With so little time left in the season, we’re doing something a little different for this waiver wired report. All the players mentioned below, with the exception of Karri Ramo, are 25 years old or younger.
They’ve been hot lately, but most of them are also great candidates to take a step up next season. In other words, this is a list worth remembering when it comes time to start thinking about the 2014-15 campaign.
Ondrej Palat (TB) – LW – Owned in 30% of Yahoo! leagues
For a while it looked like Nathan MacKinnon was going to run away with the Calder Trophy and while he’s still the favorite, Palat is making things interesting. If you watched him play against Pittsburgh on Saturday, you were treated to an example of what he can do. With his team down by a goal late in the third period, he charged past four Penguins players to beat goalie Jeff Zatkoff and send the contest to overtime. Of course, we’re not just recommending him based on one good goal. He’s been hot lately with five goals and 12 points in his last eight games and ranks second in the rookie scoring race with 49 points in 71 games. He also has an incredible plus-27 rating, which puts him in a tie for 14th place in the league.
Mikael Backlund (CAL) – C – Owned in 9% of Yahoo! leagues
The former first round draft pick has 240 NHL games under his belt at this point and for the most part, he hasn’t been noteworthy from an offensive perspective. He’s been on fire lately though with four goals and five assists in his last seven games. With that in mind, he’s not a bad guy to pick up if you’re just looking to ride out a hot streak, but he’s also been decent for a while now with 13 goals and 23 points in 31 games since the start of January. A big part of his jump is thanks to his role expanding with the Flames. He averaged a little over 15 minutes per game in 2011-12 and the shortened campaign, but since January he’s been logging over 20 minutes. With that in mind, he’s not just a good pickup now; he’s also someone to keep in mind for fantasy drafts next season.
Brandon Pirri (FLA) – C – Owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues
Florida acquired Pirri from the Chicago Blackhawks on March 3 in exchange for a couple draft picks and so far it’s been a great move for the Panthers. They are giving him more ice time than he got with the significantly deeper Blackhawks and he’s risen to the occasion with three goals and seven points in 10 games. Like Backlund, Pirri’s a guy that’s worth taking a chance on now, but is also a decent late round option in standard league drafts for the 2014-15 campaign. Although he only has 45 NHL games under his belt, the 22-year-old has displayed his offensive potential in the AHL where he’s averaged roughly a point-per-game over the last two seasons.
Nicklas Jensen (VAN) – LW/RW – Owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues
This season has been a disaster for the Vancouver Canucks. They entered it with aspirations of making a run at the Stanley Cup after firing coach Alain Vigneault over his lack of success in the playoffs. Instead, his replacement, John Tortorella, seems destined to guide them to their first regular season elimination since 2008. Vancouver now looks more like a team in the early stages of a rebuild than one destined for a championship, but at least they have some silver linings, like Jensen. He’s come onto the scene too late to salvage the season, but the 21-year-old has gotten off to a strong start with three goals and five points in seven games. He’s been playing alongside Alex Burrows and Henrik Sedin, but now Daniel Sedin is healthy while Burrows is hurt, so Jansen is expected to be put in the enviable position of playing alongside the Sedin twins.
Mikael Granlund (MIN) – C – Owned in 13% of Yahoo! leagues
Granlund came into the league with a lot of hype, but he needed time to adjust after moving from Finnish hockey to North America last season. He’s worked his way up the depth charts this season and is now logging top minutes on a line with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. That’s helped fuel his breakout as he now has five goals and 23 points in 29 contests in 2014. Look for him to maintain that pace for what’s left of the 2013-14 campaign.
Karri Ramo (CAL) – G – Owned in 23% of Yahoo! leagues
Ramo was sidelined for nearly two months with a knee injury, but he picked up where he left off by turning aside 24 of 25 shots in Calgary’s crushing 8-1 win over Edmonton on Saturday. Calgary obviously hasn’t been a good team this season, but Ramo has been solid with a 2.60 GAA and .909 save percentage in 30 games. Now that Reto Berra is in Colorado and Joni Ortio is back in the minors, Ramo doesn’t have much competition for the starting gig.
Gustav Nyquist (DET) – C/RW – Owned in 43% of Yahoo! leagues
If there’s been a silver lining to Detroit’s rash of injuries this season, it’s that it has facilitated the rise of Nyquist. He has broken out with 21 goals and 38 points in 45 games and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s heating up with goals in his last four games. As is often the case with Detroit’s best players, he wasn’t highly regarded early in his development – he was taken in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft – and got plenty of seasoning before getting his big break at the age of 24. In his case, he dominated the NCAA with the University of Maine and then AHL Grand Rapid Griffins. In both leagues he showed he was capable of averaging more than a point-per-game and while he might never reach that level in the world’s best league, he’s certainly more than worthy of a pickup if he’s still available in your fantasy league.
Tyler Ennis (BUF) – C/LW – Owned in 37% of Yahoo! leagues
This has been a rough season for Ennis, not to mention Buffalo in general, but at least he’s ending things on a high note. Ennis has four goals and seven points in 10 games this month, bringing him up to 10 goals and 22 points in 28 contests since the start of 2014. His terrible start to the campaign will continue to drag down his numbers, but he’s still someone to consider as an injury replacement in standard leagues. His plus/minus rating isn’t even as bad as you might think as he’s only been minus-three since the start of January.