It doesn't matter how far outside the margins a team sits relative to the playoff picture, its competitors still have to ride out the requisite number games. All 82 of them. A less flashy and compelling exercise that's nonetheless useful in its own right. Beyond entertaining invested fans in (hopefully) offering a preview of better days to come, this mittful of so-labelled meaningless games also provides opportunities for experimentation: Loose chances to switch up lines, test as-yet untested chemistry, and audition prospects, young and otherwise. And there's plenty of fantasy value to mine from such action.
When postseason-bound squads, cemented in their respective spots, take advantage of such certainty by resting their banged-up stars, other players will be busting their cabooses in trying to make a favorable pre-September impression in a limited period of time. Even established veterans will focus on working out certain kinks in readying for next year. Most importantly, these have-nots for 2021-22 will still be trying and contributing. Unlike those sidelined as members of the abundance-of-caution club. Who would you rather have on your fantasy team to close out 2021-22?
Jack Roslovic, Columbus Blue Jackets (Rostered in 50.7% of ESPN.com leagues): No question, Roslovic is finally making the most of his top-six assignment in Columbus. There's little fault to find with the center's recent collection of seven goals and two assists in five games, including a tally on the power play. Skating on a line with Oliver Bjorkstrand and promising prospect Kent Johnson, the 25-year-old is bound to add to that total before the regular season is through. Drafted 25th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 2015, Roslovic has yet to satisfy his pre-NHL expectations. Perhaps this is, again finally, a pleasant taste of what the future holds for the Ohio native - and pending RFA - in his own hometown.
Jakub Vrana, C/LW, Detroit Red Wings (31.5%): Remember, it only feels like late November for the Red Wings winger, who spent most of the season in recovery from shoulder surgery. But once ready to rock in early March, Vrana has been fairly productive, collecting 12 goals and five assists in 21 games, including five points on the power play. Signed through two more seasons in Detroit, for now, the 26-year-old slots in as a key piece within the club's top six for the foreseeable future. And I'm not aware of any reason he can't participate in the Wings' final five contests. Fresh legs and all that.
Victor Olofsson, RW, Buffalo Sabres (15.0%): Perhaps looking to a brighter future, this young Sabres squad is having some kind of fun to wrap up 2021-22 - including the top-line skater. Which makes for a nice change, following Olofsson's largely dormant presence spanning December through February. Only once the calendar flipped to March, did the 26-year-old rediscover his scoring touch to the tune of 20 points in 24 games, including six goals and five assists in April alone. (Again, where was this all season?) The only blight on Olofsson's current fantasy resume is Buffalo's light schedule, featuring only four matches when most of the league is busier. But the scoring winger still has the wherewithal to help out a roster in need of a little productive pop.
Matty Beniers, C, Seattle Kraken (10.1%): This kid certainly knows how to make an entrance. Despite competing for one if the least productive teams in the league, Beniers has yet to play an NHL game without earning a point. We're only though four, mind you, but still, two goals and two assists divvied up evenly makes for a very nice start to a post-college career. Featured in ESPN.com's fantasy space often of late, including earlier this week, the rookie - centering the team's top line, as it happens - will continue to build on his running tally through the Kraken's final five fantasy-eligible games. And don't forget about this youngster during next fall's fantasy draft.
Travis Sanheim, D, Philadlephia Flyers (14.8%): On fantasy fire these past couple of weeks, Sanheim's hefty collection of five points, 16 shots, 13 hits, and 19 blocked-shots though seven contests rounds out to a sparkling 2.6 fantasy points/game in ESPN.com standard leagues. With a good portion of Philadelphia's blue line in the proverbial infirmary, including a freshly injured Kevin Connauton, Sanheim appears to have little choice but play out the club's schedule. A timetable that holds much appeal, fantasy-wise, including four of five matches against non-playoff teams and the only contest (in Chicago) on an ultra-lean Monday night. Plus, the 26-year-old is just four points shy of his career high of 35. While bettering that mark will be a tough task, he's still bound to give it a good go. Some players will insist such personal tallies don't matter that much. Hogwash.
Travis Sanheim's goal gets the Flyers on the board
Travis Sanheim's goal gets the Flyers on the board
Kevin Bahl, D, New Jersey Devils (0.1%): Standing six-foot-six and weighing 230 lbs, this kid is a beast. Now, in his latest tour with the Devils, the second-round draft pick (2018) is playing like one. Fifteen hits through five games, plus a goal - his first in the NHL - three assists and six blocked shots rounds out to a wholly useful 2.0 fantasy points/contest. That Lindy Ruff is using the rookie on the penalty kill only speaks to the coach's growing confidence in the youngster. Four of New Jersey's six remaining games are in New Jersey, where the team has enjoyed significantly more success. I like Bahl a lot as a dark horse fantasy commodity to close out the season, especially in deeper head-to-head leagues.
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens (38.4%): A little scoring support from his buddies out front would be nice, wouldn't it? As it were, Montreal's offense has unhelpfully provided zero goals through Price's two starts to date, robbing the future hall-of-famer of even a shot at winning either. Well, that drought is bound to end. Price appears pencilled in against the Flyers Thursday, then perhaps again versus the Senators on Saturday. If that's how the biscuit indeed crumbles, I'm all over the Canadiens netminder as a steaming option or Daily Fantasy asset in both meetings. His teammates owe him large.
Kaapo Kahkonen, G, San Jose Sharks (7.6%): A streaming/DFS pick for you zanier fantasy types, Kahkonen has been better-than-solid for the Sharks of late. Boasting an eighth-NHL-best .940 SV% and 1.92 GAA since Apr. 6, San Jose's trade deadline acquisition is only less fortunate in the wins/losses department. Yet he still hasn't finished in the negative, fantasy points-wise, since Apr. 2. Supposing James Reimer starts against the Blues Thursday, as anticipated, Kahkonen should be in line for Saturday's meeting with the visiting Blackhawks. Then maybe Tuesday versus the Ducks. And again to wrap up the club's campaign in Seattle on Apr. 29. Attractive fantasy match-ups, all of them.
See also: Paul Stastny, C/LW, Winnipeg Jets (9.1%).