It can be hard to judge players this early in the season. In January a three-game point streak will be a blip on the radar, but when it happens at the start of the campaign it can be interpreted as a sign of a breakout season. So how do you weed out the players with staying power from those that will fizzle out? Looking at the circumstances surrounding their numbers is a good way to improve your chances of targeting the right players and that’s what I strived to do in this week’s Waiver Wired.
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Nick Foligno (CLM) – LW – Owned in 19% of Yahoo leagues
Foligno has been the beneficiary of an unfortunate string of circumstances in Columbus. The Blue Jackets’ top line was originally penciled in to be Boone Jenner, Ryan Johansen, and Nathan Horton, but the Blue Jackets have been forced to make adjustments because Jenner and Horton are dealing with long-term injuries. The result is that Foligno has been primarily playing alongside Johansen and he’s excelled in that role with two goals and seven points in five games. He won’t maintain that pace even if he spends the entire season on the top line, but Foligno is still an easy pickup in standard leagues due to his current linemates.
Brendan Gallagher (MON) – RW – Owned in 34% of Yahoo leagues
Gallagher has gotten off to a hot start with three goals and five points in six games. That won’t last and frankly, he’s less exciting than some of the other names on this list. That being said, he’s still worthy of a roster spot in most leagues. After scoring 19 goals and 41 points in 81 games last season, he’s expected to take a moderate step forward, which should translate to about 25 goals and 50 points. That alone isn’t enough to warrant jumping on him in standard formats, but when you throw in his penalty minutes – which are likely to be in the 60-90 range – he becomes an attractive option.
Damon Severson (NJD) – D – Owned in 23% of Yahoo leagues
If you have the Season Pass and have been reading our new weekly Roundtable articles, then you already know that Michael Finewax is a fan of Severson. The 20-year-old defenseman has attracted plenty of attention by scoring three goals and four points in five games, but he’s also been great defensively. That’s important because promising young offensive defensemen often suffer from limited playing time early in their careers due to defensive issues. In Severson’s case, he’s been averaging 19:52 minutes per game, including 3:10 minutes with the man advantage. Don’t be afraid to scoop him up in standard leagues.
Filip Forsberg (NAS) – C/RW – Owned in 23% of Yahoo leagues
Forsberg’s potential has been known for a while, but this might be the season he breaks out. He’s certainly off to a good start with a goal and five points in five games and that follows an encouraging preseason. What makes us particularly optimistic about Forsberg’s chances of having a strong season is the presence of new head coach Peter Laviolette. He was brought in to encourage the Predators to play a more offensive-minded game and so far it looks like Forsberg is going to be a meaningful part of that shift.
Mikkel Boedker (ARI) – LW – Owned in 25% of Yahoo leagues
I’m mentioning Boedker hesitantly. On the surface there’s a ton to like about him. He’s off to an amazing start with five goals and six points in four games, he’s got all the motivation in the world given that he’s in a contract year and could secure a long-term deal as a restricted free agent, and he should get plenty of responsibility given the Coyotes’ other options. On the other hand, Boedker’s success thus far is primarily thanks to a hat trick and assist against the Edmonton Oilers at a time where they were playing remarkably bad. Additionally, while he is talented, he doesn’t have a lot to work with given how little Arizona has in terms of above average skilled forwards. Ultimately, the reason why I’m throwing him in is because he had 51 points last season and while I’m not sold on his hot start, I do at very least think he will take a moderate step forward in 2014-15. That’s enough to make him worthy of consideration given his left winger eligibility.
T.J. Brodie (CAL) – D – Owned in 42% of Yahoo leagues
We typically gravitate towards players that are owned less in Yahoo leagues than, but Brodie’s such a good player that we feel he’s worth highlighting at 42%. Brodie, 24, has been steadily developing into one of the league’s better offensive defensemen and he set new career-highs in 2013-14 with four goals and 31 points in 81 games. He’s off to a hot start this season with two goals and six points in six contests. If he’s able to build off his hot start then he’ll only gain more leverage as he negotiates a contract extension with Calgary. He’s a good bet to reach the 30-point mark again and we wouldn’t rule out a 40-point campaign.
Like Brodie, I’m making a bit of an exception by throwing in Toffoli and Pearson, who are owned in 42% and 43% of Yahoo leagues respectively. The reason why I’m bundling them together is because the reason for picking one or both of them up is largely the same: the line they’re on. That 70s Line – which also includes Jeff Carter – has been arguably the best in the NHL and we’re willing to give it the benefit of the doubt when it comes to sustainability given the success the trio had together in the 2014 playoffs. Obviously they’re going to hit a rough patch and some point, but they seem to mesh really well and it’s worth the risk to grab a piece of that line if it’s still possible in your league.