Before we go into the meat of the article, I should address the Rangers trading Michael Del Zotto to Nashville for Kevin Klein.
Klein is a defensive defenseman and non-factor in standard leagues, but Del Zotto is a far more intriguing case. He went into this season as an established offensive blueliner who seemed destined to only go up, but he didn’t adjust well to new coach Alain Vigneault. It became clear that Del Zotto’s best hope to regain his diminished value was via a trade. It’s just a shame that Nashville is the team that picked him up.
The Predators already have a solid core of offensive defensemen. In fact, Del Zotto didn’t get even a single second of power-play ice time in his first two contests with Nashville. His responsibilities might grow over time, but we wouldn’t bet on him.
We’ve highlighted some better defensive options this week, though…
Roman Josi (NSH) – D – Owned in 19% of Yahoo! leagues
Josi is one of the reasons we don’t see Del Zotto working out in Nashville from a fantasy perspective. It would take an injury to get Shea Weber off the top power-play unit, but we doubt Josi is going to get dethroned, either. He got off to a slow start, but has six goals and 18 points in his last 26 games. If your league happens to value blocked shots, than he will help out in that regard, too, given that he has 92 in 43 games in 2013-14.
Gustav Nyquist (DET) – C – Owned in 8% of Yahoo! leagues
After years of dominating in the AHL, it looks as though Gustav Nyquist might have finally earned a permanent spot with the Red Wings. He’s been averaging 18:10 minutes per contest and has gotten ice time with Henrik Zetterberg. He’s taken advantage of that lately by scoring three goals and six points in his last four contests. He’s definitely worth taking a chance on, especially in keeper leagues, but keep an eye on the Red Wings’ lines, as they will be shaken up once Pavel Datsyuk (groin) returns. That’s scheduled to happen before the Olympic break.
Adam Henrique (NJD) – C – Owned in 12% of Yahoo! leagues
Henrique had a 51-point rookie campaign and hasn’t been able to replicate that level of success. Of course, he played with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk back in that first campaign, so those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Even still, he’s capable of being a solid top-six forward and lately he’s been demonstrating that by scoring eight goals and 12 points in his last 14 games. If nothing else, he’s worth taking a chance on while he’s hot, but he might end up being a player you hang on to for the rest of the campaign.
Eric Gelinas (NJD) – D – Owned in 8% of Yahoo! leagues
One of the better rookies this season, Gelinas endured a bit of a cold streak in late December through early January, but otherwise he’s been a pretty solid contributor. He has six goals and 22 points in 41 contests this season and that’s a point-per-game pace he has a decent shot of maintaining. The Devils have also given him a decent amount of ice time with the man advantage and that’s been a big help, as 13 of his points have come on the power play.
Alex Goligoski (DAL) – D – Owned in 37% of Yahoo! leagues
If you gave up on Goligoski earlier in the campaign, it’s time to re-evaluate him. He’s been picking up steam as the 2013-14 campaign goes on and has caught on fire lately with eight points in seven contests. He enjoyed three straight campaigns of recording at least 30 points from 2009-10 through 2011-12 and followed that up with 27 points in 47 contests last season, so he has a history of success already. On top of that, he’s been getting plenty of ice time with the man advantage on Dallas. We’re looking for him to get 10-15 points in the Stars’ last 30 contests.
Tyler Ennis (BUF) – C/LW – Owned in 34% of Yahoo! leagues
Buffalo is one of the worst teams in the league, but from an offensive perspective, they’ve been pretty solid lately. Ennis has been one of the main causes of that as he has three goals and eight points in his last nine games. He actually is a pretty good fantasy option under better circumstances, but playing with a weak Sabres supporting cast has been problematic. With that in mind, we see him as more of a short-term gamble, especially given that the Sabres will probably trade away his linemate, Matt Moulson, before the trade deadline.
Mark Giordano (CAL) – D – Owned in 44% of Yahoo! leagues
Here’s an easy guy to recommend, to the point where him being owned in only 44% of leagues is a bit perplexing. Sure. He took a step back after recording43 points in 2010-11, but he never got to the point where he wasn’t at least serviceable. Yes, he plays for Calgary, but he’s managed to maintain a neutral plus/minus rating despite that handicap. And sure, he did miss 18 contests earlier this season with an ankle injury, but he’s been back for nearly two months now. The bottom line is that at his worst, Giordano is decent and at his best, he’s one of the league’s top blueliners. With eight goals, 16 assists, and 34 penalty minutes in 34 games, he should be owned in far more leagues.
Mark Scheifele (WPG) – C – Owned in 10% of Yahoo! leagues
Scheifele’s rookie season got off to a rocky start, in part because he wasn’t getting much playing time. He’s gone from averaging 14:53 and 14:11 minutes in October and November respectively to logging around 18 minutes per contest. At the same time, he’s scored eight goals and 20 points in his last 25 games. He’s particularly valuable in keeper leagues, given his offensive upside, but even standard league owners should regard him as a viable fill-in for forwards who are injured or simply haven’t worked out.