We try to go out of our way to point out goaltenders worth picking up in these articles because they are few and far between. Almost every starting goaltender will get claimed in the draft and in competitive leagues, backups that show signs of ascending to the top job – or temporarily get it due to an injury – typically aren’t left on the open market for long.
Given that, when Ilya Bryzgalov signed with the Edmonton Oilers with a real shot of becoming the team’s starter, he became a tempting option for anyone who needed a goaltender.
He made his first two starts with Edmonton last week. He posted a 33-save shutout against the Nashville Predators before being yanked after 40 minutes against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That pretty much sums up what you’re getting if you take Bryzgalov. He’s got a ton of potential, but is also wildly inconsistent, so take him at your own peril.
Still, if the goaltending free agent market is otherwise barren in your league, he might be worth the gamble.
If you’re looking for something other than a netminder, though, we have some good options for you this week:
Jaden Schwartz (STL) – C/LW – Owned in 9% of Yahoo! leagues
Schwartz was someone worth keeping an eye on last season because of his considerable potential, but it was his rookie season and consequently the Blues used him sparingly. That’s not the case this time around. He’s averaging a decent 16:02 minutes per game and has been doing his part to firmly establish himself as one of the team’s better offensive threats. He’s currently on a six-game scoring streak, but he’s more than just a hot hand. After recording 17 points in his first 25 games, he’s a decent bet to break the 50-point mark in 2013-14. The fact that he’s playing for St. Louis should also allow him to build on his already strong plus-10 rating.
Eric Gelinas (NJD) – D – Owned in 8% of Yahoo! leagues
When it comes to rookies, Gelinas might not be the most well-known of this campaign’s crop, but he’s still extremely highly regarded in some circles. When Hall of Famer Larry Robinson looks at Gelinas, he’s reminded of Chris Pronger. Gelinas has a long way to go before he’s at that level, but if you’re hurting for an offensive defenseman, he’s certainly worth taking a chance on. He already has two goals and 10 points in 18 games this season and the Devils seem confident enough in his abilities to continue to give him around 20 minutes per game.
Steve Downie (PHI) – LW/RW – Owned in 43% of Yahoo! leagues
Downie is a very easy guy to recommend. He wracks up a ton of penalty minutes, but he’s far from just an enforcer. He’ll frequently end up on scoring lines and pick up a decent number of points. He has 14 points and 63 penalty minutes in 22 games this season. Those numbers are a fair representation of what you can expect from him going forward, so if you want a guy that will help you in the PIM column without killing you in every other category, Downie is worth grabbing.
David Desharnais (MON) – C – Owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues
Desharnais broke out in 2011-12 with 60 points, but he took a step back in the shortened campaign and recorded just one point in his first 19 games this season. He couldn’t have had a much faster and more dramatic fall from grace, but he’s showing signs of rebounding with two goals and six points in his last six games. He’s a high-risk, but if you’re in the mood to gamble on a forward, then he’s likely to have about as much upside as anyone in most standard leagues’ free agent lists.
Darren Helm (DET) – C – Owned in 6% of Yahoo! leagues
Helm missed almost all of the shortened campaign and the start of the 2013-14 season due to back problems. He’s finally healthy now and playing better than he ever has with six goals and eight points in his last eight games. He’s never recorded more than 32 points in a single season, but he’s also averaging 15:56 minutes per contest, which is significantly more than he’s had in previous campaigns. Just as importantly, he often plays on a line with either Johan Franzen or Daniel Alfredsson. Like Desharnais, he’s a gamble and anyone who decides to take a chance on Helm shouldn’t hesitate to drop him if he goes cold or his playing time starts to decline.
Scottie Upshall (FLA) – RW – Owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues
Through the first 10 games of the 2013-14 campaign, Upshall was averaging only 12:54 minutes per game and consequently had just two assists in 10 games. However, his playing time jumped to an average of 17:51 minutes in November, resulting in a major jump in production. He has six goals, 12 points, and 17 penalty minutes in his last 14 games. Like Helm, Upshall is a veteran who’s never had much fantasy value, but also isn’t accustomed to getting this kind of opportunity. If nothing else, he’s worth taking a short-term pickup while he’s hot, especially seeing as he also contributes some penalty minutes.
Ryan Johansen (CLM) – C/RW – Owned in 19% of Yahoo! leagues
Since being taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Johansen has slowly been climbing up the Blue Jackets’ depth charts. At this point he’s comfortably established himself as a top-six forward, although that would mean more if Columbus wasn’t missing Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik, and Nathan Horton. Nevertheless, Johansen has stepped up this season, especially now that the Blue Jackets’ biggest guns have gone down. With nine goals and 18 points in 26 games, he’s worth picking up in standard leagues, especially seeing as the return of the Blue Jackets’ top forwards might not be a bad thing for him. After all, when all three of them are healthy, Columbus might attempt to balance their scoring lines, which would lead to one or two of them playing alongside Johansen.
Sean Couturier (PHI) – C – Owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues
Philadelphia counts on Couturier’s defensive contributions, but he is certainly gifted offensively. That might not have been apparent at the beginning of the season as he, like so many of the Flyers’ forwards, couldn’t seem to buy a goal then. In fact, Couturier didn’t even find the back of the net until November 19th, but his offensive game has woken up since then. He has three goals and six points in his last seven games and while he isn’t likely to maintain that pace for the remainder of the season, his coldest stretch is also behind him. Look for him to get 25-30 points in Philadelphia’s final 56 games.