Special to Yahoo Sports
Expressions of admiration don’t have to be confined to one day. As fantasy managers, we should regularly be praising the players who have helped us throughout the season. And like those who might be alone on Valentine’s Day, we should also express compassion to those NHLers who tried hard but struggled or got injured.
While love might not be your thing, you should at least like some of the following players who are trending upwards:
(Yahoo rostered rates/stats as of Feb. 13.)
The Penguins finally landed Zucker on Monday after several attempts as they prepare for another Cup run. And he’s already been provided a head start by lining up with Sidney Crosby on even-strength. Zucker is also situated on Pittsburgh’s second power play, but based on previous results — namely, the 30 power-play points the last two seasons — there’s a decent chance he could be promoted to play with the big guns.
Fiala flew through November and December by posting 23 points and 60 shots in 28 games, but it’s the Swiss winger’s most recent five that has boosted his roster percentage, as he’s produced five goals, five assists, five PPPs and 26 shots. Fiala has also received more ice time lately as part of the Wild’s top unit. He’s finally living up to his 11th overall selection from 2014 and will make a solid addition to your roster for the rest of the season.
It’s only a coincidence Granlund is listed after the player he was traded for last year, but the Swede needs to be mentioned due to a recent surge when he’s tallied six goals in 10 games. Granlund possesses tremendous skills, but the numbers have also been helped by a hefty workload as a member of Nashville’s first group in all offensive opportunities. There’s a chance he could eventually revert to his initial failings as a Pred, but you’d be better off grabbing him off the wire.
The six goals and 17 assists might not look exciting, but Foligno has counted 10 points from 19 games and provides much more than scoring with 103 shots, 174 hits, and 126 faceoff wins. If you’re in a league that doesn’t include secondary stats, then his four PPPs probably won’t help — or the fact the Blue Jackets don’t rank as a formidable scoring side — but anyone who’s averaged 21:29 since Jan. 22, fired nine pucks on net last Friday and has taken out 62 opponents across the last 18 can succeed in most multi-category formats.
This is more of a wait-and-see situation, as Lucic has recorded five points in his last three outings but only 11 in the other 54 — and three of his seven PPPs during this mini-stretch. His stats have steadily declined in recent years, though he’s still active on the physical side with 159 hits and 52 PIM. Looch isn’t part of Calgary’s top-six, but see how he performs in the next week to properly assess his fantasy viability.
Kirby Dach, Chicago Blackhawks (4%)
First, the last name is pronounced “dock» — none of this Dack or Datch nonsense. Anyway, there’s plenty of talent in this kid, who just turned 19. The third pick from last summer’s draft has already endured the highs and lows as a rookie after a seven-point, five-game span in mid-November immediately followed by a one-goal-in-28 slump. Thankfully, Dach has recovered with a goal and five assists in eight appearances while skating over two minutes more than his average this season and serving as an imposing presence on the Blackhawks’ formidable No. 1 power play.
Marleau may have entered his fifth decade, but there’s still something left in the tank. He’s not going to stuff the stat sheet as he did during his prime, but he’s at least in a position to build upon his totals based on an advanced attacking arrangement. There are plenty of other forwards who will outdo Marleau, but you won’t find many first-liners on a club with decent lead centers and two elite defensemen available for free. Go ahead and try the veteran — he could help in the short term.
Denis Gurianov, Dallas Stars (2%)
It’s easy to overlook Gurianov among Dallas’s offensive threats up front, but he’s starting to provide enough value to catch more looks. He quickly outgrew the AHL after 48 points in 57 games last season. The Russian youngster has registered 16 goals — only two behind team leader Jamie Benn — while chipping in with an impressive nine PPPs. With that kind of firepower and a growing role, Gurianov is sure to make an impact.
Ben Chiarot, Montreal Canadiens (23%)
When we reviewed Chiarot in November, it was noted he wasn’t going to lure you with his scoring touch — though he’s only three points shy of matching a career-high 20. While the former Jet checks in with 109 shots, 125 hits, and 106 blocks, it’s the recent addition of power-play time that could increase his stock. With Shea Weber down for a while, Chiarot — and his zero career PPPs — has assumed the point position on the Habs’ second unit. That might end up amounting to nothing, but it’s hard to ignore a steady blueliner who rakes in the lesser-appreciated stats and averages 23:26 a night.
Noah Hanifin, Calgary Flames (7%)
Speaking of benefiting from a teammate’s absence, Hanifin has initially been bumped up due to Mark Giordano’s latest injury. The fifth pick back in 2015 has recorded adequate point totals and has proven durable, but he’s never really been the lead blueliner. Hanifin skated more than seven man-advantage minutes Monday and notched an assist there in addition to one during even strength. There’s a chance his spot atop Calgary’s D pecking order will be usurped by Rasmus Andersson — and Giordano could be back within the next week — so you should strike while this Flame is (somewhat) hot.
Markus Nutivaara, Columbus Blue Jackets (0%)
We cap our opportunity trifecta with Nutivaara, who subs in for long-term casualty Seth Jones. After Jones broke his ankle Sunday, the Finn’s ice time jumped from 10:27 to 19:56 while inheriting the former All-Star’s vacant power-play duty. Nutivaara missed more than two months and only returned Jan. 6, so he’ll be itching to get back on track. It might be tough to recommend someone with only three points in 25 games, but he at least has sufficiently scored in the past.
Sami Niku, Winnipeg Jets (0%)
Staying with the Suomi theme, we head to the capital of Manitoba and find Niku. You can definitely spot him on the ice with all that flowing hair, but he also boasts a high hockey IQ under the helmet. The 198th pick in the 2015 draft put his name on the North American map with 54 points — including 10 PPGs — during his 2017-18 AHL debut. Niku has achieved repeat performances in the minors, with 14 in 18 to kick off the current campaign. He’s contributed five assists in 12 with Winnipeg and has recently been supplemented with man-advantage minutes, so there’s room for optimism.
Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes (52%)
Between Raanta’s comprehensive injury history and Darcy Kuemper’s repeated setbacks, the state of the Coyotes’ goaltending isn’t getting any clearer. Adin Hill has also had his chance in net, but he’s been unable to persuade the coaching staff to select him more often despite a 2.57 GAA and .919 save percentage. Raanta stopped 124 of 132 shots in four February appearances, one being a shutout of the Oilers. As long as Kuemper can’t stay healthy, the Finn is in line to earn most of the starts behind a respectable defense.
Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings (8%)
Try not to laugh when we suggest a goalie from the league’s worst team, but Bernier hasn’t looked bad since coming back at the start of the month. In fact, he’s posted a 1.99 GAA and .937 save percentage in five games, including a show-stopping 39 saves during a 3-1 victory versus the Bruins on Sunday. That’s solid stuff for any netminder, let alone one from the organization destined to win the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes in June.
Players to consider from past columns: Brock Nelson, Bo Horvat, Clayton Keller, Andre Burakovsky, Sam Reinhart, Patric Hornqvist, Zach Parise, Ondrej Palat, Phillip Danault, Gustav Nyquist, Alex Iafallo, Paul Stastny, Pavel Buchnevich, David Krejci, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Zach Sanford, Charlie Coyle, Frank Vatrano, Zach Hyman, Josh Bailey, Alex Killorn, Ryan Strome, Bryan Rust, Jordan Eberle, Nikita Gusev, Christian Dvorak, Oscar Klefbom, Neal Pionk, Anthony DeAngelo, Jaccob Slavin, Rasmus Sandin, Jared Spurgeon, Mike Reilly, Cam Fowler, Devon Toews, Filip Hronek, Adam Fox, Tristan Jarry, Jaroslav Halak, Antti Raanta, Elvis Merzlikins, Ilya Samsonov, Robin Lehner, James Reimer.