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Let's talk some fantasy hockey!

Cam Atkinson could be a great free agent pick-up.
Cam Atkinson could be a great free agent pick-up.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Hey all,

The Waiver Wire will be a weekly installment to talk about all things fantasy hockey related.  Before we get to it, I have a couple of reminders for all of you reading this:

1. I am not the Matthew Berry of Fantasy Hockey.

I don't watch every game.  I don't know every player.  I don't stare at the waiver wire and read notes on all the players.  I don't have contacts on all 30 teams to give me injury updates about every player in the NHL.  I'm not even a good writer.  What I do have, is a ton of experience playing fantasy hockey (both successfully and unsuccessfully) and a ton of knowledge about players in the NHL.

2. Almost all of what I will have to say is speculation:

I play fantasy hockey like I play Blackjack.  I play the odds with an occasional call being made by a gut feeling.  In Blackjack, if you play the odds, over a large enough sample size, you will generally win more than you lose but much like Blackjack, sometimes you make the right call and you get burned.  Which leads me to my third point.

3. Not only is this speculation, but it's based on a super small sample size as well:

If you were to ask me whether to start Jamie Benn or Jamie McGinn, I think we can all come to the same conclusion that because Jamie Benn is the much better player, you should start him.  But, if Benn hasn't scored in three weeks, and McGinn has 10 points in the last 8, you may want to start the "lesser Jamie".  Fantasy sports ignore the argument of SSS all the time.  Accept it and embrace it.

That being said, let's get started!

The Columbus Effect: what do I do?!

Many of us have had our drafts by now and some of us have already firmly applied our face to our desks when we see that some of our impact players have already suffered a major injury.  Here is a short list of players that have already suffered significant injuries: Jordan Staal (3-4 months), Boone Jenner (5 weeks), Nathan Horton (who the hell knows), Pavel Datsyuk (1-2 weeks), Anthony Mantha (6-8 weeks), Josh Harding and the wall he kicked (2-3 months), Brandon Dubinsky (6 weeks), Michael Grabner (4-6 weeks) and Derek Stepan (3-5 weeks).  Below are a list of players that probably weren't drafted, and why they're a good choice to replace some of these lost players (or a real good pick up in a deep league).  These players are in no particular order.

1.  Cam Atkinson - CBJ - RW - 12% owned

The regular season hasn't even started and Columbus is already having some injury issues.  Boone Jenner broke his leg, Nathan Horton has been injured ever since I can remember and Brandon Dubinsky just had abdominal surgery.  Last year, Cam Atkinson was no chump, putting up 21 goals and 19 assists in a 79 games.  He has looked very good in the preseason, and looks like he will be getting some good ice time, at least in the beginning of the year, due to some of these injuries.  He's no Milan Lucic, but comes in at over .5 hits per game.  He should be an easy late round grab, that could turn out to be a gem of a pick-up by the end of the year.

2.  Jake Allen - STL - G - 41% owned

Jake Allen has spent the majority of his last four years in the AHL; the first three playing for Peoria and the most recent with the Chicago Wolves.  His numbers in the AHL have steadily gotten better over the past 3 years and in the last year, received both AHL First All-Star Team honors, and the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award for being the AHL's best goaltender while sporting a 2.03 GAA and a .928 save percentage.   As of right now, he is backing up Brian Elliott, but with the pressure on in St. Louis, Elliott may be on a short leash.  We've seen evidence of this with the acquiring of Miller last year.  If Allen gets a chance, he may very well steal that starting job (if he hasn't already).  At the very least, he may get his 25 starts, with a chance to get 40 or 50 with a faltering Elliott and an impatient coach.

3.  Reilly Smith - BOS - RW - 34% owned

Guess who has two thumbs, isn't pushed down the depth chart by a HoF-to-be and plays on a very good team.  If your answer is Reilly Smith, then you are correct (although I cannot confirm that he has two thumbs).  Last year, Smith had 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 pts in 82 games while only averaging about 14.5 minutes of ice time per game.  This year, expect him to eat up some of those top six minutes and power play time available due to Iginla leaving (thanks for choosing Colorado!). He will most likely start on a line with Marchand and Bergeron, which never hurts.  Given those two factors, I'd expect a year of maybe 55-60 points, while maintaining a decently physical game with .75 hits per game.

4. Sam Reinhart - BUF - C - 10% owned

Call this my gut feeling/homer pick.  Reinhart was one of the top talents from the draft last year, taken second overall and undoubtedly will be able to pick up some points, but patience is key.  He will be great as a late round pick, and may even be more valuable in keeper leagues as his value will only get better as Buffalo gets better.  He won't be rookie of the year (hey Drouin) but my guess is that much like MacKinnon, he starts out on third line duty and ends the year on the second line.  My guess is he gets in the neighborhood of 40 points, but if +/- is an issue, I'd shy away and look for a safer pick on a better team.

5. Dany Heatley - ANA - LW, RW - 34% owned

Say what you will about his past, or how he's played recently, but he was just signed onto a team with a lot of high end talent up front, but not enough depth to push Heater down to a bottom six role.  That means he either plays with Getzlaf and Perry or Kesler and probably gets some good PP time as well.  Last year, Heatley had 8 ES goals and 4 PP goals.  With extended time on the PP, he could be lethal and a nice pick up if you want to take the risk.  His versatility on both wings is extremely helpful in Yahoo! leagues.  Currently, he is on the IR with a groin pull, which may cause him to get dropped in some leagues.  With groin injuries, you never know how long they may linger, but Heatley may be worth the risk.

6a. Marek Zidlicky - NJD - D - 40% owned

6b. Ben Lovejoy - ANA - D - 7% owned

6c. Mark Stuart - WPG - D - 5% owned

6d. Brenden Dillon - DAL - D - 5% owned

These four defensemen are here because they can all be very useful in leagues that track hits and blocked shots.  Zidlicky does a little less of that than the rest of this group because he's too busy actually putting up offensive numbers (12g 30a last year).  The other three average about 200 hits and 150 blocked shots per season.  If PIMs are something you are looking for, Stuart had over 100 and Dillon had over 80.

In the coming weeks, we will talk about players on the rise, players on the fall, injuries and match-ups.  So what do you think?  Who are your secret gems out there?  Who's going to help your team overcome injury?  Let me know!