Waiver watch: Top nine under the radar fantasy pickups

Michael Bunting celebrates a goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images

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.


Tage Thompson, C, Buffalo Sabres (12.0%): Five seasons in, Thompson appears more the player the Blues had in mind when they drafted him 26th overall in 2016. Even before putting up some impressive scoring numbers, the 24-year-old imposing forward seemed to be performing at another level as after his first few campaigns (mostly in Buffalo). Now, alongside Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner, the numbers are there too, including eight goals in November alone. Grab him up in deeper leagues before other managers catch wise. The Olofsson/Thompson forward duo is one to watch this season.

Michael Bunting, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs (6.1%): Competing for the hottest team in the NHL, and skating on a top unit with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the former Coyote has two goals and four assists (plus-five) in four recent games. After a sluggish start in his new hockey digs, the Toronto native appears to be settling in well alongside two of the best in the business. On that No. 1 line and secondary power play, Bunting will contribute nicely in most medium/deep ESPN.com leagues.

Andreas Johnsson, LW, New Jersey Devils (4.8%): Following earlier appearances by linemates Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt, Johnsson merits his own dose of attention as an under-radar fantasy asset in the Waiver Watch space. That haul of three goals and three assists through two recent games is difficult to ignore. More importantly, the Johnsson/Mercer/Bratt forward unit has been the Devils' best this season, and isn't likely to be busted up even once Jack Hughes returns (as early as this week). In his current position, Johnsson - who scored 20 goals and 23 Assists in 73 contests with the Maple Leafs three years ago - deserves more fantasy love in deeper fantasy competition. Also, check on Hughes' availability in leagues of all sizes. The young center registered two goals and a helper before suffering a shoulder injury a game and a half in.

Brandon Hagel, LW/RW, Chicago Blackhawks (1.7%): The 23-year-old sits second only to Alex DeBrincat in goals for the Blackhawks this campaign with seven, one more than Patrick Kane. Scoring in three straight contests before Sunday's shutout loss to the Sharks, Hagel seems to have cemented his spot amongst Chicago's top-six. On a scoring line with Jonathan Toews, the second-year winger is also seeing minutes on the Blackhawks' power play. At minimum, Hagel deserves watch-list status in deeper fantasy competition.

Aliaksei Protas, C, Washington Capitals (0.2%): Skating on a forward line with his idol Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the young lad has a goal - his first in the NHL - and two assists in two games. While Protas is likely to be shuffled out of that prime spot once other Capitals return to health, if not outright sent back to Hershey, he presents as an outside-the-box fantasy commodity in the meanwhile. Particularly in Daily Fantasy competition. Just make sure the 20-year-old sticks on that top line before investing your DFS salary dollars.

Kevin Fiala, C/RW, Minnesota Wild (63.4%): Rostered in two-thirds of ESPN.com leagues, the speedy winger is still worth an availability status check, just in case. While pitching in with 12 assists - six in his past seven games - Fiala has only three goals on 69 shots. That works out to a rather uncharacteristic 4.3% shooting success rate. Which suggests the 25-year-old - one of the game's streakier types - is about to erupt any minute now. Fiala averaged 12.7% shooting over his past two full campaigns in Minnesota. The goals are going to come.

See also: Robert Thomas, C, St. Louis Blues (12.3%); Josh Anderson, RW, Montreal Canadiens (49.6%); Ryan Johansen, C, Nashville Predators (17.8%)


Ryan Lindgren, New York Rangers (1.6%): Week by week, I'm becoming more and more of a fan of the Rangers' top-pair defenseman. Leading New York's blue line in blocked-shots and tied with partner Adam Fox at plus-eight, Lindgren is quietly evolving into an all-around valuable asset. While he can't be expected to put up the flashiest of numbers on offense, Lindgren does enough otherwise to merit consideration in deeper leagues that include non-scoring categories. The 23-year-old, who's still learning and improving, has averaged 1.8 fantasy points/contest in ESPN's standard game since Nov. 8. Not bad for a defenseman who's overwhelmingly available.

See also: Noah Hanifin, Calgary Flames (6.9%)


James Reimer, San Jose Sharks (23.2%): He's started 10 of San Jose's 14 games since Oct. 30, including each of the last four. He's been solid to great in all but one disastrous outing versus his former squad in Toronto. He's equal to Tampa's Andrei Vasilevskiy in averaging 4.0 fantasy points/game. And yet Adin Hill is rostered in 10+% more of ESPN.com leagues. I don't get it. If you need decent netminding, particularly in the here and now, give Reimer a good, hard look. The Sharks face the Devils, Islanders, Rangers, and Blue Jackets this week.

Dan Vladar, Calgary Flames (7.0%): The Flames' other netminder is bound to start one of the team's four contests this week in relief of Jacob Markstrom - either Thursday's game versus the Kings or Friday's tilt with the Ducks. Vladar has been flat-out great when called upon, albeit not that often, sporting a 4-0-1 record along with two recent shutouts. Whether he starts in Anaheim or L.A., Calgary's No. 2 presents as a sparkling option in Daily Fantasy competition.

See also: Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers (50.3%)

Lowered expectations

Elias Pettersson, C, Vancouver Canucks (94.3%): How long do we wait for Pettersen to rediscover his groove? Another week? Two? Until after Travis Green is (hardly guaranteed) shown the door? Reportedly unencumbered by his earlier wrist injury, the fifth-overall draft selection (2017) hasn't looked himself at all - and not only as a force on offense. Relegated to the third line, Pettersen played of all 13 minutes in Sunday's 3-2 loss to Boston. He has one assist and zero goals since Nov. 9. If you have an excess of bench slots, by all means, wait it out. If not, I'd gauge how Pettersen fares against Montreal, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh this week, and then re-evaluate. On the upside, the gifted forward is only shooting at 5.1% - well below his usual average - which suggests a correction is in order.

See also: Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Anaheim Ducks (78.7%)