Even if you're not a supporter of the mighty Bruins, this season - one for the record books already - is to be celebrated. On pace to beat the 1995-96 Red Wings for most victories (62), Boston could also top Montreal's historic 132-point campaign from back in 1976-77, when Guy Lafleur et amis won 60 of 80 (.825 points percentage). The B's have 20 games remaining to knock off the required W's, beginning with Thursday's monumental tilt against the Oilers at TD Garden. It's not every day the best player in the world, performing at their peak, faces off with a historically elite side. One that can become the fastest ever to reach 50 wins. You can savor the whole, glorious affair exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu.
By way of putting a fantasy spin on Boston's remarkable drive, especially ahead of Thursday's delectable tête-à-tête, here's a handful of high-performing fantasy Bruins, who also happen to be bafflingly under-rostered in ESPN.com leagues. One from each key position, to suit any fantasy need:
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Tyler Bertuzzi, F, (Rostered in 48.1% of ESPN.com leagues): It's only been a minute and the former Red Wing already appears to be fitting in just fine on a line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic, assisting on the opening goal in his debut versus the Rangers. Bertuzzi also earned a pair of penalty minutes and finished plus-one in his inaugural showing. The shots and hits will pile up soon enough, along with the production. Don't be surprised if the feisty winger also earns tours on a scoring line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. Coach Jim Montgomery was exceptionally pleased with this trade-deadline acquisition. Bertuzzi is going to earn plenty of opportunities to do what he does best, which is to score and annoy the opposition, in turn.
Dmitry Orlov, D, (37.4%): Judging from his numbers, ramped up play, and the look of unhampered joy on his face, the ex-Capital is having the time of his hockey-playing life on the Bruins' blue line. But never mind such nonempirical matters. Skating as top-pair partner to Charlie McAvoy and on the power play, Orlov has three goals and six assists, including two points with the advantage, in his past four games. And that's what matters to us fantasy hockey managers. Add the defenseman to your roster right now.
Jeremy Swayman, G, (68.1%): The lack of appreciation for Boston's other netminder is perhaps most confounding of all. Essentially splitting time with Linus Ullmark - not 50/50, but close - Swayman ranks top-12 amongst goalies this past month with 25.6 points in ESPN.com standard leagues. More than Frederik Andersen, Jake Oettinger, Juuse Saros, and, by a colossal margin, Connor Hellebuyck. At heart, it's an issue of quality starts over quantity, and Swayman is more than competent in playing for a team that doesn't lose (much). Plus, don't be surprised if he plays a titch more once the Bruins draw nearer the postseason. Outside of the shallowest leagues, Boston's 1B makes for a solid No. 2/3 fantasy netminder on just about any roster.
Now let's flip the script and have a gander at a few unheralded fantasy assets who compete for teams on the opposite end of the success spectrum from the Bruins. While we're tuned into watching about two-thirds of the NHL battle it out for a spot, or preferred position, in the Round of 16, there are already several squads well out of it. Clubs featuring outlying fantasy gems who have little to lose in auditioning for prominent roles down the road.
Fantasy highflyers from non-contenders
Owen Tippett, F, Philadelphia Flyers (15.0%): Coach John Tortorella is so invested in offering Tippett more ice-time/opportunities these days, he's icing 11 forwards and seven defensemen. The extra chances are adding up fast for the 24-year-old, who's floating an average of more than 25 minutes/game just this past week. Competing on a top line and power play, the former Panther has three goals and one assist on 31 shots (nine against Tampa alone on Tuesday) in six recent contests. Drafted 10th overall in 2017, Tippett boasted the early potential to be a star in the NHL. He still will be, if Torts has anything to say about it. This young winger is my favorite under-radar fantasy asset with a non-contender in the here and now.
Lukas Reichel, F, Chicago Blackhawks (0.7%): While many of us figured the 17th overall draft pick (2020) would eventually settle within the Blackhawks' top-six, turns out there's no time like the present. Skating on Chicago's freshly-constructed No. 1 line alongside Philipp Kurashev and Andreas Athanasiou, the rookie has a goal and two assists in his past three games. Feeling little pressure on a rebuilding squad that's hoping to target Connor Bedard at the draft, Reichel - who put up 103 points in 107 AHL games, half as a teen - is in ideal position to wrap up 2022-23 with a bang.
Jakub Vrana, F, St. Louis Blues (27.2%): Hands up - who predicted Vrana and Kasperi Kapanen would be skating on a Blues' scoring line with Brayden Schenn by the first week of March? Right. Yet, after selling off Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O'Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and others, that's how St. Louis' top-six is now partially constructed. The 13th overall draft pick (2014) potted eight goals and three assists in 11 games when joining the Red Wings from Washington in 2020-21, but since then, matters have soured. "Things were not going well in Detroit," Vrana said. "So I got a call that I'm coming (to St. Louis), and I was really happy about that. I look at it as a new opportunity. And so far I've been here, everybody's great." As for laying a solid foundation ahead of his final contract year with the Blues, there's no time like the present. Kapanen, with much to prove himself, might also merit a fantasy whirl in deeper ESPN.com leagues or, when the matchup makes sense, Daily Fantasy play.
Nick Schmaltz, F, Arizona Coyotes (51.7%): If Schmaltz is bothered by missing out on the postseason for the sixth-consecutive year - and betcha that's indeed the case - he's not letting such disappointment affect his scoring prowess. Competing on a line with Clayton Keller, the 27-year-old is averaging 2.7 fantasy points/game in standard leagues since Feb. 10, by way of scoring nine goals and eight assists. Unlike Keller, Schmaltz remains unrostered in nearly half of ESPN.com competition. Rookie Matias Maccelli is another rising fantasy asset to watch, as the 22-year-old wraps up 2022-23 on a Coyotes' top unit.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard, F, Montreal Canadiens (24.1%)
Brock McGinn, F, Anaheim Ducks (0.4%)
William Eklund, F, San Jose Sharks (4.1%)