By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The weather may be cooling down, but the fantasy season is heating up. The usual contributors are leading the way, but a few surprising players have snuck their way into the upper ranks.
With head coaches dropping like flies, their corresponding teams may look significantly different in the coming weeks. Some Kings and Blackhawks who haven’t been performing may receive more opportunities under new regimes. Others could see drops in production.
Since the staff switches have recently occurred, you can only guess as to how things will develop. For now, go ahead and check out the following recommendations. They may not change your life, but they could improve your fantasy chances.
(Yahoo! ownership rates/stats as of Nov. 8)
Ty Rattie, EDM (13 percent owned) – Rattie was welcomed in his return from a two-week absence Tuesday by once again being paired with Connor McDavid at even strength. He also logged almost four minutes as part of Edmonton’s first power-play unit, where he notched an assist. Rattie may finally be getting his chance to impress in the NHL after plenty of AHL success over the last five years.
Dominik Simon, PIT (10 percent) – Simon also currently skates with hockey royalty, but he seems to produce with or without the help of Sidney Crosby. The Czech winger has two goals and four assists through the last eight contests. Add that to averaging close to two minutes with the man advantage over the last five, and Simon makes for a decent addition.
Anthony Duclair (4 percent), Boone Jenner (22 percent) – I couldn’t choose which Columbus forward qualified as the more promising pickup, so I included both. Duclair, now on his fourth franchise at 23 years old, has somehow transformed low ice time into nine points. Meanwhile, the 25-year old “veteran” Jenner has registered an assist in three straight while totaling 48 shots on the year. Both enjoy plenty of power-play usage, with Duclair’s three goals edging Jenner’s two assists.
Bobby Ryan, OTT (5 percent) – Even though the Sens have conceded a league-high 62 goals through 15 games, their record has been boosted by netting 52 at the other end. Now in his sixth season in Ottawa, Ryan has seen his production slip due to injury. While he hasn’t posted a multi-point effort yet, he has found the scoresheet on nine different occasions. Four of those have come while up a man. Ryan was hurt Tuesday, but the problem shouldn’t keep him out of action.
Gustav Nyquist, DET (10 percent) – In a lineup full of younger 20-somethings, Nyquist stands out while approaching 30. Dylan Larkin may be the star up front, leading the club with 15 points, but the Swede has complemented the cause with 13 of his own. He’s currently riding a five-game point streak, as well.
Travis Zajac, NJ (4 percent) – Speaking of getting on in years, Zajac checks in at 33 but often performs as if he were 23. The 13-year career-Devil is off to a great start with 10 points in 12 games as the second-line center. Zajac also supplies sufficient minutes on both special-teams groups, though he’s only managed a pair of power-play helpers. It’s amazing to see his ownership rate so low with numbers like these.
Craig Smith, NSH (20 percent) – The Predators are once again sitting on top of the Central Division, but they’ve underachieved on the power play. This problem has affected a couple of their forwards, including someone like Smith, who’s generally thrived in this department. The Wisconsin native and ex-Badger set a career high in power-play points last year with 14, but he has only notched one this season. With offensively gifted folk such as Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and P.K. Subban surrounding Smith on the first unit, his stats should return to respectable levels.
Oskar Lindblom, PHI (1 percent) – Lindblom’s freshman year — six points in 23 contests — didn’t produce anything of note. Anonymity often keeps talent hidden when toiling on the third and fourth lines, but people start to notice when a player ascends to the top six. The 22-year old currently occupies Nolan Patrick’s left side and has exploded for six points in his last four. If Lindblom can stay in the upper half of the depth chart, he’ll be worth your fantasy consideration.
Sami Vatanen, NJ (25 percent) – The Finnish rearguard has generally been regarded as a dependable contributor. While Vatanen may not be relied on for his scoring as much as in past years, he’s still handling enough responsibility. Vatanen is out on the ice for almost 23 minutes a night, racking up a respectable goal and six assists over his first 13 appearances. He’s somehow available in three-quarters of Yahoo leagues, but he won’t last long if he continues to build on his totals.
Shea Theodore, VGK (36 percent) – Since being drafted 26th overall in 2013, plenty of hype has surrounded Theodore. Nothing really developed at the NHL level during his tenure in the Golden State though. In the end, Anaheim’s blue line excess became Vegas’ gift as part of an expansion-draft deal. Theodore’s first year in the desert saw him record 29 points in 61 regular-season games, but he added another 10 during the Golden Knights’ magical Cup run. Even with Vegas struggling on the power play, Theodore has already asserted himself as the lead point-man, contributing six points overall.
Miro Heiskanen, DAL (27 percent) – If you participate in a dynasty league, then Heiskanen is long gone. But good news for those in many single-season formats: last summer’s third pick can be had for free. The 19-year old prodigy didn’t kick off his North American career with a bang, only managing two assists over his first eight outings. However, in the seven starts since, Heiskanen has added two goals and two assists while averaging 23:47.
Nick Leddy, NYI (34 percent) – Remember when Leddy recorded three straight 40-plus point seasons? Unfortunately, he’s been shut out in 12 of 14 games, which leaves three assists in the other two. The upside for Leddy lies in the fact two of those three helpers took place with the man advantage, where he’s logged more ice time than ever (3:33 on average) as part of a top-notch unit.
Thomas Greiss, NYI (40 percent) – After impressing in his first couple rounds as a starter, things fell apart for Greiss in 2017-18. When Robin Lehner was brought in last July to compete for the lead role and pulled off a few outstanding efforts, it was believed Greiss wouldn’t be able to recover. Since Lehner succumbed to injury in late October, Greiss has stolen the show by going 3-0-1 with a 1.56 GAA and .954 save percentage. In fact, he’s sparkled all season by compiling a 1.98/.940 line over nine appearances.
Jacob Markstrom, VAN (42 percent) – In the second edition of this column, I proudly proclaimed the virtues of Anders Nilsson based on a three-start sample. Since then, Nilsson broke a finger and Markstrom has looked every bit the giant that matches his 6-foot-6 frame. Since Oct. 20, the former Panther has only lost once in regulation through seven outings while stopping 205 of 225 shots.
Players to consider from past columns: Jason Pominville, Dustin Brown, Mika Zibanejad, Alex Galchenyuk, Matt Duchene, Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi, Nolan Patrick, Brock Nelson, Alex Tuch, Chris Tierney, Kevin Labanc, Vince Dunn, Cam Fowler, Neal Pionk, Oscar Klefbom, Dennis Cholowski, Damon Severson, Brent Seabrook, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, David Rittich