The season’s almost over and that obviously means there’s no more room for long-term planning in anything but keeper leagues. If you have a player who’s significantly injured and haven’t dropped him already, it’s time to seriously consider doing so.
We have plenty of candidates who might be available in your league to help you with your final push:
Milan Michalek (LW, RW – Ottawa Senators) – Michalek scored a goal in his return from a knee injury on Friday. He missed more than a month and is owned in only 28% of Yahoo! leagues. Michalek had 60 points in 77 games in 2011-12 and 11 points in 16 contests this season. If you’re looking for a guy to replace one of your injured players, Michalek is one of the soundest options out there. Ottawa still has seven games left in their schedule with five of them being at home, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Michalek has another five or six points in him.
Brian Elliott (G – St. Louis Blues) – Elliott has had one of the most interesting careers in recent memory. He’s been one of the worst and best goaltenders in the league in equal measure since he first broke into the league. That makes him a big gamble, but as long as he’s hot, he’s worth taking a chance on. Even after posting three consecutive shutouts, he’s still owned in only 54% of Yahoo! leagues. If you’re lucky enough to be in a standard league where he’s still available, pick him up before it’s too late.
Brandon Saad (LW – Chicago Blackhawks) – Saad has climbed the Blackhawks depth charts this season, as illustrated by the fact that his average playing time per game has jumped each month, from 12:57 minutes in January to 19:11 in April. He’s made the most of that ice time, scoring six goals and 19 points in his last 20 games. Saad has already been claimed in 36% of Yahoo! leagues, but he’s one of the better options to scoop up if he’s still available for you. As far as wingers go, if you’re debating between Saad and Michalek, you can look at Michalek as the safer bet while Saad has slightly more upside, but ultimately, with so little time left in the season, trying to say one is the better pickup than the other is just splitting hairs. You have a great shot to get a nice boost with either one.
Frans Nielsen (C – New York Islanders) – Nielsen is another player who’s gotten hot on a team where every last game will be critical. The Islanders might make the playoffs, but they can’t afford to let up in any contest. At the same time, Nielsen has stepped up with a goal and six points in his last six games. He’s typically good for about a point every other game, but he might carry his hot streak until the end of the campaign.
Joshua Bailey (LW – New York Islanders) – And if Nielsen isn’t available, odds are Bailey is. He’s owned in just 4% of Yahoo! leagues at the time of writing. Bailey and Nielsen have been playing on the same line, so each player’s recent success shadows the other. Bailey has four goals and seven points in his last six contests. He’s a bigger gamble than Nielsen, but shares the same short-term upside and at this point in the campaign, there’s really not much else to look for.
Grant Clitsome (D – Winnipeg Jets) – Clitsome has shown flashes of offensive talent without actually having a breakout season that would vault him into long-term fantasy relevancy in standard leagues. He might never be regarded as an above average offensive defenseman, but for now that’s a moot point. Winnipeg doesn’t play until Wednesday, but at that point they’ll enter a stretch of six games in 10 games to round out the season. Four of those contests will be at home and Winnipeg, more than most teams, needs every win at this point to stay in the playoffs race. Clitsome has been hot lately with two goals and four points in four games, so if he’s still available on Tuesday, he’s a solid option for an end of season boost. He’s an even better choice in leagues that value hits and blocked shots, given that he has 76 and 47 of those respectively in 38 games this season.
Nail Yakupov (RW – Edmonton Oilers) – As the first overall pick, expectations for Yakupov were understandably high. The fact that he averaged nearly a point per game in the KHL during the lockout only added to the hype, but after a hot start to his NHL career he seemed to fizzle out. It’s not unusual for a rookie to experience extreme hot/cold streaks and in the short-term the Oilers put an emphasis on making sure he develops defensively. Now he seems to be clicking offensively as well with four goals and seven points in six games this month. Look for him to finish the season on a high note as he fights for the Calder Trophy.
Alex Killorn (C – Tampa Bay Lightning) – Killorn is another rookie who has seen his playing time skyrocket as the season’s progressed, to the point where he’s averaging 19:59 minutes this month. It’s not that big a surprise then that Killorn’s production has also risen. He has five goals and 13 points in 20 games, including six points in his last seven contests. Killorn is a fine guy to pick up now, but he might be an even better option next week. Starting on Sunday April 21st, the Lightning will play in four games over seven days, including three contests at home. Two of those opponents –Carolina and Florida – are against teams that are both out of the playoffs race and rank near or at the bottom of the league in goals allowed per contest.
Jussi Jokinen (C, LW – Pittsburgh Penguins) – This one is a bit of a cheat, because we also recommended Jokinen last week and we make an effort to keep things fresh. Jokinen is a unique case though. People knew that heading to the Penguins provided Jokinen with a new opportunity, but that wasn’t enough for the vast majority of fantasy owners to take a chance on him, as evidenced by the fact that he’s still available in 85% of Yahoo! leagues. However, Jokinen has thrived on the Penguins with James Neal and Sidney Crosby out of the lineup. The man that no NHL team wanted when he was placed on waivers now has three goals and five points in his last three games. This could be the start of a very impressive finish to the season.
Ryane Clowe (LW, RW – New York Rangers) – Speaking of players who have gotten a fresh start, Clowe has exceled in New York. In most games thus far, he has either got into a fight or been involved in a goal. He has two goals, four points, and 12 penalty minutes in five Rangers contests. Plenty of fantasy owners gave up on him during his struggles with the San Jose Sharks, but he’s worth grabbing for what’s left of the 2013 campaign.
Tim Jackman (RW – Calgary Flames) – Here’s one exclusively for deeper leagues. Jackman has very little offensive upside, but with the Flames season basically dead, all that’s left for Jackman is to try and impress Calgary’s management. Jackman has 36 penalty minutes in his last eight games and maybe he’ll continue to play that aggressively for the rest of the season. Calgary will play in four games next week with three of those contests being at home.
Filip Forsberg (C – Nashville Predators) – If you’re in the mood to take a big gamble, Forsberg will reportedly finish the season with the Predators. Nashville has lost forwards Paul Gaustad, Gabriel Bourque, and Colin Wilson for the remainder of the season and at the time of writing Mike Fisher is day-to-day with a hand injury, so Forsberg could get a decent amount of playing time. Forsberg has a ton of offensive upside and has excelled in Sweden. It’s certainly possible he’ll make a big first impression, but as I said at the start, he’s a big gamble.