Ryan Dadoun

Waiver Wired

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A Couple of Jackets May Fit

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We only have four weeks left in the regular season and the teams can more or less be divided up into four camps: teams that have no realistic shot of making the playoffs, teams that are fighting for life beyond April 10th, teams that almost certainly will participate in the post-season but still need to fight for positioning, and the Vancouver Canucks. For those who won't make the post-season, this time of year is about auditioning prospects and occasionally journeyman players for roles next season. Conversely, teams that are still trying to claw their way into the post-season will lean heavily on their veterans while teams primarily battling for positioning will try to balance the need to keep their veterans fresh with their continued need to rack up as many points as possible. Then of course, there's the Vancouver Canucks, who would have to play disastrously to lose their hold on the Western Conference's first seed. The only thing they need to do now is stay healthy and fight a sense of compliancy that could hurt them in the playoffs if it's allowed to take hold. Vancouver and the teams that will join them in the coming weeks are expected to be especially cautious when handling injuries, give their backup goaltenders playing time, and maybe even ask some of their star players to spend a game or two in the press box before the playoffs.

At this point in the year, it's particularly important to consider a player's position in the league when determining their future worth. With that in mind, here's a list of players who have caught my attention going into the homestretch.

Ryan Callahan – RW – New York Rangers

Callahan has been exactly what the Rangers have needed since returning from a broken hand. He has 10 goals and 17 points in his last 17 games, giving him 40 points in 49 contests in 2010-11. That's quite a jump from the 37 points he got last year, but his efforts this season shouldn't be overlooked. With the Rangers in an extremely tight race for one of the final two seeds in the Eastern Conference, we think Callahan will stay strong in the month of March.

Brian Rolston – LW – New Jersey Devils

When trying to place each team into one of the four categories I outlined in the beginning of the article, the Devils become something of a wild card. If you look at their record this season, it's hard to consider them a genuine threat to teams like Buffalo or the New York Rangers, but they've been so hot, it's hard to count them out, either. One thing is for sure, the Devils won't go down quietly and you can count Rolston amongst the players who are doing everything in their power to make the playoffs. Rolston has 10 goals and 22 points in his last 26 games, partially thanks to the fact that he has been getting regular minutes on New Jersey's second line. As long as the Devils still have reason to believe they can make the playoffs, Rolston should continue to average nearly a point per game.

Jakub Voracek – RW – Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus doesn't have a realistic shot of making the playoffs, but Voracek is giving Blue Jackets fans a reason to be optimistic about their future. He has five goals and 13 points in his last 15 games and is on his way to setting new career highs in goals and assists. If he manages to do that, he will have successfully bettered himself in each of his first three campaigns. Voracek is likely to get plenty of playing time with Rick Nash. Voracek has plenty of short-term and long-term value.

Blake Wheeler – RW – Atlanta Thrashers

Wheeler went from playing on a Stanley Cup contender to a team just barely in the playoff picture when the Bruins sent him to Atlanta, but things couldn't have worked out better for him. This is his third NHL season and he's finally getting a chance to show what he can do with plenty of playing time. He averaged 13:40 minutes to 15:47 minutes in two-plus seasons with the Bruins, but he averaged 19:32 minutes in his first eight games with the Thrashers. Wheeler responded by getting four goals and seven points in nine games. He'll have some fantasy value as long as he continues to get that much playing time.

Magnus Paajarvi – LW – Edmonton Oilers

This recommendation has less to do with his overall or even recent numbers and is based more on a hunch. First off, Edmonton obviously falls under the camp of teams that will use the remainder of this season to develop their younger players and even if they didn't want to, their options are limited due to a rash of injuries and the trade of Dustin Penner. That combination of factors has led to Magnus Paajarvi getting ample playing time on the Oilers first line. Out of Edmonton's big three rookies, which also includes the injured Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, Paajarvi has the least impressive numbers. However, until recently he was also getting the least amount of playing time. Paajarvi is an obvious risk, but he looks like a good candidate to end his rookie season on a positive note.

Grant Clitsome – D – Columbus Blue Jackets

Clitsome has been a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jackets since he was called up on January 11th. Although he wasn't expected to put up fantasy worthy numbers, he got hot quickly and has never looked back. As impressive as his raw numbers are – 16 points in 24 games – we also like the fact that his longest pointless skid was a mere two games. Although his long-term value remains open to debate, we can't help but like his chances of staying strong for the remainder of the season.


Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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