Nearing the midway point of the season for most teams, it’s time to catch up with our favorite fantasy category specialists. If there’s a weakness on your roster – in rotisserie or head-to-head competition – now is the occasion to address it, via waivers (preferably) or trade. As usual, the focus is on those players who not only excel at one facet of the game, but maintain a solid fantasy presence otherwise.
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Vincent Trocheck, C/RW, Carolina Hurricanes (94.8%): Let’s say you’re dominating in other aspects. Perhaps, for example, a combination of players are wiping your league’s fantasy floor in the assists department, sometimes even from your bench. But your squad is a little weak in putting the puck directly in the net. That’s when, as long as the math makes sense, you volley a rivalling manager an offer for someone of Trocheck’s scoring ilk in exchange for one of your excess fantasy heavyweights. You’re not getting the Hurricanes centerman for nothing, but that extra goal or two could suffice in earning the necessary edge by any week’s end. Plus, Trocheck’s scoring line, also including Martin Necas and Nino Niederreiter, is appearing more and more dynamic game by game.
Nick Leddy, D, New York Islanders (46.9%): The Islanders defenseman has 10 assists in his past 11 games, doled out rather evenly. Zero goals, mind you, but there’s still a lot to appreciate about such production, particularly from the blue line. And Leddy’s flat-out available in more than half of ESPN.com leagues.
See also: Martin Necas, C/RW, Carolina Hurricanes, 29.3%
Matt Grzelcyk, D, Boston Bruins (19.6%): After sitting out 13 games with a lower-body injury, Grzelcyk is back and playing on Boston’s top power play. Those special teams points are going to start piling up in a hurry. Snag the 27-year-old before he heats up.
Frank Vatrano, LW/RW, Florida Panthers (32.1%): Since the beginning of February, Vatrano has averaged a flat three shots per game for a total of 45, ranking 18th overall. Not fruitlessly either; playing on a top line and power play with Aleksander Barkov, the 26-year-old winger has scored in three-straight. While Vegas’ Max Pacioretty remains my perennial favorite as far as shots are concerned, Vatrano is available. He certainly has a role to fill in deeper leagues.
Brandon Tanev, LW/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins (35.0%): Presuming a deal for one of the Tkachuk brothers isn’t negotiable, fantasy managers could do worse than give Tanev a whirl in leagues that reward physical play. Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk has a greater number of total hits (107), but the Penguins forward (97) is throwing himself around more often, averaging 4.6 per game. He also leads his squad in blocked shots, tied with defensemen John Marino and Cody Ceci. Tanev’s recent settling into Pittsburgh’s top-six – a shuffling partially necessitated by Sidney Crosby’s absence due to the league’s COVID protocol – serves as potential bonus in the on-ice minutes and scoring departments. The odd goal only adds to the feisty skater’s fantasy charm. For additional perspective, Evgeni Malkin is averaging 1.4 fantasy points per contest in ESPN’s standard game. Tanev is outpacing his more prominent teammate with 1.8.
Ryan McDonagh, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (59.0%): Only Alec Martinez and Adam Larsson have blocked more shots than McDonagh since Feb. 1. Through those 14 contests, the veteran defenseman is averaging 2.72 per game. While Martinez – rostered in 85.6% of ESPN.com leagues – presents as the gold standard in this category (combined with others), McDonagh remains ploddingly reliable for a couple of fantasy points per contest. He should be contributing more to the scoresheet as well. Don’t be surprised if we see a minor bump in production from the 31-year-old down the stretch.
Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes (55.7%): First of all, the Hurricanes as a unit are winning games with comforting regularity. Not only, but largely, because they’re scoring goals. More goals than any other team outside the North Division. A fully recovered Mrazek – who posted two shutouts in three complete contests before suffering a thumb injury – will only help bolster his team’s chances at winning additional games down the stretch. He’s loosely due to return on the weekend. All goes well and we’ll see a fair bit of Carolina’s No. 1 between now and early May. Not to take anything away from the solid tandem effort recently put forth by James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic, but Mrazek’s the club’s top banana when healthy. Check on his availability.
Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets (34.6%): With Elvis Merzlikins listed as week-to-week, Korpisalo will continue to play a lot of games and face a lot of shots (Columbus ranks sixth in the league in shots-allowed). If eager/desperate to roll the dice on the Blue Jackets improving as a whole moving forward, the club’s go-to in net may be worth considering. He’s been solid three of his past four games. But managers comfortable with their goaltending corps aren’t weighing this volatile option.
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (29.4%): Coach Barry Trotz claims the rookie goalie is going to bite more into Semyon Varlamov’s playing time as the Islanders’ schedule ramps up. Then there’s Sorokin’s two-straight recent shutouts to get excited about. Scoop him up.
Zach Werenski, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (72.5%): Perceptibly healthy after losing several games to a lower-body injury, the Columbus defenseman finally appears back in rhythm and ready to shrug off his sluggish start to the season. The pair of assists – including one on the power play – earned in Tuesday’s win over Detroit implies as much. And unlike the other defensive fantasy heavyweights who put in a ton of minutes on-ice, Werenski might actually be available off the waiver wire or via trade.
Luke Glendening, C/RW, Detroit Red Wings (2.9%): Since rivalling managers won’t likely trade you Ryan O’Reilly or Bo Horvat in leagues that prize success in the dot, let’s switch focus to the heavily available Red Wings centerman. Blowing his direct competition away with a 68.4 success rate, Glendening ranks sixth in the league with 245 faceoffs-won. Not bad. And there are other elements to modestly appreciate about the skater’s fantasy game: He hits. He blocks shots. He occasionally shoots the puck. In fact, would you believe Glendening has averaged 1.62 fantasy points per game since February 13 in standard leagues that don’t recognize faceoffs won? So the 31-year-old forward definitely has a place in deeper leagues that include that category.
Ben Chiarot, D, Montreal Canadiens (20.8%): While (only) Mark Borowiecki averages more penalty minutes per game among NHL regulars, Chiarot (1:51) offers that little extra fantasy punch in scoring categories. Particularly his averaging of 2.43 shots per game. They add up. But what I appreciate most about the Montreal blueliner under this heading is his consistency of earning minutes in the box. You’ll find him in there more games than not. Chiarot also sees top-pair minutes, throws hits, and blocks shots often enough. Truthfully, I’m a little surprised Shea Weber’s defensive partner isn’t more popular in leagues that offer a premium for breaking the rules.