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Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: Don't wait for the NHL trade deadline, these players are ready to be picked up

Goaltender Justus Annunen #60 of the Colorado Avalanche
After recording a pair of shutouts recently, goaltender Justus Annunen could gain some starts down the stretch for the high-scoring Colorado Avalanche, which could lead to some wins for fantasy hockey managers. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) (Michael Martin via Getty Images)

By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

By the time you read this, Friday's 3 p.m. EST trade deadline probably will have concluded. As this column was submitted earlier in the day, there may be at least one instance below where information may have changed due to a recent transaction.

The NHL moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and check the latest deals, you could miss one. But don't worry. Even if a player gets snapped up before you have a chance to react, someone from the following pool should improve your squad.

(Rostered rates as of Mar. 8)

Forwards

Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals (Yahoo: 44%)

Wilson got off to a great start with 18 points over the first two months alongside 82 shots, 65 PIM and 97 hits. And then an extended drought would see him only post two goals and an assist from the next 25 games. Wilson has improved the last two weeks by registering six points — including two on the top power play and a short-handed goal — in addition to 12 shots, 20 PIM, 24 hits and 11 blocks on an 18:29 average. If he can maintain a diverse supply of contributions, he'll once again become a must-add in fantasy.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, Seattle Kraken (Yahoo: 32%)

Players with 45 points and a team-co-leading 18 PPPs through three-quarters of the season are generally hard to find on the wire. But when it comes to Seattle skaters, only Vince Dunn and Jared McCann sit above 50% coverage in Yahoo leagues — and that makes sense when you consider the Kraken scoring is generally spread out. Bjorkstrand hasn't been the most consistent producer, though he tends to get hot for significant stretches. He's currently riding a run of at least one point from four of his last five contests, where he's also combined for 14 shots. With the Kraken trying to qualify for the playoffs while hosting the next five and nine of 11, Bjorkstrand and other forwards will be motivated to boost their numbers.

Nino Niederreiter, Winnipeg Jets (Yahoo: 19%)

Niederreiter's point totals have looked eerily similar in the last three years in that he's posted slightly more goals than assists. His scoring also goes through waves, which makes him tough to trust. Niederreiter is conveniently listed here as he's on a heater, having found the back of the net four times over three outings while firing 10 pucks on net and dishing out six hits. Dependable bottom-six offense is hard to come by in fantasy, yet a veteran like Niederreiter on a solid Winnipeg attack can provide enough in multiple departments to warrant more clicks on his name.

Nick Foligno, Chicago Blackhawks (Yahoo: 8%)

Soon after Foligno was first featured at the end of 2023, he broke a finger and missed two weeks. Since he came back on Jan. 22, he's displayed fine form with 12 points, 40 shots and 44 hits while playing more than 18 minutes a night. Foligno also racked up six PPPs during this span while renewing his partnership alongside Connor Bedard in all scoring situations. He looks to have built a strong rapport with the young star, which can only help his stats. There's the horrible plus-minus that comes from being in Chicago, yet Foligno's other qualities and advantageous position will more than adequately counteract that.

Anthony Mantha, Vegas Golden Knights (Yahoo: 8%)

Imagine how happy a player must be going from a team that's experienced issues at both ends to one that clearly wants to contend for another Cup. At the same time, Mantha had been faring quite well before leaving Washington, with eight goals and seven assists in his final 16 games. And what better way to be welcomed in Vegas than to immediately start within the top six and participate on a decent backup power play. Even though Mantha didn't manage any points on Thursday, his new situation suggests you may want to acquire him as soon as possible.

Morgan Geekie, Boston Bruins (Yahoo: 7%)

Boston signing Geekie last summer for $4M over two years kind of went under the radar at the time. But in hindsight, that may have been one of the shrewdest moves from July based on how he's performed so far. The Bruins' focus headed into the season was to fill the holes down the middle vacated by Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Pavel Zacha became a primary beneficiary while Matthew Poitras was being hailed as the Next One, yet not a lot of hype surrounded Geekie. He's proved his worth wherever he's been placed on the depth chart by notching a career-best 32 points, with nine of those divided between the two PP groups. And last Thursday, he registered his first NHL hat trick during a 5-4 win over the Golden Knights. There are a few superior fantasy centers, but none who can give as much as Geekie and still be available in roughly nine of every 10 leagues.

Anthony Duclair, Tampa Bay Lightning (Yahoo: 5%)

It was inevitable Duclair would eventually be dealt. And while a move to the Bolts represents an obvious improvement in location, it will likely diminish his fantasy output. Unless Duclair gets placed on the top six and/or elite man-advantage, there's no way he'll even come close to what he's recently achieved in San Jose. Like the four points on Tuesday, with two of those on the lead PP. Or eight from the last four to go with 13 shots while logging an average of 19:25. Duclair is bound to be a serviceable player in the Tampa lineup. Just adjust your expectations should the gig not yield enough offensive opportunities.

Zach Parise, Colorado Avalanche (Yahoo: 3%)

Parise may be 39, yet he's already helped his new team with his skills and experience. It naturally took him a few appearances to get back up to speed after being brought aboard in late January. An ice-time increase last week initially resulted in two goals and an assist at Chicago and was soon followed by another marker in the reverse matchup. Parise may not have found the scoresheet in his last outing, though he logged a season-high 19:30. With the Avs busy wheeling and dealing, recent recruit Casey Mittelstadt is being tabbed as Parise's center on the second line — though that could change. As long as the veteran remains in a worthwhile role, he's at least worth a flyer in deeper formats.

Defensemen

K'Andre Miller, New York Rangers (Yahoo: 39%)

Miller broke out last season with 43 points on top of his sufficient work in other areas. He's only managed 24 through 60 games, though four assists have come over the last seven, supplemented by 19 blocks and 15 hits while he's logged just under 21 minutes a night. Miller doesn't carry any real power-play placement (a PPA on Monday in limited time being the exception), but he's the lead while short-handed and skates with Jacob Trouba on the top even-strength pairing.

Owen Power, Buffalo Sabres (Yahoo: 26%)

The acquisition of Bowen Byram may scare off poolies from adding Power, as the former has already played alongside Rasmus Dahlin during five-on-five and joined the top PP on his debut. Nevertheless, Power remains an integral part of the offense as someone who'll record significant ice time as he's picked up six points — two of them on the power play — while averaging 23:54 since returning Feb. 25. And based on the duo combining for the final goal on Thursday, I think it's safe to say these two talented defenders can coexist.

Pavel Mintyukov, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 15%)

When Mintyukov went on injured reserve in January, he had already accumulated two goals, 17 assists (seven PPAs), 60 shots, 55 hits and 43 blocks. The month he missed caused his coverage to tumble, though some stashed him knowing he'd return to a substantial role. Mintyukov's minutes may continue to fluctuate, yet he's proven consistent across the aforementioned categories since coming back and he's still in the mix on the man-advantage even with Cam Fowler currently holding down the top spot.

Cam York, Philadelphia Flyers (Yahoo: 7%)

York was initially featured in mid-December on the strength of a lead PP position and excellent recent contributions. Since then, Jamie Drysdale arrived in Philly and subsequently got hurt, a couple of other blueliners went down, and Sean Walker was moved to Colorado on Wednesday. Those situations have opened up more responsibility for York, and he's responded with three goals, two helpers, 10 shots, 23 blocks and 11 hits on 22:59 — including 1:59 while up a man — across six outings.

Goaltenders

Justus Annunen, Colorado Avalanche (Yahoo: 10%)

Annunen is finally getting his chance with the Avs following a couple of solid seasons in the AHL. He allowed four goals in each of the first three appearances after getting called up in January, but he's since produced a pair of shutouts over the Blackhawks. While dominating the league's lowest-scoring team may not be impressive, it's at least provided Annunen the opportunity for additional starts and to lighten Alexandar Georgiev's load leading up to the playoffs. And with Colorado ranked No. 1 on offense, that means more potential wins.

Lukas Dostal, Anaheim Ducks (Yahoo: 10%)

Things may not have gone great for Dostal with the Ducks, though there's hope for the future. While John Gibson continues to cover most of the games, his 3.47 GAA and .901 save percentage over the last three years doesn't help his long-term outlook. Since taking three straight in late October/early November, Dostal would go on to post a 4.06/.890 line up until Feb. 17. The good news is that he's only allowed a combined nine goals from the last four, including a 52-save performance a week ago over Jersey. If Anaheim continues focusing on the future, Dostal should be receiving more starts.

Players to consider from past columns: Gabriel Vilardi, Seth Jarvis, Juraj Slafkovsky, Ryan O'Reilly, Mason McTavish, William Karlsson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dylan Cozens, Johnny Gaudreau, Wyatt Johnston, Quinton Byfield, Boone Jenner, Gustav Nyquist, Troy Terry, Robert Thomas, Sean Monahan, Nazem Kadri, Andrei Kuzmenko, Lucas Raymond, Artturi Lehkonen, Nikolaj Ehlers, Chandler Stephenson, Dylan Strome, Brayden Schenn, Ivan Barbashev, Charlie Coyle, Mason Marchment, Pavel Zacha, Adam Henrique, Shane Pinto, Jake Neighbours, Jonathan Drouin, Marco Rossi, Jack Roslovic, Scott Laughton, Trevor Moore, Sam Bennett, John-Jason Peterka, Tyler Bertuzzi, James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Palmieri, Bobby McMann, Blake Coleman, Yegor Sharangovich, Logan Stankoven, Ross Colton, David Perron, Matias Maccelli, Mathieu Joseph, Alex Killorn, Daniel Sprong, Jake Sanderson, Mike Matheson, Seth Jones, Brock Faber, Noah Hanifin, Filip Hronek, Thomas Harley, Travis Sanheim, Torey Krug, Mattias Ekholm, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Cam Fowler, Neal Pionk, Ivan Provorov, Darren Raddysh, Declan Chisholm, Pyotr Kochetkov, Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, Joey Daccord, Ilya Samsonov, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Jonathan Quick, Samuel Ersson, Philipp Grubauer, Laurent Brossoit, Elvis Merzlikins