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Fantasy Hockey: Waiver wire pickups for your last playoff push

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By Evan Berofsky, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

We're halfway through the final full week of the NHL regular season, which must mean it's fantasy finals time. I came up a little short in my RotoWire Staff Keeper Hockey League semi against the leader, but I'm still playing for third. And no matter the outcome, I'll be satisfied as I didn't have to shell out too much to improve my squad and will go into next year with several decent assets.

Take a look at RotoWire for all the last-minute news and material.

[Play in one of Yahoo's NHL DFS contests]

This marks the last Waiver Wire of 2021-22. Hope you've enjoyed the content this season and at least came away with a couple of solid recruits.

(Rostered rates/stats as of April 21.)

Forwards

Phillip Danault, LA (Yahoo: 25%)

In the last 16 games, Danault has gone off for 14 points, 41 shots, 19 hits, 18 blocks and 149 faceoff wins. And yet, he's still available in three of four Yahoo leagues. Danault has always operated as a regular on the penalty kill but now finally gets to be a lead power-play performer. Nothing much has resulted from the latter, but the chances will keep coming especially since he averages 19 minutes per outing — with more than four of those on special teams.

Jakub Vrana, DET (Yahoo: 22%)

Vrana was mentioned in this column last month soon after returning from a long absence. He's gone on to post a respectable 12 goals and five assists, with nine of those tallies and all five helpers coming since March 22, in addition to 42 shots. Vrana has also fired home four PPGs on Detroit's first unit during his abbreviated campaign while also working within the top-six at five-on-five. He looks to be a key investment for the Wings, so they'll be sure to maximize him and their core mid-20-and-younger players during these final few games.

Mikael Backlund, CGY (Yahoo: 16%)

Backlund's numbers have never been eye-popping, yet he's consistent with no fewer than 45 points from any of the previous five full seasons. He probably won't be able to keep that streak going as he's on 37 and five games remain, but he's at least favorably positioned as the Flames' second pivot and on their second man-advantage. Backlund's four assists across eight don't sound like much, though 24 shots and 65 FW during that stretch should enhance his profile.

Brandon Saad, STL (Yahoo: 15%)

The Blues signed Saad last summer to a long-term deal because they believed he could complement one of their top centers. He's met those expectations for the most part alongside Ryan O'Reilly, yet it seems he's not getting noticed in fantasy. If we go back six weeks, Saad has impressed with 16 points and 42 shots. You won't get much else from the two-time Cup champ, but the offense alone has to be enough to get him on more rosters.

Christian Dvorak, MON (Yahoo: 9%)

Dvorak first appeared here in the opening week and was projected to continue the progress he built up in Arizona. Unfortunately, his momentum was halted twice by injuries that kept him out for more than two months. Dvorak didn't let that get him down and proceeded to post three goals, seven assists, 22 shots and 141 FW since March 24. He's also logged more than 2.5 minutes on the power play over that span, yet somehow hasn't accounted for anything. Still, Dvorak's advanced placement in all situations must be worth more than nine percent coverage.

Frederick Gaudreau, MIN (Yahoo: 7%)

How good was Gaudreau last week? Try eight-points-in-four-games good supplemented by 10 shots and 39 FW. That shouldn't necessarily come as a shock since he centers Kevin Fiala and Matthew Boldy and neither is the fact he's up to a solid 40 points on the year. The Wild discovered a gem in Gaudreau and you might want to grab him before you regret what could've been. (Like me last week, though I opted for Mathieu Joseph. Had I added Gaudreau, I'd be in the SKHL finals. But it wasn't to be …)

Consider adding Minnesota Wild's Frederick Gaudreau in fantasy leagues
Frederick Gaudreau is making a serious fantasy hockey impact. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Vasili Podkolzin, VAN (Yahoo: 5%)

Podkolzin was highly touted entering the 2019 Draft having already competed in the KHL as a 17-year-old and was selected 10th overall by Vancouver. He opted to remain in Russia for a couple years before signing a contract with the Canucks last May. And the reason you haven't heard much about Podkolzin in the NHL is that he only registered 10 goals and seven assists from his first 68 outings.

Guess we'll have to wait until next seas- wait — eight points from six that includes two PPGs? A prominent position thanks to a few missing forwards? Yeah, get Podkolzin ASAP.

Ross Colton, TB (Yahoo: 4%)

Colton received an uptick in minutes during December and that led to a scoring rush. He coasted through January before hitting a wall. Fast-forward to March and Colton found himself back on track with plenty of points, shots and hits that were aided by the acquisition of Nick Paul (also at 4 percent). The pair worked well together in the lower half of the Lightning lineup, but they were eventually split up. Colton's now with Steven Stamkos, who assisted on both of the former's markers Tuesday. (And Paul skates with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Gee, tough assignment.)

Defensemen

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, VAN (Yahoo: 45%)

After notching a point in each of his first two games with Vancouver, Ekman-Larsson went on a five-for-37 slump even though he was averaging almost 22.5 minutes a night. Perhaps the lack of scoring was due to being in a new system or being stuck behind Quinn Hughes in terms of offensive chances, but the Swede has since turned it around with 20 points that include six PPAs. During that same stretch, OEL also recorded 68 shots, 45 hits, 36 blocks and a plus-10.

Brandon Montour, FLA (Yahoo: 19%)

Florida's attack leads the league and that's no surprise with the team producing at least four goals in 11 of 14 games. And it's not just the forwards who are benefiting from this offensive onslaught, as the top-four defenders have benefited in some way. Montour has been part of the fun, racking up two goals, seven assists, 24 shots and 15 hits in 12 games. His man-advantage production has slipped with nothing there since March 5, but he's bound to notch a few points overall based on how many pucks the Panthers are potting.

Justin Schultz, WAS (Yahoo: 9%)

Schultz has been inconsistent most of the season, but he's still receiving sufficient opportunities as an attacking contributor. His ice time is considerably down from recent years as part of the Caps' third pairing, though he's gone on a hot run with five points from five appearances, including a pair of PPPs. Schultz is also providing in other areas with more than a shot per game on the campaign and 27 blocks through the last month.

Henri Jokiharju, BUF (Yahoo: 1%)

Completing the theme of secondary power-play performers is Jokiharju, who's logging major minutes alongside Owen Power at even-strength and as part of Buffalo's exciting backup man-advantage. That has translated to assists in three consecutive matchups and 13 shots, seven blocks and five hits across four. With Jokiharju basically auditioning for a major role next year and still only 22, expect him to give all he can and help if you're searching for under-the-radar power-play support.

Goaltenders

Casey DeSmith, PIT (Yahoo: 20%)

With Tristan Jarry out indefinitely after suffering a broken foot, DeSmith becomes the de facto No. 1 in Pittsburgh. DeSmith has made 12 appearances since Feb. 10 and has fared decently over that time with a 2.50 GAA and .920 save percentage. Veteran journeyman Louis Domingue was summoned from the minors to help, though it's hard to imagine someone with a total of two NHL games in two years getting most of the starts.

Chris Driedger, SEA (Yahoo: 12%)

Things may have not turned out so great for the Kraken in their inaugural season, but at least a lot of their secondary performers are receiving more opportunities since the club opted to focus on the future. That includes Driedger, who's more or less been splitting starts with Philipp Grubauer the last few weeks. Over that stretch, the ex-Panther has compiled a 3-3 record with a 2.19 GAA and .926 save percentage. Grubauer might be listed as the top netminder in Seattle, yet Driedger is outplaying him lately and should see action in at least half of their remaining six games.

(Players to consider from past columns: Nazem Kadri, Joel Eriksson Ek, Nick Schmaltz, Dylan Strome, Ivan Barbashev, Tim Stutzle, Nico Hischier, Robert Thomas, Brock Nelson, Lucas Raymond, Matthew Boldy, Valeri Nichushkin, Michael Bunting, Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Hartman, Andrew Copp, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Johansen, Tyler Toffoli, Jesper Bratt, Trevor Zegras, Matty Beniers, Kevin Hayes, Cole Caufield, Andrew Mangiapane, Jakub Voracek, Mason Marchment, Victor Olofsson, Rickard Rakell, Anthony Cirelli, Chandler Stephenson, Alex Chiasson, Jack Roslovic, Tage Thompson, Seth Jarvis, Josh Norris, Jake DeBrusk, Boone Jenner, Troy Terry, Matt Duchene, Yegor Sharangovich, Nick Ritchie, Evan Bouchard, Jared Spurgeon, Damon Severson, Noah Hanifin, Noah Dobson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Vince Dunn, Moritz Seider, Rasmus Andersson, Josh Morrissey, Ryan Pulock, Cam Fowler, Erik Brannstrom, Bowen Byram, Sean Durzi, Owen Power, Ville Husso, Jake Oettinger, Anton Forsberg, Mike Smith, Spencer Knight, Antti Raanta, Scott Wedgewood, Nico Daws, Kaapo Kahkonen)

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