leddy (50 percent) and Johnny Boychuk (40 percent) are starting to look like the players we projected them to be before the season.
Leddy has 11 points and is plus-5 with 25 shots on goal in his past 12 games. Boychuk hasn't been as productive, but has one goal on 20 SOG in his past four games. What Boychuk lacks in point production (15 in 46 games), he makes up with his recent surge in SOG. He has added value if your league counts blocks (96) and hits (103).
The Islanders also have forwards who have become valuable of late, led by Tavares' linemates, Josh Bailey (LW/RW, 10 percent owned) and Anders Lee (LW, 18 percent owned). Bailey and Lee have been top 50 fantasy players the past 14 days (Lee: 33rd; Bailey: 41st). Bailey has 11 points and 33 SOG in his past 11 games, and Lee has 11 points and 36 SOG in his past nine games. As long as they're productive, expect Weight to keep this unit together at even strength and on the power play.
Video: CAR@NYI: Bailey rips PPG off faceoff to tie game at 4
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Jimmy Howard, G, DET (35 percent owned)
The Detroit Red Wings assigned Howard to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint Saturday, and he allowed five goals on 29 shots faced. That performance isn't encouraging, but Howard is likely shaking off some rust and should be back in Detroit's net soon. He missed time because of a knee injury, but ranks first in the NHL in save percentage (.934) and goals-against average (1.96) among goalies with at least 15 games played. With Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau each struggling, expect the Red Wings to welcome Howard back with a healthy amount of starts.
Sebastian Aho, LW/RW, CAR (31 percent owned)
Among all the breakout rookies this season, Aho has flown under the radar for the Carolina Hurricanes. But after his first NHL hat trick and four-point game Jan. 31 against the Philadelphia Flyers, more will start to pay attention to the talented young Finn. Aho has 10 points (five power-play points) in his past 13 games. His eight goals in that span is tied for fourth in the League. After the Hurricanes end a three-game road trip Feb. 11, they have a five-game homestand. Aho has 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in 24 home games.
Patrick Eaves, RW, DAL (24 percent owned)
Eaves has spent most of the season on the Dallas Stars' top line, either with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn or both. Not only is Eaves on the first line, but also on the first power-play unit. He's tied with Seguin for the team lead in goals (19). Other than being minus-9, Eaves has done a nice job covering points (33), PPP (15) and SOG (129). The Stars offense is also coming around overall, averaging 3.33 goals per game since the turn of the calendar year (T-6th in span). Eaves also benefits from the short-term injury to Jason Spezza, who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
Video: WPG@DAL: Eaves knocks a rebound in past Pavelec
Adam Larsson, D, EDM (17 percent owned)
Larsson may lack consistent point production but he makes up for it with decent category coverage for the Edmonton Oilers. He's seen an uptick in scoring with eight points in his past 13 games, and is plus-12 with 12 penalty minutes in the span. He has played at least 20:00 in four of his past six games. Not only does Larsson provide value in standard formats, but he's also one of the premier players for hits, tied for sixth in the NHL with 169. Additionally, he's tied for 28th in blocked shots with 95.
Phillip Danault, C/LW, MTL (6 percent owned)
Danault's name has been featured here before, but it's worth noting the Montreal Canadiens have stuck with him as their top-line center at even strength despite Alex Galchenyuk being back from his latest injury absence. Not only is Danault centering captain Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov, but he's also seeing power-play time. Danault has three assists and is plus-5 in his past four games, and saw 2:59 on the power play Saturday against the Washington Capitals. He's certainly worth a look in deep 14- to 16-team formats.
Other candidates: Alex Killorn, C/LW, TBL (28 percent); Michal Neuvirth, G, PHI (27 percent); Radim Vrbata, RW, ARI (11 percent); Zack Smith, C/LW, OTT (9 percent); Cody Franson, D, BUF (3 percent)