Pick 'Em Up! Kesler, Visnovsky, Hemsky, Kadri
In our Pick'em Up column, we mine the fantasy hockey waiver wire for overlooked talent and hidden gems. Striking gold with a key free agent can be the difference between a championship and mediocrity, so whether you're scrambling to replace an injured starter, or just looking to infuse your bench with some upside, Pick'em Up gives you some options to help reshuffle the deck.
Top of the Heap
Ryan Kesler C VAN - If you blinked, you might have missed the Ryan Kesler sighting at Canucks practice this week, but Vancouver's banged up veteran is apparently close to a return (shoulder surgery). Rumor is that Kesler may need anywhere from a few practices to a few weeks before seeing action, but if you're planning on beating your leaguemates to the punch, now is the time.
Lubomir Visnovsky D NYI - After a prolonged hiatus in Russia, he's finally arrived in New York and could suit up for the Isles as early as Saturday night. That said, after all the drama of the is he/isn't he going to play on Long Island this year, there's no telling what type of mindset he (and the Islanders) will be in. Depending on whether the two sides can quickly mend fences, Visnovsky could either be a key factor or a bit player. It's boom or bust, but it's worth a shot to find out.
Michael Grabner RW NYI - He'll be long gone in a lot of pools, but he's suprisingly still available in 60% of Yahoo! leagues. If yours is part of that group, lock on target. Grabner had 34 goals two seasons ago, and he's already notched five through nine games.
Ales Hemsky RW EDM - Eberle, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov get all the publicity, but Hemsky is the forgotten man in Edmonton. Watching the last couple of Oilers games, he is absolutely flying - four points in his last three. Injuries have been his downfall in the past, and we won't be placing any bets that he'll make it through the year unscathed, but he's healthy for now and showing flashes of the player who scored 77 points in '07-'08.
Scouring the Depths...
Nazem Kadri C TOR - The light seems to have come on for Kadri. He's finally making the type of offensive contribution the Leafs envisioned when they chose him 7th overall in 2009, and he's definitely added a few new gears to his game in 2013 - eight points in ten games so far. He's getting some looks on the PP, and he's lurking around the fringes of relevance in most leagues.
Michal Neuvirth G WAS - Neuvrith's numbers aren't exactly impressive (1-4-1, 2.99 GAA, .893 SV%), but he's wrestled the starting job in Washington from Brayden Holtby, and head coach Adam Oates seems comfortable with Neuvirth as his workhorse for now. The Caps are struggling from top to bottom, but things could easily turn for a talented roster, and Neuvirth's fantasy stats could take off if they do.
Adam Henrique C NJ - The third place finisher in last season's Calder voting missed the first five starts with a thumb injury, but he's picked up where he left off, posting two goals and an assist through four games. The Devils are still tinkering to find a formula that works up front, and Henrique has even taken a twirl on the top line. He's out there in most leagues, and he's definitely a decent grab for the bench.
Jiri Hudler LW CAL - Hudler went undrafted in a surprising number leagues, as evidenced by his 82% availability on Yahoo!. He missed the first three games mourning the death of his father, and he had some injury issues in the offseason that made him a question mark, but he's at full speed and he's earned five points in four games.
Saku Koivu C ANA - How many times have we seen an aging star pull one last prolific season out of nowhere? This could be one of those years for Saku Koivu. The shortened season is a huge benefit to the injury prone vet, who's struggled to survive the 82 game marathon over the years. With 48 games, it'll be easier for him to stay in the lineup every night, and it'll be easier for him to keep the pace without tapering off. Don't expect the point/game production to continue - 11 points through nine starts - but why not ride him while he's hot?
Justin Faulk D CAR - He's not lighting up the scoresheet just yet - three points in seven games - but there's something brewing in Carolina and his name is Justin Faulk. The 20-year old is arguably already the Hurricanes' best defender, and he's logging huge minutes in all situations. It's a matter of time before he makes his mark on the fantasy landscape, and he's worth a serious look if you have a roster spot at your disposal.
In this condensed season, it's more important than ever to be decisive with your waiver claims. If you get behind early on there's little time to recover, so it makes sense to pull the trigger on some bold moves a little bit quicker than you might normally. That said, don't overreact to the first 10 games, it's still too early to hit the panic button. Star players will inevitably pick it up (Kessel, Weber owners... we're talking to you), so look for roster tweaks to help you climb the standings in the coming weeks, but save the overhaul... at least for now.