Prospect Ramblings: Early Waiver Wire Pickups

Dave Hall

2021-01-26

Welcome back to Tuesday’s Ramblings.

We are right in the thick of things with regards to the fantasy hockey season, and it has been as hard as it gets trying to keep up with the waiver wire early on. With the abundance of COVID cases, postponed games, and of course, injuries, making multiple add/drops each week feels like a part-time job. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to stay up to date on the latest player trends and hot-streaks.

With that in mind, I thought I would spend this week highlighting a few prospects worthy of a waiver pickup for this week. Keep in mind, these pickups are based on a fairly shallow league. One that certainly does not require a taxi squad (prospect pool) and will likely have a solid crop of prospects buried within the waiver wire. Perhaps one that carries roughly 14 skaters and two goalies – a standard league.

I am also omitting the usual suspects, i.e your Kirill Kaprizov’s, Dylan Cozens, and Alexis Lafrienere’s. Basically, just players who have very recently been handed additional opportunities, caught a recent hot-streak, or have finally inserted themselves in the line-up.

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With 45 goals and 235 (regular season) points over five seasons with the Spokane Cheifs, we all knew that Ty Smith was a “player”. Did we anticipate six points through five games out the gate? Probably not.

In any other year, one where COVID hasn’t left many leagues without a season, the 20-year-old offensive defenceman likely begins his pro career in the American League. Given his likely spot on the Devils (third-pairing), it was assumed that the best course of action would be to let him gain proper reps as a pivotal defender, rather than see minimal minutes at the NHL level. Yet, here we are, an AHL-less year, and Smith has not only assured himself a spot on the Devils top-six rotation but has turned all heads with at least one point in each of his five games thus far.

What makes his production even more impressive is his points-per-60. Aside from his time on the club’s special teams, mainly on the second unit, he has spent a hint over 70% (48:47 minutes) of his even-strength shifts on the club’s third-line, averaging just 15:31 per night. With those minutes, he is supporting a cool 4.6 pts/60 with an impressive 85.7 IPP (Individual Point Percentage).

For a P.K Subban fantasy owner, like myself, this is slightly frustrating. With an average of 25:21 per night – with the highest nightly total being 30:18 – and first-line powerplay minutes, we have seen just one point through five games. Oh, and takes up an extra 7.737 in AAV.

As of Sunday evening, Ty Smith now officially holds PP1 duties and also appears to be gaining all of the respect at home as well.

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Finally, it’s Jordan Kyrou season. With two years of in-and-out NHL deployment under his belt, the 22-year-old looks to be on the verge of taking his career to that next level. He has fought his way onto the club’s top-six and now carries six points through six-game, which includes two multi-point efforts.

Surprisingly, he has yet to see significant time on the club’s special teams, with the exception of their last match where he skated for 2:30 on the second-unit. However, he has certainly taken the bull by the horns at even strength, where he has tallied all of his points, shooting at a 13.9 shooting-percentage.

With his strengths being on the right-side, Kyrou has very few threats behind him that will contest his position at the top of the Blues line-up. If he can boost his number on the special teams, which I believe is imminent, a breakout season could be in the works for the third-year NHL’er.

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All it took was one game, and suddenly Pius Suter has gone from zero to hero. Despite producing just one point through the club’s first five games, going minus-six in the process, he finally got his name on the scoresheet. Not only did he score his first National Hockey League goal in their previous matchup, but he added two additionals for his first career hat-trick. He made history in the process:

Suter has seen 48.8% of his minutes between the likes of Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat, names that instantly warrant fantasy relevancy. Considering they are likely to spread the wealth among the line-up and keep Dylan Strome on the second-line, Suter’s top-line deployment has a good chance of sticking around. Thanks to Covid protocol, you can now substitute Alex Debrincat with Dominik Kubalik for the short-term.

Goals have been few and far between this season for the Blackhawks. Yet, with the monkey off his back, he will be entering the new week with a newly discovered confidence and could provide some continuous production.

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After a subpar, injury-riddled rookie campaign – which he played on the wing -, Alexandre Texier has been moved back to the middle to act as the team’s 2C. So far, he has been one of the, if not the, most impressive players on the Blue Jackets roster. He co-leads the team with three goals and five points, carries a 71.4 IPP as well as a respectable 2.9 pts/60.

More importantly, he looks confident in his game. Despite suffering a frightening lumbar fracture last year, his skating edge has not been diminished and if possible, looks even stronger both on the puck and on the chase.

With Pierre-Luc Dubois officially out of the picture, Texier should slot in as the team’s official second-line pivot. Although, given that the team’s line combinations are usually thrown into a blender, let’s just consider him a high-usage center going forward.

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To the surprise of no one, Bowen Byram has officially inserted himself in the line-up and well, I think it is safe to call him a permanent resident. Even with him looking NHL ready before the season began, the roster on paper looked to have conflicting plans. With an off-season addition of Devon Toews and the solid emergence of two-way defender, Ryan Graves, Byram’s immediate spot was in jeopardy – resulting in him being left on the outside looking in.

Luckily, just a few games into the year, the Avs made a deal, sending grizzled veteran Ian Cole to the Minnesota Wild for a solid (likely seventh man) depth piece, Greg Pateryn.

Boom, it was time for the WHL standout to make his debut.

They eased him into his debut, putting him out for just 11:19 of ice-time, with no extra work on the club’s special teams. Of course, as expected, his role increased as the minutes ticked on, and then he did this (in game two of his NHL career):

He has now squeezed his way onto the club’s top-four and even saw some time on the second unit power play, booting out Devon Toews, temporarily. It’s no secret that the Avalanche are an offensive dynamo among the league, so his opportunity for points, even if it’s secondary assists, is obviously at a premium. If he has somehow stuck around your waiver wire this long, get ready to chalk up a pretty penny.

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With both members of the Minnesota Wilds’ goalie tandem out with injury, the waiver wire has adopted a new starting goaltender – at least for the time being. Kaapo Kahkonen (yes, there are two Kaapo K’s in the league) is now the beneficiary of an unfortunate situation between the pipes, and will not see an enhanced number of games, both this week and perhaps extending into the season (status of both Cam Talbot and Alex Stalock still unknown).

The 24-year-old Finn has been lights out for the organization, recently taking home AHL goaltender of the year honors during the 2019-20 campaign. So far, he’s looked quite strong. He has won two out of three games thus far, and allowed zero against during the 40-minute stint in which he relieved the injured Cam Talbot – he was not awarded a shutout in the win.

It’s not every day that a third-string goalie morphs into starting goaltender overnight, but this could be a huge opportunity for the club’s top goaltender prospect. If he can post a solid run over the next few starts, this may be his opening to a full-time gig in the big leagues.

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Thank you for joining me and good luck with your next wave of fantasy pickups.

Follow me on Twitter @hall1289.

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