The hockey world was flipped around on Monday with the passing of the 2019 Trade Deadline. While many teams stacked the roster for a Stanley Cup runs, others cleared spots in the lineup for newer or younger skaters.
With the fantasy hockey playoffs approaching, the waiver wire can be a fantasy owner’s best friend. Finding quality players as insurance for injuries can be the difference between a first-round exit and a championship trophy. With NHL rosters set after the deadline, who are some of the best players available?
Note: the “percentage owned” is taken from ESPN fantasy hockey.
Derick Brassard – Forward (26.8 Percent Owned)
Derick Brassard found a new home with the Colorado Avalanche just prior to the trade deadline. It was the second time he was traded this month after the Florida Panthers acquired him from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
First day on the job has been a good one for Derick Brassard. pic.twitter.com/aRSR4ZZzTK
— NHL (@NHL) February 26, 2019
Brassard struggled on the offensive end for most of this season, scoring just 10 goals and 19 points in 50 games between Florida and Pittsburgh. However, in 11:39 of five-on-five play in his first game with Colorado, the 31-year-old registered a 61.5 Corsi percentage and scored a goal. He was also on the ice for eight scoring chances as opposed to just three for the opposing team.
Brassard feels like a better fit with Colorado and his scoring numbers should increase down the stretch. As he settles into his middle-six role, he should post some solid numbers for a depth fantasy forward.
Erik Haula – Forward (17.2 percent)
A cornerstone member of the Vegas Golden Knights’ historic inaugural roster, Erik Haula has missed the last 49 games with a lower-body injury. Head coach Gerard Gallant expects him to begin skating soon, meaning that the Finnish skater is close to returning.
Haula scored 55 points in 76 games last season and chipped in nine more points in 20 postseason contests. He should slot into a middle-six role upon his return to a revamped Vegas offense. The 27-year-old may not get back to his 2017-18 form this season, but he’s a solid under-the-radar option available in over 80 percent of leagues.
Anthony Duclair – Forward (2.1 percent)
Anthony Duclair was shipped off to the Ottawa Senators prior to the trade deadline with the Columbus Blue Jackets acquiring Ryan Dzingel. Since the trade, the 23-year-old winger was placed on the Senators’ top line alongside Colin White and dynamic rookie Brady Tkachuk.
The forward lines certainly aren’t set in stone as Ottawa has plenty of young pieces that will be moving around. However, Duclair will be a staple on the top-six and earn some time on the power play. In his second game with the team, he pocketed a power-play goal.
Duclair is a bit of a riskier play considering the expected fluidity of Ottawa’s forward lines. Fantasy owners in deeper leagues should absolutely take a chance on him, though, as he was a 20-goal scorer as a rookie during the 2015-16 season.
Erik Johnson – Defenseman (13.6 percent)
The second Avalanche skater on this list, Erik Johnson leads his team with nearly 22 minutes of ice time per-game as a top-pair blueliner. The 30-year-old veteran has just five goals and 19 points so far this season, but he’s on-pace for his eighth 25-point campaign.
Finding depth fantasy defensemen can be difficult, especially this late in the season. Johnson isn’t an offense-first defenseman, but Colorado is a top-10 scoring team in the NHL. His large chunk of ice time provides plenty of scoring opportunities. Again, Johnson isn’t going to post elite numbers, but as a highly-available depth skater, he has some fantasy potential for the postseason stretch.
Jordan Binnington – Goaltender (48.9 percent)
Jordan Binnington’s availability is quickly shrinking, but he’s somehow still available in over half of ESPN’s fantasy hockey leagues. The electrifying rookie netminder has been the key factor in the St. Louis Blues’ second-half surge.
Binnington shut out the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, his fifth shutout in 20 appearances this season. The 25-year-old owns a ridiculous 15-2-1 record alongside a 1.61 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
He won’t be able to keep up these beyond-elite numbers forever, but the newest Calder Trophy candidate is proving that he’s a legitimate fantasy starter. Binnington should be owned in every fantasy league at this point.
All of these players are available in over 50 percent of ESPN leagues at the moment, making them solid, underrated moves. Other skaters such as the Boston Bruins’ David Krejci and Vegas’ Alex Tuch are available in at least 30 percent of leagues. Every team has different needs ahead of the fantasy playoffs in March but there is always value to be found on the waiver wire.
Tyler Bowen is a University of South Florida graduate and lifelong hockey fan. Tyler covers the Pittsburgh Penguins for thehockeywriters.com. You can usually find him obsessing over his fantasy teams and looking for his next gambling tip.