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Fantasy hockey waiver watch: Six skaters to start or stash

Check your league to see if St. Louis Blues center Ivan Barbashev is available. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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.


Forwards

Max Comtois, LW, Anaheim Ducks (Rostered in 48.9% of ESPN.com leagues): As discussed in last week's "Eight fantasy hockey predictions for 2022," I anticipate a solid second-half surge from a now-healthy Comtois. Potting a goal - his first of the season - in Sunday's OT win over Detroit, the just-turned 23-year-old won't be long for carving out a permanent role within the Ducks' top six. Comtois can also be counted on to provide his managers with a healthy haul of hits and penalty minutes. Since suiting up in the new year, the feisty winger has averaged 1.9 fantasy points/game in ESPN.com standard leagues.

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Beautiful pass to Max Comtois who lights the lamp

Beautiful pass to Max Comtois who lights the lamp

Jack Eichel, C, Vegas Golden Knights (41.9%): According to vague rumblings out of Vegas, the elite center could be back on the ice by the first half of February. So, three to four weeks? While tucking Eichel away in an unused IR spot is a no-brainer of a fantasy move, there's even an argument to be made for stashing him on your bench, depending on league settings and your current place in the standings. In H2H leagues, you want this guy on board for fantasy playoff competition. The former Sabres captain could be a game-changer alongside Mark Stone and (eventually) Max Pacioretty, assuming he returns to full health and fitness. Picking him up now is a gamble worth making, in my view.

Ivan Barbashev, C/RW, St. Louis Blues (40.7%): Alongside Pavel Buchnevich (for the most part), Barbashev has been a fantasy delight since December, accruing five goals and nine assists through a dozen recent contests. Consistently productive, the 26-year-old has only failed to earn a point in three of those games. Even including Sunday's dud of a performance against the Stars, Barbashev has averaged 2.4 fantasy points/contest since Dec. 4. If Jordan Kyrou isn't obtainable, check on the availability of the less-popular Blues sixth-year skater.

Tanner Jeannot, LW, Nashville Predators (18.5%): He logged only 12:35 in Saturday's 4-2 over the Coyotes and still managed to score a goal. After an altogether respectable start to the season, the 24-year-old rookie is elbowing his way into the Calder conversation by producing at nearly a point/game pace since Dec. 4. Now he's filling in on the Predators' top scoring line for Filip Forsberg (COVID-19). Nashville is scheduled to host the Avalanche Tuesday and Sabres on Thursday, before visiting the Bruins on Saturday.

Alexander Kerfoot, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (4.8%): A haul of two goals and six assists in three games is hard to ignore, especially when one is temporarily subbing in on a top scoring line with Auston Matthews. Coming off a terribly unproductive December, Kerfoot is ringing in 2022 with a bang and fantasy managers in deeper leagues may as well join him for the ride. Even once Mitch Marner re-emerges from the league's COVID-19 protocol, and re-joins Matthews on Toronto's top unit, Kerfoot should only fall back to the second scoring line with William Nylander and John Tavares. Which is also a pretty good gig. The former Avalanche forward won't be available in 95% of ESPN.com leagues for long.

Lawson Crouse, LW, Arizona Coyotes (3.7%): Competing on a scoring line with Phil Kessel, Crouse has three goals and three assists on 15 shots through four recent games. Even more appealing, perhaps, is that the former Frontenac (and his expiring contract) is rumored to be on the trade block. I'd like to see what the 11th overall draft pick (2015) might accomplish with a squad that tends to score more overall. (I imagine Crouse himself might also enjoy that opportunity.) Despite competing in his sixth pro season, the still-only 24-year-old as yet to reach his full productive potential. He's worth a flier in deeper ESPN.com leagues.

See also: Alexander Barabanov, LW, San Jose Sharks (1.5%)

Defenders

Zach Whitecloud, Vegas Golden Knights (27.6%): Only teammate Brayden McNabb has more blocked shots/60 minutes among NHL defenders who've played more than 15 games this season, and we're splitting thin hairs between 7.80 and 7.76 BkS/60. Unlike McNabb, Whitecloud shoots the puck a healthy amount and has five goals and six assists through 26 contests. It all works out to a 2.2 fantasy points per game in ESPN.com standard leagues, good enough for a top-20 standing within the league's crowd of blueliners.

See also: Brett Pesce, Carolina Hurricanes (6.9%)

Goaltenders

Zach Fucale, Washington Capitals (0.8%): The Capitals' backup to the backup is poised to earn his second-straight start of the season (and NHL career) against the Bruins on Monday. Making his league debut Nov. 11, Fucale has allowed one singular goal through two full games and one partial performance. If the AHL regular is intimated by playing on the game's largest frozen stage, he's hiding his anxiety well. Those needing goaltending body, allowing for roster flexibility, should plug in the 26-year-old versus Boston and take it from there. At minimum, he appeals as a Daily Fantasy asset.

Lowered expectations

Linus Ullmark/Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins: If Tuukka Rask does indeed rejoin the Bruins as anticipated, one or both of Ullmark and Swayman are going to see a significant decrease in playing time. On a waivers-exempt entry-level contract, Swayman could eventually be headed for the minors. There are still a few hurdles to clear - Rask first has to prove he's fit and ready, either in AHL or NHL competition - but a shift in Boston's goaltending scene appears on the horizon.

Maybe the career-Bruin only ends up subbing in on occasion for Ullmark, who's played well of late. Maybe not. Invested fantasy managers should be prepared to make the necessary adjustments however matters unfold.