With the NHL season getting underway this week and fantasy drafts mostly finishing up Tuesday night, fantasy managers will now be scouring the waiver wire to improve their team post draft.
Every year there are a few players who no one has on their draft radar that end up being valuable fantasy assets. The beginning of the season is typically when these players emerge as teams work out their lines and rosters and undrafted players gain attention with their hot starts.
Whoever is lucky enough to snag these players before the rest of their league will get a big boost and be one step closer to taking home a fantasy title. Let’s take a look at five players to watchlist in fantasy right now who could be valuable assets this year.
Trevor Zegras C – Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras already had a ton of hype coming into this season as a top prospect, but his MVP performance at the World Juniors right before training camp increased the hype even more. Zegras has all the talent to be a top end point producer at the NHL level once he gets a chance.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make the Ducks roster or taxi squad out of camp and will start the year in the AHL. The AHL season isn’t slated to start until February fifth so it may be awhile until Zegras sees any action. I doubt he stays in the AHL long though as the Ducks roster is lacking top end talent and they don’t have any players with the potential of Zegras in their lineup.
If he looks good in the AHL, or if the Ducks run into injury or scoring issues early in the season he could find his way into the Ducks lineup. Given the Ducks’ farm team is just down the road in San Diego, it makes it much easier to move players up and down. If Zegras gets a shot in the top six with the likes of Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, Adam Henrique or Ryan Getzlaf, he is a must add in fantasy with his talent.
He’s currently owned in just 7% of leagues so you should have no problem adding him once he gets the call-up to the NHL. For now it’s worth monitoring how the Ducks fare at the start of the season.
Nils Hoglander RW – Vancouver Canucks
After starting the season in the SHL with Rogle BK, Nils Hoglander came over to Canada for Canucks camp and earned a spot on the teams second line alongside Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson. A second-round pick in 2019, Hoglander is making his NHL debut this year and has a ton of potential.
His season got off to a promising start in Wednesdays season opener as he scored his first NHL goal and looked great on the Canucks second line logging 16:23. He also skated on the Canucks first powerplay which ranked fourth in the NHL last year. Hoglander is clearly trusted by the Canucks coaching staff despite his age, and is being given every chance to be a dependable fantasy option this year. It’s up to him if he can produce and stick in the top six and on the powerplay. The North division also looks like it will be a goldmine for fantasy managers this year with a ton of high scoring games.
It’s probably too early to use a roster spot on Hoglander given we’ve only seen him in the NHL for one game, but his situation is definitely worth monitoring. He’s owned in just 14% of leagues at the moment so you don’t have to jump to add him right away. Keep an eye on his production the next few games to see if he can stick in the top six. If he can, he’ll be a valuable fantasy option.
Oskar Lindblom LW – Philadelphia Flyers
A year after being diagnosed with cancer, Oskar Lindblom is now cancer free and back playing with the Flyers, an incredible achievement for the 24-year-old. People forget just how good he was last year before having to step away from hockey. He looked to be in the process of a breakout year with 18 points in 30 games including 11 goals. That put him on a 30 goal, 50 point pace. Now back and healthy, Lindblom has the chance to pick up where he left off.
Coming into the season he’s currently skating on the team’s top line with Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny. The line looked great in the team’s opener on Wednesday with Lindblom picking up a goal in the win in 14:39 of ice time. If he can stick on this line he’ll have huge value in fantasy as the Flyers were the sixth highest scoring team in the league last season, scoring six goals in their season opener. The injury to Couturier is troubling, but if Claude Giroux fills that 1C spot, there shouldn’t be any dropoff from Lindbolm.
Time will tell if Lindblom can maintain his spot on the top line, but it’s definitely something worth monitoring as the season goes on. He’s just 10% owned right now, which is very low for a first line player. If continues to play on the top line, he will be a must own player in fantasy.
Rasmus Andersson D – Calgary Flames
The year of Rasmus Andersson is among us. The 24-year-old former second round pick looks poised for a breakout year. With T.J. Brodie leaving for Toronto, the top spot alongside Mark Giordano was left open and it looks like Andersson will be the player to take it. Throughout camp Andersson has skated on the team’s top pairing with Giordano, which would immediately be a boost to his fantasy value. He had just 22 points in 70 games last season, but that was playing the second least minutes among Flames defenseman.
This year he will be fed a ton of ice time and have a great shot to shatter last year’s point total. In the Flames’ season opener Thursday night Andersson logged the most minutes of any Flame with 23:59, much higher than his 19:56 average ice time from last season. He added an assist and should’ve had a goal as well if it wasn’t for a great diving save by former Flame Derek Forbort.
He also played 3:31 minutes on the Flames’ top powerplay. He had only four points on the powerplay last year but if he does stick on the Flames stacked first powerplay, he will leave that total in the dust. It will be interesting to monitor his ice time the first couple weeks of the season, but if what we saw in game one is a trend, Andersson will be relied on heavily this year by the Flames at both even strength and on the powerplay. At just 8% owned right now, Andersson is worth keeping an eye on and should be added if he continues to log big minutes.
Nino Niederreiter LW – Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina winger Nino Niederreiter had a down year season, picking up just 29 points in 67 games. This year however he has a great chance to rebound on a Carolina team that should be one of the best in the league. Coming into the season he’s currently playing alongside Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on the Hurricanes top line. Aho and Teravainen both had near point per game seasons last year and there’s no reason to believe they won’t put up similar numbers again. If Niederreiter can stay playing with them on the top line he will be perfectly set up for a huge bounce back season. He’s also skating on the team’s second powerplay right now.
In the Hurricanes season opener on Thursday Niederreiter scored and added three shots in 15:24 of ice time. Time will tell if he can stick on the first line as the Hurricanes also have Andrei Svechnikov at LW. It’s not worth using a roster spot on him yet after just one game but if the Hurricanes plan to spread out their top three forwards this season Niederreiter would benefit big time in fantasy. He is only owned in 9% of leagues right now.