Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: Mikael Backlund leads pickups to target for Week 21
Working on waivers is an important part of any fantasy hockey championship. Finding players to work on your roster each week that can add points to your total is the #1 way you can control the outcome of your match. Each week in this article, I’ll be highlighting players at all positions and different roster levels so you can fill your fantastic roster with the best players available in your league. Let’s dig:
Claimed in 41-50% of leagues: Mikael Backlund, C – CGY (41% in squad)
I consider Mikael Backlund a must-have player this coming week in almost all formats. Backlund is fifth in the entire NHL in shots on goal over the past month, with 76 points in that time. And that’s including his last four games, in which he scored zero points despite landing 19 shots on goal. And if you’re not completely sure about Backlund’s player, consider that Calgary – along with Anaheim – has the league’s best schedule to stream this week.
The Flames play at the beginning of the week in a row on Mondays and Tuesdays, giving you the opportunity to take on Backlund early if he’s not playing. But you’ll probably want to keep it because the Flames and Ducks are the only two teams that won’t play on Saturday’s 15-game roster. Since your streamers aren’t going to hack into your starting lineup on Saturday anyway, you’ll need to find players from the Flames or the Ducks, and the best option between the two teams is Backlund.
Encouraging Mentions: Brian Rast, RW – PIT (48%) and Jared McCann, C/LW – SEA (45%)
Claimed in 31-40% of leagues: Ivan Barbashev, C/LW – VGK (32% claimed)
Barbashev has had a successful streak since arriving in Las Vegas, scoring two goals and five points in three games for the Golden Knights. He was an organic addition to the top line along with Jack Achel And Jonathan Marchesseau, and he also sees work with the second powerplay block. Barbashev not only scores points with 11 hits and six blocks in those three games.
Barbashev’s potential to contribute across all categories is a rare opportunity to find him freely available this time of year, so he’s worth considering, especially in fireworks category leagues.
Encouraging Mentions: Boone Jenner, C – CBJ (39%) and Nick Schmaltz, C/RW – ARI (36%)
Claimed in 21-30% of leagues: Ryan Hartman, C/RW – MIN (30% claim)
Hartman was perfect Kirill Kaprizov And Mats Zuccarello in Minnesota’s top line since the trio reunited in February. Although Hartman hasn’t scored in his last six games, he has registered three or more shots on goal in five of his last seven games and has only gone under 17:25 once in that time. With the trade deadline behind us, it’s safe to say that the Wild has no better option for the 1C role than Hartman, and that makes him a prime candidate to be added as we head into the fantasy playoffs.
Encouraging Mentions: Anthony Düclair, Right Right – FLA (25%) and Viktor Arvidsson, Right/Right – LAK (24%)
In 0-20% leagues: Blake Coleman, LW/RW – CGY (11% in league)
Coleman’s success or failure will likely be tied to the aforementioned Backlund this week, as the two have been linemates for most of the season. Like Backlund, Coleman has hit a ton of shots lately, 17 in his last four games. However, unlike Backlund, Coleman scored two goals in those four games. Coleman doesn’t have as much time on the ice as Backlund, but he’s widely available even in the deeper leagues, making him the perfect game to stream in places that already have a Backlund roster.
Encouraging Mentions: Anthony Beauvillier, LW/RW – VAN (18%) and Mason McTavish, C/LW – ANA (14%)
Claimed in 26-50% of leagues: Shane Gostisbeher – CAR (44%)
It’s impossible to ignore what Gostisbehere has done since being traded from Arizona to the Carolinas as the attacking rearguard has scored two goals and two assists in two games. Gostisbehere rode third pair and second power play, but the lack of a perfect distribution didn’t seem to bother him. Maybe Gostisbehera just needed to get out of the desert and we can expect him to outdo his part given Carolina’s offensive firepower.
Either way, it’s worth jumping on a train here and see how long the Ghost Bear can stay on fire.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Matheson – MTL (32%) and John Klingberg – MIN (42%)
In 0-25% leagues: Rasmus Sandin – WSH (16% in league)
Rasmus Sandin is another defender who made an immediate impact on his new team after he was transferred at the trade deadline. Sandin went from a frequent healthy zero in Toronto to a powerplay leader in Washington, and he responded by throwing three passes in 9:40 p.m. of play time in his first game in the Capitals’ uniform. With the current quarterback on the power play John Carlson not expected to return until the end of March, Sandin has a very good runway on which he will be given every opportunity to make a name for himself.
The best part about Sandin is that he doesn’t need to score points to be useful in your fantasy lineup. He contributes a lot in the hitting and blocking categories and should be expected to provide a lot of those stats as he aims to make a big impression with his new team.
Honorable Mentions: Yuuso Walimaki – YES (9%) and Cam Fowler – ANA (15%)
Claimed in 26-50% of leagues: Philipp Grubaauer – SEA (32% claimed)
Grubauer had a sensational week, winning all three games he played and recording a .921 save percentage. Martin Jones continued his downward trend, and Grubauer has risen to the occasion, paving the way for him to potentially take on the role of a legitimate high-profile starter as we wrap up the fantasy season. Grubauer is another example of why it’s prudent to forego goaltending at the start of a draft and play the “who’s hot” game throughout the season.
As Seattle more and more resembles a top team in the Pacific Division, Grubauer’s ceiling for the rest of the season is as high as any other goaltender. At the moment, it is a mandatory composition in all formats.
Honorable Mentions: Adin Hill – VGK (49%) and John Gibson – ANA (44%)
In 0-25% leagues: Elvis Merzlikins – CBJ (16% in league)
You’ll have to ignore the stench of Merzlikins, who got pulled in his last game against Ottawa on Saturday, to get on board with this one, but if you’re desperate enough for a goaltender that you’re looking for someone in that range, then Merzlikins are just may be your best choice. Before the game against Ottawa (which was the second half in a row in which Merzlikin started both games), he had three consecutive quality starts, batting 110 of 119 shots and a .924 save percentage. At the very least, you can expect him to face an incredible amount of shots as the Columbus is in full tank mode.
Merzlikins is by no means a safe option, but if you’re looking for volume in this range, then it’s your best bet for now.
Honorable Mentions: Akira Schmid – NJD (6%) and Eric Comrie – BUF (4%)
Nate Groot Nibbelink – creator Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey and author of the #ZeroG strategy project. You can find him talking about obscure fantasy hockey strategy topics at Apples and Gino Discord Server or on twitter @applesginos.