Happy New Year! Here's to a great finish to the fantasy season in 2017.
The New Year got off to an exciting start with the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic, which included a coming out party for Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha (LW/RW, 26 percent owned in Yahoo).
The dual-eligible wing had established himself as a second-half fantasy sleeper prior to Sunday, but put himself over the edge with two goals, one assist and four shots on goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-4 overtime loss. He scored his second goal with 1.1 seconds remaining to force overtime, and has five goals, four assists and 19 SOG in his six-game point streak.
Mantha, 22, is on pace for 27 goals, 21 assists and 164 SOG in 67 games, and has been a top 15 skater in Yahoo (15th in performance-based rankings) over the past two weeks. It may be tough to maintain that torrid rate, but the majority of his production (14 of 16 points) has come at even strength. There's plenty of room for Mantha to improve with the man-advantage (two power-play points) considering he's getting 2:27 of ice time per game on the power play. Mantha is a must-add in deeper formats and is a logical injury replacement in a 10- or 12-team league as long as he remains on Detroit's top line with Henrik Zetterberg.
Another young forward who is finally putting it all together is Ryan Spooner (C/LW; 15 percent owned) of the Boston Bruins. Like Mantha, the Bruins forward has been a top 15 player in this recent stretch (14th) with three goals, four assists and 15 SOG on a five-game point streak that ended Jan. 2. He's built chemistry on the second line with center David Krejci and is playing the point on the Bruins' first power play. He was tied for the Bruins lead in December points (11) and PPP (three) in 16 games.
Boston has had perhaps the worst puck luck of any team in the NHL this season. The Bruins lead the League in shots on goal (1,342) but are dead last in shooting percentage (6.9). Eventually more of their shots should turn into goals, which will result in more points throughout the roster. It isn't foolish to think Spooner could see his production increase.
Video: DET@TOR: Mantha ties the game with 1.1 seconds left
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Mikael Backlund, C, CGY (27 percent owned)
Since Dec. 19, Backlund is quietly tied for the NHL lead in points (nine) and goals (six). Among the five players with nine points since that date, Backlund (15:48 ATOI) gets the least amount of ice time by nearly 3:00 per game. He's narrowly on pace to set a career high in goals (23), points (50) and SOG (198), though those projections may increase if his shooting percentage (11.7) jumps to where it was last season (13.5). Whether you're looking for a long-term or short-term solution for your lineup, Backlund makes sense. The Flames next four games are home against the Colorado Avalanche, a home-and-home with the Vancouver Canucks, and at the Winnipeg Jets. Also consider adding his productive linemate Michael Frolik (C/RW; 9 percent owned).
Sebastian Aho, LW/RW, CAR (19 percent owned)
The rookie forward has really turned it on for the Carolina Hurricanes the past three games. He has one goal, two assists and is plus-3 with 15 SOG during that stretch. The line of Aho, Teuvo Teravainen (C/LW/RW, 17 percent) and Lee Stempniak (LW/RW, 12 percent) has been Carolina's most productive the past five games, combining for five goals, six assists and 38 SOG. Aho's shooting percentage (7.9) is bound to go up and the Hurricanes play eight of their 13 January games at home, where they are 11-3-1.
Juuse Saros, G, NSH (9 percent owned)
Chances are the Nashville Predators will continue to start Pekka Rinne in the majority of their games, but an argument can be made that Saros deserves to play more. The rookie is 3-2-1 with a 1.16 goals-against average and .957 save percentage and one shutout in six starts. Rinne, 34, has dealt with injuries in the past and has allowed at least three goals in 10 of his past 11 games. The Predators don't play many back-to-backs, but that shouldn't dissuade coach Peter Laviolette from getting Saros in goal more often. Saros is an excellent streamer option and has become a necessary handcuff to Rinne.
Video: Saros earns Friday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout
Alexander Edler, D, VAN (4 percent owned)
It's not easy to find top-pairing defensemen with upside like Edler's this late in the season on the waiver wire. But injuries to the Canucks veteran have forced his ownership percentage below five percent. Edler has two assists in four games since returning from a lengthy absence and will likely go back to leading the Vancouver Canucks in average ice time per game moving forward. Rookie defenseman Troy Stecher continues to skate on the first power-play unit, but Edler should at least see time on the second unit and could supplant Stecher should he slip up. The Canucks have a relatively soft schedule in January with games against the Avalanche (3-2 win), Calgary Flames twice, Arizona Coyotes twice, Predators twice and New Jersey Devils at home.
Zach Hyman, C/LW (3 percent owned) and Connor Brown, RW, TOR (2 percent owned)
Most of you have heard of Auston Matthews, but how many are familiar with his linemates on the Toronto Maple Leafs? Probably not nearly as many. Hyman and Brown round out the Maple Leafs' kid line, with all three playing in their first full NHL season. Hyman and Brown each have 16 points in 36 games; Hyman with five goals and 11 assists, and Brown with seven goals and nine assists. Hyman has a strong shot volume (84 SOG) and Brown has gotten some run on the power play, averaging 2:14 on the man-advantage in the past five games. Target them in the deepest of formats and keeper/dynasty leagues with future potential playing with Matthews.
Video: SJS@TOR: Hyman redirects Matthews' wrister past Jones
Jacob Trouba, D, WPG (21 percent); Bo Horvat, C, VAN (17 percent); Dmitry Orlov, D, WSH (16 percent); Jared Coreau, G, DET (6 percent); Frank Vatrano, C, BOS (3 percent)