Fantasy hockey waiver wire pickups after drafts

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By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

We're back to the fantasy hockey grind. With the preseason done and the real action two days in, it's important to monitor your rosters and the available player pool.

This is usually the point in my inaugural column where I provide a brief evergreen course about the waiver wire, which covers how it functions and the best ways to use it throughout the season. But I'll condense that even further by highlighting the need to regularly pay attention to what's happening in the NHL and adjust accordingly, try not to hold on to underperformers too long, and remember to set your lineups on time.

To start, let's look at some fantasy players who deserve more attention.

(Rostered rates/stats as of Oct. 14.)

Forwards

Joel Eriksson Ek, MIN (Yahoo Rostered Rate: 45%)

It's taken a while for the 2015 first-rounder to get the offense going and the career-high 30 points from 2020-21 don't sound like much but consider 13 — including eight goals — came in the final 21 games. As Minnesota's top center, Eriksson Ek has already clicked with linemates Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. Even if the Swede doesn't reach the 50-or-so projected points, he's set to be a power-play regular (in addition to a prominent PK position) and isn't afraid to use his body, having finished second on the Wild last season in hits (105).

Jared McCann, SEA (32%)

If we can take anything from the Kraken's NHL debut, it's that they'll score enough goals. Their top-six isn't as formidable as the league's top attacks, but there's enough talent to make the club competitive. McCann isn't a typical No. 1 pivot, though he admirably filled in for Evgeni Malkin last year with a run of eight goals and 10 assists in a 19-game stretch. And for someone projected to skate major minutes in a prominent role (who also qualifies at LW), he's worth rostering.

CALGARY, AB - SEPTEMBER 9: Jared McCann #16 of the Seattle Kraken
Jared McCann provides value as a member of the Kraken. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Christian Dvorak, MON (28%

Three consecutive centers to start this column and I haven't talked about faceoffs … until now. With the Coyotes last season, Dvorak ranked 20th in the NHL in faceoff percentage (52.1) and ninth in faceoff wins (553). He also notched 11 power-play points while averaging 2:51 on the man-advantage. In Montreal, Dvorak will essentially take over for Phillip Danault in that he'll be surrounded by decent wingers — those currently being Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson — and operate as the main man while shorthanded.

Nino Niederreiter, CAR (24%)

A fifth overall selection would normally be expected to lead the team in offense. That may have been the thought process for Niederreiter way back when, though it never materialized and he's ended up maturing into a fine all-around player. On a deep forward group like Carolina, he perfectly fits in the middle-six and contributes in various categories. Nino will probably net you somewhere in the 40-point range, but he'll also accumulate many shots on goal (126 in 56 last season) and an adequate hit output (68).

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Evgenii Dadonov/Nolan Patrick, VGK (16% / 7%)

While Chandler Stephenson (40%) represents Vegas' marquee underappreciated forward centering Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, there's value to be found further down the depth chart. Both Dadonov and Patrick are highly skilled, but neither has lived up to potential. The pair arrived during the summer and skate on the third even-strength unit while seeing sufficient power-play time. If you can only choose one, lean toward Dadonov because of a better offensive history.

Brandon Saad, STL (17%)

It's amazing to realize Saad won a pair of Cups in the first half of the 2000s and is still only 28. Following a couple of injury-shortened seasons, he's getting a fresh start in St. Louis. There's enough offense left in Saad's arsenal, yet his longer-term lineup position is unknown. He's slated to join Ryan O'Reilly and David Perron at five-on-five and work on the second power play, though that could change with an injury, a slump, or if younger upstarts such as Jordan Kyrou and Jake Neighbours break out. For now, give Saad a chance.

Michael Bunting, TOR (11%)

Bunting burst on the scene last year with Arizona by registering a hat-trick in LA, which eventually resulted in 10 goals across 21 games. When he signed with Toronto over the offseason, it was believed he'd fit into a lower-half role. But with the Leafs relatively weak on the left side, Bunting has a big opportunity to stick on one of the first two lines. And that means a potential future spot alongside Auston Matthews or John Tavares — not a bad place to be.

Owen Tippett, FLA (6%)

40 points in 46 AHL appearances in 2019-20 probably got Tippett promoted, but it was his performance in the Panthers' brief playoff run last season that proved he could hack it at the top level. It wasn't necessarily the goal and three assists in six outings that convinced others as much as it was a significant step in development. Tippett was rewarded for his effort with a place on Florida's second unit, where he produced six points during the preseason. If you believe that growth will continue, then he's a must-add.

Defensemen

Rasmus Andersson, CGY (15%)

Much like my interest in Eriksson Ek, I'm betting on Andersson enjoying a breakthrough campaign. He got a taste of being the PP QB in 2021 and ended up with 21 points overall, including six while up a man. Now that former captain Mark Giordano has headed farther West, Andersson is expected to run the show at the point and log heavy minutes. Can the soon-to-be 25-year-old handle the extra workload? Or will the pressure throw him off? Better decide soon before someone else beats you to him.

Adam Boqvist, CBJ (13%)

Boqvist almost immediately made an NHL impact after being picked eighth in 2018. Maybe he wasn't the best fit in Chicago from a defensive perspective and was subsequently dealt to Columbus in July as part of the Seth Jones blockbuster. The rebuilding Blue Jackets will be loaded with youth and Boqvist should thrive. He was paired with the other blueline newcomer Jake Bean (2%) for most of the preseason yet seems destined to join forces with Zach Werenski.

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Nick Leddy, DET (7%)

The Red Wings are a mess, but they're a promising mess. Their entire top-six up front boasts potential, they've drafted a couple of possible stud D-men, and they outright stole a No. 1 goalie from Carolina. And buried amongst the many 20-somethings is Leddy, who recently excelled on the Islanders with 31 points. Despite the presence of Filip Hronek, Leddy is being asked to lead the charge on the power play. This scenario may not hold too long with Moritz Seider in town, but the veteran remains Detroit's best short-term option.

Will Butcher, BUF (0%)

Butcher was acquired from Jersey this summer in a deal designed to cut costs. Following a Hobey Baker Award and a stellar rookie effort, his stats have steadily declined. Butcher is being thrown into an unknown situation in Buffalo where he could end up providing a secondary scoring boost or become a regular healthy scratch. It's probably best to monitor his situation over the first few games and pounce if he displays any legitimate upside.

Goaltenders

John Gibson, ANH (44%)

While fantasy goaltending mainly revolves around wins, GAA, and/or save percentage, there's a lot to be said for stability. There aren't many current NHL netminders who'll be able to claim 60-plus starts this season, though Gibson should be one of them considering Anthony Stolarz — he of the 34 career big-league appearances — is the only other available Ducks candidate between the pipes. The last two years may scare you off Gibson, but he'll at least be able to take a few games off the Pacific Division's weaker opponents and will do well in formats that count saves.

Adin Hill, SJ (19%)

There are plenty doubting Hill's ability to lead by bringing up the fact he's never made more than 19 appearances in a season. Meanwhile, teammate James Reimer (3%) only peaked at 44 with Florida back in 2017-18. It's no secret the Sharks are playing for next year (or the one after that). And Evgeni Nabokov isn't walking into the San Jose locker room. Just give the younger Hill (by eight years on Reimer) a chance to build on some promising moments from his days in Arizona and see what he can do over a longer haul.

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