Before I go through a new batch of players that you should consider picking up, I want to readdress one of my picks from an earlier Waiver Wired article: Craig Smith. At the time, Smith was off to a hot start and I was particularly encouraged by how much power-play ice time the rookie was getting. Well, Smith now has eight points in nine games and he leads all Predators forwards in total power-play playing time. Despite this, Smith is still owned in just 6% of most fantasy leagues, so if you haven’t taken him yet, you probably still have the option of doing so.
Nik Antropov-C-Winnipeg Jets Antropov went from setting a career-high with 67 points in 76 games in 2009-10 to scoring just 16 goals and 41 points in 76 contests last season. As a result of his fall from grace, Antropov is only owned in 9% of Yahoo! leagues, but that is likely to change as he has three goals and nine points in nine games. Part of the reason for his newfound success is the opportunity he’s getting this season. Last season, he averaged just 15:39 minutes per game, but in 2011-12, he’s getting top line minutes again. It’s also worth noting that he had hip surgery prior to the start of the 2010-11 campaign and he didn’t feel 100% for most of the campaign. We don’t expect him to return to his 2009-10 form, but 20 goals and 50-60 points seems like a reasonable projection.
Corey Potter-D-Edmonton Oilers It’s rare that a player in his late 20s with very little NHL experience suddenly becomes a fantasy-relevant player, but we have seen it happen before, especially in recent years with the likes of Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau. Attempting to predict who will be this season’s diamond in the rough is a difficult gamble that could backfire, but you could make a strong case for Potter. He’s already demonstrated a fair deal of offensive talent in the minors and, more importantly, he’s been given a dream chance to prove himself at the NHL level. Potter is averaging 4:02 power-play minutes per game, which at the time of writing is good enough for 24th place amongst NHL defensemen. Potter has responded by scoring a goal and six points in eight contests, with all but one of his points coming with the man advantage. If the Oilers keep him in his current role, then Potter could finish the season with about 35 points and 40-60 penalty minutes.
Pascal Dupuis-LW-Pittsburgh Penguins Dupuis has never gotten more than 48 points in a single season, and that was back in 2002-03 and he’s only averaged 0.45 penalty minutes per game over the course of his career. However, Dupuis has excelled on the Penguins’ second line this season. That’s reason enough to grab him if you’re looking for a player who will give you a boost in the short-term, but I have to put emphasis on the word short. Dupuis is 31 years old and he shouldn’t be counted on to transform at this age. In addition to that, we wouldn’t be surprised if the line shakeup caused by Sidney Crosby’s return results in Dupuis being demoted to the third line.
Brian Elliott-G-St. Louis Blues Elliott ranked 44th out of 47 eligible goaltenders last season in GAA (3.34) and 43rd in save percentage (.893). He went from being the Ottawa Senators starter to a guy who had to earn the backup job in training camp. However, that’s not the end of Elliott’s rollercoaster story. Elliott has outperformed Jaroslav Halak in the month of October and has left people wondering if there’s a goaltending controversy brewing in St. Louis. At this point, the most important thing to remember is that Elliott is a goaltender of extremes. When he’s at his best, he’s practically unstoppable, but when he’s at his worst, he’s almost unemployable. The streaky goaltender has started off the season hot and if you need a short-term goaltending boost, we recommend doing what the Blues are: ride the hot hand. Just don’t count on Elliott holding down the starting job for the remainder of the campaign.
Max Pacioretty-LW-Montreal Canadiens Pacioretty entered the season as a potential breakout candidate and so far he’s lived up to expectations by scoring four goals and nine points in 10 games. He was finally beginning to establish himself as a top-six forward last season when his campaign came to a horrific end when Zdeno Chara hit him into the stanchion. He’s still available in most fantasy leagues, so he’s probably still an option if you haven’t grabbed him already. A 25-goal and 50-point campaign is not out of the question.
Ray Whitney-LW-Phoenix Coyotes Whitney had a respectable 17 goals and 57 points, including 26 with the man advantage in 75 games last season, but he largely went unclaimed in fantasy drafts and is currently only owned in about a quarter of fantasy leagues. Part of that might have been in deference to his age – he’ll turn 40 in May – and the fact that the Phoenix Coyotes weren’t expected to be quite as good a team this season. However, we expected him to do about as well in 2011-12, and if anything he has exceeded expectations by scoring five goals and 10 points in nine contests. Don’t be put off by his age; Whitney should still get about 60 points this season.