Waiver watch: Emerging top-line stars that are available to pick up

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Every week, we’ll mine the waiver wire for lesser-rostered assets to help your squad, whether you favor dynasty or the redraft format, and we’ll also toss in some tips for DFS players out there. Finally, we will look at some former go-to fantasy assets who may be overvalued – in the short- or long-term – for one reason or another.


Forwards

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmonton Oilers (Rostered in 33.3% of ESPN.com leagues): Finally, a handful of games in, the once-again-Oiler is earning a shot on Edmonton’s top line with Connor McDavid. And if Sunday’s performance against the Winnipeg Jets is at all indicative of his approach to the opportunity, the 22-year-old isn’t about to be demoted anytime soon. Puljujarvi was aggressively superb in all facets of the 4-3 victory, registering an assist on six shots through more than 17 minutes on-ice. He easily could have ended up with a couple of goals and another helper. No doubt a fantasy gamble, the 2016 fourth-overall draft pick could be in for a rambunctiously productive year if he continues to put in a similar effort alongside the superstar center. He’s worth giving a fantasy whirl.

Adrian Kempe, C/LW, Los Angeles Kings (8.1%): Skating on a top line and power play with Alex Iafallo and Anze Kopitar – who’s flying out of the gate – Kempe has three goals and two assists in his past four games, including a pair of points with the extra skater. After scoring 16 goals and 21 assists in his first full NHL campaign (2017-18), Kempe has largely failed to live up to expectations. Maybe this is the year the 24-year-old consistently finds his scoring groove. Food for thought for fantasy managers in deeper leagues.

Jordan Kyrou, C/RW, St. Louis Blues (7.3%): Skating on a scoring unit with Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz, Kyrou has a goal, four assists, and 12 shots in four recent games. The 22-year-old has also recently been incorporated into the Blues’ power play. This kid is fast. And according to head coach Craig Berube, Kyrou is learning to truly capitalize on that speed in what should roll out as his first full season in the NHL.

Pius Suter, C, Chicago Blackhawks (5.7%): The early-season patience shown in playing Suter on a top line with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat has already paid off by way of the Swiss forward earning a hat-trick in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Red Wings. With Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach out, centers Suter and Dylan Strome currently sit one-two on the Blackhawks’ depth chart. No stranger to putting the puck in the net, the now 24-year-old scored 30 goals and 23 assists in 50 games with Zurich last year – his fifth as a pro. One NHL hat-trick does not a season make, but we’ll soon find out if Chicago found a gem overseas to temporarily fill in alongside Kane and DeBrincat.

Carter Verhaeghe, C, Florida Panthers (4.8%): The former minor-league standout is worth a look in deeper fantasy redraft leagues as Aleksander Barkov’s linemate on Florida’s top unit. Then there’s Verhaeghe’s pair of goals and one assist through two games to consider. After bouncing around the AHL and ECHL for years before making his NHL debut with the Lightning this past season, the 25-year-old may have finally found a comfortable home in Sunrise. This isn’t to suggest Verhaeghe lights it up all winter/spring, but he could serve as a valuable provisional fantasy plug while the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Patrik Laine et al remain sidelined. The well-rested Panthers – idle since last Tuesday after two contests with the Carolina Hurricanes were postponed under the league’s COVID protocol – face the Blue Jackets and Red Wings in consecutive back-to-back sets this week.

Andrew Copp, C/LW, Winnipeg Jets (3.2%): With Patrik Laine out of the picture (first hurt, now gone), Copp has two goals and three assists on 16 shots in four games on a scoring line with Paul Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers. Once Pierre-Luc Dubois joins the team after his mandatory quarantine period – Feb. 9 versus the Flames at the earliest – Copp’s potential production even improves alongside the former Blue Jackets center. Of course coach Paul Maurice could shuffle bodies around once Dubois is on scene, maybe shifting Stastny to the wing, but for now, Copp’s scoring prospects look as healthy as they ever have.

See also: Jonathan Drouin, Montreal Canadiens; Denis Gurianov, Dallas Stars; Nick Schmaltz, Arizona Coyotes

Defenders

Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils (7.3%): The 20-year-old rookie has at least one point in each of his first five games of his NHL career. Impressive stuff. While the young offensive-spirited blueliner needs to improve his defensive play, coach Lindy Ruff appears content enough to allow him the freedom to figure it out, both at even-strength and on the power play. Drafted 17th overall in 2018, Smith has value in deeper redraft leagues as well as dynasty/keeper assemblies.

See also: Rasmus Andersson, Calgary Flames; Nick Leddy, New York Islanders

Goaltenders

Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals (12.1%): Keep in mind, Ilya Samsonov is expected to miss at least four games under the NHL’s COVID protocol. There’s no guarantee he isn’t out longer. Enter Vanecek, who was impressive in stopping 45 of 48 shots during Sunday’s overtime loss to the Sabres. Head coach Peter Laviolette has hinted at allowing either goalie the chance to run with the role – if Vanecek plays well against the Islanders and Bruins this week, Samsonov may find himself less busy upon his return.

Lowered expectations

Patrik Laine, RW/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets (98.5%): Several boxes need to be checked before we even see Laine on the ice with his new squad. First, there’s the work visa to secure. Then there’s the mandatory quarantine period to weather, post-arrival from Winnipeg. Oh, and how’s that upper-body injury feeling? Even once all those hurdles are cleared, there’s the issue of making friends with John Tortorella. Laine’s lack of enthusiasm for putting in a defensive effort isn’t going to jive with the Blue Jackets’ head coach. Best-case scenario, the former Jets sniper eventually settles in on a scoring line/power play with center Max Domi or Alexandre Texier – rostered in only 10.4% of ESPN.com leagues – doesn’t enrage Tortorella, and enjoys a productive rest-of-season. Sure, why not? Goodness knows the 2016 second-overall draft pick now needs to walk the walk, after earning his yearned for trade. I’m just suggesting we have a way to go before then. Laine’s fantasy managers need to be patient.

See also: Alexander Edler, D, Vancouver Canucks; Ryan Graves, D, Colorado Avalanche



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