Fantasy Roundup: Week 22, Mar. 17-23
We’re down to the nitty gritty with 3 weeks to go in the season and it’s time to separate the men from the boys. Whether you’ve had a great season and are still in the hunt, your ultimate success will come down to how well you squeeze the last drop out of your roster. Depending on your league’s format it’s time to take every scenario into consideration for optimizing every last point and leave nothing on the table.
For the stretch run, here are a few players who are not universally owned that might be worth a picking up if your league is deep enough to justify it.
Michael Backlund, F CGY – This season has definitely been the breakout season Calgary management was probably hoping for 2 seasons ago, but it’s looking like Backlund will eventually emerge as a veteran presence on what is bound to become a very young team in the early stages of a rebuild. Backlund has begun to show that he can handle a full NHL workload. He’s set career highs for goals, assists, points, PIMs and has the highest shooting percentage of his career. It’s always hard to put your faith in anyone on the Calgary Flames, but unlike in years past the Flames know they’re not trying to make the playoffs and it’s all about learning and showcasing for next year and that means the pressure is off. Backlund (owned in just over 50% of leagues) is playing in all situations including top-unit power play time and he is +3 on a team that has scored 29 fewer goals than it’s conceded. He also has 4 goals and 9 points in his last 7 games.
Carl Soderberg, F BOS – The Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now having just won 12 in a row. One of the reasons for the Bruins success this season, as in the past, has been their depth. With a third line of Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelley and Carl Soderberg, opposing teams have to worry about conceding at all times. In his first full season in North America, Soderberg has had no problem transitioning from the European game and continues to demonstrate why he was so successful in Sweden. He’s gotten regular time on the power play where he’s amassed 11 of his 41 points. He’s owned in about 25% of leagues.
Dmitry Kulikov, D FLA – When you hear people talk about Dmitry Kulikov is usually with a tone of disappointment because people began to think of him as the next great scoring defenceman. Sometimes we forget he’s only 23. He has, however, scored as many goals as Florida’s top offensive defenceman Brian Campbell (7). He also has the misfortune of playing for the one of the worst teams in the NHL and league’s worst power play unit. Oh… and the worst penalty kill unit. Really, he plays for a team in shambles. So the spin here is that what he’s done isn’t that bad in light of the hole that was dug for him. Plus/minus is always going to be an issue, but in leagues that reward scoring, he gets ample opportunity having played over 160 minutes with the man advantage, and he’s owned in less than 10% of leagues.
Chad Johnson, G BOS – The Bruins are in the playoffs, looking at having home-ice advantage, and have 3 back-to-backs between now and the end. Johnson is almost certain to get at least 3 starts between now and the end so fantasy owners looking to squeeze the last ounces should feel confident putting one of the most successful backup goaltenders on their roster. A win is never guaranteed, but Johnson has the benefit of having one of the most solid lineups in front of him and the Bruins going forward will benefit from having a well rested Tukka Rask going into the playoffs.
Ryan Ellis, D NSH – The defensive corps of the Nashville Predators is deep. With a recent injury to Seth Jones, there might be an opportunity for Ryan Ellis to take on more of a role. If you consider the defensive depth chart on the Predators, the fact that Weber (-11), Josi (-11) and Jones (-23) are all minus players makes Ellis’ +3 look all the more impressive. In fact, Ellis is the only defenceman with more than 10 games played for the Preds who is in the plus. He’s earned the opportunity and has shown glimpses of his offensive upside. Chances are very certain he’s available in your league. Keep an eye out on what happens to the Predators’ (11th in the NHL) power play.
Sami Vatanen, D ANA – The young Finn who was so impressive during the Olympics earning himself a bronze medal has been up and down with his NHL club this season. While up with the Ducks he demonstrated his offensive upside by scoring 6 goals in 40 games before spending the last 7 weeks in the AHL. He registered an assist in his first game back and played almost 20 minutes. He’s shown a tendency to fire the puck toward the net on a team that possesses the puck. Don’t ignore this potential bijou down the stretch.